Emergent Decision Making In Modern Virtual Societies

Emergent Decision Making in Modern Virtual Societies

Pietro Speroni di Fenizio presented yesterday to Alergic (Artificial Life Reading Group), largely grown from this wiki, which was open to participation before the talk. (I had a few things to add :).

Most people at Sussex (and most Universities I’d guess) have little knowledge or experience of tools like Weblogs and Wikis. Surprising, since Evolutionary and Adaptive Systems is cutting edge computer science. So, a lot of Pietro’s talk was explaining the basics of these tools, and its always an eye-opener to see how they aren’t really that simple to the uninitiated. Pietro had a little story about Wikipedia, to demonstrate the power of the tools. A few years ago, he added a short entry of Artificial Life. He returned years later to find a larger entry, rich in links, and magically all grammar mistakes eliminated.

I believe in these tools, in academics. Wikis set up for a course can become a collaborative research space, and result “at the end of term, in the best web page ever for that subject”. Would be really useful for exam review. Weblogs can facilitate communication within the community, and with the outside world. I’m using a thesis weblog to track my own progress.

Academics have clearly established webs of communication, and everyone is very busy, so there’s not a lot of time to set up these tools and learn about them. One way to spread their use is through top-down initiatives — with a university providing tools in a coordinated manner. But usually that initiative needs to be inspired by some leading work from within the university. This was true of the spread of course webpages and readings at UC Santa Cruz. EASy would be an ideal incubator at Sussex, but where to start exactly. Something I’m thinking about. Also the focus of BlogWalk2
on “The role of personal Webpublishing for self-organized and informal learning”, wish I could’ve made it.

The other part of the talk concerned the systems approach to studying the effects of these tools. The Power-Law distribution is seen in many phenomenon, including weblogs .. so it was timely that this paper on Weblogs and Authority was published. This paper of using Kohenen maps to cluster weblogs also crosses the line to EASy techniques. I thought the Memespread Project also had scientific relevance.

Emergent Democracy came up, as Pietro mentioned that an issue has come up on the meaning of Emergence itself, and Joi Ito or someone had put out a call for scientists to help. This is still a wide open question for researchers, whether emergence is a present or subjective phenomenon (meaning that emergence is a level of description, rather than observable phenomenon).

Definitely there is plenty of fruitful crosspolinations possible between the new breed of Internet tools and the new breed of scientific inquiry.

Locative Blogging Tools

Locative Blogging Tools

This entry is just going to touch on an initiative I want to pursue. Blogging tools can be extended to usher in a structured, semantic web. A key component of that web will be location, and integrating location referencing into various blogging tools is a doable step. I want to collect a set of plugins to integrate geocoding in the writing process, and output that data in RSS.

  • For Radio Userland, there’s Location.root, which does exactly that.
  • For Moveable Type, I have unpublished instructions for geocoding using the mt-meta plugin. I haven’t looked at MT 3.0 yet to see if the improvements to the plugin architecture allow modification of the weblog entry form (but I don’t think so).
  • For Word Press, there are some instructions, but I don’t think this allows item level geocoding. Any more help with Word Press is appreciated.

What other tools should I be looking at? Anyway to get inside Blogger, Live Journal? Maybe something can be built into the client side blogging interfaces.

What did I think before an education

What did I think before an education

When first starting on a new subject, I’m overwhelmed with all the new perspectives, ideas, methods, assumptions, and inspired by sparks of clarity at all the missing pieces. Problem is, I’m so excited questioning everything I’m learning, the basics of the subject don’t sink in. This really shows my background in Santa Cruz, where Ralph Abraham taught me to question every foundation of mathematics and History of Conciousness professors led me to absurd paradoxical loops of questioning authorities. The other risk is forgetting the sparks of innovation in assimilating the texts and arguments of the field.

This happened recently with a course in Evolutionary Theory. The models of the Neo-Darwinian synthesis can be very absolutist, and I was particularly struck by the absence (generally) of consideration for ecosystem effects in evolution. Well, there was loads of material to engage in, and I eventually got into it. Have I forgotten what I wasn’t taught? Hope I can find the edges of these ideas again.

Microcontent at the Technorati Dev Meeting

Microcontent at the Technorati Dev Meeting

Read through some good brainstorm notes from the Technorati Developers Salon. Wish I could’ve gone, but fortunately Marc Canter mentioned what I think is the key idea for Technorati.

Are we done talking about blogs yet?

More people writing reviews than writing blogs

structure not limited to title, body, permalink


data model extensions
data mining other kinds of microcontent besides blogs
as if there was a world besides blogs

blogging / semistructured data sets:

Review XML format

people don’t even agree on what is a blog
semistructured content

With a scaling critical mass of crawled content, Technorati is poised to push weblog and aggregation architectures to the next step. RSS or Atom + namespaces can be the emergent Semantic Web. If Technorati started paying attention to RSS extensions, and made them available in search results and their API, this would enable all sorts of applications to bloom. I of course would add location to the list!

At the end of the day

At the end of the day … the most crystal clear essence of any situation is revealed in a magic moment at the end of the day. Not before full English breakfast, at high noon, or couched in front of Emmerdale. It’s not certain if the end of the day is before or after brushing teeth. This enlightment of clarity doesn’t happen on any specific day, but the eternal unchanging day of collective duldrums. I only wish this day would come, so on the day after the end of the day, that phrase would no longer be inflicted on the world.

Stop the Sewage at Brighton Beach

Stop the Sewage at Brighton Beach

Just gave up my plans for a victory swim at the beach. The water was completely rancid, the waves laying loads of brown foamy sewage on the beach. It’s time to get involved with Surfers Against Sewage.sloan lilyloan uncensord lindsey vaginaliquidating auto loansloan private ontario lenders listhome litton loans texasservices loans littonagainst stock loanpapers loan agreement Map



I’ve just returned from Lewes Magistrates Court, and I’m tremendously relieved this ridiculous episode is finally over, with a perfect result. A prosecution was brought against me by Thameslink rail, they’re one of several English passenger train companies, for travelling without a ticket and giving false details .. which I unfortunately did, after some old fashioned abuse of authority. The fine could be up to 1000 pounds, or 3 months in jail, and 100 pounds cost to the prosecution.

In January, it seems they were conducting a big fare evasion sting operation at Brighton Station (at the Court, there were 15 other cases from the same evening). Thameslink is not a friendly train company, their trains have posters representing passengers as criminals behind bars — I’ll need to take a photo of one of those next chance. We arrived at Brighton Station on our way to London, to purchase tickets since our local station office was closed. We’ve done this several times, and had been told it was perfectly fine. We weren’t exactly treated as valued customers on arrival, and they demanded large penalty fares, in a situation evolved to stupid proportions. Penalty fare officers are not exactly reasonable people.

My personal penalty fare officer was a large, snotty nosed, and probably failed cop named Richard Crane. A search for Richard Crane on the web turns up some of his other work, including charging a disabled woman sitting in first class on an overcrowded train. He, and everyone else from the fare collector, to the prosecutor, seemed to get tremendous pleasure from their job, which is good otherwise these sadists would be wandering the streets. Anna and I were somehow seperated into two seperate discussions after we refused to pay the penalty fare. Really it was interrogations. Mr. Crane questioned me in detail on the layout of London Road Station (my local) and completely mocked my answers. Meanwhile, Anna had started crying as two penalty fare officers layed into her. Richie used his bulk to prevent me from even approaching her. I kinda lost it over that. So I gave the false details. Michael Baron was my genius plan to find some justice in the situation. Yea I know, really stupid. Not surprisingly, I was booked, to Crane’s obvious pleasure.

Well today was finally my day in court. Magistrates Courts see minor offenses, something but not exactly like misdemeanors in the US. This court had no wigs, or ancient hearing rooms built on top of torture chambers. The prosecuter was a weasel with smirking smug mustache, and again obvious enjoyment. Outside the court room, he remarked to a baliff that he was there “to get paid”.

The court room was super bright, and cold. Three magistrates sat above the court, and I was directed to stand on a little platform, with a small shelf at about knee height, which perfectly added to my bubbling nerves. I made my statement. The magistrates were authoratative, but not intimidating, asked a couple questions and looked at the prosecutor inquisitively at some of the key points. They left the room for an eternal 10 minutes, and came back with the sentence. Guilty of course. But no fine and no court costs. Yes yes yes on the inside, polite thank you externally. This was perfect.

Understand, I’m a great believer in public transit, it’s one of the benefits of living in England .. even with the cliche’d complaints on service, it’s infinitely better than the US. Hopefully the dismissal of the penalties in this case will send a message to Thameslink prosecution and their penalty fare officers. I’m just relieved this is over.



Of all the cultural differences, the is the hugest mental shock of my move from the US. No one in the EU++ makes much transcontinental noise about this dirty little cultural secret.

For real, this is a European wide song contest. Schmaltzy ballads, boy band fluff, eastern european porn star pop, operatic love duets, and of course Turkish ska … sung in mixture of national languages and charming broken english, all battling it out in a 36 nation sms vote.

Eurovision was founded before the European Union. In a peaceful, federated EU++, diplomatic negotiations and warfare are spread over an endless vote tallying where each nation reads out its top ten songs, simul-translated into english/french. I can’t wait for this surreal event to repeat next year in Kiev.



Being broken is essential to life.

At futuresonic, Ben Russell and Anne Galloway had a fire side chat, and at some point the audience questioned the nature of breakdown in the artistic practice involving mobile technologies (or something like that, I’m still working on stringing together the idea sculptures of art-speak). Of course, wifi wasn’t working, meaning we were talking directly to each other, which was the point of conferencing anyway.

Sometimes thinking is delayed, this time by a week, and I just have a couple very loose thoughts sparked from my studies in adaptation and evolution. W. Ross Ashby and the Cyberneticians of the 50s thought a lot about what breakdown means. In a sense, the functioning and adaptability of a machine is defined by what state space trajectories leads to breakage, and the ultrastability in the system that creates its persistance. It’s also related to description, an observation that something is productive. The machine thoughts also applied to living things.

The evolution of life depends on breakage. Living things break eventually, allowing new life to continue. And the origin of that new life is a breakdown. The process of DNA transcription, even with copy verification, has inherent errors. The system of life takes advantage of error, to generate variation for selection.

Simulated evolution seems to always unearth small details of implementation, adapts and takes advantage of the unintended.

Perhaps breakdown in technology is necessary for its own continued development and evolution, and necessary for the vitality of the ideas technology generates.