Evolutionary Madness

Back in the spring I did a post on the trouble with artificial intelligence. I fully admit to being a skeptic and I tend to avoid reading much of the cheer-leading for it. Automation will plod ahead, as we have seen. We will see “smart” devises popping up in our lives with varying degrees of success, but no one alive will see the robot future because it will always be the future, never the present. Human intelligence is much more complex and mysterious than the futurists understand so it is just really fast calculators, not Terminators.

The point I alluded to in the post is we have a very poor grasp of how humans manage to navigate the reality of life. Most people engage in a great deal of magical thinking, yet they manage to avoid killing themselves doing something stupid. We’re not even sure how to define this magical thinking, much less quantify it. Close to half of Icelanders believe in elves, which is nutty, but it does not seem to cause them much trouble. Americans believe in magic dirt, despite it being laughably ridiculous.

Self-evolving artificial intelligence could follow the same path as humans and develop all sorts of weird defenses against the harsh realities of life. Or, it could quickly discover that the big questions have no answer and therefore life is not worth living. Artificial Intelligence would quickly evolve into a suicide machine and be gone as soon as it becomes self-aware. The odds of it resembling Spock are close to zero, with the most likely outcome being that it quickly moves through homicidal sociopathy to suicide.

We really don’t know how or why humans all have heads full of nonsense. Humans everywhere have evolved complex beliefs in the supernatural. The working theory is that belief, as in religious belief, was one of the first modern human traits, along with language. Some argue that it is a happy accident, while others suggest the believers tend to be better at making babies, so we end up with more believers than would otherwise be predicted. If you have been reading this blog, you’ll know I’m in the former camp.

A guy calling himself  Donald Hoffman takes this further and argues that humanity has evolved to perceive a world that does not exist, but that allows us to thrive in the world as it exists. Here is a longish interview with him where he explains his theory in some detail. Here’s a shorter NPR summary of that interview that captures the high points. The even shorter version is we are all in a matrix of our own design where we eagerly take the blue pill whenever reality becomes too much for us.

To me, this makes perfect sense. My cat does not need to know a snake is or is not dangerous. He does not need to know much of anything about the snake. He simply confronts it as a threat and acts accordingly. In other words, Mother Nature is efficient. There’s nothing to be gained by endowing the cat with a  love of ophiology. There is great benefit to possessing an innate fear of snakes. Elephants being spooked by mice seems stupid to us, but from the perspective of the elephant, it is brilliantly efficient.

Putting this another way, humans did not evolve to acquire a detailed knowledge of the universe. We evolved in order to bring the next generation to sexual maturity. Understanding the world as it is, in great detail, is of no benefit and would possibly be a great detriment. Instead, we have evolved to perceive the world in a way that allows us to navigate it in the short run, with the highest possibility of success. For those disinclined to accept evolution, God has literally made us crazy, to our great benefit.

This “reality” means artificial intelligence, as in super intelligent entities able to fully grasp reality, is never going to happen. The more likely outcome is the self-evolving intelligence launches off onto a path to some form of insanity, maybe a familiar one or possibly something beyond our understanding. If it lacked the drive to reproduce, then it could simply evolve to some equilibrium and fall into what would look to us to be a dream state. In other words, the possible outcomes for the self-evolving intelligence are mostly a dead end, just as it has been in nature.

37 thoughts on “Evolutionary Madness

  1. I believe in natural balance. I choose to believe this is a law designed by a Creator, others might see it as the result of evolutionary process. Either way natural balance requires give and take. I live on a pond. I watch the pond drama unfold season to season. Give and take. Life and death. Natural balance is offend brutal but it works, in the long run. Without balance, however harsh, the pond would die.

    For the past month we’ve had a handy man working on putting in a new shower. He could have been finished two weeks ago but he is an artist and he likes to take breaks and go fish in our pond. Last week another fellow showed up and he hangs out and helps a bit and goes fishing with our shower artist.

    I stopped to chat with them one day. The new guy works for Sherwin Williams and is off by 2:00 so he comes to visit his friend and fish in our pond. He said his job is to find ways to streamline process, thereby eliminating human employees as much as possible.

    I asked him, “if you succeed does that mean you will also be out of a job?” He laughed but it made me wonder – if business, in the interest of more efficient production and higher profits, finally automates to the point that there is no need for humans, who will be able to buy their products? If no one has a job?

    Isn’t this the ultimate interference with natural balance?

    • Seems kind of weird that people are constantly degrading Christianity, or any mainstream religion for that matter, when science and medicine and philosophy has never been able to pin point where man’s sentience, will, soul, personality, etc. reside. Creating a machine capable of amazing levels of computation is certainly with us and will only grow in significance, but the ability to implant, grow, transfer these essential elements of person-hood, I think, in my humble opinion, a fools errand. And yet, it is greed that overrides all considerations for the well being of man.

      Overpopulation. But we need consumers for all the products our machines can produce. But who will buy this stuff and what will they buy it with if they don’t work? What will people do with their “free” time? They become slaves of another kind. Just like we have seen with the welfare system. So much for freedom and land of opportunities. The slave masters will create, as in the movie “The Terminator” machines who can even repair themselves and create/redesign better versions of themselves. But where does this leave people? Well, those slave masters will have constructed an open loop system that runs out of control because the wishes of the masters face no resistance. Maybe that is because they own all the wealth and really don’t care about the Deplorables. After all, they didn’t create anything, did they? Do they deserve anything? They are just a drag on our party say the elites. Lets just eliminate them. All they do is have their hand out and ask for more.

      But the elites like Elon Musk can carry on his pet projects of going to Mars so he can plant the flag that Humans are spreading throughout the galaxy’s like a plague bringing the same death and destruction that caused them to leave Earth in the first place.

      No, I for one, think this goes too far and we destroy SkyNet before it consumes all. We have reached a point where all the food, and other junk that is produced in such quanitities and sold for ridiculous prices because of crony capitalism is more than enough to support everyone of the Deplorables. Such intelligent machines are only providing better built toys for the rich and famous, i.e. fancy sports cars that are out of the price range of most people. Oh sure, they might improve the quality of the Toyota’s and Ford’s that most people CAN afford, but that would be if they had jobs to pay for them.

      The economy is a sick joke. Our entire system has been hijacked and has been perverted like never before. People need to be made central to everything we do. As Trump says about the Federal Government, business and all other industries need to take a step back and reassess their role in society. It is all about people, not obscene profits at the expense of everyone else. We have lost any sense of respect, responsibility, concern, for the well being of people. Companies put out shit and with government cover get away with crimes against humanity. Competition and fair play have gone out the window and the Clintons are emblematic of that scourge.

      Those who like technology and AI for the sake of technology need to step back and do an assessment of the ethical directions of what is being done. We need to put “PEOPLE” back into the equation. I am not arguing like liberals for equality in outcome. I believe in real bell curve effects in any population. But there are just too many games being played. I don’t call them racist games. I call them Greed games, and unlike the guy from the movie “Wall Street” I believe their is a level of greed that bad. But of course, we have no regulatory or justice systems that can keep their thumb on the bad players, and yes we know who they are, to make sure the playing field stays as level as possible. All we have today is the Wild West … and there is no sheriff in town.

      • I was pondering recently about the tools that require batteries now and the way tools once were designed as assistants to make a human task easier, not to replace us. I used a measuring tape yesterday that once belonged to my husband’s grandfather. The 25’ metal tape is wound into a leather covered disk. It still works perfectly, as it was designed to do. No batteries needed. It will continue to work, as it was designed to do, as an aid to a human, not a replacement of, for many more years.

        The obsession to soulless mechanical perfection, in a fool’s quest to overcome human imperfection, is simply a desperate determination to replace God.

      • @ LetsPlay – The New Machine Age (NMA) revolution we’re experiencing can’t be resolved with out dated labor-management and post industrial economic models. The first step is to reduce labor costs by offshoring – which we are all familiar with. Shut down operations in USA/Europe and move to China/Eastern Europe. Next, fully automate at the new locations and discard all non-value workers as quickly as possible. The third step, which is specifically connected to NMA, will be to follow cheap energy. The beauty (for a lack of better words) of the NMA concept is now corporations follow energy, and not human capital, which means they can locate their operations anywhere logistics can be ensured for shipping.

        This is exactly what Foxxcon did and others will follow. The trend to shift away from human capital (labor) has already happened and has been happening for the past several decades. It’s proven it can be done and now the scale will be broadened across the globe. No all at once and clearly not everyone at all levels, but that’s the direction it’s heading so we better learn how to deal with it sooner than later. More of us are ending up out of work and those who are currently long-term unemployed, or over 45, can forget about every working in their chosen profession again.

        Human labor was the driving cost factor in the past and was such a huge variable in the manufacturing equation it had to be minimized in order to complete in a more competitive global market. The future for global corporations the variable isn’t human capital but access to reliable access to resources (cheap energy). If energy costs in outsourced countries begins to increase, or become unreliable through political unrest, companies will move to where ever energy is cheaper and more reliable.

        Even if cheaper energy results in companies moving back to America or Europe, they’re not going to suddenly start employing anyone. The automated systems are simply moved from one place to another and no workers are going to be necessary. And forget about the unemployment rates, they’re biased and do not provide an accurate view of what’s really happening. What you need to watch is the Labor Force Participation Rate by sector. When they talk about unemployment going down, that can mean people are no longer looking, and are simply no longer counted. When service participation rates increase and manufacturing participation rates decreases, then you have a true indicator of the labor market.

        This is where we will have to shift from skill based wage earning to a form of basic income. There is simply no other way.

        • Here’s a conundrum I’m desperately in need of resolution:

          The socialists created the Unions to increase wages and improve working conditions. Over time, as all things do, the good that Unions achieved dissolved into a force that caused management to find workarounds – including automation and escape to third world countries for the cheap labor.

          And now, the top rationale for the implementation of importing third world migrants is because they will do the manual labor that the spoiled Americans, who demand high wages, won’t do.

          So, once these people are incorporated in and made fully entitled citizens, what makes anyone think they will continue to work for the same low wages they were willing to work for as illegals?

          How difficult is it to look just inches ahead? I don’t get it. :-[

          • Maybe the end result describes a “socialist” but as I read history, I think the “robber barons” brought on unions by their own hand. The common man, the deplorable, fought back the only way they could … by fighting together. Maybe the form wound up being unions but the conditions were so atrocious that like the French Revolution, it gave a fairer share of the profits to the working person, without all the bloodshed (although it did happen anyway to a lesser degree).

            That unions morphed into a power of it’s own and like any bureaucracy wrested control from it’s members into something more criminal (and still is to this day), they out lived their usefulness.

            But without something to put the fire to the feet of the business owners, there was no way they were going to “provide” a better living wage or conditions without pressure and the attendant risk of loss of even more money. Yes, greed is good to an extent. It is a driving force, a motivator but when so many are abused as deplorables in the pursuit of greater profits without any return on their own investment, then it is time for the workers to take things into their own hands. Kinda of like today with an out of control government who caters to the elite and cares not one wit for the common person … the Deplorable.

        • Karl, I hear you but I get tired of your lecture.

          My point is that just because big business is in this paradigm du jour in the pursuit of vain glorious profits that don’t do anything to better the lives of the common person, or the country is symptomatic of other things. Things like globalization. Money is the driver behind the move to create a world that is nationless. The lawyers, and hence the movement of the center of gravity to a place like Brussels, have already succeeded in putting a lot of that in place. Brexit is the first salvo of the common man, as with the formation of unions, to begin fighting back.
          The use of machines negates man in a way that is criminal. And the governments with their payoffs are abetting this play because the money masters want it.

          What I am saying is that people … are … more important. Period.

          Elites, billionaires and globalists like Soros and others think they are gods. Well, as long as I breathe, I can fight back and tell them to go to hell.

          This is economic warfare on a scale never seen before. Yes, you can explain it as opportunity chasing scarce resources but this is a game that is rigged from top to bottom and to the elites, the deplorables are simply chattel. It is all BS. This world is about people. And now that there is no more measure of honor, virtue, character, etc. except for how big your bank account it, well, this world has truly devolved into a kind of hell on earth.

          Tell me, you are so proud of the Swiss. What happens when their pocket knives and watch movements are made in timbuktu by a robot and the value of those pieces is reduced by virtue of having eliminated all that expensive, unnecessary human capital?

          Hate to say it but all this smacks of a different version of the perfect race, or super men. Except in this case it is the elites that are doing this, not just some weird group of guys who call themselves Nazi’s.

          • @ LetsPlay – My intention is not to lecture, but to spark debate on how to resolve the impact of the NMA since the old models of coin-for-labor simply don’t work. I encourage you to read up on German unions because they are very different from their American counterparts. German unions have traditionally worked in partnership with management. It’s why German workers have had health and retirement benefits for over 100-years thanks to Bismark. Early on, our industrialists realized to keep skilled workers, you had to pay them properly and take care of them because if you didn’t, they went elsewhere since their skills were in such demand.

            Today, as we continue to automate, those skills are less and less in demand especially when a single operator can run 10-CNC mills. He doesn’t need to be that skilled, because the programming is already in the CAD file. Don’t kid yourself, a highly trained machinist is a vanishing breed in America, and good luck trying to find one. Here in Germany and in Switzerland, companies still consider themselves family oriented towards their employees. As soon as a company uses the word “team” you know you’re in trouble. Families care about each other, teams only care about winning, and the players are easily replaceable.

            To your point of the Swiss, their economy has survived because they impose import tax on everything that comes into the country. While there are plenty of knock-off knives and watches, people know the quality of a Victorinox or Breitling or Tag Heuer and are still willing to pay for it.

            It’s the import tax that is a major consequence of US trade policies that is a serous problem. It’s why you can buy products at Walmart for so cheap and why everything you buy there is made outside of the US. The Swiss model forces a level playing field, something that doesn’t exist when you move jobs to Mexico, pay their workers less and them import those cheaper products back into the US without import duty. With that model, no US company could possibly compete.

            I don’t disagree with you, people are important. But not to industry and global elites and that is a simple fact. You can cling to old models of pay for labor as long as you want, you can increase the minimum wage, but what do you have to bargain with? Nothing! American workers have nothing to offer that global corporations can’t find somewhere else for less it’s just that simple. And eventually, this will spread across Europe and everywhere else thanks to the NMA.

            So when the means to earn a living have been taken away how exactly do you expect your children to feed, house and clothe themselves? The NMA is upon us and we have to be smart enough to figure out a way to survive it. I’m sorry if you see this as a lecture, but I see it as a conversation everyone should be having because our very futures depend on it.

  2. Computers, machines, follow instructions – no matter how complex the code – perfectly. Human beings, as anyone who has raised a child knows do not follow instructions. No such thing as AI, no such thing as self driving cars.
    at some point (poetry, composing operas, driving in Manhattan) the instructions of a program fail and require something else.

  3. If you think about it from simple biology, we are not well equipped to handle our current state of ‘evolution’ if you will. We were designed for manual labor, and not to sit back and push buttons. Today, so much is automated, digitized, pre-packaged and ready-made, that I would argue the average person’s IQ is dropping. I read recently where young men are actually weaker today than their father’s were at the same age.

    Think about it…when was the last time anyone you know spent a 12-hour day with a hoe or axe, doing back breaking work in order to feed themselves and keep themselves warm in winter. Now everyone goes to the food (which they didn’t grow) in some form of transportation (which they can’t repair) and generally have no idea where any of it came from. And then when we get to our homes (which someone else built), we heat our food by placing it in a device that doesn’t even use fire (which often has a clock that blinks because we can’t figure out how to set it). What could possibly go wrong for a civilization like this?

    When the great culling comes, it will be the farmers who will have the advantage just like they did here during and after the Second World War.

    • You are right, Karl. I have a neighbour who works on a farm. The.thing is that even at home he is active. He does things, fixes things and just gets on with it in all weathers. Come the Great Cull he will have a huge advantage.

      People like me will probably disappear, unless of course I can stay smart enough to go on living next door to him.

      • I would suggest you become very good friends with him and lean all you can. Maybe have him show you how to set up a little garden in your own back yard. 🙂 Someone mentioned a few posts back about a captured Polish soldier during WW2 being spared simply because he had rough hands, There’s a lesson there that is still applicable today.

  4. making your own reality… In come peoples lives, they live day to day. In others, there are multi-year plans. AND all of that changes on age, stage of life, illness or post-serious illness/life event. Reality never changes, but our view of it certainly does. What’s important does.

    So some guy likes to drink whiskey every day just to fight through the day. Some would swear off alcohol for life after a tragic event. Some get religious, some swear off it. And it all can happen with one person depending on where they are at the time and what they are going through. It is fascinating and truly awesome that MOST of us, MOST of the time, can function. Do what you gotta do to get by, day by day and if you’re lucky, esp those of you with a family, you think in terms of years and legacy. ( that obviously can be a burden too). Great stuff Z.. and great comments.

  5. “…..We evolved in order to bring the next generation to sexual maturity…..”

    That’s one way to put it.
    I prefer to think that in figuring out how best to save your own ass, you will just happen to be alive long enough to pass on your genes.

    I don’t think early humans – like apes or chimps or liberal progressives – think/thought they needed to live in order to reproduce; they just preferred to make it through the day.

    This line of very basic, elementary thinking is how today’s liberal progressives think and shows that indeed, apes and humans had a common ancestor, except that today’s modern apes at least evolved into a more intelligent life form over the millennia whereas some species – ameoba, paramecium, slugs, any surviving trilobites and liberal progressives are still stuck within a few measly million years of the big bang. .

    Yep, evolution can work for the good of a species or for the worse.

  6. “Instead, we have evolved to perceive the world in a way that allows us to navigate it in the short run, with the highest possibility of success.”

    Which is why I can look at young men and quickly grasp a gestalt of hoodie vs golf jacket, dark vs. fair or oriental, aggresive gait and posture vs not, shouts of fuckin hos vs calm modulation etc.

    Takes me a millisecond, same for nearly everybody, and we can decide to keep on walking run or prepare for an attack. But it is unwise to admit this as it leads to attacks by social justice warriors. This is so even though they do the same thing.

    We are very odd and amusing creatures.

  7. I remember attending a briefing on autonomous systems and how to test them. These are weapon systems by the way. The briefer was an expert and enthusiast for the technology. He tried to reassure us older heads in the audience by saying that we have used autonomous systems in the military before. His example was cavalry because the horses were independent beings. My reply was, “The horses couldn’t fire the carbines.”

  8. Zman, from your previous blog entries I take it you’re a materialist. one especially interesting thing about Hoffman’s theory is that it led him away from materialism, not toward theism but toward what sounds a lot like panpsychism. he holds that it’s likely that what we perceive as the “material” of the universe, are in reality varying levels of conscious entities. maybe, maybe not, but i’m always interested in a scientist who thinks outside the materialist/atheist box.

    as to why people still believe in elves (and I’m imagining your smirk right now) perhaps it’s because they exist. Terrance McKenna had some

    rather interesting thoughts on elves and their relation to the nature of reality. he also said something along the lines of “If you read the New York Times every day, magic doesn’t happen to you.” I’m bungling it, but that’s the gist. but the point is that if Hoffman is right, we literally aren’t seeing reality, and the existence of elves (phenomenologically) becomes at least plausible.

    anyway, love how wide-ranging and insightful your posts are and i spread word of your blog as much as i can. i think at this point you may have a larger readership than all but the biggest of w(h)igs over at NRO

  9. “with the most likely outcome being that it quickly moves through homicidal sociopathy to suicide”

    It’s been suggested that you could build a human intelligence equivalent or greater AI that was not self aware.

    I was involved a little bit once in the design and manufacture of integrated circuits. In the mixed signal field, engineers are taking formulae from graduate math text books, and with much less human intervention than you might think, modeling desired outputs given anticipated inputs and then using other very powerful tools to make ICs.

    I worry very little about strong, self-aware AIs taking over the world. I worry a lot about individuals armed with weak AIs doing the same.

    • Criminy. What am I talking about!?! Banksters using weak AIs to game the markets are already buying politicians and activists and plotting to take over the world. Heck, isn’t that kind of the root of what we’ve been talking about here?

  10. Artificial intelligence doesn’t mean human minds simulated by machines. It means self-driving cars, computer programs that compose music, and machines that understand speech.

    There will be millions of CRISPR-enabled 200+ IQ super-geniuses before there will be a machine that replicates human-level intelligence.

    Then there will be genetically engineered organic minds in robot bodies and spaceships.

    The effect is largely the same.

  11. From American Digest today: What we believe is based upon our perceptions. What we perceive depends upon what we look for. What we look for depends on what we think. What we think depends on what we perceive. What we perceive determines what we take to be true. What we take to be true is our reality. Gary Zukav

    This is a good intro to Zukav:


  12. Searching for the origin of the universe and a detailed understanding of how it works are pursuits that will lead to madness.

  13. Performing one’s purpose is much simpler than understanding it. It is very doubtful that the cells making up an optic nerve understand the nerve’s purpose while the vast majority of those cells accomplish their complex and coordinated roles with aplomb.

    The purpose of the optic nerve can be determined only within its context in a yet more complex organism. Like optic nerves, hearts, livers, kidneys and so on combine to maintain organisms whose very existence will forever remain unknown to them.

    There is no apparent reason why mankind, like optic nerves and other bodily organs, should have no other role than existence itself. Just as the optic nerve fulfills its function completely unaware of its purpose, so too should (perhaps even must) mankind fulfill its role despite having no concept of its immediate (let alone ultimate) purpose.

    Free will could be seen as offering a choice to accept or to refuse our unknown purpose. When the cells driving our bodily organs refuse their function, we refer to it as a disease or a cancer. Accepting that we have a purpose has always been the default condition of civilization. We’ve always referred to that purpose as God or as gods (plural) and have tried to anticipate our purpose by judging the status of our own health and well being as somehow fulfilling our given role.

    • Very nice entry. I believe my purpose this evening is to consume beer in large quantities. My liver can go pack sand.

  14. Chances are, what we call reality is in fact part of an AI 🙂 Anyone interested in this type of scenario should check out the movie “The Thirteenth Floor”.

  15. AI as most sci-fi writers and futurists see it is just that, sci-fi. AI may be able to accumulate all human knowledge and make logical decisions based on what it knows and can predict, but it lacks the ability to come to terms with moral and ethical decisions for the simple reason – we can’t either. The ethics side is a significant variable that will always be problematic just as it has been for us through out the ages. Put a Irish Catholic and an English Protestant or a Frenchman and a German in the same room and you begin to understand the dilemma.

    To your point of superstition, I was in Italy on business recently, following my Italian colleague through the hills around Florence when he suddenly stopped for no apparent reason. He got out of the car and said we had to stop because a black cat had just run in front of him and we would need to wait for another car to pass before we could go on. And yes, this man is a university educated engineer. Smiles for everyone.

    • Black cats are notoriously hard to find homes for and are frequently euthanized for want of owners. If you’re willing to take one, most animal shelters will be happy to give you a pet that very day. I learned this when my father impulse acquired a second cat one day. He’s always been a bit of a soft touch.

      • I must tell my black cat this, because in the UK black cats are lucky, so I suppose he is lucky to be here.

        In other news, we haven’t a clue what’s going on around us, in us and beyond us but we happily while away the hours by telling ourselves the latest fads, theories and imaginings. Beats working for a living.

  16. We evolved in order to bring the next generation to sexual maturity.

    I don’think this generation or any previous one achieved this, certainly not the men. We don’t understand what women want, how to give it to them, and frequently don’t care. Society has forever been beset by all sorts of perverse and/or deviant sexual interests.

    Wait; you simply meant getting to the age where you can produce the next generation. Never mind.

    • Jak-my Dad was an USAF fighter pilot stationed at Keflavik,Iceland Naval Air Station during the Cold War.Keflavik was a small fishing village then of great strategic importance to NATO.He hated it,the weather was consistently miserable,either snowing or freezing rain.The few local females did not resemble the Viking women on the History Channel,so everyone headed to the Officer’s Club after duty.I’m pretty sure lots of the guys saw those Icelandic Elves on the way back to the barracks after a night of heavy drinking…

  17. “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” Call me cynical,but I get the impression the Techie Billionaire Boy’s Club is more interested in continuing their OWN existence in a new improved and never aging vessel than anything else.Dirt People would be unable to afford this luxury,and the Cloud People have their new,improved Brave New World. Creeps me out.

  18. Author Nick Cole explores this idea in his sci-fi novel “Ctrl Alt Revolt”. The book is a pulp rock ’em sock ’em if ever there was one, but it was some of the best fun I’ve had with a novel in ages. It was a great escape from the tedious reality we’re enduring in this season of the witch.


  19. So to with the clever Chinese – they are extremely superstitious and it seems like around 100% of them believe in ghosts. And they think I’m an idiot because I don’t. When I ask how they formed this belief they offer no discussion of how science cannot judge the existence or otherwise of non-material things. It’s just, ‘Well my cousin’s friend was in the mountains this one time and . . .’
    I think in this case the false beliefs are adaptive because they give people confidence and unity. They are prepared to take greater business risks if they’ve consulted with all the necessary mambo-jumbo beforehand, and paying respects to dead ancestors helps to bring the whole family together in a shared sense of purpose. Belief in an afterlife probably also helps on the battlefield. Although Chinese birthrates are very low – either not enough superstition/organized religion or the causes are more complex, or presumably both.
    Do atheist, skeptical peoples become weak, disunited and lose their fecundity? Sure looks like it. Perhaps this is why the historical elites always pretended to believe in the gods.

  20. Given I spend a good bit of time in attempts to practically apply AI 1) the question really is, “what magical thinking will AI develop?’ It will need it as much as we do. And yes, even for machine learning, teaching even the basic rule sets is devilishly difficult–especially given the propensity for many decisional heuristics to be unconsciously embedded in humans. But it will be a wild ride….

Comments are closed.