Sunday, May 15, 2011

Social Graph Transformation Algorithm (SGTA) project update

The Open Mesh Project ( seeks to democratize the Internet on the hardware level, with nodes automatically connecting to physically nearby nodes. The SGTA project seeks to lubricate and democratize content distribution -- to mediate a broad, deep, continuous, global conversation, with nodes automatically connecting to physically and semantically nearby nodes.

Externalizing/sharing our imaginations

We seem to be undergoing a transition into a more flexible, more visual, mode of communication -- an accelerating externalization and conglomeration of our individual imaginations. The inventions of drawing and writing thousands of years ago could be considered early stages in this transition. Today, computer/Internet technology seems to be playing a key role in our psycho-techno-social-linguistic evolution. As of May 2011, we seem primed for the creation and widespread adoption of algorithms that will express/subsume/automate/sublimate the previous "linear," "verbal" modes of communication, folding knowledge from our various linguistic legacies into an intuitive, online, graphical communication/programming environment.

We have always drawn upon shared knowledge bases, shared complexes of linguistic structures, in order to speak to each other. We continuously encounter linguistic structures, witness the associations to other structures they evoke in our imaginations, and choose which of these structures we will pay immediate attention to. Now that large portions of our species' knowledge bases have been put online, it seems appropriate to expect a similar associative-imaginative process to play out on our computer screens, relieving our brains of substantial cognitive burdens and turning web browsing into an experience of navigating through continuously self-transforming, uncannily intelligent-seeming, images.

Feedback loops by which SGTAs may aid in the transition from textual to graphical internet interfaces

Algorithms that automatically transform our social graphs could conceivably be plugged into interfaces to social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, etc., as they currently exist, without any immediate change to the look and feel of the interfaces. The only apparent difference at first would be the occasional, unbidden appearance of updates from new friends, and the occasional disappearance of others. Then, as our social graphs grow more complex, more subtly reflective of our actual interests and concerns, we will find it increasingly convenient to use our social media interfaces as our primary interfaces, or portals, to the entire Internet.

We tend to think of social graphs as methods of filtering the streams of data flowing onto our screen. But they may also soon be seen as equally powerful modes of expression. We will potentially want to include in our social graphs anything we become particularly interested in, since that will cause information related to those interests to appear on our screens and will help keep us abreast of the latest developments about those interests. Your SGTAs will include in your graphs new nodes likely to be of interest based on your previous graphs and on your input actions. As more of our work goes online, as more of our online life becomes attached to social media, and as social media filter our datastreams in more sophisticated/dynamic ways, we will be able to express more complex ideas via patterns of URLs in our social graphs.

We will naturally be interested in ways of maximizing the feedback we can receive in response to anything we say and do, and also conversely, in ways of maximizing the amount of our own feedback, our own reactions, that we can provide to whatever information we are exposed to. Using the social graph as a kind of central organizing metaphor would seem appropriate given the assumption that almost everything we do on our computers will soon be online. Your social graph, continuously evolving, will factor into the second-to-second choices your interface makes about which data to present to you. It will also provide everyone else on the Internet with up-to-the-second data about what's going on with you. Since your social graph will keep getting updated in response to your input anyway, why not use it as The Last Text-Based Data Format We'll Ever Need, allowing all other data formats, codes, etc., to be expressed "in terms of" the social graph?

In other words, some data format similar to what has become known as a social media user's "social graph" (a filter for determining which datastreams will appear on our screens) appears both necessary for future Internet interfaces and, if it evolves automatically in response to our input, sufficient as a meta-format for expressing whatever we may want to express online. "What we want to say" can merge with "what we want to see."

With so much (increasingly salient) data available, the process of reading and writing linear text will become a major constraint on the speed with which we can navigate. Out of concern both for efficiency and for aesthetics, we will seek wherever possible to communicate through images. As we see already beginning to happen in our social media feeds, which feature an avatar next to each update and expandable thumbnail photos of last night's parties, images will gain a foothold wherever possible, colonize whatever territory they can, and declare as Benjamin Netanyahu did today: "let nobody be mistaken, we are determined to defend our borders and sovereignty." There will be no going back once a particular area of knowledge has been visualized online; our interfaces will automatically search out and serve up rotating arrays of images potentially relevant to what we're doing, and we'll obviously tend to prefer dealing with images rather than text, when the choice is there.

Anything with a URL attached to it can be included in a social graph, so Wikipedia articles, Semantic Web objects, Google Images, YouTube videos, etc. will easily be assimilated into this new environment. For instance, images and videos of the Deepwater Horizon explosion will automatically appear when your interface detects that you have been hanging out around nodes that correlate strongly with that incident based on the links in your social graph and on second-order links (links in the social graphs to which your graph links), third-order links, etc. If someone on the other side of the planet is researching the same incident at the same time as you, then in a scenario of continuously transforming social graphs having become our primary tools of expression and discovery, that person's avatar might very well appear on your screen and vice versa. The more you interact with the incident, the more frequently your avatar and other images associated with you will appear on the screens of subsequent Deepwater buffs. In such ways, the browsing activity of millions of people will build up increasingly comprehensive associations between images. Eventually we will have built up ultra-efficient all-graphical routes by which we can quickly navigate to images representing just about any idea we could want to express -- from programming concepts like "if-then" relationships to something like "the grade school years of Frederic Chopin."

The mathematics of conversation (/imagination/intelligence)

Say you're having a conversation with one or more other people. You think of something to say, but you don't say it yet. Maybe you hold your thought for a fraction of a second before saying it, maybe longer, or maybe you don't say it at all. How do you decide whether and when to say it? We might list some very general considerations that would tend to push you toward or away from delivering your line. Anything you might say would tend to express something true about where you're coming from, turning your private experiences into public information. On the other hand, anything you say will interrupt the previously established flow of the conversation, potentially disrupting some delicately balanced equilibrium.

Sometimes something so appropriate or clever occurs to you that you say it almost unhesitatingly, anticipating (probably correctly) that it will contribute significantly to the quality or complexity of the discussion. Other times, you may speak less out of a sense of the salience of your words than out of a sense of the value of saying either anything at all or anything that meets certain conditions.

Could the decision of when, or whether, or to what extent to potentiate/perpetuate/actuate/deliver a given verbalization be expressed as some sort of product of a) the value/salience of the message content, and b) the value of maintaining the channel/medium/relationship through which the message is sent? Factors a) and b) could each potentially take both positive and negative values. Then, how would we quantify these two factors, as well as the process of potentiation/perpetuation/etc. in terms of social graphs?

I don't have the math worked out quite yet (except for an "alpha version" of an ), and I have probably gotten kind of messianic and ahead of myself about this at times, but I still have a very strong suspicion that something like this is coming soon and will contribute significantly to extreme accelerations of communications efficiency, which will help solve economic/political/social crises, which in turn will help smooth the road toward the development of Singularity-type technologies.


I would of course be interested in everyone's impressions of all this. Delusion, brilliance, neither, both? Any ideas for the SGTA beta version?

Josh Maurice

[1:23 PM 10-11-15: changed 'clever' to 'appropriate or clever' ~ deleted outdated contact/fundraising info]

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