Scientists from Yale and Harvard have recoded the entire genome of an organism and improved a bacterium’s ability to resist viruses, a dramatic demonstration of the potential of rewriting an organism’...
Arjen ten Have's insight:
Brilliant! This is creation. Now wait for the people that claim this is dangerous!
Despite the invention of control measures like vaccines, infectious diseases remain part of human existence. Ideas, sentiments, or information can also be contagious. Such social contagion is akin to biological contagion: Both spread through a replication process that is blind to the consequences for the individual or population, and if each person transmits to more than one person, the explosive power of exponential growth creates an epidemic. Social contagions may cause irrational “fever.” Isaac Newton, having lost £20,000 in the speculative South Sea Bubble, commented that he could “calculate the movement of the stars, but not the madness of men”. Systems in which both contagion types are coupled to one another—an infectious disease spreading by biological contagion and a social contagion concerning the disease—offer unique scientific challenges and are increasingly important for public health.
How did human societies evolve from small groups, integrated by face-to-face cooperation, to huge anonymous societies of today? Why is there so much variation in the ability of different human populations to construct viable states? We developed a model that uses cultural evolution mechanisms to predict where and when the largest-scale complex societies should have arisen in human history. The model was simulated within a realistic landscape of the Afroeurasian landmass, and its predictions were tested against real data. Overall, the model did an excellent job predicting empirical patterns. Our results suggest a possible explanation as to why a long history of statehood is positively correlated with political stability, institutional quality, and income per capita.
War, space, and the evolution of Old World complex societies Peter Turchin, Thomas E. Currie, Edward A. L. Turner, and Sergey Gavrilets
Why Didn't ETs, Or Self Replicating Machines, Colonise Our Solar System ...
Arjen ten Have's insight:
The piece is a bit open, as such that it makes a lot of assumptions which you need to accept. Maybe small differences in many of the calculations that the writer simply accept might result in a different picture. But the point is interesting and I agree. Often it is claimed that we would be screwed when ETs would turn up since they are technologically more advanced. My point was always, if they are so adavancedm why would they come here and bother us, (there is always a certan risk). Like the series V. The aliens want water. But then why such a ridiculous scheme if space contains a lot of freee water. It is only when space and its resources become scarce when the competition will start. And, maybe, just maybe, most intelligent species do understand what the word sustainable means.
The grand procession of human evolution has delivered us to a pivotal moment—a crisis that contains both creative and destructive potential. In fact, you can't have one without the other. At the height of any evolutionary crisis, ...
Arjen ten Have's insight:
Not that I really agree with this. It is all a bit mysterious (and the goal of science is to remove mysterys, not to accept them) but still I found it interesting reading. I am not so positive regarding the revolution. Even don't want it. Lets put some carefull steps towards positive personal development.
Artificial life is largely concerned with systems that exhibit different emergent phenomena; yet, the identification of emergent structures is frequently a difficult challenge. In this paper we introduced a system to identify candidate emergent mesolevel dynamical structures in dynamical networks. This method is based on an extension of a measure introduced for detecting clusters in biological neural networks; its main novelty in comparison to previous application of similar measures is that we used it to consider truly dynamical networks, and not only fluctuations around stable asymptotic states. The identified structures are clusters of elements that behave in a coherent and coordinated way and that loosely interact with the remainder of the system. We have evidence that our approach is able to identify these "emerging things" in some artificial network models and in more complex data coming from catalytic reaction networks and biological gene regulatory systems (A.thaliana). We think that this system could suggest interesting new ways in dealing with artificial and biological systems.
The detection of intermediate-level emergent structures and patterns Marco Villani, Alessandro Filisetti, Stefano Benedettini, Andrea Roli, David Avra Lane, Roberto Serrae
Most recent studies depict mind wandering as a costly cognitive failure with relatively few benefits (Mooneyham and Schooler, 2013). This perspective makes sense when mind wandering is observed by a third party and when costs are measured against externally imposed standards such as speed or accuracy of processing, reading fluency or comprehension, sustained attention, and other external metrics.
There is, however, another way of looking at mind wandering, a personal perspective, if you will. For the individual, mind wandering offers the possibility of very real, personal reward, some immediate, some more distant.
One challenging aspect of the clinical assessment of brain-injured, unresponsive patients is the lack of an objective measure of consciousness that is independent of the subject’s ability to interact with the external environment. Theoretical considerations suggest that consciousness depends on the brain’s ability to support complex activity patterns that are, at once, distributed among interacting cortical areas (integrated) and differentiated in space and time (information-rich). We introduce and test a theory-driven index of the level of consciousness called the perturbational complexity index (PCI). PCI is calculated by (i) perturbing the cortex with transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to engage distributed interactions in the brain (integration) and (ii) compressing the spatiotemporal pattern of these electrocortical responses to measure their algorithmic complexity (information). We test PCI on a large data set of TMS-evoked potentials recorded in healthy subjects during wakefulness, dreaming, nonrapid eye movement sleep, and different levels of sedation induced by anesthetic agents (midazolam, xenon, and propofol), as well as in patients who had emerged from coma (vegetative state, minimally conscious state, and locked-in syndrome). PCI reliably discriminated the level of consciousness in single individuals during wakefulness, sleep, and anesthesia, as well as in patients who had emerged from coma and recovered a minimal level of consciousness. PCI can potentially be used for objective determination of the level of consciousness at the bedside.
This paper provides a logical framework for complexity economics. Complexity economics builds from the proposition that the economy is not necessarily in equilibrium: economic agents (firms, consumers, investors) constantly change their actions and strategies in response to the outcome they mutually create. This further changes the outcome, which requires them to adjust afresh. Agents thus live in a world where their beliefs and strategies are constantly being “tested” for survival within an outcome or “ecology” these beliefs and strategies together create. Economics has largely avoided this nonequilibrium view in the past, but if we allow it, we see patterns or phenomena not visible to equilibrium analysis. These emerge probabilistically, last for some time and dissipate, and they correspond to complex structures in other fields. We also see the economy not as something given and existing but forming from a constantly developing set of technological innovations, institutions, and arrangements that draw forth further innovations, institutions and arrangements.(...)
Complexity Economics: A Different Framework for Economic Thought W. Brian Arthur SFI WP 13-04-012
To my big surprise it appears as if economists have avoided nonequilibrium views. Well here they go and obviouly they do observe complexity with strategies being tested for survival. How do we (the human society) decide strategies do not survive? There are still intelligent people that state that socialism should be tested since it never REALLY has been applied. I wonder why. On the other hand the majority o people still believe in the financial incentive as the incentive for progress. Well, why do we have this economical crisis? But all that only shows that studying economics as a complex dynamic system in which survival of the fittest is used as cut-off are important and game theory WILL show us at least possible "evolutionary stable strategies" in economy.
Hold on, hold your horses. The good, the bad or the inevitable. This has many aspects, most of them are ethical. 1 NGS might be used to increase success rateof IVF, that is good. 2 NGS might be used to perform multiple genetic screenings in order to select out BAD embryos, that is good as well. 3 NGS might be used to perfrom multiple genetics screenings in order to select for GOOD embryos. Is that bad? On itself no, it is not really different from the former. Still most people will tend to say number 3 is bad since you can, well theoretically, select all the characters of your unborn. Many genetic diseases can be detected but what is a disease? Down syndrome? Diabetes? There are many "accepted" genetic diseases parents do ot not wish for their children. So how about beauty? It has recenlt been shown that beautiful people are more happy than ugly people (yeahyeah, of course that is a generalization). I would not be surprised if intelligent people are more happy than the dummies. So, do we consider an IQ of 95 as a disease? Not that we already can read beauty and IQ from a genome sequence (but we will) but it just to make a point. OK let's say it is INEVITABLE. There will always be people that want that. On the hand I must add that actually NGS might be instrumental (such a cold word) in the battle against relaxed selection (=the quality of medical care allows for bad specimens to reproduce, this is not the natural way, we take out selection). You simply do the selection prior to life. That would be alike sexual selection, in evolutionary terms an example of HARD selection. So that would be GOOD no? Or do we actually create two races? The rich race that gets more apt with every generation and the poor race that remains with relaxed selection? That would be BAD. All a bit speculative maybe but we need to think about these things since they are INEVITABLE, My personnal opinion comes with word GENERALIZATION. I would screen for lets say IQ below 75 but not for below 95. I would screen for Parkinson but not for high cheek bones and a straight nose. Why? Because to the best of my knowledge, these do and don't affect happines without having to add IN GENERAL. Really dumb people are less happy and having Parkinson does not make you happy. I know people with high IQ are also unhappy (Hence, I would go for 80-120?). It is kind of UGLY, to think about it.....
Evolution has transformed all we know about how humans behave, compete and co-operate. When will economics catch up?
Arjen ten Have's insight:
Excellent piece on how the theory of evolution can be applied to economics. Socialism and kapatalism have proven not to work. Evolution theory points toward a mix a laissez-faire and regulation. There have been clear studies that show this can work. New initiatives are there to formalize explicitly the application of evolutionary theory into economical theory. And this is not about Social Darwinism, which is basically the right of the strongest!
This will be a great step to improvement of our culture, just at the moment that the two major economic systems have fallen in disbelief. Well, the capitalist movement is still strong. There is work to do if we, as a species, want to obtain a sustainable society, sustainable with our environment.
Funny to see how the idea of economist Malthus, resulted in the theory of evolution, which now turns out to be a fundament for economy!
Bit of a presumptuous title, I also do not fully agree but it is worthwhile reading. Why does web based teaching improve teaching? Simply thought, it does not make a lot sense. So what could be the reasons? One of the statements indicate the real problem. MOOCs are faster than textbook but profeszors can still be faster when they have their students in front of them! And this indicates that the real problem is that many teachers do not update their classes to the current state of the art. The advantage od web based reaching is that it forces teachers to be more up to date. That is sad but true. Another more positive reason is that it forces teachers to think about they should teach since web based teaching is less interactive. And thinking will lead to new ways of teaching, obviously combinations of instruments!
We've Gotten The Pursuit Of Happiness All Wrong, Until Now Huffington Post In short, the brain's computation is all about foresight and prediction -- using our memories and recollections to plan for the future.
The nature vs. nurture debate comes to political science.
Arjen ten Have's insight:
This is a rather solid piece of work, indeed Nature vs Nurture comes to political science. The work is solid since the author invested time in getting the opinions of many people in the field. So are our political ideas encoded inour DNA? But of course they are but you need to understand how it works. It is always how social factors affect a human being, encoded by its DNA. Always. So the FACT that they are coded does not mean that there is a gene for socialism. I would even not think of complex assoiciative trait studies. Why not? Well since political beliefs do already on itseld form a complex. Several, on itself complex traits, attribute to it. So do you really think you can identify QTLs of a trait that is a complex of complex characters?
That is just the kind of reductionism that results in that reductionism has such a bad image.
On the other hand these " absurdly high estimates of heritability of behavior" might be an emergent property.
How Our Stone Age Bodies Struggle To Stay Healthy In Modern Times wmra But Daniel Lieberman, professor of evolutionary biology at Harvard University, says that his field can help you understand why you got sick, and make you more aware of healthy...
Arjen ten Have's insight:
A bit obvious but also a bit of an aha-erlebnis. I wouldn t say that cancer is like evolution gone wrong, it is a disadvantageous side effect of selection at the celukar level. It also has nothing to do with the historical constraint.
We consider a simple model of cooperation among agents called Coalitional Skill Games (CSGs). This is a restricted form of coalitional games, where each agent has a set of skills that are required to complete various tasks. Each task requires a set of skills in order to be completed, and a coalition can accomplish the task only if the coalitionʼs agents cover the set of required skills for the task. The gain for a coalition depends only on the subset of tasks it can complete.
We consider the computational complexity of several problems in CSGs, such as testing if an agent is a dummy or veto agent, computing the core and core-related solution concepts, and computing power indices such as the Shapley value and Banzhaf power index.
Without having read the original source, two things. First, I believe this is an important next step towards understanding how altruism has been evolving in a social species. Next step, as compared to the wide variety of games based on the prisoners dilema. So hail! Second, although cooperation obviously does affect the evolution of altruism in a social species, it forms an extremely complex matter. So, I believe that first we should understand this in terms of cultural evolution (in order NOT to include an additional complexity of looking at the mix of cultural and gene evolution). In addition, and that is just an idea, could we approximate this as cooption (or exaptation?)
The answer lies in the fish genome, suggesting that complex social behavior in other animals, including humans, is also genetically ingrained
Arjen ten Have's insight:
Not surprisingly schooling has a strong genetic factor. Now they appear to have identified the locus they have important work to do. But I miss a bit the point of the Scientific American paper. Any kind of social behaviour is genetically ingrained. The fact that one group can and another cannot merely means that the first is better adapted to the trait than the second. O do I miss the point?
When starting a new collaborative endeavor, it pays to establish upfront how strongly your partner commits to the common goal and what compensation can be expected in case the collaboration is violated. Diverse examples in biological and social contexts have demonstrated the pervasiveness of making prior agreements on posterior compensations, suggesting that this behavior could have been shaped by natural selection. Here, we analyze the evolutionary relevance of such a commitment strategy and relate it to the costly punishment strategy, where no prior agreements are made. We show that when the cost of arranging a commitment deal lies within certain limits, substantial levels of cooperation can be achieved. Moreover, these levels are higher than that achieved by simple costly punishment, especially when one insists on sharing the arrangement cost. Not only do we show that good agreements make good friends, agreements based on shared costs result in even better outcomes.
Good Agreements Make Good Friends The Anh Han, Luís Moniz Pereira, Francisco C. Santos, and Tom Lenaerts
Seems perfectly reasonable abd one might conclude that polygamy as it occurs in human society (typically human beings are serial polygamists) is explained by a relaxed constraint instigated by the social pressure on infanticide!
What is the relationship between the complexity and the fitness of evolved organisms, whether natural or artificial? It has been asserted, primarily based on empirical data, that the complexity of plants and animals increases as their fitness within a particular environment increases via evolution by natural selection. We simulate the evolution of the brains of simple organisms living in a planar maze that they have to traverse as rapidly as possible. Their connectome evolves over 10,000s of generations. We evaluate their circuit complexity, using four information-theoretical measures, including one that emphasizes the extent to which any network is an irreducible entity. We find that their minimal complexity increases with their fitness.
Cooperation is one of the essential factors for all biological organisms in major evolutionary transitions. Recent studies have investigated the effect of migration for the evolution of cooperation. However, little is known about whether and how an individuals’ cooperativeness coevolves with mobility. One possibility is that mobility enhances cooperation by enabling cooperators to escape from defectors and form clusters; the other possibility is that mobility inhibits cooperation by helping the defectors to catch and exploit the groups of cooperators. In this study we investigate the coevolutionary dynamics by using the prisoner’s dilemma game model on a lattice structure. The computer simulations demonstrate that natural selection maintains cooperation in the form of evolutionary chasing between the cooperators and defectors. First, cooperative groups grow and collectively move in the same direction. Then, mutant defectors emerge and invade the cooperative groups, after which the defectors exploit the cooperators. Then other cooperative groups emerge due to mutation and the cycle is repeated. Here, it is worth noting that, as a result of natural selection, the mobility evolves towards directional migration, but not to random or completely fixed migration. Furthermore, with directional migration, the rate of global population extinction is lower when compared with other cases without the evolution of mobility (i.e., when mobility is preset to random or fixed). These findings illustrate the coevolutionary dynamics of cooperation and mobility through the directional chasing between cooperators and defectors.
Yet another game theory study that hints that natural selection CAN results in cooperation. Recently there was a study in which they showed that your direct environment affects how egoistic/altruistic you are. This study suggests migration at least does not prohibit cooperation. Obviously, this is yet another isolated scenario but all together the a picture emerges that: 1 explains "group selection" by means of individual behaviour. A sever blow for group seleccionists, even cultural evolution is not explained by group selection. 2 Human society can learn from these studies and direct thier society. A good example is sending your toddlers to kindergarten. This will make them more collective. How to put this study into effect is a bit more difficult, but nevertheless, we should use the information.
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