11. April 2022

The Sigmoid Hypothesis


1920: The first Atlantic crossing by plane, a biplane with propellers. Commercial radio just started broadcasting. Nuclear Power is not even thought of. 

1970: Nuclear power stations are common. Broadcast color TV is the norm. The Jumbo jet takes commercial air travel to a new level and humans have just landed on the moon. 

2020: Still nuclear fission. Color TVs are now flat. The Jumbo Jet is still the largest commercial airplane and humanity is not able to land on the moon but is determined to regain the capability in a few years. There are smart phones and ubiquitous information, though.

That does not look exponential. The jump from 1970 to 2020 should have been even more impressive than the 50 years before. While information technology developed exponentially, almost all else just improved. Admittedly the reference dates are carefully chosen. Technological developments that started in two major wars have fully played out by 1970. But still, a person from 1820 would have found 1870 interesting. A person from 1870 would have been amazed by the state of the art in 1920 (radioactivity and airplanes). A time traveler from 1920 peeking into 1970 would not have believed her eyes (nuclear power, moon landings, ubiquitous electricity and lights). That is exponential. Not just change, but an increasing level of change. Accelerating progress. 

Compare that to someone watching 2020 with 1970 eyes. The media and information landscape changed beyond imagination, but other than that the world has not changed a lot. It is bigger. There are other topics in politics, billions of people were lifted from absolute poverty. Things have improved: rockets are now reusable, electrical light is basically free thanks to LEDs, cars need only half as much gas, and the tallest building is twice as high. Still, everyday life looks like an improved 1970 with smartphones. 

Humanity should be on Mars and beyond. After 50 years between transatlantic flight and the moon, the next 50 years should have given us more than just a flight to Mars. That would be linear. Exponential growth would mean something like a million people on Mars and the first woman setting boot on Saturn's moon Titan. And while Moore's law still holds, continuing the exponential growth of transistor counts, there are physical limits on the horizon and improvements come at increased costs in terms of prices and energy consumption. AI made progress but turned out to be more difficult than thought in 1970. And fusion power is still 50 years away.

There are lots of improvements going on. The tech level is growing. But the rate of growth does not feel exponential. On the other hand, the capabilities of information technology still develop exponentially. The amount of information available to researchers grows exponentially. Counting patents, the number of inventions per year increases which means at least faster than linearly. And while the population growth seems to deviate from the exponential curve, the number of scientists and engineers entering the work force is still somewhat exponential.

The resources put into technology still seem to grow exponentially, but the outcome appears linear. There is a worrying discrepancy between engineering resources, scientists, information, and processing capabilities on one hand and the resulting technological progress on the other hand. It looks like improvements are more difficult to achieve now then before. Every year we are putting in more effort in terms if money, thoughts, and knowledge. We might even get more improvements each year. But the aggregate of all technological improvements, something that we might call a technological level seems to crawl upwards slowly. It does not appear to accelerate. It seems rather steady, more like linear progress. Still improving broadly but not exponentially. 

The question: is progress really getting more difficult? Does the difficulty increase exponentially eating up exponential investment to result in linear progress? Are we at a turning point where progress might even slow down despite increased efforts? 

Maybe technological progress has never been exponential. Maybe it is sigmoidal. A sigmoid starts slowly then accelerates appearing exponentially. But it has a turnaround point. A point where the gradient maxes out and starts to fall. In other words, there is a fast period after which progress slows down. Later it might even saturate. That does not mean that technology falls back. On the contrary: the tech level increases. Products still get better. But more slowly. Because at a high level it is more difficult to make improvements. There are still improvements. Only they cost more. They need more investments, more research, more computer simulations, more data, more money, more time. 

That's where we are now. The exponential technological progress we were used to has slowed to linear progress. It looks like the turnaround point. The point where things still get better, but technical revolutions become increasingly rare. Maybe the year 2070 will look like a slightly improved 2020. Self-driving cars will be common and fusion power will be only 20 years away. There will be permanent stations on the moon. Several billion more people will have joined the well-off global middle class. And movie recommendations will be as much spot on as music recommendations. That would not be so bad. There will be no singularity, though. No runaway AI, no nanites dismantling the Earth. That would be good after all. 

_happy_saturating()

31. Januar 2022

More Accelerando Than Snow Crash

The Mental Model of the Web3 Future Is Not Snow Crash. It's Accelerando. The inevitable path to a new economic model made possible by web3.


There is a lot of emphasis lately on the metaverse and virtual worlds. We believe that web3 helps to share stuff between virtual worlds, to tear down the walls between online worlds. Ready Player One shows a unified metaverse, where avatars from different virtual worlds meet. That's nice. Maybe even useful someday. There is also business and money to be made. Actually, a lot of business will be enabled or improved: entertainment, marketing, customer support, and more.

However, the real impact on the economy of the future comes from automation of business processes. In a web3 world software, scripts, and AI, can make deals. Specifically, business executing AI will have a large impact. Ultimately, AI will be able to act with tangible effect through the web3 we are currently building. It's the real economy that counts. That's why we should look to Charles Stross' Accelerando rather than Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash.

We have been learning from many examples in different fields that AI is good at finding new ways to do things. When AI optimizes a task, it often finds more efficient ways than experienced humans in the same field. For example, self-learning AI invents unconventional strategies in games. It explores strategies that the best human players would have disapproved of until they were defeated by those strategies. AlphaStar, Google's StarCraft AI once produced overwhelmingly many Oracles, a Protoss unit. A strategy no professional player tried because it has disadvantages in the later game. But still the AI beat top human players until they countered the strategy as soon as they detected it.

In another experiment self-learning AI that needed to communicate to solve a task quickly developed a more effective way of communication. They invented their own language. A protocol that was more efficient that the protocols they were given as a starting point. The language was not easily understood by humans. It was analyzed. But this takes took while the AI moved forward. Understanding the AI's way is a moving target. Ultimately humans will use the optimizations without fully understanding them.

We are now at a point where software driven business processes emerge. Web3 enables software to post offers, to negotiate, to close deals, and to check fulfilment. Software is already doing significant business at stock exchanges. Software can react more quickly than humans which is important in times of high-speed trading. Some of these agents are driven by deep learning and genetic AI. While there are many details and nuances, basically trading stocks is rather simple. There are sell offers, buy offers, and real time information. The task is to optimize profit over time. A difficult task considered erratic markets, a volatile information situation, erratic market behavior, and feedback loops. But the trading model is simple: buying and selling securities.

Now, web3 promises to pull all other business into software's reach. While everything could be wrapped into a security, not everything in the real world is a security. Partially, because it is irrelevant, like selling my own house. Selling my house is not accessible to software because nobody has made it a security, and nobody will.

In the field of patents and intellectual property rights are usually not freely tradable because there are too many barriers. IP has fundamentals that are difficult to consider automatically. Trading IP goes beyond comparing market prices. Assessing the value of IP is the domain of human experts. IP deals also need notaries, attorneys, and registers, in other words: legacy real-world mechanisms.

Car manufacturers deal with thousands of supplies, each with a detailed part specification, negotiated quality expectations, technical standards, and individual considerations. They are far from being securitized, out of reach of trading software. Until now.

Smart contracts can replace government registers like commercial and land registers. If a land register is secured by a blockchain instead of a government or an attorney, then this not only makes trading cheaper by removing the middleman. It also makes trading the goods accessible to software.

Physical properties of car parts can be measured and compared with specifications. A smart contract checks if negotiated standards are met. It decides to what extend deliveries deviate from expectations. Pricing is fixated and made transparent to all parties as a smart contract. Money flows reproducibly and reliably based on measured and negotiated parameters of contracts. In the beginning humans will create these contracts, negotiate their parameters, and set up real-world measuring equipment. Humans will also approve payments. But that is still a lot of work. After some time of waving through payments smart contracts will be made to pay without human approval on small lots. Then, when there were no major glitches for some time checking parts deliveries and payments will be automized.

Still, finding and negotiating thousands of parts is a lot of work waiting to be automated. And it will be automated. Suppliers will offer their parts through smart contracts that manage specifications and tolerances. Smart contracts also offer variations, and they will have logic, scripting, or AI to estimate production cost of variants. That makes sifting through of all these variants, specs, and tolerances for countless parts easier and humans just approve selections, confirm deals, or intervene when the AI does stupid things. And again, after some time without major glitches the industry will let software make the deals unsupervised demanding only after-the-fact reporting.

There is one more step required to completely automatize the industry: planning and building factories. This will take more time. But individual manufacturing through 3D printing accelerates the process. Tesla already knows how to build Giga factories for certain products on demand. There is now so much institutional know-how that these facilities can be built in months instead of years. Factory projects are increasingly data driven and all this data will finally be used to train AI.

Software simulation of production processes also helps to self-train AI. A game of building factories, negotiating parts and resources to win market share against a competitor is not fundamentally different from managing resources and combat in StarCraft. AI will optimize itself with simulated competitions. Then AI will plan and build factories. As always, after some time without major glitches, some players will let AI react to market demand automatically. Even some goof ups can be tolerated. Human decision making when estimating future demand, planning products, and executing business plans is far from perfect. If the financial impact of AI-mistakes is on the same level as the one by humans, the AI wins. Finally, the AI wins. And the first humans to adopt this way of doing business get rich.

Then AI optimizes the business. The AIs will optimize communication by inventing new protocols. Negotiation protocols that are more efficient than the ones inherited from humans. There are many ways to optimize in a software driven world. Maybe they dispense with checking individual deliveries. Maybe they don't put up tenders anymore. Suppliers might deliver parts without prior negotiations based on information from crypto oracles. After all, the financial output of the entire operation is key. They might omit payments for supplies and just share the revenue. A smart contract takes key performance indicators and generates a pay-out scheme for all involved entities in a transparent fashion. There are hard short-term facts like revenue, time-delayed measurements like product reliability, and long-term soft information sources like polls about buyer's remorse. All this data can be used to optimize the business. At some time, there is data available from millions of products, markets, and processes over many product cycles. This data is then employed by the executing AI to find new ways.

Would humans base a car business on revenue sharing and common long-term benefits? Probably not. Human experts would reject this way of doing business for many reasons. Humans are good at coming up with reasons not to change things. Until they are outperformed.

Humans are also good at inventing possible ways for improvements based on their experience. We can imagine countless optimizations and process changes. Science fiction authors are especially good at that. But we largely fail to predict developments beyond our experience. That's where AI excels. It finds categorizations that escape us. It finds optimizations we won't think of.

AI will change the way business is done so much that humans will not understand what's going on. At first, we will. We will be surprised by AI's inventions. We will marvel at the ingenuity and frivolity of its ways. For as long as we can analyze and understand what is happening. Later we will fail to understand and just embrace the benefits.

This is what Charles Stross calls Economics 2.0. A business model more efficient than ours. Economic processes that outperform the ones we know. Interactions and rules we do not understand, that can only be executed by AI. Not because of the required speed of decision making, rather because the rules will not be known. They will not be codified. They are decentralized in neural network weights or whatever AI is made of in the future. The new rules will not be programmed into AI. Rather AI will develop the rules because they work better than the inherited ones.

This sounds as if we humans have no say in the process. But we do. The key phrase is "work better". We define what "better" means. If "better" means more profit, then average people might be screwed in a way described in Accelerando. In this future the so-called Vile Offspring, basically untamed rouge AI, dominate the inner solar system and even dismantle the Earth to put its resources to "better" use. Earth's resources not meaning oil and ore, but the iron of the core, hence the dismantling.

A development that ends in the dissolution of our planet does not sound "better". And that's the key point. We will have to define the term "better" so that it serves people, and a dismantling is avoided. We need more performance indicators than profit. We need performance indicators that represent the wellbeing of people and the environment for that matter. AI optimizes along fitness functions and training data. AI designers define these fitness functions and select the training data. We decide how AI optimizes. We have a say. A society that really tries will have a deciding influence. Realistically the result will be somewhere between utopia and the planet's pulverization into smart matter. We must make sure that besides profit and wealth for as many people as possible, there is also well-being, whatever that means. Maybe the fitness function just needs as much Gross National Happiness as Gross Domestic Product.

Coming back to web3: this development path is almost inevitable because it is possible. The path is obvious. There are no unknowns, no new technologies to be developed, no new principles to be discovered. The paradigms are already in place. The rest is engineering.

There is one more thing: the smart-contractification of the real world. Paper contracts will be replaced by smart contracts. Business entities will learn that blockchains tell the truth. Companies will sue each other to honor agreements that are codified by smart contracts. Finally, courts will begin to refer to the blockchain truth in their decisions. Then, the real-world is smart-contractified. It will take some time to get there. But the path is clear.

Once the real economy (the one that builds smart phones, not just non fungible images) takes web3 serious we are bound to end up with Economics 2.0. An automated future in which it is not necessary to work hard to pay the rent. That's where we want to go.

We are currently building the tools: web3 and AI. Then we'll get the real world to use the tools while making sure that the beast we're unleashing does not deviate too far from a good path. It is our responsibility to educate our societies about the risks and empower them to set the rules.

We must shape the future economy, not just virtual worlds. It's the real world that matters and the real economy. In this sense the mental model to guide our path is better characterized by Charles Stross' Accelerando than Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash. Read Accelerando, enjoy it, fear it, and learn from it.


Raph Koster’s Future of Online Worlds Applied to weblin.io

Raph Koster talked about the steep path to a unified metaverse. He raises many interesting points that address key points of weblin.io's architecture and design principles. 

A virtual discussion.

At the 2nd Annual GamesBeat Summit: Into the Metaverse 2 Raph Koster gave a speech about the future of the metaverse, about connecting virtual worlds, and about the steep path to a unified metaverse. He raises many interesting points.

The weblin.io project regards the web as a metaverse, if not the starting point for "The Metaverse". I would like to review the speech and comment the central messages with respect to weblin.io and the web metaverse. In other words: how they apply to the web as a metaverse.

Raph Koster talks about a high tech metaverse with 3D, AR, VR running on advance engines. Even beyond the engine, these worlds need sophisticated coding and modelling. Contrast that with the web metaverse which runs on a browser engine. This conventional approach makes things easier. The web metaverse gets away with much less complexity which creates lower barriers for interoperability. It turns out: things are much easier. We are lucky.

It is very interesting to apply the central messages of the talk to weblin.io because they address important features, the architecture, and design principles. Let's discuss:

Raph says: "The idea of taking multiple online worlds and cross connecting them with basically hyperlink connections, and […] hop freely between them with one client"

weblin.io comments: With weblin.io we are hopping freely between spaces with one client. The spaces being web sites, the one client being a web browser and freely hopping means clicking a web link. It's not 3D, no virtual worlds, not fancy. But the web metaverse is the biggest world in terms of content. It's the biggest world in terms of people. And most easily accessible by means of a web browser and some rather small client software, a graphical chat client with animated avatars as a browser extension or a native program that projects a social layer above all web pages.

Raph says: "Ongoing challenges include crappy voluminous user-generated content"

weblin.io comments: In case of weblin.io there everything is user-generated. It's the Web. It is often great and sometimes it is crappy. Speaking about "crappy voluminous" specifically: the web metaverse has a build-in check for content quality. Web content is produced to be used on the web, not specifically for the web metaverse. Hence, if it is good enough for the web, then it is good enough to make up a place of the web metaverse. Voluminous user-generated content will never drag down the web metaverse as it easily can in a virtual world other than the web that lacks such a built-in safeguard.

Raph says: "Play-to-earn have always had the risk of […] economy crashes due to […] mudflation"

weblin.io comments: Simulated economies with artificial money sources and sinks are difficult to balance. Play-to-earn needs a real economy, not a simulated one. It must be driven by real money that flows into the economy from the real world. Only real value creates a real economy because real money from the outside worlds is hard to get. It must provide a ROI for the outside world. That's the weblin model.

Raph says: "Players have not been that interested in item portability"

weblin.io comments: That is true in general. You won't take your WoW Hunter Bow to EVE Online. Different engine technologies, game mechanics, and balancing are strong barriers, that might be overcome someday, though. The real point is importing NFTs which have fixed real world attributes as in-world items. This needs a suitable mapping of NFT attributes to in-world features. If the mapping is transparent and stable, then real-world NFTs gain value and utility in-world.

Raph says: "The open web is a model for the kind of standard for decentralized creativity"

weblin.io comments: The existing standardization of web technologies makes the web a perfect model of a decentralized easy to access metaverse. The places are already there. Content is there. weblin.io adds people, and voila, the web becomes a metaverse. "decentralized creativity": that's what the web is about.

Raph says: "An enormous amount of the metaverse needs are going to be flat"

weblin.io comments: Often 2D is easier to navigate and a lower barrier. Navigating the web just needs a browser and a point device. That's an easy virtual world. No need to navigate in 3D to get to a document. Just a click and the document is full screen. And populated by people who happen to be reading the same document at the same time.

Raph says: "The art we see needs to break away from the notion that it is something baked into a client"

weblin.io comments: In the #Webaverse the content always comes from the server. The client fetches the content and projects a social layer on top where people meet. Check.

Raph says: "If we want a decentralized metaverse — one that is open and not controlled by one party — we obviously need to decentralize control"

weblin.io comments: Virtual words are usually controlled by one party. The web on the other hand is a decentralized metaverse, always was and probably will be. The social layer above the content that makes the web a metaverse in the first place is also decentralized. Every web content provider can host the social layer for their content by running a chat server. Once they operate the chat, they can enforce rules and moderate. In other words, they can exercise property rights. That's how weblin.io is built.

Raph says: "The biggest barrier to item portability is actually that every […] world implements that functionality in completely different ways […] There are zero shared data structures"

weblin.io comments: A common denominator of data formats might be a start. Viewed from a 3D perspective, common denominators lack the functionality required for a good user experience. But for our case, the web metaverse, typical web standards work perfectly as common denominators. For example, it is easy to make an in-world avatar available to the web metaverse. Inhabitants of virtual worlds can use an (animated) rendering of their in-world avatar on web pages to meet other people, even people from different games. From the point of view of the web metaverse all these virtual worlds are just sophisticated avatar creators. Avatars are designed in-world by all the means of the virtual world including the need to earn equipment or to buy vanity items. Then the avatar appearance is transferred to the web where people can present themselves by their game avatars.

Raph says: "[We might] take a cue from […] WordPress [the] plugin architecture [which] allows different platforms to implement the same applications programming interface (API)"

weblin.io comments: The underlying content of the web metaverse is already decentralized being provided by countless servers. Even the social content, users and game items is decentralized. Users can connect through their own messaging server. They can use an open-source client with a small set of interfaces. The reference implementation by weblin.io shows how pluggable item providers allow for decentralized game content on the social layer.

Raph says: "Just the coordination challenge of building that API is likely to be a multi-decade process of arriving at agreement on standards"

weblin.io comments: That's a consequence of the complexity of 3D worlds. The weblin.io project shows how small a set of APIs really needs to be to make the web a decentralized metaverse.

Raph says: "The need to coordinate and share multiple standards pushes towards a single platform owner that can force [necessary] standards into existence. But we know that isn’t the dream we all ultimately want"

weblin.io comments: No, it's not. The web is decentralized and relies on open standards. And the social layer that makes up the web metaverse is also built on (few) open standards. In direct analogy to the content part of the web where HTTP(s) provides data in HTML, JSON, and Javascript, the social layer that makes the web a metaverse is driven by XMPP, a distributed and standardized messaging protocol. Data formats on top of XMPP are the same as the ones that encode the web content. The standards of the web metaverse are already available. They are widely used and highly accessible. That's a perfect foundation to keep the web metaverse decentralized going into the future.

Raph says: "[Few] worlds […] have ever been willing to sign up [to] Rights of Avatars"

weblin.io comments: The webin.io project signs up. We neither control the social layer nor users and avatars. We are providing standards, an open-source reference implementation, and infrastructure to kickstart the web metaverse until content providers provide their own messaging servers. Content providers might control their space by exercising their property rights and users can connect through an XMPP entry point of their choosing. In particular (but without devaluing other avatar rights) we support the right of avatars to speak freely everywhere. And the right to "be secure in their persons, communications …". In the web metaverse users are anonymous, if they so choose, which is the default.

Raph says: "[Making the one metaverse of compatible virtual worlds] is going to be hard."

weblin.io comments: Acknowledged. The 3D case is hard. The weblin.io project approaches the problem from a different angle. We start with the web as the metaverse. The web is already there. It is easily accessible. It does not have to be built because it is already content rich. It is already decentralized. Web links even point into places inside virtual worlds. In that respect the web is a superset, the distribution platform, not just for web content, but also for 3D virtual worlds. Virtual worlds are part of the web. The summary of all virtual worlds and all web content is The Metaverse.

We want our avatars not only inside 3D worlds. We want our avatars to break free of virtual world boundaries. Not just between virtual worlds, but also between virtual world silos and the web. We want to use our virtual world avatars on the web. This is easier than it sounds because standards and formats of the web metaverse are simple. A virtual world developer needs just one week to write an exporter that lets all their users join the web metaverse, The Metaverse. 

Break free. Reclaim the web!

_happy_breaking()

29. September 2021

Details on my ScienceCode

As stated in the earlier post my ScienceCode is:

bb+/un ci0 eu+ dm+/sn de- 
mv/rp sm+ ss- st- lqg+ gr+ 
sr++ gut- fp++/gf  sh0


Here comes my explanation:

I think there was a Big Bang. But I don't know how it came about. There is the idea that the universe has zero total energy, thus making it possible to have been started by a chance quantum fluctuation. The so-called "universe from nothing", although conformal cyclic would be cool: bb+/un. 

I am indifferent about the initial inflation. With "superluminal speed" from Planck length to apple size sounds like a wild theory. Do regions really have to be able to communicate in order to develop the same conditions? (ci0)

I am fine with expansion and have my doubts about the acceleration. Might have been observation bias, so simply: eu+

I am undecided about the source of "dark gravity". I say 50:50 that it is something in our universe, e.g., so far unknown elementary particles. If I had to choose, I'd go with sterile neutrinos for now, even though it is as unclear what sterile neutrinos would be as ist is unclear what dark matter is, basically a synonym dont-know-matter: dm+/sn

I am not convinced by the popular interpretation of dark energy, especially the part about 70% of the universe, etc. I think this is something else: de-

I am totally pro standard model (full disclosure: I may be biased because I worked on it in my master thesis). I have no problem with (too) many parameters. I don't understand why 19 parameters should be worse than, say, 3. Who can claim with authority that 19 parameters are "too many". Maybe 1000 would be "many" and 19 is already "few". I don't like renormalization, though. A satisfying description should do without. On the other hand, that's a kind of beauty argument. Maybe renormalization is what nature does behind the scenes all the time. On the other hand, physics beyond the Standard Model would be cool. As a science fiction writer, I cannot ignore the fact that "new physics" might offer new solutions. Maybe even small ones like solving the energy problem forever. Anyway: sm+

I don't believe in Supersymmetry. First, that's a lot of theory and necessary particles compared to the added value. Second, none of the supersymmetric partners has been found yet. Until then: ss-

I am critical of String Theory because it is hard to prove. But I see a big hole in other theories that might be filled by String Theory: why does energy clump together into different types of elementary particles. What makes a blob of energy a gluon and another one an electron? String Theory would explain it. But on the other hand, it could be completely wrong, so: st-

I like loop quantum gravity. It is hard to test like string theory. But I could imagine that everything is quantized, including space. Quantization always makes life interesting. Everything we know arises from quantization. A good principle. However, the scale is so small that it is practically irrelevant. That's a pity. I don't know why I like LQG more than ST. It is a bit unfair. I am blank on both. Anyway: lqg+

I think there are many universes, and we happen to live in one that supports life, obviously: mv++/rp

General Relativity nails it. I could (I mean I wish I could) imagine quantum-corrections which make General Relativity an approximation of a more general General Relativity. Incompatibility of General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics is not a practical problem apart from quantum black holes. And if primordial small black holes from the Big Bang are not a thing, then this problem lies 10^40 years in the future until stellar sized black holes evaporate (if they do). General Relativity is good enough for me: gr+

I am afraid that Special Relativity is the final word. On the other hand, 200 years ago everyone knew, that nothing can fly (with fixed wings) if it is heavier than air, right? Logically deduced, undisputed, any defiance a career ending stupidity. Here comes the wing effect. Even fixed wings produce lift. An effect completely unheard of and unthought of until it was invented. The wing effect circumvented a dogma that seemed logical at the time. I am hoping for a similar effect, that we just don't know yet. But I am afraid resistance is futile (and career ending in modern theoretical physics): sr++.

I could imagine that there is no grand unified theory of everything. For sure there is a consistent description of the universe. It may be very simple and emerge from new ways of thinking. But it may be as complex as the universe and not expressible in few symbols on paper. Maybe General Relativity and the Standard Model are independent. Why does it have to be a unified description of all forces? Maybe it's just three forces plus warped spacetime. Two fundamental structures with small modifications so that they work together even in extreme circumstances of Planck lengths and black holes. Modifications so small that we will never test them. Besides, if gravity is not regarded as a fundamental force, then the hierarchy problem disappears: the question why gravity is sooo much weaker than the other forces. The relative strengths of the forces look like: Strong force: 100%, E/M: 1%, weak force: 0.0001%, then nothing for a long time and then gravity with 37 zeroes hiding a very small 1. The first three forces are quite close. Gravity is far off. Much farther than you think because counting zeroes makes it logarithmically. A logarithm of 37 is nonexistent for all practical purposes. Gravity is a totally different beast. Good luck unifying that. The verdict: gut-

I think there are great filters like Rare-Earth and Rare-Intelligence, and we already passed them. In other words, no aliens, at least not in range. Billions of Earth-like planets per Milky Way or not, great filters squeeze the probability really fast. No aliens, too bad. On the other hand: having past the great filter, the universe is ours. Still undecided which great filter really hurts the most. So: fp++/gf

The real world or a very good simulation. It might be a simulation, but for sure not a computer simulation. We are primed to think of "computer" simulations because that's what we learned growing up. Even the real world could be regarded as a simulation run by the multiverse with certain standard model parameters. If it really is a simulation, then in a way we do not (yet?) grok. Like theorizing if God has a beard without being able to grasp the concept of God. Pointless: sh0

All together that makes:

bb+/un ci0 eu+ dm+/sn de- mv/rp sm+ ss- st- lqg+ gr+ sr++ gut- fp++/gf sh0

_happy_coding()

21. September 2021

ScienceCode - The GeekCode for Science

Do you remember the geek code in the 90s? It encoded how geeky you were and your thoughts about geeky topics. 

I am a physicist and I want a ScienceCode that tells in short what I think about various science, physics and cosmological theories. 

My ScienceCode is: 

bb+/un ci0 eu+ dm+/sn de- mv/rp sm+ ss- st- lqg+ gr+ sr++ gut- fp++/gf  sh0

What is your ScienceCode?

Format

We are starting with a format that is a bit more regular than the original Geek Code. Roughly:

  [ theory rating [ "/" modifier ] ]+

where:

  theory: [a-z0-9]+
  modifier: [a-z0-9]+
  rating: "--" | "-" | "0" | "+" | "++"

Big Bang

bb--: Never Happened. There was nothing resembling a Big Bang like starting point. 

bb-: No Big Bang, maybe close, but no singularity.

bb0: I am not sure if there was a Big Bang. Things could be completely different. Maybe it only appears like there was a start. 

bb+: I think there was one. Maybe more, but our universe began with a singularity. 

bb++: There was a Big Bang almost 14 billion years ago starting with a singularity. After that the laws of nature unfolded. 

bb++/1: There was a Big Bang and only one. No cycles, no big crunch, no bounce, no conformal transformation. 

bb--/ss: No Big Bang, because the universe is in a steady state. 

bb-/cc: Conformal cyclic cosmology has a state that almost looks like a singularity for the new phase. 

bb+/un: Universe from nothing. Happens "all the time" if you wait "long enough" in a non-universe without time. 

Cosmic Inflation 

ci--: There was no initial inflation. Maybe even no Big Bang. All made up. Just one theory constructed after the data to fit the data, without another independent proof. 

ci-: Probably no initial inflation. It is just not necessary in order to generate the measured homogeneity in the microwave background. Also, the large-scale homogeneity of the current structure of the universe is in question. 

ci0: I don't know if there was an initial inflationary phase. There could be other explanations for the structure of the microwave background. I think we're still figuring that out

ci+: There probably was an initial inflationary phase resulting in the homogeneity we see in the microwave background and the current large-scale structure.

ci++: For sure there was inflation after the Big Bang. That's what explains the observational data. 

Expanding Universe

eu--: The universe is not expanding. It is infinite, static. What would it expand into? Also: science does not agree on the expansion rate. 

eu-: The universe is not expanding. May be tired light, may be another effect that only shows on a very large-scale. 

eu0: The jury is still out on continued expansion. It might just look like expansion. Sure, far galaxies are increasingly red. But that's so far away that even a small yet unknown effect might accumulate to let it look like redshift. We don't know enough. 

eu+: Looks like the universe is expanding. Also, the expansion is faster for galaxies farther out. 

eu++: The universe expands at an accelerating rate. That's what the data show. There is a Nobel price for that (a universe can be from nothing but not a Nobel price)

Dark Matter

dm--: Not necessary to explain the observations. Conclusions are misled by observation bias and by the desire to find "classical" answers. Sure, there are measurements, but they will be disproven or explained one at a time without dark matter. 

dm-: Something, just not matter. No particle, no heaps of frozen energy. There is an effect but it does not result from something in our universe, maybe not even from inside our universe. Should not be called dark gravity or not even "dark", just unexplained large-scale gravitic effects. 

dm0: Could be anything: modifications to gravitational theories, yet unmeasurable discrepancies in electromagnetic forces, shadow gravity from other universes. Or it might be a yet undiscovered not event theorized particle. Impossible to tell as long as the standard model is not the last word. 

dm+: Dark matter explains all the data better than any other theory, so I'd say 50:50 that there is stuff in our universe. 

dm++: There is dark matter, because it explains so many different observations. I also have a preferred theory on what it is made of. We just need more time to prove it. 

dm++/ax: with axions 

dm++/w: with WIMPs

dm++/bh: with black holes, tiny ones, and/or primordial or big ones. 

dm++/sn: with sterile neutrinos

Dark Energy

de-: Nope, no dark energy, because there is no explanation required. Even if it were, dark energy is a big gun. Any measurement can be explained with the properties "dominating the universe", "ubiquitous", "unknown". 

de-: Some measurements look like there is a need for a driving force that might even increase. Unfortunately, it has been called dark energy which is an even worse term than dark matter. There are no doubts about the measurements, but about their interpretation and about some assumptions that went into the calculations. 

de0: I am not sure if there is the need for dark matter. That's not even a theory yet. "Fills the universe uniformly" sounds like a modern Aether, the medium where EM-waves used to propagate. It might evaporate like its predecessor. 

de+: Something causes the universe to expand, and it is not the momentum from the Big Bang. 

de++: A field that uniformly fills the universe. Universe grows, so its power grows, hence accelerated expansion. As simple as that. You are the 4%. 

Standard Model of Particle Physics

sm--: The Standard Model is wrong. The interpretation of probability amplitudes is unclear. The theory is too complex, has too many parameters, is not unified with gravity, not even close. Also, there are experiments with statistically significant measurements that clearly show something is missing. It barely covers 4% of the universe. We need a new theory. 

sm-: The Standard Model works for everyday purposes just like Newton without Einstein: usually delivers the right numbers, but that does not make it the truth. The truth is very different and not yet known. May be strings or any supersymmetry, may be a holographic theory or something we do not yet grasp. 

sm0: The current Standard Model is just the current model. It is workable, but there have been many "standard" models. It is a set of equations that mostly return the numbers we find in experiments. The equations may be almost right or totally off. I don't care as long as they work. Future generations may develop totally different models. 

sm+: The Standard Model works very well. There might be small corrections necessary. But for all practical purposes now and in the foreseeable future the Standard Model (and General Relativity) is all we need. Even if there are measurements significantly above reasonable doubt which are not covered by the Standard Model, they will never lead to new physics that changes anything in our lives. 

sm++: Nature is not a collection of formulas. It just is. If we really want to cover nature by mathematics, then the formulas we call Standard Model are the best we can get. We won't come closer to the truth. The symbols in the Standard Model are good models for the particles and forces at play.

Supersymmetry

ss--: Definitely not Supersymmetry. Too much new stuff for too little gain. None of the extra particles materialized. Complete failure. We need something else. 

ss-: Hardly Supersymmetry. Claiming that 50 % of all required particles have already been found sounds like a win, but it does not solve the problem of the missing supersymmetric partners. Unlikely, but not impossible, though. 

ss0: May be Supersymmetry. Difficult to tell without any experimental confirmation. 

ss+: It's probably Supersymmetry. But it is difficult to choose which one. Looks kind of arbitrary. 

ss++: Supersymmetry it is. The future will tell which version exactly. Everything will fall into place. 

String Theory

st--: Vibrating non-entities is nonsense. You are not even allowed to ask what vibrates. Also, too many extra dimensions necessary. Nice try, but that is not how nature works. 

st-: Probably not. String Theory is not even complete. Too many open questions and some answers are problematic. 

st0: Could be true. Elegant approach, but too incomplete (yet?). Reproducing the observed spectrum of elementary particles needs arbitrary parameters. Unclear if they are emergent or if it is just another theory with a parameter set that is larger than desired. 

st+: String Theory unifies the forces, produces dark matter and even has inflation. Needs more research, but the direction is clear. 

st++: All particles are just oscillation modes of strings. Period. Problem solved.

st++/26: Bosonic string theory, 26-dimensions

st++/10: Superstring theory

st++/m: M-theory

Loop Quantum Gravity

lqg--: Spacetime is continuous on small scales. It is neither quantized, nor foamy.  

lqg-: Kind of pointless. A theory that has no measurable effect is useless. It is not even a scientific theory, because that needs a model and fitting data. 

lqg0: Undecided. Could be true or not. I don't care because it will never affect the real world. 

lqg+: Space is quantized and spacetime fluctuates on the Planck length. There is just no way to prove it or use it. 

lqg++: Loop Quantum Gravity merges quantum mechanics and general relativity. Experimentalists will find ways to show it. 

Multiverse

mv--: There is only one universe: ours. 

mv-: Practically there is no multiverse. Our universe seems to be much larger than our observable universe. We cannot even decide if our universe is infinite or just very large. Anything beyond our light cone should be beyond consideration.

mv0: Impossible to tell. Our universe may be part of a multiverse. But we will never know. 

mv+: There are many universes. Very many, but the number would be countable if anyone could count. They might induce each other. They might follow after each other sequentially. Black holes might spawn new universes. Our universe might be the inside of a black hole. Or maybe universes are branes and a Big Bang happens when 2 universes collide in the higher dimensional multiverse. 

mv++: There is a (practically or literally) infinite number of universes popping in an out of existence in the multiverse. Ours is just one of them that allows for life to emerge.

mv++/rp: Many with any combination of parameters. Some bear life, many do not, but who can tell what "some" and "many" mean with respect to an infinite number. 

General Relativity

gr--: General Relativity only seems to work. It is made to fit the data. Actually, the universe is driven by other forces. Gravity is so weak compared to other forces that even unmeasurable discrepancies or imbalances in the other three would completely dominate the universe. This is much more probable.  

gr-: General Relativity is an approximation. Galileo, Newton, Einstein, we are getting closer to the truth. But it is not the end of the road.

gr0: Just one theory. A good one, but it could be the wrong model. Imagine there are 2 models. Both returning the same numbers in the value ranges we are used to. But their interpretation is completely different. Both cannot be true. Yet we know only one such theory. We cannot compare. And because General Relativity works so well in practice, we are convinced that there is a 4-dimensional spacetime that is warped by matter and in turn creates geodesics for said matter. Even though General Relativity works, this may be the wrong picture. Just saying.

gr+: General Relativity works really well. But it is not compatible with Quantum Mechanics as we know it. There will be a theory that harmonizes probabilities of Quantum Mechanics with determinism of General Relativity. 

gr++: General Relativity is all we need to understand the interaction of matter, energy, and spacetime.

Special Relativity

sr--: FTL is possible. Tachyons are real. Special Relativity is an oppressive pseudo theory.

sr-: Quantum entanglement might be usable for communication in the future. An Alcubierre-like drive might move spacetime with less requirements than currently theorized and without being suppressed (I am talking to you, firewall). 

sr0: There may be more elaborate theories in the future. Maybe a grand unified theory has loopholes for paths beyond Special Relativity. 

sr+: Special Relativity doubtless works. Though we might find limited ways to work around it. Maybe causality is not "that badly violated" for purely inactive observers. 

sr++: The fact is: c is the limit. Not just for speed, but also for effects. No FTL travel, no time machines. Any theoretically possible path that seems to circumvent Special Relativity is practically forbidden by infinitesimal probabilities, by firewalls, by event horizons. No chance. 

Grand Unified Theory, Existence of

gut--: The three fundamental forces of the Standard Model plus General Relativity is all there is. Gravity is an effect of warped spacetime. It is an effective force, but not a fundamental one. There is no such thing as a spin 2 graviton (for that matter :-). No particle mediated force, no gauge theory, nothing to unify. Period. 

gut-: A unified theory does not have to be a gauge theory, not even a field theory. Maybe the field theory thing is wrong. Maybe the standard model is wrong. Maybe String Theory is right. Maybe Richard Feynman made computations easy and erected a smoke screen at the same time. It needs a new way of thinking. For sure there is a theory that harmonizes quantum and relativity, because they do co-exist in this universe. So, there must be a way to unify them. But it is not the GUT you expect.

gut0: Not sure if we will ever get there. The ways of the universe might be above us mere humans, even if we let our best specimen work on it. 

gut+: It takes longer than physicists thought, but sometime in the future the fundamental forces will be unified by a new theory, a new way to see the universe.

gut++: There is a unifying theory, and its name is X. 

Fermi Paradox

fp--: Not a paradox. There are no aliens. 

fp-: Irrelevant until the aliens land 

fp0: Many intelligent people talk about it, so it seems to be a thing. I don't know if we'll ever know and if we should care. Fun exercise, though. 

fp+: Interesting question. I wonder what the solution is. We'll find out.

fp++: It looks like a paradox, but that's only because of our limited knowledge. It has a solution, and the solution has serious implications for humanity.

fp++/gf: The solution to the paradox is great filters in general

fp++/re: No aliens because of rare earth.

fp++/ri: No aliens because of rare intelligence that is detectable.

fp++/zoo: We live in a galactic zoo.

Simulation Hypothesis 

sh--: This is the real world.

sh-: There is no indication. I don't believe that we are living in a simulation. That would be weird. 

sh0: Undecided and not interested. If this is a simulation, then it's a good one. It definitely looks like the real world, so I treat it like that. Knowing this would not change anything. 

sh+: That could well be. The probability argument is very much in favor of this being a simulation. Also, the delayed-choice quantum eraser is a hint that the simulation fixes things after the fact if any simulated consciousness looks at the result. This is - in turn - a hint that consciousness is not emergent, but really special, because it gets extra treatment by the simulator. Which - again in turn - is an argument for a simulation. Furthermore, quantum entanglement works exactly as it would if the entangled particles were not really separated in space because they are all simulated. There is no spatial separation for the simulator, hence it is easy to update both states at once. 

sh++: This is a simulation. 

sh++/n: We are at the n-th level. 

Extensions

There are more theories out there. Several theories in this list could profit from a more knowlegable explanation. I am sure you also have many ideas about modifiers. Write me if you want to add or change something. 



Until then,
_happy_simulating()



10. April 2021

Converting Markdown to HTML on the fly in Web Pages

The Problem:

A long text on your web site, say, a privacy policy, with lots of headlines, lists and paragraphs. It is a lot of work to convert the text made in MS Word by your lawyer into the HTML that fits your web page design. 

The Solution:

Convert to Markdown, basically the plain text with '#'s and '-'s. Put the markdown into a <pre>, then let JavaScript on the client convert it into HTML replacing the Markdown text.

Like so:

<div id="html">
  <pre id="text">
# General

We take privacy seriously. 

[...long text with markdown...]

  </div>
</div>

<script src="https://cdnjs.cloudflare.com/ajax/libs/showdown/1.9.1/showdown.min.js"></script>

<script>
  $('#html').html(new showdown.Converter().makeHtml($('#text').text()));
</script>

Yes, a bit of jquery, which is already there in case of bootstrap.css and you will know how to do without.

If the conversion fails, there is always the markdown plaintext satisfiying the law. 

_happy_markdowning()

...just saying.

10. Februar 2020

The Big Bang is still on

To a quantum tunneling lifeform that lives 10^50 years from now, our stars are just like the sparkling after the fireworks of the big bang. From their point of view stars lit up for a instant right after nucleons formed and just to give birth to black holes. These black holes are the "stars" for the future quantum tunneling life, which lives on a single Hawking radiation photon every few billion years.
...because Time plays out on a logarithmic scale.

Let me explain:

The universe is about 14 billion years old. And it will be 10.000 times older when the last stars burn out. The universe may look static and dark to us. But it is still in a violent final phase of the big bang. Compared to what follows, the big bang is still going on.
Before stars even formed the universe went through multiple development stages on vastly different timescales. It all started at the earliest observable time, the Planck time, a ridiculously tiny 10 to the minus 43 seconds. At 10 to the minus 36 seconds a process called inflation began to grow the universe very quickly. When inflation ended, the universe had spent 99.9 % of its age inflating. From this point of view, everything before inflation appeared just as an initial flash.
Then for a long time many things happened while the fundamental forces of nature unfolded and the laws of physics as we know them came into being. If someone had observed inflation come and go, then this next phase would have been unimaginably long. A 1000 billion billion billion times longer than inflation had lasted. But finally, quarks condensed into hadrons. Protons and neutrons formed. When that happened, the universe was just a microsecond old.
The universe continued to expand and cool down until electrons and protons could combine to hydrogen atoms. Imagine, you just observed hadron condensation. Then you had to wait another 10 billion billion times longer until hydrogen atoms formed. That's 400.000 years after the birth of the universe. And it is still 3000 K hot. As hot as on the surface of most stars.
Now things happen in quick succession. Only 1000 times longer than everything before, hydrogen atoms clump together and the first stars light up. Stars form galaxies, life appears and hairless apes gaze to the stars. From our point of view, the first stars appeared after only 1% of the age of the universe. 100 times later, now at 13,8 billion years, mighty galaxy clusters are in full swing. The dark matter halo of galaxies sucks in intergalactic hydrogen, galaxies merge, stars explode, supermassive black holes shoot jets over millions of lightyears stirring up the intergalactic medium like the water tap in a bathtub. A wild time.
The universe started out at ridiculously high temperatures. It cooled down a lot. But it is not yet cold. Stars are hot, flooding the universe with radiation, and even without them the universe has a decent background temperature of several degrees. Cold for us, but a lot more than zero.
Radiation is everywhere. We are living in the afterglow of the big bang. With an emphasis on "glow". The universe is still very bright in the microwave range of the electromagnetic spectrum. Our eyes cannot see microwaves, but they are there. The universe is glowing brightly from every direction and countless stars do their part to keep it up.
New stars will be born and die for a long time to come. The smallest live 1000 times longer than our sun. But eventually, the last stars fade. The universe gets dark. That's when the radiation frenzy of the big bang finally ends. The universe will then be 10.000 times older than now. From that point of view, we had been living in the first percent of a percent of the universe. Quarks had condensed into nucleons. Nucleons combined to atoms. Atoms formed stars. Stars kept radiation going. The violent phase of forming and radiating is over when the last stars fade. This is the end of a universe flooded by radiation. A 100 trillion years from now. The end of the radiation epoch. The real end of the fireworks after the big bang.
Times are starting to drag. Nothing happens quickly anymore. No more stars popping in and out of existence. No more flashlights in the dark. No more radiation sources. Only cold planets orbiting black dwarf stars, iron balls, slowly tumbling neutron stars, and black holes in dark galaxies. It's the quiet grown-up phase of the universe. Except for the occasional collision, which sends a blindingly bright spark into the universe.
What does not collide finally spreads evenly. Planets wander off and dark solar systems dissolve. It took a long time until the last star burnt out. And over 100.000 times that duration, galaxies also dissolve thermodynamically. They lose their stars to the void. Iron balls and black holes are still there. But they are now evenly distributed and rarely meet each other. The radiation that was produced in earlier times is also still there. But it is spread out over a vastly larger universe. Photons are so red shifted to ultra-long wavelengths that they are barely noticeable. For all practical purposes, radiation is gone.
The universe is now so dark, that the faint glow of hawking radiation becomes the new standard. Black holes slowly start to evaporate. Hawking radiation of stellar black holes is so weak, that it is not measurable in our bright universe. On the contrary, our times are still so warm that black holes inhale the cosmic microwave background growing a little bit. But then, at the beginning of the end of times, hawking radiation is the only light source. It is weak. If there is any life, then it lives slowly. It will perceive the entire age of stars, a 100 trillion years, like the blink of an eye. On these timescales, a photon every billion years is considered a bright light source. Again, there are flashlights in the dark. But on a totally different scale than the long-forgotten stars.
Even though the universe is huge, black holes still find each other. But between each collision lies a timespan like an entire radiation epoch. Now that counts as the blink of an eye. A hypothetical life form might then be based on ultra-rare quantum tunneling events and it will be living on Hawking radiation. It might see black holes as we now see stars. 
Around the year 1e90, right in the (logarithmic) middle of the black hole epoch (just like where we are living in the log-middle of the stellar epoch), a stellar black hole will give off a radio photon every billion years or an optical photon every million billion years. Considered the perceived time for quantum tunnelling runs 1e65 times slower, they experience a trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion years like we do one second. During this time, a Hawking photon every million billion years amounts to 1e50 photons. For comparison, our sun gives off 1e45 photons per second. That is the same "order" of perceived luminosity, which is just a fancy term for "brightness".
When black holes lose mass this way, they shine even brighter. There will be less luminous large black holes, and smaller ones burning much brighter. For this kind of life form, the universe is filled by shining stellar black holes, glowing supermassive black holes, and brightly burning ageing black holes. Until they explode. These are the supernovae of the future: incredibly bright flashes when black holes explode. They are rare in the neighborhood but they actually happen all the time just like we see supernovae in distant galaxies. Flashes of black hole explosions and collisions will be everywhere, frequent on a timescale where a trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion years feels like a second. 
Remember the long time until dark galaxies dissolved. That was long after all stars went the black hole or iron ball path. It takes a trillion trillion trillion trillion times that again until stellar sized black holes evaporate. That's not "just" a trillion trillion trillion trillion years. It's trillion trillion trillion trillion times all that was before, which already was a billion times longer than our current 13.8 billion years universe. It's a long time, even for ultra-slow quantum tunneling life that lives off a photon every billion years.
Then only real behemoths remain. Giant black holes that dwarf our current supermassive black holes. They have the mass of galaxy superclusters. Fun fact: the event horizon of these ultra massive holes is of galactic dimensions: a million light-years across (not "just" a million kilometers). And they also evaporate. But exponentially slower due to their vast size. It takes another trillion trillion trillion times more.
Eventually there are only ridiculously red-shifted photons left in a ridiculously large universe. The hypothetical quantum tunneling life will be long gone. Our biological way of life is 1 billion years old. It might last 10 billion, maybe even 1000 billion years. The quantum tunneling life may last trillion trillion trillion times longer. It will regard our phase as one of the early stages of the universe. As the last part of the big bang, when the universe was still hot. The black hole era is the real "life" of the universe. Everything before that is just the big bang. An unmeasurably short flash bevor black holes emerged and stayed. And went.
On a logarithmic timescale we live much closer to the begin of everything than to the end. We are now in the first third of the logarithmic timescale. We live on starlight. We think that our time is the real time of the universe and that the big bang was a flash 13.8 billion years ago when nucleon and atom synthesis happened.
The second third of the logarithmic timescale belongs to the hypothetical quantum tunneling life. They live on Hawking radiation from black holes for an unimaginable 10 to the 40 times longer than we did. They think that their time is the real time of the universe and the big bang was just a flash a trillion trillion years ago including a super short stellar phase that gave them their black holes. For them, our stars were just a brief intermediate step right after nucleon synthesis, necessary to form black holes, their "stars". For them, our stars were shorter lived than anything before nucleosynthesis for us. 
We don’t know much about the third part of the timescale. Maybe it is just boring for another 10 to the 40 times longer. Maybe there is life so strange and slow, that it regards the earlier – already unimaginable slow – quantum tunneling life as just the blink of an eye. Just a flash before their own real time began. 
Nature finds a way.
And after all that, there are no baryons left and only unimaginably cold photons at wavelengths the size of the universe remain. There are no clocks and nothing that can serve as a measure of time. With time goes distance, both becoming meaningless. So the universe is filled by photons so long, they barely fit into the universe. They may as well be concentrated in a small spot. Who could tell. Basically the size of the universe is just a few wavelengths of the dominating radiation. Maybe then a phase change happens, an implict or explicit rescaling, either just a continuation or a deflation event. Whatever happens then, the result looks very much like all radiation in a small spot by measure of wavelengths. 
The rest is history. Inflation kicks in and the forces of nature unfold creating the laws of physics as we know them - or maybe - different ones this time.
_happy_waiting()