Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thank you Mr. Hitchens

In October of 2011 I attended the Texas Freethought Convention and got to see Christopher Hitchens receive the Richard Dawkins Award. During the question and answer period an eight year old girl asked Christopher what authors she should be reading. Christopher considered it for a moment and then told the girl that he would meet her in the hallway after the talk and give her a list. True to his word Christopher met the girl in the hallway and gave her his undivided attention. What follows are the pictures I took of Christopher talking with the young girl. The pictures were taken with my HTC EVO 8 megapixel cellphone camera.

Friday, December 09, 2011

The Emergent Conspiracy

I do not believe in LSCGs (Large Scale Government Conspiracies) unless there is objective evidence to support the claim. Without evidence, belief in LSGCs becomes a presupposition that blocks further inquiry. The 9/11 Truth movement is one such example, where true believers are hopelessly mired in an ever deepening tangle of justifications in order to maintain a core belief.

That all being said, I do believe that what appear to be conspiracies can be emergent over large populations of people. In the end, these conspiracies are nothing more than a manifestation of the abstract needs of the population. The spread of democracy is one such example. No global cabal arranged for the spread of democracy. It was simply what the world needed. Individuals pushed and pulled in their own little ways and the "average" emerged over a few hundred years of progress.

Add to this "emergent behavior" the very human ability to build systems that predict society's behavior and we have the makings of a feedback loop. For example, this supercomputer predicted instability in the Middle East based on deteriorating public sentiment, and this initiative seeks to accurately model the probability of large scale disasters like 9/11, and the 2003 Shuttle breakup. Once these "forecasts" become accurate and easy to obtain, leaders should be able to use that information to make subtle adjustments in order to prevent bad things from happening (sort of like the movie The Adjustment Bureau).

A cynical person might say that such power could be used to do bad things (like oppress people by predicting when they will rise up and revolt), however history does not bear this out. "The People" have always thrown off the chains of their oppressors. Yes, it may take centuries or more, but no power has ever succeeded in permanently subjugating large populations of people. In addition, with large scale communication, as we have today, revolutions would happen much faster and adapt to such predictive systems much more efficiently. Thus the only plausible predictive system is one that gave people what they truly needed (not to be confused with what they want).

This is where it gets interesting. Eventually as these systems evolve they get more effective than the existing ineffectual government we have today. They make better decisions because they can take more data into account at a faster rate than the best politicians.

The systems begin to take over for us...

It is a fallacy to say that harmony and peace will reign as a result. That may very well be what happens, but we cannot say for sure that harmony and peace is what humans really need. There is good reason to believe that humans can only be their best and most creative when there is some degree of adversity pushing us.

Everyone's desires/needs/actions/etc averaged together is an emergent property that some like to call the "collective consciousness". This is in direct analogy to the collective contributions of every cell in your body working together to be "you".

In other words...

I propose that these predictive systems are slowly becoming a "brain". Just as our own brain guides the trillions of autonomous cells in our body, this "brain" will guide the billions of autonomous "cells" roaming the Earth that we call humans.