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Rob Korobkin's picture

what do we value?

so, wolfram says (and we agree) that even simple rules can make systems and behaviors that are too complex for us to understand and see the logic in. in other words, we can't tell when something's random.

we accept that there is some kind of super-evolution, some progression (a narrative?) that connects subatomic particles in an explosion of space to atoms to molecules to cells to organisms to populations to societies to language to artistic expression, technological innovation and social organization.

so there's a progression, and it's much too big for us to comprehend, but we try anyway. we see it changing. we know it's changing, but we can't tell why. we can't tell if it's being governed by predetermined rules, an offstage conductor or simply random mutation and luck.

so could emergence explain everything? sure. can we say that it does? no. but it's an option that's worth considering and keeping on the table. it's the next stage in our intellectual trajectory.

first we thought everything was being determined by outside forces. God. gods. spirits. other-worldly consciousnesses controlling the events and objects of our world. this kind of subservient mentality underlies all despotic ideologies as all attempts to change the world are bound to fail in the face of the much-more-powerful ruling beings.

then we were like: fuck that.

and we believed in nothing but chance. theories of evolution that argue that species change due to random mutations and luck in the natural environment are fundamentally nihilistic. in removing god from the paradigm, we removed causality. we can talk about how things changed, but if they changed randomly, we can't possibly say why. we use this to let us off the hook because it divorces us from morality: things evolve by accident and spread because they're good at spreading. everything becomes an accident. there's no magic to our minds and bodies, just random chance in genetics and good luck at surviving. we're not to blame for oppression and environmental destruction, capitalism evolved by chance and spread because it was efficient. in the big picture in this model of thought, the flow of human events are not under human control (nor godly control) but are random and therefore nobody's fault.

but not knowing why things happen isn't really working out for us, so now we're like: fuck that.

and maybe we can start believing in absolute truth again and find the empowering ideologies that we need now to save each other and our planet. the intelligentsia has long stopped believing in the will of omnipotent consciousnesses as an explanation for history and science. but now we must also reject the idea that our world is random and therefore out of our control. if instead, there are simple and fundamental rules that govern not the system as a whole but each individual component of the system separately then we need only have an effect on the parameters of these rules to affect the system as a whole. the populace need not be thought of an unruly and unpredictable mass to be governed from above or taken advantage of through competition, but becomes a coherent and organized society governed on the micro level of decision-making. advertising and microeconomics is based on this understanding of people, and i believe that if we can base an economy on micro-decision making, it's about time we start thinking about designing more sustainable social systems and accept that order can arise from a localized distribution of power.


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