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Dampening

 
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jabailo



Joined: 20 Mar 2006
Posts: 1273
Location: Kent (East Hill), WA

PostPosted: Sat Dec 13, 2008 11:24 am    Post subject: Dampening Reply with quote

Going into the 21st Century, there was a lot of focus on chaos, and out of control systems. We live in an era where the runaway "forcings" of CO2 may soon melt us. Michael Crichton made millions selling sci-fi about human events that got out of hand -- the Butterfly Effect -- and came back to whomp us!

However, there must be millions of butterflies in China. Is it that only one of a million times a butterflies wings beat in Shaanxi Province and one in a million times the stock market crashes in New York City. Or maybe chaos is more rampant than we think? Often we have illusions about something being rock solid, only to find it's as variable as the wind. House prices were once sacred -- destined to rise -- and now we're looking at 80K 3 bedroom houses in Marisopa, Arizona.

Jobs with major corporations, marriages, cities, climates -- all these things have been seen to rise and fall in our lifetimes and now day by day the financial new changes.

However, we are still here reading this. That leads me to think that while chaos has and is being explored robustly, we tend not to think as much about dampening.

Dampening would be the opposite of chaos -- the fire hose on the fire. While chaos may be more prevalent than we thought, dampening must also be going on all around us or we would indeed be living in the end times...all the time!
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jabailo



Joined: 20 Mar 2006
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Location: Kent (East Hill), WA

PostPosted: Wed Dec 17, 2008 6:22 am    Post subject: Social Dampening Reply with quote

http://articles.latimes.com/2007/sep/28/local/me-gangs28

Quote:
“For the first time, we’re requiring captains to call the gang interventionists, give them the word on the shooting and get out there and avert another homicide,” Deputy Police Chief Charlie Beck said.

[...]

“That’s a paradigm-changing breakthrough,” said Connie Rice, a civil rights attorney who was hired by Los Angeles to evaluate its anti-gang programs. “They know they can’t contaminate each other, and they’re figuring the lines that can’t be crossed, so they’re negotiating that right now. I know that work is going forward.”
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jabailo



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Location: Kent (East Hill), WA

PostPosted: Wed Dec 17, 2008 3:09 pm    Post subject: Runaways That Came Home Reply with quote

Y2K.

Oil Prices.

Super high housing prices (now phrased as a "crises" although you could have looked at the run up from 1984 to 2006 as the real crises".
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brian-hansen
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 17, 2008 7:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another name for this: reversion to the mean

Another one: negative feedback loop
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jabailo



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PostPosted: Wed Dec 17, 2008 9:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, in many senses its a small subset of your proposals about better feedback mechanisms. I'm more focused on the ways of achieving dampening...a kind of anti-resonance.
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brian-hansen
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 17, 2008 9:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another name for this: diminishing returns

With the weather so cold here in Portland, I've had the opportunity
to ponder something along these lines when I look at the fire in my
fireplace. A successful fire is a chain reaction: a process building
upon itself, upon its success so far.

When they first tested the atom bomb, they were still uncertain.
There was some chance that the chain reaction would continue,
causing the atmosphere to fission.
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jabailo



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PostPosted: Thu Dec 18, 2008 9:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

One of my earliest encounters with runaway processes (and one which today, seems little recognized) is Ice Nine from Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle, written in 1963 (much before Crichton and chaos theory).

Of course his novels are tongue in cheek humorous, but he had a brilliantly warped mind that was more in tune with Science in the 21st rather than the 20th century. (Speaking of that, and here I digress, I've been watching the 1st season of Star Trek TOS...it's funny but things that seemed odd or ridiculous when the series was created now seem dead on..as in, of course it would be that way! Example: transporter and quantum entanglement.)

Ice Nine was a form of ice crystal which when it made contact with regular water, would freeze at 116F. A bit of Ice Nine thrown in the ocean would render it solid...
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 21, 2008 10:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cat's Cradle is a brilliant book, IMO one of Vonnegut's best. His later novel Galapagos, though, is also in tune with much of "green" pessimism about the place of humans in the world.

Re positive feedback loops in SF, AIs becoming ever more powerful and reaching a point of Singularity is another example, I think.

A report on one website (http://lifeboat.com/papers2/ian.pearson.doc.) puts it thus: "Once an AI reaches a certain level of intelligence, it would be capable of hiding, using distribution and encryption to disperse itself around the net. By developing its own techniques to capture more processing resources, it could benefit from a positive feedback loop, accelerating quickly towards a vastly superhuman entity."
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jabailo



Joined: 20 Mar 2006
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Location: Kent (East Hill), WA

PostPosted: Sun Dec 21, 2008 11:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ah yes, the classic, machines taking over runaway.

I have thought through one possible dampening to this, and that is, if you look at the history of AI and the current state, it seems to have gone from

1) Using logic, we can program a set of rules that mimic the brain

to

2) The brain is a quantum object which cannot be described with first order logic

And in robotics we went from

1) We'll eventually be able to create an android

to

2) We can build "swarms" of insect like machines whose aggregate behavior can accomplish tasks intelligently, but without specific programming telling them to do so.

My conclusion therefore is: humans are the perfect robots, therefore there is nothing to "supercede" us, because the evolution of the technology of AI and robotics would lead us to develop a moderately intelligent, organic organism with a high degree of sociality that has some degree of innate programming but a much greater degree of learned behavior. This robot would not be super strong itself, but capable of tool creation to enhance its abilities and to protect itself if needed.

We, Robot.
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brian-hansen
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 21, 2008 12:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Welcome, Alex. Thanks for jumping in here.

I too am a great admirer of Cat's Cradle. Even today, when
hard pressed for my religion, I'm prepared to answer Bokonoism.

Today, I'm also greatly admiring JABailo for highlighting the
notion of dampening as a "general" topic, giving us the
opportunity to think about it across multiple circumstances
and situations.

The notion of applying it to the threat you mention, encourages
us to think about mechanisms that could dampen the runaway
effect, which is an interesting question.

The runaway effect of the fire in my fireplace is dampened by
many factors, including the fuel and the non-flammable thermal
mass provided by the firebox. "Dampening" invites us to
re-examine our metaphors, which I always find enjoyable and
often instructive.

As far as your runaway scenario goes, it seems to me that
the emphasis is almost exactly reversed from what it ought to
be. Getting access and control of computing resources is
probably the easiest part of becoming a "superhuman entity".
Kids can do it from their unfinished basements.

The fact that
people have a certain degree of control of the "off" switches
may be the best dampening factor on the threat you describe.
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 22, 2008 5:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello Brian, John, re the rampaging-AI scenario, I would have to agree that we’re moving away from the threat of one entity taking over the world. Theoretically, if there arose a superfast generation of machines (quantum computers?) and if the world had become far more interconnected than now with less direct human involvement, the situation might arise. But this is not likely to happen anytime soon – even the most devastating computer viruses haven’t been able to shut down the entire internet, and even the most determined spammers haven’t (quite) managed to target everyone in the world.

(I’m reminded of an episode of NCIS where HQ is under attack by a hacker, and two people are at the keyboard, desperately fighting to block the invading program. The boss walks in, sees what’s happening – and pulls the computer’s plug out at the wall. Problem solved!)

Re dampening processes when applied to climate, one strange moment for me was when I read an online article last year about the melting of the Greenland icecap (I can’t find it right now, otherwise would provide a link.) The gist of the article was that during the 1930s there was a similar (or even more pronounced) melt in Greenland, and the conclusion of the article was that the situation looks ominous now, as tipping points may be reached, which will trigger a runaway process of icecap-melting and sea-level rise.

What the article did not mention was why these tipping points were not reached during the 1930s – I’m not very literate, scientifically speaking, but thought that would have been an obvious and interesting question to ask. If the Arctic was warming in the 1930s but colder in the 1940s, what happened to damp down the warming process? Since then, I’ve been exposed to the aerosol argument, then to the negative-PDO/AMO argument, but for me this still has a touch of the mysterious about it.

Perhaps (wild speculation alert!) we're living in a universe dominated by negative feedback (at many levels), and the fact that we exist at all is proof of this; a universe where the balance was different would perhaps have become quickly unstable and have exploded/imploded or otherwise ceased to exist. So maybe this is just a stone-cold sober universe.. Surprised)
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jabailo



Joined: 20 Mar 2006
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Location: Kent (East Hill), WA

PostPosted: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am in the process of reading a book called The Future of Everything by David Orrell ( http://www.amazon.com/Future-Everything-Science-Prediction/dp/1560259752 ) which attempts to put modern forecasting and modelling in a historical context in the first of the book's three sections.

One of the first appearances of chaos was by LaPlace who shows that any three independently interacting variables are capable of producing chaotic behavior. The result of this was his proof that any planet in the Solar system, interacting normally with the Sun and other planets, is capable of being pushed off its orbit and sent hurtling into outer space(!)

So, this could happen, and it might happen, but it hasn't happened yet. In fact, other theorists believe that gravity isn't enough to account for the security in which the planets stay orbiting around the Sun and electromagnetism may be the real glue of the galaxy.

Bottom line is, it seems like only a few of any number of possible catastrophe scenarios actually comes to fruition and in many cases, there is some sort of dampening which causes it to stop in its tracks (SARS, for example, was supposed to wipe out everyone over 60, and although it has killed many, they are in far lower numbers and geography than predicted).

So that is the point of this thread really, simply to say that while we have (and should) examine the science of chaos, the science of dampening is equally interesting. It also dovetails somewhat into proposals by Brian Hansen to focus more on feedback mechanisms, though in this case, I am saying dampening may be as much a part of nature and mathematics as chaos and worth exploring and experimenting.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 21, 2009 9:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The David Orrell book looks good; it's been on my to-be-read list for a while now. Just thought of another possible dampening scenario; the way viruses do not normally wipe out an entire population but become limited. I'm thinking about the Myxoma virus in rabbits - at first it killed rabbits very quickly in Australia, but then became ineffective, as they died before it could be transmitted (a less deadly version of it is now successful in Australia, apparently.) It killed off most rabbits in England during the 1950s, but then the population rebounded, as immune rabbits began to breed and build up their numbers again. A kind of dampening in action?
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jabailo



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PostPosted: Wed Jan 21, 2009 11:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, Alex, absolutely!

Even the basic mathematics of chaos, fractals. Look at all the fractal patterns in the world, leaves, shorelines and so on. They are built on recursive patterns. Yet, at some point, the recursion always hits a stop point that causes the function to evaluate.

This would be a really interesting mathematical, physical issue. Are there patterns in the level of recursion before evaluation in nature. Why? What triggers the eval?
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 23, 2009 5:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

My mathematics is almost non-existent, so I'm not sure what the answer could be. But I understand that when someone writes a computer program to draw a fractal on a screen, they have to deliberately insert a stop point, otherwise the program will try to run forever.

Maybe there are different kinds of stop point in nature. In the case of leaves, nautilus shells, etc., I think there must be some instruction in the DNA to limit the number of iterations(?) For geological processes like shorelines, I'm not sure... Maybe the processes want to continue ad infinitum but run out of space and just crash, as it were. In which case, the size of the world might matter - on a much larger but still Earth-like world, they might recur for longer, before hitting the buffers?
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