News — At The Edge — 3/25

Two sets of articles this week: cognitive science and socioeconomic. Together you get a picture of civilization fast approaching an historic crossroad.

The cognitive science articles are extraordinarily thought provoking. On the one hand, you can see how artificial general intelligence (AGI) emerges and its initial impact on socioeconomic issues and society. On the other hand, a strong case is made that free-will is likely an illusion.

  • The Coming Age of Augmented Creativity
  • Determinism
  • Paleoneurology

The socioeconomic articles describe how the economic system has been distorted, both deliberately and unwittingly, to undermine the social contract and foment social unrest.

  • We need a new narrative for globalization
  • Power Law
  • 3 dark trends that could destroy the web
  • Thieves are pickpocketing wallet apps

Two of my articles, Our Twilight Zone & What Comes Next?, and Doc Says — Our Emotions, Institutions and Technological Capabilities Are Mismatched, focus on integrating these cognitive and socioeconomic issues.


Cognitive Science Issues –

The Coming Age of Augmented Creativity

“Machine learning is growing exponentially; soon machines will know stuff that we don’t even know….

PART 1 — INTUITION…. [Computers] first baby steps towards [AI]…[with] a top-down design…‘expert’ knowledge in a large database…[but] in reality, merely rule-based systems….True expert systems are systems…are capable of deep analysis and deep pattern recognition…[and] sought after resource, because…evermore complex systems….

Most real problems always require…‘expertise beyond rules’; because most real problems are so complex that…there probably doesn’t exist a clearly defined solution….[Physics] identifies ‘mathematical rules’ of behavior that link cause to effect…[in] simple systems (systems without the friction of feedback)…[while] behavior of complex systems (systems with feedback) do not obey clearly defined mathematical rules….

[So] many computer scientists are…focusing their efforts on ‘Artificial Expertise’ (generated from the bottom up)…[as] algorithmic way of producing ‘educated guesses’ (intuitive guesses you might say) …by evolving a deep neural network to accumulation, and generate, nonlinear ‘Emergent Expertise’….

[T]o become a true expert at anything requires a lot of practice — learning the rules just doesn’t cut it….For practice to be useful however, it needs to contain ‘feedback’ [as ‘training’]….[The] explosion of big data means…lots of ‘training data’…[and] build deep knowledge and expertise on just about anything (really really fast)…[moving] to a form of ‘Artificial Generalized Intelligence (AGI)’….

PART 2 — CREATIVITY….The brain is [designed]…to compress ‘data’ into ‘information’, and subsequently integrate this…into an intuitive map of the external world. Intuition therefore is…[natural] subconscious mental process that tries to figure out what is real and how…fit together. But there is a side-effect…[that] drives ‘imagination’; and consequently deep neural integration offers not only the potential to see hidden patterns of information, but…‘imagine the unseen’….

Neural integration drives imagination [because]…‘thoughts’ begin to emerge; and imagination is simply a conscious process of focusing on these subconsciously generated thoughts…effectively trying to extract information from our personal data….Feelings are evolution’s feedback mechanism of choice…our internal mechanism for determining the ‘value’ of thoughts and intuitions…..

[Societies] value of human reasoning…[but] intuition has often been the seed of human insight, and…subconscious moments of inspiration. And so it is with creativity; just as the integration of a diversity of information, can inspire ‘deep intuition’, so too the integration of a diversity of ideas can inspire ‘deep creativity’….To be human is to be creative; and deep creativity is nearly always a combination of both emotional intelligence and a diversity of ideas….

[So] creative innovation requires…a diversity domain experience but also the ability to ‘sense’ connectivity across seemingly unconnected domains…to ‘feel’ that maybe there is a certain value in the integration….[Thus] the natural and subconscious process of neural integration….offers the potential for deep cognitive understanding of complexity…[and] potential for ‘Deep Creativity in Imagining the Complex Unseen.’

PART 3 — THE FUTURE OF WORK….[Clearly] anything repetitive or rule-based can…be carried out by a machine…[and] will increasingly…exhibit emergent expertise and resultant creativity when it comes to problem solving….

True creativity drives the imagination, and deep imagination is (nearly always) the interplay of a diversity of ideas and some degree of emotional intelligence….[Yet] to be truly creative requires…imagination to see beyond the rules [and]…a willingness to break some of these rules…which might actually be holding us back….

The future of work is likely to be less about reasoning and more about creativity…[and] machines capable of creative suggestion…in jobs that will require ‘Evolutionary Thinking and Design…augmented by Artificial Expertise.’”

Determinism -

“[T]he idea of physical determinism [has]…all matter and energy in the universe, including what’s in our brain, obey the laws of physics…[so] we have no ‘free will’…[and] constrained by…genes and environment to behave in only one way — and could not have behaved differently. We feel like we make choices, but we don’t. In that sense, ‘dualistic’ free will is an illusion…..

[Brain] is simply a collection of molecules that follow the laws of physics…a computer made of meat [so]…our thoughts, behaviors and ‘choices’ — must obey those laws. There’s no way we can step outside our mind to tinker with those outputs…[and] supported by experiments that trick people into thinking they’re exercising choice when they’re really being manipulated….

[But] realizing that we can’t ‘choose otherwise’ has profound implications for how we punish and reward people….First, if we can’t choose freely…then all criminals or transgressors should be treated as products of genes and environments that made them behave badly….[T]his doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t punish criminals. We should…for making a ‘bad choice.’ And of course we should still reward people, because that rewires their own brains, and those of onlookers, in a way that promotes good behavior.

We can therefore retain the concept of personal responsibility for actions, but reject the idea of moral responsibility….[In] understanding that we have no choices should create more empathy and less hostility towards others….In politics, this should give us more empathy for the underprivileged….Many religions [depend]…[on] illusory notion of free will….

We can therefore retain the concept of personal responsibility for actions, but reject the idea of moral responsibility….[In] understanding that we have no choices should create more empathy and less hostility towards others….In politics, this should give us more empathy for the underprivileged….Many religions [depend]…[on] illusory notion of free will….

We should accept the determinism of our behavior because [it’s]… true — just as we must accept our own [mortality]…[but] dispel the misconceptions…it gives us license to behave how we want…[promotes] nihilism…can’t affect the behavior of others, and…will destroy the fabric of society by making people immoral….Determinism is neither dangerous nor dolorous….

[Some] argue…we can still have a form of free will, simply redefining the concept to mean things like ‘our brains are very complex computers’ or ‘we feel we are free.’ But those are intellectual carny tricks….Though we may not like such truths, accepting them is the beginning of wisdom.”

Paleoneurology -

“[The] question paleoneurology seeks to address, ‘How do brains change over time?’…[because] used to change slowly…[but] no longer…[so] comparative study…becomes ever more relevant as we place…evolutionary pressures on the most malleable of our organs….

[I]n a single century, we became a majority urban species…..[Need] context for the evolution that occurs as our core brain inputs shift from observing nature to reading pages and then digital screens….[T]o understand what happens when brains that evolved around contemplation, observation, boredom, interrupted by sudden violence, are now bombarded from every direction…[and] demand an immediate assessment and response.

We are de facto outsourcing and melding parts of our memories with external devices….It is possible that a 1950s brain…might look Jurassic when compared, on a wiring and chemical level….Same might be true for animals…[and] aggressive pests. Given that one in five Americans is now taking a mind-altering drug(s), the experiment continues and accelerates….Eventual implants will radically change brain design, inputs, and outputs.

Having a baseline, a good paleoneurological history of brain design…may teach us a lot about what our brains were, where they came from, but even more important, what they are becoming.”

Socioeconomic Issues —

We need a new narrative for globalization -

“The world is at a historic crossroads. Market extremism…[generated] side effects…no longer tolerated by large portions of society…nor particularly our future ….What are the reasons?

First, the global economic system has moved from focusing on meeting the needs and aspirations of crucial segments of society who feel they are living in a precarious situation, to focusing on the optimization of the system itself. As such, individuals want to regain control of their livelihoods and seek out more than material satisfaction…and less on impersonal rules….

[T]he legitimacy of a purely market-driven global economy was undermined by…a world with competing societal concepts which challenge ‘Western’ thinking…corrupt practices and speculative financial practices distorting the fairness of markets and the process of real long-term value creation; Transformation of production processes, emphasizing automation…The serious threat to the preservation and regeneration of our environment….

’A mounting backlash…is threatening a very disruptive impact on economic activity and social stability in many countries…[and] can easily turn into revolt’….It is not the market-based system itself that is the issue, but rather its implementation…[with] lack of adequate and trustworthy principles to maintain a social contract inside it….

Global cooperation cannot be undone without causing major damage to all…. In a fast-changing world, where our very notion of identity is being challenged, the ideological choice is no longer between left and right, but rather between open and closed ….[Must] be responsive to the grievances and anger…but also to move forward. Failure to do so will only result in a further shift towards more polarized societies and a breakdown of…social cohesion….

There is no new replacement or ready-made ideology….Our priority should instead be to redesign our economic and social systems….Fourth Industrial Revolution will completely alter how we produce, how we consume, how we communicate and…redefine the relationship between citizens and the state….

[Existing] economic and political discussions…completely miss the mark…[leaving] two options….[To] fully use…Fourth Industrial Revolution to help lift humanity to new heights, or we can allow ourselves to be controlled by the forces of technology and end up in a dystopian world in which citizens will have lost their autonomy….

The tension between globalism and nationalism is artificial….The promise of a better future lies in acting together as stakeholders of a technology-driven global transformation process, with the objective of building a more modern, inclusive and human world.”

Power Law -

“Data scientists are competing with traditional statisticians, and ‘big data’ analysis is competing with the study of ‘statistic samples’…[mirroring] a wider paradigm shift in the conception of society and in what rules its structural dynamics…[and] to understand this change, one needs to know the ‘power law.’

If facts happen randomly…[it’ll] distribute as in a Gaussian…shape of a bell, with a majority of happenings concentrating around the average. But if facts are interlinked and if they co-evolve…[so] a change in one quantity results in a proportional change in the other quantity, it is more probable that they will distribute as in a power law graph, in a ski jump shape, in which the average is not important and polarization is unavoidable…[and] observed in physics, biology, astronomy…[and] the Internet…[where] some nodes became hubs and other pages were only destinations….

In a network society, the power law is becoming the fundamental pattern. In social sciences, prediction…more a kind of shaping the future than a description of what will actually happen….In a mass society most people were average, different people were rare and extreme…[so] a ‘bell curve’….Polls based on statistic samples were able to predict behaviors….In a network society…a change in a character will probably affect other characters [and]…average doesn’t predict much….

[Networked] society, resources are not random: they co-evolve and they polarize. In finance, as in knowledge, resources are attracted by abundance. The richer get unavoidably richer. Understanding this pattern is the only way for a network society to oppose inequality…[and] innovation is the most important dynamic to oppose inequality, and real competition is possible only if new categories can emerge.

If finance is only one big market, then the winner takes all. If rules make sure that different banks can only play in different categories of financial services, then there is less concentration of resources and less global risk. In a mass society, everything tends to go toward the average [and]…middle class wins…[and] is an idea of the past, but the network society is a challenge for the future….

Predictions are narratives…[but] need some empirical observations….The power law is useful to those that want to critically see the evolution of a network.”

3 dark trends that could destroy the web — Tim Berners-Lee -

“[I’m] increasingly worried about three new trends…we must tackle in order for the web to fulfill its true potential….

  1. We’ve lost control of our personal data. The current business model for many websites offers free content in exchange for personal data….held in proprietary silos, out of sight to us, we lose out on the benefits we could realize if we had direct control…[and] feeding back to companies what data we’d rather not share — especially with third parties….Through collaboration with — or coercion of — companies, governments are also increasingly watching our every move online, and passing extreme laws that trample on our rights…[and] watching everyone, all the time…creates a chilling effect on free speech….
  2. It’s too easy for misinformation to spread….[A] handful of social media sites and search engines…[make] money when we click…links they show us…based on algorithms which learn from our personal data…[so] appeal to our biases can spread like wildfire….[With] use of data science and armies of bots, those with bad intentions can game the system to spread misinformation for financial or political gain.
  3. Political advertising online needs transparency and understanding….[T]he increasing sophistication of algorithms…[means] political campaigns are now building individual adverts targeted directly at users….[In] 2016 US election, as many as 50,000 variations of adverts were being served every single day on Facebook, a near-impossible situation to monitor…[and many] used in unethical ways — to point voters to fake news sites…[and] to say completely different, possibly conflicting things to different groups….

We must work together with web companies to strike a balance that puts a fair level of data control back in the hands of people, including the development of new technology like personal ‘data pods,’…exploring alternative revenue models,…fight against government over-reach in surveillance laws,…push back against misinformation by encouraging gatekeepers such as Google and Facebook to continue their efforts to combat the problem, while avoiding the creation of any central bodies to decide what is ‘true’ or not….

We need more algorithmic transparency to understand how important decisions that affect our lives are being made, and perhaps a set of common principles to be followed…[and] close the ‘internet blind spot’ in the regulation of political campaigning.”

Thieves are pickpocketing wallet apps in China —

“QR code rules supreme in China…[to] pay for almost anything…[or] business card…’[but] criminals paste their own QR codes over the original ones to illicitly obtain money, as ordinary consumers simply cannot tell the difference…[so] enterprises using QR codes should assume their share of the responsibility for protection’….

Essentially a link, QR codes can be used to infect smartphones with viruses [and]…steal money from a victim’s mobile wallet….[So] proactive approach towards protecting users will be paramount…[for] suspicious or risky behavior, like when a screenshot of your payment QR code is taken….

[However] it’s difficult to discern its legitimacy by looking at it….[QR] codes should be signed digitally, and scanners should be designed to scrutinize QR codes more carefully.’”

Find more of my ideas on Medium at, A Passion to Evolve.

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May you live long and prosper!
Doc Huston




Time has come to rethink everything

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Doc Huston

Doc Huston

Consultant & Speaker on future nexus of technology-economics-politics, PhD Nested System Evolution, MA Alternative Futures, Patent Holder —

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