Sunday, October 2, 2011

Chaos, Complexity, Uncertainty and Expert Systems

Chaos:  a mathematical theory where small differences in initial conditions (such as those due to rounding errors in numerical computation) yield widely diverging outcomes for chaotic systems, rendering long-term prediction impossible in general.

Complexity: a condition of numerous elements in a system and numerous forms of relationships among the elements.

Uncertainty: A principle from quantum mechanics which states a fundamental limit on the accuracy with which certain pairs of physical properties of a particle, such as position and momentum, cannot be simultaneously known. In other words, the more precisely one property is measured, the less precisely the other can be controlled, determined, or known.

Expert System: a computer system that emulates the decision-making ability of a human expert. Expert systems are designed to solve complex problems by reasoning about knowledge, like an expert, and not by following the preprogrammed instructions of program code.

Question: Could our systems have evolved to the point where they are so complex, that they are beyond our control?

When you watch the pundits and experts pontificate about the economy, or geopolitics, do you ever feel that they seem to just appear to be bloviating about things that they really have no grip on?  In a game where there are 7 billion participants, can we ever guarantee an equality of outcomes?  Given so many variables and the ever more complex interactions with each other, can we truly be in control?

When we look at our world, we see so many closely coupled interactions that it may in point of fact, now be beyond the control of humanity to balance our supply chain, financial markets, and resources.  Consider how food in distributed throughout Africa.  If equality of outcome were possible, would there be millions of people starving to death.  If we could establish long term control, reducing the chaotic pressures of our current world state to small perturbations over time, instead of wild, bubble induced swings, would that not be better for our species in the long run?  Efficient, pragmatic, and science based solutions to energy, resource distribution and population governance may be the next stage of societal evolution.
I have suggested in the past, that in a world with plenty, where scarcity of food, or other resources, is a thing of the past, our conflicts may disappear. If you have all your needs met, and your wants are accessible, what do you complain about?  Do you still have wars over ideologies, when there are no oppressed?  When everyone is comfortable, do radical ideologies have anywhere to get a foothold?

If expert systems were available to distribute the least amount of negative outcomes across the widest population possible, would that actually work?  Note, I said, least amount of negative outcomes.  We cannot insure that everyone will always have the most awesome day ever, everyday.  But we can say that the least amount of “suck” will be distributed across the widest possible base, thus reducing the overall amount of negative outcomes.

Would such a system reduce the apparent Chaos currently affecting our world today?  In a post scarcity world, where computer systems increase human efficiency to the point that no one goes without, could we move from childhood to our more mature state?  I am not asking for a world where puppies and grandmas never die, and we live forever; such fantasies are unproductive flights of childish imagination.  I am looking for world where needless suffering and cruelty has been removed, and that we, as a species, can unite, toward loftier goals than internecine, tribal warfare; mindless, soul numbing entertainments and the other petty distractions that we have come to expect from 21st century humanity.