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CATEGORY: How Should Humanity Steer the Future? Essay Contest (2014) [back]
TOPIC: The Tip of The Spear by George Gantz [refresh]
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Author George Gantz wrote on Apr. 14, 2014 @ 14:31 GMT
Essay Abstract

The evidence is clear – there is a new emergent phenomenon arising from the global integration of human knowledge and aspirations linked through advanced networks. As in each previous emergence of higher order from lower, the behaviors that evolve from the complex interaction of the individual components cannot be predicted. Can we influence the trajectory of this emergence in ways that benefit the individuals that comprise it and increase the probabilities of continued progress? In addition, can we prepare for the potentially rare but nevertheless real possibility of first contact with an extraterrestrial civilization? Yes, by drawing on evolutionary lessons to identify and promote collectively beneficial behaviors in our global institutions, including the institution of science. As human civilization continues to evolve, progress will be powered by knowledge, but we should arm “the tip of the spear” with the human empathic values of trust, humility, mutual respect and shared commitment: in a word, with love, in its most universal form.

Author Bio

George Gantz is a retired business executive with a life-long passion for mathematics, science, philosophy and theology. He has a Bachelor of Science degree with Honors Humanities from Stanford University and now directs the ISAS Forum on Integrating Science and Spirituality (http://swedenborgcenterconcord.org/welcome-to-the-isas-foru
m/) and blogs on related topics.

Download Essay PDF File




John Brodix Merryman wrote on Apr. 14, 2014 @ 23:47 GMT
Mr. Gantz,

This is certainly the most professional and broad based essay yet entered in this contest. Hopefully you will be willing to also engage further discussion as well.

If I may, I would like to offer up some ideas and suggestions.

Given this is first and foremost a deeply philosophical work, I would like to offer up a point I make regularly in these discussions and...

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Author George Gantz wrote on Apr. 15, 2014 @ 01:06 GMT
Hi John - thanks for the compliment, and for the excellent comment. I don't necessarily agree that "money is the root of all evil", but I would agree that it is an emergent institution of civilization with features that we do not fully understand or control. One of those features, perhaps, is that it can eliminate from market transactions the dimension of human relationships and human values, since money is simply an abstraction without intrinsic value. As such, it can lead to the loss of a sense of accountability in financial dealings - and we end up with The Wolf on Wall Street. Under these circumstances, trust can break down and markets can fail (as it did in 2008). That said, it still seems to be pretty robust - I don't think that particular instability will lead to the downfall of humanity.



John Brodix Merryman replied on Apr. 15, 2014 @ 02:53 GMT
George,

I wouldn't argue money is evil, in fact it is based on trust. The problem is that by treating it as a distinct commodity and not simply as a token of trust, this connection is obscured.

I argue the likely breakdown of the financial system may well prove to be a benefit to humanity, if it serves to slow our consumption of resources and possibly leads to a situation where we learn to value those resources, rather than the notational impostors.

I think there are areas we might well disagree, as you would see in reading my entry, but we both see there are deep issues that need to be resolved, if we are to be in better control of our destiny.

Regards,

John M

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John C Hodge wrote on Apr. 15, 2014 @ 15:11 GMT
Your essay is very good. I think I see your business background coming through. The greatest competition is attained through cooperation.

“Humans consistently demonstrate trust in fellow humans, enabling our species to solve the Prisoner’s dilemma, a game theory scenario that pits a rational betrayal against a more risky decision involving trust – if reciprocated, trust leads to a...

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Author George Gantz replied on Apr. 15, 2014 @ 18:40 GMT
Thanks, for the comment, John H. I read your essay with great interest and saw a number of parallels between your essay and my own, for example, you note "The practice and advance of science has demonstrated that cooperation is the best form of competition."

On the Prisoner's dilemma, I think the concept has gotten overused in the past couple of decades, but it's clear to me the original version (involving 2 Prisoner's being asked to betray the other) is all about trust. You are correct that as the participants in the game increase and the rounds continue, it becomes critically important to discipline cheaters to sustain positive behaviors - this is what community norms are all about in successful, long-lived institutions. (see also Martin Nowak 2011)

As to how, exactly, to design a fitness landscape for current and future institutions, I think that's a question for the next century. Laws and regulations have some role to play - but they are useless without compliance, which is a matter of community norms. And at their worst they become simply a tool for privileged individuals or groups to game the system. Sustaining a shared moral framework and building that into our institutions will be difficult - transparency, the free flow of information, the decentralization of authority, having checks and balances - these are all critical.



Turil Sweden Cronburg replied on Apr. 18, 2014 @ 14:16 GMT
George and John, you ask HOW we create a landscape where cooperation is encouraged and cheating is discouraged, and the answer, as I’ve seen it, is to first tell others that we care about them and know that they need to get their basic needs met, unconditionally, so that they can be their best possible selves (self-transcendent, as Maslow called those higher levels of human motivation). Then we invest our resources only in those things that actively support the needs of ourselves and others, rather than wasting so much of our precious time, energy, and materials on “earning a living” and “keeping up with the Joneses” so to speak. In other words, we focus on what really matters to us, what we really want to get and do in life, and use our time here to make those things happen, rather than falling for the scams of mainstream media, corporations, and government of what we “should” want and do in life.

Once we eliminate all the waste and invest wisely in our own best selves, then we’ll have naturally created an environment where we and all the other social animals we share our planet with will automatically function as well as possible (meaning as pro-social as we can be). We just need to stop letting the artificial crap get in the way of nature doing what it does best!

(The only laws and regulations that might be helpful here are positive ones, such as laws declaring the UN’s Universal Human Rights, which say that all humans have a right, unconditionally, to the food, water, shelter, outlets for active work, and basic health care that they need to take good care of themselves and their families. That’s a totally valuable law/regulation. Anything that is negative (violence/threat/harm) is, obviously, harmful. That’s why my own policies for governance speak only of what a government is for - and that’s serving the needs of the people.)

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Author George Gantz replied on Apr. 18, 2014 @ 15:38 GMT
Turil - Thanks for the comment. Many of the essays have focussed on the importance of "knowing thyself" and then learning to act accordingly. I agree our basic human empathic qualities (caring) will guide us to do good things in our relationships. Beyond that, we also need to answer the need posed in my essay - creating a fitness landscape that influences the institutions that now control our lives and our future. We have to build feedback loops with our institutions and provide for a competition between them that rewards empathic behaviors and penalizes negative ones.




Member Tommaso Bolognesi wrote on Apr. 16, 2014 @ 17:17 GMT
Dear George,

as promised in the other page, I here is my comment.

As I wrote, I was attracted by the opening quote by Teilhard De Chardin, and I expected that you would make explicit reference to his views on the future of humanity in the body of your essay.

I see that this does not really happen, but the path that you follow is still quite interesting, and I find the reasoning in your essay smooth and convincing.

You express well the idea of a fitness landscape whose pressures are now under the control of humans and their technologies, unlike in the past. A big feedback loop indeed! I never thought about this circumstance in these terms before.

Less clear to me is the point you want to make with respect to extraterrestrial life, and their possibly exotic cooperative behaviours and morality. Not much can really be said about this extra-galactic-level fitness landscape, except posing questions.

The discussion on the fitness landscape set up by scientific bodies, expected to promote maximally cooperative behaviour, is also interesting.

I think the merit of you essay is to effectively put several ideas, even when not terribly revolutionary, under a unifying and unusual perspective - that of darwinian evolution and related concepts.

(If you are interested in further exchanges on Teilhard de Chardin, do not hesitate to write, here or by email.)

Best regards

Tommaso

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Author George Gantz replied on Apr. 16, 2014 @ 18:30 GMT
Thank you Tommaso - I'm afraid my knowledge of TdC is limited. What I recall seems consistent with a recognition of the distinction between physical / mental / spiritual levels of existence, but until I read your essay I was not aware of his grasp on the concept of emergence. Indeed, back when I read him that concept (and the Internet!) was quite undeveloped. I am curious what he (and you) would have to say about the correspondence between levels - does the lower level cause the emergence (supervenience) - or is there a drawing out of the higher level from the lower (top-down-causation). I would suspect that his theology would lead to the latter?




Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on Apr. 18, 2014 @ 00:53 GMT
Hello George,

I greatly enjoyed your essay, and I agree on several fundamental points. Though by itself love may be weak, without love the qualities of the intellect fail to give us wisdom. I also agree about the need for cooperation to foster advances in Science. I have attached the slides I used and the proceedings paper for my FFP11 talk "Learning to Cooperate is Essential for Progress in Physics."

The talk and paper were inspired by a comment Gerard 't Hooft had made in a lecture at FFP10, where he stated that many of the looked for advances in Physics will never come, unless we see a marked increase in cooperation, not only among physicists of various disciplines, but also with mathematicians, programmers, engineers, technicians, and even philosophers. So you see, you are needed.

These documents are also among the references for my essay which is about recognizing the value of play, and I think you will enjoy it. I wish you the best of luck in the contest.

Warm Regards,

Jonathan

attachments: 1_JDickauFFP11.pdf, LearningtoCooperateforProgressinPhysics.pdf

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Author George Gantz replied on Apr. 18, 2014 @ 18:50 GMT
Jonathon -

Thanks for your comment and the papers you attached. I very much enjoyed your essay - one of several that are far more "playful" than my own.

What a wonderful world it would be if we could all be more "child-like" (sense of wonder / openness to new ideas / collaborative / playful), as opposed to "childish" (petulant / self-absorbed / demanding / close-minded).

I also agree with your focus on "fair play" - fairness is one of the key moral perceptions of children ref: Haidt) and is critical to the empathic qualities at the heart of my essay. We all need to work to inculcate these qualities into our institutions - like physics! - and I hope your efforts have been favorably received.

Cheers - George




Georgina Woodward wrote on Apr. 20, 2014 @ 11:58 GMT
Hi George,

I really enjoyed your well written essay. You have clearly set out what you regard as the major challenges of the future and the solution. Glad to see altruism highlighted. Altruism is a characteristic of human beings that needs to be taken with us and not forgotten, as people become increasingly separated from each other in real life and more connected online. Young children especially have to learn all about social interaction and not just how to navigate in the cyber world and vegetate in front of the TV.

IMHO As practice for meeting ET and because it would be good, respectful inter- species communication, cultural exchange and symbiotic development should begin with learning to communicate well with the many cetaceans of our own planet. We already have contact with other intelligent life but they don't have technology. Wisdom and technology are different. Both can be valuable but wisdom is unlikely to be dangerous. We can then taking great precautions to avoid alien disease, predation, parasitism and domination apply the same inter-species diplomacy and respect we have learned on our own planet, should intelligent alien life be encountered. We ought as a species to learn respect for non human life before we meet ET.

You have picked some really important human values that need to be treasured into the future.Your essay deserves to do well. Good luck, Georgina

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Author George Gantz replied on Apr. 20, 2014 @ 18:57 GMT
Thanks for the comment, Georgina -

I've been interested in research (Gopnick, Barrett, Haidt and others) indicating that children are born with the capacity for agency detection and moral judgement - these are shaped and the details filled in by parents, teaching and culture - but it's reassuring to know that empathy and altruism have been built in by evolution.

I like the concept of trying to improve communications with cetaceans - most of the research I've read about has been about communicating with primates, which are, of course, more accessible. Cetaceans pose more logistical problems for researchers - but it would help the process if we could de-instrumentalize our attitudes towards them...

Cheer - George




Gyenge Valeria wrote on Apr. 21, 2014 @ 13:33 GMT
Dear George!

I welcome your well worked out essay, bolstered with such human high values and your positively formulated high requirements, which are undoubtedly and inevitably needed living in a higher evolutionary platform based on moral, mutual respect and acceptance, and cooperation.

It has a message sounding similar as I, and many ones here promote likened the operation of a...

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Author George Gantz replied on Apr. 21, 2014 @ 18:07 GMT
Valerie - I agree our current state is far from ideal. Many of our institutions are failing to live up to the cooperative behaviors that allowed humans to successfully advance from the pleiostene to the anthropocene. Of course, the institutional evolutionary process, as well as the human one, is essentially a competition where the "super-cooperators" survive - the process can be an ugly one with many missteps and considerable destruction on the evolutionary pathway. Our task is to re-cast the fitness landscape for our institutions so the good ones succeed and the bad ones change for the better or are destroyed. This will require all of us to adhere to and promote high moral standards - something which I believe humanity is capable of doing - if not we shall perish.

I read your essay with interest and posted a comment for your consideration.

Cheers - George



Gyenge Valeria replied on Apr. 22, 2014 @ 12:32 GMT
Dear George!

Thank you for your answer, and I'm waiting for your post on my essay with much interest. (That I couldn't see yet there at that time when I just had been writing my answer here to you)

You radiate lot of positivism, faith in the good, values and man. Which is my faith and claim too. Thus, I can basically agree with you in that required high standards you represent, and...

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Author George Gantz replied on Apr. 22, 2014 @ 13:17 GMT
Valeria - My apologies as I may have failed to hit the "post" button for my comment on your essay and will respond here. What I had observed is that I like the analogy of the form of the human body being reflected in the form of greater humanity. Just as the cells of the body cooperate in creating and supporting the whole of a human being, all human beings participate in the creation and support for human civilization. One can also take the analogy the other way: the discrete chemical processes in each cell all participate in creating and supporting the whole of the human cell; the discrete physical particles within each chemical reaction participating in creating and supporting the whole of the reaction; the discrete quantum components participating in the creation of the whole particle.

I also agree that increasing diversity is essential to the evolutionary process at all levels. Diversity represents innovation - innovation is necessary to the exploration of potential pathways through the fitness landscape and the more diversity the more growth and progress we will experience.

Regards - George




Wesley Wayne Hansen wrote on Apr. 21, 2014 @ 15:20 GMT
A well-argued essay, George; I'm happy to find someone other than myself who realizes that religion must have evolutionary fitness. I wrote a paper a few years ago, "Dedicare Omnimodus: A New Ontology of Introspection", which explores that subject. Although it's not 100% accurate it's close enough to count. You may find it interesting.

I don't agree with Freeman Dyson's speculation regarding biological evolution at all. George Ellis has written a really nice paper exploring top-down causation, "Top-down Causation and Emergence: Some Comments on Mechanisms", which you may find interesting. It includes a couple of references to works which show how society and culture act down on biology.

Also, Ben Goertzel, the editor of Humanity + magazine, recently compiled a number of H+ interviews into a book, "Between Ape and Artilect". It includes a really nice interview with Francis Heylighen, founder of Principia Cybernetica and the Global Brain Institute, and the last six interviews all generally relate to what I would term futurist spirituality.

With regards,

Wes Hansen

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Author George Gantz replied on Apr. 21, 2014 @ 18:28 GMT
Thanks for the comment, Wayne. On the topic of religion and evolution, I have found the works by Sloan, Wright and Haidt cited in the essay to be quite compelling - I look forward to reviewing the link you provided. I'm not sure I see the connection (if you are trying to make one) between Dyson and George Ellis. Ellis' work is interesting. This is a track I didn't take in my essay because of its complexity, but I find the positions claiming higher order as mere epiphenomenon, or as supervenient on the causation of the lower level, to be inadequate. For example, I don't consider it sufficient to claim that the effects of conscious decisions (freely willed) are supervenient on the deterministic biology of the brain. You might find Ian Thompson's book Proof of God to be quite interesting - he provides a full theistic explication of top down causation and multiple generative levels.

Cordially - George



Wesley Wayne Hansen replied on Apr. 25, 2014 @ 17:17 GMT
George,

The link I was making between Dyson and Ellis is this: Dyson speculates that cultural evolution has replaced biological evolution whereas Ellis demonstrates that culture and society act down, causally, on biology, hence, if culture evolves so too does biology. I just find the idea that human biological evolution has ceased to be absurd; if anything it has accelerated (or soon will) due to our propensity for genetic and biologic engineering - many futuristic but not farfetched examples, such as Brain Computer Interfacing, are included in the H+ book I linked to. If we manage to engineer biological based Neural implants as discussed by BCI researcher, Alexandra Elbakyan, do you not think this would alter the trajectory of human biological evolution? Based on your essay it would seem that Dyson does not . . .

That's all I was implying . . .

Regards,

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Author George Gantz replied on Apr. 25, 2014 @ 17:28 GMT
Ah, then we agree!




Ross Cevenst wrote on Apr. 22, 2014 @ 13:55 GMT
Hi George,

Very nice essay! I particularly enjoyed the big-picture approach you take, providing perspective on the profound changes in humanity and its institutions. Your incorporation of natural history is great!

Do you have thoughts on the specific evolutionary forces that have shaped altruism? I'm extremely interested to get your thoughts on my theories which attempt to explore how humans came to be so cooperative and even altruistic.

http://citizenearth.altervista.org/dynamiccoopera
tion.html

Do you have a web site of your own? There is clearly a group of us here interested in very similar issues it would be great to interact further.

Ross

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Author George Gantz replied on Apr. 22, 2014 @ 16:54 GMT
Ross - Thank you for the link to Arbor Vitae! Not only is it my favorite tree - but the content on the website is fascinating, and the connections to the concepts in my essay are very, very deep. I have added the site to my priority reading list and will be spending time with it in the weeks ahead.

I have cited a number of sources in my essay on recent research on the mechanisms by which evolution led to altruism (Wilson, Wright, Haidt, Nowak especially). As I point out, my sense is that all emergent phenomena share this feature - cooperation among component units leads to strategies which succeed and thrive in the fitness environment.

I do have a website, The ISAS Forum, where I post articles on topics at the interface of science and spirituality, and I would welcome review and comment of any of the discussions or news items.

Thanks for the kind words. I look forward to additional conversations! - George



Ross Cevenst replied on Apr. 25, 2014 @ 10:05 GMT
Had a look at your site its very impressive (more visuals would be great)! Though my perspective on these kinds of topics is not spritual like yourself, I get strong sense in your work of a desire to aid humanity that I hope is also a part of my own work. And your perspective is clearly informing a great analysis of humanity's future if you're essay is anything to go by! Keep it up!

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Ross Cevenst replied on Apr. 30, 2014 @ 12:10 GMT
Well there is certainly a mind boggling array of ideas in the competition, I am still trying to digest them all, but yours has been among the best so far. Don't forget to rate my entry if you have a chance. Good luck!

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Member Rick Searle wrote on Apr. 24, 2014 @ 21:38 GMT
George,

A very well written essay brimming with human compassion.

One point of difference between us is that I have grave doubts whether we or other intelligent civilizations have any natural tendency to move into the stars. I'll quote from a comment I made on Stephen Ashworth's essay:

What I will say here is that I recently read Lee Billings' Five Billion Years of Solitude which has shaped my view on these issues. Billings quote a scholar Tom Murphy who calculated that if the world would grow at a meager 2.5 % per year our energy requirements would demand the entire Milky Way galaxy covered in energy capturing Dyson Spheres. He quote Murphy: "We know in some detail what human beings were doing 2,500 years ago. I think I can safely say what they WON'T be doing 2,500 years hence".

Our current path is unsustainable over the medium term, and the explosion of growth since the industrial revolution may prove shorter than many expect.

Maybe that's why we have yet to encounter intelligent life elsewhere. That those who don't destroy themselves get stuck in a kind of technological valley?

Again, great essay. You've got my vote.

Best of luck!

Rick Searle

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Author George Gantz replied on Apr. 24, 2014 @ 22:09 GMT
Rick - Thanks so much!

I don't have a firm position on the probability of actual first contact - it is probably way out on a very long tailed distribution. But it is useful to think about as an example of a rare event with profound consequences. Let's talk about a meteor strike - perhaps a more realistic example - how do you think our world would respond?

Also, I avoid putting much credence in exponential projections - they are good approximations over very short ranges for what are probably logistic curves. And then there are the more profoundly un-knowable features of complex systems..

Cheers - George



Walter Putnam replied on Apr. 25, 2014 @ 04:48 GMT
Dear George,

I agree wholeheartedly with how you would direct the "tip of the spear," with love and compassion. The simple reason -- indeed, the necessity -- of this is contained in two of your concluding lines:

"The fitness landscape is no longer determined by the natural world but by the

human one. In order to survive and thrive we need to identify and promote institutional behaviors that satisfy our human needs and aspirations."

Like you, I believe that humanity is entering a new phase of evolution, one based in the cultural rather than the natural world. I am optimistic that this change ultimately will occur over time. We see signs of it all the time, and throughout history. There are regressions, of course, but overall things seem to be changing for the better. And the near future raises even greater possibilities. It is among the young -- especially those who will come of age in the next 10 years -- that I most see a reason for hope.

I am not sure that we would agree on another question -- whether the qualities necessary for development of concern for others and cooperative ventures are part of a natural selection process. I believe that these very well could be universal values, and that we do not create them as much as decipher them.

Respectfully yours,

Walter

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Author George Gantz replied on Apr. 25, 2014 @ 14:39 GMT
Walter - I do indeed believe the values are universal and woven into the fabric of the universe. I allude in the essay to the concept of quantum Darwinism - ultimately I think we will find our universe has been shaped in an evolutionary process through which mutual attractions yield competitive success through all levels of the fitness landscape - up to and including conscious human life. An alternative intuitive pathway to this theory can be found in spiritually transformative experiences. For example, Swedenborg's explanation of creation is quite metaphysical: Divine Love (the act of willing) is the essential motion and Divine Wisdom (the framework of truth, e.g. spiritual and natural laws) the form in which that Love proceeds. Life at all levels is the result - it's motion/purpose derives from love and the structures it creates derive from truth (including mathematics, by the way).

Thanks - George




Author George Gantz wrote on Apr. 25, 2014 @ 14:49 GMT
Hello all - I will be out of town for a week, but will respond to all comments when I return. Thanks for your interest! - George




Andrej Rehak wrote on May. 5, 2014 @ 10:42 GMT
Dear George

You wrote a good article. However, there are few fundamental things in which I disagree with you. At this point of space-time, no institution has the answer to a single fundamental question. Conjectures and faith should not be interpreted as knowledge. Due to its empirical limitations, empirical science will newer reach zero or infinity. Hence, apart from describing, it would never understand anything. Those ideas can be grasped only conceptually, by thinking. Paper and pencil are sufficient tools. Pressing a button of a billion euros worth machine in which the collided worlds are forced to reveal their secrets... is flourishing of technology, but the degeneration of thought. Gathering data is not understanding data. Science is about prediction, not surprise...

Future is dreamed by individuals, not institutions. Institutions are non-living, inert systems, purpose on its own. Although created and fed on the idea of the individual (cell), institutions are the negation of individuality. Institution is not an organ of an organism. Hence, the future steered by institutions is neither the future of a cell, organ or an organism. It is not the future of "I am".

P.S. Instead of preparing for the close encounter with extra-terrestrials, maybe we should prepare to meet tomorrow I, arriving from the future :)

Regards

andrej

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Author George Gantz replied on May. 5, 2014 @ 15:24 GMT
Andrej - Thanks for the comment. I agree with you that there are significant limits in science - including hard limits to the ability to predict. Data, mathematics AND contemplation (paper and pencil) are critical to improving our understanding, but they will not eliminate surprise.

I think the evidence shows that emergent, higher-level system behavior (whether you are talking about an ant colony, or multi-celullar organisms, or consciousness) is very much "alive". Whether we like it or not, our institutions have a life of their own, and their behaviors are shaping our choices and our future.

Regards - George




Peter Jackson wrote on May. 6, 2014 @ 20:57 GMT
George,

That was a wonderful and inspiring read. I have growing concerns about selflessness and honesty, within science in particular. I wonder if Nobel really did science a great favour.

Your comment above about "emergent, higher-level system behavior" has just also caught my eye, as well as;

"we have to trust that nature itself was, is, and always will be, consistent." also "It is essential that our human civilization remain committed to the pursuit of empirical knowledge" and;. ."Do we have the technical tools, the creative ideas..." 

These are thoughts I bring together uniquely in my own essay, deriving a logical explanation of QM which allows convergence with SR and might release us from a 100 year old 'rut' in understanding. Quite different to yours! but 'quantum Darwinism' is just one of many coherent consequences. But I feel a lack of mutual respect and ability to accept new ideas in physics means the hypothesis remains subjugated however self apparent.

Thank you very much for that.

Something slightly bizarre happened yesterday, I wrote this and thought I'd posted it then scored you a 9 (up to 5.5), but retuning to cha eck and reply my post isn't here! Luckily I saved it. I do hope you get to read my essay too. It even includes a little bit of romance, but it's important science.

Very best wishes

Peter

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Author George Gantz wrote on May. 6, 2014 @ 22:06 GMT
Thanks, Peter! I very much appreciate the comment and the score and I will check out your essay as soon as I can.

It is curious that empathy/cooperation, what one might think of as higher human values, arises out of a selection process involving competition/survival, what might be considered as crude and brutish. The truly "selfish" behaviors are eventually weeded out - they perish, but only in the long run, and the process is quite messy / chaotic.

The concern (and this may be what your Nobel prize / 100 year rut references are alluding to) is when the competitive rules / fitness landscape become skewed so that cooperative efficiency is not rewarded. This can take us backwards, and in today's technological environment the outcome could be disastrous.

Thanks - George




Conrad Dale Johnson wrote on May. 8, 2014 @ 14:19 GMT
Hi George --

Apart from the slightly strange metaphor in your title, I like your essay a lot and completely agree with your message -- "It no longer seems far-fetched to suggest that the higher moral and aspirational qualities of humanity have roots in the evolutionary heritage of our species."

I see you didn't list in your footnotes the works of Michael Tomasello, who's done a lot of research on the evolution of cooperation and empathy. My own perspective on this is that the special kind of caring connection that humans can have with each other is not only an important genetically evolved trait, but was the basis for the emergence of the entirely new, non-genetic evolutionary process that eventually gave us language and culture.

Thanks again for your comments on my essay on communications media -- and good luck in the contest.

Conrad

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Author George Gantz replied on May. 9, 2014 @ 14:12 GMT
Thanks, Conrad! And thanks to the lead to Tomasello's work. Best of luck - George




Ajay Bhatla wrote on May. 11, 2014 @ 20:31 GMT
George,

I totally love your metaphor of "the spear" to steer humanity.

I also agree that the "most significant challenge is learning how to steer a future that best meets the collective needs and aspirations of humanity."

We are also both in agreement that the power behind the spear is "pursuit of knowledge about our world."

I also agree with you that the cooperation that leads to institutions charged with collecting "knowledge about our world" is the key to power behind the spear.

We may think differently only about the "tip of the spear." In my essay (here) my point is that the diversity in wants and needs of humanity can be best homogenized through the imagination and ingenuity of individuals and NOT any institutional effort. The evidence I offer is the amazing unifying results of the IT juggernaut that has given us the PC, Facebook and the iPhone. The issue of using these for only "good" is, of course, a real and pervasive challenge.

Wonderful to read your essay. Please read mine and let me know what you think.

- Ajay

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Author George Gantz replied on May. 16, 2014 @ 02:06 GMT
Thanks, Ajay - I have qualms about anything referred to as a "juggernaut", but I understand your excitement. As you say, however, how do we insure these technologies are used "for good".

that is the point of arming the tip of the spear with empathy - guiding our choices and our institutions for social and not personal gain.

Cheers - George




Member Marc Séguin wrote on May. 16, 2014 @ 02:15 GMT
George,

Your essay is extremely well written and, above all, well researched! Many of your links are fascinating. I especially like Brandon Keim's article, The Secret Life of Everything, that explains how difficult it is to simply find the source of all the components that make up a simple consumer item.

We live in a complex world where institutions and organizations have a life of...

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Author George Gantz replied on May. 16, 2014 @ 03:16 GMT
Thanks, Marc - I think science has a lot to answer for, although it (along with markets) does deserve credit for the vast increases in our material wellbeing. There is scant discussion of values and ethics in most these essays, so I am pleased to have added that to the conversation.

I am somewhat dubious about Max Tegmark's conclusions. I certainly do not live in multiple worlds (although my future does). I also do not see (so far) that the multiverse offers much - I would lean in Lee SMolin's direction - there is a selection process at work that guides the "fine-tuning" of our universe towards consciousness and, ultimately, in my view, empathy.

Thanks - George




Denis Frith wrote on May. 16, 2014 @ 07:13 GMT
I am puzzled.How can humanity steer the future of what? People are very dependent on the goods and services provided by the existing aging infrastructure. Humanity will have to steer the operation of this infrastructure. That is what has to be done.

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Author George Gantz replied on May. 16, 2014 @ 11:15 GMT
Denis - Interesting comment, given the title of the essay contest. As I discuss in my essay, humanity has certainly followed a path from the past to the present - and the "steering" was largely done by a biological and then a cultural fitness landscape. We now have the opportunity to choose how to shape the fitness landscape for our institutions in order to direct our future course towards things we want - happiness, fulfillment, material well-being. Some of our infrastructure is aging - but the technologies embedded in that infrastructure are also being updated constantly. Forty years ago we had no IT infrastructure - today it spans the world and is continuing to expand rapidly - displacing older communication infrastructure as it goes.

Cheers - George




Author George Gantz wrote on May. 19, 2014 @ 12:26 GMT
Thanks, Petio - my reading list is too full as it is, but thank you for the invitation. I wish you the very best in your efforts to integrate science in a General Theory of Unity. My sense is that this noble task will take infinite intelligence and infinite time. Of course, being human, we do not have infinite patience so we have to make do with intuition and revelation...

All the best - George




Anonymous wrote on May. 22, 2014 @ 17:18 GMT
George,

Great essay. Even the reference list at the end is impressive. I can never find references that parallel my ideas, which means either I am ahead of the curve or I am just wrong.

A minor point about Physics, you talk about the increasing complexity of things in the Universe and increasing entropy. The entropy of the Universe is increasing, but a complex state is at lower entropy state. Producing a lower entropy state must involve increasing entropy (and disorder) somewhere else.

Your essay is still a human view of human progress. Many types of ants and bees cannot live outside of their communities and have been doing so since the mesozoic. We have no way of knowing if any animals have a form of religion and no other creature beside humans have been shown to use fire, but we should assume that intelligence, emotion and social structure (and many other things we think of as only human) exist outside of humanity unless proved otherwise. I am saying that there is an evolutionary need for emotions (as an example) or we would not have emotions. If there was a need for emotions in us, we must assume other animals must have this same need and therefore must have emotions. We might not currently know what the function of emotions are in survival, but that function must exist or we would not have inherited that trait.

Hope you and your essay do well,

Jeff

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Jeffrey Michael Schmitz replied on May. 22, 2014 @ 17:21 GMT
George,

I thought I was still logged in when I wrote this post.

Jeff

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Author George Gantz replied on May. 22, 2014 @ 21:08 GMT
Hi Jeff - Thanks for the comment. Yes, the universe is increasing in entropy AT THE SAME TIME as complexity is increasing locally (just look at the human brain). This is a key paradox in the current consensus view in physics which does not explain what is driving the increasing complexity.

I agree with your comment about non-human species demonstrating emotion, limited intelligence and social structure - and these are in fact products of evolutionary advances which have reached their most intensive expression in humans. The use of fire is more speculative - although there may be isolated examples of opportunistic behaviors by some species in landscapes that regularly experience natural fires. As to religion, I would suggest that it is not likely.

A significant "transcendence" happened at some point in human evolution when the capacity for self-reflection, language and abstraction emerged. While some primates and cetaceans seem to exhibit some limited capacities, it does not appear that they have ever passed the evolutionary threshold necessary for the appreciation of a religious life.

Thanks again and best wishes! - George




Robert de Neufville wrote on May. 23, 2014 @ 02:19 GMT
Very smart, interesting essay, George. I agree that our ability to work together is a great advantage over other animals. Have you looked at E.O. Wilson's most recent book on the evolutionary advantages of cooperation, by the way?

I think you are right that our ability to survive in the long run—to survive both contact with aliens and conflict among ourselves—hinges on our ability to cooperate with one another. I argue something similar in my own essay (which I would love for you to read). I would have liked to hear more about how our norms and institutions could change to foster mutual empathy, although of course there is only so much we can do in 10 pages.

Good luck in the contest, George!

Best,

Robert de Neufville

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Author George Gantz replied on May. 23, 2014 @ 13:59 GMT
Thanks, Robert. Yes, I enjoyed EOWIlson's The Social Conquest of Earth and found the Dawkins attacks to be unreasonably harsh - typical of Dawkins, I'm afraid. At the same time, I winced at Wilson's frequent anti-religious polemics. Personally, I think any human institutions or world-views that evolved and thrived over millennia deserve more reflective and respectful treatment.

I did read and enjoy your essay and appreciated your focus on cooperation - I believe it is the key to our future success, and not any technological marvels. Of course, figuring out how to accomplish that goal is the challenge for all of us. I would point out that there seems to be an effort to build a case for moral norms in a secular framework (see, for example, the RSA project to reinvent spirituality at http://www.rsablogs.org.uk/2013/socialbrain/brains-spiritual
ity/). I'm not quite sure how that will work in comparison with the power of religious norms (which have the benefit of an omniscient agent and eternal rewards and punishment), but it is important and hopefully useful work.

Regards - George




Member Tejinder Pal Singh wrote on May. 23, 2014 @ 06:05 GMT
Dear George,

Very well said. I could not agree more, and we have pretty much a very similar outlook. I have long said that science and technology can only take us thus far, and mankind is woefully short on compassion and empathy. Combined with compassion, science and technology are extremely powerful resources for beneficial global growth. If only we could collectively perceive this simple truth!

Tejinder

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Author George Gantz replied on May. 23, 2014 @ 14:06 GMT
Thanks for the comment, Tejinder. I did enjoy your essay and its focus on compassion. FYI, one of my inspirations is Emanuel Swedenborg - a summary of his thinking was published in a book by T.D. Suzuki - Swedenborg: Buddha of the North. An interesting perspective on the meeting of East and West - we have to go North!

Cheers - George




Aaron M. Feeney wrote on May. 26, 2014 @ 02:22 GMT
Hi George,

It is nice to meet another Swedenborg fan. His writings have inspired some of the most intriguing thoughts I have ever experienced. I fully believe he was able to visit other realms, since we all can do it, of course. For most people it happens, every now and then, in dreams that are not merely dreams. Swedenborg, however, could do it at will.

I enjoyed your essay and have rated it highly. The message of greater compassion and cooperation needs to be promoted at every opportunity, to balance our ever-increasing technological prowess.

I have answered your two-part question on my page, and I think you might be surprised by the answer I have provided. If you find the time, I would like to know your further thoughts. Your question was among the best I have received, so I thank you for it. I wish you all the best in all things!

Warmly,

Aaron

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Author George Gantz replied on May. 27, 2014 @ 01:36 GMT
Thanks, Aaron! Much of the fun is in the interplay in the comments. I have posed another conundrum for you on your essay page (with a nod to Swedenborg).

Many thanks for your review and comments - George




Jeff Alstott wrote on May. 26, 2014 @ 12:53 GMT
Thank you for commenting over at my essay, George, as it led me to your wonderful writing.

I found your setting of the stage and analysis very salient and accurate, perhaps because it so closely mirrors my own views. However, your ultimate thesis, that empathy and compassion likely should be the tip of humanity's spear, was unexpected and not a factor I had considered as directly as you have. I found your arguments compelling, and hope to see them supported in the future by more empirical analysis and experimentation (which relates to the thrust of my essay).

The quality of your writing and thought has also served as a high quality reference for ISAS. If the material on that forum is as well-considered as yours I can foresee I will be spending significant time there!

Thanks,

Jeff

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Author George Gantz replied on May. 27, 2014 @ 01:10 GMT
Thanks for the compliments, and the encouragement, Jeff. Yes, part of my purpose in the essay was to encourage reflection on the critical issues of value and meaning. As you will see if you visit ISAS, I believe empirical science and spiritual insight are both required to understand who we are, where we are going and why we are here.

Cheers




Anonymous wrote on May. 27, 2014 @ 09:54 GMT
Dear George,

I read with great interest your depth analytical essay with beautiful and important conclusions called for all Humanity. Obviously, to overcome all the difficulties in the way of the genus Homo in the new Information age is possible through education (broad introduction to the educational process Philosophy and Ethics) and new deep spirituality. Science must become a more open...

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Vladimir Rogozhin replied on May. 27, 2014 @ 09:58 GMT
Sorry, Vladimir Rogozhin

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Author George Gantz replied on May. 27, 2014 @ 14:51 GMT
Vladimir - Thanks for the extended comment. I agree that education is critical to our future, and that there is promise in seeking greater intuitive insights into the structure of reality. But I also feel it is important to recognize that as human beings we have both heads (for rationality and intuition) and hearts (feelings, emotions, values and choices). While our heads will move us forward - and there are wonderful things to be learned in so many directions - our hearts should be doing the steering.

Regards - George



Vladimir Rogozhin replied on May. 27, 2014 @ 18:29 GMT
Yes, George, I agree with you. Triad "ratio- intuitio- emotio" they rule together, choosing the right course and the "point":

«It is by a mathematical point only that we are wise,

as the sailor or the fugitive slave keeps the polestar in his eye;

but that is sufficient guidance for all our life.

We may not arrive at our port within a calculable period,

but we would preserve the true course.»
(Henry David Thoreau)

Once again thank you very much for your interesting and profound essays, ideas, and important for me the heuristic eidos «The Tip of The Spear». High score.

Thank FQXi that brings together people for "brainstorming" on very important topics of modern Humanity and modern Science!

Best Regards,

Vladimir

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Don Limuti wrote on May. 27, 2014 @ 23:04 GMT
Hi George,

Your essay somehow went under my radar. Probably something about the title.

You make a very good case that cooperation as an emergent phenomena.

Good for individuals and nations and the earth.

Thanks for the insight on cooperation,

Don Limuti

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Author George Gantz wrote on May. 28, 2014 @ 00:34 GMT
Thanks, Don. My essay was a bit of a stealth message, but I'm glad you were able to see my point. And thanks for the score. The first score was a 1, and thankfully there was no where to go put up.

And seriously, thanks for encouraging comments.

Cheers - George




Eckard Blumschein wrote on May. 29, 2014 @ 06:57 GMT
Dear George Gantz,

Thank you for reminding me of human empathic values of trust, humility, mutual respect and shared commitment: love, in its most universal form.

This might be what Alfred Nobel called ideal direction. Don't humility and shared commitment include answering taboo questions how to substitute war and hunger and how many people will the earth need in future? When I followed Nobel's attitude, I was not always understood correctly. I see four of his prizes devoted to the tip of the speer.

Cheers,

Eckard

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Author George Gantz wrote on May. 29, 2014 @ 11:44 GMT
Eckard - Thanks for the comment. Although I know little about Alfred Nobel beyond the obvious facts of his invention and the fortune it brought and the prizes which bear his name, perhaps you are correct and his attitude is something we should emulate. It is ironic and significant that his wealth was accumulated on the basis of a technology that has both productive and destructive uses, with perhaps an emphasis on destruction. Yet his prizes - notably including the Peace Prize - have become a significant global, non-governmental influence for good. Can we all turn our worldy achievements towards the long term betterment of humanity in an attitude of humility and dedication to all fellow humans?

I do not know whether Nobel had specific motives for excluding mathematics - I personally do not see that mathematics has any negative or undermining influences on human thought or behavior. Indeed, mathematics itself has no value as a weapon - it is the abstraction of cognition with no power except when deployed as a tool in the empirical scientific disciplines. Those disciplines is where the impacts on the world, for good or for ill, are manifest.

Math, science and technology (the power behind the spear of progress) are all amoral. But the powers they confer tempt the human will (or soul). Arrogance, hubris, self-gratification and the intention to dominate can result. Thankfully, our evolutionary path (and the revelation of our great religions if we hold to their true principles) has given us countervailing empathic influences. These are more important than ever.

Thanks so much for your acknowledgement of this issue! - George



Anonymous replied on Jun. 1, 2014 @ 07:21 GMT
George,

Nobel didn't choose his prizes by chance. He had no chance but to consider religion in his fourth and fifth one because he understood that one must not prefer any particular belief. What about mathematics, he reportedly said let be no prize on mathematics. Most likely he was aware of the importance of mathematics. I think I understand him well: He didn't deny the importance of mathematics. He just rejected the speculative modern mathematics, in particular set theory, represented by Georg Cantor and Goesta Mittag-Leffler.

Those who don`t understand Nobel's seemingly crazy reasoning are either speaking of science as a two-edged sword, something for good or for ill, or they are cornucopians (boomers). When I looked for support for my (and Nobel's] perspective, I found allies mainly in the first mentioned group among fellows of great religions; I met fiercest opponents in the second one among free market enthusiasts, those who are teaching speculative models, and naive patriots.

Eckard

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Ray Luechtefeld wrote on May. 29, 2014 @ 17:44 GMT
Hi George,

Thanks for your essay calling on the development of systems, institutions, and tools to foster empathic progress. I couldn't agree more.

I think you might find some connections with my essay on computationally intelligent personal dialogic agents. I have a prototype (developed as part of a National Science Foundation CAREER award) that I have used to deliver training in Marshall Rosenberg's "nonviolent communication" as part of a study.

I'd appreciate a rating, if you can do that, since I am a bit short on ratings.

Also, I'm interested in finding collaborators. If you are interested, I'd appreciate a contact. My gmail username is my first name, then a period, then my last name.

Best wishes,

Ray Luechtefeld, PhD

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Author George Gantz wrote on May. 29, 2014 @ 19:35 GMT
Ray - Yes I remember your essay - one of the very few with a practical implementation suggestion. I did score it already - in fact I read and scored all of them (a Sisyphian task that absorbed a couple of weeks). I do have a website where you can see some of my work (and if you subscribe I will be able to followup by email.

I just read the scoring deadline was extended - hopefully your essay will get a bit more attention, as it should.

Cheers - George




Sebastian Benthall wrote on May. 30, 2014 @ 14:37 GMT
Hi George,

I like your essay. It is well written and captures important themes. I have two comments. First, you write:

One key revelation is that our universe, including life itself, has evolved through a series of successive states, from low entropic, homogeneous conditions at the Big Bang, through increasingly complex states of higher entropy. The transition to each subsequent state involves a loss of symmetry, an increase in complexity and the emergence of novel structures and behaviors.

I think you might appreciate the work of the ecologist Robert Ulanowicz, who has some very interesting and precise thinking along these lines. E.g.:

http://people.biology.ufl.edu/ulan/pubs/Bateson.pdf

My question for you is what sense of 'complexity' you are employing here. My intuitions are that "novel structures" and "higher entropy" are actually opposed, not correlated. A high entropy state like a spread of gaseous particles is much less structured than a low entropy state like a crystal, yes?

Ulanowicz provides a solution to this problem that I quite like that is also consistent with your major themes.

My second question is about how you are defining cooperation. I worry that you use this term to do a lot of work in the essay without defining it. You mention Prisoner's Dilemma. What are payoffs, in your framework? Is it utility? Or is it, as an evolutionist, mere probability of survival?

I love the idea of universal cooperation but I wonder how to accomplish that when there are questions of resource scarcity.

Thank you for the enlightening essay.

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Anonymous wrote on May. 31, 2014 @ 02:54 GMT
Sebastian - Thanks for the excellent comments. I am not familiar with the work of Ulanowicz but will check out the reference. Yes, there is an odd relationship between higher entropy and the complex systems that seem to be going in reverse - effectively borrowing order from a universe that is moving the other way. This is a key feature of emergent systems that is not well understood. There is room here, I believe, for an ordering principle - something that explains why complex systems behave this way. There is a lot of talk about epiphenomenon or supervenience - none of which adequately address the question in my mind.

Admittedly, the concept of cooperation as I use it in my essay is very broad and necessarily fuzzy (only so many words!). To be consistent with my thesis, cooperation would be any behavior between humans that is motivated by the human empathic qualities as enumerated. In the Prisoner's dilemma, loyalty ranks higher than self-interest. Purely quid-pro-quo behaviors are transactional and would not be cooperation in the sense I have used it. The payoff from cooperation is both utility for the group in the economic sense, as well as personal satisfaction from fulfilling one's empathic impulses - a purely internal, subjective payoff, unless one believes in eternal salvation in which case the payoff is an eternity in heaven

Does not cooperation become even more important in the face of resource scarcity? Yes, we have dystopic visions of humans descending into selfish competitive depravity in the fight for resources, but history offers a quite different perspective. See, for example Man's Search for Meaning by Victor Frankel. Humanity has proven it can transcend hardship. Can it transcend material superfluity?

Cheers - George

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Michael Allan wrote on May. 31, 2014 @ 10:52 GMT
Hello George, May I post a short, but sincere critique of your essay? I'd ask you to return the favour. Here's my policy on that. - Mike

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Author George Gantz replied on May. 31, 2014 @ 22:54 GMT
Mike - I appreciate your formal approach to the review and comment process and very much respect the commitment you are making to openness and to fairness. This is my first time participating in an FQXi essay contest and the community rating process has seemed a little bit weird - and as you say it has some flaws in it. I recognized the struggle in myself to keep my essay scores from influencing how I rated other essays. This was particularly difficult when I got my first community score of 1.0! I think I have been generally fair - but I am also quite familiar with the nature of ex-post rationalization and cognitive bias, so I'm sure there was some of that in my review process.

At this point I have read and scored all of the essays, including yours. I commented on essays where I had a thoughtful question to offer or noted some similarities to my own thesis. I did not comment on your essay as I was cognizant of your policy. As you have invited me to comment, I will now go back and give you my feedback. I would also welcome your feedback and score.

Cheers - George



Michael Allan replied on Jun. 2, 2014 @ 14:14 GMT
I still hope you'll comment, George. My policy was only meant to dissuade anodyne comments and veiled offers of vote trading. In any case, I promise to rate all my reviews by D-Day.

Your historical introduction is a good frame; it puts the steering question in perspective. Your prose is pleasant and effortless to read. I think you fail, however, to come to grips with your thesis. We should "create fitness landscapes that select for cooperative ... behaviors", but this you avoid stating till page 4. Then immediately you plunge us back into history (where you move confidently) to circle the thesis for the remaining pages. I'm a sympathetic reader who agrees we need some kind of unifying counterbalance to modern society's tendency to fragmentation, but, like Robert de Neufville who "would have liked to hear more about how [society] could change to foster mutual empathy" (May 23), and John Hodge ("The question is how?", Apr 15), I'm ultimately left unsatisfied. Your answer to Hodge that "that's a question for the next century... [and] will be difficult" misses the point. We don't necessarily need a blueprint that we can execute immediately, but rather a vision of the goal that convinces us that a blueprint will someday be possible.

Mike

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Author George Gantz replied on Jun. 2, 2014 @ 15:46 GMT
Mike - Fair enough critique. To be honest: I feel confident in how I frame the problem and draw out the lessons of history (and pre-history), but not at all confident about how to implement a universal solution. At the personal level, I am very comfortable with a theistic worldview (one that embraces science) and confident in the guidance that provides - it is a solution for me and for others that share my faith. But faith is not something one can impose - on oneself or anyone else.

One thesis that I did not address directly in the essay does impose a constraint on the nature of a solution to humanity's problems and the prescription for their solution - and that is that empirical science has ineluctable limits that will never be resolved empirically. The solution to correctly steering the future of humanity will thus require a spiritual integration that reaches beyond the physical. My essay points in that direction by placing love at the tip of the spear, but I did not attempt to tackle that issue directly in my essay. I also felt that a direct attack on the limits of empirical science and proselytizing on the need for a spiritual integration would have fared badly in an FQXi contest. I'm still puzzled as to why the first person to score my essay gave it a 1.0, but suspect it had something to do with the nature of my message.....

Much obliged for the excellent critique. I hope my response is helpful.

-George




Randal A Koene wrote on Jun. 4, 2014 @ 06:42 GMT
George,

You were right that we share a lot of common ideas when you responded to my essay. I like your use of the notion of developing suitable institutional behaviors! Good essay!

Cheers,

Randal

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Author George Gantz replied on Jun. 4, 2014 @ 12:29 GMT
Thanks, Randall. Yes, the trick is to figure out how the individual components can intentionally influence the behaviors of the complex systems which they comprise!

Cheers - George




Gbenga Michael Ogungbuyi wrote on Jun. 4, 2014 @ 07:24 GMT
Dear George,

It was an opportunity using the time of extension to go through your coherent essay. Probably work load of other commitment prevented me from reading it earlier. I scored you high to further boost your visible article.

Your idea of steering the future is a job well done. I observed some unique similarities in our essays which I will want you to explore before this contest is over. STRIKING A BALANCE BETWEEN TECHNOLOGY AND ECOSYSTEM is the title of my article and can be directly assessed here http://fqxi.org/community/forum/topic/2020

I will anticipate your comments and rating after reading.

Thanks and wishing a bumper reward for your labour.

Regards

Gbenga

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Author George Gantz replied on Jun. 4, 2014 @ 15:33 GMT
Thanks, Gbenga - I will comment on your essay shortly. - George




Toby Asher Lightheart wrote on Jun. 4, 2014 @ 07:37 GMT
Hi George,

Thanks for your comment on my essay.

I enjoyed reading your entry. You've made good points about the importance of empathy and cooperation in trying to overcome our challenges. Recommending that scientific advancement continue is unlikely to be challenged by this audience either.

Is there any particular ideas you would like to discuss or get feedback on?

Cheers,

Toby

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Author George Gantz replied on Jun. 4, 2014 @ 15:44 GMT
Toby - The big question is how to develop a shared culture / morality that will keep "love at the tip of the spear." Historically, building and sustaining a shared morality across many generations is a role that religions have played. In our post-modern, secular, increasingly digitized world, what does that look like? There seems to be a little work going on in this area ( see: Big Questions Online series, or the RSA project on the Social Brain) but the chasm in language and sensibilities between science and religion seems to be incredibly wide..... We need better bridges. (See my website at www.swedenborgcenterconcord.org - The ISAS Forum - for some early efforts in this regard.

Thanks for asking! - George




Lorraine Ford wrote on Jun. 4, 2014 @ 13:38 GMT
Hi George,

I thought your essay was beautifully and persuasively written.

We tend to forget, but you reminded us that "cooperative enterprise" "trust, honesty, mutual respect and shared commitment" and humility are "the qualities that propelled humanity and its institutions forward".

But "Competitive or conflicting responses create frictions that can undermine or destroy"....

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Author George Gantz replied on Jun. 4, 2014 @ 16:01 GMT
Lorraine - Thanks for the comment and the citation to Nei's book - which I will have to look up! Yes, I think evolution is often cast in very simplistic terms - random mutation / competitive selection / survival and procreation. It sounds like Nei is focussed on the "random" question. Clearly, mutations or innovations in any complex system are constrained (in terms of potential forms and range of variations), and some have argued that there must be a causative or "intentional" factor involved at the generative level. This is something I alluded to in my essay - "Debates continue on the degree to which such cooperative behavior exists in some, or all, emergent processes, and the extent to which it is consistent with reductionism or requires some form of top-down causation...."

For a very interesting and provocative discussion of the issue, I'd suggest tackling Ian Thompson's - Starting Science from God. Ian's work is quite technical (he is a physicist), and his theistic approach is hardly "mainstream", but his presentation is thorough and consistent. He goes quite deep into that nature of top-dopwn causation from multiple generative levels across all of creation - cosmology - quantum physics - biology and consciousness.

Cheers - George



Lorraine Ford replied on Jun. 5, 2014 @ 08:36 GMT
Dear George,

Thanks. I think it is true that some sort of top-down causation is what is happening. But to me, there is also a question mark over the description "random". Physicists keep on trying to find underlying complex deterministic mechanisms that might explain purportedly random physical outcomes at the particle/molecular level.

But they can't find anything that explains these physical outcomes, so they label them "random". When asked, they might claim that no further explanation is necessary. But I don't buy it. To me, "random" is a word that covers up something that physics refuses to face about the nature of reality: limited choice/free will/creativity at the particle level.

Cheers,

Lorraine

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Author George Gantz replied on Jun. 5, 2014 @ 10:41 GMT
Well said. In an emergent process, the mutations and pointer states that appear and are labelled "random" are actually being pulled out by a causative principle at the top. That's exactly what Ian Thompson's work (and others) are getting at.

Cheers - George




James Lee Hoover wrote on Jun. 6, 2014 @ 16:08 GMT
George,

"Historically the human response to challenge was often violence."

With our most recent aggression in Iraq, you do communicate hope for us. Even some noted physicists believe that ETs will come with conquest in mind. My belief is that any ET capable of making it here must be too advanced to need our resources, both mentally and spiritually.

We do make many of the same points, but yours is done well.

In the short span of time we have, I would like to see your thoughts on mine: http://www.fqxi.org/community/forum/topic/2008

Jim

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Janko Kokosar wrote on Jun. 6, 2014 @ 22:36 GMT
Dear George

Maybe you are interested also in my essay from 2013, because I try to physically explain consciousenss and free will. Metaphorically it is written also in the new essay.

My essay

Best regards

Janko Kokosar

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Douglas Alexander Singleton wrote on Jun. 7, 2014 @ 02:11 GMT
Hi George,

I read you essay (or rather I scanned your essay -- sorry time is short). First let me say this is a very well researched essay as evidenced by the reference section. You also cited Nassim Taleb's book "The Black Swan" which I also used in my essay (but somewhat too briefly since I was not fully able to weave the idea of the black swan events into my essay to the extent that they deserved. In any case your essay appears to more fully discuss this interesting idea from Taleb.

In my brief scan of your essay my understanding is that there is a theme of the risky benefit of cooperation -- you talk about the Prisoner's Dilemma and also cite Dawkin's "The Selfish Gene". The conclusion being that a good way to "steer the future" is to employ or encourage this "risky" cooperation.

Anyway from my brief scan your essay is well researched and well written. Sorry I don't have more in-depth questions/comments, but given the shortening deadline I wanted to at least leave some comment.

Best of luck,

Doug

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Laurence Hitterdale wrote on Jun. 7, 2014 @ 02:43 GMT
Hello George,

I appreciate your remarks from April 23, now well over a month ago. Unfortunately, work requirements have not allowed me to respond here before now. Since detailed comments will not be useful at this time, I will just say that I agree with your idea of seeking an both a larger understanding and a consensus on values. Best wishes in the final judging.

Laurence Hitterdale

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Wilhelmus de Wilde wrote on Jun. 13, 2014 @ 15:11 GMT
Dear George,

Congratulations with your high score and access to the finalists pool.

I hope that the discussion will not end so I sent you the link to my essay : "STEERING THE FUTURE OF CONSCIOUSNESS?" and hope for a comment on my thread.

Good luck in the final judgement

and best regards

Wilhelmus

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