What is Complexity Science?
— Alessandro Vespignani (@alexvespi) June 29, 2019
César Hidalgo has a radical suggestion for fixing our broken political system: automate it! In this provocative talk, he outlines a bold idea to bypass politicians by empowering citizens to create personalized AI representatives that participate directly in democratic decisions. Explore a new way to make collective decisions and expand your understanding of democracy.
“It’s not a communication problem, it’s a cognitive bandwidth problem.”—César Hidalgo
He’s definitely right about the second part, but it’s also a communication problem because most of political speech is nuanced toward the side of untruths and covering up facts and potential outcomes to represent the outcome the speaker wants. There’s also far too much of our leaders saying “Do as I say (and attempt to legislate) and not as I do.” Examples include things like legislators working to actively take away things like abortion or condemn those who are LGBTQ when they actively do those things for themselves or their families or live out those lifestyles in secret.
“One of the reasons why we use Democracy so little may be because Democracy has a very bad user interface and if we improve the user interface of democracy we might be able to use it more.”—César Hidalgo
This is an interesting idea, but definitely has many pitfalls with respect to how we know AI systems currently work. We’d definitely need to start small with simpler problems and build our way up to the more complex. However, even then, I’m not so sure that the complexity issues could ultimately be overcome. On it’s face it sounds like he’s relying too much on the old “clockwork” viewpoint of phyiscs, though I know that obviously isn’t (or couldn’t be) his personal viewpoint. There’s a lot more pathways for this to become a weapon of math destruction currently than the utopian tool he’s envisioning.
A cat is alive, a sofa is not: that much we know. But a sofa is also part of life. Information theory tells us why
A nice little essay in my area, but I’m not sure there’s anything new in it for me. It is nice that they’re trying to break some of the problem down into smaller components before building it back up into something else. Reframing things can always be helpful. Here, in particular, they’re reframing the definitions of life and alive.
Trump's attacks on climate science; the dark money behind environmental deregulation; and the Anthropocene.
The Trump administration has ordered federal agencies to stop publishing worst-case scenario projections of climate change. This week, On the Media examines the administration’s pattern of attacks on climate science. Plus, a look at the dark money behind environmental deregulation.
2. Jane Mayer [@JaneMayerNYer], staff writer at The New Yorker and author of Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, on the billionaires supporting the modern conservative intellectual framework. Listen.
3. Jan Zalasiewicz, Anthropocene Working Group Chair, on the traces that today's humans might leave behind for future civilizations, and Benjamin Kunkel [@kunktation] on whether the Age of Capitalism might be a more appropriate term to describe our epoch. Listen.
Some interesting discussion on climate, but more specifically on the effects of man from a much longer term geological perspective. It’s not often that one could say there’s news that takes a Big History perspective, but this certainly comes as close as one could hope. The second segment was particularly interesting.
I sort of like the idea of dating the Anthropocene from the 1950’s with the invention of the atomic bomb as it created a world-wide layer. But then the beginning of agriculture or the start of the industrial revolution also likely had world-wide effects as well.
The MIT Media Lab Space Exploration Initiative is developing “Off Earth Gastronomy”--a collection of thought-provoking recipes, tools for eating, whimsical experiences and culinary designs for life in space.
Deadline to apply: July 15, 2019
MIT Media Lab Space Exploration Initiative welcomes all forms of submissions from project briefs to existing designs (recipes, experiential designs, tools for eating, short stories, illustrations, photos) surrounding the future of food in outer space.
For inquiries about the project please email: Maggie Coblentz (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Submit project proposals here.
About the Course:
This course aims to push the field of Origins of Life research forward by bringing new and synthetic thinking to the question of how life emerged from an abiotic world.
This course begins by examining the chemical, geological, physical, and biological principles that give us insight into origins of life research. We look at the chemical and geological environment of early Earth from the perspective of likely environments for life to originate.
Taking a look at modern life we ask what it can tell us about the origin of life by winding the clock backwards. We explore what elements of modern life are absolutely essential for life, and ask what is arbitrary? We ponder how life arose from the huge chemical space and what this early 'living chemistry'may have looked like.
We examine phenomena, that may seem particularly life like, but are in fact likely to arise given physical dynamics alone. We analyze what physical concepts and laws bound the possibilities for life and its formation.
Insights gained from modern evolutionary theory will be applied to proto-life. Once life emerges, we consider how living systems impact the geosphere and evolve complexity.
The study of Origins of Life is highly interdisciplinary - touching on concepts and principles from earth science, biology, chemistry, and physics. With this we hope that the course can bring students interested in a broad range of fields to explore how life originated.
The course will make use of basic algebra, chemistry, and biology but potentially difficult topics will be reviewed, and help is available in the course discussion forum and instructor email. There will be pointers to additional resources for those who want to dig deeper.
This course is Complexity Explorer's first Frontiers Course. A Frontiers Course gives students a tour of an active interdisciplinary research area. The goals of a Frontiers Course are to share the excitement and uncertainty of a scientific area, inspire curiosity, and possibly draw new people into the research community who can help this research area take shape!
I’m totally in for this!
Hat tip for the reminder to:
— Sean Carroll (@seanmcarroll) June 14, 2019
Mike Morrison hardly looks like a revolutionary. He's wearing a dark suit and has short hair. But we're about to enter a world of conformity that hasn't changed in decades — maybe even a century. And in there, his vision seems radical. "We are about to walk into a room full of 100 scientific posters, where researchers are trying to display their findings on a big poster board," says Morrison, a doctoral student in psychology at Michigan State University. The idea of a science poster is simple. Get some poster-making materials and then slap on a title, the experimental methods and the results. Almost everyone has created a poster like this at some point — often in childhood, for a school assignment or a science fair.
I like the idea of this, but most conferences worth their salt also publish short abstracts of most poster presentations which have roughly this type of short overview of poster presentations. Prepared researchers will have scanned through them all and highlighted a dozen or so they want to stop by to see more about or meet the researchers.
Of course, all this to say that this method isn’t a potential improvement for the lazy drive-by poster visitor.
I bookmarked a great post by Jim Luke (@econproph) a few weeks ago on scale and scope. I suspect that tech’s effect on education is heavily (if not permanently) scale-limited, but scope may be a better avenue going forward.
I also suspect that Cesar Hidalgo’s text Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies may provide a strong clue with some details. To some extent I think we’ve generally reached the Shannon limit for how much information we can pour into a single brain. We now need to rely on distributed and parallel networking among people to proceed forward.
That many songbirds sing their songs over and over again in an effort to master them before performing in front of potential mates is well known. What has remained less clear is whether they also practise the visual displays that they often use alongside their songs. Research published this week in Royal Society Open Science reveals that they do. The team studied male Java sparrows that dance with bounces and make wiping motions with their bills in an effort to convince females to mate with them. The researchers watched the males in captivity and found that they repeatedly practised dancing early in life in front of their mothers and fathers long before they were ready to breed. While their moves were not particularly good at the start, all males dramatically improved over time, suggesting that the parents may well be providing valuable feedback, and that awkward adolescent dancing may extend beyond Homo sapiens.
The ladybug bloom appears to be about 80 miles by 80 miles, but the ladybugs aren’t in a concentrated mass that size; they’re spread throughout the sky.
In many discussions on social networks the number 150 comes up as a ‘natural’ limit to how much social interaction a person on average can handle. Intuitively I always felt uneasy with this number, and have on several occasions suggested that this could only be a limit in a spe...
Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan’s $45 billion philanthropy organization is making its first acquisition in order to make it easier for scientists to search, read and tie together more than 26 million science research papers. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is acquiring Meta, an AI-powered r…
Toronto-based startup Sciencescape came about because of a problem that was significant enough to lure co-founder Sam Molyneux away from a bourgeoning career as a cancer researcher, and into a new venture that wants to tackle the bigger picture issue of fixing the entire system of academic, medical…
Checking in on Sciencescape and it’s fate since I had an account there once upon a time and it’s now no longer resolving.
How do we come up with ideas? How do we make decisions? And how can we do both better? Steven Johnson has explored this question and written a dozen books about it. In this playful, thoughtful episode, Steven has some fascinating stories, like how Darwin made the decision to get married — or how a defecating duck helped lead to the invention of the computer. Through their own stories, Steven and Alan Alda share their thoughts about the transformative nature of ideas and what sort of environments best give rise to creativity.
I love the idea of the slow hunch discussed here. It’s part of the reason I keep a commonplace book. Johnson also discusses his own personal commonplace book, though he doesn’t give it that particular name here.
The commercial about Alda Communication Training makes me wonder if they recommend scientists and communicators have their own websites? In particular, I’m even more curious because of Johnson’s mention of his commonplace book and how he uses it in this episode. I suspect that scientists having a variety of interconnecting commonplaces (via Webmention) using basic IndieWeb or A Domain of One’s Own principles could better create slow hunches, create more links, increase creativity and diversity, and foster greater innovation. I’ll have to follow up on this idea. While some may do something slightly like this within other parts of social media, I don’t get the impression that it’s as useful a tool in those places (isn’t as searchable or permanent feeling, and is likely rarely reviewed over). Being able to own your digital commonplace as a regular tool certainly has more value as Johnson describes. Functionality like On This Day dramatically increases its value.
But there’s another point that we should make more often, I think, which is that one of the most robust findings in the social sciences and psychology over the last 20 years is that diverse groups are just collectively smarter and more original in the way that they think in, in both their way of dreaming up new ideas, but also in making complicated decisions, that they avoid all the problems of group think and homogeneity that you get when you have a group of like minded people together who are just amplifying each other’s beliefs.—Steven Johnson [00:09:59]
Think about a big decision in your life. Think about the age span of the people you’re talking to about that choice. Are they all your peers within three or four years? Are you talking somebody who’s a generation older and a generation younger?—Steven Johnson [00:13:24]
I was talking to Ramzi Hajj yesterday about having mentors (with a clear emphasis on that mentor being specifically older) and this quote is the same sentiment, just with a slightly different emphasis.
One of the things that is most predictive of a species, including most famously, humans, of their capacity for innovation and problem solving as an adult is how much they play as a newborn or as a child.—Steven Johnson [00:28:10]
Play is important for problem solving.
I think you boil this all down into the idea that if you want to know what the next big thing is, look for where people are having fun.—Alan Alda [00:31:35]
This is interesting because I notice that one of the binding (and even physically stated) principles of the IndieWeb is to have fun. Unconsciously, it’s one of the reasons I’ve always thought that what the group is doing is so important.
Ha! Alda has also been watching Shtisel recently [00:50:04].