Hi all -

nice to be here. I'm probably going to mostly lurk, but a brief
introduction can't hurt, I guess.

BACKGROUND: 28 y/o, CS/media. Tech writer & freelance developer.
Lately become fairly involved in a number of NGOs, notably Wikimedia
Foundation (home of Wikipedia) & Open Progress (an open source / open
knowledge think tank). I've written a book called "Die heimliche
Medienrevolution" ("the secret media revolution") which describes the
global media changes that have begun to emerge with the Internet.

I'm helping to develop a collaborative, multilingual structured
ontology engine at omegawiki.org , which has a multilingual dictionary/
thesaurus as its first application, though we also have working
imports of scientific ontologies. I question modern thinking on
sexuality, which I believe is still in continuity with monotheistic
doctrine; I run a website at violence.de which presents some little
known research on the topic of touch & sexuality. I believe
"Intellectual Property" must be largely eliminated, and I'm also
highly interested in enabling a new economy of knowledge which does
not require IP, but uses distributed funding models instead. I
strongly promote Free Culture & Open Access wherever I go. :-)

INTEREST: Increasingly fascinated with emergence, as far as I can
understand it. I'm a slow learner, but like to believe that random
rules evolving under a meta-rule can be used to emerge all the
complexity of a multiverse, and am interested in what smarter people
than me have to say about that. I also wonder about the definition of
"intelligence" as it is used in everyday life, as opposed to what I
perceive as clearly intelligent patterns e.g. in biological evolution;
I think intelligence needs to be redefined as a process that does not
require a "subject" as such to occur. That is, I do believe in
"intelligent design," but without a designer, and instead of
"irreducible complexity", "fully reducible complexity." ;-)

I'm an absolute amateur here, but fear not; the thing that
distinguishes me from the average crackpot is that I do know that I
know very little. The above is just a very tentative state of thinking
which is flagged in my brain as "needs extensive review & discussion."
I'm here to learn, over a period of years if necessary, to get at
least a basic view of the state of thinking on these subjects.  I have
no delusions of grandeur -- my only hope to make any "original"
contribution is to perhaps be able to help communicate some of the
ideas of this group to a larger audience, as I feel they could be
highly relevant to the view that we have on the multiverse and our own
role therein.

I do believe, and I think there is reason to do so, that Darwinian
evolutionary thought has opened up a new chapter in our perception of
ourselves and our species, but this chapter is not yet complete. The
emergence of life on Earth is so utterly amazing that many refuse to
believe it. When we fully realize that this process is itself part of
a larger process of emergence, and become capable of describing (and
perhaps replicating) it, redefining ourselves becomes inescapable. We
are merely agents of emergence.

Now here's a crackpot idea to throw into the mix, and then you can
start laughing: I do believe that this perception can become the basis
for a new kind of morality, an "objective morality", where the
discovery of truth and the rational application thereof becomes the
only _objectively justifiable_ moral course that an agent of emergence
may take. Social behavior is "merely" utilitarian, but extremely
powerful at the same time; anti-social societies, or those which
tolerate anti-social behavior, are not sustainable. Historically,
people have looked to arbitrary rule systems for moral guidance; these
may be partially useful and partially harmful. My hope is that at
least a segment of society can evolve to follow a completely rational
rule system -- and that we may be at the brink of consensus about
this.

To my credit (or not), most of these thoughts are my own (which I
haven't really shared before), and I'm only beginning to be influenced
by the seemingly endless number of publications on the topic. Since I
was a child, the idea of a "finite", single universe has always seemed
bizarre to me, due to its arbitrary nature; the final "Why?" question
should not be answered with "We don't know" but "Because there is no
other way for things _to be_, for the phrase 'to be' to make any
sense."

If anyone wants to suggest a reading list, I'd be most appreciative.
If anything has been written in particular on the topics of objective
morality, or definition of "intelligence" in emergent systems, I'd be
very interested. Stuff I've already flagged for reading is
Schmidhuber's work (just trying to understand the conclusions -- no
hope of following in his footsteps) and Wolfram's, which I'll take
with the required block of salt. There's a number of pop sci books out
about emergence, but I don't know if they're any good. I just ordered
Vilenkin's "Many Worlds in One".

LAST BOOK I'VE READ: Ian Rowlands: Full Facts Book of Cold Reading. It
describes the technique used to make a person believe that you are
reading their mind. Self-published - you can't get it on Amazon;
written by a famous "magician". A book that for me caused a minor
epiphany in understanding that the seemingly arbitrary actions of
psychics and gurus actually follow patterns that are well described in
the community of "magicians" and "mentalists". Not only that, but some
literature even targets both groups; this is little known because the
literature of magicians and mentalists is only sold in special stores
or even only by special recommendation (though you can find much of it
on P2P networks these days). To me, this is the "darker side of
magic", which is commonly only seen as simple entertainment. The book
also well illustrates the alterability of human memory (see also
literature on False Memory Syndrome). I believe with this final
connection, my understanding of religion is largely complete.


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