Some thoughts about awareness and trust

I had some more thoughts about how behavior patterns emerge from the interplay between trust and awareness. I think the following may be true:

  1. Awareness refers to how complete the knowledge of an information domain is. Completely aware indicates complete information. Unaware indicates not only absent information but no knowledge of the domain at all.
  2. Trust is a social construct to deal with incomplete information. It’s a shortcut that essentially states “based on some set of past experiences, I will assume that this (now trusted) entity will behave in a predictable, reliable, and beneficial way for me”
  3. Healthy behaviors emerge when trust and awareness are equivalent.
  4. Low trust and low awareness is reasonable. It’s like walking through a dark, unknown space. You go slow, bump into things, and adjust.
  5. Low trust and high awareness is paralytic.
  6. High trust and low awareness is reckless. Runaway conditions like echo chambers. The quandary here is that high trust is efficient. Consider the prisoner’s dilemma:
      1. dilemma
      2. In the normal case, the two criminals have to evaluate what the best action is based on all the actions the other individual could choose, ideally resulting in a Nash Equilibrium. For two players (p), there are 4 choices (c). However, if each player believes that the other player will make the same choice, then only the two diagonal choices remain. For two players, this reduces the complexity by half. But for multiple dissimilar players, the options go up by cp, so that if this were The Usual Suspects, there would be 32 possibilities to be worked out by each player. But for 5 identical prisoners, the number of choices remains 2, which is basically “what should we all do?”. The more we believe that the others in our social group see the world the same way, the less work we all have to do.
  7. Diversity is a mechanism for extending awareness, but it depends on trusting those who are different. That may be the essence of the explore/exploit dilemma.
  8. Attention is a form of focused awareness, can reduce general awareness. This is one to the reasons that Tufekci’s thoughts on the attention economy matter so much. As technology increases attention on proportionally more “marketable” items, the population’s social awareness is distorted.
  9. In a healthy group context, trust falls off as a function of awareness. That’s why we get flocking. That is the pattern that emerges when you trust more those who are close, while they in turn do the same, building a web of interaction. It’s kind of like interacting ripples?
  10. This may work for any collection of entities that have varied states that undergo change in some predictable way. If they were completely random, then awareness of the state is impossible, and trust should be zero.
    1. Human agent trust chains might proceed from self to family to friends to community, etc.
    2. Machine agent trust chains might proceed from self to direct connections (thumb drives, etc) to LAN/WAN to WAN
    3. Genetic agent trust chain is short – self to species. Contact is only for reproduction. Interaction would reflect the very long sampling times.
    4. Note that (1) is evolved and is based on incremental and repeated interactions, while (2) is designed and is based on arbitrary rules that can change rapidly. Genetics are maybe dealing with different incentives? The only issue is persisting and spreading (which helps in the persisting)
  11. Computer-mediated-communication disturbs this process (as does probably every form of mass communication) because the trust in the system is applied to the trust of the content. This can work in both ways. For example, lowering trust in the press allows for claims of Fake News. Raising the trust of social networks that channel anonymous online sources allows for conspiracy thinking.
  12. An emerging risk is how this affects artificial intelligence, given that currently high trust in the algorithms and training sets is assumed by the builders
    1. Low numbers of training sets mean low diversity/awareness,
    2. Low numbers of algorithms (DNNs) also mean low diversity/awareness
    3. Since training/learning is spread by update, the installed base is essentially multiple instances of the same individual. So no diversity and very high trust. That’s a recipe for a stampede of 10,000 self driving cars.

Since I wrote this, I’ve had some additional thoughts. I think that our understanding of Awareness and Trust is getting confused with Faith and Doubt. Much of what we believe to be true is no longer based on direct evidence, or even an understandable chain of reasoning. Particularly as more and more of our understanding comes from statistical analysis of large sets of fuzzy data, the line between Awareness and Faith becomes blurred, I think.

Doubt is an important part of faith, and it has to do with the mind coming up against the unknowable. The question does God exist? contains the basics of the tension between faith and doubt. Proving the existence of God can even be thought of as distraction from the attempt to come to terms with the mysteries of life. Within every one of us is the ability to reject all prior religious thought and start our own journey that aligns with our personal understandings.

Conversely, it is impossible to increase awareness without trusting the prior work. Isaac Newton had to trust in large part, the shoulders of the giants he stood on, even if he was refining notions of what gravity was. So too with Albert Einstein, Rosalind Franklin and others in their fields. The scientific method is a framework for building a large, broad-based, interlocking tapestry awareness.

When science is approached from a perspective of Faith and Doubt, communities like the Flat Earth Society emerge. It’s based on the faith that the since the world appears flat here, it must be flat everywhere, and doubt of a history of esoteric measurements and math that disprove this personally reasonable assumption. From this perspective, the Flat Earthers are a protestant movement, much in the way that the community that emerged around Martin Luther, when he rejected the organized, carefully constructed orthodoxy of the Catholic Church, based on his personally reasonable interpretation of scripture.

Confusing Awareness and Trust with Faith and Doubt is toxic to both. Ongoing, systemic doubt in trustworthy information will destroy progress, ultimately unraveling the tapestry of awareness. Trust that mysteries can be proven is toxic in its own way, since it gives rise to confusion between reality and fantasy like we see in doomsday cults.

My sense is that as our ability to manipulate and present information is handed over to machines, that we will need to educate them in these differences, and make sure that they do not become as confused as we are. Because we are rapidly heading for a time where these machines will be co complex and capable that our trust in them will be based on faith.

2 thoughts on “Some thoughts about awareness and trust

  1. Pingback: Phil 10.4.17 | viztales

  2. Pingback: Phil 1.19.18 | viztales

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