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.