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Showing posts from 2007

Epistemological Perspectives on Simulation (EPOS 2008)

The EPOS 2008 workshop will take place in Lisbon, Portugal, on October 2008:

The EPOS workshop series brings together researchers from the social, natural and computational sciences, as well as philosophers of science, to debate and elaborate on epistemological perspectives of simulation. The recognition that progress in the science of simulation must be on a par with progress in the analysis of its epistemological status has been an important mobile for the realization of the EPOS workshops.

See the Call for Papers here.Important Dates:May 1 – Submission of papers or extended abstracts
June 15 – Notification of acceptance
August 31 – Receipt of full papers
October 2-3 – Workshop, Lisbon, Portugal

Fraude: México 2006

Next month, the film "Fraude: México 2006" by Luis Mandoki will be released in more than 200 Mexican cinemas. You can see the trailer in YouTube (in Spanish...).

This documentary gathers evidence filmed by hundreds of people about the fraud of the 2006 presidential elections. The Mexican supreme court already accepted that there had been severe irregularities, but in spite of that, we're stuck with a duck president (Felipe Calderón, aka FeCal), puppet of the people who managed to put him in power. Most recently, AeroMexico was sold to a business group who supported FeCal.

I hope that this film will inform better people. There is no doubt about the fraud, there is more than enough evidence for it. But many Mexicans don't know about it (TV companies invested a lot in FeCal), and most don't even care...

It is worth noting that Warner Bros, the original distributor of the film, tried to censor it, namely a part that compromises Televisa directives. When the director ref…

Reducing Social Conflict: Lessons from Ecology

In ecology, one can see that if a species is too "efficient", it will exhaust its resources, and become extinct. This has led to the "prudent predator" concept: A predator needs to save some prey to subsist another day. Herbivores need to do the same with pastures, and parasites and viruses with their hosts. This is why deadly virus strains do not propagate much: if they kill their hosts, they cannot use them to spread.

We can extend this idea to social systems. For example, if employers exploit their workers too much, these will not be motivated to work well, and the company will go out of business. Certainly, there are exceptions: monopolies, where no matter how bad a service or product is, the consumer has no alternative. Another case is when there is a large workforce supply, i.e. high unemployment rates. If there are plenty of workers, employers will be tempted to exploit them, replacing the "weak" ones with those able to withstand their demands.
Sti…

New eBook: Design and Control of Self-organizing Systems

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My first eBook just came out. It is based on my PhD thesis, published by CopIt Arxives at the UNAM, which follows the spirit of Open Source. The editor is Octavio Miramontes.


Gershenson, Carlos (2007).Design and Control of Self-organizing Systems. CopIt ArXives, Mexico. TS0002EN

Complex systems are usually difficult to design and control. There are several particular methods for coping with complexity, but there is no general approach to build complex systems. In this book I propose a methodology to aid engineers in the design and control of complex systems. This is based on the description of systems as self-organizing. Starting from the agent metaphor, the methodology proposes a conceptual framework and a series of steps to follow to find proper mechanisms that will promote elements to find solutions by actively interacting among themselves.

Competition and Development

One of the things I learned from years of competitive swimming is the following: you should not compete against others. You should compete against yourself. If you are first place or fourth or last does not depend only on how you perform, but on the people who happen to compete at the same meeting. You have no control on the others' performance, so you can only attempt to improve your own time: compete against yourself.
This idea can be extended well beyond sport. It is senseless to compete at school, work, or within family. Simply because each person has different abilities. We all start with different genes, different contexts, different backgrounds. If I try to earn more money than somebody whose family has been rich for generations, I will only be disappointed. And the other way around: If I compare myself only with people with a less advantageous position, I will be fooling myself and will never progress. Compete against yourself: Just try to earn more money than before.
Just a…

Ten Simple Rules for Scientists

Playing with Emergence

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Last Saturday, Seth Frey organized an awesome party at his Cambridge loft. Different people were given different tasks, and I had the mission to "prepare an artificial life demonstration, using the actually living in your audience". I remembered hearing at some conferences (was it a talk by Eric Bonabeau?) about games where people follow simple rules, and then end up creating interesting patterns, independently of the initial conditions, without the need of anybody knowing what was expected from them.

I didn't find some examples online, so I devised a few games, which were played at the party by about 30 people:
"approach one": each player chooses another player, and approaches one step at a time (I did the synchronizing with clapping). I thought everybody would end up in the center, but actually a few clusters were formed.
"retreat one": each player chooses another player, and runs away. I thought that everybody would end up at the edges of the room, an…

Solutions for Global Warming

James E. Lovelock and Chris G. Rapley recently submitted a letter to Nature, suggesting the use of pipes to mix ocean waters to help them bloom pumping carbon dioxide underwater. Sounds much better than some others... but still, we should be cautious.

I asked Inman Harvey his opinion about it, and here's his reply:
On the one hand, my instinct is to be deeply sceptical and worried about *any* largescale attempt to modify a complex nonlinear feedback system barely understood, with not only known unknowns but unknown unknowns. I am somewhat sympathetic with a comment piece by Hari on
http://comment.independent.co.uk/columnists_a_l/johann_hari/article3024703.ece

On the other hand, compared with some other bizarre geo-engineering proposals, this is reassuringly lowtech, cheap, could be introduced and monitored in just one area initially -- and would be simple and quick to turn off if necessary. Rapid and scaleable and monitorable and turn-offable seems to offer more opportunities for deci…

Different recipes for development

U.S.-led organizations such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have been "recommending" developing countries on how to improve their economies. However, the only countries that develop are the "developed" ones... very few developing countries have improved their economies. Moreover, those who have improved, especially in Latin America, have been precisely those who refused to follow the dictates from the U.S. Why? Because people at the IMF and WB thought for decades the following: "if this model of economic development worked for us, we should just export it to other countries, and their economies will grow as ours". What happened? Countries are very different. Moreover, the situation in Latin America (and the world) today is very different from the one the U.S. had when it had a similar economic level. We cannot assume that the same model will work again, just as it hasn't worked for decades. The cultures are different. Histories a…

Global Pattern Formation and Ethnic/Cultural Violence

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Colleagues from NECSI just published this interesting paper:
Global Pattern Formation and Ethnic/Cultural ViolenceM. Lim, R. Metzler, Y. Bar-Yam,
Science 317, 5844 (2007).Download PDF(requires susbscription)Download supplementary materialsListen to the Science podcast interview with Yaneer Bar-Yam Press Release
News ArticlesPrevious Work: Global Control, Ethnic Violence and Terrorism, from Making Things Work, Knowledge Press, Cambridge, MA (2005). view PDFAbstractWe identify a process of global pattern formation that causes regions to differentiate by culture. Violence arises at boundaries between regions that are not sufficiently well defined. We model cultural differentiation as a separation of groups whose members prefer similar neighbors with a characteristic group size at which violence occurs. Application of this model to the area of the former Yugoslavia and to India accurately predicts the locations of reported conflict. This model also points to imposed mixing or bound…

Paper Update: The World as Evolving Information

After substantial feedback, I uploaded a new version of the paper:

The World as Evolving Information
Carlos Gershenson Abstract: This paper discusses the benefits of describing the world as information, especially in the study of the evolution of life and cognition. Traditional studies encounter problems because it is difficult to describe life and cognition in terms of matter and energy, since their laws are valid only at the physical scale. However, if matter and energy, as well as life and cognition, are described in terms of information, evolution can be described consistently as information becoming more complex.
The paper presents five tentative laws of information, valid at multiple scales, which are generalizations of Darwinian, cybernetic, thermodynamic, and complexity principles. These are further used to discuss the notions of life and cognition and their evolution. Full paper here.

New Paper: Using RDF to Model the Structure and Process of Systems

Rodriguez, M.A., Watkins, J.H., Bollen, J., Gershenson, C., “Using RDF to Model the Structure and Process of Systems”, International Conference on Complex Systems, Boston, MA, LA-UR-07-5720, October 2007

Abstract
Many systems can be described in terms of networks of discrete elements and their various relationships to one another. A semantic network, or multi-relational network, is a directed labeled graph consisting of a heterogeneous set of entities connected by a heterogeneous set of relationships. Semantic networks serve as a promising general-purpose modeling substrate for complex systems. Various standardized formats and tools are now available to support practical, large-scale semantic network models. First, the Resource Description Framework (RDF) offers a standardized semantic network data model that can be further formalized by ontology modeling languages such as RDF Schema (RDFS) and the Web Ontology Language (OWL). Second, the recent introduction of highly pe…

Devices of the Soul

My friend Arturo Frappé recommended me to read Devices of the Soul: Battling for Our Selves in an Age of Machines, by Steve Talbott, so I ordered it from Amazon.com. It poses important questions about our open embrace of technology. Since I am an Internet addict, my opinions are certainly biased. Nevertheless, the book motivated me to write some thoughts down, even when I'm half way through it.

Talbott warns about the self-forgetfulness that technology causes: we trust technology so we are not conscious on how much we depend on it. I agree, but when was society more conscious??? When there was slavery? When the majority of population was working most of the day in fields or factories? It is indeed a problem that should be addressed, but rejecting technology will not solve it (not that Talbott suggests this). In my opinion, technology offers more opportunities than dangers. But to harvest a conscious humanity we need a specific education and culture that we have always lacked.

Yes, w…

From prediction to adaptation

I've been attending the NECSIsummer school on complex systems. One of the key concepts I've gained from it is the reason of why traditonal methods (such as calculus) are not useful when dealing with complexity. The problem lies in the "averaging assumption", which means that the state of each component is independent of others. This is not true in many systems, so the central limit theorem does not hold.

Considering also deterministic chaos, one realizes the limits of prediction in complex systems. It is not that we cannot know them. The thing is that new information is generated by the interactions, so we cannot predict (compress) the future of the system without "running" it.

As human societies are becoming increasingly complex, it seems to me that there is a shift between the usefulness of prediction and adaptation. Now, both are useful, but when we can predict less and less what will be the state of the world economy next year, or even next week, we need …

On Intelligent Design

Among the reactions to my recent paper "The World as Evolving Information", a note on it was posted on the Uncommon Descent blog, which promotes Intelligent Design (ID). Supporters of ID believe that the materialistic worldview has "corrupted" the sciences, and saw my paper as an alternative to their cause.

However, as any scientist, I am a strong opponent of ID, since it is not a scientific theory. I have never seen any evidence for it (no, handwaving does not count as evidence), whereas there is plenty of evidence for natural selection.

Moreover, my paper tries to extend the Darwinian concepts of natural selection and random variation to a broader domain.

Thus, if you see any interpretation of my paper in an ID context, it does not represent my ideas. Nazis made an interpretation of Darwin that I am sure he would have disapproved...

Note also that my ideas are not incompatible with religions. I am an atheist, but I respect other people's beliefs. My opposition to…

Public PhD Defense, May 2nd

Everyone interested is invited to my public PhD defense, next Wednesday, May 2nd at 2pm, in room D.2.01 (Promotiezaal) of the V.U.B. campus Etterbeek, followed by a reception at the STOA.

The details of the defense can be found here.

Directions to the VUB can be found here.

More details about my thesis can be found here.

CfP: 3rd ALEA Workshop in Guimarães, Portugal

3rd Workshop on Artificial Life and Evolutionary Algorithms As the title clearly indicates, this workshop will focus on scientific research and applications of Artificial Life (ALife) and Evolutionary Algorithms (EA). Therefore, it will cover work on computer based bio-inspired models for studying natural systems as well as for solving engineering and social problems. In general, self-organisation, emergence and evolution of multicomponent systems are themes to be addressed by this workshop. We are targeting the ALife community, the EA community and researchers working in the overlap of these two areas, from computer science and exact sciences in general to social sciences. Recently self-organisation has been gaining popularity among the management community, which is a clear signal that the ALEA themes are extending over new research areas.Topics of Interest
- Genetic Algorithms
- Evolutionary Strategies
- Evolutionary Programming
- Genetic Programming
- Classifier Systems
- Evolutionary R…

New Paper: The World as Evolving Information

The World as Evolving Information
Carlos Gershenson

Abstract: This philosophical paper discusses the benefits of describing the world as information, especially in the study of the evolution of life and cognition. Traditional studies encounter difficulties because it is difficult to describe life and cognition in terms of matter and energy, falling into a dualist trap. However, if matter and energy, as well as life and cognition, are described in terms of information, evolution can be described consistently as information becoming more complex. Moreover, information theory is already well established and formalized.
The paper presents five tentative laws of information, which are generalizations of Darwinian, cybernetic, thermodynamic, and complexity principles. These are further used to discuss the notions of life and cognition, including their origins and evolution.

Full paper here.

Philosophy and Complexity (New edited book)

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My first co-edited book is out!


WORLDVIEWS, SCIENCE AND US
Philosophy and Complexity

University of Liverpool, UK 11 - 14 September 2005

edited by Carlos Gershenson, Diederik Aerts (Brussels Free University, Belgium) & Bruce Edmonds (Manchester Metropolitan University Business School, UK)

Scientific, technological, and cultural changes have always had an impact upon philosophy. They can force a change in the way we perceive the world, reveal new kinds of phenomena to be understood, and provide new ways of understanding phenomena. Complexity science, immersed in a culture of information, is having a diverse but particularly significant impact upon philosophy. Previous ideas do not necessarily sit comfortably with the new paradigm, resulting in new ideas or new interpretations of old ideas. In this unprecedented interdisciplinary volume, researchers from different backgrounds join efforts to update thinking upon philosophical questions with developments in the scientific study of complex …

PhD thesis: "final" version online

After making several minor corrections, I have a "final" version of my thesis, which you can download here. I should defend it privately on April 20th, and if everything goes well, the public defense would be on May 2nd. Everybody's welcome!

Design and Control of Self-organizing Systems PhD Dissertation presented by Carlos Gershenson Promoters:
Prof. Dr. Bart D’Hooghe and
Prof. Dr. Francis Heylighen
Advisors:
Prof. Dr. Bruce Edmonds
Prof. Dr. Bernard Manderick
Prof. Dr. Peter McBurney
Prof. Dr. Ann Nowé


Abstract
Complex systems are usually difficult to design and control. There are several particular methods for coping with complexity, but there is no general approach to build complex systems. In this thesis I propose a methodology to aid engineers in the design and control of complex systems. This is based on the description of systems as self-organizing. Starting from the agent metaphor, the methodology proposes a conceptual framework and a series of steps to follow to …

New Complex Humour cartoons

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I've added 3 cartoons to Complex Humour:




A silly solution to global warming

Nuclear winter...
(See Complexity Digest 2007.06 for an excerpt, or Science News for the full article).

CfP: ECAL2007 - 9th European Conference on Artificial Life

ECAL2007 - 9th European Conference on Artificial Life

September 10-14, 2007
Lisbon, Portugal

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Submission deadline: April 9, 2007 | www.ecal2007.org
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Artificial Life aims at the study of all phenomena characteristic of natural living systems, through methodologies of synthesis implemented in computational, robotic or other artificial architectures. Its wide scope ranges from the investigation of how life or life-like properties develop from inorganic components to how cognitive processes emerge in natural or artificial systems. The ″European″, in European Conference on Artificial Life - ECAL, merely refers to the conference location, but participation is worldwide. In this ECAL we envisage maintaining and enlarging this worldwide scope and want to emphatically encourage novelty and daring ideas, particularly amongst young researchers. We welcome both technical and conceptual papers, in all areas of the field, including but not r…

Critical Events in Evolving Networks

Today I went to an Open Workshop of the EU-funded CREEN project (Critical Events in Evolving Networks). The members of the consortium are working on different models for network evolution, very interesting stuff.
They have compiled a catalogue of critical events in complex networks, which gives a very nice and brief introduction to the main concepts relevant to this topic.
They have produced several interesting papers, but some of them are still not online...

Peer review with prediction markets?

Marko and Jen are testing the possibility of using prediction markets as an alternative/complement of peer review. So, you can trade with my submitted papers...
A General Methodology for Designing Self-Organizing SystemsTowards Self-organizing BureaucraciesYou can also add your papers under review, just go to http://cdms.inklingmarkets.com/

What is Emergence?

A couple of weeks ago I went to the lecture "Qu'es-ce que l'émergence?" by Hugues Bersini, as a part of the Seminar series "Penser La Science", in honor of Ilya Prigogine.

"Emergence" has been a widely used and abused term, with the drawback that there is no agreed definition of it. As Jack Cohen puts it: "Emergence is like pornography. I cannot define it, but I know when I see it." Well, we can say that emergent properties are those that are not present in the components of a system, but are a product of their interactions. Phil Anderson gives the nice example of gold: its atoms do not have temperature, malleability, conductivity, colour, etc. that a piece of the metal has. Thus these properties "emerge" from the interactions between atoms.
Similarly, cells are made of non-living molecules, but their interactions generate properties that we call "living", so we can say that life is an emergent property.

What Bersini dis…