Ming the Mechanic:
superconductivity for scalable networks

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 Truth: superconductivity for scalable networks2010-07-08 02:27
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A couple of comments to my recent articles made me consider the importance of truth in effective collaboration networks. How can people truly connect if their connection is based on lies? Maybe collective intelligence is proportional to the amount of truth in the system.

Truth can mean different things to different people, of course, and there are several angles to this. To me truth is a coherence between realities and their representations. There can be many levels of reality and many levels of abstract representations. Truth is when what you say or imply is there actually is what is there, and when you actually say what is there.

It is rather relative, but, still, we recognize truth. Have you ever experienced having a conflict with somebody else, where you dig into the defense of your separate positions, and it is really upsetting, and you judge each other as being wrong, but then at some point, some key piece of information is exchanged, and you both, at the same time, have an "Oh, that's what's going on, now I understand!" kind of realization? It is a big sigh of relief, where the conflict just instantly evaporates. You realize that you defined a key term differently, or that you made assumptions that turned out not to be true, or you used different approaches, valid in their own right, but conflicting. Truth is freeing. It opens doors, makes things flow.

Between individuals, a lack of truth is often unintentional. You just didn't realize a key difference or a missing piece of information, and you proceeded based on different assumptions. Once they're brought to light, the matter is quickly settled, and an effective collaboration or agreement can be reached.

You can control people by intentionally leaving out the truth, by presenting a picture that is different from the reality. You can make a lot of money by making some cheap crap look expensive and attractive. You get votes by leading lots of people to believe you care about their interests.

At a very practical level, you can't make very good decisions when you don't have the correct information.

That is of particular importance in networking, in cooperation and collaboration. It is of huge importance in harnessing the self-organizing power of groups, in the hope of increasing collective intelligence.

See, if every connection formed between two nodes in a network is based on lies and misinformation, not much synergy is achieved, and the connections will not be very effective. Imagine that each node in a network provides some kind of statement of "This is what I'm about. This is what I provide. This is what I need." and nodes connect with each other based on that, then it is important that such statements approximately represent something actual. If the people who say they provide funding have no money, and the people who repair cars don't know anything about cars, and the people who take care of children don't like kids, and the people who say they can fix things have no clue how - obviously the wrong connections are being made. You don't get the right people for the job, you don't find the right collaborators, you don't get the laundry detergent with the best price/quality ratio.

It might not make sense to describe it mathematically, but these errors in connection will certainly add up quickly, maybe exponentially. If you're trying to do something big, or you're part of a big network, these kinds of errors in connection might easily add up to making the whole thing completely ineffective.

Conversely, if you create a network of true connections, where it is clear what each node does, what is supplies, and what is needed, it starts scaling. Imagine the kind of superconductivity that takes place when all information is complete, relevant and correct. Self-organization can scale rapidly if there's little loss of integrity from untruth in each connection.

Currently, most types of organization are having a problem there. Even the very small organization of a single relationship between two people. Even people who've been married for years typically have a considerable problem saying the truth and relating based primarily on what is true. So, even more so, the more people you put together.

Our current civilization is to a large degree based on manipulation through untruth, by the few, of the many, exactly because we aren't good at cooperating truthfully.

The majority of the population in the industrialized world are employees. They produce a value for somebody else which is, on the average, a lot higher than the value they're being paid. They do that in part because they don't know how to produce that value on their own, and in part because they don't know the value of what they're producing. The reason they don't know those things is because the information isn't easily available. Rather, they're presented with entirely different and misleading information, emphasizing the stability of their situation, their benefits, their rights, random entertainment, weather and traffic reports, etc.

It typically isn't a matter of evil intentions on the part of the few who control the many. It is currently the most pragmatic and efficient choice. It is relatively more practical and productive to borrow money to create a company and hire a bunch of people and tell them what to do than it is to participate in a bottom-up self-organizing network of the same number of people. Not always. Sometimes small groups of people will freely do something great, without coercion, without needing payment. It is still a bit of an exception, but it is an important enough exception to indicate significant future possibilities. Sometimes open source communities will create a great product, fairly efficiently, for free, because a number of people voluntarily gather around a need or a solution, communicated clearly and truthfully enough so that they all can sense it, in one form or another.

Fuzzy projects and problems aren't yet easily undertaken by cooperative groups. Oh, strictly hierarchical groups are on their way out, but corporate network-like structures are still based on a hierarchy of control. The top still pays salaries and reaps the profit and outlines what one should work on, even if the finer details are loose.

There is lots of good information easily available. But huge areas are covered only by wildly misleading information, or information is largely missing, and that fact is well hidden. Do you think you know how most people make their money, or how large cooperations make their money? Sure, you can easily learn the average salaries of people in different professions, and the type of work they do, and you can easily look up the profits for public companies. But what actually is going on is mired in many layers of obfuscation.

Good information is something you readily can act upon and use. If I don't know how to fix the faucet in the bathroom, and I receive the right information, then I'll be able to fix the faucet. Maybe I first need to go to Home Depot and get a tool or a part, but that would be part of the good information, and I can still get the result I seek, right here, today.

There are plenty of outfits that will promise you similarly readymade information on how to make a good living doing one thing or another. Say, Internet Marketing or MLM. But once you receive that $2000 get rich quick manual or your supply of MLM vitamins, you discover that the instructions just don't get you there. They might be technically correct, and they might even give you a good overview and teach you something, but they're leaving out the specific information you would need to act in an effective way.

I have lots of friends online and offline. Yet I'm not really sure what to do with most of them. I mean, what can I do for them, what can they do for me? Oh, we don't have to do business in order to be friends, but if we do have something to offer or something we're looking for, it would be nice if we all knew what it was. And, I must admit, as to the majority of the people I know, I don't really know what they can do, and I probably haven't told them honestly what I need and want.

It is hard to be honest. If somebody asks me what I do or how I'm doing, I'm likely to tell them I'm fine, and things are going well, and I'll give them some general idea of what I do, which usually doesn't match neither what I actually do nor what I'd like to do. Why do I do that? In part because I myself am a little fuzzy on what it is I'm here for, and in part because I'm embarrassed if I actually need something, or I'm failing at something, and I'd like to look good. Different people have different hangups, but it is rare to get immediately actionable truth out of anybody.

Now, imagine that we were able to tell the honest truth most of the time. Imagine that it would be easy and natural to record and share the information about what really is there. Then imagine the possibility that lots of things actually would fit together when a lot of us start doing so. You know, I have something you need, you have a solution to my problem, X has the information that Y needs, A has a resource that B knows how to use. Synergy is much more likely when everything is visible.

Do our communication and collaboration tools lead us to be more or less honest? Do they increase truth, or obfuscate it? Do I have to wear a mask in order to protect myself, or do I get empowered by showing my real face?

How can we create environments where the truth is empowering?

I'm not talking about ultimate truth about the meaning of life and the universe. Simply, as I mentioned, a correspondance between what is going on and what one says is going on.

Masses of people who need to keep up appearances, trying to adhere to norms they never consciously agreed to, are relatively easy to control. They can be rendered rather harmless, as they each pursue individual rewards that don't truly match what they need and want.

If we make collaborative tools that simply reinforce our inclination to keep up appearances, they won't go far. If they only help us exchange impressively sounding declarations, abstract positions and lists of accomplishments, they won't have accomplished much.

Good information is actionable. It isn't just something to find interesting and to collect and pass on. There should preferably be something you can do about it or with it right now.

It is in itself a fairly fuzzy proposition to write an article about the need for truth in collaboration. Does that change anything? Maybe, maybe not. What is exactly the truth I'm calling for? I can only give vague examples.

There's a transparency that is needed. A lack of resistance. A matching of receptors. Things that match match. If one puts the wrong labels on stuff, one might erroneously try to match things that really don't fit.

Collective intelligence has something to do with increasing the number of opportunities for stuff to connect up, and lowering the resistance to it happening. Lacking or incorrect information are forms of resistance. Correct and complete information decreases resistance and increases connections.

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8 Jul 2010 @ 19:14 by swanny @ : Wow, Powerful Stuff
July 8 2010
1:14 PM MDT

Wow powerful stuff Ming, Vinton Cerf the creator or one of the fathers of the internet said something
towards the issue too.

Truth and the Internet
By Vinton G. Cerf

Truth is a powerful solvent. Stone walls melt before its relentless might. The Internet is one of the most powerful agents of freedom. It exposes truth to those who wish to see it. It is no wonder that some governments and organizations fear the Internet and its ability to make the truth known.

But the power of the Internet is like a two-edged sword. It can also deliver misinformation and uncorroborated opinion with equal ease. The thoughtful and the thoughtless co-exist side by side in the Internet's electronic universe. What's to be done?

There are no electronic filters that separate truth from fiction. No cognitive "V-chip" to sort the gold from the lead. We have but one tool to apply: critical thinking. This truth applies as well to all other communication media, not only the Internet. Perhaps the World Wide Web merely forces us to see this more clearly than other media. The stark juxtaposition of valuable and valueless content sets one to thinking. Here is an opportunity to educate us all. We truly must think about what we see and hear. We must evaluate and select. We must choose our guides. What better lesson than this to teach our young children to prepare them for a new century of social, economic and technological change?

Let us make a new Century resolution to teach our children to think more deeply about what they see and hear. That, more than any electronic filter, will build a foundation upon which truth can stand. """"""

Internet Source Link = [link]


I suppose it boils down to that old computer adage
garbage in.... garbage out
lies in..... confusion chaos out perhaps

thanks then Ming what do I owe you for the good value and truths you have offered and spoken
can't afford much but will send a $10 or $20 if you wish.
let me know

hmmmmm I wonder if some kind of truth checker tool or such could be invented,
be hard perhaps to figure but like a spell checker of sorts to say is that a valid link
or is that a hard accepted and consensual fact or is that the right day, time and place etc. or IP address be hard to factor in all the pertinent variables and then how would it work on the subjective and emotional things ???? maybe a good bad idea at the same time then but ????

ed jonas

8 Jul 2010 @ 21:27 by ming : Truth
I'm happy you find value in what I say. Pay it forward.

It isn't an impossible problem, to separate truth from untruth. We can do a lot better than merely individual critical thinking, even though that's good to have too. It is a matter of sharing information between ourselves faster and more efficiently than any merchant of deception can produce convincing lies.

The only reason one at all can sell sub-standard products of questionable provenance for exaggerated prices is that the buyers aren't connected and organized. The seller is completely aware of all his numbers. We are not aware of ours. Yet, we are many more people, have much more manpower, and we have a vested interest in having the correct information. It shouldn't be too hard to imagine that if I consider buying a product that 1000 other people have bought, the information about their experiences and level of satisfaction could be available to me. Likewise, since it takes time to develop products, and there are fewer products than people, it wouldn't be unreasonable to expect that somebody had researched exactly where this product came from, how it was made, what it's quality is, who was exploited in making it, what environmental footprint it has, etc. If we were properly networked, it could be practically impossible for anybody to mass produce and sell a bad product.

The same with many other centralized sources of untruth, like media and politicians. If we really shared and coordinated between us, they would never get very far in trying to deceive us.

Currently, our information is fragmented. If I know something, I can post it on my blog, or on twitter, or send it to a few people in an e-mail or an instant message. Or I can try to write a book about it and get it published, or I can try to appear on TV and radio, etc. Others might come along and find it if they specifically go searching. But it is terribly fragmented and incoherent. Information is frequently separated both from its source and from its actual subject matter. We find those pieces of information, like messages in bottles, and we try to decide from their content whether they're true or not. Really, we need a different kind of infrastructure where the context never gets lost.  

8 Jul 2010 @ 22:27 by swanny @ : Proximity or Context
I wonder if its not more a problem of proximity at times than context.
The web has a tendency to distort or confuse or complicate both
maybe it is matters of degrees and one has to specify the context and the degree of proximity and such, truth then is more complex given the local vs global nature of the internet.

link = [link]

ed jonas  

8 Jul 2010 @ 23:05 by ming : Links
I think it is about having links between things that aren't just flimsy "over there" pointers, but that really link things together.

I've been meaning to write a blog post about that, but it is kind of hard to express.

We need to link stuff with something closer to a rubber band than to an address on a letter you put in the mail box. Letters get lost, people move, addresses can be faked. I want to just pull the string and bring out what is at the other end, with the confidence that it is the same thing that has been at the other end all along.  

9 Jul 2010 @ 15:38 by mortimer : Websites - truth vs. keep up appearances
So, websites like Craigslist and Freecycle.com are successful because they depend on truth.
Myspace and Facebook are successful because they depend more on keeping up appearances.  

11 Jul 2010 @ 17:16 by Openworld @ : User profiles with "narrative fractals"
I've been exploring possible ways, with @andrewdigenova and @gavinkeech, for user profiles in social networks to include initiatives of value to the profile creator.

If sketched out in "Narrative Fractal" format ([link] ), it might become far easier for people to get a sense of opportunities for interaction - even if it were as simple as dragging and dropping potentially useful links or tweets into the person's project container.

We should have some draft visualizations on this ready for feedback soon - would welcome your comments/ideas for improvement when they're ready.


Mark Frazier

11 Jul 2010 @ 18:53 by ming : Narrative fractals
It would be very worthwhile to try to make people's profiles more actionable, easier to connect to.

I'm thinking, like receptors on genes or on proteins, that allow them to connect to matches.

I've looked at your Narrative Fractals idea a couple of times, and still don't completely grok it. But I like and support the idea of different aspects/dimensions/modes that are made explicit and encoded differently, and thus allowing more ways of connecting.

One thing I played with in the past was a kind of "list of ingredients" for teams, where a variety of groups fill in certain fields to specify exactly what they're trying to do, what their control structure is, how one becomes a member, etc.

I also made a chat room using de Bono's six thinking hats, so that one has to choose a hat color whenever one says something.  

29 Aug 2010 @ 17:52 by Daniel Durrant @ : TrustNet
This was posted on Amplify - [link]
Trusting each other is integral to the formation of a collective intelligence. We need less lies and more TruthFull relationships. This post by @ffunch expands upon some of the challenges, but "my take" as a student of journalism is that video interviews can increase trust (more on that later).

The mobilization of innovation from the grassroots up shouldn't be such a challenge. Collaborative projects can range from mega-scale to micro-scale, from short term to long term. Some may be more suited for short term freelance work, others might prove to be in it for the long hall, but the biggest challenge is beginning complex collaborative projects when there is very little financial capital. However, if the opportunity to earn money is replaced with intrinsic motivations and if a reputation system tracked some form of collaborative currency, maybe folks would want to play. Especially if the end goal meshes with your ideals and there is a potential pay-off for you and your communities.

We need to tell the truth if we are to gain trust. By becoming more transparent, accountable, and open (T.A.O.), the social economic value of our conversations will increase.


A created a list on twitter called TrustNet of people whose knowledge seems integral to my research into extreme-scale collaboration and collective intelligence: [link]

"TrustNet" and "extreme-scale collaboration" are SuperStruct terms.

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Other stories tagged as ""
2010-07-14 13:35: Consciousness of Pattern
2010-06-28 00:03: Pump up the synchronicity
2010-06-27 02:28: Be afraid, be very afraid

Other stories in
2010-07-10 13:01: Strong Elastic Links
2010-07-08 02:27: Truth: superconductivity for scalable networks
2008-07-06 23:20: Laws of social networks
2008-06-20 15:40: Peer material production
2008-05-06 13:57: Why can't we stick to our goals?
2008-02-21 21:16: Open social networks
2007-11-08 01:49: The value of connections
2007-11-07 00:51: Diversity counterproductive to social capital?
2007-07-13 23:42: Plan vs Reality
2007-07-12 22:53: Emergence and democracy

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