The 21st Century's Most Important Idea... & Older Natural Algorithmic Forces
Evolution exists and exerts itself in a different way than gravity does... because natural selection is an "algorithmic force."
2. He’s almost right. Natural algorithms have ruled every century with life in it. He means unnatural algorithms (which have been called "weaponized math") now matter.
3. Daniel Dennett says, “Darwin discovered the fundamental algorithm of evolution.” Of course Darwin couldn’t have seen natural selection as algorithmic, but technomorphic analogies to our unnatural computers mean we’re beginning to recognize “algorithmic forces.”
5. Algorithms are sequences of step-by-step instructions for complex processes (like recipes, or software). They describe how dumber sub-steps compose complex tasks.
6. Evolution’s survival-of-the-fittest algorithm is very loosely “survive, replicate with variation, repeat.”
7. Out of that dumb process-logic arises all the intelligence and complexity of all living systems. Including what Dennett calls “competence without comprehension.”
8. Consider “termite castles” that look like a monumental Gaudí church. Termites collectively have the competence to build complex castles without comprehending what they’re doing. Smart-seeming higher-level competence and complexity are caused by following dumb lower-level steps.
9. Here, it’s worth noting that evolution exists in a different way than gravity (they differ ontologically). Both cause changes in the world, but forces like gravity operate directly via intrinsic physical properties (having simple algebraic relationships), but evolution is a complex “algorithmic force“ (that emerges and operates indirectly, systemically).
10. Algorithmic forces exist and exert their powers in systemic and relational ways; they’re not driven by isolatable and intrinsic traits. They require sequential steps, and are built from iterative if-then-else logic.
11. Another way to say this is that algo-forces are driven by richer information processes than physical forces. In physics a few isolatable numeric variables (like electric charge) capture the relevant phenomena. But abstract (imagined) attributes like “fitness” in biology can’t be measured (and don’t exist) in isolation from their context.
12. Evolution’s natural algorithm ran for ~4 billion years to generate us. But Harari’s human-generated unnatural algorithms (the kinetic logic built into our culture and technology) are now shaping the biosphere (see the anthropocene era).
13. That puts us in the termite role. We’re building complex higher-level collective structures that we neither intend nor understand. (That’s why we’re facing a global marshmallow test, and why “mindless market” algorithms make musical toilets while people starve.)
14. Evolution and economics are both driven by algo-forces. They’re both in the “productivity selection” business, but the currently dominant profit-maximization algorithm often isn’t prudent (or survivable).
Illustration by Julia Suits, The New Yorker cartoonist & author of The Extraordinary Catalog of Peculiar Inventions
What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.
- Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
- Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
- Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
Beyond Beef sizzles and marbleizes just like real beef, Beyond Meat says.
- Shares of Beyond Meat opened at around $200 on Tuesday morning, falling to nearly $170 by the afternoon.
- Wall Street analysts remain wary of the stock, which has been on a massive hot streak since its IPO in May.
- Beyond Meat faces competition from Impossible Foods and, as of this week, Tyson.
Average waiting time for hitchhikers in Ireland: Less than 30 minutes. In southern Spain: More than 90 minutes.
- A popular means of transportation from the 1920s to the 1980s, hitchhiking has since fallen in disrepute.
- However, as this map shows, thumbing a ride still occupies a thriving niche – if at great geographic variance.
- In some countries and areas, you'll be off the street in no time. In other places, it's much harder to thumb your way from A to B.
A recent study used data from the Big Five personality to estimate psychopathy prevalence in the 48 contiguous states and Washington, D.C.
- The study estimated psychopathy prevalence by looking at the prevalence of certain traits in the Big Five model of personality.
- The District of Columbia had the highest prevalence of psychopathy, compared to other areas.
- The authors cautioned that their measurements were indirect, and that psychopathy in general is difficult to define precisely.
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