Knowledge and skills

My editorial on You Tube

Once again, I break my rhythm. Mind you, it happens a lot this year. Since January, it is all about breaking whatever rhythm I have had so far in my life. I am getting used to unusual, and I think it is a good thing. Now, I am breaking the usual rhythm of my blogging. Normally, I have been alternating updates in English with those in French, like one to one, with a pinchful of writing in my mother tongue, Polish, every now and then. Right now, two urgent tasks require my attention:  I need to prepare new syllabuses, for English-taught courses in the upcoming academic year, and to revise my draft article on the energy efficiency of national economies.

Before I attend to those tasks, however, a little bit of extended reflection on goals and priorities in my life, somehow in the lines of my last update, « It might be a sign of narcissism ». I have just gotten back from Nice, France, where my son has just started his semester of Erasmus + exchange, with the Sophia Antipolis University. In my youth, I spent a few years in France, I went many times to France since, and man, this time, I just felt the same, very special and very French kind of human energy, which I remember from the 1980ies. Over the last 20 years or so, the French seemed sort of had been sleeping inside their comfort zone but now, I can see people who have just woken up and are wondering what the hell they had wasted so much time on, and they are taking double strides to gather speed in terms of social change. This is the innovative, brilliant, positively cocky France I love. There is sort of a social pattern in France: when the French get vocal, and possibly violent, in the streets, they are up to something as a nation. The French Revolution in 1789 was an expression of popular discontent, yet what followed was not popular satisfaction: it was one-century-long expansion on virtually all plans: political, military, economic, scientific etc. Right now, France is just over the top of the Yellow Vests protest, which one of my French students devoted an essay to (see « Carl Lagerfeld and some guest blogging from Emilien Chalancon, my student »). I wonder who will be the Napoleon Bonaparte of our times.

When entire nations are up to something, it is interesting. Dangerous, too, and yet interesting. Human societies are, as a rule, the most up to something as regards their food and energy base, and so I come to that revision of my article. Here, below, you will find the letter of review I received from the journal “Energy” after I submitted the initial manuscript, referenced as Ms. Ref. No.: EGY-D-19-00258. The link to my manuscript is to find in the first paragraph of this update. For those of you who are making their first steps in science, it can be an illustration of what ‘scientific dialogue’ means. Further below, you will find a first sketch of my revision, accounting for the remarks from reviewers.   

Thus, here comes the LETTER OF REVIEW (in italic):

Ms. Ref. No.: EGY-D-19-00258

Title: Apprehending energy efficiency: what is the cognitive value of hypothetical shocks? Energy

Dear Dr. Wasniewski,

The review of your paper is now complete, the Reviewers’ reports are below. As you can see, the Reviewers present important points of criticism and a series of recommendations. We kindly ask you to consider all comments and revise the paper accordingly in order to respond fully and in detail to the Reviewers’ recommendations. If this process is completed thoroughly, the paper will be acceptable for a second review.

If you choose to revise your manuscript it will be due into the Editorial Office by the Jun 23, 2019

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Reviewers’ comments:

Reviewer #1: The paper is, at least according to the title of the paper, and attempt to ‘comprehend energy efficiency’ at a macro-level and perhaps in relation to social structures. This is a potentially a topic of interest to the journal community. However and as presented, the paper is not ready for publication for the following reasons:

1. A long introduction details relationship and ‘depth of emotional entanglement between energy and social structures’ and concomitant stereotypes, the issue addressed by numerous authors. What the Introduction does not show is the summary of the problem which comes out of the review and which is consequently addressed by the paper: this has to be presented in a clear and articulated way and strongly linked with the rest of the paper. In simplest approach, the paper does demonstrate why are stereotypes problematic. In the same context, it appears that proposed methodology heavily relays on MuSIASEM methodology which the journal community is not necessarily familiar with and hence has to be explained, at least to the level used in this paper and to make the paper sufficiently standalone;

2. Assumptions used in formulating the model have to be justified in terms what and how they affect understanding of link/interaction between social structures and function of energy (generation/use) and also why are assumptions formulated in the first place. Also, it is important here to explicitly articulate what is aimed to achieve with the proposed model: as presented this somewhat comes clear only towards the end of the paper. More fundamental question is what is the difference between model presented here and in other publications by the author: these have to be clearly explained.

3. The presented empirical tests and concomitant results are again detached from reality for i) the problem is not explicitly formulated, and ii) real-life interpretation of results are not clear.

On the practical side, the paper needs:

1. To conform to style of writing adopted by the journal, including referencing;

2. All figures have to have captions and to be referred to by it;

3. English needs improvement.

Reviewer #2: Please find the attached file.

Reviewer #3: The article has a cognitive value. The author has made a deep analysis of literature. Methodologically, the article does not raise any objections. However, getting acquainted with its content, I wonder why the analysis does not take into account changes in legal provisions. In the countries of the European Union, energy efficiency is one of the pillars of shaping energy policy. Does this variable have no impact on improving energy efficiency?

When reading an article, one gets the impression that the author has prepared it for editing in another journal. Editing it is incorrect! Line 13, page 10, error – unwanted semicolon.

Now, A FIRST SKETCH OF MY REVISION.

There are the general, structural suggestions from the editors, notably to outline my method of research, and to discuss my data, in separate papers. After that come the critical remarks properly spoken, with a focus on explaining clearly – more clearly than I did it in the manuscript – the assumptions of my model, as well as its connections with the MUSIASEM model. I start with my method, and it is an interesting exercise in introspection. I did the empirical research quite a few months ago, and now I need to look at it from a distance, objectively. Doing well at this exercise amounts, by the way, to phrasing accurately my assumptions. I start with my fundamental variable, i.e. the so-called energy efficiency, measured as the value of real output (i.e. the value of goods and services produced) per unit of energy consumed, measured in kilograms of oil equivalent.  It is like: energy efficiency = GDP/ energy consumed.

In my mind, that coefficient is actually a coefficient of coefficients, more specifically: GDP / energy consumed = [GDP per capita] / [consumption of energy per capita ] = [GDP / population] / [energy consumed / population ]. Why so? Well, I assume that when any of us, humans, wants to have a meal, we generally don’t put our fingers in the nearest electric socket. We consume energy indirectly, via the local combination of technologies. The same local combination of technologies makes our GDP. Energy efficiency measures two ends of the same technological toolbox: its intake of energy, and its outcomes in terms of goods and services. Changes over time in energy efficiency, as well as its disparity across space depend on the unfolding of two distinct phenomena: the exact composition of that local basket of technologies, like the overall heap of technologies we have stacked up in our daily life, for one, and the efficiency of individual technologies in the stack, for two. Here, I remember a model I got to know in management science, precisely about how the efficiency changes with new technologies supplanting the older ones. Apparently, a freshly implemented, new technology is always less productive than the one it is kicking out of business. Only after some time, when people learn how to use that new thing properly, it starts yielding net gains in productivity. At the end of the day, when we change our technologies frequently, there could very well not be any gain in productivity at all, as we are constantly going through consecutive phases of learning. Anyway, I see the coefficient of energy efficiency at any given time in a given place as the cumulative outcome of past collective decisions as for the repertoire of technologies we use.   

That is the first big assumption I make, and the second one comes from the factorisation: GDP / energy consumed = [GDP per capita] / [consumption of energy per capita ] = [GDP / population] / [energy consumed / population ]. I noticed a semi-intuitive, although not really robust correlation between the two component coefficients. GDP per capita tends to be higher in countries with better developed institutions, which, in turn, tend to be better developed in the presence of relatively high a consumption of energy per capita. Mind you, it is quite visible cross-sectionally, when comparing countries, whilst not happening that obviously over time. If people in country A consume twice as much energy per capita as people in country B, those in A are very likely to have better developed institutions than folks in B. Still, if in any of the two places the consumption of energy per capita grows or falls by 10%, it does not automatically mean corresponding an increase or decrease in institutional development.

Wrapping partially up the above, I can see at least one main assumption in my method: energy efficiency, measured as GDP per kg of oil equivalent in energy consumed is, in itself, a pretty foggy metric, arguably devoid of intrinsic meaning, and it is meaningful as an equilibrium of two component coefficients, namely in GDP per capita, for one, and energy consumption per capita, for two. Therefore, the very name ‘energy efficiency’ is problematic. If the vector [GDP; energy consumption] is really a local equilibrium, as I intuitively see it, then we need to keep in mind an old assumption of economic sciences: all equilibriums are efficient, this is basically why they are equilibriums. Further down this avenue of thinking, the coefficient of GDP per kg of oil equivalent shouldn’t even be called ‘energy efficiency’, or, just in order not to fall into pointless semantic bickering, we should take the ‘efficiency’ part into some sort of intellectual parentheses.   

Now, I move to my analytical method. I accept as pretty obvious the fact that, at a given moment in time, different national economies display different coefficients of GDP per kg of oil equivalent consumed. This is coherent with the above-phrased claim that energy efficiency is a local equilibrium rather than a measure of efficiency strictly speaking. What gains in importance, with that intellectual stance, is the study of change over time. In the manuscript paper, I tested a very intuitive analytical method, based on a classical move, namely on using natural logarithms of empirical values rather than empirical values themselves. Natural logarithms eliminate a lot of non-stationarity and noise in empirical data. A short reminder of what are natural logarithms is due at this point. Any number can be represented as a power of another number, like y = xz, where ‘x’ is called the root of the ‘y’, ‘z’ is the exponent of the root, and ‘x’ is also the base of ‘z’.

Some roots are special. One of them is the so-called Euler’s number, or e = 2,718281828459, the base of the natural logarithm. When we treat e ≈ 2,72 as the root of another number, the corresponding exponent z in y = ez has interesting properties: it can be further decomposed as z = t*a, where t is the ordinal number of a moment in time, and a is basically a parameter. In a moment, I will explain why I said ‘basically’. The function y = t*a is called ‘exponential function’ and proves useful in studying processes marked by important hysteresis, i.e. when each consecutive step in the process depends very strongly on the cumulative outcome of previous steps, like y(t) depends on y(t – k). Compound interest is a classic example: when you save money for years, with annual compounding of interest, each consecutive year builds upon the interest accumulated in preceding years. If we represent the interest rate, classically, as ‘r’, the function y = xt*r gives a good approximation of how much you can save, with annually compounded ‘r’, over ‘t’ years.

Slightly different an approach to the exponential function can be formulated, and this is what I did in the manuscript paper I am revising now, in front of your very eyes. The natural logarithm of energy efficiency measured as GDP per kg of oil equivalent can be considered as local occurrence of change with strong a component of hysteresis. The equilibrium of today depends on the cumulative outcomes of past equilibriums. In a classic exponential function, I would approach that hysteresis as y(t) = et*a, with a being a constant parameter of the function. Yet, I can assume that ‘a’ is local instead of being general. In other words, what I did was y(t) = et*a(t) with a(t) being obviously t-specific, i.e. local. I assume that the process of change in energy efficiency is characterized by local magnitudes of change, the a(t)’s. That a(t), in y(t) = et*a(t) is slightly akin to the local first derivative, i.e. y’(t). The difference between the local a(t) and y’(t) is that the former is supposed to capture somehow more accurately the hysteretic side of the process under scrutiny.              

In typical econometric tests, the usual strategy is to start with the empirical values of my variables, transform them into their natural logarithms or some sort of standardized values (e.g. standardized over their respective means, or their standard deviations), and then run linear regression on those transformed values. Another path of analysis consists in exponential regression, only there is a problem with this one: it is hard to establish a reliable method of transformation in empirical data. Running exponential regression on natural logarithms looks stupid, as natural logarithms are precisely the exponents of the exponential function, whence my intuitive willingness to invent a method sort of in between linear regression, and the exponential one.

Once I assume that local exponential coefficients a(t) in the exponential progression y(t) = et*a(t) have intrinsic meaning of their own, as local magnitudes of exponential change, an interesting analytical avenue opens up. For each set of empirical values y(t), I can construe a set of transformed values a(t) = ln[y(t)]/t. Now, when you think about it, the actual a(t) depends on how you calculate ‘t’, or, in other words, what calendar you apply. When I start counting time 100 years before the starting year of my empirical data, my a(t) will go like: a(t1) = ln[y(t1)]/101, a(t2) = ln[y(t2)]/102 etc. The denominator ‘t’ will change incrementally slowly. On the other hand, if I assume that the first year of whatever is happening is one year before my empirical time series start, it is a different ball game. My a(t1) = ln[y(t1)]/1, and my a(t2) = ln[y(t2)]/2 etc.; incremental change in denominator is much greater in this case. When I set my t0 at 100 years earlier than the first year of my actual data, thus t0 = t1 – 100, the resulting set of a(t) values transformed from the initial y(t) data simulates a secular, slow trend of change. On the other hand, setting t0 at t0 = t1-1 makes the resulting set of a(t) values reflect quick change, and the t0 = t1 – 1 moment is like a hypothetical shock, occurring just before the actual empirical data starts to tell its story.

Provisionally wrapping it up, my assumptions, and thus my method, consists in studying changes in energy efficiency as a sequence of equilibriums between relative wealth (GDP per capita), on the one hand, and consumption of energy per capita. The passage between equilibriums is a complex phenomenon, combining long term trends and the short-term ones.  

I am introducing a novel angle of approach to the otherwise classic concept of economics, namely that of economic equilibrium. I claim that equilibriums are manifestations of collective intelligence in their host societies. In order to form an economic equilibrium, would it be more local and Marshallian, or more general and Walrasian, a society needs institutions that assure collective learning through experimentation. They need some kind of financial market, enforceable contracts, and institutions of collective bargaining. Small changes in energy efficiency come out of consistent, collective learning through those institutions. Big leaps in energy efficiency appear when the institutions of collective learning undergo substantial structural changes.

I am thinking about enriching the empirical part of my paper by introducing additional demonstration of collective intelligence: a neural network, working with the same empirical data, with or without the so-called fitness function. I have that intuitive thought – although I don’t know yet how to get it across coherently – that neural networks endowed with a fitness function are good at representing collective intelligence in structured societies with relatively well-developed institutions.

I go towards my syllabuses for the coming academic year. Incidentally, at least one of the curriculums I am going to teach this fall fits nicely into the line of research I am pursuing now: collective intelligence and the use of artificial intelligence. I am developing the thing as an update on my blog, and I write it directly in English. The course is labelled “Behavioural Modelling and Content Marketing”. My principal goal is to teach students the mechanics of behavioural interaction between human beings and digital technologies, especially in social media, online marketing and content streaming. At my university, i.e. the Andrzej Frycz-Modrzewski Krakow University (Krakow, Poland), we have a general drill of splitting the general goal of each course into three layers of expected didactic outcomes: knowledge, course-specific skills, and general social skills. The longer I do science and the longer I teach, the less I believe into the point of distinguishing knowledge from skills. Knowledge devoid of any skills attached to it is virtually impossible to check, and virtually useless.

As I think about it, I imagine many different teachers and many students. Each teacher follows some didactic goals. How do they match each other? They are bound to. I mean, the community of teachers, in a university, is a local social structure. We, teachers, we have different angles of approach to teaching, and, of course, we teach different subjects. Yet, we all come from more or less the same cultural background. Here comes a quick glimpse of literature I will be referring to when lecturing ‘Behavioural Modelling and Content Marketing’: the article by Molleman and Gachter (2018[1]), entitled ‘Societal background influences social learning in cooperative decision making’, and another one, by Smaldino (2019[2]), under the title ‘Social identity and cooperation in cultural evolution’. Molleman and Gachter start from the well-known assumption that we, humans, largely owe our evolutionary success to our capacity of social learning and cooperation. They give the account of an experiment, where Chinese people, assumed to be collectivist in their ways, are being compared to British people, allegedly individualist as hell, in a social game based on dilemma and cooperation. Turns out the cultural background matters: success-based learning is associated with selfish behaviour and majority-based learning can help foster cooperation. Smaldino goes down more theoretical a path, arguing that the structure society shapes the repertoire of social identities available to homo sapiens in a given place at a given moment, whence the puzzle of emergent, ephemeral groups as a major factor in human cultural evolution. When I decide to form, on Facebook, a group of people Not-Yet-Abducted-By-Aliens, is it a factor of cultural change, or rather an outcome thereof?

When I teach anything, what do I really want to achieve, and what does the conscious formulation of those goals have in common with the real outcomes I reach? When I use a scientific repository, like ScienceDirect, that thing learns from me. When I download a bunch of articles on energy, it suggests me further readings along the same lines. It learns from keywords I use in my searches, and from the journals I browse. You can even have a look at my recent history of downloads from ScienceDirect and make yourself an opinion about what I am interested in. Just CLICK HERE, it opens an Excel spreadsheet.

How can I know I taught anybody anything useful? If a student asks me: ‘Pardon me, sir, but why the hell should I learn all that stuff you teach? What’s the point? Why should I bother?’. Right you are, sir or miss, whatever gender you think you are. The point of learning that stuff… You can think of some impressive human creation, like the Notre Dame cathedral, the Eiffel Tower, or that Da Vinci’s painting, Lady with an Ermine. Have you ever wondered how much work had been put in those things? However big and impressive a cathedral is, it had been built brick by f***ing brick. Whatever depth of colour we can see in a painting, it came out of dozens of hours spent on sketching, mixing paints, trying, cursing, and tearing down the canvas. This course and its contents are a small brick in the edifice of your existence. One more small story that makes your individual depth as a person.

There is that thing, at the very heart of behavioural modelling, and social sciences in general. Fault of a better expression, I call it the Bignetti model. See, for example, Bignetti 2014[3], Bignetti et al. 2017[4], or Bignetti 2018[5] for more reading. Long story short, what professor Bignetti claims is that whatever happens in observable human behaviour, individual or collective, whatever, has already happened neurologically beforehand. Whatever we use to Tweet or whatever we read, it is rooted in that wiring we have between the ears. The thing is that actually observing how that wiring works is still a bit burdensome. You need a lot of technology, and a controlled environment. Strangely enough, opening one’s skull and trying to observe the contents at work doesn’t really work. Reverse-engineered, the Bignetti model suggests behavioural observation, and behavioural modelling, could be a good method to guess how our individual brains work together, i.e. how we are intelligent collectively.

I go back to the formal structure of the course, more specifically to goals and expected outcomes. I split: knowledge, skills, social competences. The knowledge, for one. I expect the students to develop the understanding of the following concepts: a) behavioural pattern b) social life as a collection of behavioural patterns observable in human beings c) behavioural patterns occurring as interactions of humans with digital technologies, especially with online content and online marketing d) modification of human behaviour as a response to online content e) the basics of artificial intelligence, like the weak law of great numbers or the logical structure of a neural network. As for the course-specific skills, I expect my students to sharpen their edge in observing behavioural patterns, and changes thereof in connection with online content. When it comes to general social competences, I would like my students to make a few steps forward on two paths: a) handling projects and b) doing research. It logically implies that assessment in this course should and will be project-based. Students will be graded on the grounds of complex projects, covering the definition, observation, and modification of their own behavioural patterns occurring as interaction with online content.

The structure of an individual project will cover three main parts: a) description of the behavioural sequence in question b) description of online content that allegedly impacts that sequence, and c) the study of behavioural changes occurring under the influence of online content. The scale of students’ grades is based on two component marks: the completeness of a student’s work, regarding (a) – (c), and the depth of research the given student has brought up to support his observations and claims. In Poland, in the academia, we typically use a grading scale from 2 (fail) all the way up to 5 (very good), passing through 3, 3+, 4, and 4+. As I see it, each student – or each team of students, as there will be a possibility to prepare the thing in a team of up to 5 people – will receive two component grades, like e.g. 3+ for completeness and 4 for depth of research, and that will give (3,5 + 4)/2 = 3,75 ≈ 4,0.

Such a project is typical research, whence the necessity to introduce students into the basic techniques of science. That comes as a bit of a paradox, as those students’ major is Film and Television Production, thus a thoroughly practical one. Still, science serves in practical issues: this is something I deeply believe and which I would like to teach my students. As I look upon those goals, and the method of assessment, a structure emerges as regards the plan of in-class teaching. At my university, the bulk of in-class interaction with students is normally spread over 15 lectures of 1,5 clock hour each, thus 30 hours in total. In some curriculums it is accompanied by the so-called ‘workshops’ in smaller groups, with each such smaller group attending 7 – 8 sessions of 1,5 hour each. In this case, i.e. in the course of ‘Behavioural Modelling and Content Marketing’, I have just lectures in my schedule. Still, as I see it, I will need to do practical stuff with my youngsters. This is a good moment to demonstrate a managerial technique I teach in other classes, called ‘regressive planning’, which consists in taking the final goal I want to achieve, assume this is supposed to be the outcome of a sequence of actions, and then reverse engineer that sequence. Sort of ‘what do I need to do if I want to achieve X at the end of the day?’.

If I want to have my students hand me good quality projects by the end of the semester, the last few classes out of the standard 15 should be devoted to discussing collectively the draft projects. Those drafts should be based on prior teaching of basic skills and knowledge, whence the necessity to give those students a toolbox, and provoke in them curiosity to rummage inside. All in all, it gives me the following, provisional structure of lecturing:

{input = 15 classes} => {output = good quality projects by my students}

{input = 15 classes} ó {input = [10 classes of preparation >> 5 classes of draft presentations and discussion thereof]}

{input = 15 classes}  ó {input = [5*(1 class of mindfuck to provoke curiosity + 1 class of systematic presentation) + 5*(presentation + questioning and discussion)}

As I see from what I have just written, I need to divide the theory accompanying this curriculum into 5 big chunks. The first of those 5 blocks needs to address the general frame of the course, i.e. the phenomenon of recurrent interaction between humans and online content. I think the most important fact to highlight is that algorithms of online marketing behave like sales people crossed with very attentive servants, who try to guess one’s whims and wants. It is a huge social change: it, I think, the first time in human history when virtually every human with access to Internet interacts with a form of intelligence that behaves like a butler, guessing the user’s preferences. It is transformational for human behaviour, and in that first block I want to show my students how that transformation can work. The opening, mindfucking class will consists in a behavioural experiment in the lines of good, old role playing in psychology. I will demonstrate to my students how a human would behave if they wanted to emulate the behaviour of neural networks in online marketing. I will ask them questions about what they usually do, and about what they did like during the last few days, and I will guess their preferences on the grounds of their described behaviour. I will tell my students to observe that butler-like behaviour of mine and to pattern me. In a next step, I will ask students to play the same role, just for them to get the hang of how a piece of AI works in online marketing. The point of this first class is to define an expected outcome, like a variable, which neural networks attempt to achieve, in terms of human behaviour observable through clicking. The second, theoretical class of that first block will, logically, consist in explaining the fundamentals of how neural networks work, especially in online interactions with human users of online content.      

I think in the second two-class block I will address the issue of behavioural patterns as such, i.e. what they are, and how can we observe them. I want the mindfuck class in this block to be provocative intellectually, and I think I will use role playing once again. I will ask my students to play roles of their choice, and I will discuss their performance under a specific angle: how do you know that your play is representative for this type of behaviour or person? What specific pieces of behaviour are, in your opinion, informative about the social identity of that role? Do other students agree that the type of behaviour played is representative for this specific type of person? The theoretical class in this block will be devoted to systematic lecture on the basics of behaviourism. I guess I will serve to my students some Skinner, and some Timberlake, namely Skinner’s ‘Selection by Consequences’ (1981[6]), and Timberlake’s ‘Behaviour Systems and Reinforcement’ (1993[7]).    

In the third two-class block I will return to interactions with online content. In the mindfuck class, I will make my students meddle with You Tube, and see how the list of suggested videos changes after we search for or click on specific content, e.g how will it change after clicking 5 videos of documentaries about wildlife, or after searching for videos on race cars. In this class, I want my students to pattern the behaviour of You Tube. The theoretical class of this block will be devoted to the ways those algorithms work. I think I will focus on a hardcore concept of AI, namely the Gaussian mixture. I will explain how crude observations on our clicking and viewing allows an algorithm to categorize us.

As we will pass to the fourth two-class block, I will switch to the concept of collective intelligence, i.e. to how whole societies interact with various forms of online, interactive neural networks. The class devoted to intellectual provocation will be discursive. I will make students debate on the following claim: ‘Internet and online content allow our society to learn faster and more efficiently’. There is, of course, a catch, and it is the definition of learning fast and efficiently. How do we know we are quick and efficient in our collective learning? What would slow and inefficient learning look like? How can we check the role of Internet and online content in our collective learning? Can we apply the John Stuart Mill’s logical canon to that situation? The theoretical class in this block will be devoted to the phenomenon of collective intelligence in itself. I would like to work through like two research papers devoted to online marketing, e.g. Fink et al. (2018[8]) and Takeuchi et al. (2018[9]), in order to show how online marketing unfolds into phenomena of collective intelligence and collective learning.

Good, so I come to the fifth two-class block, the last one before the scheduled draft presentations by my students. It is the last teaching block before they present their projects, and I think it should bring them back to the root idea of these, i.e. to the idea of observing one’s own behaviour when interacting with online content. The first class of the block, the one supposed to stir curiosity, could consist in two steps of brain storming and discussion. Students endorse the role of online marketers. In the first step, they define one or two typical interactions between human behaviour, and the online content they communicate. We use the previously learnt theory to make both the description of behavioural patterns, and that of online marketing coherent and state-of-the-art. In the next step, students discuss under what conditions they would behave according to those pre-defined patterns, and what conditions would them make diverge from it and follow different patterns. In the theoretical class of this block, I would like to discuss two articles, which incite my own curiosity: ‘A place for emotions in behaviour research system’ by Gordon M.Burghart (2019[10]), and ‘Disequilibrium in behaviour analysis: A disequilibrium theory redux’ by Jacobs et al. (2019[11]).

I am consistently delivering good, almost new science to my readers, and love doing it, and I am working on crowdfunding this activity of mine. You can communicate with me directly, via the mailbox of this blog: goodscience@discoversocialsciences.com. As we talk business plans, I remind you that you can download, from the library of my blog, the business plan I prepared for my semi-scientific project Befund  (and you can access the French version as well). You can also get a free e-copy of my book ‘Capitalism and Political Power’ You can support my research by donating directly, any amount you consider appropriate, to my PayPal account. You can also consider going to my Patreon page and become my patron. If you decide so, I will be grateful for suggesting me two things that Patreon suggests me to suggest you. Firstly, what kind of reward would you expect in exchange of supporting me? Secondly, what kind of phases would you like to see in the development of my research, and of the corresponding educational tools?


[1] Molleman, L., & Gächter, S. (2018). Societal background influences social learning in cooperative decision making. Evolution and Human Behavior, 39(5), 547-555.

[2] Smaldino, P. E. (2019). Social identity and cooperation in cultural evolution. Behavioural Processes. Volume 161, April 2019, Pages 108-116

[3] Bignetti, E. (2014). The functional role of free-will illusion in cognition:“The Bignetti Model”. Cognitive Systems Research, 31, 45-60.

[4] Bignetti, E., Martuzzi, F., & Tartabini, A. (2017). A Psychophysical Approach to Test:“The Bignetti Model”. Psychol Cogn Sci Open J, 3(1), 24-35.

[5] Bignetti, E. (2018). New Insights into “The Bignetti Model” from Classic and Quantum Mechanics Perspectives. Perspective, 4(1), 24.

[6] Skinner, B. F. (1981). Selection by consequences. Science, 213(4507), 501-504.

[7] Timberlake, W. (1993). Behavior systems and reinforcement: An integrative approach. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 60(1), 105-128.

[8] Fink, M., Koller, M., Gartner, J., Floh, A., & Harms, R. (2018). Effective entrepreneurial marketing on Facebook–A longitudinal study. Journal of business research.

[9] Takeuchi, H., Masuda, S., Miyamoto, K., & Akihara, S. (2018). Obtaining Exhaustive Answer Set for Q&A-based Inquiry System using Customer Behavior and Service Function Modeling. Procedia Computer Science, 126, 986-995.

[10] Burghardt, G. M. (2019). A place for emotions in behavior systems research. Behavioural processes.

[11] Jacobs, K. W., Morford, Z. H., & King, J. E. (2019). Disequilibrium in behavior analysis: A disequilibrium theory redux. Behavioural processes.

It might be a sign of narcissism

I am recapitulating once again. Two things are going on in my mind: science strictly spoken and a technological project. As for science, I am digging around the hypothesis that we, humans, purposefully create institutions for experimenting with new technologies and that the essential purpose of those institutions is to maximize the absorption of energy from environment. I am obstinately turning around the possible use of artificial intelligence as tools for simulating collective intelligence in human societies. As for technology, I am working on my concept of « Energy Ponds ». See my update entitled « The mind-blowing hydro » for relatively the freshest developments on that point. So far, I came to the conclusion that figuring out a viable financial scheme, which would allow local communities to own local projects and adapt them flexibly to local conditions is just as important as working out the technological side. Oh, yes, and there is teaching, the third thing to occupy my mind. The new academic year starts on October 1st and I am already thinking about the stuff I will be teaching.

I think it is good to be honest about myself, and so I am trying to be: I have a limited capacity of multi-tasking. Even if I do a few different things in the same time, I need those things to be kind of convergent and similar. This is one of those moments when a written recapitulation of what I do serves me to put some order in what I intend to do. Actually, why not using one of the methods I teach my students, in management classes? I mean, why not using some scholarly techniques of planning and goal setting?

Good, so I start. What do I want? I want a monography on the application of artificial intelligence to study collective intelligence, with an edge towards practical use in management. I call it ‘Monography AI in CI – Management’. I want the manuscript to be ready by the end of October 2019. I want a monography on a broader topic of technological change being part of human evolution, with the hypothesis mentioned in the preceding paragraph. This monography, I give it a working title: ‘Monography Technological Change and Human Evolution’. I have no clear deadline for the manuscript. I want 2 – 3 articles on renewable energies and their application. Same deadline as that first monography: end of October 2019. I want to promote and develop my idea of “Energy Ponds” and that of local financial schemes for such type of project. I want to present this idea in at least one article, and in at least one public speech. I want to prepare syllabuses for teaching, centred, precisely, on the concept of collective intelligence, i.e. of social structures and institutions made for experimentation and learning. Practically in each of the curriculums I teach I want to go into the topic of collective learning.  

How will I know I have what I want? This is a control question, forcing me to give precise form to my goals. As for monographies and articles it is all about preparing manuscripts on time. A monography should be at least 400 pages each, whilst articles should be some 30 pages-long each, in the manuscript form. That makes 460 – 490 pages to write (meaningfully, of course!) until the end of October, and at least 400 other pages to write subsequently. Of course, it is not just about hatching manuscripts: I need to have a publisher. As for teaching, I can assume that I am somehow prepared to deliver a given line of logic when I have a syllabus nailed down nicely. Thus, I need to rewrite my syllabuses not later than by September 25th. I can evaluate progress in the promotion of my “Energy Ponds” concept as I will have feedback from any people whom I informed or will have informed about it.     

Right, the above is what I want technically and precisely, like in a nice schedule of work. Now, what I like really want? I am 51, with good health and common sense I have some 24 – 25 productive years ahead. This is roughly the time that passed since my son’s birth. The boy is not a boy anymore, he is walking his own path, and what looms ahead of me is like my last big journey in life. What do I want to do with those years? I want to feel useful, very certainly. Yes, I think this is one clear thing about what I want: I want to feel useful. How will I know I am useful? Weeell, that’s harder to tell. As I am patiently following the train of my thoughts, I think that I feel useful today, when I can see that people around need me. On the top of that, I want to be financially important and independent. Wealthy? Yes, but not for comfort as such. Right now, I am employed, and my salary is my main source of income. I perceive myself as dependent on my employer. I want to change it so as to have substantial income (i.e. income greater than my current spending and thus allowing accumulation) from sources other than a salary. Logically, I need capital to generate that stream of non-wage income. I have some – an apartment for rent – but as I look at it critically, I would need at least 7 times more in order to have the rent-based income I want.

Looks like my initial, spontaneous thought of being useful means, after having scratched the surface, being sufficiently high in the social hierarchy to be financially independent, and able to influence other people. Anyway, as I am having a look at my short-term goals, I ask myself how do they bridge into my long-term goals? The answer is: they don’t really connect, my short-term goals and the long-term ones. There is a lot of missing pieces. I mean, how does the fact of writing a scientific monography translate into multiplying by seven my current equity invested in income-generating assets?

Now, I want to think a bit deeper about what I do now, and I want to discover two types of behavioural patterns. Firstly, there is probably something in what I do, which manifests some kind of underlying, long-term ambitions or cravings in my personality. Exploring what I do might be informative as for what I want to achieve in that last big lap of my life. Secondly, in my current activities, I probably have some behavioural patterns, which, when exploited properly, can help me in achieving my long-term goals.

What do I like doing? I like writing and reading about science. I like speaking in public, whether it is a classroom or a conference. Yes, it might be a sign of narcissism, still it can be used to a good purpose. I like travelling in moderate doses. Looks like I am made for being a science writer and a science speaker. It looks some sort of intermediate goal, bridging from my short-term, scheduled achievements into the long-term, unscheduled ones. I do write regularly, especially on my blog. I speak regularly in classrooms, as my basic job is that of an academic teacher. What I do haphazardly, and what could bring me closer to achieving my long-term goals, would be to speak in other public contexts more frequently and sort of regularly, and, of course, make money on it. By the way, as science writing and science speaking is concerned, I have a crazy idea: scientific stand up. I am deeply fascinated with the art of some stand up comedians: Bill Burr, Gabriel Iglesias, Joe Rogan, Kevin Hart or Dave Chapelle. Getting across deep, philosophical content about human condition in the form of jokes, and make people laugh when thinking about those things, is an art I admire, and I would like to translate it somehow into the world of science. The problem is that I don’t know how. I have never done any acting in my life, never have written nor participated in writing any jokes for stand-up comedy. As skillsets come, this is a complete terra incognita to me.

Now, I jump to the timeline. I assume having those 24 years or so ahead of me. What then, I mean when I hopefully reach 75 years of age. Now, I can shock some of my readers, but provisionally I label that moment in 24 years from now as “the decision whether I should die”. Those last years, I have been asking myself how I would like to die. The question might seem stupid: nobody likes dying. Still, I have been asking myself this question. I am going into deep existential ranting, but I think what I think: when I compare my life with some accounts in historical books, there is one striking difference. When I read letters and memoirs of people from the 17th or 18th century, even from the beginnings of the 20th century, those ancestors of ours tended to ask themselves how worthy their life should be and how worthy their death should come. We tend to ask, most of all, how long will we live. When I think about it, that old attitude makes more sense. In the perspective of decades, planning for maxing out on existential value is much more rational than trying to max out on life expectancy as such. I guess we can have much more control over the values we pursue than the duration of our life. I know that what I am going to say might sound horribly pretentious, but I think I would like to die like a Viking. I mean, not necessarily trying to kill somebody, just dying by choice, whilst still having the strength to do something important, and doing those important things. What I am really afraid of is slow death by instalments, when my flame dies out progressively, leaving me just weaker and weaker every month, whilst burdening other people with taking care of me.

I fix that provisional checkpoint at the age of 75, 24 years from now. An important note before I go further: I have not decided I will die at the age of 75. I suppose that would be as presumptuous as assuming to live forever. I just give myself a rationally grounded span of 24 years to live with enough energy to achieve something worthy. If I have more, I will just have more. Anyway, how much can I do in 24 years? In order to plan for that, I need to recapitulate how much have I been able to do so far, like during an average year. A nicely productive year means 2 – 3 acceptable articles, accompanied by 2 – 3 equally acceptable conference presentations. On the top of that, a monography is conceivable in one year. As for teaching, I can realistically do 600 – 700 hours of public speech in one year. With that, I think I can nail down some 20 valuable meetings in business and science. In 24 years, I can write 24*550 = 13 200 pages, I can deliver 15 600 hours of public speech, and I can negotiate something in 480 meetings or so.

Now, as I talk about value, I can see there is something more far reaching than what I have just named as my long-term goals. There are values which I want to pursue. I mean, saying that I want to die like a Viking, and, in the same time, stating my long-term goals in life in terms of income and capital base: that sound ridiculous. I know, I know, dying like a Viking, in the times of Vikings, meant very largely to pillage until the last breath. Still, I need values. I think the shortcut to my values is via my dreams. What are they, my dreams? Now, I make a sharp difference between dreams and fantasies. A fantasy is: a) essentially unrealistic, such as riding a flying unicorn b) involving just a small, relatively childish part of my personality. On the other hand, a dream – such as contributing to making my home country, Poland, go 100% off fossil fuels – is something that might look impossible to achieve, yet its achievement is a logical extension of my present existence.

What are they, my dreams? Well, I have just named one, i.e. playing a role in changing the energy base of my country. What else do I value? Family, certainly. I want my son to have a good life. I want to feel useful to other people (that was already in my long-term goals, and so I am moving it to the category of dreams and values). Another thing comes to my mind: I want to tell the story of my parents. Apparently banal – lots of people do it or at least attempt to – and yet nagging as hell. My father died in February, and around the time of the funeral, as I was talking to family and friends, I discovered things about my dad which I had not the faintest idea of. I started going through old photographs and old letters in a personal album I didn’t even know he still had. Me and my father, we were not very close. There was a lot of bad blood between us. Still, it was my call to take care of him during the last 17 years of his life, and it was my call to care for what we call in Poland ‘his last walk’, namely that from the funeral chapel to the tomb properly spoken. I suddenly had a flash glimpse of the personal history, the rich, textured biography I had in front of my eyes, visible through old images and old words, all that in the background of the vanishing spark of life I could see in my father’s eyes during his last days.  

How will I know those dreams and values are fulfilled in my life? I can measure progress in my work on and around projects connected to new sources of energy. I can measure it by observing the outcomes. When things I work on get done, this is sort of tangible. As for being useful to other people, I go once again down the same avenue: to me, being useful means having an unequivocally positive impact on other people. Impact is important, and thus, in order to have that impact, I need some kind of leadership position. Looking at my personal life and at my dream to see my son having a good life, it comes as the hardest thing to gauge. This seems to be the (apparently) irreducible uncertainty in my perfect plan. Telling my parents’ story: how will I prove to myself I will have told it? A published book? Maybe…  

I sum it up, at least partially. I can reasonably expect to deliver a certain amount of work over the 24 years to come: approximately 13 200 pages of written content, 15 600 hours of public speech, and 450 – 500 meetings, until my next big checkpoint in life, at the age of 75. I would like to focus that work on building a position of leadership, in view of bringing some change to my own country, Poland, mostly in the field of energy. As the first stage is to build a good reputation of science communicator, the leadership in question is likely to be rather a soft one. In that plan, two things remain highly uncertain. Firstly, how should I behave in order to be as good a human being as I possibly can? Secondly, what is the real importance of that telling-my-parents’-story thing in the whole plan? How important is it for my understanding of how to live well those 24 years to come? What fraction of those 13 200 written pages (or so), should refer to that story?  

Now, I move towards collective intelligence, and to possible applications of artificial intelligence to study the collective one. Yes, I am a scientist, and yes, I can use myself as an experimental unit. I can extrapolate my personal experience as the incidence of something in a larger population. The exact path of that incidence can shape the future actions and structures of that population. Good, so now, there is someone – anyone, in fact – who comes and tells to my face: ‘Look, man, you’re bullshitting yourself and people around you! Your plans look stupid, and if attitudes like yours spread, our civilisation will fall into pieces!’. Fair enough, that could be a valid point. Let’s check. According to the data published by the Central Statistical Office of the Republic of Poland, in 2019, there are n = 453 390 people in Poland aged 51, like me, 230 370 of them being men, and 232 020 women. I assume that attitudes such as my own, expressed in the preceding paragraphs, are one type among many occurring in that population of 51-year-old Polish people. People have different views on life and other things, so to say.

Now, I hypothesise in two opposite directions. In Hypothesis A, I state that just some among those different attitudes make any sense, and there is a hypothetical distribution of those attitudes in the general population, which yields the best social outcomes whilst eliminating early all nonsense attitudes from the social landscape. In other words, some worldviews are so dysfunctional that they’d better disappear quickly and be supplanted by those more sensible ones. Going even deeper, it means that quantitative distributions of attitudes in the general population fall into two classes: those completely haphazard, existential accidents without much grounds for staying in existence, on the one hand, and those sensible and functional ones, which can be sustained with benefit to all, on the other hand.  In hypothesis ~A, i.e. the opposite to A, I speculate that observed diversity in attitudes is a phenomenon in itself and does not really reduce to any hypothetically better one. It is the old argument in favour of diversity. Old as it is, it has old mathematical foundations, and, interestingly, is one of cornerstones in what we call today Artificial Intelligence.

In Vapnik, Chervonenkis 1971[1] , a paper reputed to be kind of seminal for the today’s AI, I found reference to the classical Bernoulli’s theorem, known also as the weak law of large numbers: the relative frequency of an event A in a sequence of independent trials converges (in probability) to the probability of that event. Please, note that roughly the same can be found in the so-called Borel’s law of large numbers, named after Émile Borel. It is deep maths: each phenomenon bears a given probability of happening, and this probability is sort of sewn into the fabric of reality. The empirically observable frequency of occurrence is always an approximation of this quasi-metaphysical probability. That goes a bit against the way probability is being taught at school: it is usually about that coin – or dice – being tossed many times etc. It implies that probability exists at all only as long as there are things actually happening. No happening, no probability. Still, if you think about it, there is a reason why those empirically observable frequencies tend to be recurrent, and the reason is precisely that underlying capacity of the given phenomenon to take place.

Basic neural networks, the perceptron-type ones, experiment with weights being attributed to input variables, in order to find a combination of weights which allows the perceptron getting the closest possible to a target value. You can find descriptions of that procedure in « Thinking Poisson, or ‘WTF are the other folks doing?’ », for example. Now, we can shift a little bit our perspective and assume that what we call ‘weights’ of input variables are probabilities that a phenomenon, denoted by the given variable, happens at all. A vector of weights attributed to input variables is a collection of probabilities. Walking down this avenue of thinking leads me precisely to the Hypothesis ~A, presented a few paragraphs ago. Attitudes congruous with that very personal confession of mine, developed even more paragraphs ago, have an inherent probability of happening, and the more we experiment, the closer we can get to that probability. If someone tells to my face that I’m an idiot, I can reply that: a) any worldview has an idiotic side, no worries b) my particular idiocy is representative of a class of idiocies, which, in turn, the civilisation needs to figure out something clever for the next few centuries.

I am consistently delivering good, almost new science to my readers, and love doing it, and I am working on crowdfunding this activity of mine. You can communicate with me directly, via the mailbox of this blog: goodscience@discoversocialsciences.com. As we talk business plans, I remind you that you can download, from the library of my blog, the business plan I prepared for my semi-scientific project Befund  (and you can access the French version as well). You can also get a free e-copy of my book ‘Capitalism and Political Power’ You can support my research by donating directly, any amount you consider appropriate, to my PayPal account. You can also consider going to my Patreon page and become my patron. If you decide so, I will be grateful for suggesting me two things that Patreon suggests me to suggest you. Firstly, what kind of reward would you expect in exchange of supporting me? Secondly, what kind of phases would you like to see in the development of my research, and of the corresponding educational tools?


[1] Vapnik, V. N. (1971). CHERVONENKIS, On the uniform convergence ofrelativefrequencies. Theory of Probability and Its Applications, 16, 264-280.