Philosophy of Questions

There are no singular facts (Questions II)

There is more to explore here, and more thoughts to test. Let’s talk more about knowledge, and take two really simples examples. We believe we know the following. (i) The earth is round. (ii) Gravity is 9.8 G Our model here is one of knowledge as a set of propositions that can be justified and defended as knowledge – they can be deemed true or false, and the sum total of that body of propositions is all we know. We can add to it by adding new propositions and we can change our mind by throwing old propositions out and…

Continue Reading…

Philosophy of Questions

Socratic epistemology, Hintikka, questions and the end of propositional logic (Questions I)

The question of what knowledge is can be understood in different ways. One way to understand it is to focus on what it means to know something. The majority view here is that knowledge is about propositions that we can examine from different perspectives. Examples would include things like: The earth is round. Gravity is a force. Under simple conditions demand and supply meet in a market. These propositions can then be true or false and the value we assign to them decides if they are included in our knowledge. The way we assign truth or falsity can vary. In…

Continue Reading…

The Fake News Notes

Weil’s paradox: intention and speech (Fake News Notes #8)

Simone Weil, in her curious book Need for Roots, notes the following on the necessity for freedom of opinion: […] it would be desirable to create an absolutely free reserve in the field of publication, but in such a way as for it to be understood that the works found therein did not pledge their authors in any way and contained no direct advice for readers. There it would be possible to find, set out in their full force, all the arguments in favour of bad causes. It would be an excellent and salutary thing for them to be so…

Continue Reading…

The Examined Life

Lessons from Lucy Kellaway

I have been following, with increasing interest, Lucy Kellaway’s second career as a teacher, and the movement she has started around a second career aimed at giving back. It makes a lot of sense. In her latest column she muses on what happens with status as you change from high-power jobs to become a teacher, and she notes that it depends on if you derive your sense of self-worth from external or internal sources. Perhaps, she argues, older people can drop the need for external validation and instead build their sense of self-worth on their own evaluation of themselves. As…

Continue Reading…

Philosophy of thinking

What is your cathedral?

Time is a funny thing, and the perspectives that you can get if you shift time around are extraordinarily valuable. Take a simple example: not long ago it was common to engage in building things that would take more than one generation to finish – giant houses, cathedrals and organizations. Today we barely engage in projects that take longer than a year – in fact, that seems long to some people. A three month project, a three week sprint is preferable. And there is some truth to this. Slicing time finely is a way to ensure that progress is made…

Continue Reading…

books, Read

Books: Semiosis by Sue Burke

Just finished this excellent and surprising science fiction book. It explores several different themes – our ability to start anew on a new planet, our inherent nature, our relationship to nature and plants (!) and the growing suspicion that we are always doing someone else’s bidding. It is also beautifully written, with living characters and original ideas. One of the themes that will stay with me is how nature always plays a dominance game, and that the darwinian struggle in some way is a ground truth that we have to understand and relate to. I have always felt somewhat uneasy…

Continue Reading…

Philosophy of Questions, Philosophy of thinking

Computational vs Biological Thinking (Man / Machine XII)

Our study of thinking has so far been characterised by a need to formalize thinking. Ever since Boole’s “Laws of Thought” the underlying assumption and metaphor for thinking has been mathematical or physical – even mechanical and always binary. Logic has been elevated to the position of pure thought, and we have even succumbed to thinking that is we deviate from logic or mathematics in our thinking, then that is a sign that our thinking is flawed and biased. There is great value to this line of study and investigation. It allows us to test our own thinking in a model and evaluate…

Continue Reading…

Artificial Intelligence, Legal philosophy, Man / Machine, The man / machine series

Digital legal persons? Fragments (Man / Machine XI and Identity / Privacy III)

The following are notes ahead of a panel discussion this afternoon, where we will discuss the need for a legal structure for digital persons in the wake of the general discussion of artificial intelligence.  The idea of a digital assistant seems to suggest a world in which we will see new legal actors. These actors will buy, order, negotiate and represent us in different ways, and so will have a massive impact on the emerging legal landscape. How do we approach this in the best possible way? One strawman suggestion would be to propose a new legal construct in addition to natural…

Continue Reading…

Artificial Intelligence, Man / Machine, The man / machine series

The free will to make slightly worse choices ( Man / Machine XI)

In his chapter on intelectronics, his word for what most closely resembles artificial intelligence, Stanislaw Lem suggests an insidious way in which the machine could take over. It would not be, he says, because it wants to terrorize us, but more likely because it will try to be helpful. Lem develops the idea of the control problem, and the optimization problem, decades before they are then re-discovered by Nick Bostrom and others, and he runs through the many different ways in which a benevolent machine may just manipulate us in order to get better results for us. This, however, is…

Continue Reading…

Artificial Intelligence, Man / Machine, Technology, The man / machine series

Stanislaw Lem, Herbert Simon and artificial intelligence as broad social technology project (Man / Machine X)

Why do we develop artificial intelligence? Is it merely because of an almost faustian curiosity? Is it because of an innate megalomania that suggests that we could, if we want to, become gods? The debate today is ripe with examples of risks and dangers, but the argument for the development of this technology is curiously weak. Some argue that it will help us with medicine, and improve diagnostics, others dutifully remind us of the productivity gains that could be unleashed by deploying these technologies in the right way and some even suggest that there is a defensive aspect to the…

Continue Reading…

Law and time

Law, technology and time (Law and Time I)

I just got a copy of the latest Scandinavian Studies of Law, no. 65. I contributed a small piece on Law, Technology and Time — examining how the different ways in which time is made available by technology changes demands on the law and legislation. It is a first sketch of a very big area, and something I aim to try to dig deeper into. I am very grateful for the chance to start to lay out thoughts here, and especially so since it was on the occasion of celebrating that the Swedish Law and Informatics Research Institute now is…

Continue Reading…

The philosophy of decisions

A small note on cost and benefit

I have picked up Cass Sunstein’s latest book on cost / benefit trade offs, and am enjoying it. But it seems to me that there is a fundamental problem here with the framing. The model being put forward is one in which we straight-forwardly calculate costs and benefits for any choice and then we make the right, informed and rational choice. Yet, we know that this model breaks down in two significant cases – and that is when the costs or the benefits become very large. At that point, the probability is subsumed by the gravity of the cost or…

Continue Reading…