Resisting Reduction: A Manifesto

Designing our Complex Future with Machines.


New Discussion on May 11
Jessie Henshaw
Learning from Nature’s most common development process: beginning with growth, ending with refinement.
The most common end to growth in nature, though often uncertain, is also the kind of transformation for our economy everyone seems to be looking for. Organization in nature generally begins as a system of multiplying frameworks of design that capture growing resources, like growth in the womb or the start-up growth establishing a new businesses, even the emergence of storms and lightning strikes. Then as if by magic that explosive stating emergence can then turn into a convergence, that produces a single unifying design as if by the collaboration of all the parts. You see the same basic pattern in any new form of organization that then matures, like the formation of a social group, an emerging culture, or an office project, not to mention the growth of organisms and ecologies that also begin with exponential expansion before converging on a common unified design. You even see it in such small scale organizational projects as “making dinner” or writing a note, going from exploratory to converging design. The hallmark is first developing by bigger and bigger steps as options for new extensions are explored, then switching to converging on a unified design, to become optimized as a whole and ending in what we see as nature’s perfection. Of course that’s also what we do with any research project too, goinig from exploration to refinement. Perhaps in addition to studying this common pattern of natural design, it would also be worth studying why people don't seem to think of development this way. That we are indeed very practiced in acting this way, developing our end products toward perfection, makes how we designed the economy something of a great riddle. A new paper on the general subject, “systems thinking for systems making,” was recently published online:
Potential vs. Actualization
Patrick Bouchaud
The ultimate goal of martial arts is to learn how not to use them.
New Discussion on Mar 31
Bruce Caron
Irreducibility is a feature, not something to resolve. Even as a festival (where there is genuine festivity, meaning also there is unmanaged risky activities) cannot be reduced to a game (although games are necessarily open-ended and sometimes fail), and any game cannot be simply reduced to a spectacle (a pre-programmed simulation of the game); unknowability is a requirement for a sizable amount of human life and cultural work. It might be a good place to talk about culture here, as this pops up in the conclusion. A great amount of culture involves sharing proxies (e.g. meanings) that allow social groups to manage unknowability without reducing this. Cultures fail, at times by attempting to reduce the unknowability of experience into something static and durable. 
Don't you think it's in Reduction's interest to be resisted?
Valeria Pannunzio
This seems to me to resonate closely with Latour’s post-Prometheanism. I dare to make the connection as I think it reveals yet another nuance to the meaning of resisting (over)reduction. One practical implication of adopting an ‘humble’ approach is the capacity to take full responsibility over outcomes, including failures. Humility confers the power to expect, therefore detect, therefore admit defeats. Reductionism, on the other hand, faces structural difficulties in fitting evidence of failure within its paradigm of linear progression. From this angle, it would seem that resisting reduction is something reduction itself may need the most. Does this make any sense?
overly negative
Pattie Maes
Again, I find this to be overly negative and one-sided. Money and power are not the only things that “make the world go around”. They do not drive not for profits, foundations, charities, teachers, etc.
overly negative and simplified view of primary currencies
Pattie Maes
What about social capital, social currency?
Human intelligence can’t be transferred to machines
JoseAntonio Vanderhorst-Silverio and Patrick Bouchaud
Human intelligence can’t be transferred to machines
until it is
Will #QuestioningAdults create #AlvinToffler’s Third Wave as the #SystemicCivilization?
JoseAntonio Vanderhorst-Silverio
Will #QuestioningAdults create #AlvinToffler’s Third Wave as the #SystemicCivilization?
New Discussion on Mar 6
Daniel Stahlnecker II
The system achieve immortality by consuming the body of “man”.
New Discussion on Mar 6
Daniel Stahlnecker II
It seems to me the goal of the singulatarian is to prevent physical death which will prevent ideological death, with theorectically will prevent the death of the system.
New Discussion on Mar 6
Daniel Stahlnecker II, Bjarke Calvin, and Timothy Fredel
I would argue that, “Singularitarians believe that the world is “knowable” and thus computationally controllable.” A simulation doesn’t have benefit unless it provides insights for improved methods of controlling or managing the system.
This also rests on the premise that everything is measurable processes within our brains, similar to how bits work in a computer. But there is a possibility that part of the process takes place outside of our brains, as some form of tassid knowledge sharing or even collective consciousness (I realize this is somewhat controversial in a scientific context, but it’s an idea worth exploring at least as a hypothesis). If that is true, then trying to replicate a world, simply by observing the individual human brain, would be similar to trying to figure out how a radio works, without realizing that it receives audio through an antenna, or observing how a computer works without realizing it’s connected to the cloud.
Chaotic systems, such as the weather, are, by definition, sensitive to initial conditions and, therefore, are unable to be simulated for anything but short periods of time.
New Discussion on Mar 6
Daniel Stahlnecker II
Unchecked evolutionary consumption leads to cancerous (cancer defined in these terms as: Efficiently Productive, by-product of highly focused specialization. ) outcomes. As the curve towards exponential growth increases more resources must be consumed in order to support the basic function of highly efficient specialized systems with decreasing benefits to system participants. The system becomes the parasite/cancer (Singularity)
New Discussion on Mar 6
Daniel Stahlnecker II
Transitions from “specialized machines of flesh and blood” to “specialized machines modeled on flesh and blood”.
New Discussion on Mar 6
Daniel Stahlnecker II
An additional aspect of this could the the difference between those who directly benefit from the system versus those who receive limited or no benefit from the system. Generally, the systems “economic” process are design to support, re-inforce, and exploit only the resources available to it. For societal level systems that is pretty much everything. The resources that are outside the system or are not a function of the systems operation are neglected and either wither and die or become parasitical in order to survive off the dominant systems resources, waste, etc.Also, the concentration of money/power inside the system drives extreme uniformity of thought and action. (function of highly efficient productivity). All actions must increase the life of the system leading to a decreased possibility of external feedback correcting system performance. Formerly, effective internal control mechanisms become less and less effective. Think Mark Zuckerberg’s rural US tour to “figure out what happened” as an attempt to get external feedback into the system. I would also argue among the benefits of the Google/Alphabet restructuring is to quarantine theses types of negative effects inside Google/YouTube while protecting the rest of their intellectual and financial capital.
Human Asymptote
Melek Somai
This notion of asymptote in singularity appears to be compatible with its human counterpart (at least the platonic definition of humanity). What if the justification of singularity is the “growth” of human knowledge without reaching “ever” the asymptote of virtue/“god”?
Is China also on "... the worship of exponential growth applied to modern computation and science"?
JoseAntonio Vanderhorst-Silverio
Following Alvin Toffler, China was supposed to work on two tracks: Second Wave and Third Wave, in which the latter was supposed to be “a fundamental change in the paradigm.” Is China’s drive towards becoming a leader in a religion similar to that of Silicon Valley?
The Triple Bottom Line of AI for a Sustainable Future
Mariano Escobedo
“No es que sea pesimista, es que el mundo es pésimo” - José SaramagoWhen considering the anthropogenic risk of human extinction, the story is all about the struggle for power and control. Adding to nuclear weapons, biotechnology, and climate change, human survival must face Singularity now. The root of the problem is unleashed greed and arrogance combined with ignorance, either real or willful, leading to the accumulation of economic, political, religious, and military power to satisfy immediate, unlimited, real and imaginary, needs and wants without regard for others or the environment. A possible solution is sustainable development with accountability: advancing social and environmental responsibility that is consistent with economic efficiency (triple bottom line sustainability). Assuming that education can tame greed and arrogance, this solution requires a paradigm shift in education and awareness of core human values. Setting limits to the accumulation of power and control implies real, inclusive, horizontal, participatory democracy including minorities and indigenous communities, not to rely on an all powerful, all knowledgeable, benevolent despot solution or Singularity which may take us faster to a self fulfilling prophecy of extinction.For the economy, this solution implies to foster simultaneous competition and cooperation (coopetition), social entrepreneurship, and effective regulation of non competitive markets and the financial system. In society, more democracy, inclusiveness, solidarity, universal education and healthcare will be needed. For the environment, reforestation, a cradle to cradle approach for conservation, renewable sources of energy and construction materials, as well as effective regulation of highly polluting industries must be adopted; If the right incentives could be codified, a series of algorithms will allow machines to learn and expand human capabilities to pursue their own self interest compatible with social welfare in a more efficient manner. The result is enhanced creative destruction, a desirable paradigm for progress in a blue ocean.All these efforts will render useless if denuclearization cannot be achieved and climate change cannot be reversed. However, with a better balance of power, universal education, and the help of extended intelligence derived from human compatible AI we might finally have a better chance to solve  all of these issues at once and be on the right path to a more sustainable evolution of life on earth.
New Discussion on Mar 2
Niraj Swami
Yes! Intriguing to see how network effects amplify in this self-to-self ‘network’.
currencies // capitals
Sebastian Munoz-Najar
It’s curious how the concept of currencies in complex systems mirrors one of the main theoretical propositions in XX c. sociology. Namely, the idea that social space is made up of fields, each with a specific form of capital and capital and specific conversion rates across fields. Further, the idea of dominant currencies is reflected in the notion of a field of power—often the State in developed countries—that determines the rates of conversion between fields in terms of a single form of capital whose accumulation it can regulate. In field theory, the conversion of capital across fields is often described as a form of symbolic violence. Stability is the outcome of successful domination. System-wide adaptation is achieved via more or less coordinated exercises of power. Instability is not sufficient for system-wide change, it’s necessary to have structural opportunities to challenge power as well, and these are few and infrequent.
Forms of diffusion
Sebastian Munoz-Najar
Why is it likely that a culture of flourishing would spread like forms of art? It seems to me like the specific form of diffusion at play here is an open question. I’m curious about what kind of comparative anthropology would provide a convincing answer in this matter.From the examples in the following paragraphs it appears that schooling is one of the fundamental vehicles for the kind of cultural change the author is thinking about. We know however, that the transformation of the values spoused by schooling systems can hardly be compared to the ebb and flow of fashion trends— it would be inadequate to describe change in these institutions as a “correction away” from one culture to another. Consider desegregation as an example of a radical transformation in the values espoused by school systems. Cultural change and diffusion can only be described in this case as continued struggle.I expect that the author is in fact thinking of something like this. And that he would retort that spread in fashion and art also occurs through confrontation, struggle. But for an article that invokes resisting in its title there’s very little detail as to how resistance would play out. By what means? Against what specific institutions? Further, who is resisting already as a matter of survival, and how do we help them? I understand that the genre of manifesto does not require specific answers to the questions above. I wonder if these are however the matters that we must resolve most urgently. What’s more, I’m curious as to what kind of comparative framework can inform our expectations of how culture change might play out. Particularly, how should we outline our expectation of change if we assume a broad definition of education as “the entire process by which a culture transmits itself across the generations.”
Systems have to have a constant energy input
Benjamin Lang
This is what concerns me the most. Systems by definition have to be sustainable. That means they have to have a constant energy input. The modern world is designed and built on fossil fuels, and the million-year-old stack has been used almost entirely just within two centuries. This was basically free lunch (the whole portion at a single bite) and even economists know that there is no such thing as free lunch. From a mere energy perspective, past growth rates can not be sustained, even with a massive push in renewables (as we still are a 90% fossil fuel society today). So our rigorous efficiency-driven systems design (from economics to health care to education) of the past will lead us straight towards failure, when we can not make the leap to a resilient systems future. Steve Hallett has been doing some great thinking about this topic!
Preservation at Ise Shrine
Patsy Baudoin
The culturally motivated recreation of the Ise Shrine over 1300 years is also a terrific example of the sort of preservation that yields value-driven survival of physical artifacts. It makes the most of the transmission of knowledge from the elders who built to the younger generation who must rebuild. There is no sense of an “original” — no template, no ur-shrine as we have in the West (think of how we, in the West, preserve a painting or a sculpture by trying to recapture its original state, colors, etc. We do not preserve a Rembrandt by recreating it; we “fix” — and today using digital means, aligned with a linear and AI view of things. The new shrine doesn’t strive to be somehow identical to an original or a perfect replica; rather its preservation is a matter of values and negotiating the complexities of the old, the new, and the future.
Might Peter #Drucker’s new management paradigm help avoid #TheBoPReckoning?
JoseAntonio Vanderhorst-Silverio
Might Peter #Drucker’s new management paradigm help avoid #TheBoPReckoning?
Leaning against Covey’s Habit “Begin with the End in Mind” right wall
JoseAntonio Vanderhorst-Silverio
Leaning against Covey’s Habit “Begin with the End in Mind” right wall
New Discussion on Feb 10
James Rose
Very exciting essay. Challenging habituated thinking is a difficult thing to expect people to reflect on, but is absolutely needed as we rapidly move into a future that is transforming faster than humanity has ever had to adapt to before. I would suggest you add Benj Whorf as an important analyst of how we recognize the global environment around us. Not the conventional opinions of Whorf’s remarks about language, but the following:From “Language, Thought and Reality”, ed. John Carroll, 1956."The familiar saying that the exception proves the rule contains a good deal of wisdom, though from the standpoint of formal logic it became an absurdity as soon as "prove" no longer meant "put on trial." The old saw began to be profound psychology from the time it ceased to have standing in logic. What it might well suggest to us today is that, if a rule has absolutely no exceptions, it is not recognized as a rule or as anything else; it is then part of the background of experience of which we tend to remain unconscious. Never having experienced anything to contrast to it, we cannot isolate it and formulate it as a rule until we enlarge our experience and expand our base of reference that we encounter an interruption of its regularity.""For instance, if a race of people had the physiological defect {aka: "limitation"} of being able to see only the color blue, they would hardly be able to formulate the rule that they saw only blue. The term blue would convey no meaning to them, their language would lack color terms, and their words denoting various sensations of blue would answer to, and translate, our words "light, dark, white, black", and so on, not our word "blue". ... The phenomenon of gravitation forms a rule without exceptions; needless to say, the untutored person is utterly unaware of any law of gravitation, for it would never enter his head to conceive of a universe in which bodies behaved otherwise than they do at the earth's surface. ... The law could not be formulated until bodies which always fell were seen in terms of a wider astronomical world in which bodies moved in orbits or went this way and that." ...... "When linguists became able to examine critically and scientifically a large number of languages of widely different patterns, their base of reference was expanded; they experienced an interruption of phenomena hitherto held universal, and a whole new order of significances came into their ken. It was found that the background linguistic system (in other words, the grammar) of each language is not merely a reproducing instrument for voicing ideas but ... is itself the shaper of ideas, the program and guide for the individual's mental activity, for his analysis of impressions, for his synthesis of his mental stock in trade." ...... "This fact is very significant for modern science, for it means that no individual is free to describe nature with absolute impartiality but is constrained to certain modes of interpretation even while he thinks himself most free. The person most nearly free in such respects would be ... familiar with very many widely different ... systems. ... We are thus introduced to a new principle of "relativity", which holds that all observers are not led by the same physical evidence to the same picture of the universe .... unless their linguistic backgrounds are similar, or can in someway be calibrated."“This is a cybernetics viewpoint, written in a pre-Wiener context … but the association should be recognizable.Thank you for discussing the challenge that humanity faces in the years ahead. Maintaining the conventional mindset is more problematic than useful … and we need fresh clear NEW understandings.James Rose (Integrity Paradigm) (
The Power to Transcend Paradigms
Turil Cronburg
I think that this will naturally happen when we seek to collect a whole planet’s worth of personal stories about what is most precious life on Earth - the persons, places, and things that individuals have found so impactful on their lives. When we get a large representation of all the individuals on Earth - animal, vegetable, mineral, and whatever else - to share their stories (in whatever way they can), I think a new, more globally meaningful, paradigm, and accompanying set of rules, goals, etc., will emerge.
Humility, not Hubris
Howard Gardner and Turil Cronburg
You make it clear that we all use metaphors and paradigms to explain the world to ourselves and to others--indeed we lack other options. In that vein, you contrast a systems-feedback approach, (with multiple evolutionary systems, etc.) with a singularity, linear or expansive approach.  But it’s important to recognize that the reality is what it is—and while it’s fortunate that we can model it and try to understand it, there is no ultimate ‘correct’ final paradigm, no fully adequate metaphor(s).  Thomas Kuhn was correct in that sense. (And while I much admire E. O. Wilson, he is wrong—the paradigms that may work for physics have no deep relation to the paradigms that work for music or sculpture or geology or psychology--nor is there any reason to think that there is a seamless web that connects them all--yet another 'world hypothesis' (Pepper) or themata (Holton).You speak about a universal belief in progress. But that is a Western idea, from the last few centuries--in the past cyclical beliefs were at least as prevalent.  I learned this first hand when I ran a project on ‘human potential’ some decades ago and looked into the literature on progress, for example  Robert Nisbet’s history of the idea of progress..By the same token, we may indeed live in a Silicon alley-Wall Street accented civilization in which the primary currencies are money and power. But again, that hardly suffices across history or, indeed, across cultures.  Moreover, how power is construed is very different—Gandhi had neither money nor power (in the usual sense, never held elective or even appointed office) and yet was a dominant figure while alive and remains very influential wherever nonviolent protest (satyagraha) takes place. So, too, Martin Luther King, Jr. And human beings existed for a long time without currency (let alone blockchains!), from all we can tell.I do like  your featuring of ‘religion’—also an analogy and metaphor.  Ironic that those who believe in the new religion are the very ones who tend to be dubious (if not downright hostile) about traditional religions. Perhaps each era and each population needs its own custom-made or invented religion…and these ad hoc religions need to be labeled as such!Knowing our geographical planet is daunting enough—and there is a much larger universe out there as well—and of course, we have no way of knowing whether our ways of knowing (or those of the machines or programs or hybrid organisms that we create) are adequate to the universe (with its black holes) or even to our tiny solar system. Or, for that matter, if the universe cares! Or what happened before the universe appeared, or after it disappears….I call for more humility, less hubris.Moving to education, drill and practice goes back thousands of years. This regimen did not need Skinner, and Skinner did not have much impact on educational practice.  Those of us ‘in the know’ hope that Papert, Resnick, and their associates  at the Media Lab will have more power—but until now, drill and practice carry the day.  Ellen Lagemann, Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education a decade ago once quipped, that in the struggle  between (Edward) Thorndike and (John) Dewey, Thorndike won.As someone who has spent decades thinking about and studying intelligence, of course, I am interested in the search for intelligence or for supra-intelligent devices.  I note that intelligence here seems to be restricted to problem solving, whereas human intelligence (or intelligences, my term) are properly applied as well to problem finding—in which all of us are engaged as scholars. The fans of “AI” take human intelligence, as they understand it, as a model—but again, we have no idea whether the ‘ultimate designers of the universe’ employed intelligence(s) anything like ours.  In your discussion of ‘extended intelligence’  you may be making the same kind of point. I like the invocation of music—especially improvisation—so long as you underscore that it, too, is just a helpful analogy.When I saw the word ‘amortality,’ I immediately thought of ‘amorality.’ Because of course, the desire for raw intelligence and for raw computational power, completely bypasses issues of morality and ethics—ones which I am glad to know that you are tackling---for example in your current seminar and in the large cooperative project with the Berkman Center. For me, this is the biggest question- –and one which, as long as I am around, I want to entrust to living, breathing mortal human beings, and not to the devices that we create,and that those devices might want to create in turn.  Two cheers for diversity, two and one half cheers for happiness, but three cheers for diversity and happiness that honor morality and ethics, in a Rawlsian and Kantian sense.
You make a good point about there not being a “correct” outcome, I think. Part of evolution (which I believe is the same as the process of entropy) is experimentation and refinement. Random mutations need to happen, and then the combinations that have the highest fitness (literally they fit into the ecosystem well) end up being the things that stick around and get reproduced. This process of experimentation and refinement happens with matter (as in genes) and energy (as in art/technology/culture). The final outcome can be many different things, because there are probably many different combinations of combinations that can make an effective, thriving ecosystem. Any one of them would do well for us. So not having a specific future imagined is probably helpful. Being flexible and trusting nature’s learning process of evolution to guide us as we experiment and refine is probably our best tactic here.
A call to reverse immigration starting with energy’s #PersonalTrust currency in rural areas
JoseAntonio Vanderhorst-Silverio
A call to reverse immigration starting with energy’s #PersonalTrust currency in rural areas
Making sure large high tech companies have visible #CharacterEthic #ProSystem CEOs
JoseAntonio Vanderhorst-Silverio
This story Making sure large high tech companies have visible #CharacterEthic #ProSystem CEOs is for the consideration of people with "freedom of mind" ready to embrace the #CharacterEthic to go for #SocialBusiness3DoC, which is beyond the #PersonalityEthic and #SocialMedia of people that might lack said "freedom of mind."
A non confrontational story: Is it now easier for #WEF18 leaders to burn #4IR bridges to create the #SystemicCivilization?
JoseAntonio Vanderhorst-Silverio
Please consider distributing as wide as possible the non confrontational story Is it now easier for #WEF18 leaders to burn #4IR bridges to create the #SystemicCivilization? for the occasion of the the 48th @WEF Annual Meeting that will take place on 23-26 January in #Davos, #Switzerland.
Separating business from money
JoseAntonio Vanderhorst-Silverio
This is edited from new tweets on the tweet conversation on “Is “Resisting Reduction: A Manifesto” the right “Human use of human beings” audience? “@cally_priest Thanks! From "Its all business and dollars what about the basic needs and rights of ppl.x" let's separate business from dollars. On business, my philosophy started to emerged initially from @PKoestenbaum's "Do You Have the Will to Lead? ( …)." On dollars, @Joi's "INTRODUCTION: THE CANCER OF CURRENCY" on "Resisting Reduction: A Manifesto ( … )," says, for example, "The biggest difference between these and financial currencies is that there is no 'master currency' or 'currency exchange.'"
New Discussion on Jan 17
Vinicius Soares, Joichi Ito, Turil Cronburg, and Daniel Stahlnecker II
I was wondering if the advent of so many cryptocurrencies, derived from different applications and purposes, is anyhow connected to this aspect of different natural “currencies” for different values, that support different relationships.
I think the cryptocurrencies could be part of the answer to diversifying. I think the work on using blockchain and other cryptographic accounting efforts could add value. There is a risk to “over-quantizing” nature which might not be reducible to just numbers, but I think it would be a great step forward to create a way to account for natural resources in our economy.
I see crypto offering us two valuable things:Helping humans see the irrationality of trying to keep score ($, £, ¥, etc.) in some grand Monopoly game. When money can be created by anyone, and traded for arbitrary amounts that fluctuate dramatically, it starts to be seen as a silly thing, compared to things of real value, like what Maslow listed in his hierarchy of needs. (At least it’s silly for basic resource allocation. For games it’s fine.)Creating a global data for resource tracking to be used in what I call a “resource dating service” where you input your offers of excess resources (materials, art, technology, etc.) and your needs/wants, and some global system helps connect the offers and requests effectively and efficiently.
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Is “Resisting Reduction: A Manifesto” the right “Human use of human beings” audience?
JoseAntonio Vanderhorst-Silverio
This is the text of an image that I just tweeted with the above title:After having read Steve J. Heims’ 1988 introduction to Norbert Wiener’s “Human Use Of Human Beings,“ I wonder if “Resisting Reduction: A Manifesto” is the proper audience for the “human - rather than the inhuman - use of human beings”?•Like Wiener, who became “acquainted with current research on a broad range of topics outside of his specialty,” I have been very critical of the ‘Groupthink’ of the industrial civilization statu quo inhuman use of human beings. •Unlike Wiener, who remained at MIT (that was and still seem to be heavily involved with the statu quo), I have refused to get a job with them since 2010. Such ‘Groupthink’ emerged as what I coined as the March of Folly of the #DarkGlobalization. •As I interpreted Alvin Toffler’s Third Wave, my key effort was to go above politics (and culture, economics, religion), which recently emerged as “Politics is dead” for the Industrial Civilization, “Long live politics!” for what I coined as the #SystemicCivilization. Such an effort above politics,  can now be seen after reading Heims as the result of my personal humanistic philosophy.•After trying many different audiences, without success in #SocialMedia’s person to person etiquette, under unavoidable peripheral excursions, I understand that the proper audience of leaders must come from what I coined as #SocialBusiness3DoC which has the emerging non technology User Experience #UX etiquette.
the cancer of measure
monika hardy
‘Scientists often call these molecules “currencies” because they represent a form of power that is transferred between cells or processes to mutual benefit—“traded,” in effect. The biggest difference between these and financial currencies is that there is *no “master currency” or “currency exchange.”’perhaps rather.. there is *no measuring being done ..meaning.. it's not whether or not there's a master currency (which seems to be our ongoing obsession)'s that we thought we had to measure it out in the first place.. the process (photosynthesis et al) emerges.. the parts do what they are made/meant to do.. they do what they can't not do (call it their art).. perhaps we have to trust that to get back in balance.. (which would beg a leap.. because sync would matter)
An update on the IEEE Spectrum 2025 Smart Grid Game
JoseAntonio Vanderhorst-Silverio
Is it possible that the IEEE might consider my post “Can the World Economic Forum change its methodology to one that would have avoided, for example, the CES2018 Blackout? ( )” in time for WEF annual meeting next week?That post is an update on the post “Was the Smart Grid 2025 a transition scenario? Do we need a transformation scenario? ( ).”
Singularity and the Soviet Union
Kasia Moreno
You mention that some believe that, in some ways, Singularity will operate like Soviet master planning with full information and unlimited power, and self-regulate to everybody’s benefit. As someone who grew up in a country that was controlled by Soviet Union, I can assure you that the “ communist system” did not figure out how to regulate itself. It had plenty of information, especially about its citizens, but used this information to obtain power and control over its people.The problem is that its currencies - communist apparatchiks - did not create life, but grew like cancer cells, grabbing as much as they can and destroying others in the process.
An Aesthetics of Drift
Nate Storring
Mr. Ito, I must say I was a little disappointed that such an insightful, unique, and timely essay ended with a somewhat conventional and unsure call to arms. I wonder if this small tidbit may help to give further direction to the alternative vision taking shape here.In Jane Jacobs’s 1984 book, Cities and the Wealth of Nations, she praises the idea of anthropologist Tadao Umesao that Japan has flourished historically when it embraced an “aesthetics of drift.” In these periods, they claim, the nation allowed room for the unpredictable and the opportunistic, rather than operating by “resolute purpose.” As a longtime advocate for a complexity-driven approach to understanding cities, economics and ethics, I thought Jacobs’s thoughts here and elsewhere might make an appropriate addition.
Placemaking as an inherently dynamic community process
Fred Kent
Starting in the seventies with a group of social/community researchers, writers, and some activists, we call the Golden Age of research on public life…people like Jane Jacobs, Margaret Mead, William Whyte, and others are the foundation for what we call Placemaking. Project for Public Spaces, which I started in 1975, is an outgrowth of that work. It is fast becoming an international movement, because it supports deeply the arguments you are making against technological singularity. Look at our blog on Sidewalk Labs Placemaking creates complexity which drives constant, naturally organic change. Our long term mantra is “We need to turn everything upside-down, to get it right side-up…to get from inadequate to extraordinary.i like your work immensely, but it is a hard read for most people. The writers I mentioned and a few today are explaining it in similar ways with different language. We see a convergence around the idea of “place” which thrives on complexity.
New Discussion on Dec 22
Kevin Shockey
Why do you call the singularity a religion? Is that the same as Singularitarianism, which is a mouthful, right? Who are these people and companies that are a part of the religion?
New Discussion on Dec 21
Amos Blanton
I’ve been thinking about the stickiness of reductionist approaches like the two you mention here - but especially in the context of education and learning through play. Why do bad ideas like Behaviorism persist for so long in our current human intellectual ecology? Plenty of other similar bad ideas get weeded out more quickly. Behaviorism isn’t effective or even intellectually very strong - yet it and it’s evil offspring persist. I think the reason has to do with the human need for control - even if the sense of control is an illusion. As articulated in the Buddhist tradition, Ego’s need to assert control in the name of the pretense of safety and consistency is such that it will invent means of control that do not in fact work, or are harmful to the self or others. Because the model of behaviorism (and “evidence based assessment of rote learning” to name another important example) is so simple, it’s easy to create a sense of control based on that model. This need is scale invariant - applies to individuals and corporations. The response to people questioning that model tends to be disproportionately intense, as if you were calling into question fundamental values.
New Discussion on Dec 15
Ethan Zuckerman
I think you’re going to need to unpack this further. I’ve heard you make the argument that tackling exponentialism is going to require a cultural change - I think that’s where you’re going with this Fletcher quote, and I’d urge you to make the case more clearly for an anti-exponentialist, pro-cyclical complexity movement that grows through culture…
New Discussion on Dec 15
Ethan Zuckerman
Joi, I’d urge you to expand on and develop this example. In bringing us into conversation about thinking in systems and flows, rather than exponential curves, you need to give us a vision of the future you want us to see. The Singulatarians and exponentialists have their dream, and it’s a compelling one - deathless, all complexities solved by computers of infinite power. Ise Shrine is the first vision I’ve seen here of what your perfect circular, sustainable world might look like - I think selling this concept involves building out those optimistic futures more thoroughly.
New Discussion on Dec 14
Ethan Zuckerman
You may want to look at some of George Soros’s work on reflexivity. GS has written on the idea of trying to optimize within systems where our own behaviors will influence the system. He ends up in some of the same places you do, with humility about unknowability as one of the steps towards understanding these systems more deeply.
Is the trouble currency, or exponentialism?
Ethan Zuckerman, monika hardy, and David Guzman
Joi, I’m struck by this idea and the idea that currencies are potentially cancerous. Currency, as a metaphor, has at least two meanings. It’s a medium for exchange of value, as another of your commenters has pointed out, but it’s also a way of keeping score. You’re rich, therefore you’re thriving in an environment and we should optimize towards doing things the way you’re doing them. You rightly point out that this is a view that leads to shallow optima and fragile systems, rather than the robust, resilient and complex ones you want. As we head in that direction, you may need a currency - as scorekeeping mechanism - that rewards resiliency. It’s hard for people to optimize for something they don’t know how to track - how do we measure the resiliency of systems and celebrate them in a way like the ways we currently celebrate currencies of money and power?
‘It’s hard for people to optimize for something they don’t know how to track’ maybe that’s part of the cancer
How about changing the definition of the value given to that currency? The currency doesn't need to be changed, but perhaps it can be resignified. We would be modifying the third function of money, which is being a unit of value, so what if every unit of that currency now implies that a good or a service was obtained using concepts described in this manifesto such as participant design, diversity; or resiliency? that is, ensuring less value is given to outputs of systems that are less interconnected or that operate at the expense of other systems. In this case we enter the politics dimension in which this currency exchange needs to be regulated, idea that might not be welcome, let alone approved by those who celebrate currencies of money and power.
Consciousness may be a key
Zen Benefiel
There are so many natural cycles, rhythms and patterns in consciousness that have gone either unnoticed or severely underutilized when considering new developments, imho. I sense there is also an explosion of awareness (self, other and collective) that parallels the information curve and holds keys we are just beginning to explore, like Tom Campbell's work. There is an inner sense that still hasn't been recognized to any great degree, although Senge and Scharmer attempt to garner attention with the U-Theory model and the idea of co-presencing. These things are just as important in the pursuit of happiness and better living through the application of new technologies.
No Sidestepping Morality
Sean Kennedy
The partner of this striven-for “amortality” is a certain kind of amorality.  There is always the question of progress toward what?  By claiming its inevitability, advocates of a certain brand of progress seek to place their goals outside the realm of debate.  But those goals contain an inherent set of values, just as the assumptions behind the programming of any “artificial intelligence” contains sets of values. The same could be said for “growth”.  Who’s rising up against the growth of literacy, health, or beauty?  It’s the unchecked growth of things we don’t value that is the problem.  It’s not the amount of consumption that’s the problem it’s the nature of the consumed goods and the side-effects of producing and consuming those goods.  (I, for one, would love to see a much greater emphasis on the production and consumption of high-quality cultural goods vs low-quality consumer goods.)  I worry that the attempt to posit models like the homeostasis of natural systems as a replacement to the current dominant financial model also sidesteps the question of morality.  At some point, we need to talk about what we value as a community and then adjust our systems of currency to appropriately reflect those values.
Technology Tradeup on Quality
Will Bible
Joi - You point out here that conventional thinking on digital technology points toward using it as a replacement/substitute. On a positive note, I’ve observed that digital transformation also gives us the ability to “trade up on quality” rather than “substitute for lower cost”. For example, if instead of driving to a store to select a purchase from a limited number mass produced, low cost goods, I can search a wide range of customized goods quickly, I am more likely to “spend” my time savings by finding a bespoke / customized good at the same or higher price point. In this way, technology uncovered a hidden trade-off I had accepted: lower quality for convenience.In my work, I’ve seen a similar effect when automating tasks. While the task might be reduced/eliminated, it gives the task performer visibility into hidden quality trade-offs. The performer can instead focus creative efforts on quality improvement, rather than task performance. Is it time to start measuring not just worker productivity, but also output quality?
Reduction considered harmful
Monica Anderson
See story starts at
New Discussion on Nov 14
Mihaela Ulieru
Oh! Music above law!… YES! Since my undergrad years chasing feedback loops in linear control systems, I’ve been searching for an answer to more organic forms of governance
Yo-Yo Ma
Seed, Energize, Reach, Verify, Evolve: SERVE.Goal of all art forms, disciplines, leaders. To benefit mankind. Our biological and cultural imperative.
Yo-Yo Ma and Ryan Tanaka
This is brilliant, sophisticated, timely. Question, what do you want to do with this manifesto? Socio-economic political cultural movement? To begin with, who do you want to read this? In what spaces?I know people who are working on this on the political side. I am interested in the arts and sciences ie buildable memory cultural side. 
Don’t know if people would agree with my conclusions here, but I’ve been working on developing my music in relation to housing issues around the Bay Area recently.I believe that it’s important for us to develop a sensibility for diversity not just as an abstract exercise, but in ways that reflect our day to day lives. We’re in need of new visions of how we plan to co-exist with one another, and I do think that artists have the ability to pave the way here in very real ways.
Where and when artificial intelligence meets collective intelligencce
Stefaan Verhulst and Melek Somai
One suggestion may be to consider how collective and artificial intelligence can be integrated more - See my recent medium article calling for “Augmented Collective Intelligence” and “Human-Driven AI” -
the link is broken
Forms of Currencies
Christoph Hinske, JoseAntonio Vanderhorst-Silverio, and Pattie Maes
Interviewing 22 transformational leaders from around the world, done in a recent study commisioned by the German Government (and picked up by Forbes Magazine), we also asked: “What are the currencies underlying societal transformation processes? What properties do they have? Is everything exchanged through scarcity- based, interest-based money? We found that transformations at the societal level are based both on the criteria of "the more one gives the more one receives" and on making co-investment into a future possibility that leverages individual and collective choice. To do these, the exchange of value through scarcity based FIAT money is improved by adding many other forms of value exchange. We found that successful societal scale transformations are always driven by an expanded Understanding of Modes of Exchanging Value: Value in societal scale transformations consciously includes additional currencies such as trust, spirituality and scientific knowledge. Furthermore, collectively developed ideas, sharing of opportunities, contributions of time, sharing of relations and access through built relationships of trust and the emergent patterns or synergies that arise are all currencies with massive power for the success of a societal scale transformation. We found that stakeholders in such processes tend to be clear that it is not about the investment itself, but the recognition that in order to solve problems at a societal scale, they need to integrate broader perspectives, conversations and actions. Thus, they broaden their definition of value exchange and make use of approaches that go beyond money, primarily to build on and include the exchange of people’s distinct, unique contributions.
Should we question the currency of scientific knowledge as being reductionist by lacking enough currency of trust and spirituality?
What about social capital, social ties & relationships, I would have expected you to add that as one of the primary currencies?
New Discussion on Nov 9
Jason Lee and Joichi Ito
Joi - what about the work of Howard T. Odum on ecosystems and his theory of a solar based energy currency the emjoule?, many of the links between emjoules and higher order complex systems are only sketched out in Odum’s writing, but it still offers a kind of ‘God' currency’. What do you think?
I think this is quite interesting. Thanks for the link!
New Discussion on Nov 9
Jason Lee
While I wholeheartedly agree with most of the points in the article, as a designer I am concerned with how we can move from the zero sum logic that governs most individual systems to a more ecosystemic (is that word?) understanding of inputs, outputs and waste. And, if we can think about the interaction of systems at different altitudes, where does that leave us as people (users)? Will we be more empowered or less?
Graphics Based Artificial Intelligence
Terry Daniels
True Artificial Intelligence is here. I created a codeless video AI that uses motion graphics to instantly respond to user mental inquiry.
New Discussion on Nov 3
Anselme Mucunguzi
I very much enjoyed this manifesto, and it’s long overdue as some of the readers mentioned. The concept that “more than enough is too much” is especially relevant today with the mega Silicon Valley companies. My question, however, is how do we as a society shift to this new paradigm when there is so much power asymmetry and it’s in the best interest of the current mega corporations to resist the change as much as they can? Are there some tools we can use to catalyze the movement?
Making sense of systems dynamics using pattern language
Helene Finidori
This manifesto particularly resonates as I have been writing on and researching this topic for a while (in a PhD in Systems Sciences at Hull in the UK). We need to build tools and methods to reveal systemic behaviors and dynamics and in particular those that seek maximization for the parts (over application of ‘winning strategies’) rather than optimization for the whole (that enable flourishing). Once people can see or anticipate the effects of aggregation, and power laws at play, it becomes easier to collectively have a ‘pharmacological’ approach that takes into account the health of the system as a whole and the effects that our designs unleash -at least this is my wishful thinking!-. This is where AI can help: enhancing human intelligence, and in particular enhancing our ability to ‘read’ the weak signals and the patterns of the complex dynamics around us and the way we can be ‘stuck’ in structures that we cannot even grasp the effects of. So I am working on the idea of pattern literacy in support of systems literacy, with the pattern as unit of meaning-making enabling to discern, design and communicate on form, and as a connector and mediator to cross boundaries. There is a drastic need for tools that can help us navigate systems is open / transparent ways. Resources are currently dedicated to keep us stuck in the existing loops, and to observe us as we loose grasp… If there is a project associated to the manifesto, I would be glad to participate. I am currently based in Boston.
What would Stewart Brand think about this statement?
Mark Kramer and Howard Rheingold
Was is "the hippie movement" or a few hippies (such as Stewart Brand, Kevin Kelly & Howard Rheingold) who spearheaded this “Whole Earth Movement”?
I think “hippie movement” is the kind of generalization and reification that comes from distance in time, space, and culture. As Fred Turner pointed out in “From Counterculture to Cyberculture,” Stewart’s genius was in bringing together different networks. People interested in ecology, alternative energy, natural childbirth, personal computers, systems thinking weren’t some monolithic group. The Whole Earth Catalog brought different networks into collision and made it clear that there was fruitful potential for cross-fertilization because all these interest groups were looking at ways to transform what they perceived to be broken or obsolete in American culture of the 1950s.
More MIT and Global Thinking on Flourishing as a Goal
Antony Upward
Hi everyone,I am part of a small but growing movement that takes the idea of enabling the possibility for flourishing as a potential anchor purpose or "why" for humanity.Almost 20 years ago MIT prof John Ehrenfeld suggested that the only thing scientifically we can sustain and the only thing ethically we should strive to sustain is "the possibility for humans and other life to flourish on this planet for seven generations and beyond". I believe he and Prof Ito are saying very much the same thing. For a good introduction to Prof. Ehrenfeld's thinking see his short Socratic dialog "Flourishing a frank conversation about sustainability". For recent nascent steps to start a global movement to build towards UN Flourishing Goals (to replace the UN Sustainable Development Goals in 2030) please search Twitter #Movement4FlourishingHope this is interesting and helps people of a similar intent align and reinforce their actions.Antony UpwardFlourishing Enterprise Designer & Adjunct Professor
We are long overdue for this discussion...
Naoko Ushimaru-Alsop
It's not just corporations, but ourselves, the tribal, territorial and greedy beings ridden with unsustainability…Many corporations (and states as well) are driven by leaders and stakeholders who focus solely on maximizing their personal profits rather than their organizations' exponential financial (and territorial) growth.What if, one day, "it" tells us to follow a set of some simple rules like the Ten Commandments and tell us all of our problems will be solved if we abide by them?Will we, humans, follow those rules? We know the history. In this scenario, the super intelligence won't be able to save us.As long as we, the imperfect individuals, are the controllers of our intelligent tools, we may not be able to solve our fundamental problems. We need to improve ourselves first by resolving our cognitive dissonance or enhancing the executive functions in our brain so we'll be able to act by reason.I totally agree that we should have a sense of how much is enough with sustainability in mind...
New Discussion on Oct 31
Jermain Kaminski
Dear Joi,I very enjoyed reading your working article! It contributes an unusual view on the progress in HCI. I see it as a good extension of the society/human-in-the-loop discourse. Your highlight on attitude and culture as the OS update behind progress is refreshing. I would personally not agree to the idea of a self-destructive path that we are on, but I can understand when you argue, as you do. What I would recommend though, is to have a look into the past and see, how people centuries ago commented technological change. For instance, consider “Recent Economic Changes”, by David A. Wells, published in 1889. There are many (linear) interpolations of economic change that were false in retrospect and yet, you will find similar sentiments in contemporary literature. We all are very curious what new type of jobs the technological advancements will create. Probably, a few of them they will be where you see the weakness of our current progress: Human experience, dealing with the unknown and complex, systems design.Two short comments we made inline. Congratulations to Travis for creating such a really nice tool!
Jermain Kaminski
In context, I can recommend having a short look on “Long-Term Trends in the Public Perception of Artificial Intelligence” by Ethan Fast and Eric Horvitz:“We find that discussion of AI has increased sharply since 2009, and that these discussions have been consistently more optimistic than pessimistic”
New Discussion on Oct 31
Jermain Kaminski
Good point!As you will know, Marvin Minsky found some nice words in his essay “Why People think Computer’s Can’t". Maybe, some of his thoughts in the paragraphs “Can Machines be creative"?” and “Castles in the Air” are complementary in this section.
New Discussion on Oct 31
Doug Hill
Professor Ito, I have long appreciated your willingness to recognize the excesses of the engineers who are driving so much of our culture today. It’s great, too, to read of the various initiatives to integrate values and humility into AI and other technologies. I do feel it’s important to recognize the difficulty of the task. By that I mean that the idea of placing humility over control, commendable and necessary as that is, in many respects goes against the nature of technology, which drives toward expansion and control. I devote a chapter to this in my book (“Not So Fast: Thinking Twice About Technology”) which also includes a final section entitled “Fearless Leaders” that cites Norbert Wiener’s critiques of engineering ambition and myopia as a consistent theme. See also my piece on Wiener for the Atlantic, “The Eccentric Genius Whose Time May Have Finally Come (Again).” Thank you again for addressing these vital issues.
Axel Meta
I really felt that my work is understood in this essay. I think now we need to try to see how the best of products can create a change in our cultural norms and behaviors that create a new mindset of consumption and relation to others and the world. This is what we are trying in our startup (my cofounder is a visual AI expert and i’m an anthropologist). We are creating an app that makes a new behavior possible: unlocking the sharing of food, leftovers or other consumable items with our extended trusted network in a way that we co-consume/share and deepen our bonds with the people we care in situations that were otherwise hard to organize and make them happen.
Storm the barricades
Brian Ahier
Sometimes treating a cancerous growth destroys a good deal of healthy tissue as well.
New Discussion on Oct 29
Steve Downs
Joi, I love this essay and my only struggle is that it is so densely packed with big ideas. I’d love to you see you double click on several of them and go deeper (in subsequent posts?). In particular, I think it’s really important to flesh out alternatives. I love the idea of a culture of flourishing, but I want to know more about what that looks like. What would be the replacements for the paradigms — and rules — that lead us to pursue exponential growth?I think it’s so important that people like you and Tim O’Reilly are challenging really big assumptions at the heart of our (meaning US) culture — a culture that has its own manifest destiny and is exporting not just its cultural artifacts but its cultural DNA to the rest of the world. 
the sweet spot of Innovation Architecture
George Por
It may be so, but aren’t we all bet for the layer that we inhabit, as the one that has the most potential for fundamental correction? Instead of arguing whose layer is the most fundamental, I built an “Innovation Architecture” model include the Cultural, Knowledge Social, Business, and Technology layers. They are visualized as overlapping circle and I teach my clients to focus on the sweet spot in the overlap.
designing conditions FOR nonlinear change
George Por
While nonlinear change cannot be designed, by definition, conditions favorable to it can. The Lab’s Extended Intelligence line of research is a beautiful example of that.What can we learn from its design methodology, which is transferable to other layers of the system (outside academic research?
from "Augmenting Human Intellect" (Engelbart, 1962) to...
George Por
The path from Augmenting Human Intellect (Engelbart, 1962) to augmenting the collective intelligence of Complex Adaptive Social Systems, is also a path for Life carrying itself forward to increasingly higher order interwovenness, “innervation” (Teilhard de Chardin), and complexity.
Avatamsaka sutra - and holon structure
Kiyoshi Suzaki
This reminds me of Avatamsaka sutra (Kegon in Jp) and holon structure of universe (to see the world in a single grain of sand…) as well as my thesis on mini company (as explained in my books, Results from the heart, New shop floor mgmt). My view (hope) is: AI may help us to revisit who we are, our reason of existence and guide ways to be the master of our own destiny. May all beings be happy.
Systems change in philanthropy and foundation funding
Jeffrey Walker
Using systems change and engaging system entrepreneurs to help us all think in this new, more holistic, way is growing in leaps and bounds. It is that system mapping, use of contemplative sciences to mold our brains to function better in a more collaborative fashion that are seeming to be valuable tools. I LOVE the music linkage and can tell you about a systems focused initiative with the Grammys and many others to bring back music to all kids in schools that might be a good specific model for you to examine.
A new name for Cybernetics
Maxim Blondeau and Joichi Ito
We need a new cycle of Macy Conferences. As an admirer of Gregory Bateson’s work I would be very happy to contribute. MB
Yes! I’ve been thinking about the Macy Conferences a lot lately.
I visited the Beekman Hotel, 575 Park Avenue in NY last september, just to feel it there, where it happened. Maybe we need to mobilize people’s attention over “mind policies”. An academic event? A business event? What would you suggest @Joi?
Discussion by A M
A M and Brian Ahier
Might be worth also adding Tim O'Reilly's concept of capitalism as the first runaway AI.
Great point!
Discussion by A M
I would say "I am not comparing SV entrepreneurs to Nazi's but we should remember that ..."
Discussion by A M
There are a few spots where you say that money / power is a master or primary currency. I think that may be overstating the issue as it neglects some pretty important forces (love, friendship, happiness, family, etc.) Including measureability in your concept would be useful. Or making clear that those others drop away in the case of corps.
Discussion by Jonathan Zittrain
Jonathan Zittrain
Is your belief based on data or faith? :) 
Discussion by Jonathan Zittrain
Jonathan Zittrain
Is this graf the core of what you want to shake the Sings out of? That more (exponentially more, even) isn't better, and that arguing about the pace of more is really avoiding the more important questions—and that what makes Sing a cult is that it equates progress with benefit.If this graf captures it, it could go earlier in the essay?
Discussion by Jonathan Zittrain
Jonathan Zittrain
Good place to be very clear about what you think the Singulatarians want, and what you want. I don't think you mean to say that it's all so unknowable and irreducible that we should give up trying to manage anything. Maybe what you mean is that we shouldn't just do what we want and then assume we can patch any negative externalities later—because patching a complex adaptive system often results in unpredictable and iatrogenic outcomes. We can't just max out our metaphorical credit cards and figure it'll balance out later.
Discussion by Jonathan Zittrain
Jonathan Zittrain
In your view was Weiner rebelling against this, or embracing it?
Discussion by Jonathan Zittrain
Jonathan Zittrain
Godwin's Law ftw!
Discussion by Jonathan Zittrain
Jonathan Zittrain
Is this sort of thinking reductionist or grandiose? Skinner example seems a different sort of error. Or is it the thought of a silver bullet?
Discussion by Jonathan Zittrain
Jonathan Zittrain
Of course, the asymptote is everywhere. That's what makes it an asymptote! At any point along an exponential curve, one is by definition at the "knee" of it. That's why the Singulatarians' focus on now as "this is when things get really crazy, just look at the graph," is... wrong.
The Paradigms Themselves
Jonathan Zittrain
Interesting to muse on whether the paradigms themselves are the result of natural processes—the evolutionary biologists who say that greed is somehow an adaptive benefit, selected for, along with some threads of cooperation—and yet unlike with Darwin's evolution, this has propelled us towards a dead end...
Fitness Landscapes
Martin Nowak
Joi,You write beautifully. What you say about evolution is perfect.Fitness landscapes arise when you assign a fitness value for every genotype. The genotypes are arranged in a high-dimensional sequence space. The fitness landscape is a function on that sequence space. In evolutionary dynamics, a biological population moves over a fitness landscape driven by mutation, selection and random drift. (This is the case of what I call constant selection.) In a game the fitness landscape changes as the population moves over it.Please take a look at figure 1 here (this is also a good citation): landscapes are also described in my book “Evolutionary dynamics” (Harvard University Press 2006), which you can cite.
Discussion by Gerald Holton
Gerald Holton
I have been reading and re-reading your essay, and admire its aim, its arguments, and its passion. In my reading of it, it is nothing less than a warning that current human civilization "is on a dangerous course"-- that having neglected Norbert Wiener's commandment to make human use of human beings, civilizations are on a single-minded, ever accelerating march toward the abyss.To me, your key argument for recognizing and then ameliorating the basic error in the current mindset appears in your use, on several pages, of such concepts as "the notion of singularity", "singularitarians", "singularity bubble", all of which are contrary to your (and my) belief in viewing the world properly "as interconnected complex adaptive systems", or as you say later, the need to embrace "the irreducibility of the real world".Here you correctly enter into the old and essential argument for pluralism, although you do not use the word. In my view the most interesting recent philosopher and historian of ideas worth calling on in support is Isaiah Berlin, especially in his book The Crooked Timber of Humanity (1992). As he puts it there, a central [singulatarian] belief in Western thought, since Plato, has been that "to all genuine questions there is one true answer, all others being false...".But Berlin then issues a warning which we must take seriously: that among many intellectuals, instead of repairing this monistic conception, for example by attending to pluralism, there arose, especially since the second half of the twentieth century, a Romantic Rebellion (including more and more against science), by the "enthronement of the will of individuals or classes, [with] the rejection of reason and order as being prison houses of the spirit".Two things followed. One was the rise of hordes of counter-culturalists since mid-20th century, of which a typical emblem is Bruno Latour's remark that one now has to "abolish the distinction between science and fiction". The other point is that, as we see now in parts of politics, there is again the predominance of the Willversus reason and truth.As a result, your call-to-arms is likely to face opposition from both the singularitarians and the Romanticists (which often overlap). So what starts as your essay will have to continue, with much work, to become a Cause appealing to many--as it should.
Discussion by Ethan Zuckermann
Ethan Zuckermann, Jermain Kaminski, and Wolfgang Wopperer-Beholz
For me, the core of the essay is the contrast between the exponential curve the singulatarians believe in, and the sne wave of food webs and biological ecosystems. Much as the current market economy encourages us to acquire as much money (and power? You should make up your mind in that first sentence) as possible, our basic biology encourages us to reproduce as much as possible. The reason we don't see an infinite number of rabbits is because a variety of regulatory forces, from food supplies to predators, keeps populations in check. In a simple, two actor model, rabbits increase until they're out of lettuce, then starve unti the lettuce grows back. The trajectory of the two actors looks like sine waves in opposite phase - high rabbits correlates to low lettuce, and vice versa.I think we don't look enough at the cybernetics of Wiener because it looks like a zero sum game, and we're convinced that human intelligence makes exponential curves possible and overcomes these sine waves. In some ways, that's true - Malthus was wrong, and we figured out how to feed ourselves and didn't run out of grain. But your writing here raises he question of "what happens if we use the wrong curve for our models?" What in our systems is exponential, what's linear, an S curve, a bell curve, and what's a sine wave?I think the connection between capitalist assumptions of infinite growth and the hopes and fears of singulatarians is interesting, smart and powerful. The pivot into learning how we function in complex adaptive systems isn't as well developed. To tie this together, you may have to go out on a limb and explain how singulatarians are wrong and will fail, due to their failure to understand what curves are exponential and which (the complex adaptive systems) are more like sine waves. The observation from Kevin is great, but it needs explanation before or after so it lands.
Dear Ethan, I haven’t seen any similar comment like this on the topic before, but I feel you hit the nail on the hat.
Dear Ethan, I haven’t seen any similar comment like this on the topic before, but I feel you hit the nail on the hat!
1 more...
Discussion by Martha Minow
Martha Minow
This is a spectacular essay!The pluralism of ecosystems, and the pluralism of societies, are crucial to ensure freedom, variety, and the possibility of survival should evolution go down a deadly path. The founders of the US understood this in preserving state and local governments, private sector, and religious freedom while strengthening the federal government. Haven't people read their science fiction --things don't end up well with singularity!And the message about songs and spirituality: so important. Meaning is what we yearn for, not just more materiality.
Discussion by Ed Boyden
Ed Boyden
You end by describing the "paradigm shift" that we need -- but I worry that it sounds like a huge hurdle. Is there a meaningful path? Even the "songs of a nation" and the other art and humanities things you cite, need to be financed in some way, at least in the current model. What will kickstart this path? 
Discussion by Ed Boyden
Ed Boyden and Joichi Ito
Great point. Are there concrete examples that come to mind about how we struggle with things today, that have their roots in past innovations? Climate change, as a result of the industrial revolution, say? Diabetes and cancer, as a result of dietary and environmental changes we "innovated"?
Steven Downs from RWJF has a nice post about how our lifestyles are making us unhealthy.
Discussion by Ed Boyden
Ed Boyden and Daniel Stahlnecker II
Money has become a living, breathing things whose secret motivation is behind every act, it sometimes seems. It's even more than a currency -- it seems to have its own goal, namely to grow. And it exploits humans as the machines to help make it grow.
The primary currencies seem to me to be abundant natural resources (minerals, energy, capital), social capital, and knowledge. In the modern world if you can be efficiently productive in leveraging these resources you can acquire power. Facebook has done a great job of borrowing against the social capital of its users to create financial capital and knowledge and they do this very efficiently. Apple has been able to leverage knowledge and financial capital to generate massive amounts of social capital. Google like Facebook has been able to leverage the social capital of all of its (willing and unwilling) “employees” to generate financial and intellectual capital. Its interesting to me that neither Facebook or Google suffered from any major interferance until they starting affecting another system highly dependant on social capital…the political system.
Discussion by Ed Boyden
Ed Boyden
Synergistic with this theme is an essay I wrote in 2009 on why the singularity, as envisioned currently, will likely lead to AIs that just do meaningless things all day, and that understanding the nature of humanity -- wisdom, if you will -- should (and might well) come first, before any kind of singularity occurs, example: "The inherent uncertainty of the universe may also overwhelm, or render irrelevant, the decision-making process of this intelligence." and "This process will involve thinking about how technology could help confront an old question of philosophy–namely, “What should I do, given all these possible paths?”"