👓 This beautiful map shows everything that powers an Amazon Echo, from data mines to lakes of lithium | The Verge

Read This beautiful map shows everything that powers an Amazon Echo, from data mines to lakes of lithium (The Verge)
Welcome to the ‘Anatomy of an AI System’
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👓 The End of History? | Francis Fukuyama

Read The End of History? by Francis FukuyamaFrancis Fukuyama (The National Interest | No. 16 (Summer 1989), pp. 3-18)

IN WATCHING the flow of events over the past decade or so, it is hard to avoid the feeling that something very fundamental has happened in world history. The past year has seen a flood of articles commemorating the end of the Cold War, and the fact that "peace" seems to be breaking out in many regions of the world. Most of these analyses lack any larger conceptual framework for distinguishing between what is essential and what is contingent or accidental in world history, and are predictably superficial. If Mr. Gorbachev were ousted from the Kremlin or a new Ayatollah proclaimed the millennium from a desolate Middle Eastern capital, these same commentators would scramble to announce the rebirth of a new era of conflict.

And yet, all of these people sense dimly that there is some larger process at work, a process that gives coherence and order to the daily headlines. The twentieth century saw the developed world descend into a paroxysm of ideological violence, as liberalism contended first with the remnants of absolutism, then bolshevism and fascism, and finally an updated Marxism that threatened to lead to the ultimate apocalypse of nuclear war. But the century that began full of self-confidence in the ultimate triumph of Western liberal democracy seems at its close to be returning full circle to where it started: not to an "end of ideology" or a convergence between capitalism and socialism, as earlier predicted, but to an unabashed victory of economic and political liberalism.

In general, while I’ve been reading Stuart Kauffmann’s At Home in the Universe, I can’t help but thinking about the cascading extinctions he describes and wonder if political extinctions of ideas like Communism or other forms of government or even economies might follow the same types of outcomes described there?   
August 29, 2018 at 09:37AM

Building on this, could we create a list of governments and empires and rank them in order of the length of their spans? There may be subtleties in changes of regimes in some eras, but generally things are probably reasonably well laid out. I wonder if the length of life of particular governments follows a power law? One would suspect it might.   
August 29, 2018 at 09:43AM

Highlights, Quotes, Annotations, & Marginalia

The triumph of the West, of the Western idea, is evident first of all in the total exhaustion of viable systematic alternatives to Western liberalism.  

Total exhaustion?
August 29, 2018 at 08:53AM

What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of postwar history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.  

What if, in fact, we’ve only just found a local maximum? What if in the changing landscape there are other places we could potentially get to competitively that supply greater maxima? And possibly worse, what if we need to lose value to get from here to unlock even more value there?
August 29, 2018 at 08:56AM

Hegel believed that history culminated in an absolute moment – a moment in which a final, rational form of society and state became victorious.  

and probably not a bad outcome in an earlier era that thought of things in terms of clockwork and lacked the ideas of quantum theory and its attendant uncertainties.
August 29, 2018 at 08:59AM

Believing that there was no more work for philosophers as well, since Hegel (correctly understood) had already achieved absolute knowledge, Kojève left teaching after the war and spent the remainder of his life working as a bureaucrat in the European Economic Community, until his death in 1968.  

This is depressing on so many levels.
August 29, 2018 at 09:05AM

Paul Kennedy’s hugely successful “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers”, which ascribes the decline of great powers to simple economic overextension.  

Curious how this may relate to the more recent “The End of Power” by Moisés Naím. It doesn’t escape one that the title of the book somewhat echoes the title of this particular essay.
August 29, 2018 at 09:18AM

But whether a highly productive modern industrial society chooses to spend 3 or 7 percent of its GNP on defense rather than consumption is entirely a matter of that society’s political priorities, which are in turn determined in the realm of consciousness.  

It’s not so much the percentage on produced defense goods, but how quickly could a society ramp up production of goods, services, and people to defend itself compared to the militaries of its potential aggressors.

In particular, most of the effort should go to the innovation side of war materiel. The innovation of the atomic bomb is a particularly nice example in that as a result of conceptualizing and then executing on it it allowed the US to win the war in the Pacific and hasten the end of war in Europe. Even if we otherwise had massive stockpiles of people or other weapons, our enemies could potentially have equaled them and dragged the war on interminably. It was the unknown unknown via innovation that unseated Japan and could potentially do the same to us based on innovation coming out of almost any country in the modern age.
August 29, 2018 at 09:24AM

Weber notes that according to any economic theory that posited man as a rational profit-maximizer, raising the piece-work rate should increase labor productivity. But in fact, in many traditional peasant communities, raising the piece-work rate actually had the opposite effect of lowering labor productivity: at the higher rate, a peasant accustomed to earning two and one-half marks per day found he could earn the same amount by working less, and did so because he valued leisure more than income. The choices of leisure over income, or of the militaristic life of the Spartan hoplite over the wealth of the Athenian trader, or even the ascetic life of the early capitalist entrepreneur over that of a traditional leisured aristocrat, cannot possibly be explained by the impersonal working of material forces,  

Science could learn something from this. Science is too far focused on the idealized positive outcomes that it isn’t paying attention to the negative outcomes and using that to better define its outline or overall shape. We need to define a scientific opportunity cost and apply it to the negative side of research to better understand and define what we’re searching for.

Of course, how can we define a new scientific method (or amend/extend it) to better take into account negative results–particularly in an age when so many results aren’t even reproducible?
August 29, 2018 at 09:32AM

FAILURE to understand that the roots of economic behavior lie in the realm of consciousness and culture leads to the common mistake of attributing material causes to phenomena that are essentially ideal in nature.  

August 29, 2018 at 09:44AM

“Protestant” life of wealth and risk over the “Catholic” path of poverty and security.[8]   

Is this simply a restatement of the idea that most of “the interesting things” happen at the border or edge of chaos? The Catholic ethic is firmly inside the stable arena while that of the Protestant ethic is pushing the boundaries.
August 29, 2018 at 09:47AM

Hence it did not matter to Kojève that the consciousness of the postwar generation of Europeans had not been universalized throughout the world; if ideological development had in fact ended, the homogenous state would eventually become victorious throughout the material world.  

This presupposes that homeostasis could ever be achieved.

One thinks of phrases like “The future is here, it just isn’t evenly distributed.” But everything we know about systems and evolving systems often indicates that homeostasis isn’t necessarily a good thing. In many cases, it means eventual “death” instead of evolving towards a longer term lifespan. Again, here Kauffmann’s ideas about co-evolving systems and evolving landscapes may provide some guidance. What if we’re just at a temporary local maximum, but changes in the landscape modify that fact? What then? Shouldn’t we be looking for other potential distant maxima as well?
August 29, 2018 at 09:52AM

But that state of consciousness that permits the growth of liberalism seems to stabilize in the way one would expect at the end of history if it is underwritten by the abundance of a modern free market economy.  

Writers spend an awful lot of time focused too carefully on the free market economy, but don’t acknowledge a lot of the major benefits of the non-free market parts which are undertaken and executed often by governments and regulatory environments. (Hacker & Pierson, 2016)
\August 29, 2018 at 10:02AM

Are there, in other words, any fundamental “contradictions” in human life that cannot be resolved in the context of modern liberalism, that would be resolvable by an alternative political-economic structure?  

Churchill famously said “…democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time…”

Even within this quote it is implicit that there are many others. In some sense he’s admitting that we might possibly be at a local maximum but we’ve just not explored the spaces beyond the adjacent possible.
August 29, 2018 at 10:08AM

For our purposes, it matters very little what strange thoughts occur to people in Albania or Burkina Faso, for we are interested in what one could in some sense call the common ideological heritage of mankind.  

While this seems solid on it’s face, we don’t know what the future landscape will look like. What if climate change brings about massive destruction of homo sapiens? We need to be careful about how and why we explore both the adjacent possible as well as the distant possible. One day we may need them and our current local maximum may not serve us well.
August 29, 2018 at 10:10AM

anomie  

I feel like this word captures very well the exact era of Trumpian Republicanism in which we find ourselves living.
August 29, 2018 at 10:37AM

After the war, it seemed to most people that German fascism as well as its other European and Asian variants were bound to self-destruct. There was no material reason why new fascist movements could not have sprung up again after the war in other locales, but for the fact that expansionist ultranationalism, with its promise of unending conflict leading to disastrous military defeat, had completely lost its appeal. The ruins of the Reich chancellery as well as the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed this ideology on the level of consciousness as well as materially, and all of the pro-fascist movements spawned by the German and Japanese examples like the Peronist movement in Argentina or Subhas Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army withered after the war.  

And yet somehow we see these movements anew in America and around the world. What is the difference between then and now?
August 29, 2018 at 11:46AM

This is not to say that there are not rich people and poor people in the United States, or that the gap between them has not grown in recent years. But the root causes of economic inequality do not have to do with the underlying legal and social structure of our society, which remains fundamentally egalitarian and moderately redistributionist, so much as with the cultural and social characteristics of the groups that make it up, which are in turn the historical legacy of premodern conditions.  

August 29, 2018 at 11:47AM

But those who believe that the future must inevitably be socialist tend to be very old, or very marginal to the real political discourse of their societies.  

and then there are the millennials…
August 29, 2018 at 11:51AM

Beginning with the famous third plenum of the Tenth Central Committee in 1978, the Chinese Communist party set about decollectivizing agriculture for the 800 million Chinese who still lived in the countryside. The role of the state in agriculture was reduced to that of a tax collector, while production of consumer goods was sharply increased in order to give peasants a taste of the universal homogenous state and thereby an incentive to work. The reform doubled Chinese grain output in only five years, and in the process created for Deng Xiaoping a solid political base from which he was able to extend the reform to other parts of the economy. Economic Statistics do not begin to describe the dynamism, initiative, and openness evident in China since the reform began.  

August 29, 2018 at 11:58AM

At present, no more than 20 percent of its economy has been marketized, and most importantly it continues to be ruled by a self-appointed Communist party which has given no hint of wanting to devolve power.  

If Facebook were to continue to evolve at it’s current rate and with it’s potential power as well as political influence, I could see it attempting to work the way China does in a new political regime.
August 29, 2018 at 12:04PM

IF WE ADMIT for the moment that the fascist and communist challenges to liberalism are dead, are there any other ideological competitors left? Or put another way, are there contradictions in liberal society beyond that of class that are not resolvable? Two possibilities suggest themselves, those of religion and nationalism.  

August 29, 2018 at 12:19PM

This school in effect applies a Hobbesian view of politics to international relations, and assumes that aggression and insecurity are universal characteristics of human societies rather than the product of specific historical circumstances.  

August 29, 2018 at 12:30PM

But whatever the particular ideological basis, every “developed” country believed in the acceptability of higher civilizations ruling lower ones  

August 29, 2018 at 12:37PM

Perhaps this very prospect of centuries of boredom at the end of history will serve to get history started once again.  

Has it started again with nationalism, racism, and Trump?
August 29, 2018 at 12:48PM

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👓 Francis Fukuyama Postpones the End of History | The New Yorker

Read Francis Fukuyama Postpones the End of History by Louis MenandLouis Menand (The New Yorker)
The political scientist argues that the desire of identity groups for recognition is a key threat to liberalism.

I can’t help but wonder what Jonah Goldberg’s review of this book will be given his prior effort earlier this year?

I’m also reminded here of Mark Granovetter’s ideas that getting a job is more closely tied to who you know. One’s job is often very closely tied to their identity, and even more so when the link that got them their job was through a friend or acquaintance.

I suspect that Fukuyama has a relatively useful thesis, but perhaps it’s not tied together as logically and historically as Menand would prefer. The difficult thing here is that levels of personal identity on large scales is relatively unknown for most of human history. Tribalism and individuality are certainly pulling at the threads of liberal democracy lately. Perhaps it’s because of unfulfilled promises (in America at least) of the two party system? Now that we’ve reached a summit of economic plenty much quicker than the rest of the world (and they’re usurping some of our stability as the rest of the world tries to equilibrate), we need to add some additional security nets for the lesser advantaged. It really doesn’t cost very much and in turn does so much more for the greater good of the broader society.

Highlights, Quotes, Annotations, & Marginalia

Fukuyama’s argument was that, with the imminent collapse of the Soviet Union, the last ideological alternative to liberalism had been eliminated.  

“Last” in the sense of a big, modern threat. We’re still facing the threats of tribalism, which apparently have a strong pull.
August 27, 2018 at 10:26AM

There would be a “Common Marketization” of international relations and the world would achieve homeostasis.  

Famous last words, right?!

These are the types of statements one must try very hard not to make unless there is 100% certainty.

I find myself wondering how can liberal democracy and capitalism manage to fight and make the case the the small tribes (everywhere, including within the US) that it can, could and should be doing more for them.
August 27, 2018 at 10:29AM

But events in Europe unfolded more or less according to Fukuyama’s prediction, and, on December 26, 1991, the Soviet Union voted itself out of existence. The Cold War really was over.  

Or ostensibly, until a strong man came to power in Russia and began its downturn into something else. It definitely doesn’t seem to be a liberal democracy, so we’re still fighting against it.
August 27, 2018 at 10:32AM

This speculative flourish recalled the famous question that John Stuart Mill said he asked himself as a young man: If all the political and social reforms you believe in came to pass, would it make you a happier human being? That is always an interesting question.  

August 27, 2018 at 10:33AM

George Kennan, who was its first chief. In July of that year, Kennan published the so-called X article, “The Sources of Soviet Conduct,” in Foreign Affairs. It appeared anonymously—signed with an “X”—but once the press learned his identity the article was received as an official statement of American Cold War policy.  

August 27, 2018 at 10:33AM

Fukuyama’s article could thus be seen as a bookend to Kennan’s.  

August 27, 2018 at 10:36AM

The National Interest, as the name proclaims, is a realist foreign-policy journal. But Fukuyama’s premise was that nations do share a harmony of interests, and that their convergence on liberal political and economic models was mutually beneficial. Realism imagines nations to be in perpetual competition with one another; Fukuyama was saying that this was no longer going to be the case.  

And here is a bit of the flaw. Countries are still at least in competition with each other economically, at least until they’re all on equal footing from a modernity perspective.

We are definitely still in completion with China and large parts of Europe.
August 27, 2018 at 10:38AM

Fukuyama thinks he knows what that something is, and his answer is summed up in the title of his new book, “Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux).  

Get a copy of this to read.
August 27, 2018 at 10:39AM

The demand for recognition, Fukuyama says, is the “master concept”  

August 27, 2018 at 10:40AM

Fukuyama covers all of this in less than two hundred pages. How does he do it? Not well.  

Scathing!

Now I have to read it.
August 27, 2018 at 10:41AM

Fukuyama gives this desire for recognition a Greek name, taken from Plato’s Republic: thymos. He says that thymos is “a universal aspect of human nature that has always existed.”  

August 27, 2018 at 10:43AM

To say, as Fukuyama does, that “the desire for status—megalothymia—is rooted in human biology” is the academic equivalent of palmistry. You’re just making it up.  

August 27, 2018 at 10:45AM

Rationality and transparency are the values of classical liberalism. Rationality and transparency are supposed to be what make free markets and democratic elections work. People understand how the system functions, and that allows them to make rational choices.  

But economically, we know there isn’t perfect knowledge or perfect rationality (see Tversky and Khaneman). There is rarely even perfect transparency either which makes things much harder, especially in a post-truth society apparenlty.
August 27, 2018 at 10:48AM

Liberalism remains the ideal political and economic system, but it needs to find ways to accommodate and neutralize this pesky desire for recognition.   

August 27, 2018 at 10:50AM

Enrollment was small, around twenty, but a number of future intellectual luminaries, like Hannah Arendt and Jacques Lacan, either took the class or sat in on it.  

August 27, 2018 at 10:52AM

For Kojève, the key concept in Hegel’s “Phenomenology” was recognition. Human beings want the recognition of other human beings in order to become self-conscious—to know themselves as autonomous individuals.  

This is very reminiscent of Valerie Alexander’s talk last week about recognizing employees at work. How can liberal democracy take advantage of this?
August 27, 2018 at 10:53AM

Kojève thought that the other way was through labor. The slave achieves his sense of self by work that transforms the natural world into a human world. But the slave is driven to labor in the first place because of the master’s refusal to recognize him. This “master-slave dialectic” is the motor of human history, and human history comes to an end when there are no more masters or slaves, and all are recognized equally.  

August 27, 2018 at 10:55AM

Kojève’s lectures were published as “Introduction to the Reading of Hegel,” a book that went through many printings in France.  

Maybe it was Kojève and not Covfefe that Trump was referencing?! 😛
August 27, 2018 at 10:56AM

Encouraged by his friend Saul Bellow, he decided to turn the article into a book. “The Closing of the American Mind,” which Simon & Schuster brought out in February, 1987, launched a campaign of criticism of American higher education that has taken little time off since.  

August 27, 2018 at 11:00AM

In 1992, in the essay “The Politics of Recognition,” Taylor analyzed the advent of multiculturalism in terms similar to the ones Fukuyama uses in “Identity.”  

August 27, 2018 at 11:03AM

Fukuyama acknowledges that identity politics has done some good, and he says that people on the right exaggerate the prevalence of political correctness and the effects of affirmative action.  

There’s a reference to voting theory about people not voting their particular views, but that they’re asking themselves, “Who would someone like me vote for?” Perhaps it’s George Lakoff? I should look this up and tie it in here somewhere.
August 27, 2018 at 11:05AM

He has no interest in the solution that liberals typically adopt to accommodate diversity: pluralism and multiculturalism.  

Interesting to see an IndieWeb principle pop up here! How do other parts dovetail perhaps? What about other movements?
August 27, 2018 at 11:06AM

Fukuyama concedes that people need a sense of national identity, whether ethnic or creedal, but otherwise he remains an assimilationist and a universalist.  

Is it a “national” identity they need? Why not a cultural one, or a personal one? Why not all the identities? What about the broader idea of many publics? Recognition and identity touch on many of these publics for a variety of reasons.
August 27, 2018 at 11:08AM

He wants to iron out differences, not protect them. He suggests measures like a mandatory national-service requirement and a more meaningful path to citizenship for immigrants.  

What if we look at the shrinking number of languages as a microcosm of identity. Are people forced to lose language? Do they not care? What are the other similarities and differences.

Cross reference: https://boffosocko.com/2015/06/08/a-world-of-languages-and-how-many-speak-them-infographic/
August 27, 2018 at 11:10AM

Wouldn’t it be important to distinguish people who ultimately don’t want differences to matter, like the people involved in #MeToo and Black Lives Matter, from people who ultimately do want them to matter, like ISIS militants, Brexit voters, or separatist nationalists? And what about people who are neither Mexican nor immigrants and who feel indignation at the treatment of Mexican immigrants? Black Americans risked their lives for civil rights, but so did white Americans. How would Socrates classify that behavior? Borrowed thymos?  

Some importatnt questions here. They give me some ideas…
August 27, 2018 at 11:12AM

History is somersaults all the way to the end. That’s why it’s so hard to write, and so hard to predict. Unless you’re lucky. ♦  

This is definitely more of a Big History approach…
August 27, 2018 at 11:12AM

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🔖 NativeLand.ca

Bookmarked NativeLand.ca - Our home on native land (Native-land.ca)
Welcome to Native Land. This is a resource for North Americans (and others) to find out more about local indigenous territories and languages.

I ran across this over the Thanksgiving holiday. It would be cool to have more maps like this that spanned the globe as well as searchable by time span as well.

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👓 The Next Platform | Pierre Levy

Read The Next Platform by Pierre Levy (Pierre Levy's Blog)
One percent of the human population was connected to the Internet at the end of the 20th century. In 2017, more than 50% is. Most of the users interact in social media, search information, buy products and services online. But despite the ongoing success of digital communication, there is a growing dissatisfaction about the big tech companies (the “Silicon Valley”) who dominate the new communication environment. The big techs are the most valued companies in the world and the massive amount of data that they possess is considered the most precious good of our time. The Silicon Valley owns the big computers: the network of physical centers where our personal and business data are stored and processed. Their income comes from their economic exploitation of our data for marketing purpose and from their sales of hardware, software or services. But they also derive considerable power from the knowledge of markets and public opinions that stems from their information control.

Transparency is the very basis of trust and the precondition of authentic dialogue. Data and people (including the administrators of a platform), should be traceable and audit-able. Transparency should be reciprocal, without distinction between rulers and ruled. Such transparency will ultimately be the basis of reflexive collective intelligence, allowing teams and communities of any size to observe and compare their cognitive activity.

The trouble with some of this is the post-truth political climate in which basic “facts” are under debate. What will the battle between these two groups look like and how can actual facts win out in the end? Will the future Eloi and Morlocks be the descendants of them? I would have presumed that generally logical, intelligent, and educated people would generally come to a broadly general philosophical meeting of the minds as to how to best maximize life, but this seems to obviously not be the case as the result of the poorly educated who will seemingly believe almost anything. And this problem is generally separate from the terrifically selfish people who have differing philosophical stances on how to proceed. How will these differences evolve over time?

This article is sure to be interesting philosophy among some in the IndieWeb movement, but there are some complexities in the system which are sure to muddy the waters. I suspect that many in the Big History school of thought may enjoy the underpinnings of this as well.

I’m going to follow Pierre Levy’s blog to come back and read a bit more about his interesting research programme. There’s certainly a lot to unpack here.

 

Annotations

The Next Platform

Commonality means that people will not have to pay to get access to the new public sphere: all will be free and public property. Commonality means also transversality: de-silo and cross-pollination.


Openness is on the rise because it maximizes the improvement of goods and services, foster trust and support collaborative engagement.


We need a new kind of public sphere: a platform in the cloud where data and metadata would be our common good, dedicated to the recording and collaborative exploitation of our memory in the service of collective intelligence. According to the current zeitgeist, the core values orienting the construction of this new public sphere should be: openness, transparency and commonality


The practice of writing in ancient palace-temples gave birth to government as a separate entity. Alphabet and paper allowed the emergence of merchant city-states and the expansion of literate empires. The printing press, industrial economy, motorized transportation and electronic media sustained nation-states.


The digital revolution will foster new forms of government. We discuss political problems in a global public space taking advantage of the web and social media. The majority of humans live in interconnected cities and metropoles. Each urban node wants to be an accelerator of collective intelligence, a smart city.

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🎧 Frame of Reference | Invisibilia (NPR)

Listened to Frame of Reference from Invisibilia (NPR)
What shapes the way we perceive the world around us? A lot of it has to do with invisible frames of reference that filter our experiences and determine how we feel. Alix Spiegel and Hanna Rosin interview a woman who gets a glimpse of what she's been missing all her life – and then loses it. And they talk to Daily Show correspondent Hasan Minhaj about which frame of reference is better – his or his dad's.

I often think about frames of reference having grown up in poor, rural Appalachia and then living in affluent areas of Connecticut and later Los Angeles. I’m sure it’s had more of an effect on me than I could verbalize.

The closest I’ve come to having as significant a frame of reference change as the physician who realized she had Asperger syndrome (and how she came to know), was when I worked my way through David Christian’s Big History concept. In some sense I had some background in both science and history which helped, but I cannot possibly go back to seeing the world (and the Universe we live in) the same way again.

Incidentally, the fact that this treatment seemed so effective for this woman hopefully means that some really heavy and interesting research is continuing in these areas.

The final segment was interesting from the perspective of gradations in change of reference. I was blown down by the idea of the “skin lamp.” Just the phrase and it’s horrific meaning is enough to drastically change anyone’s frame of reference.

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📖 Read Loc 1-261 of 6508 of The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires by Tim Wu

📖 Read Loc 1-261 of 6508 of The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires by Tim Wu

So you think that you control what you read, watch, and listen to? Better take a closer look…

Many will know and understand the outline of the argument here, but it’s important to read the details of the case studies so we can help break “The Cycle”, an aptly named problem.

In some sense, this is a microcosm of governments over the past 12,000+ years when looked at from a Big History perspective.

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Japanese Designers May Have Created the Most Accurate Map of Our World: See the AuthaGraph | Open Culture

Read Japanese Designers May Have Created the Most Accurate Map of Our World: See the AuthaGraph Open Culture (openculture.com)

Continue reading “Japanese Designers May Have Created the Most Accurate Map of Our World: See the AuthaGraph | Open Culture”

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👓 Chris Aldrich is reading “How to Succeed in the Networked World”

Read How to Succeed in the Networked World by Anne-Marie Slaughter (Foreign Affairs)
The world’s connections have become more important than its divisions. To reap the rewards and avoid the pitfalls of this new order, the United States needs to adopt a grand strategy based on three pillars: open societies, open governments, and an open international system.

This may be one of the most interesting things I’ve read in the past six months. I like the overarching philosophy of the policy direction the writer presents. It feels to me like a policy built from the basic principles from César Hidalgo‘s book Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies, which describes some of the underpinning science and physics for such an approach without getting too deep into the weeds of the underlying mathematics.

This article also definitely seems to take a broader historical approach to the general topics and is nearly close enough in philosophy that I might even begin considering it as a policy case with a Big History point of view.

Highly recommend.

Highlights, Quotes, & Marginalia

Think of a standard map of the world, showing the borders and capitals of the world’s 190-odd countries. That is the chessboard view.Now think of a map of the world at night, with the lit-up bursts of cities and the dark swaths of wilderness. Those corridors of light mark roads, cars, houses, and offices; they mark the networks of human relationships, where families and workers and travelers come together. That is the web view. It is a map not of separation, marking off boundaries of sovereign power, but of connection.

…the Westphalian world order mandated the sovereign equality of states not as an end in itself but as a means to protect the subjects of those states—the people.

The people must come first. Where they do not, sooner or later, they will overthrow their governments.

Open societies, open governments, and an open international system are risky propositions. But they are humankind’s best hope for harnessing the power not only of states but also of businesses, universities, civic organizations, and citizens to address the planetary problems that now touch us all.

…when a state abrogated its responsibility to protect the basic rights of its people, other states had a responsibility to protect those citizens, if necessary through military intervention.

But human rights themselves became politically polarized during the Cold War, with the West championing civil and political rights; the East championing economic, social, and cultural rights; and both sides tending to ignore violations in their client states.

The institutions built after World War II remain important repositories of legitimacy and authority. But they need to become the hubs of a flatter, faster, more flexible system, one that operates at the level of citizens as well as states.

U.S. policymakers should think in terms of translating chessboard alliances into hubs of connectedness and capability.

According to systems theory, the level of organization in a closed system can only stay the same or decrease. In open systems, by contrast, the level of organization can increase in response to new inputs and disruptions. That means that such a system should be able to ride out the volatility caused by changing power relationships and incorporate new kinds of global networks.

Writing about “connexity” 20 years ago, the British author and political adviser Geoff Mulgan argued that in adapting to permanent interdependence, governments and societies would have to rethink their policies, organizational structures, and conceptions of morality. Constant connectedness, he wrote, would place a premium on “reciprocity, the idea of give and take,” and a spirit of openness, trust, and transparency would underpin a “different way of governing.” Governments would “provide a framework of predictability, but leave space for people to organise themselves in flatter, more reciprocal structures.”

Instead of governing themselves through those who represent them, citizens can partner directly with the government to solve public problems.

…an open international order of the twenty-first century should be anchored in secure and self-reliant societies, in which citizens can participate actively in their own protection and prosperity. The first building block is open societies; the second is open governments.

The self-reliance necessary for open security depends on the ability to self-organize and take action.

The government’s role is to “invest in creating a more resilient nation,” which includes briefing and empowering the public, but more as a partner than a protector.

…much of the civil rights work of this century will entail championing digital rights.

Hard gatekeeping is a strategy of connection, but it calls for division, replacing the physical barriers of the twentieth century with digital ones of the twenty-first.

In this order, states must be waves and particles at the same time.

Great and and appropriate physics analogy.

The legal order of the twenty-first century must be a double order, acknowledging the existence of domestic and international spheres of action and law but seeing the boundary between them as permeable.

Emphasis on “the boundary between them as permeable”!

In many countries, legislatures and government agencies have begun publishing draft legislation on open-source platforms such as GitHub, enabling their publics to contribute to the revision process.

The declaration’s three major principles are transparency, civic participation, and accountability.

As I read this, it makes me think in some sense that groups like IndieWeb.org are the modern-day equivalent of the Lions Club or Kiwinis, just internet based and with civic goals that go beyond a city’s borders.
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Calculating the Middle Ages?

Bookmarked Calculating the Middle Ages? The Project "Complexities and Networks in the Medieval Mediterranean and Near East" (COMMED) [1606.03433] (arxiv.org)
The project "Complexities and networks in the Medieval Mediterranean and Near East" (COMMED) at the Division for Byzantine Research of the Institute for Medieval Research (IMAFO) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences focuses on the adaptation and development of concepts and tools of network theory and complexity sciences for the analysis of societies, polities and regions in the medieval world in a comparative perspective. Key elements of its methodological and technological toolkit are applied, for instance, in the new project "Mapping medieval conflicts: a digital approach towards political dynamics in the pre-modern period" (MEDCON), which analyses political networks and conflict among power elites across medieval Europe with five case studies from the 12th to 15th century. For one of these case studies on 14th century Byzantium, the explanatory value of this approach is presented in greater detail. The presented results are integrated in a wider comparison of five late medieval polities across Afro-Eurasia (Byzantium, China, England, Hungary and Mamluk Egypt) against the background of the {guillemotright}Late Medieval Crisis{guillemotleft} and its political and environmental turmoil. Finally, further perspectives of COMMED are outlined.

Network and Complexity Theory Applied to History

This interesting paper (summary below) appears to apply network and complexity science to history and is sure to be of interest to those working at the intersection of some of these types of interdisciplinary studies. In particular, I’d be curious to see more coming out of this type of area to support theses written by scholars like Francis Fukuyama in the development of societal structures. Those interested in the emerging area of Big History are sure to enjoy this type of treatment. I’m also curious how researchers in economics (like Cesar Hidalgo) might make use of available(?) historical data in such related analyses. I’m curious if Dave Harris might consider such an analysis in his ancient Near East work?

Those interested in a synopsis of the paper might find some benefit from an overview from MIT Technology Review: How the New Science of Computational History Is Changing the Study of the Past.

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The emotional arcs of stories are dominated by six basic shapes

Bookmarked The emotional arcs of stories are dominated by six basic shapes (arxiv.org)
Advances in computing power, natural language processing, and digitization of text now make it possible to study our a culture's evolution through its texts using a "big data" lens. Our ability to communicate relies in part upon a shared emotional experience, with stories often following distinct emotional trajectories, forming patterns that are meaningful to us. Here, by classifying the emotional arcs for a filtered subset of 1,737 stories from Project Gutenberg's fiction collection, we find a set of six core trajectories which form the building blocks of complex narratives. We strengthen our findings by separately applying optimization, linear decomposition, supervised learning, and unsupervised learning. For each of these six core emotional arcs, we examine the closest characteristic stories in publication today and find that particular emotional arcs enjoy greater success, as measured by downloads.
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My Review Copy of The Big Picture by Sean Carroll

On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself

I’m already a major chunk of the way through the book, having had an early ebook version of the text prior to publication. This is the published first edition with all the diagrams which I wanted to have prior to finishing my full review, which is forthcoming.

One thing I will mention is that it’s got quite a bit more philosophy in it than most popular science books with such a physics bent. Those who aren’t already up to speed on the math and science of modern physics can certainly benefit from the book (like most popular science books of its stripe, it doesn’t have any equations — hairy or otherwise), and it’s certain to help many toward becoming members of both of C.P. Snow’s two cultures. It might not be the best place for mathematicians and physicists to start moving toward the humanities with the included philosophy as the philosophy is very light and spotty in places and the explanations of the portions they’re already aware of may put them out a bit.

I’m most interested to see how he views complexity and thinking in the final portion of the text.

More detail to come…

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Happy 100th Birthday Claude Shannon

Today would have been Claude Shannon's 100th Birthday! Modern society owes most of its existence to his work.

Many regular readers here are sure to know who Claude Shannon is, but sadly most of the rest of the world is in the dark. To give you an idea of his importance in society and even a bit in pop culture, today’s Google doodle celebrates Shannon’s life and work.

Overview of Shannon’s Work

Most importantly, Shannon, in his 1937 Master’s Thesis at Massachusetts Institute of Technology applied George Boole’s algebra (better known now as Boolean Algebra) to electric circuits thereby making the modern digital revolution possible. To give you an idea of how far we’ve come, the typical high school student can now read and understand all of its content. If you’d like to give it a try, you can download it from MIT’s website.

His other huge accomplishment was a journal article he wrote in 1948 entitled “A Mathematical Theory of Communication” in the Bell Labs Journal. When it was republished a year later, one of the most notable changes was in the new title “The Mathematical Theory of Communication.” While copies of the original article are freely available on the internet, the more casual reader will appreciate the more recent edition from MIT Press which also includes a fabulous elucidative and extensive opening written by Warren Weaver. This paper contains the theoretical underpinning that allowed for the efflorescence of all modern digital communication to occur. It ranks as one of the most influential and far-reaching documents in human history rivaling even the Bible.

Further, my own excitement in Shannon stems in part from his Ph.D. thesis “An Algebra for Theoretical Genetics” (1940) which has inspired most of the theoretical material I’m always contemplating.

Google Doodle Art animated by artist Nate Swinehart celebrates Claude Shannon's 100th Birthday
Google Doodle Art animated by artist Nate Swinehart celebrates Claude Shannon’s 100th Birthday

Additional Sources:

For those looking for more information try some of the following (non-technical) sources:

Claude Elwood Shannon smoking

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Forthcoming ITBio-related book from Sean Carroll: “The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself”

Physicist Sean Carroll has a forthcoming book entitled The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself (Dutton, May 10, 2016) that will be of interest to many of our readers.

In catching up on blogs/reading from the holidays, I’ve noticed that physicist Sean Carroll has a forthcoming book entitled The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself (Dutton, May 10, 2016) that will be of interest to many of our readers. One can already pre-order the book via Amazon.

Prior to the holidays Sean wrote a blogpost that contains a full overview table of contents, which will give everyone a stronger idea of its contents. For convenience I’ll excerpt it below.

I’ll post a review as soon as a copy arrives, but it looks like a strong new entry in the category of popular science books on information theory, biology and complexity as well as potentially the areas of evolution, the origin of life, and physics in general.

As a side bonus, for those reading this today (1/15/16), I’ll note that Carroll’s 12 part lecture series from The Great Courses The Higgs Boson and Beyond (The Learning Company, February 2015) is 80% off.

The Big Picture

 

THE BIG PICTURE: ON THE ORIGINS OF LIFE, MEANING, AND THE UNIVERSE ITSELF

0. Prologue

* Part One: Cosmos

  • 1. The Fundamental Nature of Reality
  • 2. Poetic Naturalism
  • 3. The World Moves By Itself
  • 4. What Determines What Will Happen Next?
  • 5. Reasons Why
  • 6. Our Universe
  • 7. Time’s Arrow
  • 8. Memories and Causes

* Part Two: Understanding

  • 9. Learning About the World
  • 10. Updating Our Knowledge
  • 11. Is It Okay to Doubt Everything?
  • 12. Reality Emerges
  • 13. What Exists, and What Is Illusion?
  • 14. Planets of Belief
  • 15. Accepting Uncertainty
  • 16. What Can We Know About the Universe Without Looking at It?
  • 17. Who Am I?
  • 18. Abducting God

* Part Three: Essence

  • 19. How Much We Know
  • 20. The Quantum Realm
  • 21. Interpreting Quantum Mechanics
  • 22. The Core Theory
  • 23. The Stuff of Which We Are Made
  • 24. The Effective Theory of the Everyday World
  • 25. Why Does the Universe Exist?
  • 26. Body and Soul
  • 27. Death Is the End

* Part Four: Complexity

  • 28. The Universe in a Cup of Coffee
  • 29. Light and Life
  • 30. Funneling Energy
  • 31. Spontaneous Organization
  • 32. The Origin and Purpose of Life
  • 33. Evolution’s Bootstraps
  • 34. Searching Through the Landscape
  • 35. Emergent Purpose
  • 36. Are We the Point?

* Part Five: Thinking

  • 37. Crawling Into Consciousness
  • 38. The Babbling Brain
  • 39. What Thinks?
  • 40. The Hard Problem
  • 41. Zombies and Stories
  • 42. Are Photons Conscious?
  • 43. What Acts on What?
  • 44. Freedom to Choose

* Part Six: Caring

  • 45. Three Billion Heartbeats
  • 46. What Is and What Ought to Be
  • 47. Rules and Consequences
  • 48. Constructing Goodness
  • 49. Listening to the World
  • 50. Existential Therapy
  • Appendix: The Equation Underlying You and Me
  • Acknowledgments
  • Further Reading
  • References
  • Index

Source: Sean Carroll | The Big Picture: Table of Contents

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Game Theory’s Tit-for-Tat is Just a Mathematically Complete Version of Religion’s Golden Rule

Francis Fukuyama (1952- ), American political scientist, political economist, author
in The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011)

 

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