As I recount on the page about my educational bacground , I began my university education at Simon Fraser University by enrolling as a physics student. I found the utter dependence of modern physics on mathematics disturbing, and began taking pure mathematics as an elective.
Learning of Godel’s theorem and related problems in the foundations of mathematics, I became quite concerned about the validity of science and mathematics, and began taking courses in philosophy and logic.
I reached the conclusion that mathematics was essentially a language, but became concerned that mathematicians were designing a language without any real knowledge of ordinary human languages. It also struck me that modern philosophers were extremely concerned with language, but seemed to know little about linguistics. Wanting to know more about linguistics myself, I went back and started the undergraduate linguistics curriculum, which I found fascinating enough to complete in its entirety.
In linguistics the study of syntax and semantics seemed very much like what philosophers and logicians do in the philosophy department, and of rather dubious value. Much more interesting, and apparently much more solid and respectable was the study of phonology, the actual sounds of human speech. My interest in phonology created a difficult intellectual problem for me, since I still clung to my view of mathematics as a language, but clearly mathematics had no phonology at all. I also encountered a strangely complementary case: the philosopher Suzanne Langer argued that music was a language for expressing one’s knowledge of feeling, but the study of music seemed to focus almost entirely on what I would call phonology, with little syntax or semantics. I attempted to put these two disciplines together and imagine an ideal language whose syntax and semantics would be mathematics and whose phonology would be music.
Stimulated by this idea, I studied the history of artificial languages, including the many ideal language schemes intended to produce an ideal philosophical or international language for human use, as well as the languages for use in writing computer programs. Perhaps the most interesting idea I encountered at this time was Wilhelm von Humboldt’s notion that there is in fact some underlying ideal language, such that what we consider national languages are merely the continual and unconscious expressions of national culture in this underlying medium.
Attempting to formalize Humboldt’s idea led me to propose a linear model of human language use, based on a psychology somewhat like associationism. My graduate work involved exploring that model, using computer methods.
Since completing my master’s degree, I have become captivated by the linear model itself, quite independently of its linguistic implications. I now use human language as evidence for a linear model of the human mind, which I find fascinating.
Lately, I have been increasingly aware of applications of this model. In particulary I have concerned about modelling the flow of information in society. The familiar approach to society as a network of individuals is particularly easy to model once a linear model is adopted for the individual nodes of this network.
One particular problem that has concerned me in recent years is the question of feedback and error-correction. I have been able to use my linear model to describe how the social network should be able to provide a proper flow of data and flow of control so that individual human beings will be kept from repeating each other’s mistakes — an essential error-correction mechanism which I envision as central to the proper functioning of society. But, I see evidence that this mechanism is being interfered with by many of the new features of our society, and has perhaps almost ceased to work.
I have come up with a possible solution to this problem, which involves use of techniques from at least two different academic disciplines. I have invented some new ways of designing psychological tests and new algorithms for processing the data from these tests. The result should be essentially a spectral representation of human personality, using complex numbers. I envision using data collected with psychological tests and presented as complex personality spectra as an input to a combinatorial optimization process. The results would be suggested changes to the social network: suggestions that could be given to the individuals involved, concerning how they should interact with the people around them. This approach to human society could have profound social, psychological, political, and even economic implications.
For the past couple of years I have been writing a book about all this in my spare time. Recently I have decided that my material is too theoretical, and desperately needs experimental confirmation. I have outlined an experiment that could be carried out, roughly as follows:
1. Collect data from number of (paid?) volunteers, including both psychological data and information about their social relationships.
2. Analyze the psychological data, presenting the results in spectral form.
3. Analyze the social relationships of these individuals, comparing their assessments of their relationships with predictions from spectral interactions, using the linear model.
4. Use combinatorial optimization methods to arrive at possible alterations to the social network.
5. Ask selected individuals to attempt to carry out these modifications to the network by changing their social behaviour for a trial period, reporting on the results. In particular, ask individuals to:
a) communicate less with certain other individuals for the duration of the trial period
b) communicate more with certain other individuals for the duration of the trial period
c) arrange to meet one or more individuals unknown to them at certain times during the trial period
6. Evaluate the results by rexamining all the individuals involved and analyzing their comments on the network optimization experiments.
I have become quite anxious to conduct some research along these lines. I suspect this work could actually be conducted as research at a university , although I am not quite sure what university department would provide the best setting, or if this is again interdisciplinary. It has some affinity with social psychology, and some with mathematical sociology. Currently I am interested in trying to do this via these web pages, as explained elsewhere .
Copyright © 1998 Douglas P. Wilson
Copyright © 2009 Douglas Pardoe Wilson
Other relevant content:
Please see these web pages:
The main Social Technology page.
Find Compatibles , the key page, with the real solution to all other problems explained
Technological Fantasies , a page about future technology
Social Tech a page about Social Technology, technology for social purposes. I think I was the first person to use this phrase on the Internet, quite a long time ago.
Roughly corresponding to these web pages are the following blogs :
Social Technology the main blog, hosted on this site, with posts imported from the following blogger.com blogs, which still exist and are useable.
Find Compatibles devoted to matching people with friends, lovers, jobs, places to live and so on, but doing so in ways that will actually work, using good math, good algorithms, good analysis.
Technological Fantasies devoted to future stuff, new ideas, things that might be invented or might happen, such as what is listed above and below.
Sex-Politics-Religion is a blog about these important topics, which I have been told should never be mentioned in polite conversation. Alright that advice does seem a bit dated, but many people are still told not to bring up these subjects around the dinner table.
I believe I was the first person on the Internet to use the phrase Social Technology — years before the Web existed.
Those were the good old days, when the number of people using the net exceeed the amount of content on it, so that it was easy to start a discussion about such an upopular topic. Now things are different. There are so many web pages that the chances of anyone finding this page are low, even with good search engines like Google. Oh, well.
By Social Technology I mean the technology for organizing and maintaining human society. The example I had most firmly in mind is the subject of Find Compatibles , what I consider to be the key page, the one with the real solution to all other problems explained.
As I explained on my early mailing lists and later webpages, I find that social technology has hardly improved at all over the years. We still use representative democracy, exactly the same as it was used in the 18th century. By contrast, horse and buggy transporation has been replaced by automobiles and airplanes, enormous changes.
In the picture below you will see some 18th century technology, such as the ox-plow in the middle of the picture. How things have changed since then in agricultural technology. But we still use chance encounters, engagements and marriages to organize our home life and the raising of children.
I claim that great advances in social technology are not only possible but inevitable. I have written three novels about this, one preposterously long, 5000 pages, another merely very very long, 1500 pages. The third is short enough at 340 pages to be published some day. Maybe. The topic is still not interesting to most people. I will excerpt small parts of these novels on the web sometime, maybe even post the raw text for the larger two.
This site includes many pages dating from 1997 to 2008 which are quite out of date. They are included here partly to show the development of these ideas and partly to cover things the newer pages do not. There will be broken links where these pages referenced external sites. I’ve tried to fix up or maiintain all internal links, but some will probably have been missed. One may wish to look at an earlier version of this page , rather longer, and at an overview of most parts of what can be called a bigger project.
Type in this address to e-mail me. The image is interesting. See Status of Social Technology
Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009, Douglas Pardoe Wilson
I have used a series of e-mail address over the years, each of which eventually became out of date because of a change of Internet services or became almost useless because of spam. Eventually I stuck with a Yahoo address, but my inbox still fills up with spam and their spam filter still removes messages I wanted to see. So I have switched to a new e-mail service. Web spiders should not be able to find it, since it is hidden in a jpeg picture. I have also made it difficult to reach me. The picture is not a clickable link. To send me e-mail you must want to do so badly enough to type this address in. That is a nuisance, for which I do apologize, but I just don’t want a lot of mail from people who do not care about what I have to say.
Copyright © 2009 Douglas Pardoe Wilson