Bootstrapping Society

a philosophically troubling case of recursion

So, (rather a leap here, I’m afraid) computers may help a bit, at least in bootstrapping the process, but in the long run they are rather irrelevant: too non-linear at present, and in the future probably bound to be more and more linear for the same reasons we are. Hofstadter has written about this in Metamagical Themas, where he discusses the idea the intelligent machines may have to develop human-like limitations.

But the bootstrapping process may be important. Picture this: if you are well tied into the social network you will have people who are good interfaces between yourself and the rest of the net — people whose distortions you can compensate for, people who have a good bandwidth when matched with you. Also you have people as friends who have the same interests you do, but tend to make different mistakes than you tend to make, and so you have ways of making better decisions then you could alone.

Indeed, if you are properly matched with people, to level 6 or better, you will be very well connected and complemented and so can make very good decisions, such as decisions about what job to take, what friends to have, and so on. If you just had compatible connections that would be enough to find you compatible connections, and so on.

If you are on the humanities side of the Two Cultures, you may find this philosophically troubling, whereas if you are on the science side, and especially if you are in mathematics or computer science, you may simply see this as a recursive procedure.

(To make sense of this you might need to see the linearity page.)

Copyright © 1998 Douglas P. Wilson

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