Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Heart of the Machine

Hi there. Let's get something straight right away--you're nothing but a dendrite to me and I want to keep it that way. If the internet can become a universal neural transmitter I think we should encourage it by participating. At least if we think we have something to say. It's a responsibility thing. And I believe responsibility is the mother of freedom. (Who the father is I have no idea--mother dated so many flamboyant memes.)

I think a beautiful thought is a lot like a beautiful body--the more naked the better. Take off your nationality, your religion, your prejudices, and even your species. I realize only humans can read this, but I want to connect to that part of you that is still just an earthling--a crew member on a space ship that is our solar system.

Because we can. Because we should. Because together we might find a way to best harvest the wisdom and insight of all humanity. I speak of a meta-government that is forming as we speak and will grow to focus the intrinsic political capital of billions so effectively that it rolls like a giant mass towards those solutions that promise our world the best future. Peacefully herding all governments to adopt a compatible policy. I don't think it matters now what happens ultimately in Iran--the damage to dictatorships has been done. I can think of no more fitting memorial to Neda Agha-Soltan than for her slaughter to be the spark that breathes life into a tool for focusing the collective voice of humanity.
(I sure wonder why someone always has to die senselessly before the rest of us are willing to finally fix something that's been broken forever. I sure hope this wasn't the reasoning behind murderous ancient rites, but then maybe they were onto something and we should give it a try. We could test out our fancy new global voting machine with a write-in election. That might do more to improve leadership than anything yet devised, and we're better off offing some schmuck instead of a random person ... Don't worry folks I already have handlers.)
I think a lot about how to encourage this process (not human sacrifice, making our political capital more tangible) but also know that anything that can go right eventually will if the bits necessary can stick around long enough. It's a corollary to the infamous Murphy's Law. Evolution is smarter than we are because it is so dumb it doesn't have the sense not to try that which shouldn't work but actually does. We're just too smart to be any good at designing anything. Brains evolved for observing and deducing so we could reason out ways to outwit pretty much everything we could name. Not for designing things that are arguably forms of life in and of themselves--like governments, products, and services.

And I reckon that explains why pretty much everything we try to engineer sucks when compared in any way to those things engineered by the process of natural selection. In fact, the best things we do make got that way by a very similar, almost natural, process--gradual refinement at the rate of marketplace success.

I'm trying to justify a different approach to engineering things like government, enterprises, and even products and services. Lets use our brains for what they're good at and look for ways to create a gentle selective pressure that will drive the evolution of better products, services, and lifestyles. Let nature do the heavy lifting while we pick which direction we want to go. I vote that we head towards long term steadily improving rather than just sustainable.

Man is the measurer of all things, not the measure. Our capacity to measure stuff dwarfs even our capacity to dream up crazy shit we'd like to measure. But there's a lot of stuff we don't even try to measure. Really important stuff, like the impact a given behavior has on others. Or the fairness of the laws and rules we force everyone to live by. We know so much about particles too small to see and so little about problems too big to miss. What could explain this? How is it that were willing to build a machine larger than most counties to look for something smaller than George Bush's brain when we won't spend one hundredth of that amount to look carefully at the economy that paid for that overgrown microscope in the first place?

I think it comes from a prejudice hidden in our ideology. We are predisposed to judge rather than discover. We have to work carefully and cooperatively just to accomplish the latter--we call it science. It's nothing bad or substandard about us, it's just a consequence of being an individual--how could any organism possibly handle the problem any other way? And excellent judges we are too. But not perfect, or even that close to it. Just really good which isn't enough for design. If your body was only really good you'd be dead. You have to be nothing less than utterly remarkable just to be able to have any kind of life as an organism today. (Note to religious people: predators don't always get what they prey for.)

And that's why I believe we should rethink the world we've made from the ground up with a fresh perspective that begins with measuring the unmeasured, which in this context is more about revealing the messages in the many measurements we already make to create a detailed map of our economy. In this way, when ordinary people can get a good appreciation of the workings of our world we'll be many times better at finding a constructive and pleasurable way to participate in it. We'll be better at whittling away the fat and waste that clogs and undermines our infrastructure, and we'll direct perhaps several times as much human power to the enormous potential our species has to make the biosphere we inhabit ever more robust, secure, and empowered.


  1. One important feature of dendrites, endowed by their active voltage gated conductances, is their ability to send action potentials back into the dendritic arbor. Known as backpropagating action potentials, these signals depolarize the dendritic arbor and provide a crucial component toward synapse modulation and long-term potentiation.Furthermore, a train of backpropagating action potentials artificially generated at the soma can induce a calcium action potential at the dendritic initiation zone in certain types of neurons. Whether or not this mechanism is of physiological importance remains an open question.
    This was copied and pasted from Wiki! Note the last sentence. This blog is great, I can also learn new words and understandings.

  2. What a wonderful first comment to get. Thank you AnnE.

  3. We know so much about particles too small to see and so little about problems too big to miss.

    Note to religious people: predators don't always get what they prey for.

    "The Heart of the Machine." Weblog post. A Particle of Thought. 28
    June 2009. 30 June 2009