Evil Genius

We are in the age of geek pride, an age where “nerd” is not supposed to be an insult anymore, and where we acknowledge that being smart is more desirable than having large biceps or long legs.

Why are villains constantly depicted as the cliché evil genius? Extremely smart, they often portray a view of the world that is at the same time at odds with ours, and yet intriguingly difficult to defy.

Villains are the destabilizing narrative element that brings chaos, but doing so by the means of cleverness, is a narrative choice that contributes to the message delivered by the story.

In an era when intelligence is one of the highest and most desirable characteristics, what does it do to our society, being exposed to infinite variations of idea that villains routinely outsmart heroes?

Distorted Reality

Everything you believe is false.
Not a conspiracy theory.
Not the revival of some anti systemic website motto from 2005.

This post is more trivially an observation on how we perceive reality in a world that’s been dominated by mass communication for about a century.

The impact of this on how we perceive reality is a much bigger distortion than we’d be willing to admit.
While this can be a great boost for ambition, it’s probably not the best for self-esteem.

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Physiognomy and A.I.

Physiognomy is often described as the pseudo-science of inferring character from facial and physical characteristics.

What is fascinating about it is the idea that as we age, we bring with us the signs of who we are. Our wrinkles hide the story of our predominant facial expressions through the decades. Our posture says a lot about our employment and status. Our mouth shape and mandibular position are significant of how we wanted to portray ourselves through time, menacing or friendly for example.

There are however also concerning aspects to this pseudo-science, and in particular as our ability to process Big Data enhances, physiognomy is going to play with the edge between good and bad science: the more we store images and videos of faces, expressions, and human interactions, the more opportunities A.I. will have to examine training material and learn prejudice and discrimination.

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Hybrid Democracy

Political fluidity, the cultural replacement of Opinion Leaders with Influencers, and the need for a faster democratic paradigm have brought me to the conclusion that our century will see some rather major restructuring of our institutions.

One of the possibilities that are discussed time and again is the shift from representative democracy to direct democracy.
Among many reasonable and voiced complains about such approach, people may not be interested enough or simply not have enough knowledge on selected topics to be able to express an informed decision.

Following this line of thought, I evaluated the possibility of a hybrid democracy that would still maintain the principles of representativeness, but also allow for direct participation.
In a very simplified, 3 steps overview, I envisioned a hybrid parliament as follows:

  1. Parliament is open to virtual participation via internet
  2. Each person has 1 vote on each topic, and can chose how to use it:
    • voting directly via internet
    • delegating a “spokesperson” to vote in their behalf
    • not voting
  3. The right to speak in parliament is granted only to those who were delegated by a large enough number of voters

As about delegation, it could work in many ways… one could delegate a single vote, could delegate different people for different topics, and the delegation could be time bond (1 week while I am on holiday, or the whole year). Ideally all delegations should expire after a “term” to use current terminology.

The advantages of such approach would be numerous:

  • political fluidity would be addressed,
  • lack of representativeness would be a thing of the past,
  • each spokesperson’s vote would count for the number of received delegations,
  • there would be a good balance between the representativeness of a proportional voting system, and the agility of a majoritarian system,
  • while there would be tens of thousands of delegates (anyone could delegate their wife, dad or cousin), potentially there could be many less spokespersons in parliament, facilitating debates between different stances,
  • spokespersons would not need to pledge loyalty to a party, but would be judged on a continuous basis by their delegators,
  • spokespersons would be personally accountable for each of their decisions

There would certainly be disadvantages too that would need to be addressed, but fortunately this isn’t going to happen any time soon, so we have time to rectify the imperfections… for example selling and buying votes would arguably be easier, and lobbying in form of advertisement and marketing to the voter/customer would probably end up taking a huge slice of the political debate in many areas.

It is important however to understand that the current “crisis of the elites”, is not temporary, and it reflect the end of an era of trust towards policy makers, or more in general the end of mediation: everything in the internet era is immediate (i.e.: non-mediated) and the role of mediators is undergoing a complete revolution: from drivers, to bankers, translators, journalists and -of course- politics, no one is safe.

While my suggestion here can be seen as amusing by some, the current political model is unfit for purpose in this century, and while criticizing new ideas is perfectly reasonable, if done with the intent of bringing back solutions from the last century, that is unlikely to be a viable option at all.

To UBI or not to UBI?

Spoiler alert: to UBI!
The fact is: sooner or later setting up some sort of Universal Basic Income (i.e.: free money for everyone, working or not) will become cheaper than maintaining social order.

This may happen within just over a decade or take a lot longer, but as the technology advances, it will make automation ubiquitous and lower the costs of goods further and further.

If this sounds like just a crazy socialist-ish utopia without fundament, let’s go through the numbers!

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Blockchain – A ledger

Blockchain is the technology behind bitcoin, however there’s growing awareness around the fact that it has an immense unexplored potential. It is essentially a public, non (easily) counterfeitable ledger, and just as it works for digital currencies, it could work to record any other transactions.

Have a cow you want to sell? Make a digital ID for the cow (name, colour, weight… whatever information is relevant). Make an md5, then butcher it in fourth and make an ID for each quarter that links to the original cow’s ID, then split it into smaller pieces down to your own steak at the supermarket. Each steak with it’s own ID that is the last leaf of a blockchain rooted to the original cow’s ID.
You will know exactly where it comes from, what farmer, how old it was, etc.

Want to buy a pair of jeans but don’t know if they are ethically sustainable? get a blockchain for the jeans linking to other blockchains for where the fabric was made, which country, what are the workers’ conditions, etc.

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Faster Democracy in faster century

We live in a fast era: technology change fast, we rarely have the time to analyze the same input twice, we multitask, we are addicted to novelty and have a idiosyncrasy for anything old.

Our century is arguably faster than any previous one, and our democracies are inherently slow hardcoded from the constitution up to follow the same paradigm that generated them decades or centuries ago.

Our democracy should, and can be faster.

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Gnirut Test

Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.

probably Not Albert Einstein (often attributed to him tho)

The Turing Test was developed by Alan Turing in the 1950s. The idea was that one day a machine intelligence would be indistinguishable from that of a human.

Now: based on the quote above I would say that arguably measuring the intelligence of a computer by its ability to behave like a human… is also a little bit unfair!

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Political Fluidity

We often hear that we live a fluid political climate.

I already discussed how I do not see this as a momentary glitch in an otherwise sound political system, but rather as the natural consequence of our technological evolution; something that has not yet reached the tipping point too.

So what do we mean when we speak about political fluidity today? It is a concept related to how the electorate is mutable and their support to a leader or party is purely momentary, and could change at any time. While this was obviously always true to some degree, it is now becoming more true than ever.

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