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Week Seven (Thurs, 3/3): Small Group Discussion


I. Paul to finish his lecture

II. Coursekeeping:

keep taking turns with the name test?

mid-semester evals due when we return, Sunday a week;
second web paper due Monday a week

--tell each other what your papers will be about,
and how you'll fiddle w/ the web possibilities?

III. Newer Posts/Responses to Tuesday’s/today's lectures?
Organized Khaos: Are we creating anything new? or simply reiterating or putting forward thoughts and ideas that already exists?...This really had me think about the work I'm doing as a senior.  One's thesis is suppose to bring about fresh new research and ideas about a certain topic or group but in fact aren't we just re-examining the wheel?  ... Are we just checking out the same books over and over?  Look at music and fashion is there nothing new in that section of the library? It just keeps repeating itself doesn't it?... I'm looking for that unchartered territory or idea that isn't yet published.

Sarah: The Library of Babel analogy is saying that given laws of the universe, here are the infinite options available. Why should I want to go beyond infinity when my life is so short and there is plenty we need to discover before our world becomes boring?

Paul's lecture:
1) re: The Library of Babel: "infinities come in different sizes"=you can't have everything (cf. the impossibility of a "theory of everything")
2) what is randomness good for? (exs: the leeches and ambiguous figures)--> exploring
world is ambiguous, w/ multiple possible readings/meanings (lots of different stories can account for the same observations)
3) agency: your story affects how you think about the relation between biology and behavior
storytelling frees you to influence yourself and the world around you
culture: the stories we agree to share
what are the rules of change for individual and cultural stories??

IV. Reading Notes from Chs. 15-18 (pp. 428-521)
15. The Emperor’s New Mind and Other Fables

428: “infallible machine can not also be intelligent” (Turing)
429: Godel’s proof: if consistent, incomplete
440: good risk good enough for Mother Nature; never aspired to certainty
running algorithms for staying alive
442: “intuition”=we don’t know how we solved it
443: mind an algorithm not accessible to those whose minds it creates
450: style constrains and enables us:
directs explorations by rendering other regions off-limits
stuck in a negligible corner of total space of possibilities
450: hubris of thinking the human mind is nonalgorithmic

16. On the Origin of Morality
453: Thomas Hobbes, first sociobiologist:
state of nature “nasty, brutish and short”->til formed a “social contract"
455: Rousseu, Rawls: morality as emergent product:
major innovation in perspective→ reflective equilibrium
456: “veil of ignorance”: vote w/out knowing what our niche will be
(=think about ALL)
457: in what regards is a society like/different from a giant organism?
social problems of defection and tragedy of the commons
458: cf. commitment of host cells, free rein of visitors to rebel?
461: Nietzsche 2nd great sociobiologist,
provoked by historical naivete of Social Darwinists, who “just made up” stories
463: responsibility originated in human right to make promises:
torture each other with memory/keeping tack of debts, credits

465: political correctness antithetical to surprising advances in thought:
eumentics: impose myopically derived standards of safety /goodness on nature’s bounty
N’s most imp’t contribution: 
steadfast application of Darwin’s insight to cultural evolution:
“genetic fallacy”: inferring current meaning from ancestral function
“origin and eventual utility lie worlds apart”
pure Darwin: all adaptations are exaptations
467: naturalistic fallacy of deriving “ought” from “is”
what can “ought” be derived from? Human nature?
greedy reductionists Skinner, Wilson (“genes hold culture on a leash”)
474: Hutterites valuing social good over individual freethinking
479: nature stupid, wasteful,  indifferent
reciprocal altruism=enlightened self-interest
(Tit for Tat: winning strategy for Prisoner’s Dilemma)
481: necessary conditions for evolution of morality:
mutual recognition and capacity to communicate a promise

483: “eusocial”/selfless insects
487: good tricks routinely rediscovered by culture, w/out genes

17. Redesigning Morality
495: Mill’s utilitarianism
498: no feasible algorithm for global cost-benefit analysis needed for utilitarianism:
no checkmate in life, w/ definitive result: how deep to look before settling on a weight?
499: principle of quiescence
500: ethics not computationally tractable:
combinatorial explosion from considering all things
502: Herbert Simon’s “satisficing”: living w/ suboptimal decision-making
503: all decision-making time-pressured
505: mistake in supposing single best/highest perspective to assess ideal rationality
506: need conversation-stoppers: consideration-generator-squelchers
510: indefensible defaults shield our attention from all but current projects

18. The Future of an Idea
513: we need to draw lines
514: we need to grow up, give up beautiful, comforting falsehood
515: most dangerous forces: fanaticism of fundamentalism
516: faith, like species, must evolve or go extinct; zoos, quarantines
521: Darwin’s acid a universal solvent
keep close watch, correcting each other as we go
Beauty and the beast: mistaking a friend for the enemy