[ExI] Status Competitions and the Singularity (was Re: Elusive word...)

Bryan Bishop kanzure at gmail.com
Sat Dec 13 16:43:14 UTC 2008

On Sat, Dec 13, 2008 at 12:33 AM, Emlyn <emlynoregan at gmail.com> wrote:
> > When it happens in biology, it is called convergent evolution or simply convergence.
> I have some ideas here that I haven't written down in a very
> coordinated way, here's a messy first shot at it.

I found this the other day and am sure it fits into a reply, but I'm
not sure where.

An anthropologist explores ubuntu:

> This, of course, is why unrestricted information sharing is important.
> These competitions require free access to knowledge. Free universal
> access to all human knowledge will maximally support these
> competitions, and that, I think, will be the genesis of singularity.

I am not as strict in my definition of singularity as others might be.
The strictest form of singularity is RSI with ai, but I also see
kinematic self-replicating machines as a way to exponentially
replicate and do lots of fancy feedback loops. I am not sure if the
mere existence of competitions would lead to either of those
situations. Stu Kauffman is thinking that it is "competitions plus a
little extra something else".

> We're seeing something really fascinating with the evolution of ideas
> in the presence of the internet. I think of the free software
> movement, and (Gnu)Linux as the most striking example, but it's really
> only one of many.

"Revolution OS", a chronicle of GNU/Linux -

> People like ladders to climb. Ladders of status. That's much of the
> appeal of games, it's why we play politics and why we accumulate
> money. What the internet has provided is a new, much richer set of
> competitive environments; more status ladders.

re: ladders;
" As is suggested here, I personally feel life and society need a
balance of meshwork and hierarchy:
Indeed, one must resist the temptation to make hierarchies into
villains and meshworks into heroes, not only because, as I said, they
are constantly turning into one another, but because in real life we
find only mixtures and hybrids, and the properties of these cannot be
established through theory alone but demand concrete experimentation."

> Money:
> I think money competitions are more common in the offline world,
> simply because it works as a default; you might have nothing in common
> with those geographically close to you, but you all need money, so you
> can all compete with money.

Just some more interesting links ..


"You treasure what you measure, and you measure what you treasure.
Open money provides the tools to implement this maxim. What should we
be treasuring in our culture and on our planet that we so far have no
way to measure?"

Personally I don't think an advanced civilization should have money
(they'd be more clever). But, if you want to spout on about what's
been happening on the internet + money and other currencies, those are
the best links I can think of.

> Intellect:
> Domain knowledge and raw intellect are a bit hard to separate. Let's
> just call it intellect (oversimplification). You see intellect as the
> characteristic resource in player provided tools for online games,
> also in all kinds of "grey" areas online (particularly the guys that
> crack software / drm!). We are beginning to see it in the creative
> commons community (a random example, http://ccmixter.org/). And, of
> course, you see it in the open source and free software community.

Other interesting books on these topics and the creative commons:

Two Bits - The Cultural Significance of Free Software

Oh look. While I was going to twobits to quote their title, I found
this nice tidbit:
((Andreas was the one who did the anthropology-of-ubuntu thesis above))

The Public Domain - Enclosing the Commons of the Mind

> Why is this interesting? It's interesting because the internet
> decreases costs of collaboration toward zero, and adds the power of
> large numbers (of people!). So these very specific competitions become
> global and extreme, and something like a genetic algorithm moves the
> competitions to extreme conclusions. The type of extreme result
> depends on the characteristic resource.

One of the big problems with the "Why is it interesting" question
shows up when you introduce others into this domain. They wonder "why
does this matter", but if Wikipedia isn't enough of an answer, if
Google, built on top of free software, isn't an answer, etc. etc.,
then it's almost hopeless :-). I'm sure somebody will be able to make
up a compelling argument for "why you should be interested" to
nonbelievers. Even recently there was an upset here in Austin, where a
teacher thought that something like Linux was surely impossible--

Most teachers seem to understand Wikipedia and how many people are
contributing to it, since it's one of the top 10 websites on the net
(ran by all of, what, 10 people under the hood), but I don't
understand how it's such a hard conceptual leap from the GPL
documentation license to the regular GPL that most linux projects are
released under.

> The algorithm seems to be roughly
> - Evaluate and rank competitors against the fitness function (defined
> largely in terms of the characteristic resource and the environment)
> - Modify the set of competitors based on this (losers tend to leave,
> new blood comes, some existing competitors modify strategies)
> - Modify the environment as a side effect of the fitness function
> - Rinse and Repeat

I am not sure if this is the full 'algorithm' for what's going on. For
instance, 'modify the set of competitors' just seems plain wrong;
people come and go in the free software scenes as they please, not
because of some over-ruling algorithm that they trust their life to.

> Intellect extremes:
> And of course we come to intellect competitions. Again, we see that
> the environment doesn't teach you to maximise the resource, it selects
> for those that can. In any of the intellect competitions I come
> across, especially those that have been running for a while, I am
> struck by the excellence of the output. We could say Science is an
> example. But the example that's really struck me recently is the open
> source / free software domain.
> It's tempting to think, as a professional commercial software
> developer, that you could just swan into one of the open source
> projects and do important work, but it's really just not true. It's
> tempting to think of these efforts as those of a few bleeding heart
> info hippies, under resourced and producing barely functional product.
> Barely ok but if you want something serious you need to pay for a
> commercial product. But that's wrong.
> I've been amazed to discover just how wrong this is. As a newly turned
> on Ubuntu user, I've seen the incredible breadth and depth of tools
> available for every conceivable task, all freely available. eg: You
> want to burn a CD? There are many alternatives, all easy to get, all
> polished, a couple of them stronger than any commercial offering.
> That's a banal example, but it's just so vast, there's no way to do it
> justice. From the little I've seen into the development process itself
> so far, I am humbled by the quality.

Also check out how extreme this all is--
("Distributed Debian Distribution Development")
(debian is the 'parent' of ubuntu, mostly because of the packaging
system and shared ancestry)

> The Cathedral and the Bazaar covers a lot of why this works, but I
> think there's an extra point to be made explicit, which is this: Open
> Source and Free Software development are a competition. They're a
> competition for mindshare. Because there are a lot of people involved,
> and because no one can really stand in the way of people doing things
> well (anyone who tries can really just be routed around; projects
> fork), and because the arbiters of mindshare are exactly the same
> people as the competitors, the dominant way of gaining mindshare is to
> just do a better job than others. I'm sure this is enhanced by money
> (buys useful resources, and can pay people), and time (software
> development is always an endurance effort), but the characteristic
> resource seems to be roughly intellect, or more specifically, being
> great at what you do.

Funny you should mention ESR's essay. I just posted OMNE's
interpretation of ESR's words into aphorisms regarding open design and
open content in general to the open manufacturing mailing list, which
has been experiencing lots of activity over the past months-

> There's probably more, but I'm out of puff. I can't win at time based
> competitions. My contention though is that this is the stuff of
> singularity.

A friend of mine wrote somewhat about that in some critiques of
Kurzweil's works:
(he has his own biases of course when it comes to singularity, but if
you want the GNU-like perspective on things, there you go.)

- Bryan
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