A Foundation for Knowledge, a Framework for Peace

(adapted from a recent email sent to family)

There have been a few major developments in recent times so this is a post introducing them. The first is the refinement of the economic model proposed in the work with a powerful new abstraction called “dialectical mirror,” and the second is the development of a/the natural foundation for knowledge, the “strange epistemic levels.”

The last update at the start of 2016 included the specification of a new economic system that is an alternative to capitalism and communism, which I believe retains the best features of both and the drawbacks of neither. The “trick” that allows this to work — Dialectical Inheritance Attribution (DIA) — was at the time something that I understood economically but not epistemically. That is, I knew it would work because of the relationship between the incentives in the system, but I didn’t yet understand its nature. I now understand this trick to be a specific instance of a more general idea, the dialectical mirror.

Dialectical mirror is a general idea which is related to some central notions in Western political and ethical philosophy of the last few hundred years (and also, incidentally, to the Christian “Golden Rule”). In particular, it is a generalization of the “Social Contract” which is the basis of modern governments, and also links to a prominent moral theory of Kant’s called “categorical imperative.” But this is all just fancy words to talk about something extremely simple — dialectical mirror involves realizing that some desires that you have as an individual may conflict with the interests of others who have the same desires, and then creating a social convention in all such cases that is collectively decided upon as fair. This abstraction captures everyday things like waiting in line at the grocery store, observing codes of conduct in sports, the institution of private property, government, Rule of Law, “common courtesy,” the list goes on. Discerning an abstraction of this kind is valuable because then we can think in terms of the abstraction itself (and not the specific instances which are familiar to us but which were formerly not identified with one another) and understand what its implications and limits are. It is my belief from this point of view that the system developed in the paper enables a society where morality and desires can be subjectively defined in relation to any group, and these goals that people in these groups have can be facilitated economically, through “financial” incentives — no matter what these goals are. The level of freedom, support for creativity, and positive feedback of contributions would theoretically be on another level than what capitalism is able to achieve, because capitalism wastes a lot of resources on “adversarial” competition, and the system is actually unstable giving rise to monopolies and artificial power centers if left by itself, which only government regulation can prevent. Added to that, capitalism rewards some types of value more than others (and some not at all), which creates an unhappy society as people are incentivized to do things that can be rewarded, rather than things that are good.

On the other hand, the new system is stable and monopolies cannot form. Instead of there being incentives to lock down “competitive advantages” like intellectual property, ideas, and resources, the new system incentivizes sharing of these things by guaranteeing fair recognition of contributions without need for adversarial competition. There is an incentive to create and contribute but without the need for “enemies” to facilitate this progress.

There are still some limits on what is possible and limits to what economic systems are capable of doing for us, which is explained in the section “The Bounds on Utopia.” Certainly, not all good things can be recognized in the new system either, but all things that are recognized would be good. From the smallest most mundane activities to action on the largest scales of all of humanity, these things that are recognized and facilitated in the system would be good, as defined by ourselves collectively at every level of this “snowflake” society.

The other major development this time around is the idea of “epistemic levels” introduced in the Philosophical Conception section. The section now also includes detailed discussion of the reasoning behind the constructions and choices. It’s still in its early stages so I’m sure there will be revisions over time, but the main choices at the foundational levels, e.g. of there being a strange loop (Hofstadter’s) at the heart of definability — these are going to remain as they are I think.

Now this section on epistemic levels is very important first of all because it is the foundation of our knowledge — the framework described is the framework each of us uses to understand reality. This is who/what we are! But more specifically, the framework allows us to understand which types of knowledge are “more valid” or “less valid,” it gives us a precise way to categorize/understand/relate elements of reality, tells us precisely the relationship between models and reality, mathematics and science, the limits of science, and also suggests to us useful, fundamental abstractions that we don’t know about (consciously) yet. It’s just like the periodic table in chemistry — when it was discovered it showed “gaps” in the table that suggested to scientists that they should be looking for as-yet-unknown elements which would fill those gaps, and the table told them exactly what properties these elements would have so they had an idea where to look. Similarly, epistemic levels tells us how to think about regions of knowledge — regions of the mind — in order to discover as-yet-unknown useful abstractions that can be applied to all knowledge and reality.

While this development has brought clarity to much of the theory, it also means that a lot of things in the paper including terminology now need to be updated to reflect the new conceptions. This will take a lot of time, so I’ve opted to just release the updates as is and continue to address the terminology issues over time, following a process which is described here:

https://github.com/countvajhula/identity/blob/master/RELEASE.txt

… and for which an “issue” has been recorded here:

https://github.com/countvajhula/identity/issues/1

Finally, it probably seems surprising or even mystifying that two very different human endeavors — that of creating a peaceful, efficient society, and that of understanding the nature of knowledge and life — apparently have a common solution. This is really the heart of the matter and the core message of the work on identity architecture — that there is a single paradigm, a single set of abstractions, a single underlying model, which applies to consciousness and by extension all reality. When this message is understood, truly, everything else will follow.

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