re: my invisible friend is better than yours

From: Forrest Bishop (
Date: Wed Jan 02 2002 - 03:43:22 MST

----- Original Message -----
From: remi sussan <>
To: <>
Sent: Tuesday, January 01, 2002 10:06 AM
Subject: Re: >H my invisible friend is better than yours

> Transhuman Mailing List
> Hello Forrest,
> Thanks for this interesting post, and happy new year to you (and everybody
> else here, of course) .

Hello Remi,

Thank you kindly for this well-met reply. My current cognitve model of your recently-passed state brings pleasure. Perhaps that
seems pedantic.

> I'm personally a big advocate of the necessity of "holistic systems" (or
> more exactly of the value of "hierarchy of levels of descriptions")

I use the terms "pictures" or "models" rather than holistic/reductionist, higher/lower order or hierarchical. The attempted choice
of neutral terms is made so as not to introduce a synthetic framework that may bias the valuation of the means.

> in order
> to understand complex systems such as social systems or human psychology. My
> emphasis on the notion of "level of description" implies that I am perfectly
> conscious that these "holistic systems" are in fact in the eye of the
> observer and cannot be said to "exist" in an objective way. But, contrary to
> you, I also consider the lower model of description as being in the eye of
> the observer, and possesses no more "objective" value than the higher one.

This may be a claim to psychic powers, or simply an acknowledgement of the paucity of detail in your past cognitve model of me.

> (especially when this low-level model implies impractical and undoable
> thought experiments, as we'll see below). I think your model corresponds to
> what the biologist and philosopher Henri Atlan called "strong reductionism",
> which he opposes to "weak reductionism". The second one is a practice
> necessary to the scientific method, defined as the necessity to search the
> components of a system in order to understand its inner workings. "strong
> reductionism" on the contrary, is a purely philosophical position claiming
> that all the levels of descriptions can and should be eliminated in favor of
> the lowest one: in other words: sociology is "eliminated" by psychology,
> psychology is eliminated by neuroscience, neuroscience is eliminated by
> molecular biology, and so on until quantum physics, which becomes the only
> "true" explicative model of anything in the universe.

I am not familiar with Mr. Atlans's method of the gradation of 'pictures'. I seem to recall your writing about this two or three
years ago, it sounds interesting.

for my edification, from Webster's 3rd-
holism 1: the philosophic theory first formulated by Jan C. Smuts that the determining factors in nature are wholes (as organisms)
which are irreducible to the sum of their parts and that the evolution of the universe is the record of the activity and making of
these wholes 2: a theory or doctrine according to which a whole cannot be analyzed without residue into the sum of its parts or
reduced to discrete elements- compare gestalt psychology, organicism

holist ...<a [holist] who denied that the English state, for example, is a logical construction out of individual people, and who
asserted that it is an organism which develops, and responds to challenges, according to holistic laws- J. W. N. Watkins>

Well, how about that.

Flipping the telescope around we have a different picture of holism/reductionism:
The notion that the physical structures of civilization resemble a "superorganism" is sometimes put forth. It has some utility, as
the functions and evolved structures of these artifacts appear to have analogs in the biological realm. These structures appear to
be visible from space as well as from the surface and airspace of Earth. To model them, it is useful to construct them from their
holistic parts, just as in biology. The reductionist view of considering the whole thing as a single part would not permit this kind
of analysis.
The classical F=ma (force identifies with mass times acceleration) appears to hold, within the limits of spacetime metric, proper
inertial reference frame, and measurement, throughout the known universe. It is universal and holistic in the sense that it cannot
be reduced to the sum of its parts.

> Consider a planet with a single human being, "Party A", on it- there are no
> groups of humans real or imagined. Add one
> > other person, "Party B", that is able to communicate, or engage in
> transactions, with the first; this forms an intermittent dyad-
> > the fundamental economic unit.
> Here is an example of what I call an undoable impractical [thought] experiment.
> Social sciences, have, unfortunately, not the level of rigor of life science
> or physics. Nevertheless, reality exists, and everybody wanting to work in
> this field is invited to find his examples and ideas in the rich palette of
> history or anthropology. the fact is that this experience means nothing.
> Nobody knows how a human being living alone outside of any cultural
> interaction can look like. Every of us, since the birth, is immersed in a
> complete network of relationships with our parents, our relatives, our
> peers. Even if, by an incredibly sadistic act, a scientist was able to grow
> two children , each closed in his/her own cupboard, until the age of ten,
> when they meet together, what the scientist would obtain would be almost
> certainly an extremely pathological and dysfunctional model of human

The experiment was introduced with a minimum set of requirements in order to isolate the system behavior of interest. The prior
history of the humans (say, beamed down to the planet - a common SF theme) could be anything; that of any three persons. This tool
was developed to accomplish a very specific task- the demonstration of the non-existence of "residues": invisible freinds, such as
the State. An alternative technique was offered in the last paragraph:

"The procedure can be continued indefinitely, adding more persons to the system and restricting the groupings to arbitrary
spacetime intervals without loss of generality. A similar procedure of decomposition by arbitrary groups in arbitrary intervals
acheives the same result."

The gedankenexperimenter is completely free to select these groups, systems, subsystems, time-sensitive networks of relationships,
or whatever she wishes to call them. One could select the entire living quasi-human population within the Earth's sphere of
influence on or about Jan 1, 2002 as a starting point for example. Mr. Mises uses a composition/decomposition by membership in
various groups. One can also compose/decompose by the putative nature of transactions, or their time and place.

> relation. [ A human is a] relational animal who cannot in any way be reduced to an
> "atomistic" individual

This is a very strong statement. To adapt this position would deny a scientist use of a great many experimental and analytical

>.and, when it is, this kind of reductionism is
> certainly at least as abstract, subjective, and theoretical that the
> contrary approach, which is define each of us by its position in a global
> system.

> I also notice (and this is IMNSHO, a very sad habit among transhumanists and
> extropians) that you apparently consider the economic relationship as the
> basic form of relation. I think this rather crude model (two independent,
> rational agents exchanging informations and goods)

I am using "economic" in a very generic sense, apparently different from your interpretation. I should have used "human action",
"praxeology", or "interaction" instead.

   "...'Economic man' was a theoretical device or concept by which the classical economists endeavored to distill man's economic
behavior from the rest of his being-often with ludicrous results, as you can imagine. Misesian praxeology, rather than perpetuating
this error, corrects it. Mises abandoned the convoluted efforts to pretend, for the sake of economic analysis, that humans were
coldly calculating, soulless, profit-maximizing beings. Instead, he readily acknowledged that humans are complex beings whose
economic behavior is informed and influenced by the unique, ever-changing combination of the various religious, psychological,
biological motivations (his values, goals, perceptions, desires, and the like) competing for supremacy within the individual as he
is confronted with the particular set of circumstances surrounding him at a given point in time. Mises emphatically eschewed as
futile and impossible any attempt to separate economic action from the totality of the individual."
   "In the individual human consciousness, economic values and ethical values coexist and often affect each other..."

> is utterly unable to
> encompass the extreme subtility of human relation, phenomena like affective
> relationships, desire, hate or love between individuals, or complex cultural
> phenomena like religion, customs or ideologies in social systems. I prefer
> to consider the economic model as a simplified system which may be used in
> simpler situation, such as trade, but without value for an historian, and
> anthropologist, a psychologist or a sociologist. I frequently noticed that
> transhumanist frequently think in term of simpler relationships
> Trade/peaceful or war/conflict, and this is one of the main reason they are
> completely unable to understand the subtleties of social interaction and
> therefore act in a meaningful way. This recall me, some years ago,
> discussion in Stockholm during Transvsion 98 , about transhumanism weakness
> in philosophy. It's not important to be able to quote Plato or Aristotle in
> the original greek text, but it's about acknowledging the complexity of
> human behavior, and, above all, to accept to work with real situations
> instead of abstract nonexistent models.

Models of reality are all we have to work with.


Forrest Bishop
Chairman, Institute of Atomic-Scale Engineering
Forrest Bishop
Chairman, Institute of Atomic-Scale Engineering

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Fri Nov 01 2002 - 13:37:32 MST