Hi again. Yes, almost two years - that seems to be the average time I end up hiding from the lynch mobs when I post something. :D
It is nice to be welcomed back, and I appreciate the sentiment. Thank you.
That said, I hope that in future, we will all keep the way we vote to ourselves. The vast majority of votes are cast anonymously, and making a subset of them public invites all kinds of trouble: suspicions of mutually back-scratching cliques, perceived pressure to return the favour, all the usual political nonsense which our species so excels at and which I really prefer not to partake in.
My own strategy this year has been pretty much the opposite of the politically convenient one. If I really like a paper, I am likely to just give it a high score and move on without saying anything (what is there to discuss if we already agree?); if I disagree with or am puzzled by something in it, I may engage in a discussion before (maybe) rating it. And since I am less stressed out this time, I have been doing a lot more of it than back in 2012, trying to look at as much as I can, so I guess the lynch mob will be larger...
You wonder if our brains are well enough evolved to recognize... well, here I run into trouble: my brain is clearly not evolved enough to recognize exactly what it is supposed to recognize. I honestly don't understand what the 'escape hatch' is which you refer to. :(
The best response I can offer is a meta-one (which is guaranteed to make me even less popular with the FQXi crowd, if that is even possible): maybe we really should take a step back and get our priorities straight. I understand that you have a strong belief in the potential benefit for humanity of further advances in fundamental physics. I am less optimistic on that front. While I can not rule out big surprises (after all, we don't know) it seems to me that the "rut" which you speak of is a consequence of tremendous success; the theories we already have work very, very well, over a very large range of scales. The search for significant deviations from prediction has therefore been pushed to regions in parameter space very far removed from those relevant to current or plausibly near-future technological applications. Turn that statement around, and it says that further advances in fundamental physics are unlikely to have a significant technological impact, at least in the near future.
You may counter that there are logical problems and inconsistencies in our theoretical edifice, and I would agree, but you would need to point out areas where those conceptual problems become of practical importance in order to sway me.
Now, if it is true that humanity faces one or more existential crises in the near term, and if it is true that further advances in fundamental physics are unlikely to be relevant to the solution of those crises, then the sensible course of action would be to focus on less esoteric goals more likely to help us survive. Cheap access to the vast resources in space would be one. Getting smarter might be another (here finally get back to your train of thought). If larger brains, artificially augmented ones, or wholly artificial intelligences superior to those we have now are on the horizon, the best strategy may be concentrate on making them a reality as soon as possible, and then let them worry about the really hard questions.