The Emergent Brain

Connecting dots for a global brain.

Botsman on Collaborative Consumption

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TEDx talk on the emergence of collective consumerism and the three current categories: Swap, share and redistribute! Think Ebay, CarShare and Recycling.

“Rachel Botsman is the co-author of “What’s Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption” (Harper Collins, September 2010). Here, with a dazzlingly graphic display, she presents a compelling case for 21st Century sharing.”

Watch the video here.

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Written by emergentbrain

28/09/2010 at 00:35

Posted in Microperspective

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Interaction of brain devices

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Following up on recent developments in reading brainwaves, the issue of a common platform for these brain devices is currently being discussed. A highly readable article in Technology Review highlights the benefits of a common platform:

“These scientific issues can be disambiguated by rudimentary brain coprocessors, built with readily available off-the-shelf components, that use recording technologies to assess how a given neural circuit perturbation alters brain dynamics. Such explorations may begin to reveal principles governing how best to control a circuit–revealing the neural targets and control strategies that most efficaciously lead to a goal brain state or behavioral effect, and thus pointing the way to new therapeutic strategies.”

An argument not mentioned in the article, but raised by Mindhacks, is increased security. However, with current developments of army research in the field one might ask if one standard platform is a realistic thought if the plan is to actively lead brain activity from the outside.

It seems that in these systems built to alter brain activity, we will necessarily see two different developments: Outside control via usable devices like headsets that can easily be shared, changed and synced, and inside control via planted devices that can interact with other components but might not necessarily be built to be an open system sharing its data with others.¬† While the latter could thus be used to “control the nodes”, it is the former that can enhance the nodes in a collective brain and thus lead to a more intelligent approach towards collective intelligence sharing and cooperation.

Written by emergentbrain

23/09/2010 at 14:06

Johnson on the emergence of ideas

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Ideas are networks and develop in (liquid) networks. They emerge in open innovative systems.

Via TED Talks:

“People often credit their ideas to individual “Eureka!” moments. But Steven Johnson shows how history tells a different story. His fascinating tour takes us from the “liquid networks” of London’s coffee houses to Charles Darwin’s long, slow hunch to today’s high-velocity web.”

Watch the video here or below:

Mentioned in the talk is Matt Ridley’s talk earlier on the same topic.

Written by emergentbrain

23/09/2010 at 00:47

Ridley on the emergence of ideas

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The exchange of ideas creates¬† highly specialized system based on comparative advantage, community and collaboration. And highly specialized systems can only sustain via a collective brain – where individuals can create things they don’t understand. They are just the nodes, the neurons in this collective brain. And we are surely accelerating the rate of innovation – an innovation beyond our personal capabilities.

Via TED Talks:

“At TEDGlobal 2010, author Matt Ridley shows how, throughout history, the engine of human progress has been the meeting and mating of ideas to make new ideas. It’s not important how clever individuals are, he says; what really matters is how smart the collective brain is.”

Watch the video here or below:

Written by emergentbrain

23/09/2010 at 00:41

Language convergence in the internet

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The internet is the first medium that allows its users a global voice. Through hyperdistribution, these voices can be increased to make relevant impacts even beyond the user’s usual reach. Martin Weigert analyzes hyperdistribution of journalistic content and its main limit, namely language, in the German internet economy blog netzwertig.com.

Some quote highlights (read the German article for some good examples and links):

“Hyperdistribution aims at improving the direct and indirect possibilities of monetizing journalistic contents by a radical increase in range. […]

Hyperdistribution in the internet barely knows limits nowadays due to close to two billion internet users. It will never be possible to reach all users interested in a certain topic, no matter how accurate the target group. Practically, however, the one factor that limits hyperdistribution is language. […]

Recently I noticed a phenomenon that tackles this issue: Sites publish certain input in English even though they are of a different native language. […]

Publishing in English on the other hand guarantees maximum hyperdistribution, attention, page views and incoming links even for an online service unknown outside of its country of origin. […]

It is to expect that more and more exclusive stories and reports in German media will also be published in English if they are of global interest.”

Translation by EmergentBrain, sorry for the pun of translating an article analyzing these benefits.

I perfectly agree with the predictions that we will see more and more articles published in certain lead languages and would even go some steps further. Weigert analyses the effect of hyperdistribution on mainstream media. However, I would like to look at it from two different angles.

First, certain specialized topics and research fields have become truly global, fostering the use of one (officially or unofficially) agreed upon language. Blogs focusing on such narrow topics that cannot be pinned down to one language – such as this one incidentally – need to think particularly hard about the limits of language on their distribution. The ten-fold difference between German and English audience sizes does not only have an impact on monetary factors but also on the quality of the discussion and thought processes involved. The bigger and more international your audience, the more different inputs and insights you get as opposed to a local or national audience limited by a specialized language. The possibility of increasing quality readership thus leads to a focus on certain lead languages for blogs and independently published content based on the agreed upon language. After all, you can expect your audience to understand the foreign language due to their interest in the topic – unfortunately creating higher entry barriers for those not capable of this language.

Second, one has to focus on certain lead languages of the internet in general. The main system is based on a number of 0s and 1s, but their visualization is still limited by language. Two possibilities emerge: Either we have a chance to translate and display these bit sequences equally understandable to all. This is the role of translation services and platforms. Yet, everyone who has ever used Google Translate knows about the reliability of these services. Or we have an internet trend leading towards one or few lead languages (the impact of e.g. Chinese language and mindsets should not be underestimated here): As everyone tries to transmit his message to interested people , these messages should automatically converge over long time to the one language that hits the broadest audience. (Other, minor languages will also be used, but why give up a larger share of the pie for an exclusive readership based on rather arbitrary factors?)

The one question arising asks which development will be faster: Convergence to one or few internet languages for general conversation (and an educational limitation on participation based on English or Chinese knowledge), or adaptation to global reach through instant translations. Looking at the current state of automatic translations, it seems that the rise of second language usage and publishing will be further encouraged in the short term by a self-reinforcing cycle of needing to understand quality content in the language that should be understood by all interested in the topic.

The effects of hyperdistribution will not only impact large journalistic entities with broad audiences but first and foremost (niche) blogs focusing on an increased audience based on a global language. What we can see here is a social system trying to reduce doubling and redundancy by choosing itself one language and forcing its participants to use it for introducing concepts on a broad scale, be they of general or special interest.

Written by emergentbrain

23/09/2010 at 00:02

Posted in Collective Systems

Tagged with ,

Swarm intelligence for preferred outcomes 1

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If some human social system movements can be 93% predictable, animal social systems and their movement might help in even better and faster predicting certain real-world patterns and outcomes. A whole new branch of research has emerged around decoding and using swarm systems and intelligence in the last two decades. The Economist has a nice story giving an overview on this development focusing on insect, bird and robot behavior.

This basic analysis helps in understanding special decision making processes that are of short- to medium-term focus and can thus be determined by individuals themselves. Goals include route optimization, choice maximization and escape and emergency planning, in short: Movement patterns. Models based on swarm intelligence mentioned in the Economist article include such programs as Ant Colony Optimization and Particle Swarm Optimization that focus on self-reinforcing behavior and choice (some further models can be found in the Wikipedia). Modeling these kinds of behavior into algorithms seems quite easy, as they follow few rules. An older TED Talk by Steven Strogatz highlights the ease and power of synchronization in swarms based on only four rules – follow your nearest neighbor, line up, be attracted and move out in case of danger:

“Mathematician Steven Strogatz shows how flocks of creatures (like birds, fireflies and fish) manage to synchronize and act as a unit — when no one’s giving orders. The powerful tendency extends into the realm of objects, too.”

Watch the video here or below:

Thus, already in the general day-to-day behavior we can see a predictable pattern emerging based on few rules. Part 2 on swarm intelligence will cover higher, long-term cooperative systems of social organization that include generations and personal life roles.

Written by emergentbrain

22/09/2010 at 10:52

Neuroeconomics looks at your brain’s economic stimulus

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As economics is shifting to include more behavioral data and research, a field is slowly emerging that has not received much attention yet: Neuroeconomics.

Via VoxEU:

“The objective of neuroeconomic theory is to build models based on evidence from the brain sciences, such as experimental neuroeconomics, but also other fields in neuroscience and neurobiology. Measurement of brain activity provides information about the underlying mechanisms used by the brain during choice processes. In particular, it shows which brain regions are activated when a decision is made and how these regions interact with each other. This knowledge can then be used to build a model that represents this particular mechanism. Contrary to behavioural economics, the model does not rely on introspection or plausible assumptions but rather on an existing and documented biological property of the brain.”

“Neuroeconomic theory will soon play a crucial role in the building of new reliable theories capable of explaining and predicting individual behaviour and strategic choices. The main message is that the individual is not one coherent body. The brain is a multi-system entity (with conflicting objectives, restricted information, etc.) and therefore the decision-maker must be modelled as an organisation.”

Click here to read: Neuroeconomic theory: Using neuroscience to understand the bounds of rationality

Written by emergentbrain

21/09/2010 at 23:34