Friday, May 26, 2017

Tactical valley of ignorance

Many of the rich and famous appear to be now indicating that universal income (1) is a good policy. It may be too little too late with children running powerful nations and corporations. If they do want to make an impact, it will take more than speeches and photo ops. It will require actions to disseminate information across populations and technologies that can curb misinformation. It will require belief and the ability to embrace a utility function that encompasses humanity.

There are good signs for humanity, however. Bad examples have great value in education and we certainly have a great number of them in full display. But education is a necessary condition that will allow humanity to separate the wheat from the chaff, those who have been marginalized and the lucky, those who volunteer to make the world better and the uninterested, the unlucky from those who fight for money, the rebels from those who appear religious, the travellers from those who stay put, the indifferent from those who seek their own kind, the optimizers from those who maximize, the elderly from those who do not grow up.

We are slowly progressing toward a better society. The hiccups on the way are just that and contemporary events may provide rich fodder for comedy shows in a few decades. The millennials appear to have it but they have to get through a tactical valley of ignorance.


(1) https://townhall.com/tipsheet/laurettabrown/2017/05/25/mark-zuckerberg-argues-for-universal-income-in-speech-to-harvard-grads-n2331924

Friday, May 19, 2017

Immigrants

Nearly 3% of the population - 250 million, live outside the country of their birth (1) and it is a constant reminder that humans have been on the move for over 100 thousand years. They spread culture, ideas and biases across locations and continents, eliminated those who differ from them and clung together to survive in the bottleneck that reduced them to a few thousand. In spite of the walls that separated them, they pushed to assimilate in spite of the color of their skin, eyes or hair, and now we may be turning time back for the worse.


Knowledge has always slowed down the journey to destruction and those who did not imbibe from the fountain have been left behind to fend for themselves. Geographical segmentation schemes have separated siblings and illogical religious constructs have united those who never wanted to be united. Humans have separated themselves based on surface features, never considering that their architecture has been a lot deeper. As they shut down the boundaries of their recent homes based on ignorance, the intelligentsia bleeds but as they always do, they remain ineffective.


Move, move again - and let humanity come together, once again.


(1) http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/05/people-move-science-migrations

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The advantages of sex

A recent study (1) suggests that genetic interactions are driving selection. This is an important finding and it suggests that mutations are not sufficiently robust to propel populations to more dominant states. In fact, mutations may have a negative effect on optimal progression. It has major policy implications in that, if humanity were to survive, it would be largely driven by genetic interactions rather than optimization in sub-populations.
 
Humans seem to be on a dangerous course, propelled by an affinity to surface features and segmented utility. The leaders in most countries appear to be less intelligent than average and it implies suboptimal policies with long term deleterious effects. As they travelled out of Africa by foot, first to Australasia and then to China, they never imagined the state of affairs, they would find themselves in fifty thousand years later. Some travelled north and obliterated the gentle Neanderthals and some stayed put, only to be marginalized. Some crossed the ice bridge into the new continent only to be separated from the rest.
 
Without an abundance of genetic interactions, humans are doomed to oblivion. Fortunately, the idiots who run countries and corporations have a limited life span.


(1) http://science.sciencemag.org/content/356/6337/539

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Pinnacle

At the pinnacle of innovation, technology and war mongering, those who are climbing it seem to have left behind nearly ten million of their exact copies in Nigeria, with half of them malnourished and failing from diseases, amplified by hunger (1). For a societal leap forward, it will require moving the entire humanity to a position of sustenance. Empathy has been easier than effective policies, tweets easier than action, cosmetics and shallow conversations easier than thoughts and ignorance safer than seeking knowledge. Meanwhile, millions perish from lack of basic necessities.
 
The question remains to be why humanity is stuck in this local minimum. Good has always trumped the bad and ideas flourish over stagnation, but it appears that we are unable to break out of a stalemate, aided by global apathy and instability. Societal progress has been immensely hampered by illogical constructs such as an outward show of religion and patriotism. Those who could aid a move up from the valley have been busy nourishing their egos in academia and fighting their colleagues. Those who want to save the world by elevating themselves to the top of the hierarchy have been corrupt and emotionless. At the heart of this stalemate is lack of education, as ignorance has spread like wildfire across the world, aided and abetted by their leaders. If the 7.6 billion occupying the world only knew that they are clones of a single human being, perhaps we can begin to bridge the gap.
 
But it is a tall order as humans suffer from myopia, driven by hard constraints on life span.
 
(1) http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/04/hunger-amplifies-infectious-diseases-millions-fleeing-violence-boko-haram

Friday, May 5, 2017

The bulge in the frontal cortex

Recent finding in the Journal of Neurological Sciences (1) that Descartes' brain had an unusual bulge in the frontal cortex is further proof that humans with unusual developments in the organ they carry on their shoulders, move societies. Less than a hundred individuals with such deformities in the last two thousand years, including Albert Einstein, substantially contributed to most knowledge accumulated by humans. This implies that knowledge is a result of unusual patterns in the brain and humans in general are not really designed to go a lot further than the basic attributes in their objective function, largely driven by food and reproduction.

Understanding their limitations is a leap forward for humans as their forward momentum depends largely on the arrival of the next genius. There has not been a positive sign in the last hundred years as they move technology forward at the destruction of the delicate greenhouse they have been afforded. As they travel to nearby planets, extend life incrementally and double computing power every 18 months, they have to realize that none of these have any fundamental impact on knowledge. For that, humans still require a major deformity in the brain of one of the billions of specimens they seem to have replicated into.

As indicated in the article (1) " It is not enough to have a good mind, the main thing is to use it well."


(1) http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/05/descartes-s-brain-had-bulging-frontal-cortex

Friday, April 28, 2017

Faking news

Recent news that an unvaccinated Portuguese girl has died of measles (1) is a constant reminder that ignorance can exact a high cost. A single individual with a fraudulent study (2) may have caused humanity, a high level of disutility. Humans often fall prey to small N experiments and it further reinforces the need to eradicate ignorance.


Humans have always been susceptible to small experiment bias. However, small experiments may have played a substantial role in human progression. If the outcomes are of very high probability, small experiments may have been sufficient to learn - such as taking the right run at the fork, gets you killed by the waiting lion. A few experiments may have been sufficient to establish truth in this case. However, to prove that vaccination causes autism takes a few more than a dozen.


Education systems around the world may have to incorporate a better understanding of statistics into their curriculum. Understanding that truth is not revealed by one or few experiments is important and that may allow large swaths of the world population to get over "fake news." Faking news has become a strategic weapon. If a population is susceptible to believing what they see or hear, without asking for proof, ignorance will unambiguously rise to the top and that could have unpredictable negative effects on society.


Education has to evolve appropriately to add value to society.




(1) http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/04/riskiest-vaccine-one-not-given


(2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3136032/

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Stuck in a quantum state

Development of life over the past few billion years on Earth shows few regime changes and evolution has been largely an incremental process. The organizing principle has remained the same from the inception of life till now - from a single cell entity to larger accumulation of the same in more specialized life. The objective functions remained simple with only a handful of attributes and optimization has been trivial. Extrapolation of the status-quo seems to imply that life on Earth is stuck in a quantum state and seemingly for ever.
 
Some have been dissatisfied with the overall progress of societal structure and organization. Academics and philosophers have proposed alternatives to enhance aggregate societal utility, largely by redistribution and reorganization. But they seem to miss a more fundamental issue - societies cannot transverse quantum states incrementally. To propel to the next quantum state, contemporary societies need a technology discontinuity, likely in the realm of energy. To make this happen, knowledge has to increase exponentially but in level 0, there appears to be a hard cap on knowledge.
 
If level 1 societies exist elsewhere in the universe, they would certainly have mastered energy as there appears to be plenty, freely available. With zero cost energy, such societies could organize around fully networked thoughts and transport modalities. Organization would be automatically optimal with a singular, albeit complex, objective function of the network rather than that of the individual. If it were to progress further, then the scope could be extended across universes and that would require another step-function change.
 
Humans seem to have approached societal design and optimization with a set of wrong assumptions. Visions of a level 1 society are not useful in thinking about optimality in the current state. A more practical question is what could be achieved in contemporary societies. Evidence shows free markets with well defined rules of engagement that apply equally to all participants move societies closer to an optimal state. However, humans have segregated themselves into countries, religions, languages, size and color and they pose hard constraints on free markets. With localized optimization dominating policy, we may be rewinding time back and destroying the precious little that was accomplished in the last ten thousand years.
 
Thought experiments that portray level 1 societies are useful abstract notions but with little practical utility. If 4 billion years do not show a slope that will get earthlings to the next quantum state, it is unlikely. Then, the real question is how to best utilize the limited time afforded to the blue planet in a state that cannot be breached.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Back to Europa


ET experts at the space agency have been focused on exoplanets for several years. After the proclamation that ET would arrive by 2020, there have been increased activities on multiple fronts. It has been known for a while that both Europa (Jupiter’s moon) and Enceladus (Saturn’s moon) harbor vast oceans and energy sources underneath their barren surfaces. As exoplanets similar to the Earth began to show up across the Milky Way, the ET enthusiasts seem to have taken their eye off possible habitats in their neighborhood.

Now that the space agency has determined that the probability of contact of green men at an exoplanet by 2020, whether it is the “exact twin,” of mother Earth, is small, they are back on neighborhood prowl and that may be a good thing. If humans were ever going to make “contact,” it could only be with the micro-organisms in Europa or Enceladus. However, as the space agency, on a binge of crashing space probes through the pristine atmospheres of these moons, have to be careful not to contaminate the oceans in these habitats. Otherwise, they may just find Salmonella there and declare victory. The process of sterilization has not been good and it is unclear if any of the single cell organisms that hitched rides on spacecrafts, used in interplanetary missions, is setting up colonies  in those planets before the mighty human gets there.

More importantly, in spite of the somewhat suspect sterilization regimen, if the space agency fails to find life in Europa and Enceladus, one has to wonder what it means. So far, most ET hunters have argued that it does not mean anything, for there are trillions of possibilities out there. That is true, but there is no free lunch in the absence of infinite resources. If no Salmonella was found in Europa and Enceladus, it may be time to take a break from ET hunting and focus on more mundane things such as protecting the Earth from an asteroid impact.

Extra-terrestrials appear not have a great desire to make contact with humans and I wonder why?