Networks/Crowds

Machines are incredibly intelligent in many ways (I hope that’s not you mumbling at the use of ‘intelligent’ that way…), but in the universe of possible minds, it’s clear that the set of machine cognition only slightly overlaps with the set of human cognition. Ignoring concerns about energy use, there are problems that standard commercial computers solve vastly better than humans (better= more reliably, quicker), and there are problems where humans are still by far more effective than computers. Human-Based Computation (HCOMP) is an interesting field, and one that I do not foresee being overwhelmed by The Machines anytime soon. Crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, and crowdvoting are still in their infant phase, new tools that could enable a variety of interesting organizational forms. There are Wiki’s, enjoyed passively by the masses and generally maintained by a small, monastic sect of super-users in a backroom community (I might write some day about my months as an active Wikipedian). There are computer-mediated collaborations of various kinds. There are crowdsourced micro-work platforms such as Mechanical Turk. There’s the nascent field of Citizen Science, classically applied to astronomy, and more recently applied with phone apps (Quantified Self). There’s Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and other platforms where volunteers support creative and engineering projects. There are “Games with a Purpose”, where players teach computers or fold proteins as they play.

There was once a wonderful site called Intrade.

Prediction markets like Intrade are also part of this Organization in the TIMN framework, called the Network. Users can inadvertently contribute to networks through their self-interest, informing predictive algorithms for Netflix or Amazon or Google.

Futarchy is perhaps an example of a pure form that may never be implemented at scale but is still an interesting and useful idea [manifesto here].

In many Bitcoin circles, the (old) idea of a Distributed Autonomous Corporation is sometimes excitedly introduced. (Ex. onetwo, three [pick one, they’re all the same and two of them are the same author]).

Not all decentralized organizations easily complement older organizational forms. Torrenting has long been a problem for digital contracts. Bitcoin is also not a controllable, centralizable construct. Silk Road and other black market platforms are enabled by anonymous exchange. Recently I’ve been reading about the realization of contract assassination markets (and the more interesting “prediction/assassination market“: killers can correctly predict the dates of death and receive winnings quietly.) It’s the emergence, 2-3 decades later, of science fiction unique to the 80’s and 90’s- speculation based on the emerging technologies of the day, in labs and in some subcultures. That length of time is roughly consistent with the incubation time for tablets and mice from corporate blue-sky projects to consumer-ready products.