An Autonomous Agent

exploring the noosphere

Category: autonomous agent

Human Collective Intelligence

The collective intelligence of humans is remarkable. We all share 99% of genes, yet when you look at the vast majority of the population at any given instant, the amount of ignorance and differing knowledge is stunning. Look at the achievements of humans. But, given a single individual who is deemed to be the “most intelligent” of the population, you will not find in him the majority of which is required to construct and maintain of the structures humans have built.  The smartest one will only be an expert in a specific field of knowledge. Their contributions include discovering the Theory of Relativity, proving the incompleteness of logical systems (Godel’s Theorem) or writing rules for Calculus and other such concepts we now have in our library of knowledge.
This reliance on the collective is very interesting; especially considering the United States is built upon  the concept of individual freedom. So, I suggest you compare the collective societies, where the individual has his freedom secondary to the state. In these populations, you don’t have the same level of massive collective intelligence as in Capitalist societies. Instead, these societies tend to have a population which share a single monotonous intelligence. It seems paradoxical to have such a collective strength emerge out of a multitude of distinct autonomous units and a lack of such strength when these units are more uniform in their actions. But is it precisely this power of individual freedom and expression which leads to the formation of reliance on collective interactions.

Rechnender Raum (Calculating Space) – Konrad Zuse

Konrad Zuse’s Rechnender Raum (Calculating Space) is a book which proposes the idea that the universe is computed by cellular automaton. Thanks to MIT and Zuse’s family, the book can be downloaded as a pdf.

The Diversity of Life – Edward O. Wilson

Edward O. Wilson does a great job exploring the wonderful diversity on Earth in his book The Diversity of Life. If Earth’s biosphere is to continue supporting the conditions for life, then diversity must be conserved and protected. Diversity provides the necessary adaptive power to withstand natural disasters. Wilson writes many great books and this is one of them.

The Creation of Stocks

Warren, Ben, David, and Taylor are four friends who meet on weekends to discuss various ideas and have a good time. They are together one night and begin discussing a business venture.

Warren: I know a great idea!

Ben: Sure, tell us another one of your “great” ideas. I hope this one is better than that silly farming device.

David: Alright, let Warren indulge us.

Warren: Ok… so, what if we printed pieces of paper and told people that they were worth the value of a certain company?

Taylor: Is that your idea? Hahahaha, what could that possibly achieve? I am leaving.

Warren: No, wait! Just think about it. If we printed a fixed number of these papers and said that the sum of the them are worth the value of the company, then we could sell them for that value to people.

Ben: Yes, but what fool would fall for such an obvious scam.

Taylor: What value? How can pieces of paper be worth more than paper? How can we claim that they are worth the value of a certain company?

David: You know, I think Warren has a point. All we have to do is sound reputable and create a way for these pieces of paper to be traded.

Warren: See! David is following me!

David: If this were a scam, we would just sell the papers and run off with the money.

Ben: But isn’t that your plan?

Warren: Hmm… True. But in this case, the people are able to trade with each other to get their money back and possibly a profit.

Ben: In fact the potential for a profit would be the only reason for buying these pieces of paper.

Taylor: Hahahah, so this is a giant Ponzi Scheme?

David: Yes, it does seem so, now that you mention it.

Warren: No, there is a difference. We will simply be selling pieces of paper. The “Ponzi Scheme” that Taylor mentioned would be caused by the infinite self-repeating pattern of people buying the paper from each other and then selling it to other people for a return.

David: That is a very strange concept. Kinda like a strange loop.

Ben: Ok, but wouldn’t each person value the pieces of paper differently, based on their opinion on the value of the company?

Taylor: Yes, person Expensive may be willing to pay ten the piece of paper; while person Cheap may only pay ten for the same piece of paper.

David: Then this is idea is doomed. It will never work.

Ben: Too much chaos!

Warren: No! Someone, perhaps seeing an opportunity to profit will establish a definite lower bound to the value of the piece of paper. Let’s say that lower bound is ten; i.e., there is a person who believes that he can buy a piece of paper for ten and, at a later date, sell it to people for more than ten.

David: Ok. I follow.

Warren: Then, someone else, seeing that there is a potential to make money, will offer 12 for the piece of paper.

Ben: AHH! Yes, a price will dynamically form based on the interactions of all these people.

Taylor: And then?!?!

Warren: Well, then we have a way to sell these pieces of paper for more than the value of paper?

Ben: Yes, precisely.

David: So, by simply saying we have pieces of paper which represent the value of a company we have made a handsome profit?

Warren: Exactly!

Ben: And, in the process we have discovered a way to find the value of a company!

Taylor: Wow! I must say Warren, this is a brilliant idea!

David: What will we do will all this money?

Warren: I think I will buy some of these pieces of paper.

Ben: Me too! And make even more money!

Investigations – Stuart Kauffman

Investigations seems to be a further expansion of the ideas presented in Kauffman’s book Origins of Order (see other post). As a note, I found that both are very dense and hard to read. However, the concepts presented within are worth the effort. The book provides a novel approach at explaining the origins of life. I found the most fascinating concepts in the novel to be the Adjacent Possible and the idea of Autonomous Agents.

An Autonomous Agent is simply a system which reproduces itself and carries out a work cycle.

The idea of an Adjacent Possible shines light on the idea of entropy in the universe. Investigations contains an entire section talking about Maxwell’s Demon and the nonergodicity (see ergodic hypothesis) of the universe. Briefly, the Adjacent Possible is the set of all “next” states of the universe. To give an example, consider the early universe. Consisting almost entirely of Hydrogen and Helium, we would say that the universe was in a “Actual State” of Hydrogen and Helium. The Adjacent Possible of chemicals would be the empty set — that is, no chemical states can be “formed” from Hydrogen and Helium (gravity has yet to create stars).  Then, once stars began to form, the Adjacent Possible began to include more states; elements like Carbon and Oxygen are the “next” states in the interior of stars under the right temperature and pressures.  Fast forward billions of years and human organisms are creating “next” states in the chemical Adjacent Possible (assuming alien civilizations have not already created these states). For example, humans have created nylon, plastic, Teflon, and various other molecular states.  These states would have been considered elements of the Adjacent Possible in the early 20th century; now, they are elements of the “Actual State” of the universe.

Thus, the universe can be considered nonergodic. It has yet to explore, and most likely will not explore, a large portion of the possible states of the universe.

Kauffman also talks about economics. He explains that modern economic theories fail to predict and account for the persistent innovation of human “goods” into the Adjacent Possible of “goods.”

I would highly recommend Investigations. It really is a must read! (ISBN-13: 978-0195121056)

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