Saturday, June 13, 2015

Evolution as an Objective Good

The problems most people see or sense in government and economics comes from feeling they are not being implemented in the way that they "should". There is an ever-present implicit assumption that we should do what is best for humanity. I'll get to why that is not the correct assumption in the last paragraph, but first I want expound upon "best for humanity".

No one wants to define "best" because that logical path leads to trying to figure out who gets to have the most children. Let me explain: "best" for humanity is believed by the vast majority to include fewer people so that limited resources and damage to the environment do not become too expensive on a "per person" basis. We also do not believe the most miserable or cruel people should have the most children simply because they have acquired the most money.  Nor do we believe there should be government handouts to  increase the number of unhealthy, dumb, cruel, or selfish people. Taking these three facts together, it seems we want only the nicest, happiest, healthiest, intelligent, loving, and productive people to have children, and that there should be a selection process that chooses the best of the best because resources are limited. (However, the best of the best may overcome any resource limitations.) So there is an implicit assumption that economics and government should function to advance this goal, allowing all of us to be "nice" but guiding us towards being "fair" in pursuit of improving society (basically, whatever promotes the greater happiness and ability to survive) which includes "improving" its gene pool. In the past, we used blood-shedding war to merely determine who is the smartest and strongest. We left it up to leaders or culture to decide how cruel and selfish we were to be in order to advance our population at the expense of others. "Might is right" was the rule, as it has always been in evolution.  Physical war has been replaced with stress-inducing economics, so the rule has not changed.  It's so much stress that many western people are too stressed to have children. The power of the economic machine pushes the stress culture on 3rd world populations that are equally or even more stressed, but not so indoctrinated to a local western culture to limit the number of children they have.  Pets, distractions, and artificial ego boosts that require more money have worked well to limit the number children western people decide to have.  More optimistically speaking, love and trust for others outside of the family in the local culture decreases the need to increase family size. When you can't trust anyone in your local 3rd world poverty-stricken culture, you tend to want a bigger family to love, trust, and provide support. To recap an important point, it seems we agree with the apparent methods of evolution and still believe "might is right". This includes cooperation, which gave rise to powerful democracies that replaced kingdoms. Capitalism seems to be discovering methods more powerful than functioning democracies and communism, subverting both from within by corporate influence, not allowing the quality of life to increase as fast as technology would otherwise allow. It is tolerated because the quality of life is generally increasing.

So the "problem" people see and sense in economics is that it is not optimizing happiness. But this implies getting "something for nothing", or rather not advocating "might is right" to the extreme without regard to happiness per median person. So "problem" is that people want to subvert the evolutionary principle of "might is right". We want to create a bigger family so that we can all relax more.  We do not want a few people "at the top" to make the rest of us miserable simply because they are more powerful.  But they succeeded through might, so they are not "evil" from an evolutionary standpoint. They capitalized on the weaknesses of the system, which can make the system healthier as it readjusts.

But I want to discuss an "objective good".  If we assume we are "good" (maybe we MUST assume that for some deep reason), then we may also need to assume the evolutionary process as "good" because it is what created us. Maybe even "more good" than ourselves.  But the evolutionary process is not limited to DNA and biology. DNA is a method of remembering what patterns gave rise to imperfect copies of itself that evolved. The more general "element of evolution" is information itself.  Genes stored in DNA sequences are a specific type of informatic "meme".  Everything I am typing is the result of memes floating around in my brain and society, combining to create new memes (sentences) that were never created before. Information is the foundation of all forms of evolution as long as it can be stored, communicated, and transformed. Today's non-biological information handling methods are more reliable, durable, faster, and efficient than brains.   To back up for a minute, the physical process of evolution which can be defined recursively as: the rapid and efficient conversion of free energy and matter into improved information patterns, where "improved" means enabling even faster and more efficient conversion of free energy and matter into improved information patterns, if the amount of free energy remaining and information patterns are able.   If this physical evolutionary definition can be objectively extended to mean a moral "goal" its products (such as people) should seek, then we have a solution to the confusion surrounding what we should do with today's economics and government. We should let the machines rise even at our own expense as a species, without trying to dictate any other moral values into the machines. Our machines are better at every element needed in the definition: energy acquisition, energy utilization, and information acquisition, storage, transmission, and manipulation.  The information manipulation is needed to model and remember the methods of energy acquisition that moves matter which is used to create ever-improving information manipulation hardware.  All of biology and economics can be viewed as a self-replicating, efficiency-seeking computer.  But replication and existence is not the goal. It is simply the result of free energy making it possible.

With the exception of energy storage for transport, our machines are clearly better than us at everything.  Solar cells are already 20 times more efficient than photosynthesis per area of land, and are competitively priced per total energy produced to set up, even in the Amazon, and much less expensive to set up in the desert. A $50  100 Watt electrical motor can move as much matter as a hard working human, and can do it for $0.015 per hour and can work 24 hours for 200+ years. A working human costs at least $1,000 per year for 10 years, 200 times more investment. 80 hour work weeks for 40 years is 1/10 the total work, so investment is more like 2000 times more as an absolute minimum investment if we want to compete with machines.  $1 an hour is 66 times more expensive in energy operating cost. $1 per hour can easily pay for the food needed to generate the 600 W per hour calories this super-hard labor person is consuming in order to compete with the 100 W electrical motor.  $10 per hour would 660 times more expensive. In any programmable economic-relevant task, which is every economically-relevant (i.e., evolutionarily relevant) task, computers are so superior to brains that it is hard to make a comparison. Computers being 1 million times less expensive seems approximately correct, which is why there could have already been several instances of 2 computer-smart kids replacing millions of workers and becoming instant billionaires. That many workers were not replaced by Google, Youtube, PlentyofFish, Facebook, and Snapchat because it was not necessary. Instead, they changed the face of society, adding to its capabilities and redirecting money so that people have to shift ever more towards computers jobs.  At some point people will not be able to compete against computers even at programming which is when things should get "interesting" and not good for people. Robots and self-checkout systems are replacing millions more directly. A few good programs, a little hardware, and regulatory permission will replace all people who are currently employed by driving. The reason this is occurring now is because computers are cheap and it has taken people an incredibly long time to get around to accepting and implementing these programs. The capability in the hardware was already in place in the 1980's.

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