41 thoughts on “Sandpit

  1. I have found the following paper quite interesting. No doubt, there are plenty of reasons for regarding it as a crank paper insofar as it claims a method for a “solution” of economics. Putting that aside, I think it has some interesting ideas at its core. I would put it more in the region of philosophy or empirical philosophy than economics. What it says about choice (rational choice) and indeterminacy is interesting I think. It’s only 11 pages so give it a quick read first.

    Click to access MPRA_paper_47811.pdf

    The five Laws the writer proposes appear superficially convincing to me, albeit I have at least one reservation. However, it is not clear to me how some, at least, of these Laws could be mathematicised. Further, it is definitely not clear how these insights, if that it what they are, could be used to “solve” economics.

    On the other hand, I think the five laws are philosophically interesting and they do appear to me to hold water. They help explain, for example;

    (1) indeterminacy in the macro world;
    (2) the “arrow of time”;
    (3) loss of information (impossibility of constructing a perfect history).

    The use of the word “choice” in the essay is fraught, I think. I would question whether the word “choice” should be replaced by the word “determination”. Sub-atomic particles do not make a choice so much as undergo a “determination” in the sense, for example, that an event due at an indeterminate time in the future (a radioactive decay event for instance) is determined when it happens. It moves from indeterminate to determined. The event is a determination rather than choice.

    For philosophical reasons, I would rather see what humans do be called “determinations” not “choices”. If you say we make “choices” this contains a whole swag of unproven assumptions (about freedom, freedom of action, free will and so on). If you say we make a “determination” (at the moment of an action) then you describe how we move from an indeterminate state (coffee or tea?) to a determined state (I am now drinking coffee). We can then also compare automated determinations (a goal seeking program) with human determinations without having to change terminology on the way.

    However, we can continue this discussion of the paper and related philosophical and economic ideas if people show an interest.

  2. @Ikonoclast
    I am busy with the EIS for the Western Sydney Airport (previusly ‘Badgery’s Creek Airport). Encountered the familiar problems. Could not get a hard copy. Received a USB stick. Only the headings can be read. The text consists of squares and other symbles. Can’t save a copy from the web. Called the Dept. The relevant person (a she) said it can be saved with a button at the bottom. Went through the trouble of reducing the fond size. No button. Phoned again. Was automatically passed on to Car imports. Then line busy. Two weeks gone. Now I call up this document each time I work on it. Don’t have the time to write or complain, etc. etc. … Northing new.

  3. Ernestine,

    There is a great bundle of pdf links on this page linked to below. No doubt you know about it.


    There is a pdf for every chapter of the report basically. I tested the Executive Summary (54 pages) and got it onto my PC (both in memory and then saved to my drive via the Adobe Acrobat application on my PC). I (or anyone) could in theory get the whole set of docs onto their hard-drive this way. But you probably know all this and that path is probably not what you want. Apologies if I am “bringing coals to Newcastle”.

    The key must be having something like Adobe Acrobat that can read the files. I can’t find a version number but my Adobe reader folder is dated 1/11/2015 so it must a version from on or about that date.

  4. See my post above but this info might help too. I got it from Document Properties for the Exec Summary doc.

    File name: 02-volume-1-executive-summary.pdf
    File size: 11.6 MB (12,171,288 bytes)
    Title: Western Sydney Airport – Environmental Impact Statement – Volume 1
    Author: Tabatha Redreau

    Creation Date: 15/10/2015, 5:26:28 PM
    Modification Date: 15/10/2015, 5:26:42 PM
    Creator: Acrobat PDFMaker 11 for Word
    PDF Producer: Adobe PDF Library 11.0
    PDF Version: 1.6
    Page Count: 54

  5. @Ikonoclast

    Yes, I had found the web-site and I have no problem reading it. But I can’t save the files on my hard disc or on a USB. I am now using two computers, one for reading one for writing (and I have already a lot to say about aircraft noise assessment and the land use planning tool).

    Still, thanks for your effort to help.

  6. I am not sure what would cause your problems with saving the pdf files on your PC drive unless you do not have the required software or versions. I assume you would need MS Word and/or Adobe Acrobat in recent enough version(s). Having said that, I don’t know in detail why it works on my PC. It just does. It’s not that I did anything clever. Sometimes it might depend on what kind and versions of pdf readers you have. Some freeware or limited versions might not enable the save function. Then there is the whole issue of font drivers, other drivers and DLLs (about which I know precious little) but it’s funny that it can hold it in memory and display on screen successfully.

    My favourite saying is “Things should just WORK!” so I do sympathise. However, it appears you have found a workaround. “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”

  7. @Ikonoclast

    In the meantime I did read the article you referenced in your first post. Interesting. I wouldn’t be concerned about the meaning of the word ‘choice’. I would expect that in future work, the term will acquire a precise definition (ie be represented by a mathematical object). I find it interesting because instead of economists borrowing from natural science, here an attempt is made to integrate an idea in economics (which is reasonably well characterised to separate all possible interpretations regarding philosophy of ‘free will’ from the specific meaning in a model) into physics. A unification, at least at some points in the theoretical frameworks, of natural science and economics seems to me to be a precondition for treating environmental issues.

    Incidentally, game theory has already achieved some bridges between economics and natural science (as well law). The term bridge is not a good one. I want to say game theory (mathematical model) is applied in economics, law, and, for example biology. But the referenced paper aims for something more fundamental in a systems framework.

    Lets see what will come out of this and other systems approaches.

  8. I agree, a very interesting paper.

    If anything, it probably suffers from the linguistic dichotomy between science and philosophy, here pressed into the service of bridging both.

    Take the word ‘choice’, for example.

    It can imply some intent, which in turn implies a deterministic trajectory of actions seemingly at odds with an indeterministic framework.

    On the other hand, the aggregate causes for some intent would fall into the indeterministic category – but where, or from where onwards, does one draw the line?

    Having brought the Law of Thermodynamics into the discussion was important (I feel all three are relevant). Yet it needs to be seen in terms of the over-arching environment where the current state of information is a function of all the interdependent sub-systems within one’s scope of observation, albeit at different scales.

    The paper includes society, a system in its own right. Please see “The 10 axioms of Society” (http://www.otoom.net/axiomssociety.htm) for a transposition of this theme into such a context.

    We are also talking about chaos. Please see “The mechanics of chaos: a primer for the human mind” (http://www.otoom.net/chaosprimer.htm) for what this means within the context of cognitive dynamics, whether in an individual or in society at large.

    Those two texts may be helpful. After all, in their paper Wayne and Housem did leave the question of neuronal dynamics open.

  9. @Ikonoclast


    I wouldn’t celebrate too quickly. I don’t have enough quantum mechanics to critique the paper in detail so will just make some preliminary comments. First, what is the status of this paper? Has it been been peer reviewed and if so, within the weird postmodern pseudo-philosophers’ discipline, in economics, or in physics?

    Second, I dispute the first sentence. The reason why economics is considered unscientific is not because of its “apparent failures to formulate universal laws governing human societies” but because it’s basic foundational assumptions are not considered falsifiable.

    Third, in economics societies are considered to be simple mathematical aggregations of individuals. In science, human beings are not considered to be simple aggregations of indeterministic molecules. EO Wilson in Consilience explained how neuroscience is bridging the gap and I would refer these authors to ground their analysis in this literature.

    Fourth, where did these so-called new laws come from? Although there are some academic citations, the laws have no provenance.

  10. @Geoff Edwards

    Well, I don’t think I was celebrating too quickly. I did express my fears it could be regarded as a crank paper in at least some respects.

    Re your question and statement “Fourth, where did these so-called new laws come from? Although there are some academic citations, the laws have no provenance.”

    I assume the intellectual provenance is the author himself. That is to say, they are new postulates he has derived about physical reality and which he suggests he puts on a par with the Laws of Thermodynamics. This last in the sense of being part of the basic physics laws of this specific universe, at least after the big bang and before the big crunch if such “bookends” to known physics can be provisionally accepted.

    As for the empirical provenance, one would always hope of course that extensive observations and valid inductions have prompted the formulation of the hypothesis or these “Laws” in this case by the author. One would also hope that they can be modeled (mathematised or formularised) and then tested empirically. I am not sure how that would be done. It’s well above my intellectual and educational attainments.

  11. Choice can be introduced as a fundamental concept in quantum mechanics. In physics, as well as in social science, a choice can be defined as an indeterministic action taken by elementary particles or collection of elementary particles like people. For example, the radioactive decay of a radon atom is a choice made by the radon atom.

    Ordinarily, people don’t use the word ‘choice’ to describe indeterministic action. For example, if people roll dice or operate a roulette wheel, the process is normally treated as being (at least for practical purposes) indeterministic, but people don’t normally say that the number that appears on the dice or the slot that the roulette ball falls into is a choice. The only cases in which people would be likely to say that this kind of result was chosen would be if the dice were loaded or the wheel rigged — in other words, cases where the process has been altered to make it deterministic.

    Similarly, I am confident that physicists don’t (currently) describe processes like radioactive decay by saying things like ‘some of the radon atoms choose to decay and some of them choose not to decay’.

    The author of the article appears not simply to be stipulating that he intends to use the word ‘choice’ to describe processes like radioactive decay, but recommending that this practice be generally adopted. If the recommendation were followed, would communication be made clearer, or more obscure? More obscure is what I suspect.

  12. I skim read Iko’s pdf .Some quick thoughts ;-

    First ,I’m not even sure what economics is , Wiki says ;- ‘Economics is a social science that describes the factors that influence the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services. Economics attempts to explain the choices people make when faced with unlimited desires but limited abilities .’

    The assumption of unlimited desires seems questionable to me.

    The paper says economists ,like physicists, are frustrated that they cannot exactly predict the future every time. Quantum factors are a source of unpredictability in physics and the authors say human behavior has quantum unpredictability too. I’m not quantum good enough and havent got time enough right now to evaluate that claim, but I like the implications.

    I suspect there may be several reasons why it is hard to find a simple rule to predict choice . Quantum factors may play a role too. There may different kinds of choice in economics ,we may be using the one word ‘choice’ to cover a range of quite different phenomena. Sometimes human choices can be difficult to predict because once the model of prediction becomes known it may cause people to change their choice ,so the model is no longer any good.

    There was a BBC radio show last night about the latest research into plant choice and consciousness. It was interesting how far different people feel comfortable going using the language of choice and consciousness to describe plant behavior.

    Apart from all that, I think its very weird that the laws of physics and chemistry work backwards as well as in the direction normally observed. Anyone who thinks science has removed the mystery and wonder from life and the world is wrong. In perhaps the most important way certainty has not been advanced at all.

  13. @Martin Wurzinger

    1. I was happy enough with Ernestine’s answer to my concerns about the meaning of the word “choice”. There are plenty of words that have colloquial meanings (usually quite fuzzy meanings) and then can be given a clearly defined meaning in a specialist discipline. I was proposing the term “determination” as it seemed to make the terminology consistent. The word “determination” in turn has colloquial meanings which can also muddy the waters. The chronology is that “the determined” belongs to the past, the “determination” to the present and “the undetermined” or “indeterminate” to the future.

    2. With respect to human systems (societies and economies for example) I was pursuing a line of complex systems thought in an amateurish way. I have no qualifications in these fields by the way. Then I lost my draft private essay. The perils of hard drive crashes without back-ups! In essence, I tried to go to fundamentals via a systems philosophy approach which is more than ironic since I haven’t studied systems philosophy.

    It seemed to me that all systems in the universe (as the universe is known to humans) are of just two distinct types. These are;

    (A) Real Systems
    (B) Formal Systems

    Real systems are the real physical systems known to the “hard” sciences namely physics, chemistry, biology and so on. The real economy is a real system as are the environmental systems the real economy exists within and depends upon.

    Formal systems are any well-defined system of abstract thought based on the models of mathematics, language or analogous representation (map-mapping, plans, schematics, flow-charts, pictograms etc.). The financial economy is a formal system. The legal system as law, judgements, precedent etc. is a formal system. A constitution is a formal system.

    I felt that the interaction of formal systems with real systems was a particularly interesting field to look at. To put it simply, “accurate” formal systems will more often lead to successful interactions with real systems. If our formal economy is “accurate” our real economy will run better. In this context, the actual interfaces between real systems and formal systems become very interesting as these are the points or locales where we can learn more about both types of complex systems, real and formal, and how they interact.

    First, we would have to come up with a general definition of what is meant by an “accurate” formal system. An accurate formal system will show what I call “analogic correspondence”. The accurate formal system will be somehow analogically correspondent with the real system. It could be as simple as the idea of an accurate map or accurate plans to build a house. The correspendence will be to real dimensions, to real quantities and real “qualities”. The correspondence is achieved by accurate scaling, by formal symbol sets representing real objects, real quantities and so on.

    When it comes to the economy, we would have to ask what do the formal financial system and attendant legal, administrative and institutional systems represent or try to represent and do they seem to demonstrate a high degree of analogic correspondence with the real systems? Money value, for example, is meant to have some sort of or some degree of analogic correspondence with real value or use value. A whole set of formal system parameters as well as real system feedbacks set and reset the value of money and the value of items expressed in money terms.

    If it could be determined that a real economy was not suffering real shortages (i.e. resources are plentiful and labour is plentiful) and it is yet performing badly (and may indeed earlier have been performing well) then it could be determined, I think, that the formal systems suffer some degree of poor analogic correspondence with real systems. There is a secondary possibility that various formal systems interact poorly with each other, most likely again because of poor analogic correspondence. Their “maps” of other parts of the complex system are “inaccurate”.

    Of course, there are special parts of our formal systems that do not necessarily work by standard, good or accurate analogic correspondence. The arts are an example. Art (painting, poetry etc.) can work by distortion, exaggeration, minimisation, surrealism, symbolism and even ambiguity and non-correspondence. But when we want to make something like an economy or a hospital or a manufacturing company work, then we are looking (among other things) to “blueprint” from analogically accurate formal systems to make high-performing real systems.

    Just a few thoughts I have retained. I would have to work quite a bit to recover all of my thoughts from that draft essay.

  14. @Ikonoclast
    I would agree with your formulation of Real and Formal Systems.

    Real Systems therefore by definition reflect the real simply because they must per force obey the laws of physics etc. Formal Systems, as you said, are a function of abstraction processes and therefore do not necessarily reflect the real – comprehensively speaking one could say they never do.

    Since we are dealing with indeterministic systems (chaos) vs deterministic systems (the linear variety) it might help to differentiate between ‘accuracy’ and ‘precision’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accuracy_and_precision).

    In non-linear systems accuracy can be achieved by observing the patterns as they become apparent to the observer and implementing some action based on choice. In linear systems precision is possible if the machine / apparatus etc can be adjusted appropriately.

    Since abstractions (our thoughts, perceptions) lead to a response to the system interacted with, the system will be adjusted which gives further rise to ongoing observation. That feedback loop creates the patterns, and the accuracy of the result is a reflection of the discrepancy between what has been observed and how this has been interpreted; in other words, your real and formal systems, or, in your words again, the analogic correspondence.

    ‘Choice’ then represents the bi-furcation along a system’s time-line contributed by an abstractive process, and ultimately it is all governed by the law of thermodynamics.

    What’s really fascinating here is our ability (we, the abstractors) to create buffer zones, a dynamic space where the ultimate control is momentarily unseated in favour of the ideations you mentioned in Art for example. For that to be possible a sufficiently powerful neuronal system is needed, I would say perhaps the major bi-furcation in this planet’s history!

    Still, reality has the last word.

    Regarding those buffer zones: Virtual Reality is another one. There is this question, “Do we live in a computer simulation?”. I haven’t come across any argument that can settle the question once and for all. Except perhaps: if we did live in a comp-sim, why are the limitations imposed by the law of thermodynamics so real?

  15. @Martin Wurzinger

    I accept all of what you write. My bare theorising would certainly need a lot of refinement. At the most basic level, I was looking at the following schema. The pipe symbol || represents a system interface. Clearly, I am looking at matters from an anthropocentric position. My “bookends” are at the front end a metaphysical postulate (debatable and not strictly necessary) and at the back-end the formal systems. Every item inside these “bookends” is a real system.

    Generator of the Real || Physical Universe || Human Sensory System || Brain || Ideation || Physical Artifacts of Ideation || Logical Artifacts of Ideation.

    Of course, even my slicing is probably debatable. Fundamentally, it seems that I am taking a Monist view but this does get fuzzy at the ends. I am saying all of reality (aside from the hypothetical generator of the real if it exists in some sense) is made of the same stuff. We generally call it “matter”. I am no physicist but it seems to my limited understanding that energy and/or the four fundamental forces of physics are generally considered properties of matter. When it comes to fields or at least certain fields like the scalar field, I am less sure so to speak of my monism.

    According to general modern understanding, I am sure I am not being controversial in regarding the Physical Universe, the Human Sensory System and the Brain as being real and material systems. The concept of regarding ideation in the brain as a material system might seem strange to some but again I believe this idea would not be controversial in modern neuroscience. A novel, a computer program, an oil painting and a house plan are all physical artifacts of ideation. A book on Euclidean Geometry is also an artifact of ideation. At the same time, the book of Euclidean Geometry somehow encapsulates or contains a Formal System.

    This is where my amateur pseudo-philosophy gets difficult for me. What existence does this Formal System have outside of material reality? How does it assert a separateness that might allow us to validly talk of Formal Systems as being fundamentally different from Real Systems? How does it at the same time assert an “analogic congruence” as I call it. Somehow the Formal System has become ideal and I am almost talking about the pure ideas or ideals behind reality as the Greeks did. I think I can save myself from this.

    It seems to me that the crucial difference is that the Formal System is manipulable in a way that the Real System is not; or the Formal System is much more easily manipulated. It might be as simple as saying that we manipulate symbols which stand in for real quantities in an abstracted and simplified way. There need to be certain analogical congruences to reality (implemented via rules or axioms which must be obeyed in the formal system) but there also need to be certain freedoms to manipulate pieces of reality via “counters” or symbols. But I admit this gets a bit wobbly about here.

    The interfaces are of crucial interest. What gets passed between the interfaces of real systems? The answer seems simple enough. Matter and properties of matter like energy get passed between real systems. What gets passed between Real System and Formal System (or Formal System and Formal System) that is of crucial importance? I think the answer is information. Now it is true that real systems also transfer information e.g. DNA. But the main or sole function of a Formal System is to transfer information. Matter and energy transfers are incidental. Here, for the purposes of this discussion, the best definition of information is as follows. Information is any type of pattern that influences the formation or transformation of other patterns via any kind of “transfer engine”.

    Now either this will make some kind of sense or you and others can tell me I am writing gibberish.

    Your Question. “Except perhaps: if we did live in a comp-sim, why are the limitations imposed by the law of thermodynamics so real?”

    A. Because we don’t… or maybe because the programming is really good!

  16. @J-D

    1. Choice. Under some conditions the word ‘choice’ refers to both, a decision and the outcome (the most famous example, I believe, is consumer choice theory where markets are complete). Under other circumstances, the word choice refers only to a decision with the outcome being indeterminate. (Your post contains a clear cut example, namely a person rolls the dice. The decision to roll the dice is now separate from the outcome.) In general, the different conditions are known as ‘decision making under certainty’ and ‘decision making under uncertainty’.

    2. Language. I agree with your point to a limited extent. I agree because we communicate in the same verbal language (English). I don’t agree as soon as I consider the empirically relevant case of many languages.

  17. Hmm, I have posted a long comment but it seems it has disappeared despite apparently passing the One More Step test. Further attempts to paste and post it elicit the “duplicate post” message. So it is in limbo and I can’t re-post it. I could fudge it and trick the system but I don’t want to attempt that at this stage. Any suggestions?

  18. @Ikonoclast

    To follow your train of thought, you mentioned the properties of matter, and then considered the ambiguity as soon as we are talking about fields. So, what if the fundamental forces are not a property of matter, but matter is a property of those forces? To dip into quantum physics gets me into dangerous waters (for me at least), but my – probably only – excuse is that I think in terms of cause-and-effect relationships. In other words, here is one system (let’s call it that for the moment) and here is another. Knowing what we do about either, which one could be the precursor to the other?

    In my opinion you would not be controversial regarding the universe, the sensory system, and the brain as being real and material systems (leaving aside the realm of quantum physics for the moment). And yes, even neuroscientists would share that view. It is known that the infusion of certain chemicals induce emotional states in the recipient, and that goes beyond the common ‘street-type’. For example, one can induce the feeling of another presence in the room. Clearly, the cause is very much of a material nature. At this level of manifestation it is quite justifiable to exclude quantum physics because the phenomena do not play themselves out in the realm of quanta but on a higher level of complexity. It gets complicated once we consider what happens when the dynamics traverse different levels.

    The interfaces between the real and the formal are indeed of crucial interest. What gets passed between the two happens within the context of the feedback loop I mentioned earlier. Essentially it is information, data which emanate from the formal towards the real and from the real (thus altered) back to the formal via the senses. This goes for any organism, the difference is the degree of complexity. In fact, this goes for non-living objects as well – for example, volcanoes (following their own rules within the earth’s interior), spewing out ash which affects the weather, which affects the topography of the volcano, which affects its caldera, and so on. Obviously, the time lines are much longer.

    When you say the “main or sole function of a Formal System is to transfer information”, this could lead to misconceptions. Consider: is the ‘main function’ of a butterfly to spread pollen? Butterflies are systems, so are flowers. Through evolutionary feedback loops both have achieved a state of symbiosis, although all along the purpose of evolution was not to come up with butterflies which pollinate flowers, nor to come up with flowers which provide food for butterflies (which then pollinate for good measure). Same here. Formal systems (ie, neuronal networks capable of abstraction) have emerged because the opportunities existed on this planet due to relatively stable and nurturing conditions. Now that they have arrived they influence their surrounds, create those feedback loops, and here we are, painting pictures which are hung in museums we built, argue about and delineate from there into how we treat ourselves (eg, Dali, Freud, psychology, our health insurance scheme).

    That “transfer engine” is the feedback loop.

    Your answer to “Except perhaps: if we did live in a comp-sim..” actually still does not answer this question, does it? (Which I am sure you realised anyway) If the programming is so good, it means that under the constraints we are currently living, we cannot come up with anything the programmer has not thought of. And if we are capable at some stage, that in itself would have to have been programmed into us already. But then the programmer did in fact consider this beforehand and had such an interface to the real already built into that system. Which means it’s not really a computer simulation anymore. Hence the argument is meaningless because it starts with the – however hidden – premise that there is a closed system which is nevertheless capable of extending itself beyond its own confines. But this is impossible because then it would not be a closed system.

    There is more to the first law of thermodynamics than it seems!

  19. My second big comment is still lost. It might be too discursive for our discussion but I will try again. Some parts of it might answer Martin’s reply above. Here goes…

    If I want to maintain my Real System / Formal System dichotomy I need to justify it in systems philosophy terms. A strict interpretation of systems would lead us to deduce, I think, that there is only one system, namely the Universe. Other complexes within this, which we call systems, are really sub-systems.

    Even my so-called Formal Systems appear to be Real Systems or real objects in a strict light. This is if one is going to be pedantically literal. At the tail end of my interacting systems I have;

    Ideation || Physical Artifacts of Ideation || Logical Artifacts of Ideation.

    The system of Ideation in a brain is a real system made of synapses and electro-chemical patterns and reactions: both as idea generator and idea storer. If neuroscience proceeds far enough (perhaps it already has) it should be able to show that ideas have “shapes” in the brain. The “shape” may be a neuro-electrical / neuro-chemical pattern. That is not to say we could match specific “shapes” to specific ideas. That remain the realm of science fiction at the detail level.

    Apart from consciousness, as individual human self-consciousness, we have no proof of ideation except for the tail of my proposed system chain namely Physical Artifacts of Ideation || Logical Artifacts of Ideation. The physical artifacts of ideation are mountainous and many if we needed any material proof of ideation. The physical artifacts are clear as I said: books, computer programs, maps, plans, blueprints etc. etc.

    What is interesting and perhaps useful is the idea of the Logical Artifacts of Ideation. It is here that the idea of Formal Systems as separate from real Systems may gain validity. I am sure many real philosophers have tackled this idea and more successfully than I. Their nomenclature might well be different from mine.

    I will see if can explain the idea of a Logical Artifact. With the symbols of my keyboard I can enter;



    straight line

    If I place these two symbols or symbol sets on paper with pencil or on screen like this, then when they are displayed they are physical artifacts (of my ideation and my culture’s ideation).

    Though they look very different, at some level they can convey similar information to similarly encultured humans: not “will” but “can”. For example, you can ask me “What is the shortest distance between two points on Euclidean plane”. I can give either of the above as answers on my test sheet. What is important is not the physical material which makes the pattern. As ink, that material could make a straight line, the example words above or a blob on a page. What is important is the pattern which in turn conveys information. Different patterns can convey the same information, the same idea. The idea itself appears to be somehow separable from the physical world and to obey different laws. We tend to “idealise” the idea. I mean in the sense of heading from monism to dualism with ideas transcending materialism.

    The “transcending” of materialism I suspect to be an illusion. What we have is material in a pattern, or patterns, conveying information (“ideas”) by signals. These patterns are meaningless unless interpreted by the artificer of them or another of the artificer’s kind similarly enculterated. Remember, I wrote in above post: Information is any type of pattern that influences the formation or transformation of other patterns via any kind of “transfer engine”.

    The physical pattern of the idea (on paper for example) transfers information (via photons, eyes etc.) and induces the formation or transformation of physical elctro-chemical patterns in the brain. The propagation of patterns is the achievement of the “Formal System”. The Formal System is a kind of meta-system consisting of parts of other systems, all material, and linked by the information transfer and pattern propagation, all of material basis also. It is another example of emergent behaviour.

    Can (human generated) Formal Systems be considered to have “bi-furcated” (cannot think of a better term) in some way from Real Systems such that they can be considered qualitatively different even though still strictly all material? I think they can. The distinguishing feature seems to a kind of freeing from material laws although this freeing really only comes modelling and representing. Both the freedom and the usefulness of Formal System ideation seems to come from (in my opinion) the twin properties of (at least some) analogical congruence to the full real material world and the substitution in the Formal System of Axioms for Laws (meaning physical Laws). Whereas we cannot vary the Laws of the material world we can (experimentally) vary axioms within the Formal System. An accurate “classical” axiom system in the Formal System reflects at least some real Laws of the physical world. This generates the analogical congruence which makes the Formal System useful and applicable to and in the real world. The ability to vary axioms and generate new theorems, theories, postulates etc. seems to be the distinguishing achievement of Formal Systems.

    I discovered the unavoidable (partial) analogical congruence of (most) Formal or Modeled Systems with Real Systems during my theorising on Computer Real Time Strategy Game design. A model with no analogical congruence is incomprehensible. The theory commences, perhaps surprisingly, in the arena of artistic rendition of the real world both in graphical terms and narrative terms. It turns out that all art (except for the relatively small arena of fully abstract art) relies on analogical correspondence. At their base, all art with “actors” or “agents” (computer RTS and FPS games, novels etc.) have perforce to model autonomous entities (usually but not always humans) and have to place them in a modeled 4D space (the standard 3D space plus the dimension of time) where they interact with models of other entities, materials and energies. This is true of any standard narrative genre. It must model entities, dimensions, materials and energies.

    Because of the above some of the Laws of the physical world push into or intrude into the modelled world albeit it can be, usually must be, in a scaled or distorted form. It is the sharing of these common “Laws” that constitutes the analogical congruence. At the same time, we do have to distinguish between “Laws” and “Rules” in a specific way. The term “Laws” strictly must be reserved for the Laws of the hard sciences describing behavior in the real physical universe. The term “rules” or maybe sometimes “axioms” applies to Formal Systems. In this nomenclature legal “laws” that humans generate are actually rules not laws. We can change them in a way we cannot change the Laws of the real physical universe.

    But in a sense, some of the Laws of the real world must push into and impose themselves on the game world and more broadly on the entire Formal System world (like the legal system which recognises persons and entities). Without these analog “laws” in formal systems there would be no analogical congruence and a Formal System could not be used to pass useful information to allow useful manipulations in the real world (if this is at least part of the Formal System’s purpose).

    At the same time, rules can changed in a Formal System without affecting its Laws which are real-world congruent. There is a neat proof of this taken from the example of chess (and array games in general) which I can post on request. I go on to say that there is a limit to rule-changes in a particular Formal System. Beyond this limit, the rule changes constitute what one might call a genre change (using the artistic analogy). When the genre change occurs the reality-congruent Law-set of the formal system gets changed. Indeed this is probably definitional: i.e. how we can and should define genres. But any new internal law set of the new genre of Formal System model must first exist and second be reality-congruent (congruent with Real Laws) or the model will be incomprehensible (useless for communication and real system manipulation).

    End of second post attempt.

  20. @Ernestine Gross

    I’m not clear on whether you’re disagreeing with me, and if you are I’m not clear on what the point of disagreement is.

    On your second point: the article was posted to the Web in English, and it’s that English version I was responding to, a version which was making suggestions in English about how we should discuss these matters in English. I don’t know how they are or could be discussed in other languages, although I’d be interested in any light you could shed on that.

    On your first point, I understand that the word ‘choice’, just like other words, is used in a range of ways, and so are related words, and also ‘decision’ and related words. I understand that people do say things like ‘they chose which option to take by rolling dice’ or ‘the decision was the result of a roll of the dice’. However, people don’t say ‘the reason the dice came up 5 is because that’s what the dice decided to do’. If somebody asked you ‘why did the dice come up 5?’, you might say ‘because that was their decision’, but people won’t take a response like that as a serious one. Likewise, physicists describing radioactive decay don’t say things like ‘whether a particular radon atom decays depends on the choice made by that radon atom’, and, as I said, my prediction is that if some of them started doing that, it would make communication more obscure, not clearer.

  21. @J-D

    Suppose you were to disassociate the word ‘choice’ from a decision made by a human (hence forget all about ‘conscious decision’, ‘free will’, moral considerations etc). A dice has then 6 choices. That is to say, the dice can be represented by the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Suppose we now consider a very long time series. What is wrong with representing the decay rate of some isotope by a list of numbers and call them choice profile? (We could call them Anthony or Whereabouts or whatever.) In the end words, while useful in conveying an idea of a theoretical framework, words are merely labels.)

    To try to convince you that I am not suffering from a heat stroke (about 40 C in Sydney), consider game theory – mathematical models. Even though game theory models contain the term ‘utility function’, a term which we English speaking people associate with the representation of people in microeconomics, these models were found to be useful in biology. Yes, when I first learned that game theory models explain the behaviour of fish, I was surprised; it was counterintuitive.

    So, I agree with you in the sense that the terminology is counterintuitive but I don’t agree with any suggestion that therefore nothing sensible can come of it.

  22. @Ernestine Gross

    It’s still my judgement that the suggested terminology is more likely to obscure than to clarify. I notice you aren’t actually affirming the contrary. I also notice that the article shows no sign of being aware of proposing terminology at odds with existing usage, which itself suggests some confusion.

  23. @Ernestine Gross

    I would argue for carefully defined words in terminology used for science, economics, philosophy and so on. That is my bias. I think words matter a lot (as well as mathematical symbols and formulas). There are at least a couple of reasons. Communication with laypersons is a bit easier with well-defined words rather than maths which is above their head. Admittedly, they won’t be able to get all or the deeper concepts but they might get a basic overview. Inter-disciplinary communication will aided too. Some academic disciplines are more word oriented and others more mathematically oriented.

    Taking a common word too far from its colloquial meaning might be a bad idea I think. I am happy for “choice” to be used for all vertebrates (at least) and for algorithmic, goal-seeking programs (a chess program chooses a move). I am even happy for human designed and run systems (like markets) to be said to make choices in some circumstances. I think we need another word for quantum events. Much earlier on I suggested a “determination” since past events are determined and future events are undetermined. The quantum event that happens in the present makes a “determination”. Something that was undetermined or indeterminate has been determined or become determined. Just my view of course.

  24. @J-D

    Of course I am not “actually affirming to the contrary” – some people may be like you and others are different.

  25. @Ernestine Gross

    There’s no ‘may be’ about it: some people are like me and some are different. But so what? how does that affect the answer to this question: is the proposed terminology more likely to obscure or to clarify?

  26. @J-D

    IMO the paper is not written for a general reader audience. May I suggest you write to the authors and ask them how they would have written their article if they would know you are a reader and you are convinced there are more people like you or possibly the majority of people share your concerns. In other words, I don’t have an a priori problem with their terminology in this kind of paper and therefore your problem needs to be discussed with the authors and not with me.

  27. @Ernestine Gross

    The article was being recommended here, where the readership is general. If the author wrote it for a specialised audience, I presume that specialised audience can evaluate its usefulness for themselves. Here, where it’s being presented to a general audience, it’s relevant to note that the use of its proposed terminology on a general audience is more likely to obscure than to clarify. If the author didn’t intend it for a general audience, there’s no point writing to the author that it’s not suitable for a general audience, but that’s no reason not to discuss its suitability for a general audience here, where it has a general audience.

  28. I’m increasingly of the belief that the labour party has lost sight of its core values and its position on tobacco excise just reinforces that belief. How the party can conclude that it is more equitable to lean on 2.5 million smokers to fix a structural revenue deficit than a modest increase in gst is gobsmacking.

    Furthermore, the policy is under the guise of delivering health benefits from reductin in smoking rates. However, if that is in fact the case then how can it then raise the assumed $47 billion in revenue. These are conflicting objectives. It will either reduce smoking rates andnot recover the requried revenue or it will not reduce smoking rates and have greater material impacts on lower socio-economic groups with higher smoking rates, including its own constituency.

  29. Part 2.

    It is also unclear what the elasticity of demand would be for yearly increases of 12.5%. Assuming the people that hae stronger addictions have a pre-disposition for addictions generally then it may also promote increase in illegal activity such as chop-chop and illegal importation. Worst still it may push onto other cheaper more addictive substances such as ice and meth.

    While reduction in smoking rates is an admiral objective I wonder whether the health costs from smoking (which will also be influenced by past smoking habits) would less than the consequential social costs of stripping substantial amounts of income from already disadvantaged families.

    How is this consistent with labour values. Surely there are less harmful means of pursuing health policy objectives.

  30. @Aardvark

    The Labor party no longer has any labour values. It is the Neoliberals Mark 2. LNP are the Neoliberals Mark 1.

    Yes, there must exist an upper tax band beyond which the tobacco tax’s benefits (even revenue-wise) would begin to be compromised by the financial inducement to deal in illegal, untaxed tobacco. There is no point in setting the tax above this price band.

    The real problem is not that that real tax reform is too hard. It’s that the two neoliberal parties don’t want to implement real tax reform. This would entail taxing very rich people and corporations more. In some cases, it would mean just taxing them, since some of these currently pay no tax. These groups pay politicians (it’s often called political donations) to not tax them.

    I would guess some corporations now get earnings, pay no tax, get business subsidies and get ISDS (Investor State Dispute Settlement) payouts. So the state, or rather the people, are now paying taxes to the corporations and paying for their products as well. Amazing business model eh what?

  31. Going back to TANSTAAFL, QUT is holding a conference next February, comparing contest behaviour and evolutionary improvement. It makes the observation that training methodology and evolutionary theory are not being used in theoretical economics as optimised performance is assumed. Interesting.

  32. @J-D

    I am not aiming to prevent you from discussing anything. I merely say I am not the appropriate person for you to discuss this particular topic. I’d therefore appreciate if you would also respect my non-interest in this discussion for stated reasons.

  33. It is still true that most smokers want to stop smoking, so substantially increasing tax helps them give up. Second more of the poor give up than the rich. Third, quit smoking aids are subsidised or free for the poor. Fourth, because more of the poor give up than the rich, the poor who quit will receive more health benefits than the rich. Fifth, illegal tobacco is a potential problem but this is being carefully monitored and so far is not a significant issue. It is true that the poor who don’t quit are worse off, but I think this is one of those issues where doing financial harm to some is justified.
    And I can’t think of a better alternative policy. Because increasing the tax will improve the health of a lot of people.

  34. @Ernestine Gross

    The exchange between us began when you responded to one of my comments. If you want the exchange between us to stop, all you have to do is stop responding to my comments. I don’t understand how respect comes into it.

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