[ExI] Increasing coherence over increasing context? Or Truth?

Aware aware at awareresearch.com
Thu May 21 18:19:24 UTC 2009

On Thu, May 21, 2009 at 1:45 AM, Lee Corbin <lcorbin at rawbw.com> wrote:

[Jef wrote:]
>> Can you explain to me what "coherent" means to you?
> Okay, without looking it up, to me it means
> "holding together" or "clear" and in this
> context even "consistent".

Hmmm.  So part of the problem here seems to be that you're conflating
cohesive, cogent, and consistent with coherent.

>From Websters:

1a.  Logically or aesthetically ordered or integrated.

My view is a bit more encompassing (imagine that!) since I tend to
conceptualize all of this in terms of systems theory.  Consider any
abstract system.  The integrity of the system (related to its capacity
to persist within a competitive, even simply entropic environment) is
a function of the interdependence of its components.  To the extent
that the components "work together", exploiting synergies promoting
the "purpose" of the system (allowing it to do more [of whatever it
does] at less cost) and by extension, to the extent that it exploits a
hierarchical structure of synergies in the functional relationships
between its components, then the system will tend to persist.  This
principle applies to pre-biological structures as well as genes,
memes, trends in fashion and ethics and economics..., and scientific

It's an ecological view of systems, with the system's capacity to
persist, its "ascendency" to use a term coined by Robert Ulanowicz, a
measure of the mutual information, or coherence, of its trophic flows.

More directly relevant to the discussion at hand is the understanding
that incoherence has a cost, imposing a competitive disadvantage.

>>> To me, a term such as "the increasingly probable"
>>> hides more than it makes clear. Something is
>>> probable?  Probably what?  Probably so?  True?  Oh.
>> Probable in the sense of more likely to be observed, to exert an
>> influence, to be detected, to make a difference in the structure of
>> its surroundings.  Evidence of a likelihood function, not a statement
>> of Truth.
> I wonder how much of this viewpoint you are
> pushing you have actually internalized.
> Do you remember yourself understanding "it
> is increasingly probable that my observations
> of that man crossing the street will be
> consistent with my future observations of
> him getting to the other side, within the
> broader context of me sitting here in this
> situation", or do you remember yourself
> understanding something more like "he's
> crossing the street"?

I see "a person crossing the street"

I see classes of street crossings by classes of persons by means of
classes of methods within classes of contexts.

I see myself observing and considering all of the above.  To me it
seems entirely natural to observe "reality" from different points and
levels of view.  And all my life I've had difficulty fully
appreciating and accepting that other people don't.

> I don't know how many people appreciate
> your circumlocutions, but you'll have to
> keep trying till they do, I reckon.
> Oh, you address this here:

It has always struck me as strange, almost disingenuous, that you
appear to parse and reply so sequentially.  I always read a post
entirely, and usually more than once, to try to ascertain the gestalt,
before choosing effective targets for my reply.

Might it be that "gestalt" is another concept highlighting the
difference in our worldviews?

[> Oh, you address this here:]

>> And to the extent we are dealing with the regularities of daily life,
>> then we do well to exploit the fast and frugal heuristics of our
>> evolutionary heritage.
> Yes.
>> But the local effectiveness of heuristics comes
>> at the expense of reduced context.
> That sentence completely floors me.

Don't you agree that the effectiveness of heuristics comes with a
cost?  If so, how would you describe that cost other than in terms of
pre-narrowed possibility space, reduced context of consideration, in
complete accord with the No Free Lunch theorem?

> But it's very
> good that it came up. Are you perhaps trying to
> make your sentences less assailable by arranging
> for them to apply to as broadly as possible? I.e.,
> to contexts as broad as possible?

Not less assailable, but when I'm trying to help you see the forest
I'd prefer you didn't stumble over the odd tree on the ground.

Likewise, when coding software, I find that the correctness of my
implementations corresponds to the purity of my abstractions.  Almost
always when I find myself thrashing, making little progress with an
implementation, when I eventually succeed I find that the result is
something much simpler and more elegant, with complexity hidden by a
more coherent hierarchical structuring of detail.

   "The purpose of abstracting is not to be vague,
    but to create a new semantic level in which one
    can be absolutely precise."

    - Edsger W. Dijkstra, _The Humble Programmer_

>> Thus we have the effectiveness of
>> belief in authority, the cohesiveness
>> of the in-group and its codes
>> (religion, cults)... and belief
>> in an absolute Truth.
> If I'm following you, then you trace these
> unfortunate developments to people failing
> to verbally recognize and include in their
> statements broader contexts.

Not verbal.  Not statements.

Pragmatic.  Actions.

I was trying to convey examples of systems-level behaviors which are
natural and expected results of heuristics, evolutionarily acquired
due to their pragmatic value, but which you might recognize as most
effective mainly within the relatively limited context of their
environment of evolutionary adaptation.

> But you did say earlier that we had built
> up evolutionarily a lot of useful shortcuts.
> Apparently, I can't say it any better than
> you just did:
>> And to the extent we are dealing
>> with the regularities of daily life,
>> then we do well to exploit the fast
>> and frugal heuristics of our
>> evolutionary heritage.
>> But to the extent that we are trying to make effective predictions
>> about an increasingly uncertain future, then there is a moral
>> imperative to strive for increasing coherence, within increasing
>> context--applicable to knowledge of our present but evolving values,
>> and to our present but evolving instrumental (scientific) methods for
>> their promotion.
>> It's the best we can do.  That's why it matters.  That's why I keep
>> pressing the point.

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