Read What Is an Individual? Biology Seeks Clues in Information Theory. (Quanta Magazine)
To recognize strange extraterrestrial life and solve biological mysteries on this planet, scientists are searching for an objective definition for life’s basic units.
I’ve been following a bit of David’s work, but obviously there’s some newer material I need to catch up on. I like the general philosophical thrust of their direction here. I can see some useful abstractions to higher math here, maybe an analogy to a “calculus of biology” which doesn’t look at single points, but rates of change of that point(s).
Read a tweet (Twitter)
Watched The Unitive Web from YouTube

This explains our proposal for a new generation of the Web, which we call The Unitive Web. Currently, there is a growing movement from the independence of the web, towards dominant companies. These companies offer organized information, but this comes at a price. We lose our independence more and more. The Unitive Web is a proposal to have both organized information and independence. It offers one generic approach closely compatible with the current web, which makes it possible to create a global open virtual space of information that is responsive and reliable. It offers open customization of user interaction, open bottom-up schema mapping, integration of (AI) algorithms, and facilitates in the protection of privacy. Kickstarter project will be launched if/when there is some interest first.

I only got about halfway through this watching at 1.5x. I’m purposely not embedding the video.

Some of the basic ideas about complexity theory are intriguing here, but it feels more like they’re trying to ground their ideas in solid science when they likely don’t have the proper grounding. I can’t help but thinking about Claude Shannon’s article The Bandwagon and seeing the same things that happened with information theory now taking place with complexity theory.

They’re also proposing a huge amount of infrastructure that is tenuous at best. I’m more than happy to await a minimal example before considering this further.

It almost kills me that they can’t be bothered to create a Kickstarter without “further interest.”

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.

Listened to David Krakauer on The Landscape of 21st Century Science by Michael Garfield and David Krakauer from Complexity | Santa Fe Institute

For 300 years, the dream of science was to understand the world by chopping it up into pieces. But boiling everything down to basic parts does not tell us about the way those parts behave together. Physicists found the atom, then the quark, and yet these great discoveries don’t answer age-old questions about life, intelligence, or language, innovation, ecosystems, or economies.

So people learned a new trick – not just taking things apart but studying how things organize themselves, without a plan, in ways that cannot be predicted. A new field, complex systems science, sprang up to explain and navigate a world beyond control.

At the same time, improvements in computer processing enabled yet another method for exploring irreducible complexity: we learned to instrumentalize the evolutionary process, forging machine intelligences that can correlate unthinkable amounts of data. And the Internet’s explosive growth empowered science at scale, in networks and with resources we could not have imagined in the 1900s. Now there are different kinds of science, for different kinds of problems, and none of them give us the kind of easy answers we were hoping for.

This is a daring new adventure of discovery for anyone prepared to jettison the comfortable categories that served us for so long. Our biggest questions and most wicked problems call for a unique and planet-wide community of thinkers, willing to work on massive and synthetic puzzles at the intersection of biology and economics, chemistry and social science, physics and cognitive neuroscience.

David Krakauer's Webpage Google Scholar Citations.

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