Sep 17, 2021Liked by Tomas Pueyo

As always, a very interesting article. Thank you!

However, I have a comment about the type of network that I think has not been

covered in your article.

You do not discuss what I would call the "Hierarchical Network", a system where

the decisions the network takes go in a a "top down" direction. Most companies

follow this approach. In information terms, the data follow one path (in both

directions), but there is another one-directional path of information (orders

or directives) that flows from top management down to lower levels of decision

making.An army is an extreme example of a hierarchical organization.

The other important point is that in a meeting of several people in a room, the

quantity of information that can be exchanged is somehow limited by what in

computing terms may be called the "bandwith" of our speech processes and

inforrmation processing. For conversations where every person can exchange a

meaningful amount of information whith everyone else, the group is limited to

about 10 to 15 people.

The roman army, for example, had their troops divided into groups of ten, with

a Decurion in charge, who in turn formed part of a group of ten Decurions

coordinated by a Centurion, etc.

In many companies there is a board of around 10 people, and countries are

governed in general by a Cabinet of 10 to 15 Ministers. The Ministries are then

subdivided into working units, perhaps not down to the lowest level, but most

organizations follow this hierarchical model.

In a very simplified analysis, taking 10 people in each level (sort of like the

Roman Army), a General (Manager, Prime minister, etc.) commanding 1,000 troops

is three levels removed from a soldier (ten Centurions, 100 Decurions, 1000

common soldiers). We have in this way 4 levels for a big company with 10,000

employees, and 6 or 7 for countries with populations in the millions. We

therefore have a pyramid of decision making, from tactical problems of detail

in the lower levels to the larger, strategy decisions at the top. In a decision process it is a problem, since the different levels tend to move in restricted circles, as far as meaningful information is concerned. Status and wealth also play an important part, so the problems faced by the common folk are not well understood by the leaders. Of course, the more hierarchical

the organization, the problem of asymmetric decision making and information

sharing becomes worse. The king is not so responsive to the lower levels as the

politician and the General can make decisions even disregarding the lives of his soldiers.

Less meaningful information can be exchanged in larger groups. Assemblies of

Citizens, as in ancient Greek City States or Swiss villages can be of several hundred or even thousands, but again the speakers to the assembly are restricted to a few., and the rest are more passive, until, as is ussually done, the decision is taken by a vote. Most Parliaments or the Houses in Congress follow this model, and in most there are Comitties of around ten to 15 people who discuss the proposals in detail.

The above is related more to decision making than to information exchange, and to face to face communication than to the Web, but the "bandwidth" problem of the human brain and speech (or reading speed) remains. In the sharing of information in our networked computer communication, it is true that direct communication with millions is possible, and a few nodes

act as spreaders of information to thousands or millions of receptors. They can talk, but not

really listen to everyone. The exchange of two-way information is still restricted to smaller groups, although hopefully the best ideas will be spread by more people, and the hierarchy effect will be less important in a loose and not hierarchical organization like the WWW. In any case, some hierarchy remains because some outlets are more followed than others.

Of course the above ideas are basically a cartoon of what happens out there, and as the saying goes "God is in the details" but I thought that drawing attention to these limitations of our communication skills as individuals may be worthwhile.

Thanks again for another thought provoking article, abrazo

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Sep 22, 2021Liked by Tomas Pueyo

My guess is you will enjoy a lot Hosftadter's GEB. And probably, also books by his pupil, Melanie Mitchell.

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Sep 19, 2021Liked by Tomas Pueyo

You would definitely be interested in Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy. The central thesis is that the earth and (almost) all life on it, is in fact a giant supercomputer commissioned by hyperintelligent pandimensional beings to finally work out the ultimate question: what is the meaning of life?

The obvious, but unstated paradox is that despite being hyperintelligent and pandimensional, these beings haven't been able to work out the meaning of life themselves! Perhaps a subtle dig at human hubris and self-congratulation.

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fascinating images!! Now how do we get the "deplorable neurons" to neutralized themselves? The fish creating a scary sea monster is the best! Thank you Tomas.

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Jan 3, 2022Liked by Tomas Pueyo

On the tenth day of Christmas my truelove gave to me ten pipers piping.

1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1=10? Nope. The answer is either twenty-three or minus five depending on whether you like Highland pipe band music or not, so I think maybe an orchestra would be a better example.

The point is that the sum of the individual parts is not equal to the whole. To create something special you need to have good players, but they also need to give up their individuality. A good conductor sees the whole and isn’t just there to co-ordinate but also to add balance, interpretation and expression.

There is always a competitive tension between the individual and the group. What an individual might desire isn’t necessarily what is best for the group. The key is to keep the right balance between individual rights and the rights of others. The end result of creation can be truly awful if the players don’t play nicely together, the conductor doesn’t co-ordinate well or the project was never a good idea in the first place. The bigger the group the harder it is to conduct because the leader can become disconnected from the followers .

Human society is made up of individuals, but people behave differently on their own than they do in groups. In the well described phenomenon of bystander apathy, if one person comes upon someone who needs help, they are more likely to act than if many people are present. This is partly because a group gives us cover to avoid taking responsibility for a problem, but also because humans display some level of herd behaviour and we instinctively look to others for guidance in an uncertain situation.

In the examples of prey animals, the action of one individual can "spook" the whole group into a communal chain reaction. We are not quite as group focused as some of species in the videos, but we are aware of the mood of others and there is such a thing as the social mood. That can be a problem, but also a solution.

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> What about DAOs—(Distributed Autonomous Organizations)? They try to encode networks more rigidly. Does that reduce emergent complexity?

Good DAOs should encode networks less rigidly than a traditional corporate structure. The point is to increase individual autonomy. Whether that increases or reduces complexity is hard to say.

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Sep 20, 2021Liked by Tomas Pueyo

Intéressant et passionnant, notre cerveau serait une connexion (émetteur et récepteur) avec une conscience supérieure dans notre univers !?

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Great article -- it would go over really well at Complexity Weekend -- https://www.complexityweekend.com/

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Sep 19, 2021Liked by Tomas Pueyo

100 billion neurons in the brain. 100 billion stars in a galaxy. What are the odds?

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Sep 18, 2021Liked by Tomas Pueyo

Tomas, what type of brain are you trying to build on Uncharted Territories?

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Great popular intro to collective intelligence. Check also "Superminds" by Tom Malone: https://www.amazon.com/Superminds-Surprising-Computers-Thinking-Together/dp/0316349135

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Haha! Imagine my surprise to find that you have written an article about my favorite research subject! Wonderful to have an excellent story-teller such as Tomas Pueyo presenting this topic to his readers. The power of emergent properties, in which patterns and complexity can arise among a population of simple actors following simple rules, is a topic well worth examining. In my tiny corner of the universe, I became fascinated in understanding how a colony of tens of thousands of honeybees organized their colony functions, bringing in the proper balance of nectar (carbohydrate) and pollen (protein) to feed the growing larvae, making complex foraging decisions, and organizing food stores, air-conditioning their hive, as well as locating new nesting sites when swarming. All without any centralized control, without any single individual (even the queen) knowing the overall status of the colony.

Unlike yourself, and possibly most of your readers, I have little interest in humanity and its follies. I simply wanted to understand biological evolution had come up with incredible mechanisms (such as decentralization and networks) to solve the many challenges facing living organisms.

I suppose it could be wonderful if human beings took some "advice" from ants and bees, but I suspect that our arrogance, hubris, and innate over-riding obsession with personal self-interest, prevents us from making a multitude of wise choices. You have given us examples of such folly in the way many countries have poorly managed the COVID pandemic.

If you wish to read a bit more about bees, ants, fireflies and slime molds, check out my book:


(This is not an advertisement! Please don't buy the book. It's hardly worth the price!)

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