Dark nothing, dark data’s blind spot

Narrated by Anchor.fm AI

In cosmology there are concepts of dark matter and dark energy that currently are considered real. Cosmology needs both concepts to explain edge case observations using theories that have very broad explanatory value for most other observations.

Visible and known matter can explain a lot at scales from planets to areas within galaxies. At larger scales, the motion of the entire galaxy or of groups of galaxies require more matter than what can be observed. The mere addition of the missing matter allows the existing theories to explain the motion. This provides confidence that the matter exists, but this data is not only unobserved, but likely is unobservable, thus the label of being dark.

Motions at even larger scales then run into the problem of there being too much matter. The addition of unobservable energy solves this problem while still preserving the benefits of adding unobservable matter for the intermediate scales. This unobservable energy gets the name of dark energy mostly out of the precedence of calling its counterpart as dark matter.

In this blog, I generalized the concept with the label of dark data. Dark data is unobserved data points that we are confident must be true because they are results of our trusted theories. In many areas of decision making, we need dark data to fill in the gaps in what we are capable of collecting from documented observations. The dark data is also useful because it usually is far more affordable than gathering actual observations. I label observations as bright data to contrast it with dark data, but also to imply my preference.

I describe the use of data to make decisions, and in particular to make automated decisions when we have trusted algorithms and those algorithms have access to a sufficient quantity of trusted data. In those discussions, I prefer to have the trusted algorithm use bright data instead of dark data. We should invest in whatever is necessary to gather observations that are feasible to collect in order to fill in gaps that we would need to fill with theoretical calculations. In these discussions, I assume the algorithms are sufficiently advanced with various steps in information supply chain that can automatically infer laws of nature from recent observations alone. With such advanced algorithm, the dark data would be redundant to telling the algorithm how the world works. More importantly, the advanced algorithm is able to fill in gaps with its own newly discovered theories, theories perhaps only knowable to the machine because the machine would be incapable of persuading a human mind of its multidimensional discovery.

In my earlier discussions about the subject of nothingness, I wondered at the significance of the space between material things. Our science is focused on material things at various levels. We identify these things by the empty spaces that separate them. Basic science of human experience on surface of earth can describe objects of different materials and forms that are separated by air. We extend science to more details by recognizing that these objects are made up of parts that have gaps between them. These gaps may be joints between parts, layers between material, the spaces between molecules, or the spaces between atoms in a molecule. In the other direction, we recognize gaps between planets separated by vacuum instead of air, and gaps between stellar systems, and gaps between galaxies, each one having a different nature of vacuum.

The nothingness between objects is not a subject of study in the way that we study material objects. Or at least I am unfamiliar with the subject being studied in the way I am thinking where we try to characterize the properties of different kinds of nothing. Besides the distinction of air versus vacuum, I’m not aware of even a distinction of nothingness. The space between galaxies is just like the space between subatomic particles especially after disregarding the material contaminants. I imagine that different nothings are distinguishable and may carry different properties, inherent to their domain and unrelated to the contaminants they may harbor. Examples of a contaminant are the passing radiation or particle winds in interplanetary spaces, and even the conjectured vacuum energy that constantly cycle between matter and antimatter pairs emerging from energy and then annihilating each other to return to energy. Remove all of that, there will remain an emptiness that may still be qualitatively different than emptiness at other scales.

I imagine a dark nothing solution to the cosmological problems that require dark matter and dark energy. The nature of nothing at the galaxy level may be different than the nature of nothing in smaller stellar-neighborhood scale or in the larger scale that separates clusters of galaxies. The departures of observations from theoretical predictions may suggest that the observations concern an underlying difference in the behavior of nothing at that scale.

It is not really practical to study nothing in the way we can study materials. We are surrounded by a particular kind of nothing that governs the world we can probe. We can not probe the nothing at the edge of galaxies or at the spaces that separate galaxy clusters. We can not really probe the emptiness at quantum scales where nothing is flooded with wave functions.

Dark nothing is similar to the concept that there are limits to what our theories can explain. Our theories, including those we consider to be laws and constants, may be like a derived regression that explains observations but fails when extrapolating beyond what has previously been observed. At some point, the theories turn out to be correlations that happen to have a very wide range of applicability that includes most of what humans can experience. Although it may annoy us, the breakdown of the theories at extremes are not important because those extremes are irrelevant to human experience.

Dark nothing is not a useful concept to science, but I think it may be useful to data science. Accepting this concept makes explicit a recognition that there is an information gap we can never fill with any certainty. When we unleash our most sophisticated algorithms on our data, we should limit our confidence because of these gaps that can never be filled by observations or by our science. We don’t really know about the nothingness that immerses all of our observations and theories.

In my earlier post, I proposed that the nothingness may be were intelligence resides. I used the analogy by the apparent importance of the synapses between neurons for human intelligence, a concept that we successfully emulate with computational neural networks. The neurons are necessary to define the gaps, but the intelligence itself emerges from within the gaps. Alternatively, the neural synapses act as sensors for intelligence that is inherent in the emptiness defined by those gaps. I imagine the latter to be true, that intelligence is immaterial.

Like emptiness, intelligence pervades all of the universe and has been around for all time. Intelligence did not wait for humans to evolve to use it. Instead sophisticated intelligence guided evolution of living things and even of non-living things. The intelligence is largely inaccessible to human study largely because it is diffuse in space so there is nothing for us to engage in conversation. It is also operating at different timescales. At quantum scales, the intelligence operates at speeds that is impossible for us to keep up. At larger scales, the intelligence operates so slowly we lack the patience to listen or even to perceive.

From the perspective of governing by data, it may benefit us to concede that we are operating within domains that other forms of intelligence have influence or may even be controlling. This concession would further add value to bright data of observations over dark data of science. The bright data opens the opportunities to at least pick up hints at what these competing intelligences are doing no matter of whether they are trying to tell us or not. Dark data freezes the past. Perhaps at the time of a discovery, the science picked up some signal of the intelligence but that signal is irrelevant to the present. The intelligence has moved on, perhaps it learned something in the interim or it has different plans.

I think we see hints of this with detected variations in fundamental constants, such as speed of light, of the span of multiple decades. The hints are also in the anomalies that demand the propositions of dark matter and dark energy. What we consider to be reality may not be a constant, but it may be something changing over time. I am not saying that this is necessarily true.

There is a benefit to opening our processes to the possibility that the reality may be changing, where the changing is from an evolving intelligence or even from a plethora of competing intelligences that have transitions of power much like our political systems. Admitting dark data into our algorithms blinds us to this possibility, especially when we allow dark data to have priority over observations.

As I have discussed in this blog, I do not approve of the government’s response to the current COVID19 situation. As a result of the government’s response, I have lost faith in western style governments based on selecting human makers either in elected offices or in appointed positions that tend to be life-long in duration. We have no ability to influence, let alone persuade, people in power. Once people are in power, they are able to act on their own intuitions, emotions, and ambitions and there is no peaceful alternative for the people other than go along with them. Even granting the benefit of doubt on the well informed and good intentions of these governing individuals, the current situation has exposed the flaw in governing in this manner. Once individuals make some decisions, it is inherent human nature. The individual leader has an investment in making sure his original decision escapes criticism. The population as a whole demands leadership skills of consistency. People will not tolerate a human leader who keeps changing his mind.

This human nature, or at least the nature of our western culture, has an underlying belief that there is a constancy to the reality and that a properly selected leader will know and act on that reality. Constant reality implies a need for firm leadership based on confidence in knowing the unchanging truth. The truth is that the virus is an unusually dangerous threat to our existence, and that we have mastered the ability to train our immune systems in much the same way we have mastered training scientists.

From very early on this crisis, I began to sense that our original fears were exaggerated. Later infection locations were not replicating the early reports from early hotspots where seemingly healthy people were reported as collapsing in the street and dying shortly afterwards. Also, more information came out about the susceptible population both of high susceptibility of people in care homes, and of low susceptibility of similarly confined healthy populations such as passengers on quarantined cruise ships. I convinced myself that had our leaders waited a month or two before making a policy, they never would have introduced the policies we are stuck with now a year later, or the population would not have tolerated the policies if they were introduced.

Human nature at population levels is such that once the population is convinced of something to fear, it is very difficult to persuade them out of that fear. The democratic processes makes this catastrophic result permanent because of a loop where the population will demand their leaders to conform to their fears. The population inevitably takes ownership of the fear that their leaders gifted them.

I cannot conceive of any democratic or even constitution way out of this dilemma. Past history suggest that the only solution is waiting two to three years after the disastrous decision. During this time, the population will gradually regain control over their fears. No democratically elected official can speed up this recovery of rationality.

I lost faith in democracy, and even of constitutional republics, because of this demonstration of its inability to correct a prior poorly made decision concerning some emergency that panics the public. An autocratic rule, at least temporarily, is sometimes necessary. That is what I have been describing in my dedomenocracy, where the government triggered by public panic responds autocratically and authoritatively but in a way to quell this panic as soon as possible. The default state of affairs is for not autocratic rule, but such a rule is necessary when the public becomes irrational as a result of fear.

Our current situation involves a lot more than just a response to a pandemic. Or alternatively, the pandemic response has implications far beyond the addressing of the pandemic. We have substantially curtailed entire parts of our economy, and completely suspended other parts.

An example is halting of vacation cruise ship operations. There was a logic to this. The cruise ships are a confined space for a large population for a long period of time of the cruising parts of the trip. This provided ample opportunity for the contagion to spread. Then the various port stops provided the opportunity for the cruise passengers to spread the disease to the locals, or the initial opportunity for a passenger to bring the disease back to the ship prior to the next cruising leg.

The problem with the decision is a failure to recognize that this halting would need to be indefinite in duration. Recently, there is some indication of some resumption of cruises but these will be under severe restrictions and qualifications such as prior vaccination. It is unlikely that the cruise business will resume to pre-COVID levels any time in the next many years. I don’t think the decision makers really considered this consequence, at least to the extend of needing to be absolutely confident that this is the disease that required this drastic action.

The consequence is that the appeal of cruise vacations will be hampered. There will be fewer passengers and the onboard activities will be less interesting or exciting. At the ports, the previously thriving businesses that catered to the visitors are disappearing or are becoming less appealing though neglect or under provisioning. There will be a spiral where the less appealing cruises will lead to fewer passengers and that will lead to fewer operable ships and rapidly deteriorating ports of calls. It will not be long before the entire business will be impractical.

My point here is the failure to recognize how the decision affects the interconnected supply chains needed to enjoy what we enjoyed prior to the pandemic. Those businesses were made possible following decades of gradual building of supply chains and local attractions. While there may be appeal to docking at an exotic port, the appeal of an abandoned or impoverished port is far less appealing to the options available before the pandemic. It will take decades to rebuild what we have lost, and it is unlikely we will even both rebuilding. The population would have lost its consideration of cruises as a vacation option.

What I say about cruises also applies to vacation flights, especially to culturally different locations. Just like the cruise ports, there are entire economies around historical or cultural sites. I am thinking of the example of the travel industry for countries like Peru that have a large number of attractions that will last long after we are all gone. However, over recent decades, the local economies have developed to accommodate the visitors, making the trips more comfortable and interesting than just the visiting of ancient ruins. Those local economies are declining due to the restrictions on air travel. Even the resumption of air travel will bring fewer visitors either due to occupancy restrictions on flights, or due to a large portion of potential travels being convinced to fear the contagion or quarantine risks.

The term dark nothing is related to the concept of unintended consequences and to the idea of the “unknown unknowns”. Competent decision making needs to respect these concepts. I don’t see that respect in the decision making for responding to COVID19. More recently, there appears to be a blatant disregard of all of these concepts when it comes to the promotion of injecting the global population with a treatment never before tested on humans. Clearly there will be unintended consequences. I am convinced we will regret discovering what we previously did not know about what would happen.

The point is that when we find out, it will be too late. The damage will be permanent.

Among the discussion of the current situation is the concept of a great reset. In particular, there are certain powerful influencers who have been planning for a large scale change in human behavior and economics for a variety of desired goals, some selfish such as self-enrichment, and others seeming noble such as stopping global warming. These leaders may be exploiting this situation to deliberately bring about a downfall of the prior systems of living and replacing it with one that is more to their desires.

I do not know much about the truth or extent of this kind of management, but I am inclined to believe that there is some element of this kind of guided influence on the continuation of policy making. To the extent this is true, it is at a level that is entire beyond my ability to influence. The elected politicians and appointed bureaucrats largely are obliged to follow this lead, largely due to the institutional restrictions that constrain their authority. A health department may approve of disapprove of a particular vaccine, but it is incapable of dismissing the appropriateness of a vaccination program.

The conjectured great reset has multiple elements. It includes the scaling down of the demand for travel for vacation or leisure purposes. This is happening.

Another element is the changing of dietary habits, in particular to encourage less consumption of animal products, and more reliance on processed foods. This has also occurred over the past year.

The closure and restrictions of restaurants and bars have eliminated the opportunities for cuisines, many that prominently feature a meat or dairy product. People are forced to eat more meals at home. While they can continue to eat meat, they will not eat the variety, and maybe not the quantity they would get at a restaurant. Meanwhile, many people have reduced incomes that can not afford as much meat. Given recent rapid inflation of meats in particular, there will be steadily less consumption.

Both of these trends have disrupted the food supply chain. Chains previously devoted to serving the hospitality industry lost their market and had to accept losses for products that would have been delivered in this time frame. The lost demand, as well as the reduced finances, is leading to scaling down of the entire chain from the producers to the processors. Ultimately, there are fewer animals being bred for future markets, and this in turn is leading to fewer breeders. This disruption will continue for at least another year. By that time, the food supply chains will be very different, and in particular have lower capacity. Even if at that time, we free ourselves from our pandemic paranoia, it will take years, if not decades to rebuild the supply chains to support the kinds of opportunities we had prior to the pandemic.

Another element to this disruption is the specific shutdown and restrictions on the food processors and producers themselves. Locations with confirmed COVID19 infections were forced to close, resulting in lost of inventory and halting of future orders. Producers were directed to euthanize their herds to keep them out of the food chain. These inevitably would decrease future capacity.

The future will consume less animal products because we have greatly reduced capacity for delivering those products. The circumstances will also make it less economically appealing to increase the capacity even if demand will return. Producers and processors will operate with the knowledge that the government will shut them down again at any moment.

The great reset has a grander goal of totally eliminating the consumption of animal products, particularly of the popular stocks such as beef, pork, chicken, and lamb. Toward this end, there is the coincidental introduction of processed vegetable products that convincingly mimics the texture and flavor of animal products. The proposition is that these processed products can satisfy the population’s appetite for animal products. Consequently, we can eliminate the animal product industry entirely.

The noble theory behind this goal of vegetable substitutes for meat is that environmental cost of meat production. Eliminating meat production would benefit the environment by reducing carbon emissions, restoring fresh water resources, and transferring agricultural lands back to natural habitats.

If these are the intentions of the minds behind the great reset, I imagine they are very pleased with the current situation. Things are moving consistent with their goals. Already, people are promoting the environmental benefits of the current situation. Even if we get past the fear of the virus, we’ll be obliged to continue the policies because of the demonstrated benefit to environment. Going back to pre-COVID economy would have an unacceptable environmental impact.

This beneficial environmental impact may be short lived. For the remainder of my life, the animal product supply chains will never recover pre-COVID19 level. However, the appetite for real meat will remain. People will find new ways to get meat, and these will not be sustainable. People will take up hunting and trapping of wild animals for their food. They will do this outside of season and without regard to limits. There will arise black markets of wild animals and perhaps even open markets similar to the wet markets in China that featured various non-farmed animals.

We may see extinctions of entire species of birds, animals and fish. Entire ecosystems may lose their prey species needed to sustain the predators so that they too will become extinct. The wildlife capacity is too small to supply the meat needs of the human population even if we can convince many to accept the processed vegetable product substitutes.

I expect we will start to see this ramping up by the end of this year, if anyone bothers to pay attention. When that starts, it will be impossible to stop. We will see mass extinction of many species as the humans satisfy their meat appetites from non-farmed animals.

Another environmental disaster will occur with the cessation of ranching of grazing animals. The disappearance of the grazing animals will not be replaced with comparable numbers of natural herds any time soon, even if we assume humans don’t go on a hunting frenzy. These lands will lay dormant. Perhaps initially there will be a growth of vegetation but eventually the land will starve from the effects of grazing and may turn to deserts. Once started, the desertification will spread to geographically significant proportions to the point of effecting climate patterns. This will take many decades to have a noticeable impact, but once it starts in the early stages it will be impractical to prevent its inevitable outcome.

The imagined benefits of saving the environment from climate change will fail. The climate will change because of the human attempt to stop climate change. This time it will be even more difficult to deny human activity as the cause.

All of this discussion is a criticism of human decision making, whether it is through our cherished governments, or through some elusive power centers. In all cases, humans assume there is a constancy of truth about the world, and that we have already accessed that truth at least to the point of confidence of making global changes. This confidence is going to disappoint a lot of people.

An alternative approach to governing may be to get human individuals out of decision making roles, at least in terms of large scale policies in response to perceived emergencies, whether it is a health issue or an environmental one. Human decisionmakers are incapable of modifying their approaches when presented with new observations that contradict their earlier decisions. Even if a decisionmaker convinces himself to change his mind, the government institutions will not permit him to change the policies. Either the decisionmaker sticks with the original plan, or the population will replace him with someone who will.

More fundamentally, humans are overly confident in understanding the world especially when they inherit that understanding from prior generations. This is equally true for scientific and for religious understanding. Human instinctually respect and obey the knowledge handed down from earlier generations. This makes them blind to immediate observations that contradict this understanding.

There may be a benefit to set a boundary for the scale of decisions we permit from any human. To the extent we need larger scale policies, we may need a different approach. That approach needs to be unhuman in the way it approaches decisions. A dedomenocracy could provide that alternative. A dedomenocracy prioritizes bright data of observations over dark data of science. It also quickly expires its policies in order to reassess the situation. If subsequent action is needed, the dedomenocracy has no obligation to be consistent with the prior policy in action or even in goal.

Dedomenocracy has an underlying suspicion that we do not understand everything about the world. The reality of the world may be changing. That change may be directed from an intelligence (or multiple intelligences) who have yet to introduce themselves to us. We can infer their presence by the recently observations. Even if this suspicion is false, the resulting policies likely will be more beneficial for everyone and everything than what we get from human government.

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