Monday, January 26, 2015

Blockchain Consensus Models Increase the Information Resolution of the Universe

There is ample opportunity to explore blockchains as a new form of information technology, including what consensus models as a core feature might mean and enable. A key question is “What is consensus-derived information?” that is, what are its properties and benefits vis-à-vis other kinds of information? Is consensus-derived information a different kind or form of information? One way of conceiving of reality and the universe is as information flows, where blockchain technology helps to delineate three distinct levels of information:
  1. Level one: Dumb, unenhanced, unmodulated data
  2. Level two: Socially-recommended data. These are data elements enriched by social network peer recommendation, which has been made possible by networked Internet models. The quality of the information is denser because it has been recommended by social peers. 
  3. Level three: Blockchain consensus-validated data. Now a third level of data has been exposed, blockchain consensus-validated data, data’s highest yet recommendation level based on group consensus-supported accuracy and quality. Not just peer recommendations, but a formal structure of intelligent agent experts, have formed a consensus about the quality and accuracy of these data. Blockchain technology thus produces a consensus-derived third tier of information that is higher resolution in that it is more densely modulated with quality attributes, and simultaneously is more global, more egalitarian, and freer-flowing. The blockchain as an information technology provides high-resolution modulation regarding the quality, authenticity, and derivation of information.

Consensus data is thus data that comes with a crowd-voted confirmation of quality, a seal of approval, the vote of a populace standing behind the quality, accuracy, and truth value of the data, in its current incarnation effectuated by a seamless automated mining mechanism. The bigger questions are “What can a society do with this kind of quality of data?” or more realistically, “What can a society do with this kind of widespread mechanism for confirming data quality?

Thinking of the benefits of consensus-derived information only helps to underline that blockchain technology might be precisely the kind of core infrastructural element, and scalable information authentication and validation mechanism, necessary to scale human progress and to expand into a global and eventually beyond-planetary society. Further, blockchains are a system of checks and balances that might help to effectuate not only friendly Blockchain AI, but also the transition to a future world of multipsecies intelligence. The speculative endgame vision is that the universe is information, where the vector of progress means transitioning toward higher-resolution information flows. Information may be conserved, but its density is not. Even beyond conceiving of blockchain technology as a core infrastructural element to scale the future of human progress, ultimately it might be a tool for increasing the information resolution of the universe.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Blockchain Thinking: Transition to Digital Societies of Multispecies Intelligence

The future world could be one of multi-species intelligence. The possibility space could include “classic” humans, enhanced humans, digital mindfile uploads, and many forms of artificial intelligence: deep learning neural nets, machine learning algorithms, blockchain-based DACs (distributed autonomous organizations), and whole-brain software emulations. Machine modes of existence are different than those of humans, which means the need for ways to interact that facilitate and extend the existence of both parties.

Blockchains for Trustful Interspecies Social Contracts
The properties of blockchain technology as a decentralized, distributed, global, permanent, code-based ledger of transactions could be useful in managing such interactions. The cryptographic ledger system could be used for interactions either between humans or multispecies parties, exactly because it is not necessary to know, trust, or understand the other entity, just the code system.

While perhaps not a full answer to the problem of trustful multispecies interaction, and the subcase of enacting Friendly AI, decentralized smart networks like blockchains are a robust system of checks and balances. As such, blockchains are a mechanism with more leverage than other available solutions in responding to situations of future uncertainty. Blockchains could be the infrastructure for setting forth the new social contract between humans and technology, and formalizing this arrangement in smart contracts.

Mutual Coexistence in the Capacity Spectrum for Actualization
Trust-building models for interspecies digital intelligence interaction could include both game-theoretic checks-and-balances systems like blockchains to alleviate threats and fears, and also at a higher level, frameworks that put entities on the same plane of shared objectives. The problem frame of machine and human intelligence should not be one that characterizes relations as oppositional, but rather one that aligns entities on the same ground and value system for the most important shared parameters, like growth and actualization.

What we want is the ability to experience, grow, and contribute more, for both humans and machines, and the two in symbiosis and synthesis. This can be conceived as all entities existing on a spectrum of capacity for individuation (the ability to grow and realize potential). Productive interaction between intelligent species could be fostered by being joined in the common framework of a capacity spectrum that facilitates the objectives of personal, mutual, and collective growth in creating the digital communities of the future.

Adapted from: Swan, M. We Should Consider The Future World As One Of Multi-Species Intelligence. Response to The Edge Question 2015. Ed. John Brockman. 2015. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Blockchains as an Equality Technology

The advent of blockchain technology has prompted the questioning of many concepts that have been taken for granted for years such as money, currency, markets, economics, politics, citizenship, governance, authority, and self-determination.

We have become accustomed to the hierarchical structures of the contemporary world. These structures and models were nice advances at the time of their derivation, hundreds of years ago, to facilitate the large-scale orchestration of different operations of society so that life could be conducted in a safe and productive manner.

While serving as a significant node in the overall progress of humanity, the imperfect value proposition of hierarchical models has been waning, and especially rapidly so in the current era of science and technology. Now contemporary information technology is facilitating not just a more efficient life through technology (off-loading both physical and mental drudgery), but also allowing the models for large-scale societal coordination to be rethought.

Large-scale decentralized (e.g.; non-hierarchical) orchestration models like blockchain technology are starting to be available, and this could configure a completely new era in human progress. This is because decentralized models are equality technologies: technologies that allow more possibility for individual liberties, freedoms, rights, actualization, expression, and self-determination than has been possible in hierarchical models. Further, equality technologies imply not just more liberties for individuals and an eradication of illiberty, but a better equalization or calibration of liberties amongst individuals and societies.

It is not that a complete revolution to decentralized models would be underfoot, it is that decentralized models are a striking new entrant in the possibility space of the models for large-scale coordination. The longer-term future could likely be a space where there are many different centralized, decentralized, and hybrid models, and other new forms of models, where the important dynamic becomes tuning the orchestration system to the requirements of the underlying situation.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

The Philosophy of Complexity: Are Complex Systems Inherently Tyrannical?

The philosophy of complexity is developing as a field of philosophical inquiry to accompany, support, and question advances in the science of complex systems. This is warranted given that the issues surfaced by science findings signal a full slate of philosophical questions in the three main areas of ontology (existence), epistemology (knowledge), and axiology (valorization and ethics). The fast pace of technological innovation has been substantiating the need for various new philosophies explicitly examining these issues in technology, information, cognition, cognitive enhancement, big data, and complexity.

How much total Liberty is in the System?
A philosophy of complexity would operate both internally and externally to the practice of complexity science, at the level of the theory of the practice, and at the abstraction of the impact and meaning of the practice more broadly in society. One issue for investigation is a philosophical characterization of complex systems themselves, including parameterizing different features such as range-boundedness. For example, in French politics, there was the revolution and the subsequent process of republics starting, failing, and enduring. The question is measuring the total liberty available in the system, how has this changed over time, and what predictions can be made, or, more importantly, what improved changes might be catalyzed for the future?

Persistent Mathematical Behavior across Complex Systems
Fifteen or so criteria that are mathematically persistent across complex systems (fat tails, power laws, high coefficients, degrees of correlation, fractal behavior, etc.) have been identified. However, it seems that even while expanding and contracting over time, complex systems may be displaying cyclic and range-bound behavior. This could be inherently mean-regressing, and potentially tyrannizing or at least limiting to system participants, and this should be measured and evaluated. Is there a fixes amount of liberty available in the French political system? To what degree do complex systems as a format have limitations, and is this a block to progress? Both the quantitative and qualitative aspects of complex systems need to be measured, with an identification of where and how these limits can be and have been broken (beyond traditional symmetry-breaking).

Bergsonian Information, Illiberty, and Rethinking Thinking
The philosophical questions concern the ontology, epistemology, and axiology of complex systems. For example, does complexity have a qualitative side? There is a need to investigate the idea of ‘Bergsonian information,’ the extension of duration-as-time and duration-as-consciousness/self to the internal doubled experience of information, in the context of complexity. Likewise, liberty, illiberty (the absence of liberty), and potentiality in complex systems should be explored, especially in cognition, neuroscience, and connectome-mapping, areas which are just starting to be accessible to the complexity discipline. There can be an examination of how we can rethink thinking and intelligence (biological and artificial) per deep learning, symbolic systems methods, and the philosophy of complexity.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

2015 Top 10 Technology Trends

2015 could be an exciting year of Zero-to-One paradigm-busting innovation, honoring and distancing humanity from Excellent Sheep mode, bringing online more of our 7 billion people in a rich and connective collaboration to scale forward progress in a truly global society.

Top 10 Technology Trends: 
  1. Deep-Learning
  2. Wearables/IOT
  3. Digital Payments
  4. Video Gaming Hardware Mods
  5. Quantified Self-Connected Car Integration
  6. Consumer MedGadgets
  7. Smarthome, Smartcity
  8. Personal Robotics
  9. Cognitive Computing
  10. Blockchain Technology
Predictions for 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Bergson, Free Will, and the Philosophy of Cognitive Enhancement

Bergson claims that free will exists. It occurs in moments when a living being experiences duration, which is tuning into the internal sense of an experience, and a freely-determined action flows from this state. His reasoning is that “if duration is heterogeneous [if we are tuned into the internal sense of experience], the relation of the psychic state to act is unique, and the act is rightly judged free.” An act is free if it flows from an internal qualitative experience. He suggests we understand this by considering an example in our lives of having made a serious decision; where even searching for such an example already starts to evoke the qualitative aspects, unique psychic states, and then the free-action undertaken as a result. The crux is that “We should see that, if our action was pronounced by us to be free, it is because the relation of this action to the state from which it issued could not be expressed by a law, this psychic state being unique of its kind and unable to ever to occur again.” Turning inward to our unique experience causes freely undertaken action to flow as a result, even if this action is a formulation of our mental state.

Philosophy of Cognitive Enhancement
The reason that Bergson is useful for the philosophy of cognitive enhancement is that he provides a reasonable ontological explanation for free will with prescriptive recommendations for its achievement. He draws our attention to the qualitative and characterizes it in usable detail instead of dismissing it as inaccessible due to being subjective (as did Kierkegaard). This could help in developing a philosophy of cognitive enhancement by articulating some of the goals and experience of what it might mean for humans to engage in such practices. It is not necessary to agree with Bergson's claim in favor of free will to implement some of the underlying ideas. What is important to us in cognitive enhancement (the targeted improvement of natural human cognitive abilities) is not just better memories, but accelerated subjectivation - the ability to extend our capacity by becoming ‘more’ of who we are and can be more quickly.

Cognitive Enhancement Tools
One first cognitive enhancement application of Bergson might be in having greater activation of free will; catalyzing more ‘living now’ moments where free will could be realized. Our everyday acts are quantitative and undoubled but cognitive enhancement tools might be able to help with greater activation of the qualitative experience of life. Another application could be exploring the emergence of freedom as a property of internal experience. Bergson does not discuss whether we are free to perceive our inner states in different ways, or just one default way. It would seem that qualitative multiplicity could extend to having discretion over experience. This could inspire an ethics of perception, and an ethics of reality, as topics of cognitive enhancement philosophy. Another application area could be quantitative-qualitative transitions; tracing how the quantitative becomes the qualitative, as this might be a way into a richer, ongoing, free will-activated experience of life. There could be many applications trying to help improve our psychic states, both in their quality and accessibility, and in our awareness and perception of them.

Reference: Bergson, Henri. (2001, 1889). Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness (Essai sur les données immédiates de la conscience). London UK: Dover Publications. Bergson, Free Will, and Cognitive Enhancement

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Currency Multiplicity: Social Economic Networks

Cryptocoin multiplicity is just one kind of currency multiplicity in the modern world. More broadly, we are living in an increasingly multi-currency society with all kinds of monetary and non-monetary currencies. First, there is currency multiplicity in the sense of monetary currency in that there are many different fiat currencies (USD, CNY, EUR, GBP, etc.). Second, there are many other non-fiat, non-cryptocurrencies like loyalty points and airline miles; one estimate is that there are 4,000 such altcurrencies [1]. Now there is also a multiplicity of blockchain-based cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Dogecoin. Fourth, beyond monetary currencies, there is currency multiplicity in non-monetary currencies too like reputation, intention, and attention as discussed above.

Market principles have been employed to develop metrics for measuring non-monetary currencies such as influence, reach, awareness, authenticity, engagement, action-taking, impact, spread, connectedness, velocity, participation, shared values, and presence [2]. Now blockchain technology could make these non-monetary social currencies more trackable, transmissible, transactable, and monetizable. Social networks could become social economic networks. For example, reputation as one of the most recognizable non-monetary currencies has always been an important intangible asset, however was not readily monetizable other than indirectly as an attribute of labor capital.

However social network currencies can now become transactable with web-based cryptocurrency tip jars (like Reddcoin) and other micropayment mechanisms that were not previously feasible or transnationally-scalable with traditional fiat currency. Just as collaborative work projects like open-source software development can become more acknowledgeable and remunerable with github commits and line-item contribution-tracking, cryptocurrency tip jars can provide a measurable record and financial incentive for contribution-oriented online activities. One potential effect of this could be that if market principles were to become the norm for intangible resource allocation and exchange, all market agents might start to have a more intuitive and pervasive concept and demonstration of exchange and reciprocity. Thus social benefits like a more collaborative society could be a result of what might initially seem to be only a deployment of economic principles [3].

[1] Lietaerm B. nad Dunne, J. (2013). Rethinking money: how new currencies turn scarcity into prosperity. London, UK: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
[2] Swan, M. (2010). “Social economic networks and the new intangibles.” Online text from the Broader Perspective blog. 
[3] Swan. M. (2009). “New Banks, New Currencies and New Markets in a Multicurrency World: Roadmap for a Post-Scarcity Economy by 2050.” Create Futures IberoAmérica, Enthusiasmo Cultural, São Paolo Brazil, October 14, 2009.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Bergson-Deleuze: Incorporating Duration into Nanocognition

French philosophers Bergson and Deleuze bring to nanocognition and machine ethics interfaces the philosophical conceptualizations of image, movement, time, perception, memory, and reality that can be considered for implementation in tools for both cognitive enhancement and subjectivation (the greater actualization of human potential).

From the standpoint of an Ethics of Perception of Nanocognition, Bergson and Deleuze stress the need to see perception in itself, and machine ethics interfaces could possibly help us do this through the concept of Cinema 3: the perception-image. Having had only one default (undoubled) means of perception (taking the actualized perceptions of daily life as the only kind of perception, just as we have taken linear, spatialized, narrative time as the only form of time) has meant that we have not considered that there may be multiple ways to perceive, and that these might exist on a virtual plane of possible perceiving, and coalesce through difference into actual perception. At minimum, our nanocognitive prosthetics might be able to introduce and manage the notion of multiplicity in virtual and actual perception.

Bergson-Deleuze exhorts us to notice the doubled, internal, qualitative, subjective experience of lived phenomena like movement, time, perception, reality, and ourselves. In particular, nanocognition allows us to see the full doubling of perception, because there cannot be a doubling if there is only one unexamined mode, if perception in itself cannot be seen. It is only through duration - the doubled, subjective experience of perception (the experience of perception itself) that its virtuality and multiplicity (possibility) can be seen. Importantly, the consequence of seeing the doubled side of perception and reality is that it allows us to tune into the possibility of possibility itself. The real goal of Bergson-Deleuze is not just seeing different possibilities for ourselves, but seeing possibility itself; this is the ultimate implication for nanocognition – conceiving of nanocognition as pure possibility in and of itself.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Dynamic Group Cognitive Coordination through Wearable Tech

A surprising ‘new functionality’ enabler of smartwatches and wearable tech is not just getting real-time alerts and notifications to a single user as the front-end of the seamless connected computing world, but group coordination. Real-time group coordination could foster a whole new class of wearable applications, for a wide range of ‘serious’ and ‘fun’ uses in both large and small groups.

35 teams presented at the Apple WatchKit Hackathon at Silicon Valley’s Hacker Dojo on Sunday November 23, 2014. Many interesting apps were shown, mostly for only a single smartwatch like MoodyBaby, NowCash, MedAlert, ItsRaining, LoveTap, and ScrollforSushi.

Best Tech was won by this author’s own team project for WatchSet: a multi-player social gaming app for smartwatch wearers in proximity to self-discover and play interactive games (Figure 1).

Figure 1: WatchSet Multi-player Social Gaming App for Smartwatch.
Large-scale Dynamic Cognitive Coordination
The level of where we are starting to operate now with technology is automating lower-level cognitive tasks. Linking any and all data streams on-demand in the connected computing world is allowing us to conceive of automation in new ways - as both mechanical task relief and cognitive processing offload. This suggests that we may be able to shift the whole way we interact with the world, and organize human activity in new and dynamically coordinated ways, that are potentially at a much larger scale than has been possible previously.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Bitcoin and Science: DNA is the Original Decentralized System

What is the role (if any) of Bitcoin and blockchain technology with regard to the natural world and traditional science? One obvious link is using the blockchain as a means of improving distributed community computing projects with tracking and remuneration. BOINC, whose software runs SETI@home, has introduced Gridcoin, and [Protein]Folding@home has introduced Foldingcoin. In addition, these distributed community computing models could be extended using blockchain technology as a way to coordinate and offer supercomputing time to DIYscientists; opening up access to a scarce resource which was previously only available to professional researchers (Zennet). Other projects are investigating a way to harness otherwise wasted crypto-mining cycles (where the computing problem (computing a nonce) must be deliberately intensive, wasteful, and one-way), like Primecoin’s system (, of requiring miners to find long chains of prime numbers instead of otherwise unusable hashes.

Sense-making Models: Religion, Science, Political-Economy, Information
There is a more fundamental link between the blockchain and science in the grand scope of our human models for making sense of the world: religion, science, political-economy, and now information. Information is an interesting paradigm by which we are starting to see the structure of the world and make sense of it, both in physical and digital reality. The blockchain is an information technology, and the Internet and the blockchain provide a heightened information climate; a means of improving and modulating the resolution of information through faster more-expedient transfer, discovery, deployment, and use.

Information as a Sense-making Paradigm Reconfigures Science
The reach of information as a sense-making paradigm can be seen in how this idea is reconfiguring approaches to science. One way is in the growth and pervasiveness of big data and data-intensive science. Nearly every field of traditional study now has a computational complement (computational biology, computational astronomy, computational philosophy, computational law, etc.). The scientific method is transformed from a narrow hypothesis-experimentation loop to dynamic hypothesis formation per large-data results, vastly scaling the degree of experimental activity.

DNA: The Original Decentralized System
Even more profoundly, information is changing how we think about problems in science. For example, the old thinking was that chemistry and molecular biology are the conditions for life, and this is true in the sense that they are the substrate, the hardware for life. But now life is being seen as an information problem. Biology is a software system that runs on the substrate of chemistry and molecular biology. Wetware biology is the language of information, a software system to signal, transcribe, transmit information, encode and decode information, and send secure messages; a lot like a blockchain system. Biology is perhaps the original decentralized system; every cell has the full instruction set, the organism’s entire DNA, like Bitcoind nodes have the full ledger of every transaction.