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Ask A Genius (or Two): Conversation with Erik Haereid and Rick Rosner on Existence, Mathematics, and Philosophy (Part Five)

April 8, 2019

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 18.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (Part Fourteen)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: April 8, 2019

Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2019

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 8,513

ISSN 2369-6885

Abstract 

Rick Rosner and I conduct a conversational series entitled Ask A Genius on a variety of subjects through In-Sight Publishing on the personal and professional website for Rick. Rick exists on the World Genius Directory listing as the world’s second highest IQ at 192 based on several ultra-high IQ tests scores developed by independent psychometricians. Erik Haereid earned a score at 185, on the N-VRA80. Both scores on a standard deviation of 15. A sigma of ~6.13 for Rick – a general intelligence rarity of 1 in 2,314,980,850 – and ~5.67 for Erik – a general intelligence rarity of 1 in 136,975,305. Of course, if a higher general intelligence score, then the greater the variability in, and margin of error in, the general intelligence scores because of the greater rarity in the population. This amounts to a joint interview or conversation with Erik Haereid, Rick Rosner, and myself.

Keywords: America, Erik Haereid, Norway, Rick Rosner, Scott Douglas Jacobsen.

Ask A Genius (or Two): Conversation with Erik Haereid and Rick Rosner on Existence, Mathematics, Philosophy (Part Five)[1],[2]

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: How do philosophy and mathematics mix with one another? How do philosophy and mathematics not mix with one another? What insights into reality emerge from philosophy and not mathematics, or from mathematics and not from philosophy? Or do these seem inextricably linked to one another? 

Traditionally, philosophy breaks into several disciplines: ethics, aesthetics, epistemology, metaphysics, and so on. Do some of these distinct fields seem unnecessary in philosophy? In that, some sub-disciplines in philosophy seem already explained within others.

Also, what seems like the limits of mathematics and philosophy in providing some fundamental explanation about the world? In that, the rules and principles of mathematics remain non-fundamental. 

Same with the purported big questions of philosophy. They remain important. They give insights, even a sense of grandeur about existence. However, they fail, at least at present, for a complete explanation about the world – assuming such a thing exists in principle.

Erik Haereid: Mathematics is an abstract, logical, cognitive tool based on numerical symbols, based on some assumptions, axioms that we agree on. Whether the assumptions are proper or not is a philosophical issue. Mathematics is about structures and exact relations.

Philosophy is some logical investigation into what’s true and false, and what’s right and wrong. It’s a compass in life. We use it trying to finish our mental map. It’s a cognitive tool that helps us directing our lives more proper, as we see it, than lives that are lived in the present and based on pure intuition and urges.

Philosophy and mathematics go hand in hand thus that we begin with some philosophical inquiries, then we put some mathematics to those thoughts, then we make new philosophical inquiries and so on. An example is the Big Bang theory. It’s reasonable that there many years ago were as many ideas of the Universe, what was outside the human perceptions when watching the sky at day and night, as there were humans. That is, basic for philosophizing is our fantasy; thoughts and emotions in a mental soup based on our genes and experiences. The yellow light we saw at day time on the sky, and we thought were god’s candle or whatever, became through philosophy, mathematics, and science to a massive spherical plasma object consisting of such as hydrogen and helium.

Einstein philosophized through his experimental thoughts about how the Universe could function and look like, and he had, for instance, Newton’s work in his mind. He got some ideas, like that space is curved and cause gravity, which were reasonably for him, and he put mathematics to it. He also philosophized over that the three-dimensional space and time were not independent, but one four-dimensional phenomenon (spacetime). That kind of philosophy and related mathematics created new thoughts about how the Universe looked like, and what was beyond our perceptions.

Who could think of the Universe as a 13-14-billion-year-old highly dense little object exploding into a vast mess of matter and energy, impossible to imagine, thousand years ago? It was the philosophy and mathematics that dug the ditch. And still are. Because we don’t know what’s beyond the Big Bang. And probably, if we look to for instance Gödel’s incompleteness theorems, we will never know. At least never get the whole picture.

Let’s say we could explain the Universe; find some formulas that explained everything (determinism). Then we could explain, prove (based on some axiomatic, logical framework), every statement we had. There wouldn’t be any statements that couldn’t be proved. But according to Gödel, within any axiomatic, logical framework there are statements that cannot be proved and therefore human can never prove a deterministic Universe even though the Universe is deterministic.

But since we are curious, and maybe naive, we still dig. And then we make new and more fantasies, restrict it into some logical, philosophical frame of thoughts, put some mathematics, even more strict relations and order, to it, call them theories and try to prove them. The final act is to observe it; experience that the empirical observations are in accordance with the philosophy and mathematics. Then it’s true, in our understanding of truth. When we have revealed the truth, we don’t need to philosophize about it any more. Of course that’s not completely true, because we don’t believe in our perceptions, and/or we don’t know what they are (what is a thought?). So we will continue philosophizing over that, until we get tired and give up, or get mad.

A harmonic alternation between fantasies (chaos), philosophy (order), mathematics (detailed and more order, relations) and empirical experiences (perceptual truth) is the track here.

Humans tend to try to see the surface of the three-/four-dimensional space we are confined in, from the outside. But there is no surface. What is “no surface?” And so on. The only possibility is to make fantasies about it, philosophize about it, create some mathematical formulas to it, but it’s confined within our perceptions and abstract images. Our desire for knowing exceeds our possible limits of knowledge. Maybe this drive is crucial for human’s evolution

AI and technology, build on better abilities, amplifiers, processors and storage possibilities than we have, could be fruitful for human evolution. We have to respect our limitations, like we do when we make cars, planes, telephones and binoculars. And I think we also do.

I also think we should extend our mind and cognitive abilities to its limit. It’s rewarding when mathematicians (and other scientists) find new solutions, invent new concepts or numbers (like when introducing irrational numbers, and later complex numbers).

We need philosophy as long as we don’t know everything we want to know, independent of which philosophical field we talk about. In this context a single philosophical discipline’s existence is a function of if we still see it proper to try to answer more questions about these topics.

When I know how trees grow, through photosynthesis, and am satisfied with that answer, I don’t need philosophizing about trees and growth anymore. It fulfills my needs. But that’s subjective, because the process, any process, has no end in the human mind. There are always questions to ask, even when we know “everything” about that topic.

If you see a tree, you can see it as timber to build houses, as a plant that grow and live through photosynthesis, as an imaginary picture of the phylogenetic development, as a family tree, as a nightmare, as beautiful, as a wish, as an oxygen producer, as a producer of apples and fruits, as x times heavier and higher than a human, etc. To discover all these angles and views is the aim of philosophy, in all areas and with everything we have any real perception or imaginary idea of.

To understand is beauty. We have to respect that we will never understand everything, and at the same time respect that there are always new things to learn. It’s about a balance. It’s like building a monument, like an enormous cathedral or tower; it takes hundreds, thousands, millions of years, but by putting one brick systematically on top of another we know that we each day get closer to the product; by creating time through successive events we experience that we can reach our goal. And until we know how to live forever, we reproduce and let our children continue the job.

What’s the final point? Maybe to reveal a global truth. To reach the very end, where the illuminated revelation is right in front of us. Is this what life is about? Or is it just an uncorrelated mess, with seemingly none or few relations, no goal, a nihilistic travel through emptiness? Shall we reduce life to simple, cynical social maneuvers that suck all the beauty out of it? I choose not to reduce humans to a harsh evolution process, because it’s meaningless, it’s messy and violent, and it’s logical in the simplest way. This makes me religious even though I don’t believe in God. This also elevates my experience of life.

It’s complicated to see the beauty in everything, and on that road we limit us to exclude what we have not understood yet. But still we unconsciously work towards that goal, because we know on an unconscious level that we need to see everything that exists in relation to each other.

In general we philosophize about everything and anything, and related to math about such as black holes and singularity, how to express the primes in a formula, multiple universes, artificial superintelligence, and how to travel and meet the aliens somewhere in the Andromeda Galaxy. Dreaming about travelling to the Moon was one thing, philosophizing about it another and the next step, and then calculating how to do it and doing it the final steps.

Obviously, as we can see when we are at AI’s kickoff, the human brain has many limitations concerning perceiving, storing and processing data. The black boxes are mentioned, and our lack of knowledge of what is going on there even though we have created these devices.

One of the blessings by being a child was the large quantity of fantasies. In books, stories told, dreams, what we saw in the nature we yet didn’t restrict to pure science (Some trees grew into heaven, didn’t they?).

Inventions are made by grown up “children”. There is one person now and then through history that revealed something important, that made his/her fantasy becomes real; like that we can talk to each other from one side of the world to the other, or travel in space. The impossible became possible. This is an ongoing process which we all are a part of all the time.

Maybe our search for objectivity and truth, a real Universe, has something to do with us, our mind more than it’s about if the Universe is objective or subjective. Of course, how is it possible to travel in a subjective Universe? Who are you if my mind is the only mind? How can I interact with something else if this is a part of me?

It’s convenient to look at it as me and the surroundings, as different entities, subject and object, because that’s how we experience it naturally. But when we go into it, philosophizing, exploring it with our thoughts and logic, it could be that everything “else” is sort of an unconscious part of ourselves. “We” are not confined in our body.

We just don’t experience it like that, because we are not aware of it. But by putting it into a thought, we can think of it as a possibility, or just a fantasy. When you travel or do things, I do it, but as during surgery and anesthesia. It’s a matter of consciousness and not. Or several levels of consciousness; I am not aware that I think your thoughts.

Don’t misunderstand this; it sounds narcissistic. But it’s not, it’s a philosophical inquiry. If the person thinks he/she is God, then he/she tries to control all other’s cognition, acts, behavior. But we don’t control each other’s thoughts and behavior. It’s in this context the philosophical inquiry is done.

Maybe we are tricked by the fact that we experience that something is outside our own control, and therefore experience it as what we call objectivity. If I can’t remember that I wrote that sentence or did that thing, how can I then claim that it’s my act? How can I be certain of that me is confined within “my” body, “my” senses, “my” emotions and thoughts, “my” free will? It could happen that I am something else than I experience that I am, even everything. This is about how we identify ourselves, and what kind of responsibility we take.

Let’s say that we all are the same. If everyone and everything are a part of you and you are a part of everything and everyone, then all the interactions are a part of us and we are not limited to our bodies. Subject is object. When you speak to me, even though I can’t imagine or sense that this spoken sentence came from myself, I have no control over it, I don’t know where it came from within what I define as “me”, I have to think, from this point of view, that your voice is my voice. It could be a voice from my unconscious part, like my autonomic nervous system.

It’s not the chaos that is beautiful, but our adaptation to it in the sense of understanding and accepting the volatility in the surroundings, the magnitude of the Universe and life. This is what make logical practices like math and philosophy beautiful; they are tools evolving our understanding, abstract and not, and revealing that life is more than we have ever thought of before.

We talk a lot about what technology can do for us in the future, and obviously we need some kind of cognitive and emotional amplifiers to be what we want to be.

Inventions like social media, internet, shows creativity and that we are capable of doing almost what we want to. I am sure that evolution has its right pace, also related to technology.

[Ed. Further commentary]

We humans have the ability to think we are something we are not; we have the ability to believe we are gods and devils, for instance, that we are everything and nothing, abstractions or concrete manifestations different from which we really are, and base our existence on that false identity. The advantage of this feature is that we can create great ideas that can be converted into practical use. The downside is that we kill each other; become more destructive than necessary. Great ideas are also created by people that are self-aware, so let’s stick with this.

I am in favor of self-awareness, to use a word that is not sufficient and do not cover what I mean; but that’s the best word I came up with. It’s about knowing that you are an entity, existence, and who you are, as best you possible can achieve that self-awareness through all your identity-changes through your life. It’s a continuous struggle. And it’s the best way to live your life, if you ask me; for you and the society. It’s a state of contemplation, and maybe the Buddhist monks are the best achievers of that state, I don’t know. We in the western cultures are not very good at it, though.

When we discuss ontological, epistemological, ethical or aesthetical issues, I choose to start with this: We have to know that we are and approximately who we are; for real, not as abstract or false features. If not, we are driven into insanity.

When I discuss whether ideas exist or not, I have to profoundly feel that I am the entity that thinks of and discuss this problem with myself or others. If not, I get lost.

If abstraction exists per se, beyond our abilities to think abstract, is a function of what concepts we so far in evolution have developed and defined, and which logical inference and irrational beliefs we have established (knowledge).  Proofs of for instance abstractions’ existence are based on our, humans, innate abilities and learned knowledge. The core is how we humans define proof. And this is about feelings, experiences, profound feeling of and so on; the core inside us (i.e. self-awareness), which is irrational as such.

It’s possible to disagree about anything and everything, even though one wizard claims his or her right (like it seems I do here; I underline that this is my experience), and even “proves” it. Bottom line is that it ends here; reality, existence, truth cannot be proved as anything else than that we experience it and call it “truth, reality” and so on. Something is difficult to contradict as real, though, like physical events that “everyone” sees and experience. The closest we get to reality is therefore our experience of it. Do you see what I mean?

I think we have to see knowledge as a human phenomenon, a mental ability that helps advanced organisms like us to provide better identities and lives. Humans should focus more on what is real and not, and what is me and what is someone and something else; who are we, and how shall we capture a sense of that?

It’s not about living all life in contemplation, but to evolve the ability to slow down the chaotic lives when needed, and find that inner peace or understanding of whom one is; a meditation skill.

We all change identities every minute, every day, all life, and it’s a struggle knowing who we are on this bumpy travel. And since humans have these complex mental abilities, we also have the ability to dissociate, create several personalities, thinking we are something we are not and make a mess for ourselves and each other. I don’t say that I think we would be angels if we all had this continuously inner contact with who we are, but I guess we certainly would have been nicer and lived better lives and also chose the right path; because we would have the inner knowledge and wisdom of “here I am, and that is who I am just now”. Then the future would be easier regardless obstacles we met on the road. 

So, if there is one certain achievable knowledge, it is the knowledge of who we are. No one can take that inner experience away from anybody (even though we try and succeed…). But we have to believe in it; it’s not proved mathematically or a result from a syllogism. It’s an experience. It’s beyond thoughts and emotions, which are tools to gain that inner knowledge and wisdom.

If you want to be rich or a king, go for it, but the point is to experience and achieve an inner peace about who you are on that road. It’s not about restraining our lives, on the contrary, but about achieving goals through self-awareness. Do you see what I mean? I don’t believe in piety in the strictest meaning of the word, because that’s a wrong approach to inner peace. I am more in favor of hedonism, but with that extra ability to always know who you really are, and not the narcissistic or ascending self.

Maybe I am a bit off-road concerning the topic in this thread, but when we talk about philosophy and what kind of mindful activities humans should strive for in the future, I have to mention this which I strongly believe in. We can ask ontological and epistemological questions about reality, existence and knowledge, and questions about what is beautiful and not, and what is good and not, but anyway we end up with ourselves. That kind of self-awareness is the key to evolve on every other area we deal with. Being human is not only to gain knowledge but also wisdom, and that is to know when enough is enough.

Because we tend to blend our abstractions of who we are with who we really are, also because other people, the culture, plant ideas in our mind about who we are and should be, we build a distance between our perception of who we think we are and who we really are. This creates chaos in our minds and in the culture; socially.

It’s the culture, family, friends, activities and your surroundings that function as mirrors, that make you be self-aware or not. If this culture make you believe that you are something else than you really are, then you go out searching for someone and something that mirrors the real you, that make you find yourself, until you find it; because we all have that inner profound wisdom about whom we are, all the time. We just need help; mirrors that lead us towards it.

Self-awareness is also about understanding ones limitations. If you are far away from knowing who you are, you are not capable of capturing your possibilities. It’s like a child’s growth: The child develops best when its parents function as mirrors for that child; sees it as it is. Then the child is open-minded for strangers and differences, curious about it, and is driven towards new phenomenon. It changes identity every second. And because its parents sees it whatever what (not accept everything it does, though), it will continue being self-aware. It’s a process through life. When we get older other people function as mirrors, the culture does, and the same rules exists. When we are not seen as we are, when we cannot see ourselves in a film, a book or in a neighbor, we get lost in our minds and develop other and alternative pictures of who we are than we really are. When the culture contains many such individuals and features, then it gets messy.

One of my points is that we become xenophobic and hateful against each other when we abstract from our true self. And the contrary; friendly and inviting when we know who we are. Then ethics is to build a community and culture which embrace values that enhance each individual’s self-awareness. A culture that motivates everyone to be something one impossibly can be is an unethical culture, and the opposite. It’s not about restriction, but a consciousness about whom we are and who we can be. The sky’s the limit in our mind, but not in real life. And I think that is crucial to understand, and making good citizens; people that know how to treat each other with respect and good. And even though it sounds imprisoning, it works opposite; you will actually achieve more in life when you are aware of this. Self-confidence is å product of being self-aware.

You can create a justice system that controls people’s actions until a degree, but the basic problems are still the same; the system does not prevent violence. That’s because it’s still unfair; no such system embraces everyone. The thing, if you ask me, is not to prevent violence and make good citizens by telling people who they are and should be, but letting them be who they are. Then our natural social collisions will make us adapt properly. I think this is a path to more empathy and understanding, as I said before: Egoism is altruism. This is what I mean by that. I don’t say this will prevent violence completely, not at all. But it is, in my opinion, the best way to achieve cultures where all live their best lives and that is inside the acceptable for almost everyone. Statistically spoken the expected value, the average, of life quality could be the same but the standard deviation much less. There would be shorter distance between the extremities. We (think) we need more rules and limitations and governmental institutions because we are less in contact with whom we really are, and more in contact with an abstract, false identity; that’s my point.

About aesthetics: The idea with art is to elevate us, bring us into the contact I speak about, to our true self. So the idea of aesthetics, say art, is to bring us closer to mutual love and respect, understanding and behavior that we all can accept.

It’s about making the right picture, mirroring ourselves. I think it’s not a question if, let’s say in painting, impressionism is better for us than expressionism, or if that abstract art is better than figurative art, but what that piece of painting and sculpture does with us; like the book we read. I read novels that enhance my feelings of being, existing. It’s like travelling and being aware of that. And as with esthetics, it’s not possible to draw general and absolute rules. It’s individual.

When that is said it’s obvious that some with knowledge about paintings can help people to see things in the painting, and through that new insight evolve and appreciate that piece of art. Like in architecture, where you can look at a building and feel that it’s ugly until the architect wizard tell you about the details, the reasons; why, where, how. Then it becomes beautiful, as the zoologist thinks when he watches tarantulas.

Should we draw a painting and write a novel as beautiful as possible, far from reality, to enhance our good feelings that we get when we watch beautiful things; idealizing? Or should we paint and describe reality, with the chaotic mix of ugliness and beauty, reflecting our real emotions in our real lives?

If everything in a culture is about creating idealistic, always beautiful art and social installations, we get lost in our hopes and wishes, in our abstractions and thoughts about how we want our lives to be. If we don’t create any counterpoise to this, we will probably evolve abstract selves and huge distance to our true selves, and without the opportunity to evolve our true selves as we wish. To gain the optimal evolution we have to create idealistic art and art reflecting reality.

Being a true romantic, as an example, is not about being bohemian or poet, but being bohemian in the weekends, so to speak. Hedonism is a spare time phenomenon. It’s about having this inner switch turning you self on and off. A naturalist, a person that embraces things as they are, has also to turn his and her romantic-switch on now and then. Art is not about destruction, but about making us understand that no one survives if life is pure destructive. We have to see, to internalize, that there are good as well. If we don’t, it’s not because of our existence but because of our culture, art, communications and perceptions of life. It’s an illusion that reality is pure destructive. And it’s an illusion that it’s pure good.

[Ed., further additions]

We can divide reality into a concrete and an abstract world, where the abstractions meet the concretions now and then. It is “impossible” to claim that something created or perceived in the abstract world don’t have the opportunity to appear in the concrete world, such as time travels.  We don’t know the range of the concrete possibilities that lie in our abstractions. We profit from distinguishing between our abstract and concrete identities. The abstractions as phenomenon are far ahead of us, far beyond, but at the same time provide us vast amounts of opportunities in the concrete world.

Example quantum physics: The fact that two particles can function completely synchronized on different physical places, with no concrete relation, is an example of changes in our perception of reality based on evolved abstractions (math). When I say that we must be aware of our limitations, I mean strive for being self-aware, and not that we shall not endeavor and evolve through our abstractions; including convert from abstract concepts to real experiences like time travels. Abstractions are about aspiring, setting goals, and respect that we reach them when and if we do.

The very first grounds for anything is “because it is like that”. Axioms are established because we feel and experience that this is right, and not because it’s a logical context that leads to the axioms. My point is that all explanations, all mathematics and philosophy are based on an irrational, emotionalized elastic floor that we never can get under or beyond.  

Math is about developing numerical logical coherences, formulas, based on some basic rules, axioms that we agree in. When we bump into problems that involve lack of concepts and definitions, we create them. That’s the advantage by abstractions; it’s quite easy to expand and evolve. When mathematicians stop developing concerning formulas containing strange numbers that they until then did not have defined in their number system, they invent new number concepts and symbols (i.e. from natural to rational, rational to irrational and further to complex numbers). They adapt to their abstract needs by expanding their abstract world. Even though complex numbers (square root of negative numbers) seem illogical and incomprehensible by first glimpse, based on traditional mathematical rules, it’s about amplifying the system by thinking beyond what the mind think is possible.   

In logical, abstract activities we have the possibility to achieve new coherences and correlations, after developing new abstract concepts, definitions and symbols and the logical rules we attend to, that we possibly couldn’t within the frame of concepts and symbols we are captured into at that time.

It becomes a kind of abstract nanotechnology; we distort basic structures, and create new concepts, definitions and logical rules that we accept.

An intriguing thought: Maybe the prime numbers are math’s enigma to mankind; we have to reveal the formula explaining the primes to understand what life is about; what is meaningful and not. If I was a zoologist I would probably have found another example, though. But maybe it’s impossible to find that formula concerning the prime numbers without expanding into new mathematical concepts.

Maybe rhythm, logic, coherences actually is about developing concepts and symbols, enlarging our abstract world more than trying to gain control over the already existing abstractions we know of. That is, every lack of rhythm and understanding is a lack of new concepts, lack of abstract expansion. If that’s so, it’s not about what we want and not want, but how we can achieve that expanded wisdom.

Rick Rosner: I agree with Eric that our philosophizing about the nature of the world has been recently constrained in the last hundred years by our finally having a first overall picture of the structure of the universe.

Although, I would say that our first conclusions, including the Big Bang, are likely not going to turn out to be as right as we currently think they are. But until a hundred years ago, we didn’t even know there were other galaxies.

It was less than a hundred years ago that the expansion of the universe was discovered. A hundred years ago, we didn’t know that stars ran on fusion. That’s less than ninety years ago. There was no way we would be even anywhere close to right in philosophizing about the universe because we had a very incomplete picture.

Our picture is still well short of, in our current philosophies and science, the overall structure and behavior of the universe; it is still off in the weeds. But it is closer to correct than ever before because we have more observational evidence than ever before, and it is not even a gradual incremental increase in accuracy.

It is an explosive increase in understanding over the past 100 years. We had Newton’s universal gravitation, which itself was a huge step and then we had the relativities but they were brand new.

So, anyway we’re living in a new era of philosophy and science on the largest scales and philosophy can be considered for science on the largest possible scale with an observational foundation for the first time ever.

Ten thousand years of trying to imagine the universe with some explosive steps towards understanding from time to time going from an earth-centered universe to a sun-centered universe, the discovery of the elements and all that stuff, but we’ve only gotten the tools for any observation and information based global philosophizing in the past few generations.

And this coincides with the idea that what science is supposed to do is boil everything down to a single general set of principles or a single theory; unification in general. Let’s see how many things we can put under a single umbrella.

We wouldn’t get arguments from many scientists if you said that biology and chemistry are at their most fundamental levels just physics. And they need to have some quibble saying there are emergent principles in biology and chemistry that you’d have a hard time predicting from physics. So, you can’t do away with biology and chemistry.

Then if you came back and said, “Yes but all the physical interactions from which these emergent phenomena arise, that’s still all physics.” They might have to grudgingly say, “Yeah.” You could argue that evolution is a unifying principle of life on earth.

Now still, you can take it all back on physics, but evolution is the framework that encompasses all that and gives you a philosophical structure for understanding what’s going on. Evolution is still subject to severe revision.

It wasn’t until the 60’s and 70’s when Stephen Jay Gould came on with punctuated equilibrium. Before that most people and still, most people have the idea that evolution, if they believe in it at all, is this gradual thing that cuts along with occasional mutations being helpful and being integrated into net of life.

Whereas punctuated equilibrium says the species generally go on without changing much for tens and even hundreds of thousands or even millions of years until special circumstances permit for rapid change in evolution on change in a few hundred, a few thousand, or a couple ten thousand years based on either a changing environment or a small segment of a population being isolated.

If you were to graph somehow one finch changing into another finch, it wouldn’t be a gradual transformation of one finch into the other. Instead, it would be finch A going along for fifteen thousand, twenty-five, or fifty-five thousand years and then all of a sudden part of that finch population, something happens to it; it gets isolated or the weather changes or some crap happens and then within fifteen hundred years finch B emerges.

But anyway, that’s a recent addition to evolutionary theory and then epigenetics is probably even more recent, not that I can even talk about that in any decent terms but I think epigenetics is like Lamarckism that isn’t wrong.

Lamarckism is the idea that an organism’s life history is somehow incorporated into what it passes on genetically with the standard example being that if a giraffe has to reach higher and higher to get to stuff on trees that reaching is somehow going to be incorporated, it is going to be passed on to its kids because the giraffe had to be so reachy all its life.

It wants to have longer necks, which survive better and pass on their long neck genes. So, it is not individual experience changing, it is the better-adapted creatures pass on their genes and if this happens in enough increments; if there’s a niche for longer-necked creatures, then longer-necked creatures are going to have more life success.

That is, they’ll get more food. They’ll be able to get laid better because they are healthier than the short-necked giraffes. So, the long-necked giraffes will have more descendants than the short-necked giraffes.

What I think epigenetics says, I should probably read the Wikipedia article so I’m not wrong, is that our genome; it has a bunch of junk genes. The genes that are expressed to make us and operate us are like in a teamwork with all the genes we have.

Most of the genes are right along those that have just been passed along because there’s no reason for them to be knocked out across several billion years of evolution. But some of these genes can be turned on based on life experience, so you do have an options package based on your life experience because you have all these templates to express other stuff if you run into the right circumstances.

I’m not sure that this means that these will be passed on based on your life experience, except that there will be bias if you survive better because your genes have been turned on. But anyway, that’s a whole new area of genetics that would’ve surprised the shit out of Darwin; he didn’t even know we had genes.

We have the bias towards unification looking for overall principles in philosophy, in math, in science and this unifying philosophy is generally successful. You’ve got the deductive principle and the inductive principle.

I don’t know which is which, but like one is looking to generalize and the other is you’re looking to specialize; take general principles and make new inventions from what you know. And science has had huge amounts of success going in both directions.

You’re going to make a bunch of money going from the general to the specific and they are making these stuff, but you’re going to get tenure and by going from this specific to the general.

I agree with most of what he says. It reminds me of three possible future paths for science which we talked about, which is:

1)      We complete science and know everything.

2)      We complete science without knowing everything because there are things beyond what we can know.

3)      Science proceeds to acquire a more and more complete picture of the universe but never reaching 100% completeness. There’s always more to know.

That seems the most reasonable path that we’ll render with AI, big data. So, our descendants and the things and people that will come after us will find all sorts of relationships in the world that we had no idea existed, probably don’t even have the mental capacity to process.

But it is still part of the ongoing but never complete process of understanding the world. Eric also talks about the importance of beauty and emotion and it used to be a stereotype when presenting robots in science fiction that they would be emotionless.

They would make dispassionate judgments just based on algorithms. Some of these judgments would be horrifying. The Terminator series with this cold logic tells the robots to eradicate the humans.

I think you can’t operate in the world effectively without assigning values to events and things and ideas and link to those values or emotions feeling good when positive things happen and bad when negative things happen and feeling good when you see something that appeals to your sense of aesthetics.

I think that the beings that come after us with much larger information processing capacity will continue to have emotions but emotions that will probably be even deeper than our own. If you can say something like our emotions are deeper than a dog’s emotions because our emotions are informed from more angles and based on more information, very few dogs write poetry and I think it makes sense to extrapolate from that that the beings who come after us with their bigger brains will have emotional structures that are bigger and deeper still.

The half robots of the year 2115 will feel deeply and have relationships among themselves and other beings that are as intricate and feeling and reflecting of values as our own and more so. Emotions and values are part of the toolkit that let you operate in the world. They are not for fun.

We as evolved beings; our emotions and values are largely evolved. Love is a cultural overlay; the feelings of love and the idea of love is a cultural overlay on our evolved drives to reproduce and to care for our offspring.

Future emotions and future values will have some of those same structures. People in the future may feel things strongly and the more stoic people of the future may feel emotions as being frippery but, in general, emotions help you navigate the world and help order emerge into the world.

They are a necessary part of conscious life and consciousness itself is probably a near necessary part of increasing order in the world. The point of view now is that everything boils down to physics. If you take biology apart everything happens because of physics, chemistry; because of physics.

So, all the more complicated sciences boil down to complicated instances of the simplest most basic science. I would say that similarly some of the complicated ideas of philosophy may be seen as boiling down to the more basic principles that might be found in math and in physics or even more basic than that in the principles of existence.

The consequence of this scientific program for the past few centuries has been to search for and boil everything down to essential principles and when you can’t do that you look for more macro explanations and overarching systems of values and beliefs.

But those overarching systems are subject to being boiled down to more essential principles as those principles are discovered and expanded upon. The current dominant belief of our time is scientism. The belief in science is the dominant and most dynamic belief system of our time.

Humans and human society and the universe itself has been increasingly subject to scientific analysis and most scientifically educated people believe that we are the entirely biological products of billions of years of evolution rather than being imbued with certain magical properties by God.

Now, that doesn’t mean that values have to be discarded, instead, we have to discover values within the more scientific framework and there is a lazy default form of science that says everything is random and nothing means anything but that is a misunderstanding of what goes on in an information-based universe.

It is hard to pull a bunch of values from a purely scientific point of view but you can pull some values and then you can build upon those like one value you can pull is that increasing order seems to be good, given how we fit into the world and the desires we’ve evolved to have.

If you can pull out that you want the preservation of order unless it is corrosive dictatorial preservation of order that’s at the expense of other values. You can pull out the golden rule because we know from personal experience that we want certain things and we can assume that other beings share many of the same things, the same desires we have.

And from the preference for order and from the golden rule you can build more complicated philosophies.

Even though we’re building not from benevolent God, His goodness, the magic property of consciousness and souls and all, you can still build from basic principles out to an entire philosophy, which will be helpful and necessary when we start to have to deal with the ethics of the new existences; new beings that we will bring into existence via AI and also the future humans and their future multiplicious forms and their augmentation and the new relationships among augmented humans and AI and the whole mess that’s going to coming in the next century. 

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Erik Haereid: “About my writing: Most of my journalistic work I did in the pre-Internet-period (80s, 90s), and the articles I have saved are, at best, aged in a box somewhere in the cellar. Maybe I can find some of it, but I don’t think that’s that interesting.

Most of my written work, including crime short stories in A-Magasinet (Aftenposten (one of the main newspapers in Norway, as Nettavisen is)), a second place (runner up) in a nationwide writing contest in 1985 arranged by Aftenposten, and several articles in different newspapers, magazines and so on in the 1980s and early 1990s, is not published online, as far as I can see. This was a decade and less before the Internet, so a lot of this is only on paper.

From the last decade, where I used more time doing other stuff than writing, for instance work, to mention is my book from 2011, the IQ-blog and some other stuff I don’t think is interesting here.

I keep my personal interests quite private. To you, I can mention that I play golf, read a lot, like debating, and 30-40 years and even more kilos ago I was quite sporty, and competed in cross country skiing among other things (I did my military duty in His Majesty The King’s Guard (Drilltroppen)). I have been asked from a couple in the high IQ societies, if I know Magnus Carlsen. The answer is no, I don’t :)”

Haereid has interviewed In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal Advisory Board Member Dr. Evangelos Katsioulis, some select articles include topics on AI in What will happen when the ASI (Artificial superintelligence) evolves; Utopia or Dystopia? (Norwegian), on IQ-measures in 180 i IQ kan være det samme som 150, and on the Norwegian pension system (Norwegian). His book on the winner/loser-society model based on social psychology published in 2011 (Nasjonalbiblioteket), which does have a summary review here.

Erik lives in Larkollen, Norway. He was born in Oslo, Norway, in 1963. He speaks Danish, English, and Norwegian. He is Actuary, Author, Consultant, Entrepreneur, and Statistician. He is the owner of, chairman of, and consultant at Nordic Insurance Administration.

He was the Academic Director (1998-2000) of insurance at the BI Norwegian Business School (1998-2000) in Sandvika, Baerum, Manager (1997-1998) of business insurance, life insurance, and pensions and formerly Actuary (1996-1997) at Nordea in Oslo Area, Norway, a self-employed Actuary Consultant (1996-1997), an Insurance Broker (1995-1996) at Assurance Centeret, Actuary (1991-1995) at Alfa Livsforsikring, novice Actuary (1987-1990) at UNI Forsikring, and a Journalist at Norsk Pressedivisjon.

He earned an M.Sc. in Statistics and Actuarial Sciences from 1990-1991 and a Bachelor’s degree from 1984 to 1986/87 from the University of Oslo. He did some environmental volunteerism with Norges Naturvernforbund (Norwegian Society for the Conservation of Nature), where he was an activist, freelance journalist and arranged ‘Sykkeldagen i Oslo’ twice (1989 and 1990) as well as environmental issues lectures.

He has industry experience in accounting, insurance, and insurance as a broker. He writes in his IQ-blog the online newspaper Nettavisen. He has personal interests in history, philosophy, reading, social psychology, and writing.

He is a member of many high-IQ societies including 4G, Catholiq, Civiq, ELITE, GenerIQ, Glia, Grand, HELLIQ, HRIQ, Intruellect, ISI-S, ISPE, KSTHIQ, MENSA, MilenijaNOUS, OLYMPIQ, Real, sPIqr, STHIQ, Tetra, This, Ultima, VeNuS, and WGD.

Rick G. Rosner: “According to semi-reputable sources, Rick Rosner has the world’s second-highest IQ. He earned 12 years of college credit in less than a year and graduated with the equivalent of 8 majors. He has received 8 Writers Guild Award and Emmy nominations, and was named 2013 North American Genius of the Year by The World Genius Registry.

He has written for Remote ControlCrank YankersThe Man ShowThe EmmysThe Grammys, and Jimmy Kimmel Live!. He worked as a bouncer, a nude art model, a roller-skating waiter, and a stripper. In a television commercial, Domino’s Pizza named him the “World’s Smartest Man.” The commercial was taken off the air after Subway sandwiches issued a cease-and-desist. He was named “Best Bouncer” in the Denver Area, Colorado, by Westwood Magazine.

Rosner spent much of the late Disco Era as an undercover high school student. In addition, he spent 25 years as a bar bouncer and American fake ID-catcher, and 25+ years as a stripper, and nearly 30 years as a writer for more than 2,500 hours of network television. He came in second or lost on Jeopardy!, sued Who Wants to Be a Millionaire over a flawed question and lost the lawsuit. He won one game and lost one game on Are You Smarter Than a Drunk Person? (He was drunk). Finally, he spent 37+ years working on a time invariant variation of the Big Bang Theory.

Currently, Rosner sits tweeting in a bathrobe (winter) or a towel (summer). He lives in Los Angeles, California with his wife, dog, and goldfish. He and his wife have a daughter. You can send him money or questions at LanceversusRick@Gmail.Com, or a direct message via Twitter, or find him on LinkedIn, or see him on YouTube.

[2] Individual Publication Date: April 8, 2019: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/haereid-rosner-five; Full Issue Publication Date: May 1, 2019: https://in-sightjournal.com/insight-issues/.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. Ask A Genius (or Two): Conversation with Erik Haereid and Rick Rosner on Existence, Mathematics, Philosophy (Part Five) [Online].April 2019; 19(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/haereid-rosner-five.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2019, April 8). Ask A Genius (or Two): Conversation with Erik Haereid and Rick Rosner on Existence, Mathematics, Philosophy (Part Five). Retrieved from http://www.in-sightjournal.com/haereid-rosner-five.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. Ask A Genius (or Two): Conversation with Erik Haereid and Rick Rosner on Existence, Mathematics, Philosophy (Part Five). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 19.A, April. 2019. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/haereid-rosner-five>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2019. “Ask A Genius (or Two): Conversation with Erik Haereid and Rick Rosner on Existence, Mathematics, Philosophy (Part Five).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 19.A. http://www.in-sightjournal.com/haereid-rosner-five.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “Ask A Genius (or Two): Conversation with Erik Haereid and Rick Rosner on Existence, Mathematics, Philosophy (Part Five).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 19.A (April 2019). http://www.in-sightjournal.com/haereid-rosner-five.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2019, ‘Ask A Genius (or Two): Conversation with Erik Haereid and Rick Rosner on Existence, Mathematics, Philosophy (Part Five)‘In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 19.A. Available from: <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/haereid-rosner-five>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2019, ‘Ask A Genius (or Two): Conversation with Erik Haereid and Rick Rosner on Existence, Mathematics, Philosophy (Part Five)‘In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 19.A., http://www.in-sightjournal.com/haereid-rosner-five.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “Ask A Genius (or Two): Conversation with Erik Haereid and Rick Rosner on Existence, Mathematics, Philosophy (Part Five).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 19.A (2019):April. 2019. Web. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/haereid-rosner-five>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. Ask A Genius (or Two): Conversation with Erik Haereid and Rick Rosner on Existence, Mathematics, Philosophy (Part Five) [Internet]. (2019, April; 19(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/haereid-rosner-five.

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