Category Archives: Information space

When Worlds Collide

59973d6385da8-image

Charlottesville demonstrations, summer 2017 (link)

I’ve been thinking about this picture a lot recently. My research explores how extremist groups can develop using modern computer-mediated communication, particularly recommender systems. This picture lays the main parts like a set of nested puzzle pieces.

This is a picture of a physical event. In August 2017, various “Alt-Right” online communities came to Charlottesville Virginia to ostensibly protest the removal of confederate statues, which in turn was a response to the Charleston South Carolina church shooting of 2015. From August 11th through 12th, sanctioned and unsanctioned protests and counter protests happened in and around Emancipation Park.

Although this is not a runway in Paris, London or New York, this photo contains what I can best call “fashion statements”, in the most serious use of the term. They are mechanisms for signifying and conveying identity,  immediately visible. What are they trying to say to each other and to us, the public behind the camera?

Standing on the right hand of the image is a middle-aged white man, wearing a type of uniform: On his cap and shirt are images of the confederate “battle flag”. He is wearing a military-style camouflage vest and is carrying an AR-15 rifle and a 9mm handgun. These are archetypal components of the Alt-right identity.

He is yelling at a young black man moving in from the left side of the photo, who is also wearing a uniform of a sort. In addition to the black t-shirt and the dreadlocks, he is carrying multiple cameras – the sine qua non of credibility for young black men in modern America. Lastly, he is wearing literal chains and shackles, ensuring that no one will forget the slave heritage behind these protests.

Let’s consider these carried items, the cameras and the guns. The fashion accessories, if you will.

Cameras exist to record a selected instant of reality. It may be framed, with parts left out and others enhanced, but photographs and videos are a compelling document that something in the world happened. Further, these are internet-connected cameras, capable of sharing their content widely and quickly. These two elements, photographic evidence and distribution are a foundation of the #blacklivesmatter movement, which is a response to the wide distribution of videos where American police killed unarmed black men. These videos changed the greater social understanding of a reality encountered by a minority that was incomprehensible by the majority before these videos emerged.

Now to the other accessory, the guns. They are mechanisms “of violence to compel our opponent to fulfil our will”. Unlike cameras, which are used to provide a perspective of reality , these weapons are used to create a reality through their display and their threatened use. They also reflect a perception  of those that wield them that the world has become so threatening that battlefield weapons make sense at a public event.

Oddly, this is may also be a picture of an introduction of sorts. Alt-right and #blacklivesmatter groups almost certainly interact significantly. In fact, it is doubtful that, even though they speak in a common language , one group can comprehend the other. The trajectories of their defining stories are so different, so misaligned, that the concepts of one slide off the brain of the other.

Within each group, it is a different story. Each group shares a common narrative, that is expressed in words, appearance, and belief. And within each group, there is discussion and consensus. These are the most extreme examples of the people that we see in the photo. I don’t see anyone else in the image wearing chains or openly carrying guns. The presence of these individuals within their respective groups exerts a pull on the overall orientation and position of the group in the things that they will accept. Additionally, the individuals in one group can cluster in opposition to a different group, which is a pressure that drives each group further apart.

Lastly, we come to the third actor in the image, the viewer. The photo is taken by Shelby Lum, an award-winning staff photographer for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Through framing, focus and timing, she captures this frame that tells this story.  Looking at this photo, we the audience feel that we understand the situation. But photographs are inherently simplifying. The audience fills in the gaps – what’s happened before, the backstory of the people in the image. This image can mean many things to many people. And as such, it’s what we do with that photo – what we say about it and what we connect with it that makes the image as much about us as it is about the characters within the frame.

It is those interactions that I focus on, the ways that we as populations interact with information that supports, expands, or undermines our beliefs. My theory is that humans move through belief space like animals move on the planes of the Serengeti. And just as the status of the ecosystem can be inferred through the behaviors of its animal population, the health and status of our belief spaces can be determined by our digital behaviors.

Using this approach, I believe that we may be able look at populations at scale to determine the “health” of the underlying information. Wildebeest behave differently in risky environments. Their patterns of congregation are different. They can stampede, particularly when the terrain is against them, such as a narrow water crossing. Humans can behave in similar ways for example when their core beliefs about their identity is challenged, such as when Galileo was tried by the church for essentially moving man from the literal center of the universe..

I think that this sort of approach can be used to identify at-risk (stampeding) groups and provide avenues for intervention that can “nudge” groups off of dangerous trajectories. It may also be possible to recognize the presence of deliberate actors attempting to drive groups into dangerous terrain, like native Americans driving buffalo off of pishkun cliffs, or more recently the Russian Internet Research Agency instigating and coordinating a #bluelivesmatter and a #blacklivesmatter demonstration to occur at the same time and place in Texas.

This theory is based on simulations that are based on the assumption that people coordinate in high-dimensional belief spaces based on orientation, velocity and social influence. Rather than coming to a static consensus, these interactions are dynamic and follow intuitions of belief movement across information terrain. That dynamic process is what I’ll be discussing over the next several posts.

Karl Marx and the Tradition of Western Political Thought – The Broken Thread of Tradition

Hanna Arendt – Thinking Without a Banister

These two connected statements had already been torn asunder by a tradition that translated the one by declaring that man is a social being, a banality for which one would not have needed Aristotle, and the other by defining man as the animal rationale, the reasoning animal. (pg 23)

What Aristotle had seen as one and the same human quality, to live together with others in the modus of speaking, now became two distinct characteristics, to have reason and to be social. And these two characteristics, almost from the beginning, were not thought merely to be distinct, but antagonistic to each other: the conflict between man’s rationality and his sociability can be seen throughout our tradition of political thought (pg 23)

The law was now no longer the boundary (which the citizens ought to defend like the walls of the city, because it had the same function for the citizens’ political life as the city’s wall had for their physical existence and distinctness, as Heraclitus had said), but became a yardstick by which rule could be measured. Rule now either conformed to or overruled the law, and in the latter case the rule was called tyrannical usually, although not necessarily, exerted by one man-and therefore a kind of perverted monarchy. From then on, law and power became the two conceptual pillars of all definitions of government, and these definitions hardly changed during the more than two thousand years that separate Aristotle from Montesquieu. (pg 28)

But bureaucracy should not be mistaken for totalitarian domination. If the October Revolution had been permitted to follow the lines prescribed by Marx and Lenin, which was not the case, it would probably have resulted in bureaucratic rule. The rule of nobody, not anarchy, or disappearance of rule, or oppression, is the ever present danger of any society based on universal equality. (pg 33)

In Marx’s own opinion, what made socialism scientific and distinguished it from that of his predecessors, the “utopian socialists,” was not an economic theory with its scientific insights as well as its errors, but the discovery of a law of movement that ruled matter and, at the same time, showed itself in the reasoning capacity of man as “consciousness,” either of the self or of a class. (pg 35)

The logic of dialectal movement enables Marx to combine nature with history, or matter with man; man becomes the author of a meaningful, comprehensible history because his metabolism with nature, unlike an animal’s, is not merely consumptive but requires an activity, namely, labor. For Marx labor is the uniting link between matter and man, between nature and history. He is a “materialist” insofar as the specifically human form of consuming matter is to him the beginning of everything (pg 35)

Politics, in other words, is derivative in a twofold sense: it has its origin in the pre-political data of biological life, and it has its end in the post-political, highest possibility of human destiny (pg 40)

the fact that the multitude, whom the Greeks called hoi polloi, threatens the existence of every single person, runs like a red thread throughout the centuries that separate Plato from the modern age. In this context it is irrelevant whether this attitude expresses itself in secular terms, as in Plato and Aristotle, or if it does so in the terms of Christianity. (pg 40)

true Christians wohnen fern voneinander, that is, dwell far from each other and are as forlorn among the multitude as were the ancient philosophers. (pg 41)

Each new birth endangers the continuity of the polis because with each new birth a new world potentially comes into being. The laws hedge in these new beginnings and guarantee the preexistence of a common world, the permanence of a a continuity that transcends the individual life span of e each generation, and in which each single man in his mortality can hope to leave a trace of permanence behind him. (pg 46)

introduced the terms nomo and physei, by law or by nature. Thus, the order of the universe, the kosmos of natural things, was differentiated from the world of human affairs, whose order is laid down by men since it is an order of things made and done by men This distinction too, survives in the beginning of our tradition, where Aristotle expressly States that political science deals with things that are nomo and not physei. (pg 47)

 

 

Beyond Individual Choice

Beyond Individual Choice: Teams and Frames in Game Theory

  • Michael Bacharach
  • Natalie Gold
  • Robert Sugden
  • From Amazon.com: In the classical tradition of game theory, Bacharach models human beings as rational actors, but he revises the standard definition of rationality to incorporate two major new ideas. He enlarges the model of a game so that it includes the ways agents describe to themselves (or “frame”) their decision problems. And he allows the possibility that people reason as members of groups (or “teams”), each taking herself to have reason to perform her component of the combination of actions that best achieves the group’s common goal. Bacharach shows that certain tendencies for individuals to engage in team reasoning are consistent with recent findings in social psychology and evolutionary biology.
  • The following list of notes is oldest (bottom) to newest (top)
  • It is a central component of resolute choice, as presented by McClennen, that (unless new information becomes available) later transient agents recognise the authority of plans made by earlier agents. Being resolute just is recognising that authority (although McClennen’ s arguments for the rationality and psychological feasibility of resoluteness apply only in cases in which the earlier agents’ plans further the common ends of earlier and later agents). This feature of resolute choice is similar to Bacharach’ s analysis of direction, explained in section 5. If the relationship between transient agents is modelled as a sequential game, resolute choice can be thought of as a form of direction, in which the first transient agent plays the role of director; the plan chosen by that agent can be thought of as a message sent by the director to the other agents. To the extent that each later agent is confident that this plan is in the best interests of the continuing person, that confidence derives from the belief that the first agent identified with the person and that she was sufficiently rational and informed to judge which sequence of actions would best serve the person’s objectives. (pg 197)
  • The problem posed by Heads and Tails is not that the players lack a common understanding of salience; it is that game theory lacks an adequate explanation of how salience affects the decisions of rational players. All we gain by adding preplay communication to the model is the realisation that game theory also lacks an adequate explanation of how costless messages affect the decisions of rational players. (pg 180)
  • The fundamental principle of this morality is that what each agent ought to do is to co-operate, with whoever else is co-operating, in the production of the best consequences possible given the behaviour of non-co-operators’ (Regan 1980, p. 124). (pg 167)
  • Ordered On Social Facts
    • Are social groups real in any sense that is independent of the thoughts, actions, and beliefs of the individuals making up the group? Using methods of philosophy to examine such longstanding sociological questions, Margaret Gilbert gives a general characterization of the core phenomena at issue in the domain of human social life.
  • Schema 3: Team reasoning (from a group viewpoint) pg 153
    • We are the members of S.
    • Each of us identifies with S.
    • Each of us wants the value of U to be maximized.
    • A uniquely maximizes U.
    • Each of us should choose her component of A.
  • Schema 4: Team reasoning (from an individual viewpoint) pg 159
    • I am a member of S.
    • It is common knowledge in S that each member of S identifies
      with S.
    • It is common knowledge in S that each member of S wants the
      value of U to be maximized.
    • It is common knowledge in S that A uniquely maximizes U.
    • I should choose my component of A.
  • Schema 7: Basic team reasoning pg 161
    • I am a member of S.
    • It is common knowledge in S that each member of S identifies
      with S.
    • It is common knowledge in S that each member of S wants the
      value of U to be maximized.
    • It is common knowledge in S that each member of S knows his
      component of the profile that uniquely maximizes U.
    • I should choose my component of the profile that uniquely
      maximizes U.

      • Bacharach notes to himself the ‘hunch’ that this schema is ‘the basic rational capacity’ which leads to high in Hi-Lo, and that it ‘seems to be indispensable if a group is ever to choose the best plan in the most ordinary organizational circumstances’. Notice that Schema 7 does not require that the individual who uses it know everyone’s component of the profile that maximizes U.
  • His hypothesis is that group identification is an individual’s psychological response to the stimulus of a particular decision situation. It is not in itself a group action. (To treat it as a group action would, in Bacharach’ s framework, lead to an infinite regress.) In the theory of circumspect team reasoning, the parameter w is interpreted as a property of a psychological mechanism-the probability that a person who confronts the relevant stimulus will respond by framing the situation as a problem ‘for us’. The idea is that, in coming to frame the situation as a problem ‘for us’, an individual also gains some sense of how likely it is that another individual would frame it in the same way; in this way, the value of w becomes common knowledge among those who use this frame. (Compare the case of the large cube in the game of Large and Small Cubes, discussed in section 4 of the introduction.) Given this model, it seems that the ‘us’ in terms of which the problem is framed must be determined by how the decision situation first appears to each individual. Thus, except in the special case in which w == 1, we must distinguish S (the group with which individuals are liable to identify, given the nature of the decision situation) from T (the set of individuals who in fact identify with S). pg 163
  • The psychology of group identity allows us to understand that group identification can be due to factors that have nothing to do with the individual preferences. Strong interdependence and other forms of common individual interest are one sort of favouring condition, but there are many others, such as comembership of some existing social group, sharing a birthday, and the artificial categories of the minimal group paradigm. (pg 150)
  • Wherever we may expect group identity we may also expect team reasoning. The effect of team reasoning on behavior is different from that of individualistic reasoning. We have already seen this for Hi-Lo. This has wide implications. It makes the theory of team reasoning a much more powerful explanatory and predictive theory than it would be if it came on line only in games with th3e right kind of common interest. To take just one example, if management brings it about so that the firm’s employees identify with the firm, we may expect for them to team-reason and so to make choices that are not predicted by the standard theories of rational choice.(pg 150)
  • As we have seen, the same person passes through many group identities in the flux of life, and even on a single occasion more than one of these identities may be stimulated. So we will need a model of identity in which the probability of a person’s identification is distributed over not just two alternatives-personal self-identity or identity with a fixed group-but, in principle, arbitrarily many. (pg 151)
  • The explanatory potential of team reasoning is not confined to pure coordination games like Hi-Lo. Team reasoning is assuredly important for its role in explaining the mystery facts about Hi-Lo; but I think we have stumbled on something bigger than a new theory of behaviour in pure coordination games. The key to endogenous group identification is not identity of interest but common interest giving rise to strong interdependence. There is common interest in Stag Hunts, Battles of the Sexes, bargaining games and even Prisoner’s Dilemmas. Indeed, in any interaction modelable as a ‘mixed motive’ game there is an element of common interest. Moreover, in most of the landmark cases, including the Prisoner’s Dilemma, the common interest is of the kind that creates strong interdependence, and so on the account of chapter 2 creates pressure for group identification. And given group identification, we should expect team reasoning.(pg 144)
  • There is a second evolutionary argument in favour of the spontaneous team-reasoning hypothesis. Suppose there are two alternative mental mechanisms that, given common interest, would lead humans to act to further that interest. Other things being equal, the cognitively cheapest reliable mechanism will be favoured by selection. As Sober and Wilson (1998) put it, mechanisms will be selected that score well on availability, reliability and energy efficiency. Team reasoning meets these criteria; more exactly, it does better on them than the alternative heuristics suggested in the game theory and psychology literature for the efficient solution of common-interest games. (pg 146)
  • BIC_pg 149 (pg 149)
  • I think MB is getting at the theory for why there is explore/exploit in populations
  • We have progressed towards a plausible explanation of the behavioural fact about Hi-Lo. It is explicable as an outcome of group identification by the players, because this is likely to produce a way of reasoning, team reasoning, that at once yields A. Team reasoning satisfies the conditions for the mode-P reasoning that we concluded in chapter 1 must be operative if people are ever to reason their way to A. It avoids magical thinking. It takes the profile-selection problem by the scruff of the neck. What explains its onset is an agency transformation in the mind of the player; this agency transformation leads naturally to profile-based reasoning and is a natural consequence of self-identification with the player group. (pg 142)
  • Hi-Lo induces group identification. A bit more fully: the circumstances of Hi-Lo cause each player to tend to group-identify as a member of the group G whose membership is the player-set and whose goal is the shared payoff. (pg 142)
  • If what induces A-choices is a piece of reasoning which is part of our mental constitution, we are likely to have the impression that choosing A is obviously right. Moreover, if the piece of reasoning does not involve a belief that the coplayer is bounded, we will feel that choosing A is obviously right against a player as intelligent as ourselves; that is, our intuitions will be an instance of the judgemental fact. I suspect, too, that if the reasoning schema we use is valid, rather than involving falacy, our intuitions of reality are likely to be more robust. Later I shall argue that team reasoning is indeed nonfallacious. (pg 143)
    • I think this is more than “as intelligent as ourselves”, I think this is a position/orientation/velocity case. I find it compelling that people with different POVs regard each other as ‘stupid’
    • When framing tendencies are culture-wide, people in whom a certain frame is operative are aware that it may be operative in others; and if its availability is high, those in it think that it is likely to be operative in others. Here the framing tendency is-so goes my claim-universal, and a fortiori it is culture-wide. (pg 144)
    • But for the theory of endogenous team reasoning there are two differences between the Hi-Lo case and these other cases of strong interdependence. First, outside Hi-Los there are counterpressures towards individual self-identification and so I-framing of the problem. In my model this comes out as a reduction in the salience of the strong interdependence, or an increase in that of other features. One would expect these pressures to be very strong in games like Prisoner’s Dilemma, and the fact that C rates are in the 40 per cent range rather than the 90 percent range, so far from surprising, is a prediction of the present theory (pg 144)
      • This is where MB starts to get to explore/exploit in populations. There are pressueres that drive groups together and apart. And as individuals, our thresholds for group identification varies
  • Now it is the case, and increasingly widely recognized to be, that in games in general there’s no way players can rationally deliberate to a Nash equilibrium. Rather, classical canons of rationality do not in general support playing in Nash equilibria. So it looks as though shared intentions cannot, in the general run of games, by classical canons, be rationally formed! And that means in the general run of life as well. This is highly paradoxical if you think that rational people can have shared intentions. The paradox is not resolved by the thought that when they do, the context is not a game: any situation in which people have to make the sorts of decisions that issue in shared intentions must be a game, which is, after all, just a situation in which combinations of actions matter to the combining parties. (pg 139)
  • Turn to the idea that a joint intention to do (x,y) is rationally produced in 1 and 2 by common knowledge of two conditional intentions: Pl has the intention expressed by ‘I’ll do x if and only if she does y’, and P2 the counterpart one. Clearly P1 doesn’t have the intention to do x if and. only if P2 in fact does y whether or not Pl believes P2 will do y; the right condition must be along the lines of:
    (C1) P1 intends to do x if and only if she believes P2 will do y. (pg 139)

    • So this is in belief space, and belief is based on awareness and trust
  • There are two obstacles to showing this, one superable, the other not, I think. First, there are two Nash equilibria, and nothing in the setup to suggest that some standard refinement (strengthening) of the Nash equilibrium condition will eliminate one. However, I suspect that my description of the situation could be refined without ‘changing the subject’. Perhaps the conditional intention Cl should really be ‘I’ll do x if and only if she’ll do y, and that’s what I would like best’. For example, if x and y are the two obligations in a contract being discussed, it is natural to suppose that Pl thinks that both signing would be better than neither signing. If we accept this gloss then the payoff structure becomes a Stag Hunt – Hi-Lo if both are worse off out of equilibrium than in the poor equilibrium (x’ ,y’). To help the cause of rationally deriving the joint intention (x,y), assume the Hi-Lo case. What are the prospects now? As I have shown in chapter 1, there is no chance of deriving (x,y) by the classical canons, and the only (so far proposed) way of doing to is by team reasoning. (pg 140)
  • The nature of team reasoning, and of the conditions under which it is likely to be primed in individual agents, has a consequence that gives further support to this claim. This is that joint intentions arrived at by the route of team reasoning involve, in the individual agents, a ‘sense of collectivity’. The nature of team reasoning has this effect, because the team reasoner asks herself not ‘What should I do?’ but ‘What should we do?’ So, to team-reason, you must already be in a frame in which first-person plural concepts are activated. The priming conditions for team reasoning have this effect because, as we shall see later in this chapter, team reasoning, for a shared objective, is likely to arise spontaneously in an individual who is in the psychological state of group-identifying with the set of interdependent actors; and to self-identify as a member of a group essentially involves a sense of collectivity. (pg 141)
  • One of the things that MB seems to be saying here is that group identification has two parts. First is the self-identification with the group. Second is the mechanism that supports that framing. You can’t belong to a group you don’t see.
  • To generalize the notions of team mechanism and team to unreliable contexts, we need the idea of the profile that gets enacted if all the agents function under a mechanism. Call this the protocol delivered by the mechanism. The protocol is , roughly, what everyone is supposed to do, what everyone does if the mechanism functions without any failure. But because there may well be failures, the protocol of a mechanism may not get enacted, some agents not playing their part but doing their default actions instead. For this reason the best protocol to have is not in general the first-best profile o*. In judging mechanisms we must take account of the states of the world in which there are failures, with their associated probabilities. How? Put it this way: if we are choosing a mechanism, we want one that delivers the protocol that maximizes the expected value of U. (pg 131)
  • Group identification is a framing phenomenon. Among the many different dimensions of the frame of a decision-maker is the ‘unit of agency’ dimension: the framing agent may think of herself as an individual doer or as part of some collective doer. The first type of frame is operative in ordinary game-theoretic, individualistic reasoning, and the second in team reasoning. The concept-clusters of these two basic framings center round ‘I/ she/he’ concepts and ‘we’ concepts respectively. Players in the two types of frame begin their reasoning with the two basic conceptualizations of the situation, as a ‘What shall I do?’ problem, and a ‘What shall we do?’ problem, respectively. (pg 137)
  • A mechanism is a general process. The idea (which I here leave only roughly stated) is of a causal process which determines (wholly or partly) what the agents do in any simple coordination context. It will be seen that all the examples I have mentioned are of this kind; contrast a mechanism that applies, say, only in two-person cases, or only to matching games, or only in business affairs. In particular, team reasoning is this kind of thing. It applies to any simple coordination context whatsoever. It is a mode of reasoning rather than an argument specific to a context. (pg 126)
  • In particular, [if U is Paretian] the correct theory of Hi-Lo says that all play A. In short, an intuition in favour of C’ supports A-playing in Hi-Lo if we believe that all players are rational and there is one rationality. (pg 130)
    • Another form of dimension reduction – “We are all the same”
  • There are many conceivable team mechanisms apart from simple direction and team reasoning; they differ in the way in which computation is distributed and the pattern of message sending. For example, one agent might compute o* and send instructions to the others. With the exception of team reasoning, these mechanisms involve the communication of information. If they do I shall call them modes of organization or protocols. (pg 125)
  • A mechanism is a general process. The idea (which I here leave only roughly stated) is of a causal process which determines (wholly or partly) what the agents do in any simple coordination context. It will be seen that all the examples I have mentioned are of this kind; contrast a mechanism that applies, say, only in two-person cases, or only to matching games, or only in business affairs. In particular, team reasoning is this kind of thing. It applies to any simple coordination context whatsoever. It is a mode of reasoning rather than an argument specific to a context. (pg 126)
  •  .
    • BIC_102 (page 102)
    • BIC107 (pg 107)
    • BIC107b (pg 107)
  • Evolutionary reasons for cooperation as group fitness, where group payoff is maximized. This makes the stag salient in stag hunt.
  • Explaining the evolution of any human behavior trait (say, a tendency to play C in Prisoner’s Dilemmas) raises three questions. The first is the behavior selection question: why did this trait, rather than some other, get selected by natural selection? Answering this involves giving details of the selection process, and saying what made the disposition confer fitness in the ecology in which selection took place. But now note that ‘When a behavior evolves, a proximate mechanism also must evolve that allows the organism to produce the target behavior. Ivy plants grow toward the light. This is a behavior, broadly construed. For phototropism to evolve, there must be some mechanism inside of ivy plants that causes them to grow in one direction rather than in another’ (Sober and Wilson 1998, pp. 199-200). This raises the second question, the production question: how is the behavior produced within the individual-what is the ‘proximate mechanism’? In the human case, the interest is often in a psychological mechanism: we ask what perceptual, affective and cognitive processes issue in the behavior. Finally, note that these processes must also have evolved, so an answer to the second question brings a third: why did this proximate mechanism evolve rather than some other that could have produced the same behavior? This is the mechanism selection question. (pg 95)
    • These are good questions to answer, or at least address. Roughly, I thing my answers are
      • Selection Question: The three phases are a very efficient way to exploit an environment
      • Production Question: Neural coupling, as developed in physical swarms and moving on to cognitive clustering
      • Mechanism Question: Oscillator frequency locking provides a natural foundation for  collective behavior. Dimension reduction is how axis are selected for matching.
  • “We need to know, in detail, what deliberations are like that people engage in when they group-identify”. Also, agency transformationAgencyTransformation
  • Dimension reduction is a form of induced conceptual myopia (pg 89)? Conceptual Myopia
  • GroupIdentification
  • Group as Frame
  • Categorizatino and bias

Three views of the Odyssey

  • I’ve been thinking of ways to describe the differences between information visualizations with respect to maps, diagrams, and lists. Here’s The Odyssey as a geographic map:
  • Odysseus'_Journey
  • The first thing that I notice is just how far Odysseus travelled. That’s about half of the Mediterranean! I thought that it all happened close to Greece. Maps afford this understanding. They are diagrams that support the plotting of trajectories.Which brings me to the point that we lose a lot of information about relationships in narratives. That’s not their point. This doesn’t mean that non-map diagrams don’t help sometimes. Here’s a chart of the characters and their relationships in the Odyssey:
  •  odyssey
  • There is a lot of information here that is helpful. And this I do remember and understood from reading the book. Stories are good about depicting how people interact. But though this chart shows relationships, the layout does not really support navigation. For example, the gods are all related by blood and can pretty much contact each other at will. This chart would have Poseidon accessing Aeolus and  Circe by going through Odysseus.  So this chart is not a map.
  • Lastly, is the relationship that comes at us through search. Because the implicit geographic information about the Odyssey is not specifically in the text, a search request within the corpora cannot produce a result that lets us integrate it
  • OdysseySearchJourney
  • There is a lot of ambiguity in this result, which is similar to other searches that I tried which included travelsail and other descriptive terms. This doesn’t mean that it’s bad, it just shows how search does not handle context well. It’s not designed to. It’s designed around precision and recall. Context requires a deeper understanding about meaning, and even such recent innovations such as sharded views with cards, single answers, and pro/con results only skim the surface of providing situationally appropriate, meaningful context.

Some thoughts on alignment in belief space. 

Murmuration

A nagging question for me is why phase locking, a naturally occurring phenomenon, was selected for to produce collective intelligence instead of something else. My intuition is that building communities using rules of physical and cognitive alignment takes advantage of randomness to produce a good balance of explore/exploit behaviors in the population.

Flocking depends on the ability to align, based on a relationship with neighbors. The ease of alignment is proportional to two things (I think).

  1. A low number of dimensions. The fewer the dimensions, the easier the alignment. It is easier to get a herd of cattle to stampede in a slot canyon than an open field. This is the fundamental piece.
  2. A contributing factor to the type of collective behavior is the turning rate with respect to velocity. The easier it is to turn, the easier it is to flock. It’s no accident that starlings, a small, nimble bird, can produce murmurations. Larger birds, such as geese, have much less dynamic formations.

This applies to belief space as well. It is easier for people to agree when a concept is simplified. Similarly, the pattern of consensus will reflect the groups’ overall acceptance or resistance to change. I think this is a critical difference between a progressive and a reactionary. 

Within an established population that exhibits collective behavior, there should be two things then:

  1. A shared perception of a low-dimension physical/belief space
  2. A similar velocity and turning rate between individuals

I’m going to assume that like in most populations, these qualities have a normal distribution. There will be a majority that have very common dimension perception, velocity, and turning rates. There will also be individuals at either tail of the population. At one end, there will be those who see the world very simply. At the other, there will be those who see complexity where the majority don’t. At one end, there will be those who cannot adapt to any change. At the other, there will be those who hold no fixed opinion on anything.

Flocking depends, on alignment. But the individuals at the extremes will have difficulty staying with the relative safety of the flock. This means that there will be selection pressures. Those individuals who oversimplify and are unable to change direction should be selected against. When it’s more important to attend to your neighbors that find food, things don’t end well. What happens at the other end?

There is one tail of this population that produces nimble individuals that perceive a greater complexity in the world. They also have difficulty staying with the flock, because their patterns of behavior are influenced by things that they perceive that the rest of the flock does not. In cooperative game theory, this ‘noticing too much’ disrupts the common frames (alignment) that groups use to make implicit decisions (page 14).

I believe that these individuals become explorers. Explorers are also selected against, but not as much. The additional perception provides a better understanding of potential threats. Nimbleness helps to prevent getting caught. These explores provide an extended footprint for the population, which means greater resilience if the primary population encounters problems.

A population can rebuild from an explorer diaspora. Initially, the population will consist of too many explorers, and will have poor collective behaviors, but over time, selection pressures will push the mean so that there is sufficient alignment for flocking, but not so much that there is regular stampeding.

A final thought. There is no reason that these selection pressures exist only on populations that use genes to control their evolution. Looked at, for example, a machine learning context, the options can be restated (loosely) in statistical language:

  1. Nomadic: Overfit to the environment terms and underfit to the social term
  2. Flocking: Fit with rough equivalence to the environmental and social terms
  3. Stampede: Overfit to the social term and underfit to the environmental term

Since it is always computationally more efficient to align tightly with a population that is moving in the right direction (it’s copying your answers from your classmates), there will always be pressure to move towards stampedes. The resiliency offered by nomadic exploration is a long term investment that does not have a short term payoff. The compromise of flocking gives most of the benefits of either extreme, but it is a saddle point, always under the threat of unanticipated externalities.

When intelligent machines come, they will not be tuned by millions of years of evolution to be resilient, to have all those non-optimal behaviors that “even the odds”, should something unforeseen happen. At least initially, they will be constructed to provide the highest possible return on investment. And, like high-frequency trading systems, stampedes, in the form of bubbles and crashes will happen.

We need to understand this phenomena much more thoroughly, and begin to incorporate concepts like diversity and limited social influence horizons into our designs.

Schooling as a strategy for taxis in a noisy environment

Schooling as a strategy for taxis in a noisy environment

Journal: Evolutionary Ecology: Evolutionary Ecology is a conceptually oriented journal of basic biology at the interface of ecology and evolution. The journal publishes original research, reviews and discussion papers dealing with evolutionary ecology, including evolutionary aspects of behavioral and population ecology. The objective is to promote the conceptual, theoretical and empirical development of ecology and evolutionary biology; the scope extends to all organisms and systems. Research papers present the results of empirical and theoretical investigations, testing current theories in evolutionary ecology.

Author: Daniel Grunbaum: My research program seeks to establish quantitative relationships between short-term, small-scale processes, such as individual movement behaviors, and their long-term, large-scale population level effects, such as population fluxes and distributions.

Abstract

  • A common strategy to overcome this problem is taxis, a behaviour in which an animal performs a biased random walk by changing direction more rapidly when local conditions are getting worse.
    • Consider voters switching from Bush->Obama->Trump
  • Such an animal spends more time moving in right directions than wrong ones, and eventually gets to a favourable area. Taxis is ineffcient, however, when environmental gradients are weak or overlain by `noisy’ small-scale fluctuations. In this paper, I show that schooling behaviour can improve the ability of animals performing taxis to climb gradients, even under conditions when asocial taxis would be ineffective. Schooling is a social behaviour incorporating tendencies to remain close to and align with fellow members of a group. It enhances taxis because the alignment tendency produces tight angular distributions within groups, and dampens the stochastic effects of individual sampling errors. As a result, more school members orient up-gradient than in the comparable asocial case. However, overly strong schooling behaviour makes the school slow in responding to changing gradient directions. This trade-off suggests an optimal level of schooling behaviour for given spatio-temporal scales of environmental variations.
    • This has implications for everything from human social interaction to ANN design.

Notes

  • Because limiting resources typically have `patchy’ distributions in which concentrations may vary by orders of magnitude, success or failure in finding favourable areas often has an enormous impact on growth rates and reproductive success. To locate resource concentrations, many aquatic organisms display tactic behaviours, in which they orient with respect to local variations in chemical stimuli or other environmental properties. (pp 503)
  • Here, I propose that schooling behaviours improve the tactic capabilities of school members, and enable them to climb faint and noisy gradients which they would otherwise be unable to follow. (pp 504)
  • Schooling is thought to result from two principal behavioural components: (1) tendencies to move towards neighbours when isolated, and away from them when too close, so that the group retains a characteristic level of compactness; and (2) tendencies to align orientation with those of neighbours, so that nearby animals have similar directions of travel and the group as a whole exhibits a directional polarity. (pp 504)
    • My models indicate that attraction isn’t required, as long as there is a distance-graded awareness. In other words, you align most strongly with those agents that are closest.
  • I focus in this paper on schooling in aquatic animals, and particularly on phytoplankton as a distributed resource. However, although I do not examine them specifically, the modelling approaches and the basic results apply more generally to other environmental properties (such as temperature), to other causes of population movement (such as migration) and to other socially aggregating species which form polarized groups (such as flocks, herds and swarms). (pp 504)
  • Under these circumstances, the search of a nektonic filter-feeder for large-scale concentrations of phytoplankton is analogous to the behaviour of a bacterium performing chemotaxis. The essence of the analogy is that, while higher animals have much more sophisticated sensory and cognitive capacities, the scale at which they sample their environment is too small to identify accurately the true gradient. (pp 505)
    • And, I would contend for determining optimal social interactions in large groups.
  • Bacteria using chemotaxis usually do not directly sense the direction of the gradient. Instead, they perform random walks in which they change direction more often or by a greater amount if conditions are deteriorating than if they are improving (Keller and Segel, 1971; Alt, 1980; Tranquillo, 1990). Thus, on average, individuals spend more time moving in favourable directions than in unfavourable ones. (pp 505)
  • A bacterial analogy has been applied to a variety of behaviours in more complex organisms, such as spatially varying di€usion rates due to foraging behaviours or food-handling in copepods and larval ®sh (Davis et al., 1991), migration patterns in tuna (Mullen, 1989) and restricted area searching in ladybugs (Kareiva and Odell, 1987) and seabirds (Veit et al., 1993, 1995). The analogy provides for these higher animals a quantitative prediction of distribution patterns and abilities to locate resources at large space and time scales, based on measurable characteristics of small-scale movements. (pp 505)
  • I do not consider more sophisticated (and possibly more effective) social tactic algorithms, in which explicit information about the environment at remote points is actively or passively transmitted between individuals, or in which individual algorithms (such as slowing down when in relatively high concentrations) cause the group to function as a single sensing unit (Kils, 1986, described in Pitcher and Parrish, 1993). (pp 506)
    • This is something that could be easily added to the model. There could be a multiplier for each data cell that acts as a velocity scalar of the flock. That should have significant effects! This could also be applied to gradient descent. The flock of Gradient Descent Agents (GDAs) could have a higher speed across the fitness landscape, but slow and change direction when a better value is found by one of the GDAs. It occurs to me that this would work with a step function, as long as the baseline of the flock is sufficiently broad.
  • When the noise predominates (d <= 1), the angular distribution of individuals is nearly uniform, and the up-gradient velocity is near zero. In a range of intermediate values of d(0.3 <= d <= 3), there is measurable but slow movement up-gradient. The question I will address in the next two sections is: Can individuals in this intermediate signal-to-noise range with slow gradient-climbing rates improve their tactic ability by adopting a social behaviour (i.e. schooling)? (pp 508)
  • The key attributes of these models are: (1) a decreasing probability of detection or responsiveness to neighbours at large separation distances; (2) a social response that includes some sort of switch from attractive to repulsive interactions with neighbours, mediated by either separation distance or local density of animals*; and (3) a tendency to align with neighbours (Inagaki et al., 1976; Matuda and Sannomiya, 1980, 1985; Aoki, 1982; Huth and Wissel, 1990, 1992; Warburton and Lazarus, 1991; Grunbaum, 1994). (pp 508)
    • * Though not true of belief behavior (multiple individuals can share the same belief), for a Gradient Descent Agent (GDA), the idea of attraction/repulsion may be important.
  • If the number of neighbours is within an acceptable range, then the individual does not respond to them. On the other hand, if the number is outside that range, the individual turns by a small amount, Δθ3, to the left or right according to whether it has too many or too few of them and which side has more neighbours. In addition, at each time step, each individual randomly chooses one of its visible neighbours and turns by a small amount, Δθ4, towards that neighbour’s heading. (pp 508)
  • The results of simulations based on these rules show that schooling individuals, on average, move more directly in an up-gradient direction than asocial searchers with the same tactic parameters. Figure 4 shows the distribution of individuals in simulations of asocial and social taxis in a periodic domain (i.e. animals crossing the right boundary re-enter the left boundary, etc.). (pp 509)
  • Gradient Schooling
  • As predicted by Equation (5), asocial taxis results in a broad distribution of orientations, with a peak in the up-gradient (positive x-axis) direction but with a large fraction of individuals moving the wrong way at any given time (Fig. 5a,b). By comparison, schooling individuals tend to align with one another, forming a group with a tightened angular distribution. There is stochasticity in the average velocity of both asocial and social searchers (Fig. 5c). On average, however, schooling individuals move up-gradient faster and more directly than asocial ones. These simulation results demonstrate that it is theoretically possible to devise tactic search strategies utilizing social behaviours that are superior to asocial algorithms. That is, one of the advantages of schooling is that, potentially, it allows more successful search strategies under `noisy’ environmental conditions, where variations on the micro-scales at which animals sense their environment obscure the macro-scale gradients between ecologically favourable and unfavourable regions. (pp 510)
  • School-size effects must depend to some extent on the tactic and schooling algorithms, and the choices of parameters. However, underlying social taxis are the statistics of pooling outcomes of independent decisions, so the numerical dependence on school size may operate in a similar manner for many comparable behavioural schemes. For example, it seems reasonable to expect that, in many alternative schooling and tactic algorithms, decisions made collectively by less than 10 individuals would show some improvement over the asocial case but also retain much of the variability. Similarly, in most scenarios, group statistics probably vary only slowly with group size once it reaches sizes of 50-100. (pp 514)
  • when group size becomes large, the behaviour of model schools changes in character. With numerous individuals, stochasticity in the behaviour of each member has a relatively weaker effect on group motion. The behaviour of the group as a whole becomes more consistent and predictable, for longer time periods. (pp 514)
    • I think that this should be true in belief spaces as well. It may be difficult to track one person’s trajectory, but a group in aggregate, particularly a polarized group may be very detectable.
  • An example of group response to changing gradient direction shows that there can be a cost to strong alignment tendency. In this example, the gradient is initially pointed in the negative y-direction (Fig. 9). After an initial period of 5 time units, during which the gradient orients perpendicularly to the x-axis, the gradient reverts to the usual x-direction orientation. The school must then adjust to its new surroundings by shifting to climb the new gradient. This example shows that alignment works against course adjustment: the stronger the tendency to align, the slower is the group’s reorientation to the new gradient direction. This is apparently due to a non-linear interaction between alignment and taxis: asymmetries in the angular distribution during the transition create a net alignment flux away from the gradient direction. Thus, individuals that pay too much attention to neighbours, and allow alignment to overwhelm their tactic tendencies, may travel rapidly and persistently in the wrong direction. (pp 516)
    • So, if alignment (and velocity matching) are strong enough, the conditions for a stampede (group behavior with negative outcomes – in this case, less food) emerge
  • The models also suggest that there is a trade-off in strengthening tendencies to align with neighbours: strong alignment produces tight angular distributions, but increases the time needed to adjust course when the direction of the gradient changes. A reasonable balance seems to be achieved when individuals take roughly the same time to coalesce into a polarized group as they do to orient to the gradient in asocial taxis. (pp 518)
    • There is something about the relationship between explore and exploit in this statement that I really need to think about.
  • Social taxis is potentially effective in animals whose resources vary substantially over large length scales and for whom movements over these scales are possible. (pp 518)
    • Surviving as a social animal requires staying in the group. Since belief can cover wide ranges (e.g. religion), does there need to be a mechanism where individuals can harmonize their beliefs? From Social Norms and Other Minds The Evolutionary Roots of Higher Cognition :  Field research on primate societies in the wild and in captivity clearly shows that the capacity for (at least) implicit appreciation of permission, prohibition, and obligation social norms is directly related to survival rates and reproductive success. Without at least a rudimentary capacity to recognize and respond appropriately to these structures, remaining within a social group characterized by a dominance hierarchy would be all but impossible.
  • Interestingly, krill have been reported to school until a food patch has been discovered, whereupon they disperse to feed, consistent with a searching function for schooling. The apparent effectiveness of schooling as a strategy for taxis suggests that these schooling animals may be better able to climb obscure large-scale gradients than they would were they asocial. Interactive effects of taxis and sociality may affect the evolutionary value of larger groups both directly, by improving foraging ability with group size, and indirectly, by constraining alignment rates. (pp 518)
  • An example where sociality directly affects foraging strategy is forage area copying, in which unsuccessful fish move to the vicinity of neighbours that are observed to be foraging successfully (Pitcher et al., 1982; Ranta and Kaitala, 1991; Pitcher and Parrish, 1993). Pitcher and House (1987) interpreted area copying in goldfish as the result of a two-stage decision process: (1) a decision to stay put or move depending on whether feeding rate is high or low; and (2) a decision to join neighbours or not based upon whether or not further solitary searching is successful. Similar group dynamics have been observed in foraging seabirds (Porter and Seally, 1982; Haney et al., 1992).
  • Synchrokinesis depends upon the school having a relatively large spatial extent: part of a migrating school encounters an especially favourable or unfavourable area. The response of that section of the school is propagated throughout the school by alignment and grouping behaviours, with the result that the school as a whole is more effective at route-finding than isolated individuals. Forage area copying and synchrokinesis are distinct from social taxis in that an individual discovers and reacts to an environmental feature or resource, and fellow group members exploit that discovery. In social taxis, no individual need ever have greater knowledge about the environment than any other — social taxis is essentially bound up in the statistics of pooling the outcomes of many unreliable decisions. Synchrokinesis and social taxis are complementary mechanisms and may be expected to co-occur in migrating and gradient-climbing schools. (pp 519)
  • For example, in the comparisons of taxis among groups of various sizes, the most successful individuals were in the asocial simulation, even though as a fraction of the entire population they were vanishingly small. (pp 519)
    • Explorers have the highest payoff for the highest risks

Alignment in social interactions

Alignment in social interactions (2016)

Journal: Consciousness and Cognition, an International Journal, provides a forum for a natural science approach to the issues of consciousnessvoluntary control, and self. The journal features empirical research (in the form of articles) and theoretical reviews. The journal aims to be both scientifically rigorous and open to novel contributions.

Mattia Gallotti (Scholar):  Manager of The Human Mind Project at the School of Advanced Study of the University of London. I have a keen interest in academic management and governance, and I now consult on aspects of social innovation in the public sector.

Merle Theresa Fairhurst-MenuhinMerle is equally driven by a passion for art and science. Her days are split between work in cognitive neuroscience and exploring the rich repertoire of art song.

Chris Frith (Scholar):  I have been trying to delineate the mechanisms underlying the human ability to share representations of the world, for it is this ability that makes communication possible and allows us to achieve more than we could as individuals. We think that there are two major processes involved. The first is an automatic form of priming (sometimes referred to as contagion or empathy), whereby our representations of the world become aligned with those of the person with whom we are interacting. The second is a form of forward modelling, analogous to that used in the control of our own actions.

Abstract:

  • According to the prevailing paradigm in social-cognitive neuroscience, the mental states of individuals become shared when they adapt to each other in the pursuit of a shared goal. We challenge this view by proposing an alternative approach to the cognitive foundations of social interactions. The central claim of this paper is that social cognition concerns the graded and dynamic process of alignment of individual minds, even in the absence of a shared goal. When individuals reciprocally exchange information about each other’s minds processes of alignment unfold over time and across space, creating a social interaction. Not all cases of joint action involve such reciprocal exchange of information. To understand the nature of social interactions, then, we propose that attention should be focused on the manner in which people align words and thoughts, bodily postures and movements, in order to take one another into account and to make full use of socially relevant information.

Notes:

  • The concept of alignment has since evolved and is used to describe the multi-level, dynamic, and interactive mechanisms that underpin the sharing of people’s mental attitudes and representations in all kinds of social interactions (Dale, Fusaroli, & Duran, 2013). (pp 253)
  • The underlying justification for subsuming all these cases under the same mechanism is that cognition and action cannot be separated. The sharing of minds and bodies can then be conceptualized in terms of an integrated system of alignment, defined as the dynamic coupling of behavioural and/or cognitive states of two people (Dumas, Laroche, & Lehmann, 2014). (pp 253)
  • we are interested in the explanatory significance of alignment for a more general theory of social interaction, not in instrumental behaviour and/or alignment per se. (pp 254)
  • The central claim of this paper is that the alignment of minds, which emerges in social interactions, involves the reciprocal exchange of information whereby individuals adjust minds and bodies in a graded and dynamic manner. As these processes of alignment unfold, interacting partners will exchange information about each other’s minds and therefore act socially, whether or not a shared goal is in place. (pp 254)
  • In particular, in recent theoretical and empirical work on social cognition, reciprocity is increasingly recognized as a useful resource to capture the ‘‘jointness” of a joint action.Interpersonal understanding can be achieved by reading into one another’s mind reciprocally (Butterfill, 2013), and an explanation of the processes whereby the alignment of minds and bodies unfolds in space and time should involve an account of reciprocity (Zahavi & Rochat, 2015). In the process of a reciprocal exchange of information, individuals may adapt to varying degrees to one another. This is certainly the case in instances of temporal synchronisation and coordination in which physical alignment in time and space has been theorized to depend on cognitive models of adaptation (Elliott, Chua, & Wing, 2016Hayashi & Kondo, 2013Repp & Su, 2013) and thus on reciprocal interactions (D’Ausilio, Novembre, Fadiga, & Keller, 2015Keller, Novembre, & Hove, 2014Tognoli & Kelso, 2015). The behaviour of one player results in a change in behaviour of the other in a reciprocal way so as to achieve temporal synchrony. Interestingly, though not surprisingly, this reciprocal exchange of information results in physical alignment, which in turn has also been shown to result in greater degrees of affiliation and greater mental alignment (Hove & Risen, 2009Rabinowitch & Knafo-Noam, 2015Wiltermuth & Heath, 2009). Specifically, we suggest that, rather than a focus on the sharedness of the intended goal, we should attend to the graded exchange of information that creates alignment. The most social of interactions, in our formulation, are those in which ‘‘live” (‘‘online”, see Schilbach, 2014) information is exchanged dynamically (i.e. over time, across multiple points) bidirectionally and used to adapt behaviour and align with another (Jasmin et al., 2016). (pp 255)
  • Indeed, it is possible to have reciprocity and thus social interaction without cooperation. This would be the case, for example, in a competitive scenario in which the minds of the subjects are aligned at the appropriate level of description, and the sharing is essential to solve social dilemmas involving antagonistic behaviour (Bratman, 2014). In these exchanges, what is needed for the minds of the agents to attune to one another is that they adapt thoughts, bodily postures and movements, to take one another into account and reason as a team, even though the team might consist of competitive actors where none is aware that they are acting from the perspective of the same group and in the pursuit of some common goal (Bacharach, 2006). (pp 255)
  • fundamentally social nature has to do with the process whereby systems reciprocate thoughts and experiences, rather than with the endpoint i.e. the goal. It turns out that two features are often taken to be central to the process whereby interacting agents align minds and bodies. First, the interacting agents must be aware that they are doing something together with others. Second, the success of their joint performance is taken as a measure of how shared the participants’ goals are. (pp 255)
  • our suggestion is that what matters for the relevant alignment of minds and bodies to occur is the reciprocal exchange of information, not awareness of the reciprocal exchange of information. (pp 255)
    • This is all that is needed for flocking to happen. It is the range of that exchange that determines the phase change from independent to flock to stampede. Trust is involved in the reciprocity too, I think
  • Becoming mutually aware that we are sharing attitudes, dispositions, bodily postures, perhaps goals, does not mean that the ‘jointness’ of our actions has become available to each of us for conscious report. Reciprocity of awareness is emphatically not the same as awareness of reciprocity. The process of reciprocally exchanging information and mutually adapting to one another need not necessarily result in any degree of shared awareness. (pp 256)
  • In animals, a signal, for example about the source of food, that is too weak for an individual fish to follow can be followed by a group through the simple rules of bodily alignment that create shoaling behaviour (Grunbaum, 1998). Shoaling behaviour can also be observed in humans (Belz, Pyritz, & Boos, 2013), who can achieve group advantage through more complex forms of adjustment than just bodily alignment. Pairs of participants trying to detect a weak visual signal can achieve a greater group advantage when they align the terms they use to report their confidence in what they saw (Fusaroli et al., 2012). Indeed, linguistic alignment at many levels can be observed in dialogue (Pickering & Garrod, 2004) and can improve comprehension (Adank, Hagoort, & Bekkering, 2010; Fusaroli et al., 2012). (pp 256)
  • Much research has been driven, so far, by the implicit goal of identifying optimal group performance as a proxy for mental alignment (Fusaroli et al., 2012), however, there is conceptual room and empirical evidence for arguing that optimal task performance is not a good index of mental alignment or ‘optimal sociality’. In other words, taking achievement of a shared goal as the paradigm of a social interaction leads to the binary conception of sociality according to which an interaction is either (optimally) social, or it is not. (pp 256)
    • This is a problem that I have with opinion dynamics models. Convergence on a particular opinion isn’t the only issue. There is a dynamic process where opinions fall in and out of favor. This is the difference between the contagion model, which is one way (uninfected->infected) and motion through belief space. The goal really doesn’t matter, except in a subset of cases (Though these may be very important)
  • Two systems can interact when they have access to information relating to each other (Bilek et al., 2015). There are different ways of exchanging information between systems and hence different types of interaction (Liu & Pelowski, 2014), but in everycase some kind of alignment occurs (Coey, Varlet, & Richardson, 2012Huygens, 1673). (pp 257)
  • Such offline interaction can be contrasted with the case of online social interactions, where both participants act. The distinction between offline and online social interaction tasks is now acknowledged as crucial for advancing our understanding of the cognition processes underlying social interaction (Schilbach, 2014). (pp 257)
  • In contrast to salsa, consider the case of tango in which movements are improvised and as such require constant, mutual adaptation (Koehne et al., 2015; Tateo, 2014). Tango dancers have access to information relating to each other and, by virtue of the task, they exchange information with one another across time in a reciprocal and bidirectional fashion. The juxtaposition of tango with salsa highlights a spectrum of degrees of mutual reciprocity, with a richer form of interaction and greater need for alignment in tango compared with salsa.
  • we will take reciprocity to be the primary requirement for social interactions. We suggest that reciprocity can be identified with a special kind of alignment, mutual alignment, involving adjustment in both parties to the interaction. However, not all cases of joint action lead to mutual alignment. It is important to distinguish this mutual alignment from other types of alignment, which do not involve a reciprocal exchange of information between the agents. (pp 257)
  • In contrast to salsa, consider the case of tango in which movements are improvised and as such require constant, mutual adaptation (Koehne et al., 2015Tateo, 2014). Tango dancers have access to information relating to each other and, by virtue of the task, they exchange information with one another across time in a reciprocal and bidirectional fashion. The juxtaposition of tango with salsa highlights a spectrum of degrees of mutual reciprocity, with a richer form of interaction and greater need for alignment in tango compared with salsa. (pp 257)
  • AlignmentInSocialInteractions(pp 258)
  • The biggest challenge currently facing philosophers and scientists of social cognition is to understand social interactions. We suggest that this problem is best approached at the level of processes of mental alignment rather than through joint action tasks based on shared goals, and we propose that the key process is one of reciprocal, dynamic and graded adaptation between the participants in the interaction. Defining social interactions in terms of reciprocal patterns of alignment shows that not all joint actions involve reciprocity and also that social interactions can occur in the absence of shared goals. This approach has two particular advantages. First, it emphasises the key point that interactions can only be fully understood at the level of the group, rather than the individual. The pooling together of individual mental resources generates results that exceed the sum of the individual contributions. But, second, our approach points towards the mechanisms of adaptation that must be occurring within each individual in order to create the interaction (Friston & Frith, 2015). (pp 259)
  • This picture of social interaction in terms of mental alignment suggests two important theoretical developments. One is about a possible way to characterize the idea that types of social interaction lie on a continuum of possible solutions. If we focus on the task or the shared goal being pursued by agents jointly, as the current literature suggests, then only limited subdivisions of types of interaction will emerge. If, however, our focus extends so as to integrate the nature of the interaction, conceived of in terms of information exchange, then we can arrive at a higher degree of resolution of the space in which social interaction lie. This will define a spectrum of types of interaction (not just offline versus online social cognition), suggesting a dimensional rather than a discrete picture. After all, alignment comes in degrees and a spectrum-like definition of sociality implies that there is a variety of forms of alignment and hence of interactions. (pp 269)
    • My work would indicate that meaningful transitions occur for Unaligned (pure explore), Complex (flocking), and Total (stampede).