Michael Shermer with Dr. Donald Hoffman — The Case Against R

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20 Aug 2019, 11:48 pm

Michael Shermer with Dr. Donald Hoffman — The Case Against Reality (SCIENCE SALON # 78)

I'm listening to this and Hoffman takes a rather direct aim at the problems of perception in science and how we're up against the limits of our own tools. His outlook on evolution TBH is bleak to say the least, ie. that it always and forever select against truth and toward gain maximizing algorithms (sort of like Monday Blue's analogy of people who are crappy at jobs but great at interviewing who outcompete people who are great workers but crappy at interviews - superficiality will slay reality in any social contest), IMHO to follow that to it's logical conclusion we can kiss our arses goodbye in this century when our environmental gain-maximizers will likely render humanity dutifully extinct by no free will of its own. Guess the universe really doesn't want anything looking back at it for too long if that's the case.

While a lot of the ideas here seem half-baked, like the above, it has premises in it that seem solid enough that they need more inspection. The half-baked part, we'd have no scientists or 'truth-seekers' if nature was anything other than indifferent to the enterprise, selection against seeking truth seems to have more to do with the struggle for survival being so all-consuming that there's not a lot of time for truth by the time that's settled on an individual to individual basis. If anything, with 7 billion + people we're now finding we have the luxury of putting truth over procreation because at 7 billion + any extinction-level issues we might face don't seem to be anything that making more of us would fix.

As far as the idea of space-time being something that's a sensory chimera or strong intuition inflicting itself on how we've approached the math to this point I'd have to hear more from people familiar with that level of the topic - ie. I've been hearing increasingly that both space and time are secondary to something more primitive and that it's something like the 2D data layer that was suggested to retain perfect structural information about objects that get drawn into black holes. Dr Hoffman is talking about our relationships to hazards (in the conversations snakes and cliffs) as taking them seriously but not literally and looking at everything our senses assemble as user interface or something that evolutionary fitness has given us as the closet approximation to having the right reactions to our environments without actually understanding the basis our environments - his suggestion seems to be that we left just about all of that at the gate in the evolutionary process of gaining perception in the first place.

This is one of those cases where I'd agree with Michael Shermer that it's high-yield content, not just in its insights but also potentially in any mistakes that can be found, and that's something of a rare find.


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