Tag Archives: Technology

Cognification

Term
Adding intelligence to an unintelligent object through the application of artificial intelligence. This can include either narrow artificial intelligence or
Explanation
“It is hard to imagine anything that would ‘change everything’ as much as cheap, powerful, ubiquitous artificial intelligence. To begin with, there’s nothing as consequential as a dumb thing made smarter. Even a very tiny amount of artificial intelligence embedded into an existing process boosts its effectiveness to a whole other level. The advantages gained from cognifying inert things would be hundreds of times more disruptive to our lives than the transformations gained by industrialization.” (29, The Inevitable)
Source
The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly

Protopia

Term
A state in which the world is progressively becoming better. Kevin Kelly coined this term to contrast his understanding of the world to the dystopian or utopian points of view, which are both stagnant rather than progressively changing.
Explanation
 
“However, neither dystopia nor utopia is our destination. Rather, technology is taking us to protopia. More accurately, we have already arrived in protopia.
     Protopia is a state of becoming, rather than a destination. It is a process. In the protopian mode, things are better today than they were yesterday, although only a little better. It is incremental improvement or mild progress. The ‘pro’ stems from the notions of process and progress. The ‘pro’ in protopian stems from notions of process and progress. This subtle progress is not dramatic, not exciting. It is easy to miss because a protopia generates almost as many new problems as benefits. The problems of today were caused by yesterday’s technological successes, and the technological solutions to today’s problems will cause the problems of tomorrow. This circular expansion of both problems and solutions hides a steady accumulation of small net benefits over time. Ever since the Enlightenment and the invention of science, we’ve managed to create a tiny bit more than we’ve destroyed each year. But that few percent positive difference is compounded over decades into what we might call civilization. Its benefits never star in movies.
     Protopia is hard to see because it is a becoming. It is a process that is constantly changing how other things change, and, changing itself, mutating and growing. It’s difficult to cheer for a soft process that is shape-shifting. But it is important to see it” (13, The Inevitable)
Source
The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly

Principle of Accumulation of Design

Principle
The vast majority of what consider to be a ‘designed x’  is an accumulation of designs that came before that ‘x’. This stands in contrast to the belief that an ‘x’ needs a be produced by a more designed ‘x’. This principle is the foundation of bottom-up design.
Darwinian Explanation
 
“Darwin’s contribution is granting the premise of the Argument from Design… Watches and other designed objects don’t just happen; they have to be the product of what modern industry calls ‘R and D’ — research and development — and R and D is costly, in both time and energy. Before Darwin, the only model we had of a process by which this sort of R-and-D could be done was an Intelligent Artificer. What Darwin saw was that in principle the same work could be done by a different sort of process that distributed work over huge amounts of time, by thriftily conserving the design work that had been accomplished at each stage, so that i didn’t have to be done over again. In other words, Darwin had hit upon what we might call the Principle of Accumulation of Design. Things in the world (such as watches and organisms and who knows what else) may be seen as products embodying a certain amount of Design, and one way or another, Design had to have been created by a process of R and D. Utter undesignedness — pure chaos in the old-fashioned sense — was the null or starting point.” (68, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea)
Psychologist Richard Gregory: “Time’s arrow given by Entropy — the loss of organization, or loss of temperature differences — is statistical and it is subject to local small-scale reversals. Most striking: life is a systematic reversal of Entropy, and intelligence creates structures and energy differences against the supposed gradual ‘death’ through Entropy of the physical Universe” (Gregory 1981, p. 136)
Source
 
Darwin’s Dangerous Idea by Daniel Dennett

Adjacent Possibility

Term
“This theory proposes that biological systems are able to morph into more complex systems by making incremental, relatively less energy consuming changes in their make up.” (Wired)
Explanation
 “ The scientist Stuart Kauffman has a suggestive name for the set of all those first-order combinations: ‘the adjacent possible.’ The phrase captures both the limits and the creative potential of change and innovation. In the case of prebiotic chemistry, the adjacent possible defines all those molecular reactions that were directly achievable in the primordial soup. Sunflowers and mosquitoes and brains exist outside that circle of possibility. The adjacent possible is a kind of shadow future, hovering on the edges of the present state of things, a map of all the ways in which the present can reinvent itself.
The strange and beautiful truth about the adjacent possible is that its boundaries grow as you explore them. Each new combination opens up the possibility of other new combinations. Think of it as a house that magically expands with each door you open. You begin in a room with four doors, each leading to a new room that you haven’t visited yet. Once you open one of those doors and stroll into that room, three new doors appear, each leading to a brand-new room that you couldn’t have reached from your original starting point. Keep opening new doors and eventually you’ll have built a palace. “ (Wall Street Journal)
Source
Stuart Kauffman

Immeasurable Intangible Labor

Principle

The work of knowledge work is often difficult to measure and its value is therefore hard to determine.

Economist Thomas Piketty made this point when arguing that that the general inability to measure the value of work enables executives to claim salaries that greatly succeed an executive’s marginal productivity.

Explanation

“Generally speaking, as knowledge work makes more complex demands of the labor force, it becomes harder to measure the value of an individual’s efforts.” (55, Deep Work)

Source

Deep Work by Cal Newport

Worker Groups Who Will Inherit the Earth

Framework

In Race Against The Machines, economists Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAffee explain that as machines becomes intelligent, companies are more likely to hire new machines rather than new people. Consequently, to succeed as a worker in economy of the future, Brynjolfsson and McAffee suggest that one would be best served by falling into three groups

  1. Highly-Skilled Workers
  2.  Superstars
  3. The Owners

Highly-Skilled Workers

Those who build machines and the software that runs them or those who are able to augment their own capabilities with the assistance of intelligent machines. Cal Newport describes how famed statistician augments his analysis through machine assistance: “Nate Silver, of course, with his comfort in feeding data into large databases, then siphoning it out into his mysterious Monte Carlo simulations, is the epitome of the high-skilled worker. Intelligent machines are not an obstacle to Silver’s success, but instead provide its precondition” (24, Deep Work)

The Superstars

This group benefits from the power of technology to more widely distribute their products or communicate across long distances. This group possesses a skill or product of high value and is high demand. In the past, these superstars ability to sell their talents was limited to their immediate geography, which meant that their competitors could still sell their talents to the areas where the superstars were not; markets were more localized. Now, the Internet has made it possible for the best within a given area to displace the local monopolies. As a result, superstars can now sell their value at unprecedented scale at the expense of the non-superstars.

The Owners

Those with capital to invest in technology will be capable of rapidly growing their capital. Cal Newport explains the implications of McAfee / Brynjolfsson’s ‘Great Restructuring’ theory:

“The Great Restructuring, unlike the postwar period, is a particularly good time to have access to capital. To understand why, first recall that bargaining theory, a key component in standard economic thinking, argues that when money is made through the combination of capital investment and labor, the rewards are returned, roughly speaking, proportional to the input. As digital technology reduces the need for labor in many industries, the proportion of the rewards returned to those who own the intelligent machines is growing. A venture capitalist in today’s economy can fund a company like Instagram, which was eventually sold for a billion dollars, while employing only thirteen people” (27, Deep Work)