All of Brian_Macker's Comments + Replies


"Seemingly irrational action is rational, that is, has an aim. To appraise it as irrational, the appraiser merely imposes some other external source of value."-Michael Rozeff

If and individual spends their life hunting for Bigfoot they are acting rationally as far as economics goes. The are taking action with a goal in mind.

Economics can't and shouldn't make value judgments about goal directed actions.

Economics (even particular schools of economic) have specialized terms that do NOT mean the same thing as common usage.

There's nothing ... (read more)

"Psychology (evolutionary or otherwise) seems to be merging with economics already"

Yes, and that's unfortunate because emotion is not all that important to understanding the business cycle. There is a perfectly good explanation that shows that an economy made of quite rational agents [in the economic sense] will generate the business cycle. Not only does it explain the cycle itself but particular aspects of the cycle.

Emotive economic theories are not new. To believe that the business cycle is due to "animal spirits" like Keynes di... (read more)

"Why did the SuperHappies adopt the Babyeater's ethics? I thought that they exterminated them."

They only exterminated the one ship so that it wouldn't blow up the star.

For gosh sakes Faré it's only a story.

I misread it just as Anonymous Coward did. I thought they killed the Babyeaters and head back on their (the Babyeaters) star line. Thus I thought AC's first solution was perfect. I also liked AC's second solution.

"Sorry if I was overly brusque in my response."
No, I don't believe you are sorry. I think you have a particular view on economics that colors your questions. You're looking for some angle to justify those beliefs. It's quite clear that the Austrians are correct about what is occuring right now.

"Because for the moment a simple "classical economics + power law of random fluctuations (possibly giving way somewhat to a gaussian distribution for rare events)" seems a much more economical theory fitting the data ..."

Really? T... (read more)

"'Emergence';, in this instance, is an empty buzzword.

Buzzword in this instance is a buzzword. This sentence is merely an assertion. I read that article before I wrote my argument. The phrase, "emergent behavior" and the word "emergence" have a specific meaning and it isn't about giving a "mysterious answer to a mysterious queston".

For example, Mises can and does give a complete and non-mysterious explaination of how the business cycle is a result of fractional reserve banking. Likewise, he can explain how market pr... (read more)

Stuart Armstrong ,

"By 'comprehend the emergent behavior' do you mean that you have a vague intuitive feel for this, or that you have the equations relating interest rates to other factors, along with enough mathematical theory to make specific quantitative predictions?"

If I believe that a individual or committee cannot determine a market price other than by actually observing one then why on earth do you think I am claiming to be able to "make specific quantitative predictions?"

Those economists that make the mistake of thinking they can... (read more)

How about shorting the Zimbabwean Dollar? Any piece of knowledge you have, and others lack, can be acted on by taking bets.
Or you may have heard people talking about "emergence" as if it could explain complex, functional orders. People will say that the function of an ant colony emerges - as if, starting from ants that had been selected only to function as solitary individuals, the ants got together in a group for the first time and the ant colony popped right out. But ant colonies have been selected on as colonies by evolution. Optimization didn't just magically happen when the ants came together.

I don't think the point of stressing emergence is to explain via ... (read more)

No, sexual selection does not determine which mutations occur. It's merely a reinforcing feedback loop that is actually considered an example of how evolution can run off the rails, so to speak.

Sure females might by accident happen to pick a feature in males that might prove adaptive. Unfortunately for your argument it is not based on prediction, but is happenstance. Even were the "correct" feature choosen initially there is then the tendency of sexual selection to over select for the feature merely because other females find the feature att... (read more)


The problem is that there is no mechanism in the process of natural selection for stuffing that foresight generated by brains back into the genome. Learn all you want but it isn't passed onto you kids via your genes. That's the rub. That's why natural selection is blind to the future. The idea that natural selection is blind is perfectly accurate.

That's also true for the small minority of organisms on the planet that actually have brains that predict the future. So I am talking about the instance of natural selection operating on this planet. Y... (read more)

"Since the dolphin has evolved flippers would you therefore say that “natural selection operates on flippers?"

"Yes - provided we were talking about a process that included dolphin evolution."

I'm flabbergasted by this response. There is nothing inherent about natural selection that is going to give you flippers. That's dependent on the environment, the mutations, and other factors. The process itself has no "flippers". It's a process that works fine without flippers, yet you insist that natural selection "opera... (read more)


I think you are confusing an emergent property created by a system with how the system operates on its own. That architects draft blueprints that result in public housing projects that leads to forced living relationships that makes it hard to evict drug dealers doesn’t mean that the discipline of architecture runs on drug dealing. Even if that drug dealing impacts the architects.

You seem to have written some simulations of natural selection. In writing those algorithms did you have to code in the ability to predict? Of course not... (read more)

Nice try Tyler. What individuals "do" does not define what natural selection does.

One could also say: "In practice, natural selection produces intelligent agents, who can predict, and then they make selective choices that affect who lives, who dies and who reproduces."

That does NOT mean that natural selection operates via a predictive process. Ask any good biologist and they will tell you than natural selection is not predictive. That's why species go extinct all the time.

Natural selection is a non-inductive proces that can pro... (read more)

"produced by inductive natural selection;"

Natural selection is not an inductive process.


I vaguely remember from the last time I visited this site that you are in the inductivist camp. In several articles you seemed to express a deep belief in Bayesian reasoning.

I think that while you are an intelligent guy but I think your abandonment of falsification in favor of induction is one of your primary mistakes. Falsification subsumes induction. Popper wins over Bayes.

Any presumed inductivism has foundations in trial and error, and not the other way around. Poppers construction is so much more straightforward than this convoluted ... (read more)

"First time you ever see an apple fall down, you observe the position goes as the square of time, .."

Well no actually you don't. Not unless you prebuild the system to know about time and squaring, etc. Have you no respect for evolution? Evolution is how you get to the point where you have semantics.

"Howson believes it is time to ditch Popper's notion of capturing the scientific process using deductive logic."

Another person who doesn't understand Popper. It's as if the guy believed cars were nothing but wheels. Deduction is only part of Poppers theory. The theory can in fact subsume just about any method (till it's shown not to work). It's really just disciplined evolution. It's certainly not merely about using deduction.

Depends on how you think about and define a 1% advantage. You are using the biological definition, which is that having the gene gives you 1% more offspring on average. If however my genes make me 1% faster than everyone else that is a 100% advantage in winning the race, which can lead to large advantage in reproductive success. In this way a gene that generates a minor performance advantage can spread rather quickly.

"Brian, the question is not why the senses feel the way they do, but why they feel like anything at all."

Do you have any personal experience with beings with consciousnesses that don't feel their own senses? Seems to me you should have some basis of comparison for assuming that senses shouldn't feel like anything at all.

Your senses don't feel like anything to me. Think that has anything to do with the fact that we don't share a brain?

Besides, you are in part wrong, the question has been precisely why the senses feel the way they do. Why is r... (read more)


"There is nothing physical in common with these two activities, but surely they have something in common."

Having something in common is an easy hurdle. Pen and pencil is vastly more prone to error. You have to remember that when you conceptualize the similarities that doesn't mean the reality matches your conception. You might thing the counting of apples maps nicely onto the integers but it doesn't. Not for very large numbers. A pile of three apples maps nicely to the number three, but a pile of 1x10^34 apples would collapse i... (read more)


You make it seem like my point was singular. There were lots of points. I'll carry on the discussion with Scott over at Distributed Republic blog.

You have an unusual comment policy that I wasn't aware of. Deleting comments merely on length is quite unusually with 50 megabytes of storage costing about a penny. I'd have had to repost that same long comment somewhere around 500 times before it would cost a cent.

Now that I have read your policy I will try to color inside the lines. So, no problem, email me the contents of the post and I'll copy it to Distributed Republic. If you've lost it, as is likely, no problem either as I'm a prolific writer.


You made an important point in that scientists don't prove things in a foundationalist way. They aren't even attempting to do that and they have solved the problem of human fallibility, and the lack of any foundation to knowledge, by just accepting them as givens. Accepted as givens then the issue is how to deal with those facts. The answer is to come up with methodologies to reduce error.

Some philosophers get this, and some don't. Popper understood. My philosophy teacher didn't. I've noticed a correlation in my experience that the philoso... (read more)


I'm trying to understand why you're finding mystery where I see none.

"Nonetheless, it is mysterious how physical systems with nothing physical in common can realize the same algorithm."

Would you feel the same mystery in a playground where there were side by side swings, one made with rope and the other with chain?

Chain is not only made of completely different material, but is also flexible by a completely different mechanism than rope. Yet both are flexible and both can serve the purpose of making a swing.

The flexibility is emergent in... (read more)