Net Net Baud Rate
On other web pages I talk about “true bandwidth” or “net baud rate” by which I mean the amount of actual communication on a channel between two people, as opposed to the number of bytes sent and received. I won’t worry here about the technical details, but this is a major concept that everyone should be aware of.
Suppose it takes you one minute to read a 6000 byte message — that would be 100 bytes a second or 800 bits per second, roughly 800 baud. But that is a gross baud rate, measuring only the flow of bits from screen or page to your eyes. What I’m trying to communicate to you here is the idea of “net baud rate”, the actual amount of communication taking place.
For example, suppose you can only read and write in an unrelated language that uses the same character set, such as Malay, or Finnish. You could still run yours eyes over this page and see each character of the text, but there would be no actual communication taking place: a net baud rate of zero.
Personally I’m not very good at communicating with people, and I expect that for many of you, even though you can read English perfectly, the net baud rate for this text is very low, near zero. In part this is because of my deficiencies as a writer, but mostly its my choice of topics and underlying assumptions.
If I to was write a cheerful account of my last trip to Vancouver mentioning only the places visited and people seen, the net baud rate would be much higher.
I can think of a few people out there who know me and my favourite topics quite well, people who can read most of my text quickly and still understand it almost perfectly. But for those people the net baud for a piece of text like this one is much lower than you might think, because the people I have in mind already have some understanding of what I am saying here. In information theory ‘information’ is really ‘news’, what is new, and to people who know me this text is “just more of Wilson’s crazy ideas” — not news.
The maximum net baud rate for this message would be for someone who has a good understanding of English, an interest and understanding of technical matters, but has never heard of or seen these ideas before.
Or we could turn that around, and say that if one of you writes a message that I can understand easily, but which contains a lot of new ideas I’ve never encountered before, then the net baud rate for me reading that message would be quite high.
What I most want to do is to increase the net baud rate for all the communication I partake in. Like all of you, I want to send my messages to people who will understand them and will find them interesting and newsworthy. And I want to receive messages from people who will write stuff I can understand, and be interested in, and will find newsworthy (new, novel, etc.)
Your own motives for reading and writing messages are unknown to me, but I can guess that what I just said in that last paragraph holds true for you as well. Doesn’t it? Don’t you also want to increase or maximize the net baud rate of your communication? Think about it, please!
One of the ideas that I have been working on for many years involves network optimization to maximize the effective or net baud rate of all communication on a network (the “net net baud rate”, so to speak). I’ve written both about doing this for messages flying about the internet, and for interpersonal communication on what I call the social network, the network of interacting human beings, mediated mostly by speech.
For anyone who has read my other web pages or my messages on vaious mailing lists, it won’t come as any surprise (news) to read that this network optimization problem is a combinatorial optimization problem, and that I propose to solve it by matching people to each other based on personality, interest, and education profiles. But let me just emphasize here that this is a very solid plank in my platform — I have written a great deal of nonsense over the years, but I think this one point is completely solid, susceptible to mathematical proof.
Of all the things I have to say, if there is only one thing you take seriously let it be this:
We can maximize the global net baud rate for interpersonal communications by using combinatorial optimization to match people based on personality, interest, and education profiles.
I’d appreciate your comments on this, whether you agree or not. More important, perhaps, I’d appreciate your advice on who might be interested in what I have to say. Many of the people reading this will be taking it in at a low net baud rate for one reason or another, lacking either appropriate educational background or interest in the topic, or perhaps being already familiar with the ideas. But even so, you could probably recommend a person or a mailing list of people that might absorb it more completely. If so, please let me know!
One person who has already applied to the above, when it was posted on the futurework mailing list suggested that I was trying to break interpersonal communication into two streams, the actual communication and the interaction with some optimizer.
I should emphasize that all acts of interpersonal communication involve a separate step of deciding who to communicate with.
Sometimes this is done directly in person, or by addressing a piece of e-mail to a single recipient, and it may also be done quite indirectly by sending a message to a mailing list, but it must happen. Somehow people must make some kind of choice to take part in interpersonal communication, and making that choice is something quite distinct from the actual communication itself.
A mailing list is one way in which society helps people make these choices, and sometimes it works quite well. The comments received from the futurework mailing list illustrate this — they raise good points and show considerable understanding of what I was trying to say, so my choice of mailing lists to send my message to was probably a good one.
But the Liszt web site includes something like 90,000 mailing lists, and I’ve barely scratched the surface — it is hard to choose from amongst the 90,000 mailing lists, let alone the 50 million people I could conceivably send e-mail to.
Years of bitter experience have proven to me that the ideas I’m trying to communicate are hard to understand and that I’m not very good at presenting them. Another interpretation could be put on this: it may be that what I am trying to communicate is simply wrong, and the real barrier to communication is my failure to understand the arguments of the people I talk to. But either way, there is a barrier to communication.
I daydream constantly about partaking in true high-net-baud-rate discussions with other people and I think that would mean discussions which would conclude with either of these results:
- they understand what I am trying to say and agree with me,
- I understand their arguments against my views and have to agree with them.
Of course I have a preference, I would obviously prefer the first outcome over the second.
But if I am wrong, I’d like to know it, and I’d like to be thorougly convinced — then I could stop wasting my time. So really either outcome would be productive.
Let us suppose my poor writing, choice of topic, or pig-headedness raise a barrier to communication so high I could have a productive high-net-baud-rate discussion like that with only one in a million people or so. That would mean there are somewhere around 50 such people out of the 50 million I could send an e-mail to.
What are my chances of finding those 50 people? In pre-web days the chances were almost zero, but now because of search engines the odds are somewhat improved. Somewhat. But not much. I’m sure we all know how frustrating search engines can be.
Frustrating or not search engines are a powerfull tool, and Nicholas Albery of the Global Ideas Bank and Institute for Social Inventions has suggested generating author-descriptor tags for web pages so that people could just use a search engine to meet compatible people. What I have planned is quite compatible with that idea. It also involves filling out a questionaire on a web page, but my system will (soon, I hope) directly generate suggestions about people to communicate with.
Please note that I’m not talking about perfection here, just improvement. Instead of the result being a precise list of the 50 best people to talk to, it might be a list of 150 candidates and an estimate that there is, say, a 90% chance that 20 of the ideal 50 are amongst the 150.
The same futurework-listmember mentioned above also suggested that it would be hard to come up with a practicable definition of net baud rate. I think “a practicable definition” is easy, because it is literally a definition that can be used in practise. It would be harder to completely formalize the notion. For my purposes I propose to use the judgements of the people involved.
If you fill out my questionaire (in a month or so when it is ready for use) and the matching program recommends an exchange of e-mail with several people, then I propose to accept your judgement about how productive the exchanges were. And I will encourage you to provide that judgement as feedback to improve the matching process.
I’ll be using a machine-learning system, perhaps based on a neural network, and will essentially be training the machine (the program) to generate suggestions that both of the people involved in the discussions will agree were good ones.
By the way, I’d like to add a prediction to the effect that the global (total) net baud rate, a measure of genuine productive communication, will turn out to be a significant factor in the global economy, and hope my simulator will be able to include it. If I am correct then my matching experiments should increase the amount of real communication and benefit the global economy. But of course this must emerge from the simulation as a result, and must not be programmed into it as an assumption.
Anyway, I once again ask for your comments, and once again there is someone who has already replied to the last few paragraphs, when they were posted on the social technology mailing list . That person suggested that I was attempting to reduce communication to the quantity of the received messages.
I was trying to make a rather subtle point — perhaps too subtle, or perhaps I did not express it well. True communication is very important to me, and I certainly did not want to reduce its significance, but I was indeed trying to “reduce it” in the sense of ‘reductionism’ — to provide a new definition for it in terms of some better understood theory.
The communications theory or information theory of Shannon and Weaver is a very powerful theory and a very solid one — it has something of the force of a “Law of Nature”, like the conservation laws for energy and momentum in physics. Its something you can’t get around, like the laws of thermodynamics. (Actually thermodynamics and information theory are almost the same thing.)
So I was trying to “reduce” — define — the quality or importance of communication between people to something well defined in a very fundamental theory.
But I was only doing this as part of my effort to increase the amount of true communication in the world, by matching people to those they can most easily communicate with.
The two requirements given above suggest that I should be matched with people who
- understand what I am trying to say and agree with me,
- are such that I understand their arguments against my views, and have to agree with them.
These requirements describe a system that should allow each of us to communicate our ideas to the most receptive people in the world while shielding all of us from unwanted mail messages. To this my correspondent on the social technoloy list replied by saying that this would leave me preaching to the converted.
But no, I intend just the opposite! This is the subtle beauty of Shannon and Weaver’s information theory. Preaching to the converted involves a only a small flow of information, because information is essentially “news” — novelty. What I call “net baud rate” is low in two distinct (but not mutally exclusive) cases:
- Poor mutual understanding, because of language problems, semantic problems, lack of education, dissimilar backgrounds, or personal animosity.
- Lack of novelty — “preaching to the converted”
( OR both )
A very high net baud rate can only occur when there is:
- Good mutual understanding, because of shared language, lack of semantic problems, appropriate education, similar backgrounds, and genuine personal compatibility.
- Considerable news, novelty, differences of opinion, or other factors that prevent each person from predicting what the other will say.
My main goal in life is to help the world accomplish these two things:
- maximize the overall amount of true communication and cooperation amongst people
- make sure that each individual enjoys true communication and cooperation with several other individuals.
The first of these subgoals is more or less a modernized form of Bentham’s utilitarianism “the greatest good for the greatest number”.
But utilitarianism has one great weakness — it is a purely additive theory, so if we could improve everyone’s life by 1 percent (a barely perceptible improvement) by torturing a few people (perhaps a 100 percent reduction in their quality of life), the utilitarian calculus says that would be OK.
So, after years of searching for a way to patch up utilitarianism to make it work, I finely came up with the second subgoal which I think should do the trick. It essentially makes sure that each person has several open communications channels by which they can get help from the rest of the world when faced with the strictly additive utilitarian’s torture chamber.
Of course my original “net net baud rate” message (title chosen for the pun) mentioned only communication, not cooperation, but as one correspondent noted, communication is the Trojan Horse, designed to sneak true cooperation (Kropotkin’s “Mutual Aid”) past the unsuspecting defenders of the status quo. The vastly increased level of communication to be achieved will make true cooperation possible.
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