this is some freewriting (with about an hour of edits) inspired by an appreciation of how much culture, biology, physiology and psychology affect each other.

i've also started to re-learn some fundamentals of deep learning and machine learning in course.fast.ai.

first i'd like to take a step back and see how we define culture and biology:

culture

the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively.

the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group

biology

the study of living organisms, divided into many specialized fields that cover their morphology, physiology, anatomy, behavior, origin, and distribution.

the physiology, behavior, and other qualities of a particular organism or class of organisms.

i have experienced that reductionism has, understandably, some negative connotations amongst intellectuals---unfortunately, reductionist explanations is how both someone who understands and someone who does not understand communicates about a subject. the listener responding with "that doesn't make sense" is either a sign that what the listener is trying to understand is outside of their perspective, or the listener has identified an inconsistency between the speaker's perspective and some collectively agreed upon logic model or thought model in that field.

a reductionist way of interpreting those definitions: culture is defined and evaluated by behavior and achievement. this dynamic creates an environment for a powerful positive feedback loop:

  1. culture promotes achievement
  2. achievement dictates behavior
  3. behavior affects biology
  4. biology justifies behavior

in other words:

  1. culture dictates biology
  2. biology reinforces culture

that positive feedback loop can move toward a more adaptive or maladaptive culture.

adaptive

characterized by or given to adaptation

coming from the latin meaning of "to-fit" and "join"

it is interesting to note that by definition, that which is characterizing (adaptation) is what is characterized (adaptive)

maladaptive

not providing adequate or appropriate adjustment to the environment or situation

there is a culture sized hole in this definition since "adequate or appropriate" are collectively subjective

however, this is what i mean (currently, based on what i've learned) when i use these words:

adaptive

infinite game thinking or behavior

maladaptive

finite game thinking or behavior

given that we are in a rivalrous civilization, and have been in one for a while, it's reasonable to assume that the resulting cultures promote their members to fit to and join in on rivalrous behavior. even though we are in an infinite game (universe keeps going even if humans go extinct) we are playing finite games (games that end when someone wins) and largely behaving in ways where the game ends and nobody wins because the civilization collapses and you can't play or win a game without rules.

unlike the romans or mayans, we have the technology to make humans go extinct.

types of questions that infinite game thinking promotes:

  1. are all resources finite?
  2. are there behaviors which promote their finiteness which can be changed?
  3. is there a way to design agriculture so that we never run out of food?
  4. what would be the requirements for a civilization to meet that agricultural goal?
  5. what habits would be developed, not to ration, regulate or punish consumption of food, but to promote behavior which will automatically and naturally allow us to meet that goal? what are the rules of a game where the only goal is to continue playing?

every civilization up until this point has collapsed and some of those collapses were accelerated by a lack of technology. our situation is fundamentally different: our collapse is accelerated by too much technology in a game where the goal is to win, the resources are finite and the game ends when someone wins. the urgency of changing our culture to be more adaptive is even greater, given that we will eventually create agi (artificial general intelligence).

consider this: a machine learning model cannot be created without data, and data comes from some process or entity within our rivalrous civilization. that's not to say that there is something inherently rivalrous in all data (i.e. you can train a model to identify cats and dogs without considering rivalrous dynamics) but data about civilization-level decision-making or sense-making (economics, law, finance, ethics, agriculture, manufacturing, etc) will be driven by rivalrous dynamics driving win/loss results. exponential technology in a culture with exponentially distributed choice making (money) with a linear economy (raw materials > products > waste) fueled by finite resources results in a civilization that will self-terminate and will self-terminate quicker and more definitively (with a worst case of extinction) over time with each iteration. reaching agi without first creating some sort of prototype for a non-rivalrous civilization guarantees a finite game result for humanity. developing effective non-rivalrous collective sense-making strategies may give us a shot to transition into a more infinite game---especially if we can use agi to accelerate those strategies.

some other related thoughts:

the definition of achievement in our culture (i.e. performing in ways we collectively celebrate) has been developed in a rivalrous civilization. selecting for behavior most likely to result in cultural achievement is maladaptive. rivalrous civilizations create cultures that are maladaptive because rivalrous civilizations play finite games. a tragic but profound irony we see in our culture is the will of individuals to rigorously promote behavior that was successful in a civilization where the overall strategy is to adapt toward winning and thus ending the game. a system of humans after all would behave in the most human way: making mistakes, and learning from them. but, the question is: are we learning to develop our own intelligence or are we learning to label truths based on a collective agreement? what do we define as mistakes? what do we define as corrective behavior? what does it mean to have "learned your lesson" in a rivalrous civilization?speaking of learning: our education system is currently structured around assuming that a certain level of competency at a certain age determines intellectual value (letter grades, percentages, grade scales, standards, averages, exams and so on). the collective agreement on what those competencies are and at what age kids should perform proficiency in that competency is designed to train students to think in ways that will help them succeed in our civilization.