Monday, March 30, 2015

Blockchain Thinking: The Brain as a DAC (Decentralized Autonomous Corporation)

Blockchains are a new form of information technology that could have several important future applications. They could be an explosive operational venue for new kinds of autonomous agents like DACs, distributed autonomous corporations. A DAC is a corporation run without any human involvement through a set of business rules based in software code. It is called a ‘corporation’ because it typically engages in corporate operations like fundraising, providing services, and making profits for shareholders. Blockchains are a software protocol upon which digital cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin run.

One potential application is blockchain thinking, formulating thinking as a blockchain process. This could have benefits for both artificial intelligence and human enhancement, and their potential integration. Blockchain thinking could be conceived as an input-processing-output computational system with several features whose benefits might include the ability to orchestrate digital mindfile uploads, advocate for digital intelligences in future timeframes, implement smart-contract based utility functions, instantiate thinking as a power law, and facilitate the enactment of Friendly AI.

Top 4 Killer Apps: Brain as a DAC:
  1. Friendly AI – Digital intelligences will likely not be running in isolation, they will want to conduct operations on smartnetworks that are possibly managed by consensus models or other mechanisms. Any agent wanting to conduct transactions on a smartnetwork will need to be in good reputational standing to do so. Smartnetwork operations could include accessing information and other resources, fund-raising, entering into contracts, and offering services. The consensus only validates and records bonafide transactions from ‘good’ agents. Thus only friendly players would be able to have their transactions executed, and that is how friendly AI could be enacted. There are some objections to this argument, but the key point is that blockchains are a checks-and-balances system that could potentially encourage certain kinds of behavior.
  2. Blockchain Deep-Learners: A crucial moment in AI research was finally having large enough data stores over which to run machine learning algorithms. Google demonstrated this with news, translation, and most recently image recognition of cats in YouTube videos. A similar ‘big data’ argument can be made for thinking where large databases of personal connectome files might lead to an understanding of how thoughts are actually represented in the brain. This understanding could inspire new classes of AI applications. As is currently being explored for EMRs and personal genomes, blockchains could be a useful privacy and access control mechanism for permissioning different parties to the large and sensitive data files more granularly Personal connectome files could also be orchestrated by blockchain processes.
  3. Blockchain Advocates - One of the great potential benefits of blockchains could be instantiating smart contracts as your independent third-party advocates in uncertain future timeframes. An element of the business model that needs to be established is trustworthy oracles for confirming information. The Wikipedia of the future could be a blockchain-based oracle service to look up the current standard for digital mindfile processing, storage, and security as these standards would likely be advancing over time. “You are running on the current standard, Windows 36 and a Lloyd Quantanium 3,” your smart contract valet informs you. Thus, blockchain smart contract advocates could help digital intelligences and AI DACs feel more secure in their future survivability and also humans more comfortable in uploading their digital mindfiles.
  4. Digital Mindfile Services – Already there may be many different representations of you online, and your digital identity. Over time these could become more explicitly a full and fidelitous ‘digital you’ for backup purposes (like stroke rehabilitation) or otherwise. There are already some existing online mindfile services like LifeNaut and CyBeRev. Presumably machine-learning and deep-learning algorithms will eventually crawl the web to assemble ‘digital you’ files in an automated manner, aggregating social media, photos, linkedin profiles, forum comments, academic or other published writings, etc. into a composite you, including with imputations about your value system and goals. Later brain scans and personal connectomes can be added to this data store, as well as real-time lifelogs, memory logs, idea logs, and EEG brain activity logs from quantified self EEG rigs. This could lead to being able to instantiate your mindfile as a DAC and personal thinking blockchains, enabled to carry out digital tasks on your behalf.

Beyond these killer apps of Blockchain Thinking, there could be more sophisticated uses of blockchains for computational thinking. One could be logging all of an agent’s memories and ideas as discrete units that are encoded, stored, and universally-accessible, perhaps with multiple copies and versions (such as the soft-hashing of ideas in development) that are then deployed in smart contract DACs. Another is that processing might be instantiated in a massively distributed architecture that is not available in human brains, yet still comprises the non-linearity of human thought. Third, blockchain thinking might give rise to new forms of consensus models such as self-mining ecologies and proof of intelligence, and make use of demurrage principles to redistribute brain currencies like ideas and long-term potentiation. Blockchains and blockchain thinking might be not just a tool for the immediate progress of intelligence, but also for the longer-term transition to a world of multispecies intelligence living cohesively and productively in digital societies.

More details: Texas Bitcoin Conference Presentation, Paper, Video

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Immanence Reputations of Intelligent Instances running on Smartnetworks

One vision of the future is digital societies, comprised of different forms of intelligence like blockchain AIs, smart-contract DACs, and human mindfile uploads all running on smartnetworks. Verification of such digital identities may well be required for smartnetwork access. We are already living in a prototype of this world now, in the sense that access to digital properties requires digital identity verification. Many websites invite logging in with Facebook or Twitter as an already-established digital identity heuristic.

Also in the contemporary world, we are currently constrained to an embodied form, but there would be no such requirement in the digital societies of the future. Digital identity could become so distributed, portable, copiable, open-sourceable, sharable, malleable, and shardable, that it no longer makes sense to think in terms of entities. Instead of entities, personal identities, or embodied containers, there could be ephemeral instances; thinking, informational, actional, enjoyful, subjectivational instances. The question would then be how to enable smartnetwork operations in a post-entity society, perhaps one in which ‘ephemeral instances of capability and creativity’ have replaced identity-bounded entities.

One answer is that reputation could still matter. Even if not a full-fledged identity-entity, any instance, any measurable quantum, any participation no matter how ephemeral could still have a reputation. Reputations could become a lot more complicated, measuring different levels like actor, action, and intention, and also line-item credit for contributions and new ideas. Composite team reputations could be calculated for sharded groupmind participations. All this is could be possible through technology like blockchains that afford more granularity and accessibility in record-keeping.

Thus teputation might persist as a validation mechanism, even in advanced scenarios like post-entity digital societies. However, the trick will be to enact reputation assessment schemas that are not completely externally-imposed and outside the purview of the agent being evaluated. Preferable is re-envisioning reputation as a mechanism to empower the liberty and expression possibilities of the entities or instances being reputationified. This is an immanence reputation, one that is reflective of criteria self-determined by the agent and that accentuates its possibilities. The predictive analytics of the big data era could be applied to the development of reputational mechanisms to encourage agent futurity and potentiality realization as opposed to those that solely based on past acts.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Cogntive Enhancement can Integrate Man and Machine

Cognitive enhancement should be conceived as the philosophical issue of the greater subjectivation possibilities for man, as opposed to primarily a bioethical concern. The current world is one in which man and technology are increasingly interlinked. One high-stakes endeavor is cognitive enhancement, of which there are different working definitions. A precise account is that cognitive enhancement is the augmentation of human skills, attributes, and competencies through the use of technology, medicine, and therapy designed to increase human performance capability (Hildt). Another is that it is the amplification or extension of core capacities of the mind through improvement or augmentation of internal or external information processing systems (Bostrom). Another is it refers to any expanded or new capacity of a human being (Buchanan). The salient distillation is that cognitive enhancement is the targeted improvement of natural human cognitive abilities.

The motivation for cognitive enhancement could be twofold. First, there are the obvious practical benefits of improved perception and memory. However, beyond this, more profoundly the reason for seeking improved cognition is the implication that it can facilitate our own growth and development as humans, actualizing ourselves and our potential more rapidly and effectively. Cognitive enhancement is an important topic for investigation because it examines our existence and also the human-technology relation. Increasingly powerful science and technology tools are emerging that may have the potential to dramatically enhance human performance, and perhaps redefine what it is to be human. Technology advances at a much higher rate than man subjectivates, and man and technology are increasingly being integrated together, with technology no longer being seen as an external tool, but as an embedded presence, such that man and technology are co-evolving and subjectivating together. The rights kinds of cognitive enhancement applications might be of benefit for both humans and technology entities, and their potential integration.

Bostrom, N., and Sandberg, A. (2009). "Cognitive enhancement: methods, ethics, regulatory challenges." Sci. Eng. Ethics 15, 311–341.
Buchanan, A. (2013). Beyond Humanity: The Ethics of Biomedical Enhancement. Oxford UK: Oxford University Press.
Hildt, E. and Franke, A.G., Eds. (2013). Cognitive Enhancement: An Interdisciplinary Perspective. Dordrecht DE: Springer.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Blockchain Thinkers and Smart Contracts to take over the World?

Automatically-executing smart contracts and their impact on society has been contemplated in many different contemporary science fiction works like Daemon (Suarez), and Accelerando and Glasshouse (Stross). The interesting point is that artificial autonomous agents are becoming increasingly full-fledged participants in the real-life contemporary world. There are many forms of artificial intelligence in development, and also the advent of new kinds of information technology like blockchains.

Blockchains could be an explosive operational venue for new kinds of autonomous agents like distributed autonomous corporations (DACs), a long-envisioned concept in computing and science fiction. Blockchains are a universal permanent public transaction ledger where smart contracts can be encoded to conduct certain activities in the future. For example, a smart contract could be used to specify a bet between two parties about the maximum temperature tomorrow. The smart contract, itself being online, will automatically check the temperature tomorrow per a pre-specified information oracle (like an Internet-based weather site) and pay out the proceeds to the winning party. Similarly, more complicated arrangements like mortgages (with interest rate resets) and wills (payout per a person’s death) could be encoded in smart contracts.

Far more complicated smart contracts could also be specified, for example for DACs where all corporate documents are encoded to blockchains. This would include the operating charter, governance rules, financial statements, client contracts, licenses, and other documents for orchestrating all manner of corporate conduct. A DAC would engage in the full suite of activities conducted by any physical-world corporation, except that all operations would be triggered to execute automatically per blockchain-based smart contracts. Since all of the DAC’s activities are blockchain-registered transactions, its operations are transparent and publically-inspectable on demand at any moment. Other advanced entities could include Blockchain Thinkers and fully-autonomous Blockchain AIs.

Smart-contract entities are a new concept that is not presently part of everyday human life, but is contemplated in science fiction works such as Daemon (Suarez), Accelerando and Glasshouse (Stross), and the Golden Age trilogy and Hermetic Millennia (John C. Wright). These narratives provide various portrayals of what life might be like with humans and autonomous corporations living in coexistence. On one hand, there are many potential efficiency and transparency benefits that facilitate societal interaction as agent motives and activities can be observed more closely and constitute a truer measure of reputation. On the other hand, DACs are a monolithic code entity that may execute unstoppably despite changing world conditions. Code has always been law (inexorably-executing), but the context for human interaction with such code has been more limited. In the current connected world, humans may be increasingly living side-by-side with different gradations of code-based sentient entities such as personalized robots, artificial companions, Internet-of-Things smarthome networks, self-driving connected cars, and Blockchain Thinkers.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

New Legal Regime for Blockchain-based Smart Property and Smart Contracts?

Beyond the already wide-ranging digital currency and financial transaction applications for blockchain technology, there is another class of applications that could allow a complete reconfiguration of law and government. Blockchains are a new form of decentralized information technology, the trustless cryptographic public ledger system that underlies digital currencies like Bitcoin. Some of these potential application in law and government are that in the future, all property (hard and soft assets, and intellectual property) could be registered and transacted via blockchains as smart property. Likewise, all forms of legal agreements, contractual relationships, and governance could be enacted through code-based smart contracts.

An important consideration raised by the possibility of smart contracts and systems of cryptographically-activated assets is whether a new body of law and regulation is required to distinguish between technically-binding code contracts, and more flexible legally-binding human contracts. Contract compliance or breach is at the discretion of human agents in a way that it is not with blockchain-based or any kind of code-based contracts. Since it could be nearly impossible to enforce smart contracts with law as currently enacted (for example, a decentralized program already launched and running is difficult to control, regulate, or sue for damages), the legal framework is essentially pushed down to the level of the contract. It is not that lawlessness and anarchy would ensue with smart contracts, but the implication is that legal frameworks would become more granular and customized to the situation. Parties agreeing to a contract could choose a legal framework just as jurisdiction is selected as a parameter now. Thus smart contracts impact not just property law and contract law, but more broadly the notion of the social contract within society.