Ontological camouflage

by Suspended Reason

  1. Ontologies allow us to choose, and choose in a coordinated way, best-fitting action. By best-fitting,” I mean, interacting with the environmental context in such a way as to bring about desired ends in a desired way.” An ontology, then, is a set of heuristics.
  2. These heuristics are structured as concepts (i.e. decision rules”) within an action-schema of perceptual cues, types, and best responses. A metonym or surrogate (or more often, a gestalt of metonyms and surrogate, which add up to feeling or vibe) indicates type, which in turn (contextually) indicates ideal response; for instance, evidence is weighed in a courtroom to determine whether the state ought to charge a defendant with manslaughter or murder; these classifications alter the kinds of punishment which are available to a judge.
  3. To camouflage oneself is to appear as some other plausible option; for instance, a stick bug cannot only not look like a bug, he must also look like a stick. To camouflage oneself is to change the ontological category which an evaluating agent places the camouflaged party in, and thus to change the action which the evaluator believes ought to follow such an identification.
  4. I might say that all deception, all strategic appearance, is about subverting the classification of ourselves by others. We are not this, we are that. And we do not care about classification for its own sake, but because classification has consequences.
  5. We put in strategic work to be classified advantageously (e.g. dramatic realization). But questions of deceit, correctness, and truth are difficult to answer. I might say that to camouflage ourselves is to alter our classification from what it otherwise would be (would be by default,” or normally”). But this begs the question, What is a default” interpretation and why is it privileged?
  6. Because agents systematically alter and manage their appearances to achieve better outcomes in strategy games, it makes sense that we would distrust the appearances and classifications desired by self-representing agents. And selectors (or evaluators”), on average, have more interest in ascertaining the pragmatic, project-relevant truth of the situation. But there is no denying that evaluators can err in their evaluations, that objects, agents, and situations are regularly classified in a way which is an error” insofar as it hurts the classifier’s best interest.
  7. What’s more, evaluated parties are not automatically legible or transparent; they must do the work of dramatic realization, acquiring a set of signals which reliably communicate what kind of thing they are to evaluators. In other words, strategic work must be done in order that we are classified correctly.” (That is, to the benefit of the classifier.) So it cannot be as simple as saying that strategic appearances are deceptive.
  8. To deceive I might say, I know he would behave a certain way if he classified me as this, and even though I think I am a this, that treatment is undesirable, so I will convince him I am a that. Or it might be to say, he thinks I am this but I think I am that, and I will fabricate compositional parts in order that he infers that whole instead of this whole. And sometimes I will think I am being very cooperative when I fabricate or bend appearances so that I can get you to classify me as that instead of this. Sometimes I will do a great deal of good in the world by getting this classification. Sometimes all parties privy—all parties with an interest—could all agree that the effects of labeling this that would be quite positive and desirable, and might even conspire together to fabricate or alter appearances, to emphasize some aspects and de-emphasize others, to secure that-status.
  9. And sometimes, resignedly, they admit that this can only ever be a this, that it would be grossly inappropriate to label this a that. But if the grounds of their judgment is non-pragmatic, is about the truth” of definitions rather than the action outcomes of defining, then what has their “reality-based” (i.e. fantastical) resignation accomplished? Have they not erred through deontology? Can they not be flexible with their categories, with their heuristic schemes for action?