Read Introducing the idea of ‘hyperobjects’ by Timothy MortonTimothy Morton (High Country News)
A new way of understanding climate change and other phenomena.

We are obliged to do something about them, because we can think them.

Annotated on January 15, 2020 at 08:56AM

It’s very difficult to talk about something you cannot see or touch, yet we are obliged to do so, since global warming affects us all.

It’s also difficult to interact with those things when we’re missing the words and vocabulary to talk about them intelligently.
Annotated on January 15, 2020 at 09:00AM

Timothy Morton is Rita Shea Guffey Chair in English at Rice University in Houston. He is the author of Realist Magic: Objects, Ontology, Causality and Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End Of The World.

want to read these
Annotated on January 15, 2020 at 10:10AM

Or global warming. I can’t see or touch it. What I can see and touch are these raindrops, this snow, that sunburn patch on the back of my neck. I can touch the weather. But I can’t touch climate. So someone can declare: “See! It snowed in Boise, Idaho, this week. That means there’s no global warming!” We can’t directly see global warming, because it’s not only really widespread and really really long-lasting (100,000 years); it’s also super high-dimensional. It’s not just 3-D. It’s an incredibly complex entity that you have to map in what they call a high-dimensional- phase space: a space that plots all the states of a system. In so doing, we are only following the strictures of modern science, laid down by David Hume and underwritten by Immanuel Kant. Science can’t directly point to causes and effects: That would be metaphysical, equivalent to religious dogma. It can only see correlations in data. This is because, argues Kant, there is a gap between what a thing is and how it appears (its “phenomena”) that can’t be reduced, no matter how hard we try. We can’t locate this gap anywhere on or inside a thing. It’s a transcendental gap. Hyperobjects force us to confront this truth of modern science and philosophy.

A short, and very cogent argument here.
Annotated on January 15, 2020 at 10:07AM

Hat tip: Ethan Marcotte #

Read The hoof and the horse. by Ethan Marcotte (ethanmarcotte.com)
On objects and slices; on design systems and scale.

Robin brings a helpful name to this problem, by way of the philosopher Timothy Morton: hyperobject. A hyperobject is an entity whose scale is too big, too sprawling for any single person to fully appreciate their scale. Climate change, financial markets, socioeconomic classes, design systems—they’re systems we move through, but their scale dwarfs our own.

Hyperobject is an interesting neologism and concept
Annotated on January 15, 2020 at 08:47AM

Liked a tweet by Melanie Mitchell (Twitter)
Listened to The Origins of Life: David Krakauer, Sarah Maurer, and Chris Kempes at InterPlanetary Festival 2019 by Michael Garfield from Complexity by the Santa Fe Institute

OCTOBER 9TH, 2019 | 55:37

A few years after Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species, upsetting centuries of certainty about the history of life, he wrote a now-famous letter to Joseph Dalton Hooker, British botanist and advocate of evolutionary theory. "But if (and oh what a big if),” Darwin’s letter reads, “we could conceive in some warm little pond with all sorts of ammonia and phosphoric salts, light, heat, electricity etcetera present, that a protein compound was chemically formed, ready to undergo still more complex changes.”

That was 1871. Nearly 150 years hence, humankind has worked out the details of the evolutionary process to exquisite depth and resolution, but abiogenesis - the origins of life - remains one of the greatest mysteries of our world. Fierce theoretical debates rage on between those who think life got its start in deep sea hydrothermal vents and those who think it started in “some warm little pond” – not to mention more heterodox hypotheses. The consequences are enormous – shaping plans for interplanetary exploration, changing our approach to medicine, and maybe foremost, settling the existential question of what life is in the first place.

This week’s episode was recorded live at the Santa Fe Institute’s InterPlanetary Festival in June 2019. The panel features evolutionary theorist David Krakauer, President of SFI; biochemist Sarah Maurer, Assistant Professor at Central Connecticut State University; and SFI Professor Chris Kempes, who works on biological scaling laws. In this discussion, we present a spectrum of perspectives on the origins of life debate, and speak to the importance of presenting this unsettled science as itself an evolutionary object...

Visit our website for more information or to support our science and communication efforts.

David Krakauer's Webpage Google Scholar Citations.
Sarah Maurer's Website.
Chris Kempes's Website.
InterPlanetary Festival's Website.
Complexity Explorer's Origins of Life Online Course.

Some interesting philosophical discussion on the origin of life and related research. I definitely fall more into David Krakauer’s camp of thought.

We definitely need a better definition of life. I’ve got a version brewing based on work in the area of big history, but it still needs some refining.

Liked a tweet by ALIFE Conference 2020 (Twitter)
Listened to Mindscape 72 | César Hidalgo on Information in Societies, Economies, and the Universe by Sean CarrollSean Carroll from preposterousuniverse.com

Maxwell’s Demon is a famous thought experiment in which a mischievous imp uses knowledge of the velocities of gas molecules in a box to decrease the entropy of the gas, which could then be used to do useful work such as pushing a piston. This is a classic example of converting information (what the gas molecules are doing) into work. But of course that kind of phenomenon is much more widespread — it happens any time a company or organization hires someone in order to take advantage of their know-how. César Hidalgo has become an expert in this relationship between information and work, both at the level of physics and how it bubbles up into economies and societies. Looking at the world through the lens of information brings new insights into how we learn things, how economies are structured, and how novel uses of data will transform how we live.

César Hidalgo received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Notre Dame. He currently holds an ANITI Chair at the University of Toulouse, an Honorary Professorship at the University of Manchester, and a Visiting Professorship at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. From 2010 to 2019, he led MIT’s Collective Learning group. He is the author of Why Information Grows and co-author of The Atlas of Economic Complexity. He is a co-founder of Datawheel, a data visualization company whose products include the Observatory of Economic Complexity.

Mindscape cover art

It was interesting to hear Cesar Hidalgo use the concept of “big history” a few times in this episode. I’m not 100% sure he meant it in the David Christian sense of the words, but it at least felt right.

I was also piqued at the mention of Lynne Kelly’s work, which I’m now knee deep into. I suspect it could dramatically expand on what we think of as the capacity of a personbyte, though the limit of knowledge there still exists. The idea of mnemotechniques within indigenous cultures certainly expands on the way knowledge worked in prehistory and what we classically think of and frame collective knowledge or collective learning.

I also think there are some interesting connections with Dr. Kelly’s mentions of social equity in prehistorical cultures and the work that Hidalgo mentions in the middle of the episode.

There are a small handful of references I’ll want to delve into after hearing this, though it may take time to pull them up unless they’re linked in the show notes.

 

hat-tip: Complexity Digest for the reminder that this is in my podcatcher. 🔖 November 22, 2019 at 03:28PM

🎧 Triangulation 413 David Weinberger: Everyday Chaos | TWiT.TV

Listened to Triangulation 413 David Weinberger: Everyday Chaos from TWiT.tv

Mikah Sargent speaks with David Weinberger, author of Everyday Chaos: Technology, Complexity, and How We’re Thriving in a New World of Possibility about how AI, big data, and the internet are all revealing that the world is vastly more complex and unpredictable than we've allowed ourselves to see and how we're getting acculturated to these machines based on chaos.

Interesting discussion of systems with built in openness or flexibility as a feature. They highlight Slack which has a core product, but allows individual users and companies to add custom pieces to it to use in the way they want. This provides a tremendous amount of addition value that Slack would never have known or been able to build otherwise. These sorts of products or platforms have the ability not only to create their inherent links, but add value by being able to flexibly create additional links outside of themselves or let external pieces create links to them.

Twitter started out like this in some sense, but ultimately closed itself off–likely to its own detriment.

🔖 Everyday Chaos: Technology, Complexity, and How We’re Thriving in a New World of Possibility by David Weinberger

Bookmarked Everyday Chaos: Technology, Complexity, and How We’re Thriving in a New World of Possibility by David WeinbergerDavid Weinberger (Amazon)

Make. More. Future.

Artificial intelligence, big data, modern science, and the internet are all revealing a fundamental truth: The world is vastly more complex and unpredictable than we've allowed ourselves to see.

Now that technology is enabling us to take advantage of all the chaos it's revealing, our understanding of how things happen is changing--and with it our deepest strategies for predicting, preparing for, and managing our world. This affects everything, from how we approach our everyday lives to how we make moral decisions and how we run our businesses.

Take machine learning, which makes better predictions about weather, medical diagnoses, and product performance than we do--but often does so at the expense of our understanding of how it arrived at those predictions. While this can be dangerous, accepting it is also liberating, for it enables us to harness the complexity of an immense amount of data around us. We are also turning to strategies that avoid anticipating the future altogether, such as A/B testing, Minimum Viable Products, open platforms, and user-modifiable video games. We even take for granted that a simple hashtag can organize unplanned, leaderless movements such as .

Through stories from history, business, and technology, philosopher and technologist David Weinberger finds the unifying truths lying below the surface of the tools we take for granted--and a future in which our best strategy often requires holding back from anticipating and instead creating as many possibilities as we can. The book’s imperative for business and beyond is simple: Make. More. Future.

The result is a world no longer focused on limitations but optimized for possibilities.

h/t Triangulation
Watched A bold idea to replace politicians by César Hidalgo from ted.com
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.

🔖 Origins Of Life | Complexity Explorer

Bookmarked Origins Of Life (complexityexplorer.org)

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:

🔖 An Introduction to Complex Systems: Making Sense of a Changing World​ | Joseph V. Tranquillo | Springer

Bookmarked An Introduction to Complex Systems: Making Sense of a Changing World​ by Joseph V. Tranquillo (Springer)
This book explores the interdisciplinary field of complex systems theory. By the end of the book, readers will be able to understand terminology that is used in complex systems and how they are related to one another; see the patterns of complex systems in practical examples; map current topics, in a variety of fields, to complexity theory; and be able to read more advanced literature in the field. The book begins with basic systems concepts and moves on to how these simple rules can lead to complex behavior. The author then introduces non-linear systems, followed by pattern formation, and networks and information flow in systems. Later chapters cover the thermodynamics of complex systems, dynamical patterns that arise in networks, and how game theory can serve as a framework for decision making. The text is interspersed with both philosophical and quantitative arguments, and each chapter ends with questions and prompts that help readers make more connections.