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SCIVE 2010


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  • 1. FAST2 FAbric of Society. Theory and Technology) Rosaria Conte and Mario Paolucci LABSS (Laboratory of Agent Based Social Simulation), Roma, ISTC-CNR SCIVE, Lisbon, Sept. 16th 2010
  • 2. Grand challenges  Humanity is facing grand challenges (see FuturICT,  Common features:  Far-reaching and accelerated diffusion and contagion (eg., organized crime)  Multiple levels with multidirectional connections  Heterogeneous interfering networks  Technology-driven innovation  Fuzzy confines  Competitive evolutionary processes (economic growth ≠ demographic growth)
  • 3. 10 examples 1. Demographic change of the population structure (change of birth rate, migration) 2. Financial and economic stability (trust, consumption and investments; government debts, taxation, and inflation/deflation; sustainability of social benefit systems… 3. Social, economic and political inclusion (people of different gender, age, education,income, religion, culture, language, preferences,…; unemployment) 4. Public health (spreading of epidemics [flu, HIV], obesity, smoking, or healthy diets; incentives supporting food safety) 5. Balance of power (in a multi-polar world; also between individual and collective rights, political and company power; protection of pluralisms, individual freedom, and minorities…) 6. Conflict (terrorism, organized crime, social unrest, wars) 7. Institutional design and dynamics (over-regulation, crisis of authority, compliance, corruption, balance between global and local, central and decentral,…) 8. Sustainability of communication and information systems (education and inheritance of culture; cyber risks, violation of privacy, misuse of sensitive data, data deluge, spam, …) 9. Collective behavior and opinion dynamics (social contagion, breakdown of trust, extremism, changing values, breakdown of cooperation, compliance, or solidarity) 10. Sustainable use of resources and environment (travel behavior, consumptio habits, efficient use of energy and other resources, participation in recycling efforts)
  • 4. Are we equipped to answer them?  We are developing valuable instruments and techniques for generating, gathering, and analysing data,  How about theories?  We need a fabric of society: a theory-driven equipment for understanding/monitoring/exploring society while (re)producing it  More specifically, understanding-while-producing social artefacts (material and immaterial artefacts spontaneously emerging or designed to control, rule populations of agents) and  Figuring out their potential future properties and their impact on agents.
  • 5. In search for theory  Classic social constructionist perspective:  A socially constructed reality is (re)produced by people acting on their interpretations and their knowledge of it through an ongoing, dynamic process.
  • 6. Two views  Social constructionism -> social constructs (Berger and Luckmann, 1966)  Social constructivism - > psychological constructs (Vygotsky, 1978; Piaget)
  • 7. Social constructivism  Vygotsky and Piaget focussed on  active agency and on  process of construction,  how people work together to construct artifacts.
  • 8. Social constructionism  Focussed on the  effects of the process, ie. the artefacts:  By interacting, individuals squeeze one another’s interpretations into a common body of social knowledge  Which once handed to next generations becomes given, inevitable, institutionalised: ???
  • 9. Strong social constructionism  Searle and Hacking warned us (1999, p. 12) against a strong variant of social constructionism, according to which all facts are social, implying that “nothing has reality until it is thought or spoken of, or written about. This extravagant notion is descended from (…) the doctrine that all that exists is mental."  For Steven Pinker (2002, p. 202) “social constructions (…) exist only because people tacitly agree to act as if they exist. Examples include money, (…) presidency of the United States.”  Defensively aimed to debunk dangerous ideologies, strong constructionism denies the  Reality of social facts because ideologically undesirable (gender differences, biological bases of behaviours, inter-ethnic tensions, etc.)  Independence of social entities to be modified (governments, regimes, institutions, etc.). Useless and dangerous!
  • 10. Weak social constructionism  Searle’s (1995, p. 63) ”social facts” (SF) are such by virtue of 1. collectively willing and intending 2. to impose some particular function 3. by a constitutive rule: X counts as Y in C.  SF depend on "brute facts.” – Ontologically = cannot take effect without brute facts – Logically = brute facts provide a logical foundation for social facts, – Temporally = are preceded by brute facts
  • 11. Dependence is mutual…  If social facts depend on brute facts  money needs metal to fulfil the function it is collecitvely assigned (Searle)  regimes kill people by means of gallows, weapons, bombs, missiles, lagers, gulags, etc.  brute facts depend on social facts as well  Gallows depend on social facts and institutions (trial, court, sentence, executioner) to take effect
  • 12. Did both fulfil their mission?  Only in part…  Social constructivists  influenced the theory of development, rather than study of social institutions  concentrated on individual learning.  Social constructionists overesteemated  knowledge at the expenses of goals,  mindreading at the expenses of mindchanging.  No general theory of social artefacts’ properties!
  • 13. Types of dependence • Temporal and logical dependence apply to higher or evolutionary more recent levels of reality. Not particularly interesting • How about ontological dependence? Major argument against socalled reification of social artefacts • But is it a good argument? What is an ontologically independent entity? – Genes depend on their vehicles, ie. Individuals, to replicate. They existence depends on the existence and reproduction of individuals. – Individuals are implemented on a bunch of atoms and neurons. What about autonomy?
  • 14. Ontological dependence and autonomy • What is the link between ontological dependence and autonomy? • Lets go back to the notion of limited autonomy. Humans are limitedly autonomous – as they decide what to believe and do, based on internal criteria, – which they can decide, if persuaded, to modify (Conte and Castelfranchi, 1995) • The same notion applies to (onto)logically dependent entities, which are limitedly autonomous (Conte and Turrini, 2006) – Constitutive rules are internal criteria for deciding what is true and what can or ought to be done – difficult to modify social entities without modifying constitutive rules
  • 15. Dependence and power • Does implementation on lower levels of reality prevent higher level entities to autonomously exercise power on lower levels? • Humans manipulate natural resources, biological bases, genetic transmission, etc.
  • 16. Typologies of artefacts • We need a formal ontology! (for preliminary works, see Conte, 2004; Winter, 2008; Aunger, 2010) • Not all artefacts are supporting, faciltating our activities (possibly at the expense of our fellows) – physical – mental – prosocial – antisocial
  • 17. Control artefacts • Control = objects designed for modifying our – states – actions/will • Even in extreme ways
  • 18. A complex category • Servoartefacts • Masterartefacts • Both for – Supporting – Controlling our actions and minds – Mixed • Supporting servoartefacts for controlling masterartefacts • Controlling servoartefacts for supporting masterartefacts (tutors, teachers, etc.) • Social roles as either supporting or controlling servoartefacts
  • 19. Social institutions as complex artefacts • Including – Masterartefacts – Servoartefacts (traffic lights are installed by administrators, fines are applied by policemen and death sentences are issued by judges) • Control • Support • Ontological dependence does not prevent the exercise of power.
  • 20. Institutions’ power  Institutions  rule people’s actions and their will  by means of brute facts and producers’ actions (implemented on material artefacts and people’s actions)  outlive the will that put them into existence  escape producers’ control.  Exercise power: • Directly, pursue/thwart goals (but consider the difference between – Prison – Kidnapping) • modify powers (empowerment) • Modify minds, mindchangin
  • 21. Consequences • Searle’s analysis is necessary but insufficient: – X counting as Y in C implies a new set of properties of X – Based on a transfer of Z’s properties: • X setting Z’s goals in C • X exercising power on Z (preventing them from achieving their goals), even taking out their lives!!! • X’s limited autonomy – Z’s autonomy is limited by X’s power – Z’s limited capacity to act on X and modify it: not so easy to control controllers
  • 22. Two ways to produce artefacts  Extension of properties (supporting artefacts)  Transfer of properties, or, alienation (controlling artefacts)  How ?  When?  Further effects?
  • 23. Alienation  Humans alienate not only the product of their physical activity (labor force)  But also some of their mental and social properties, including mindchanging  Better to understand the alienating nature of social artefacts.  Lets go back to Marx.
  • 24. Marx’s theory of alienation  Manuscripts of 1844 = Marx's argument that modern industrial societies result in estrangement (or alienation) of wage- workers from own life.  Theory of alienation (Entfremdung), refers to separation of things that naturally belong together, or to antagonism between things that are properly in harmony.  Social alienation deprives humans of aspects of "human nature" ('species- essence' or 'species-being’, conferring them to non-human entities (power, control, agency)
  • 25. In the labour process • “Let us suppose that we had carried out production as human beings. Each of us would have in two ways affirmed himself and the other person. 1) In my production I would have objectified my individuality, its specific character, and therefore enjoyed (…) an individual manifestation of my life during the  Four aspects of alienation: activity, (…). 2) In your enjoyment or  of worker from his or her ‘species use of my product I would have the essence’ as a human being direct enjoyment both of being  of labour into a commodity to be conscious of having (…) thus created an traded on the market, object corresponding to the need of  of effect of labour, appropriated by another man’s essential nature. ... Our capitalist products would be so many mirrors in which we saw reflected our essential  of worker from act of production, turned into a sequence of meaningless nature." (Comment on James Mill). acts.
  • 26. Moving to a more abstract level Alienation • Reducing/losing “species-essence” properties (eg., autonomy, self-control, etc.) • By transferring them onto other entities • Humans give up a portion of their autonomy by transferring power, control, agency to other entities.
  • 27. The major challenge 1/2 • To understand grand socio-economic challenges, we need to account for how much of the emergence-immergence of macrolevel entities (see Conte et al., 2007) consists of • Alienation processes – When does construction of autonomous systems leads to social alienation? – What is social alienation? How define and characterise it? We need a theory of interconnections between ontological dependence, social power and autonomy. – What are necessary and sufficient conditions for social alienation? Is it definitory of any society? Can there be social order without social alienation? – What are its effects on humans? – Are social constructs bound to evolve into autonomous systems? When does this happen?
  • 28. The major challenge 2/2  Is there a gradient and new forms of social alienation or is mankind less alienated under current regimes,  What is impact of a globalized world?  And what about technologically-driven innovation? Is P2P a lenient factor? Does it do any better?  What about social and mental sustainability of innovation!!! To what extent is social pathologies and unrest inherent to any human society?  What is the impact of new forms of alienation on current social pathologies, identity diseases, social unrest: criminality and terrorism, addiction, suicid, collapse of trust (and its effects)
  • 29. IMPACT of FuturIcT: Theory-Driven Tools for Intervention FOR UNDERSTANDING/ MONITORING/ FOR DOING ANTICIPATING Systems for (exs)  Tutoring and learning (ICT-enforced) Related Pathologies  Preserving INFOdiversity Dynamics (exs)  Peer-production Collective filtering Abstensionism   Shape of  Recommender systems authority / and silent majority  Managing Healthcare (e.g. epidemics) evolution of  Crime/corruption  Security institutions (raffiliation and  Crises, Risk taking, Mobility   ecruitment mechanisms)  Panic  Post-democracy  Innovating Political Radicalization/  Financial sector  Growth Terrrorism  Transport, traffic, logistics  (Social) contagion Aging society:  Electrical micro-generation, and epidemics Economic Vs demographic growth renewable energy? Inequality  Supporting  Communication Unemployment  Institutional design Policy modelling and (perceived)   Best practices identifying Security Crises / Emergencies Panic
  • 30. The good news .. we got novel instruments Global-scale social simulation is now possible Citing Helbing: We could understand the major steps of human cultural evolution We could simulate possible futures We can create new institutional designs We would add We can finally observe the growth of second society and the generation of social artefacts and their evolution Indeed, social simulation is a most promising field of science…
  • 31. Cites per field/discipline (from Conte, Paolucci, Picascia, 2010)
  • 32. Cites per application domain (ibi.)
  • 33. Still to be checked…  Projects  Patents
  • 34. Conclusions 1/2 General tendency to wishful thinking in social sciences (see voices of moral progress, Montreal 2008)? A preference for ideologically correct theories of social constructs as non-existent or non-autonomous entities Time for producing new theories especially since we’ve got new scientific tool. Simulation is more than accelerator of information acquisition. It is new way of doing science. It offers us a new opportunity for studying society: create a second one. FAST2 is meant to build on such an opportunity, create a new environment and get best equipped for the tremendous tasks before us.
  • 35. Conclusions 2/2 Two caveats: • Interdisciplinarity as a primary condition for endeavour • Theory ≠ information! Simulation is a means for building theory while building the phenomena to theorize upon.
  • 36. Conclusions