inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #176 of 198: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 16 Jan 17 03:35
    

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/603366/mathematical-model-reveals-the-patte
rns-of-how-innovations-arise/

*Finally, this one is just the awesome.  Man, if only the WELL SOTW
had some neat-o math hack that could describe the processes of
"innovation."  Yeah man, human culture, the new, the scope of
tomorrow; it's sedately dominated by scale-laws and probabilistics!

*Because it's the laws of physics!  It's Heap's Law, Zipf's Law, and
best of all, the "adjacent possible."  I love the Adjacent-Possible.
In fact, rather than ever living in a "utopia" or a "dystopia," I
think I've always lived in the "Adjacent-Possible."  That's my
spiritual zip-code.  In fact, whenever the Adjacent-Possible becomes
the actually possible, I get bored and move.  

*Then there's the Parable of the Urn Full of Balls here, which, as a
sometime popular-science writer, I also really like.  There's this
Urn, see, and you know it's got only room for so many Balls in it,
and the Balls are of different colors.  So, every once in a while
you get to pull out a Ball and observe it.  You can empirically
judge its color, and then you wonder -- okay, what color is the next
ball gonna be?

But it turns out -- and this is awesome -- there's a way to see into
the Urn's opaque walls.  They involve cool statistical effects with
a special breed of urn,  "Polya's Urn of Innovation Triggering!"  

*And, you know, here at the Well State of the World, that's
obviously what we've been mutely trying to do all along.  We've got
ourselves a homemade Modified Polya's Urn of Innovation Triggering
going on here.  "Cause it's all about us tossing in balls and trying
to pick out associated new ones.
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #177 of 198: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 16 Jan 17 03:36
    

*Our author explains:

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/603366/mathematical-model-reveals-the-patte
rns-of-how-innovations-arise/

"That’s because the Polya Urn model allows for all the expected
consequences of innovation (of discovering a certain color) but does
not account for all the unexpected consequences of how an innovation
influences the adjacent possible.

"So Loreto, Strogatz, and co have modified Polya’s urn model to
account for the possibility that discovering a new color in the urn
can trigger entirely unexpected consequences. They call this model
'Polya’s urn with innovation triggering.'

"The exercise starts with an urn filled with colored balls. A ball
is withdrawn at random, examined, and replaced in the urn.

"If this color has been seen before, a number of other balls of the
same color are also placed in the urn. But if the color is new -- it
has never been seen before in this exercise -- then a number of
balls of entirely new colors are added to the urn.

"Loreto and co then calculate how the number of new colors picked
from the urn, and their frequency distribution, changes over time.
The result is that the model reproduces Heaps’ and Zipf’s Laws as
they appear in the real world -- a mathematical first. 

“The model of Polya’s urn with innovation triggering, presents for
the first time a satisfactory first-principle based way of
reproducing empirical observations,' say Loreto and co."
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #178 of 198: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 16 Jan 17 03:37
    

*And I don't doubt that's statistically true.  What they're saying
here is that second-guessing the world, with the model of the urn
and the balls, is a working model of the way that the real world
actually second-guesses itself.  

*If something new arrives, a True New Ball, it doesn't come starkly
alone, it comes with a bunch of Adjacent-Possible Balls.   Probably
the Adjacent Possible Balls exist without effort -- they're
spontaneously generated, inside people's heads.  

*My vision of the True New Ball must slightly but necessarily differ
from your True New Ball.  We all generate spaces of
Adjacent-Possibility just through everyday meme-mutation, from our
differences in sensibility.  Cultural innovations arrive in hosts
because a culture consists of a human horde.  

*Yes, that's tautology.  But at least the math works.
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #179 of 198: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 16 Jan 17 03:41
    

*The deeper problem is that the world's not an Urn.  Also, the
"Balls" thing is, well, it's balls.  The universe isn't an urn full
of balls any more than the World is a bunch of threaded comments in
a WELL topic.  

*However, I don't mind that.  It's okay. I'm at peace with the
limitations. I can live with the limits of knowledge, and in fact I
kinda prefer 'em.  The map is not the territory, and no plan
survives contact with the enemy.  But if you knew the territory then
you wouldn't need the map.  Also it's never the plan that wins, it's
the act of planning.

*So every year I'm happy that I do this, and this year, it's been a
particular consolation for me. More than that, I feel energized now.
I feel creative, more so than I have in quite a while. I hope to do
things this year that will pleasantly surprise me.
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #180 of 198: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 16 Jan 17 03:41
    
*See you next year.
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #181 of 198: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Mon 16 Jan 17 04:43
    
Bruce, thank you so much for your time and thoughtfulness. Wishing
you a most serendipitous and surprising year.

Jon, parting thoughts?
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #182 of 198: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Mon 16 Jan 17 04:46
    
For those of you following along this year's State of the World,
this is our last 'official' day of conversation. However, please
feel free to carry on here...this topic is always open and folks
within the WELL will respond as long as there is interest.

And, tomorrow, we start a new two week conversation with our own Ed
Ward, who's new book The History of Rock and Roll, Volume 1
(1920-1963) has just been published. Please join us.
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #183 of 198: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 16 Jan 17 06:51
    
I'm guided by a practice of secular Buddhism, I.e. working with
Buddhism as a practice, not religion. To me it's clearly not
religion. The Buddha wasn't preaching a gospel, proselytizing some
vision of a supreme deity, or studying to pass the test at the Gates
of Heaven.  I'd say he was debugging his mind and mind-body,
believing we shouldn't be stressed or suffering so persistently,
that suffering has a cause, that the cause is findable, that it's
internal and not external, and that if you find the cause and
understand it, you can change your relationship with suffering. Part
of the way out is realizing that we try to see impermanent states
and objects as somehow permanent, and they just aren't. We crave for
permanence and cling to states and objects, though they inherently
change, and the changes are always "unsatisfactory" or "stressful"
or "suffering" as long as we cling. This includes clinging to the
idea that we as individual human beings are somehow permanent, and
that self is permanent. 
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #184 of 198: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 16 Jan 17 06:51
    
It's understandable that we to anchor ourselves to some sense of
permanence, that perception is rooted in how we must inevitably live
to survive in the world. The difficult practice is to acknowledge
impermanence, stop clinging to what we desire abhorring what we
don't desire, but at the same time live effectively in the world.
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #185 of 198: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 16 Jan 17 06:52
    
I'm a bad Buddhist, not practicing with a sangha, not guided by a
master, so I should qualify the understanding I've presented here as
suspect. But I do know that a meditation practice that provides
insight into the impermanence of the self and the world feels right,
so I keep practicing.

And I thought about this while I was reading Bruce's last
passages... the balls keep coming and they keep changing, the world
is process, the pendulum swings - and the "I" who is writing this
today is not necessarily the "I" who will be sitting at this same
keyboard tomorrow, and is certainly not an "I" that will persist
infinitely in any direction. 
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #186 of 198: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 16 Jan 17 06:52
    
The wild swing from the solid stability of an Obama administration
to the chaotic instability of a Trump administration is a dramatic
change, but change is inevitable, and as Bruce suggests, the world
keeps spinning. Somewhere in the world there is profound suffering
and loss, elsewhere there is wonder and achievement.  We may see
large scale global catastrophes, nuclear disasters or wars,
supervolcanoes blasting the atmosphere, unlivable climate, planetary
death and destruction. But I recall that, when Pynchon published
Gravity's Rainbow, one of my fellow students in an honors class
called "The Question of Authority in Literature" referred to it as
"another shaggy apocalypse story." 

Shaggy apocalypse stories abound, from the bearded street-corner
"end is near" cartoon trope to the religious myths of an end-time.
Buddha would likely have chuckled at apocalyptic thinking and myth. 
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #187 of 198: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 16 Jan 17 06:53
    
But there's only one time, and it's now... refrigerator humming,
garbage cans banging, birds snacking birdseed in the backyard, and
Jon L. tapping keys on his Mac.

I think we would all benefit by spending more time right here, right
now... by getting to know ourselves, and the limitations and
multiplicities of our 'self,' and by spending a little less time
reading Facebook and Twitter posts, or real or fake news, or
apocalyptic wranglings... and more time sitting quietly, doing
nothing. counting our breaths.
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #188 of 198: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Mon 16 Jan 17 09:49
    
Marvelous boys!

Thank you both for an intriguing conversation...new perspectives for
us all.

And profound thanks to all who have participated...you have made us
all richer for your sharing.

This is definitely one for the books.

We may be 'archaic' but it still works :)
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #189 of 198: John Spears (banjojohn) Wed 18 Jan 17 08:51
    
I know it's too late, but I think 2017 actually merits a longer
discussion. 
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #190 of 198: Tiffany Lee Brown's Moustache (magdalen) Thu 19 Jan 17 09:11
    

i'm sorry the official discussion is ending... Farai Chideya, all-around
goddess and former WELLpern, author, current NYU faculty, NPR commentator,
etc etc, just posted this and was into having me share it with y'all:

Here's five things I'm tracking as paradigm shifts that will likely
accelerate during the next four years. They didn't start today and these
are long long long haul issues.

1. global oligarchy -- the US is likely to become more like Russia and
China in the naked display of family dynastic power, with laws evolving to
serve those dynasties. Not new, just way more powerful.

2. Fossil fuels vs. renewable energy... the fossil fuel industry is going
to go all out on legal and political maneuvers as there are pressures from
big institutions like universities to divest from stocks; and fuel
interests go through cycles of over-production and metered scarcity. We
will have renewable energy tech way before we have the will to use it,
because of the pushback.

3. The battle for masculinity. Making appeals to the American
hypermasculine ideal is still great for short-term battles, like winning an
election, but that trope also leaves men feeling depleted by lack of
emotional intimacy and family time. I write about this a bit in The
Episodic Career. There's a countering movement for a new masculinity (I
would argue far more traditional to humans than what we now see as the
masculine role) that blends the provider/protector role and the nurturer
role, and is more fulfilling for men.

4. Jobs v. UBI/"the jobless future." -- Universal Basic Income has been
floated as a cure for declining labor force participation rates,
particularly among men. All people, but especially men, are made to feel
less-than when they cannot find work. A "check for everyone" UBI system can
solve basic needs but not the need to feel useful to society. Also, per the
issue of masculinity, a UBI system that works will need to come with a
social evolution recognizing the value of nurturing and caregiving, which
people without formal employment (male or female) will likely do more of.

5. The end of the fiction of American meritocracy. If you dig into the
research, America has never truly been a society of widespread social
mobility. Race, class, gender, national origin and membership (for example,
the "membership" you get by going to an elite university and benefitting
from those ties, as I have) have always been used to engineer who gets
what. This election was, in part, about people who had been relatively
privileged in American meritocracy seeing that privilege slip away. As we
battle over these many levels of meritocracy, we could be left with class
warfare in more than a metaphorical sense. Or we could turn into a truer
meritocracy. Like all equality struggles, it's a long-haul. And the future
is up to us.
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #191 of 198: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 25 Jan 17 06:01
    
Thanks for posting that, <magdalen>! I saw it when Farai posted it
elsewhere. If readers want to know where to follow up with Farai,
her blog is at http://farai.com/ and her Twitter account is at
https://twitter.com/farai.  

Re #5, which resonated with me, having learned so late in life that
privilege is a blind spot, aggressively hidden behind our
assumptions about our "hero's journey" and ignorance/dismissal of
the harness and wire that makes the hero's flight possible. 
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #192 of 198: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Wed 25 Jan 17 06:38
    
This is only a subset of the larger problem, but it always surprises
me to see how many smart people believe wholeheartedly that being
smart = "merit."

Ah, so you choose to be born with a high IQ, eh?  Unlike all those
other people who made bad choices...
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #193 of 198: David Gans (tnf) Wed 25 Jan 17 11:21
    

On the other hand, being smart is a reasonable predictor of comprehension and
competence, isn't it?
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #194 of 198: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Wed 25 Jan 17 11:38
    
In my experience, it's overrated on both counts.  It depends what
you're trying to comprehend and what you're trying to be competent
at.

I've often seen it act as a real barrier to comprehension.  Sort of
the "I'm so smart that I must be right" phenomenon.  

It gives you a more powerful toolset, but you've gotta figure out
what to do with it.

Very often people of average intelligence can easily see the flaws
in the brilliant plans of geniuses.  I think part of this is because
intelligence really is multi-dimensional, as the education prof
Howard Gardner likes to remind us.
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #195 of 198: (fom) Wed 25 Jan 17 20:22
    
We need a Farai topic here.
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #196 of 198: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 26 Jan 17 06:20
    
I agree, we should invite Farai to Inkwell for sure.

What smart people fail to realize, I think, is that they're not
necessarily smart about everything just because they're smart about
something. The assumption that there's a test that measures
"intelligence" and is across-the-board meaningful is questionable. 

I.e. it's smart to think critically about the IQ concept. (See
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intelligence_quotient#Criticism_and_views). 
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #197 of 198: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Thu 26 Jan 17 08:45
    
I know at least some things that I'm good and bad at.  In 3-D
spatial stuff I'm probably not the equal of the average rodent. 
Oddly, I am a freakishly good judge of 2-D proportions and visual
information, which allowed me to earn a (bare) living for several
years as an architectural historian even though I'd had no formal
training.  I picked up the basic idea in days and became a real
expert very quickly.
  
inkwell.vue.495 : Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2017
permalink #198 of 198: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Fri 27 Jan 17 07:33
    
The Hero's Journey:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hero's_journey

Off you go now :)
  



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