Eric Smith's interview on Jim Rutt's podcast

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Eric Smith's interview on Jim Rutt's podcast

Stephen Guerin-5
Just listened to this on a flight today. Always great to get your perspective, Eric! 

https://www.jimruttshow.com/eric-smith/  

Multidimensional thinker Eric Smith has a wide-ranging talk with Jim about the origins of life, monetary systems, language & sustainability. Eric starts by sharing how geochemistry informs the origin of life topic, the dynamics of autocatalytic processes, how little we know about biological systems & what this might tell us about the Fermi paradox. The conversation then goes into the importance of institutions & a dynamic perspective on monetary systems, the subprime mortgage crisis, money substitutes & crypto. They then finish this chat by talking about Eric’s interest in linguistics & what it can learn from modern probability, key areas of focus for ecosystem sustainability, the challenge of reconciling ‘small local’ & ‘global policy’ approaches to sustainability, the role of civil society, and much more.

Episode Transcript

Mentions & Recommendations

D. Eric Smith received the Bachelor of Science in Physics and Mathematics from the California Institute of Technology in 1987, and a Ph.D. in Physics from The University of Texas at Austin in 1993, with a dissertation on problems in string theory and high-temperature superconductivity. From 1993 to 2000 he worked in physical, nonlinear, and statistical acoustics at the Applied Research Labs: U. T. Austin, and at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. From 2000 he has worked at the Santa Fe Institute on problems of self-organization in thermal, chemical, and biological systems. A focus of his current work is the statistical mechanics of the transition from the geochemistry of the early earth to the first levels of biological organization, with some emphasis on the emergence of the metabolic network.

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Re: Eric Smith's interview on Jim Rutt's podcast

Steven A Smith

Stephen -

Thanks for turning me onto Rutt's show a while back... I've been working my way into some of the meat there.   I've met Jim before but this really exposes his style and personality while pulling some amazing things out of his interviewees.   Cory Doctorow and Lee Smolin come most recently...

I'm now really enjoying this interview with Eric...  they cover so much territory!

I'd be curious about your own perspective on China, having "come of age" there and still having connections and interests of significance.   I really liked Eric's points about the fundamental differences in "political stance" which goes so much deeper.   I've been exposed to quite a range of opinions and ideas about China in my life, including working for years with three different grad students and what I've learned through your own experience and here, Eric's observations add to the grand mystery and possibilities implied in competing/complementary social models.

The rest of the interview is equally fascinating...  rich in perspective and ideas.

- Steve

On 2/11/20 12:12 AM, Stephen Guerin wrote:
Just listened to this on a flight today. Always great to get your perspective, Eric! 

https://www.jimruttshow.com/eric-smith/  

Multidimensional thinker Eric Smith has a wide-ranging talk with Jim about the origins of life, monetary systems, language & sustainability. Eric starts by sharing how geochemistry informs the origin of life topic, the dynamics of autocatalytic processes, how little we know about biological systems & what this might tell us about the Fermi paradox. The conversation then goes into the importance of institutions & a dynamic perspective on monetary systems, the subprime mortgage crisis, money substitutes & crypto. They then finish this chat by talking about Eric’s interest in linguistics & what it can learn from modern probability, key areas of focus for ecosystem sustainability, the challenge of reconciling ‘small local’ & ‘global policy’ approaches to sustainability, the role of civil society, and much more.

Episode Transcript

Mentions & Recommendations

D. Eric Smith received the Bachelor of Science in Physics and Mathematics from the California Institute of Technology in 1987, and a Ph.D. in Physics from The University of Texas at Austin in 1993, with a dissertation on problems in string theory and high-temperature superconductivity. From 1993 to 2000 he worked in physical, nonlinear, and statistical acoustics at the Applied Research Labs: U. T. Austin, and at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. From 2000 he has worked at the Santa Fe Institute on problems of self-organization in thermal, chemical, and biological systems. A focus of his current work is the statistical mechanics of the transition from the geochemistry of the early earth to the first levels of biological organization, with some emphasis on the emergence of the metabolic network.

_______________________________________________________________________
[hidden email]
CEO, Simtable  http://www.simtable.com
1600 Lena St #D1, Santa Fe, NM 87505
office: (505)995-0206 mobile: (505)577-5828
twitter: @simtable

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Re: Eric Smith's interview on Jim Rutt's podcast

Steven A Smith
In reply to this post by Stephen Guerin-5

Eric-

Great interview!

Eric: You know what I like on this though, I think back to the, I guess it was AlphaGo competition with Lee Sedol in the computer human contest for Go playing. I really loved Lee’s comment at the end of it, where he was saying that of course those had been the most difficult games he had had to play, but that he had never enjoyed playing Go more than in those games because before, he was the best in the world in a style of play that was essentially established and playing the machine, it was opening [inaudible 00:06:46] of play that no human would have opened against him. It was giving him an insight into the game that had not been available to him from anyone before. Apart from the superb character that that demonstrates in the man, I think that’s a good way to look at human-computer interactions that we have all of these big branching structures. The question is when will computational solutions open [inaudible 00:07:11] of play that human conventions were not exploring.

I really appreciated this point/perspective.   I distinctly remember two moments related to this.  The first was when the 4 color theorem was proven by machine and there was a LOT of discussion about the implications of that.  The smallest of the conversation seemed to be the kinds of *insights* that such a method of proof could elicit.   I'm not clear that any such thing came of this or any other automated proof, but it seems possible?  Surely you or someone else here has a better handle on that.

At the 1983 Cellular Automata conference at LANL, there was fairly widespread discussion of the problems of automated Go play with speculations/assertions about just how hard the problem was and whether it could ever be approached at the "atomic" level.    It warms my heart to hear Lee Sedol's anecdote about feeling like he was obtaining a new insight into a game he had obviously already dedicated a lifetime to understanding.

My own dabbling in the area of human-in-the-loop ensemble steering is based on the assumption/hope that the coupling of automated generation/analysis and human insight is in some way transcendent of either approach alone.

- Steve


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Re: Eric Smith's interview on Jim Rutt's podcast

Steven A Smith
In reply to this post by Stephen Guerin-5

Eric -

There’s a quote and I can’t remember the source, I should, he’s a member of the astrobiology community, but it’s pithy and elegant. The quote was that the origin of life is not something that happens on a planet, it’s something that happens to a planet. That was really Harold’s insight that the origin of life should be understood through the emergence of a biosphere. It’s not something that’s contained within individuals. It’s rather a transition of systems, which means that it’s multi-component, it’s robust and it changes the dynamics of everything around it.

The quote sounds like David Greenspoon in "Lonely Planets" ?  

I think the point you make here is highly relevant to the question of collective intelligence...  not something contained within individuals but the transition of systems.

- Steve


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Re: Eric Smith's interview on Jim Rutt's podcast

David Eric Smith
Thanks for this, Steve,

Yes, it was Grinspoon.  Sara Walker told me that at the last AbSciCon meeting, but in the running stream of conversation with Jim I had forgotten it.

Your Freudian typo was fun, unless it was your computer that did it.  A mixture of Grinspoon and Greenspan.  Given what happens to European Jewish names at Ellis Island (or its modern equivalent), those could well have been the same name originally. 

Best,

Eric


On Feb 12, 2020, at 2:34 AM, Steven A Smith <[hidden email]> wrote:

Eric -

There’s a quote and I can’t remember the source, I should, he’s a member of the astrobiology community, but it’s pithy and elegant. The quote was that the origin of life is not something that happens on a planet, it’s something that happens to a planet. That was really Harold’s insight that the origin of life should be understood through the emergence of a biosphere. It’s not something that’s contained within individuals. It’s rather a transition of systems, which means that it’s multi-component, it’s robust and it changes the dynamics of everything around it.

The quote sounds like David Greenspoon in "Lonely Planets" ?  

I think the point you make here is highly relevant to the question of collective intelligence...  not something contained within individuals but the transition of systems.

- Steve

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Re: Eric Smith's interview on Jim Rutt's podcast

David Eric Smith
In reply to this post by Steven A Smith
Thanks Steve,

Yes, there is a certain thread of literature and experience that is always in my mind on this topic.

It began some years ago when David Krakauer waved a copy of Richard Novikovsky’s book Games of No Chance in front of me, and that was my introduction to the modern work that had been done at MSRI Berkeley on combinatorial games.  All during my time at SFI, I was interested in finding some good merger of the low-dimensional but nonzero-sum games the economists almost-exclusively deal with, with the literature on combinatorial games that does much better at capturing what makes a problem “hard” to solve, as opposed to “hard” to clearly frame.  

Somehow — and I don’t remember who played what role in it — we had Elwyn Berlekamp out to SFI for a couple of days, and I hosted him.  It was like a visit from Erdos.  After about 48 hours everyone else was worn out and Elwyn was going strong.  But it started me reading a string of books by him and other MSRIers on mathematical Go, other work on mathematizing games, and also Conway’s On Numbers and Games, which I never put in the effort to understand but which Cris Moore understands through and through.

All that stuff is delightful, and I have wished to get to understanding it well enough to have new ideas in that space.  But have not done so yet.  Most interesting to me from Elwyn’s visit, and not contained in the books, was the experimental work he had done with world-champion-level Go players, to determine whether the values of game positions that he had derived from the mathematicization were pertinent to those that guided the players choices, and he claimed there was good agreement between the two.  I haven’t tried to track down any literature that may ever have come out of that, and I didn’t get references from Elwyn at the time to even write down.  From high-wattage people like that, there is just so much that comes across so fast, you can’t live enough lives in parallel to keep up with it.

But, it would be great to see some of those interests revived and developed further.  They seem to have so much promise not yet realized.  I wish there were anything concrete I could offer you by way of either ideas or references, but sadly I have none.

All best,

Eric



On Feb 12, 2020, at 2:09 AM, Steven A Smith <[hidden email]> wrote:

Eric-

Great interview!

Eric: You know what I like on this though, I think back to the, I guess it was AlphaGo competition with Lee Sedol in the computer human contest for Go playing. I really loved Lee’s comment at the end of it, where he was saying that of course those had been the most difficult games he had had to play, but that he had never enjoyed playing Go more than in those games because before, he was the best in the world in a style of play that was essentially established and playing the machine, it was opening [inaudible 00:06:46] of play that no human would have opened against him. It was giving him an insight into the game that had not been available to him from anyone before. Apart from the superb character that that demonstrates in the man, I think that’s a good way to look at human-computer interactions that we have all of these big branching structures. The question is when will computational solutions open [inaudible 00:07:11] of play that human conventions were not exploring.

I really appreciated this point/perspective.   I distinctly remember two moments related to this.  The first was when the 4 color theorem was proven by machine and there was a LOT of discussion about the implications of that.  The smallest of the conversation seemed to be the kinds of *insights* that such a method of proof could elicit.   I'm not clear that any such thing came of this or any other automated proof, but it seems possible?  Surely you or someone else here has a better handle on that.

At the 1983 Cellular Automata conference at LANL, there was fairly widespread discussion of the problems of automated Go play with speculations/assertions about just how hard the problem was and whether it could ever be approached at the "atomic" level.    It warms my heart to hear Lee Sedol's anecdote about feeling like he was obtaining a new insight into a game he had obviously already dedicated a lifetime to understanding.

My own dabbling in the area of human-in-the-loop ensemble steering is based on the assumption/hope that the coupling of automated generation/analysis and human insight is in some way transcendent of either approach alone.

- Steve

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Re: Eric Smith's interview on Jim Rutt's podcast

Steven A Smith
In reply to this post by David Eric Smith

> Thanks for this, Steve,
>
> Yes, it was Grinspoon.  Sara Walker told me that at the last AbSciCon
> meeting, but in the running stream of conversation with Jim I had
> forgotten it.
>
> Your Freudian typo was fun, unless it was your computer that did it.
>  A mixture of Grinspoon and Greenspan.  Given what happens to European
> Jewish names at Ellis Island (or its modern equivalent), those could
> well have been the same name originally.

Interesting "Freud-in-a-slip" for sure...  the duality of the
phonographic space of our written record and the phonetic space of our
oral culture yields some interesting slip-slides from time to time...  I
doubt I ever *heard* Grinspoon's name, but must have phoneticized it as
"Green" and internalized it that way?

The first time I was ever aware of this kind of name-transliteration
imposed at the moment of immigration was a (bad) joke that lead to a
Chinese Man taking on the name "Lars Larsson" as a result of being in
line behind a Swede of that name, and giving his own which was "Sam
Ting". <groan>

My own "Smith" was surely once "Schmidt" (coming down through the German
branch of my ancestry)?

I'm now wading through the finance/monetary section of your interview
with Rutt, in fascination...  it provides an excellent reminder of the
rich and subtle complexity of the domain.


- Steve




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Re: Eric Smith's interview on Jim Rutt's podcast

thompnickson2
In reply to this post by Stephen Guerin-5

Gosh!  Even I understood a lot of it.  It would be great to talk about it on Friday. 

 

Nick

 

Nicholas Thompson

Emeritus Professor of Ethology and Psychology

Clark University

[hidden email]

https://wordpress.clarku.edu/nthompson/

 

 

From: Friam <[hidden email]> On Behalf Of Stephen Guerin
Sent: Tuesday, February 11, 2020 12:13 AM
To: The Friday Morning Applied Complexity Coffee Group <[hidden email]>
Subject: [FRIAM] Eric Smith's interview on Jim Rutt's podcast

 

Just listened to this on a flight today. Always great to get your perspective, Eric! 

 

https://www.jimruttshow.com/eric-smith/  

 

Multidimensional thinker Eric Smith has a wide-ranging talk with Jim about the origins of life, monetary systems, language & sustainability. Eric starts by sharing how geochemistry informs the origin of life topic, the dynamics of autocatalytic processes, how little we know about biological systems & what this might tell us about the Fermi paradox. The conversation then goes into the importance of institutions & a dynamic perspective on monetary systems, the subprime mortgage crisis, money substitutes & crypto. They then finish this chat by talking about Eric’s interest in linguistics & what it can learn from modern probability, key areas of focus for ecosystem sustainability, the challenge of reconciling ‘small local’ & ‘global policy’ approaches to sustainability, the role of civil society, and much more.

Episode Transcript

Mentions & Recommendations

§  Eric’s book, The Origin and Nature of Life on Earth

§  The Theory of Money and Financial Institutions by Martin Shubik

§  Slapped by the Invisible Hand: The Panic of 2007 by Gary Gorton

§  Stabilizing an Unstable Economy by Hyman Minsky

§  Jim’s talk on Dividend Money

§  Linas Vepstas on Learning Language…

§  Blessed Unrest by Paul Hawken

§  FRONTLINE Doc, In the Age of AI

D. Eric Smith received the Bachelor of Science in Physics and Mathematics from the California Institute of Technology in 1987, and a Ph.D. in Physics from The University of Texas at Austin in 1993, with a dissertation on problems in string theory and high-temperature superconductivity. From 1993 to 2000 he worked in physical, nonlinear, and statistical acoustics at the Applied Research Labs: U. T. Austin, and at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. From 2000 he has worked at the Santa Fe Institute on problems of self-organization in thermal, chemical, and biological systems. A focus of his current work is the statistical mechanics of the transition from the geochemistry of the early earth to the first levels of biological organization, with some emphasis on the emergence of the metabolic network.

_______________________________________________________________________
[hidden email]

CEO, Simtable  http://www.simtable.com

1600 Lena St #D1, Santa Fe, NM 87505

office: (505)995-0206 mobile: (505)577-5828

twitter: @simtable


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