It is a commonly held belief in our culture that competition is good for our professional and personal development, our business growth and our economy. We believe that competition motivates people to work harder and, as a result, the most talented individuals win out over those less competent. Survival of the fittest, right? In her latest book, A Bigger Prize: How We Can Do Better Than The Competition, author, Margaret Heffernan, challenges us to look at competition differently. It does not bring out the best in us. In fact, Heffernan makes the point that competition causes us to focus solely on the end goal, the prize. We lose out, not only personally, but businesses also lose their ability to innovate and succeed in today’s economy.
Complex adaptive systems (cas), including ecosystems, governments, biological cells, and markets, are characterized by intricate hierarchical arrangements of boundaries and signals. In ecosystems, for example, niches act as semi-permeable boundaries, and smells and visual patterns serve as signals; governments have departmental hierarchies with memoranda acting as signals; and so it is with other cas. Despite a wealth of data and descriptions concerning different cas, there remain many unanswered questions about "steering" these systems. In Signals and Boundaries, John Holland argues that understanding the origin of the intricate signal/border hierarchies of these systems is the key to answering such questions. He develops an overarching framework for comparing and steering cas through the mechanisms that generate their signal/boundary hierarchies.
Holland lays out a path for developing the framework that emphasizes agents, niches, theory, and mathematical models. He discusses, among other topics, theory construction; signal-processing agents; networks as representations of signal/boundary interaction; adaptation; recombination and reproduction; the use of tagged urn models (adapted from elementary probability theory) to represent boundary hierarchies; finitely generated systems as a way to tie the models examined into a single framework; the framework itself, illustrated by a simple finitely generated version of the development of a multi-celled organism; and Markov processes.
It is commonly believed that information spreads between individuals like a pathogen, with each exposure by an informed friend potentially resulting in a naive individual becoming infected. However, empirical studies of social media suggest that individual response to repeated exposure to information is far more complex. As a proxy for intervention experiments, we compare user responses to multiple exposures on two different social media sites, Twitter and Digg. We show that the position of exposing messages on the user-interface strongly affects social contagion. Accounting for this visibility significantly simplifies the dynamics of social contagion. The likelihood an individual will spread information increases monotonically with exposure, while explicit feedback about how many friends have previously spread it increases the likelihood of a response. We provide a framework for unifying information visibility, divided attention, and explicit social feedback to predict the temporal dynamics of user behavior.
"The widespread existence of cooperation is difficult to explain because individuals face strong incentives to exploit the cooperative tendencies of others. In the research reported here, we examined how the spread of reputational information through gossip promotes cooperation in mixed-motive settings. Results showed that individuals readily communicated reputational information about others, and recipients used this information to selectively interact with cooperative individuals and ostracize those who had behaved selfishly, which enabled group members to contribute to the public good with reduced threat of exploitation. Additionally, ostracized individuals responded to exclusion by subsequently cooperating at levels comparable to those who were not ostracized. These results suggest that the spread of reputational information through gossip can mitigate egoistic behavior by facilitating partner selection, thereby helping to solve the problem of cooperation even in noniterated interactions."
The concept of Singularity envisages a technology-driven explosion in intelligence. I argue that the resulting suprahuman intelligence will not be centralized in a single AI system, but distributed across all people and artifacts, as connected via the Internet. This global brain will function to tackle all challenges confronting the "global superorganism". Its capabilities will extend so far beyond our present abilities that they may be best conveyed as a pragmatic version of the "divine" attributes: omniscience (knowing everything needed to solve our problems), omnipresence (being available anywhere anytime), omnipotence (being able to provide any product or service at negligible cost) and omnibenevolence (aiming at the greatest happiness for the greatest number). By extrapolating present trends, technologies and evolutionary mechanisms, I argue that these abilities are likely to be realized within the next few decades. The resulting solution to all our individual and societal problems can be seen as a return to "Eden", the idyllic state of abundance and peace that supposedly existed before civilization. In this utopian society, individuals would be supported and challenged by the global brain to maximally develop their abilities, and to continuously create new knowledge. However, side effects of technological innovation are likely to create serious disturbances on the road to this utopia. The most important dangers are cascading failures facilitated by hyperconnectivity, the spread of psychological parasites that make people lose touch with reality, the loss of human abilities caused by an unnatural, passive lifestyle, and a conservative backlash triggered by too rapid changes. Because of the non-linearity of the system, the precise impact of such disturbances cannot be predicted. However, a range of precautionary measures, including a "global immune system", may pre-empt the greatest risks.
Return to Eden? Promises and Perils on the Road to an Omnipotent Global Intelligence Prof. Dr. Francis Heylighen
A new breed of hobbyists, scientists, and entrepreneurs are working on echolocation implants, brain-controlled software programs, and even cybernetic rats. Their experiments will change the future of tech.
I am not easily scared but the combination of biocomputation and genomics in the hands of laymen? A lot of good will come from it but it also possible that simply due to ignorance, monsters will be created. Or am I just another scientist getting old and wary?
nice essay but let me comment on what is lacking. The authors are a bit anthropomorphic, they appear only interested in technology. Maybe because that will be required for first contact but still. They miss the boat of looking onfo other social systems on earth? Three insects orders (Or whatever they are called) do have strong social structures, much stronger than the human social structure, as the hint correctly that pur political system is still not decided upon. Well, I am not so sure if aliens will have a similar trajectory here since it will largely depend on their social stru cture. Scifi movies have worked this out a bit (The Borg, The wraith.....). A last aspect, related tdjo the lack of signs, I am not so sure that aliens would be inteeested in us. I fail to see the point. Many people with an interest in Scifi believe that aliens will come we are doomed and we zhould nuke them ASAP. Basically since they are technologically more advanced. I completely disagree. Why would the want to hurt us if there are so many habitable planets? And so many inhabitzble ones for mining?
"If we take the time to look, we realize that nature provides us with a time-tested R&D lab for re-imagined industry and its contributing forces. The natural world has already mastered renewable energy use, closed production cycles, collaborative networks, sustainable materials, and green chemistry. Underlying these proven successes are principles [...] including rampant resource efficiency, real-time responsiveness, and systems intelligence, among others. These principles enable entire natural "economies" to be not merely productive but resilient and regenerative. "
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Arjen ten Have's insight:
Logical addition to the HMMER package although it would have been more interesting to include xHMMMER.
An emergent property arises when individual components or actions, combined together, collectively generate a higher-level aggregate experience. Think democracy. Or plague. Or community. One does not
Arjen ten Have's insight:
Thid is interesting stuff but somehow it just does not add up. Might be a semantic problem, if not it would a logic problem making it useless.
For me this statements is controversial:
"The first is that sustainability, like any emergent property, must be developed collectively. Like an ant in his colony, the individual's primary value is as a component of the whole. The second implication is that sustainability, as an emergent property, cannot be mandated from above. It arises, to some extent inexplicably, from the ground up."
"Must be developed" requires an active role whereas "it arises" is something passive. An emergent property is always passive. Hence, in the end you cannot really see sustainability as an emergent property. The fact that ant societies are sustainable and are an emergent property does not mean that thriving towards sustainability equals an emergent property. Ant society are rather particular in that they should be seen as sort of superorganism: an organism built form organisms. If you take away one single caste, the superorganism ceases to exist. Just like taking away your liver will kill you. As such it is logical that sustainibilty is an important constraint in the evolution of ants, and hence in that case is an emerging property.
For human society that will be a bit different. Although I am not sure we need to built our society in a similar manner, I do think we should learn from it in order to build a better society.
The remarkable ecological and demographic success of humanity is largely attributed to our capacity for cumulative culture1, 2, 3. The accumulation of beneficial cultural innovations across generations is puzzling because transmission events are generally imperfect, although there is large variance in fidelity. Events of perfect cultural transmission and innovations should be more frequent in a large population4. As a consequence, a large population size may be a prerequisite for the evolution of cultural complexity4, 5, although anthropological studies have produced mixed results6, 7, 8, 9 and empirical evidence is lacking10. Here we use a dual-task computer game to show that cultural evolution strongly depends on population size, as players in larger groups maintained higher cultural complexity. We found that when group size increases, cultural knowledge is less deteriorated, improvements to existing cultural traits are more frequent, and cultural trait diversity is maintained more often. Our results demonstrate how changes in group size can generate both adaptive cultural evolution and maladaptive losses of culturally acquired skills. As humans live in habitats for which they are ill-suited without specific cultural adaptations11, 12, it suggests that, in our evolutionary past, group-size reduction may have exposed human societies to significant risks, including societal collapse13.
Experimental evidence for the influence of group size on cultural complexity • Maxime Derex, Marie-Pauline Beugin, Bernard Godelle & Michel Raymond
Recent studies suggest that allowing individuals to choose their partners can help to maintaincooperation in human social networks; this behaviour can supplement behavioural reciprocity,whereby humans are inﬂuenced to cooperate by peer pressure. However, it is unknownhow the rate of forming and breaking social ties affects our capacity to cooperate. Here weuse a series of online experiments involving 1,529 unique participants embedded in 90experimental networks, to show that there is a ‘Goldilocks’ effect of network dynamism on cooperation. When the rate of change in social ties is too low, subjects choose to have many ties, even if they attach to defectors. When the rate is too high, cooperators cannot detach from defectors as much as defectors re-attach and, hence, subjects resort to behavioural reciprocity and switch their behaviour to defection. Optimal levels of cooperation are achieved at intermediate levels of change in social ties"