Tuesday, May 26, 2020

My Truth is NOT your Truth - Predicting Truth Based on Ethical Values

What is “truth”? 
Truth is highly subjective and depends on the individual context, likes, personality, and ethical values of a person. What is “truth” for you depends in whom you trust and in whom you believe. If you are a farmer and Republican voter of Donald Trump in the rust belt of the US, you believe China needs to be punished for ripping of the US and you trust the words of Donald Trump and are willing to sacrifice sales of your grain or pork to China for the greater good of your country. If you are a Chinese Communist party member, you believe the US is striving for World domination and is using whatever means available to subdue China, you trust the words of Xi Jinping and are willing to bring personal sacrifices for the greater good of the Chinese nation. The same split perception of what is “true” applies to many other issues, from the effectiveness or dangers of vaccines, miracle cures against the Coronavirus, to when the world was created (4.54 billion years ago according to science, less than 10,000 years ago according to creationists). As nobody can actually go back and check for themselves, we have to trust and believe either the scientists, or the spiritual leaders of the Christian fundamentalists. To back up their claims, both the creationist leaders and the scientists show us long chains of “facts”. “Facts” can be photos of fossilized dinosaur feet stepping over human feet, proving according to creationists that dinosaurs and humans lived at the same time, about 8000 years ago. “Facts” can also be the physical formulas that prove the existence of spacetime curvature predicted by Einstein. Both of these “facts” are impossible to verify for the person on the street, and so believers of a particular “fact” take them at face value thanks to their trust in the people coming up with these “facts”.

Ethics and Personality Define How to Interpret Somebody’s Claim to Truth
Depending on our motivation, we will apply a different definition of truth to solve a particular problem:

  • Donald Trump’s mantra is “truth is what gets me re-elected”. If he says that hydroxychloroquine will cure Corona virus infection, this is because he assumes that having a cheap and easily available "miracle cure" will increase his chances of re-election.
  • A sales guy’s mantra is “truth is what sells my product”. If a pharma vendor of hydroxychloroquine says that hydroxychloroquine will cure Corona virus infection this is because the sales guy wants to sell more of his pills.
  • If a doctor tells a patient that hydroxychloroquine will cure her Corona virus infection this might be because this is the only drug he has available to help the sick patient.

What Donald Trump, the sales guy, and the doctor do, is closely tied to their ethical values.
It has been shown that particular personality characteristics go along with certain ethical values  and professions. For instance, using the FFI personality test, agreeability and conscientiousness is prevalent in highly religious people, while academics show very different personality characteristics: A scientist will be open to new ideas, and willing to question existing beliefs and authority, but will be much less agreeable and less conscientious. A creationist will value tradition and authority over progressive ideas. As “birds of a feather flock together”, creationists will all believe similar facts, and they will show similar personality characteristics. In other words, they will flock together in “virtual tribes”.

4 Main Belief-Systems define alternative realities
In an earlier blogpost I introduced a belief system based on digital virtual tribes which has now been extended to four categories:

  • Fatherlanders – like to maintain the status quo, they do not like change, and they very much distinguish between “us” and “them”. Not surprisingly, fatherlanders show the same characteristics as highly religious people. Usually their value system combines “god and fatherland”. On a side note, over the course of human history more people have been killed for “god and fatherland” than for anything else. 
  • Nerds – are believers in science and progress, looking for solutions to their problems from new insights in science and technology. At the same time, many nerds are also shrewd investors converting their technological savvy into personal fortunes, just look at Bill Gates, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Mark Zuckerberg, and Elon Musk.
  • Treehuggers – are environmentalists fighting for the protection of nature and the environment, against global warming, and against unfettered growth and robber capitalism.
  • Spiritualists – believe in supernatural forces, and in the power of their own mind to achieve a higher level of awareness, mindfulness, and happiness.

A challenge to a deeply ingrained belief will only be accepted from an established leader in the same belief-realm.  This means that if a Nobel-prize winning scientist would tell another person, another nerd with a similar personality and belief system that “the world has been created less than 10,000 years ago”, this would be far more credible to the nerd than if a fundamental Christian would say the same thing. On the other hand, fundamental Christians will accept the claim that the world was created less than 10,000 years ago as a fact, as it is supported by their spiritual leaders, while they don’t really trust science, speculating that many claims of science might be just a ploy to justify world domination.

As the picture above shows, the ethical values and personality characteristics define if somebody is a fatherlander, nerd, treehugger, or spiritualist. And if we know to what belief category (fatherlander, nerd, treehugger, or spiritualist) somebody belongs, we will know which rule somebody will apply to come to truth about how the world was created. A fatherlander, who usually is also highly religious, will take the book of Genesis in the bible at face value, and thus accept that the world has been created in seven days. A nerd will trust scientific cosmology and accept a creation date of the universe 4.53 billion years ago as truth. A treehugger might accept a creation date in the very distant past, but might show skepticism towards science and care more about how to keep nature intact, accepting global warming as truth. The spiritualist might similarly distrust cosmology, but will accept that some supernatural forces created the universe a long time ago, with these supernatural forces still ruling our behavior today.

The Belief System Predicts Individual Behavior
To predict how somebody will react, we thus will need the believe system of a person. If I know your personality and your ethical values, I will. know what is truth for you. The picture below shows how the four different tribal belief systems lead to four different truths about curing a Corona virus infection.

Knowing your virtual tribe we can predict what you will do if you fear you are down with the Coronavirus: if you will go buy Remdesivir, you are a nerd; if you will pray for healing, while maybe swallowing a few pills of Hydroxychloroquine, you are a fatherlander, if you will scour the web for herbal remedies – a Madagascan herb (artemisia annua) seems a current favorite – you are a fanatic treehugger, and if you muster the inner forces of your body through meditation to fight the virus you are a spiritualist.

Can we Discover your Ethical Values and Personality?
It would be great if we could put a magic bracelet on anybody, and then know what their truth is – this will also relieve their need to lie, as their magic bracelet will show their truth to the world anyway. Well, there is such a bracelet. Over the last four years, based on prior work using sociometric badges, we have developed the Happimeter, which measures the body signals of an individual such as heartrate, movement through accelerometer, and speech patterns (no content) from sound, and location changes through the GPS. It works with smartwatches (the current version runs with Android Wear and Apple Watch) and will predict your personality characteristics and ethical values.

As second way to discover ethical values, personality, and belief system of an individual is through the words that one uses. We have shown that word usage in e-mails predicts ethical values, personality characteristics, and tribal belief system.

This means that using AI and machine learning, the way how you talk, and the way how you move your body will predict whether you say the truth – that is, what you believe is the truth, and nothing but the truth!

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Is the next Einstein an AI System?

Technically, AI can now do many cognitive tasks much better than humans, molecular modeling is one of them, NLP and image recognition are among the most well-known. But will AI become truly creative? Or in other words, can AI predict unknown unknowns. We already know it is great in discovering and solving known unknowns?

Philosophically speaking the question is if the next Einstein will be an AI system. The answer is most likely yes. The saying is that humans are unbelievably complex. I have found that humans are extremely simple, always applying simple heuristics. The point is that we are not aware of these heuristics and come up with super complex models and explanations, leading at times to wild conspiracy theories. Mr.Trump is embodying this with his wild theories, ranging from vaccination theories to Obamagate, while his simple heuristic is “do what will most likely get me re-elected”, unimpeded by any ethical constraints and restrictions.

We just need to apply Occam’s razor “the simplest solution is most likely the right one”.
Gerd Gigerenzer  has written a series of books, the most well known is “Simple Heuristics That Make Us Smart”, where he explains that many complex problems can be much better solved with simple heuristics,
In my own research over the last twenty years I have been trying to uncover as many of these really simple heuristics as possible. The honest signals of collaboration are some of them, digital virtual tribes is another one.

Once we have found all of these simple heuristics, we will teach them to the AI system, which then can take over and be the next Einstein. But this is still a long process, as it is awfully hard to discover these simple heuristics.
In the meantime I think we still need to try to obtain a deep understanding of each problem, to identify the underlying simple heuristic that solves it. In the case of Einstein himself, he was using his famous thought experiments to come up with simple and intuitive solutions to fiendishly complex problem that other physicists had been unable to crack. For instance, Einstein was famously riding an elevator in the patent office of Berne, when eureka struck him and he saw the principle of relativity, leading in the end to the simple equation E=m*c^2.
Once this library of simple heuristics is large enough, they can be combined into the next Einstein.

When will we have it? I don’t know, I am not Einstein.

Saturday, May 02, 2020

Social Networks Give Meaning in Life

There are four main motivators that drive all our actions: money, power, glory and love, see e.g. this previous post, and this post.
These motivations are all driven by social interaction in networks. So it does not come as a surprise that Social Network Analysis (SNA) has huge potential to measure and improve an individual’s and an organization’s money, power, glory, and love.

SNA application
Our own research 
Covid19 use case
Stock trend prediction
Marketing, finding customers

·       Selling toilet paper, hand sanitizer, face masks online
Election prediction
·       Epidemiological modeling to successfully manage the outbreak
Oscar prediction
·       Predictions about how Covid19 will influence the way we live, even after it will disappear
Improving organizational culture and creativity
Developing Covid19 tests, drugs, and vaccine
·       Develop a way to increase teleworking by better culture and communication

Money – Through SNA, advertisers will find the prospective customers who are most willing to spend money to buy their product. Mining their social network data this way is how Facebook and Google make their billions.
Money – Using social media information and other traces of human interaction allows algorithmic traders to make a lot of money by predicting the stock market. Most Wallstreet quants today are using some sort of social media tracking to improve their automated trading algorithms.
Power –Twitter, Facebook and the other social media sites provide a perfect testing ground for politicians and election strategists to test campaigns to gain power by winning the next election. Cambridge Analytica popularized this type of SNA for the benefit of the Trump election campaign.
Glory – Social media is teeming with “influencers” who are doing all they can to increase their glory by increasing the number of their followers. Analyzing what people say on Twitter and other social media sites also allows statisticians to predict who will win the next Oscar, or any sort of online election or voting.
Love – Optimizing their organizational network enables companies and other organizations to improve their culture, collaboration, and creativity with the goal of creating an environment where people do not come to work because they are paid, but because they love working there. Optimizing their individual network behavior permits individuals to engage in more equal, respectful and rewarding relationships.

In this time of social distancing enforced by Covid-19, this means making the best use of social networking technology and online communication to increase personal happiness. To share my own example the picture below shows my happiness measured with our Happimeter since the enforced stay-home order in mid-March. My happiness has plateaued on the highest level since I had to stay teleworking at home, as I had much more time to pursue my research interests and hobbies, while still being able to communicate with my colleagues, friends, and customers using zoom and other videoconferencing tools.

My personal challenge will be to maintain this high level of happiness once we will be able to travel and fly again. I suspect, however, that there will be no way around experiencing some travel pain along the way – no pain no gain!


Monday, April 20, 2020

About Bees, Sheep, and Leeches

Bees are good for everyone. Not only are they producing honey which is widely loved and was the main sweetener for millennia, honey also has valuable medical properties. But more importantly, bees are absolutely essential as pollinators, pollinating up to 80% of all cultivated crop plants. Without bees there would be no apples, no cherries, no peaches, no nuts, and no herbs. Without bees, life as we know it would be impossible.

Sheep produce useful and less useful things. Their wool is great for keeping us warm in the winter, and if slaughtered their mutton is tasty. Their poop can be useful as fertilizer, but it can also get greatly in the way when we step into it. And if there are fruit trees on a pasture where sheep are grazing, they will chew up their bark and leaves, and kill the trees in no time.

Leeches are parasites, that attach their suckers to their prey animal, and feed on the blood of their host. In the front of their mouth they have three teeth, which they slice through the skin of the host. Once attached, they use a combination of mucus and suction to stay attached to the skin of their host, while consuming their blood meal.  While leeches have been used for medical bloodletting at least for 2500 years, they carry parasites in their digestive system, and bacteria, viruses and other parasites from previous blood meals can survive within a leech for months and infect the next host.

There are also two-legged bees, sheep, and leeches.

Human bees are people who derive their joy and meaning in life from creating new things. It seems there is a subgroup of the overall population that draws particular pleasure from creating new things and gaining new insights. Researchers have found that for some people, creative insights, the “aha moment” triggers the same neural reward as when we eat delicious food, have an orgasm, or consume addictive substances. In other words, some people experience creative insights as intrinsically rewarding. This explains the puzzle solvers, starving artists, underpaid researchers, and innovators tinkering with new ideas in their garages. Typical bees might be inventors, authors, painters, sculptors, researchers, and engineers. But obviously not everybody draws intrinsic satisfaction from gaining creative insights. There is a large(r) part of the population that hates change, likes to be told what to do, and would like to keep everything as safe and solid as it “has always been in the good old times”. Those are the sheep.

Human sheep like to aggregate in large herds, and being with other sheep like them. They might get their neural rewards from being together in large flocks with other sheep and by getting recognition from other members of their herd. Sheep follow others, are being shorn by others, and in the end might be slaughtered – by the leeches described below. Leeches are different from bees and sheep by simply caring about getting as much money and power as possible, and do whatever it takes to grab it. Those are the leeches.

Human leeches are the people that are trying to profit from others, by bending the rules to their own advantage. Their goal in life is to amass as much money and power as possible by shearing the wool of sheep, and slaughtering them. They also consume the honey of the bees and profit from their pollination. Hedge fund managers, M&A bankers, and venture capitalists would be archetypical examples.

In the current Covid-19 world, bees would be the researchers developing opensource blueprints for respirators, and working on developing new vaccines and antibody tests. The sheep in the Covid-19 world are sharing cooking recipes, Covid-19 diaries and baby pictures as coping strategies for surviving uncertainty while hoarding toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Leeches in the Covid-19 world might be selling face masks for 400 times actual costs, or Covid-19 miracle cures. Little leeches might tack the “Covid-19” label to their products, giving whatever they have to sell the “cool” Covid-19 spin.

Obviously, the categorization of a person as a bee, sheep, or leech is a huge oversimplification. While the doctors caring for Covid19 patients, or Ebola victims are certainly bees, I would not give that label to a beauty surgeon. And the CEO of a pharmaceutical company is walking a thin line between optimizing the profitability of a Covid-19 test and making it available at an affordable price. In reality the world is neither black nor white, but somewhere in the middle. Therefore, we all possess attributes of all three categories, and are sometimes bees, frequently sheep, and if we get the opportunity, we might even behave like leeches.

Don’t be a leech! It’s ok to be a sheep, no harm done, but try to be a bee!

Monday, August 05, 2019

Does Measuring Emotions Increase Happiness?

Thanks to Martin Wikelski and his colleagues at Max Planck Institute and University of Konstanz for inviting me to give a talk about "whether measuring emotions increases happiness"?

If you would like to hear the answer, and see how the "Social Compass" might help in achieving this goal, watch the talk here.

Saturday, April 06, 2019

Navigating Human Emotions with the “Social Compass”

Navigating human emotions can be extremely difficult. Just ask politicians such as former US Vice President Joe Biden who was hit by a firestorm of protests by getting too touchy-feely with supporters, or US senator Elizabeth Warren who ran into unexpected criticism for claiming Native American ancestry. While trying to behave rationally, they become victims of their emotions.

In an interview Linus Torvalds said “I absolutely detest modern "social media"—Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. It's a disease. It seems to encourage bad behavior.”…. “When you're not talking to somebody face to face, and you miss all the normal social cues, it's easy to miss humor and sarcasm”…”The whole "liking" and "sharing" model is just garbage. “ In our research we are developing a “Social Compass” that helps individuals navigate their emotional world, just like Google helps a person to navigate the relational world of facts and science. Just like Google Maps shows where somebody is in the physical world, where they can go, and where the bottlenecks and traffic jams are, the “Social Compass” helps individuals navigate the social landscape of their emotions and the emotions of others. It tells individuals how others see them, and what they can do to be happier, and more collaborative and productive. It gives an individual a “virtual mirror” of their own communication behavior, and shows them how others see them.
The “Social Compass” is calculated based on an individual’s communication behavior, by analyzing the communication archives arising from the individual’s interaction with others (see picture below). 

The “Social Compass” takes as input communication signals, and through machine learning and AI gives recommendations for more happiness, better collaboration and higher productivity.  It analyzes body signals measured through smartwatches, organizational communication from E-Mail or chat like Slack or Skype, and online social media from Twitter, Reddit, or YouTube.  From these three types of communication archives, it calculates the seven honest signals of collaboration (strong leadership, balanced contribution, rotating leadership, responsiveness, honest sentiment, shared context, social capital) and the emotions of the person (joy, sadness, fear, anger). These honest signals and emotions are used as input for machine learning, to calculate the FFI personality characteristics (openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeability, neuroticism), the Schwartz ethical values (openness - conservation, self-enhancement – self-transcendence) and moral foundations (care, fairness, loyalty, authority, sanctity). 
The Social Compass presents this information to the user in two ways. As a Virtual Mirror, it shows each person in an anonymized way how they are doing compared to their peers. In addition, it also gives users “social driving directions” similar to Google Maps.
The Virtual Mirror shows the seven honest signals of collaboration for each individual, calculated from e-mail or from body signals. It respects individual privacy, by only showing individual information to the individual and aggregating other people’s values to group averages. The picture below shows the individual dashboard of the e-mail based Virtual Mirror, computed from the e-mail archive of the individual.

The picture below shows the comparison of the individual’s communication behavior with other team members with regards to the 7 honest signals of collaboration. ">

The picture below shows the scatter plot visualization for comparison of the different honest signals of the individual (dark dot) compared with all other individuals in the company. In this picture the contribution index (ci) is shown.

The Social Compass also allows an individual to track the location of their emotional experiences such as how happy the individual has been at a particular day, and where on the map that happiness was measured on that day. The picture below shows a screenshot of my Happimeter Android phone app on February 20, 2019. In addition, the social compass also shows which variables have influenced my happiness, and who has positively or negatively influenced it.
Finally, the same virtual mirroring information can also be shown on the Happimeter smartwatch, this function is also used to improve the machine learning accuracy of the emotion prediction of the wearer of the smartwatch.

In addition to the virtual mirroring function, the Social Compass can also give recommendations to increase happiness and reduce stress of the user, based on the insights automatically generated by the honest signals of the user. The system might advise the user to take a walk or do a mindfulness  exercise to reduce stress, or to talk with a person that has shown a positive influence. Alternatively it might tell the user to change the location, if the Social Compass finds that the current location has had a negative influence on the user.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Why money matters most in the US, being happy in the rest of the World!

It seems there is a digital divide of a special kind between the US and the rest of the World. Using Google ngrams and Google trends as my cristal ball, I checked what people are searching most. First I looked at their "hope", "fear", "love" and "money" over the last 200 years on ngrams worldwide. The result is shown below.

"Hope" has been decreasing for the last 200 years, as has "fear", which makes sense, they go together and most of the time “we hope it is not as bad as we fear”. More interesting is the decrease in our search for "love", and increase in the search for "money", reaching its peak in the 1940s, tampering off since then, while "love" has been picking up recently.

Drilling down on the last fifteen years, Google trends shows that while "love" matters more than "money" (after all money is just a proxy to buy love), happiness and money are close twins:

The picture above shows the worldwide searches on Google, there being "happy" became more important than chasing "money" sometime after 2010.
Restricting the same search only on the US shows the opposite picture: In the US finding money is more important than finding happiness:

Somewhere before 2016, being "happy" and "money" were equals, but since then money has definitively beaten happiness in importance in US Google search activity.

So, yes, there is a divide in what really matters, money or being happy, between the US and the rest of the World: money matters most in the US, being happy in the rest of the World!

Addendum: it also seems that searching for "love" is far more important than searching for "happiness".