Resisting Reduction: A Manifesto

Designing our Complex Future with Machines.


Director, MIT Media Lab


project lead, The Council on Extended Intelligence (CXI)
PubPub Community Manager


Third-order cybernetics?
Fabiano Caruso
I am currently working on a proposal for third-order cybernetics, a diplomatics between extensions of the memory of the analog universe (cards, posters, etc) and the evolution of its representation in digital format (interfaces). We are applying the template in an Art & Culture library ( where the entire environment and organization of the artifacts is open and collaborative, integrated with digital platforms. But because it is a participatory disruptive model (not to think of people as users, as in Anglo-American libraries) we were banned at the federal level from working with students derived from the courses of information science in Brazil in our project.
"The goal is to . . . "Review
James Stowe
This point seems a bit misleading to me. Humans in general are trying to create systems that are much lower variance than what is found commonly in ecosystems. In Ecology the systems are highly adaptive, but only at the system level. There is frequent feast or famine cycles for the participants that cause a great deal of what humans might call suffering. Additionally, human’s are mostly following their biology when they participate in accumulation. It’s hardwired into us to seek social status through control of resources. I make these points to say that what human’s seem to idealize as the “best” society is far from “natural”, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Nature is difficult and indifferent to the organisms that participate in it. What we seem to want is a system where suffering is minimized, however one defines that.
New Discussion on Jun 1Review
Ben Tolkin
Worth noting Fletcher meant this somewhat as a joke; he was responding to the English baronet Sir Christopher Musgrave, no friend of his, who was bemoaning how easily the women of London were seduced into a life of sexual promiscuity by the dirty ballads sung in London streets. (no, seriously; it’s from “An account of a Conversation concerning a Right Regulation of Governments for the Common Good of Mankind,” published in 1704)
New Discussion on May 11Review
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 6Review
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 and Martin anderson
“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.