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 fixed 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.