Superforecasting for Cool People

The hot news in astro circles is the unfolding of the recent Leo new moon and its direct influence on understanding the new Venus phase we are in. Let’s factor in the upcoming Mercury rx ping-points when thinking on the lay of the land. This also serves to create helpful portion sizes for study or reflection.

Just make sure you put the portion size back into the big picture. Yes, the increments of time that inner space bodies indicate for phases of experience are relatively small: the little but mighty moon has just a 30 day cycle; mercury zips around every ten or so months; mars marches the circuit every couple of years, but we must never forget that these are cycles within cycles composing millennia of manifesting experience. Thus a person’s life, like a wave on the ocean, takes up existence, flows and subsides in these cycles.

When you first begin to apply astro philosophy, it can be overwhelming and it does help tremendously to see it in short spans. But gradually, you must integrate this knowledge into its true scale for wise living. When we look at a person’s chart we are looking at a baseline for their perceptive past, present and potential future. A good reading is always going to consider the 28 year Saturn cycle and how that has and is going for the individual. Guess what? Superforecasters (some of the smartest, most disciplined and open-minded people on the planet) are interested in the accurate gauging of manifest reality, usually in financial markets and international relations, up to 30 years into the future. And you thought only astrology was that cool. 🙂

Along these lines, I want to recommend some science publications to immensely broaden your landscape of thinking and imagining in the here and now. When we think about all the various relationships we maintain – and the various whys that motivate us – lets take some cues from the pros who study the macro at a granular level. Seriously, while the exercise is by no means an across-the-board drawing of conclusions, there are workable parallels to be considered and implemented for the individual and small group. Upgrade your toolbox:

The Calm Before the Storm, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb and Gregory F. Treverton    (thanks to rune soup for the heads up)

and from Philip Tetlock: A Short Course in Superforecasting

I recommend Tetlock’s intro: Office of Anticipating Surprise.

The Calm Before the Storm presents five principal sources of nation fragility. While reading about them, I thought about the plausibility of applying these concepts on a micro level. After all, if there is no way of knowing what may happen tomorrow or a year from now, whether you are a country of millions or a body of one, a basic template for gauging responsiveness is going to give some peace of mind.

‘…it’s much more fruitful to focus on how systems can handle disorder—in other words, to study how fragile they are. Although one cannot predict what events will befall a country, one can predict how events will affect a country. Some political systems can sustain an extraordinary amount of stress, while others fall apart at the onset of the slightest trouble. The good news is that it’s possible to tell which are which by relying on the theory of fragility.

Simply put, fragility is aversion to disorder. Things that are fragile do not like variability, volatility, stress, chaos, and random events, which cause them to either gain little or suffer. A teacup, for example, will not benefit from any form of shock. It wants peace and predictability, something that is not possible in the long run, which is why time is an enemy to the fragile. What’s more, things that are fragile respond to shock in a nonlinear fashion.’

I can identify with the teacup, thank you very much. I really don’t want a tempest in – or anywhere near – my teapot. So, I am motivated to create a life structure that, when necessary, can bust a move in seemingly unpredictable ways; that’s called optimal crisis response. Generally speaking, however, wisdom-logic rewards positive outcomes for generally predictive behavior in my dealings with others. You might want to rewrite that into a mantra for the long-term future.

I responded with my interest in all of this at rune soup…and wow…in no time at all, Ivy, over at Circle Thrice wrote up a brilliant Personal Fragility Inventory Tool based on Taleb’s theory. This is one to print and flesh out to your particulars.

The Edge offering will span five free classes, two of which are now available. I see it as a deeper delving into the fragility theory. Phil Tetlock and Barb Mellers relay and explain their experience of and vision for superforecasting to an esteemed group, all attendees fully listed within the link above. It is packed with insights and takeaways and we are not even half way through.

I find it both fascinating and educational to consider how superforecasters must guard against a myriad of personal, cultural and political factors. Just like your average human being…

For example, in discussing national rescue missions and their probability of success, resources were available about many past exercises but as Axelrod points out, ‘There was a lot of censorship on cases. For example, you may remember that Mussolini was rescued by Hitler when he was first captured by the partisans, and that worked. It was done much like Entebbe; the rescuers pretended to be the authorities, basically. Nobody mentioned that one because we don’t want to learn anything from what Hitler had done, even if he was good at hostage rescue.’      (This is, of course, a sensitive example of cultural blockage; still, if the professionals can get blocked when their mission is to gather historical results and not allow emotional bias, could I be missing any important relational lessons because I refuse to even consider a subject or person? Is this a subconscious position?)

A bit later, Sutherland remarks, ‘There’s a big path dependency there, isn’t there? If you negotiate, it doesn’t preclude military action, but if you engage military action, it completely changes your negotiating power.’      (That may sound obvious as hell when you read it, but can you keep it front and center in your dealings with the people you don’t like so much?)

In response, Hillis remarks, ‘How much of the discussion was an honest attempt to evaluate the situation and make the correct decision versus an attempt to justify the decisions? In other words, people came in with a predisposition towards diplomacy or not, and then they told the stories to justify what they had already decided.’     (Ringing any bells in your cosmos?)

And in more familiar lingo to readers here, this is a series of excerpts on storytelling:

Shetland says, ‘In your parallel world—and this is obviously someone from an advertising agency speaking—the perfect solution would be for the superforecasters to hire good storytellers to dress up their predictions in a way that was easily spread. There is a value to shamanism, correct? In order to unify human action, there’s a kind of shamanistic value to a good story, which it coordinates people magnificently.’

Hillis: ‘What makes a good story is being able to present a set of predictions in a way that people can personally relate to. If you can show us the facts or paint a picture of the world that people can see, “Oh, that connects to my own personal experience,” that’s a good story.’

Kahnman: ‘It’s not a characteristic of the story, it’s a characteristic of the people who hear the stories. What makes a good story is a story that will be convincing…’

Lee:I’m just reflecting on what Bob and Danny have been saying. There is something about storytelling that must have psychological effects, probably comforting effects in the case that your prediction turns out to be wrong. I’m just putting myself in the shoes of someone who was involved in Entebbe and now maybe that has persuaded me to make a certain prediction that if it turns out wrong, at least looking at my own psychological fragility, I might say, “Well, it worked out in Entebbe, so…”

Tetlock:’ “I was wrong, but at least I had a good reason for being wrong.” ‘

Lee: ‘Yes.’


From the mind, body, spirit of the singular person to the family, the community and network dynamic, how’s your mythology department measuring up as an asset? Saturn in Scorpio has taught us the fragility of the fairy tale’s happy ending. How will we incorporate our findings in this next chapter for those areas of life where the Venusian archetype backtracks, the staff of Hermes drags, and the Teacher moves into Sagittarius?

Positive Prediction

Astrologically speaking, these life areas are in complimentary positions to one another, meaning that how well you do in one ‘class’ directly affects how successful you are in the others – kind of like 3 for the price of 1 and the energy is on tap for positive results! If we can maintain the attitude of the student, the analyst and ponder these things free of base ego drives, we cannot go wrong even if it happens that we didn’t foresee a particular reality manifesting. Because we will be in the best possible position to respond, to SEE at the granular level, to regroup and recreate. Rather than a mountain, we scale a speed bump.

If you haven’t picked up on the similarities in the patterns yet, tap in and re-dedicate now. Its dedication that counts for students. Wheels spin at all sorts of speeds but the hub remains centered. Your passions, your self-value, your level of emotional dependency on others, your style and motivation in communicating and the openness-level of your listening are all in the frame. What’s happening in each of these subsets with you and around you will provide invaluable insights into the others.

Need some help breaking it all down? For clear and concise assistance, just email:

– weaver

just one of many kinds of relating :)

just one of many kinds of relating 🙂

Warning: 21st Century Mythology Employs Retrograde Vocabulary

There is a new presentation up over at featuring Jaron Lanier, a genius in computer science, that I want to recommend. It is super helpful in putting into context the concept of the Singularity. Because I think this information is so important to be aware of, I have quoted him below on what I think are his key points for reflection but you can (should!) listen to the soundcloud interview or read the unedited transcript by clicking here:The Myth Of AI

Do you feel incompetent when it comes to comprehending and navigating the digital database economy in which we now live? I wonder how much of that is down to a reasonable hesitancy in dealing with the new and unfamiliar that has morphed into ‘the Great and Terrible Unknowable’. Lanier’s statements offer a reset button of sorts for our attitudes towards Artificial Intelligence. We can use the frictional energy of the times to our everyday advantage in positive ways and that starts with re-imagining, re-visualizing current trends and trajectories and our rightful place in them.


The idea that computers are people has a long and storied history. It goes back to the very origins of computers, and even from before. There’s always been a question about whether a program is something alive or not since it intrinsically has some kind of man vs machineautonomy at the very least, or it wouldn’t be a program. There has been a domineering subculture—that’s been the most wealthy, prolific, and influential subculture in the technical world—that for a long time has not only promoted the idea that there’s an equivalence between algorithms and life, and certain algorithms and people, but a historical determinism that we’re inevitably making computers that will be smarter and better than us and will take over from us. Some like the idea of the computers taking over, and some of them don’t. What I’d like to do here today is propose that the whole basis of the conversation is itself askew, and confuses us, and does real harm to society and to our skills as engineers and scientists…

Let’s go to another layer of how it’s dysfunctional. And this has to do with just clarity of user interface, and then that turns into an economic effect. People are social creatures. We want to be pleasant, we want to get along. We’ve all spent many years as children learning how to adjust ourselves so that we can get along in the world. If a program tells you, well, this is how things are, this is who you are, this is what you like, or this is what you should do, we have a tendency to accept that. I’ll give you a few examples of what I mean by that. Maybe I’ll start with Netflix. The thing about Netflix is that there isn’t much on it. There’s a paucity of content on it. If you think of any particular movie you might blog_thezeitgeistmovement_comwant to see, the chances are it’s not available for streaming, that is; that’s what I’m talking about. And yet there’s this recommendation engine, and the recommendation engine has the effect of serving as a cover to distract you from the fact that there’s very little available from it. And yet people accept it as being intelligent, because a lot of what’s available is perfectly fine. Dating always has an element of manipulation; shopping always has an element of manipulation; in a sense, a lot of the things that people use these things for have always been a little manipulative. There’s always been a little bit of nonsense. And that’s not necessarily a terrible thing, or the end of the world. But it’s important to understand it if this is becoming the basis of the whole economy and the whole civilization. If people are deciding what books to read based on a momentum within the recommendation engine that isn’t going back to a virgin population, that hasn’t been manipulated, then the whole thing is spun out of control and doesn’t mean anything anymore. It’s not so much a rise of evil as a rise of nonsense. It’s a mass incompetence, as opposed to Skynet from the Terminator movies. That’s what this type of AI turns into…

If you talk about AI as a set of techniques, as a field of study in mathematics or engineering, it brings benefits. If we talk about AI as a mythology of creating a post-human species, it creates a series of problems that I’ve just gone over, which include acceptance of bad user interfaces, where you can’t tell if you’re being manipulated or not, and everything is ambiguous. It creates incompetence, because you don’t know whether recommendations are coming from anything real or just self-fulfilling prophecies from a manipulative system that spun off on its own, and economic negativity, because you’re gradually pulling formal economic benefits away from the people who supply the data that makes the scheme work….the mythology is the problem, not the algorithms. To back up again, I’ve given two reasons why the mythology of AI is stupid, even if the actual stuff is great. The first one is that it results in periodic disappointments that cause damage to careers and startups, and it’s a ridiculous, seasonal disappointment and devastation that we shouldn’t be randomly imposing on people according to when they happen to hit the cycle. That’s the AI winter problem. The second one is that it causes unnecessary negative benefits to society for technologies that are useful and good. The mythology brings the problems, not the technology…

This idea that some lab somewhere is making these autonomous algorithms that can take over the world is a way of avoiding the profoundly uncomfortable political problem, which is that if there’s some actuator that can do harm, we have to figure out some way that people don’t do harm with it. There are about to be a whole bunch of those. And that’ll involve some kind of new societal structure that isn’t perfect anarchy. Nobody in the tech world wants to face that, so we lose ourselves in these fantasies of AI. But if you could somehow prevent AI from ever happening, it would have nothing to do with the actual problem that we fear, and that’s the sad thing, the difficult thing we have to face…

To my mind, the mythology around AI is a re-creation of some of the traditional ideas about religion, but applied to the technical world…There’s an anticipation of a threshold,th00GTZ9CK_flickerdotcom an end of days. This thing we call artificial intelligence, or a new kind of personhood… If it were to come into existence it would soon gain all power, supreme power, and exceed people.The notion of this particular threshold—which is sometimes called the singularity, or super-intelligence, or all sorts of different terms in different periods—is similar to divinity. Not all ideas about divinity, but a certain kind of superstitious idea about divinity, that there’s this entity that will run the world, that maybe you can pray to, maybe you can influence, but it runs the world, and you should be in terrified awe of it. That particular idea has been dysfunctional in human history. It’s dysfunctional now, in distorting our relationship to our technology. It’s been dysfunctional in the past in exactly the same way. Only the words have changed…

If AI means this mythology of this new creature we’re creating, then it’s just a stupid mess that’s confusing everybody, and harming the future of the economy. If what we’re blacklistednewsdotcomtalking about is a set of algorithms and actuators that we can improve and apply in useful ways, then I’m very interested, and I’m very much a participant in the community that’s improving those things. Unfortunately, the standard vocabulary that people use doesn’t give us a great way to distinguish those two entirely different items that one might reference. …this vocabulary problem is entirely retrograde and entirely characteristic of traditional religions…In the history of organized religion, it’s often been the case that people have been disempowered precisely to serve what were perceived to be the needs of some deity or another, where in fact what they were doing was supporting an elite class that was the priesthood for that deity…That looks an awful lot like the new digital economy to me, where you have (natural language) translators and everybody else who contributes to the corpora that allow the data schemes to operate, contributing mostly to the fortunes of whoever runs the top computers. The new elite might say, “Well, but they’re helping the AI, it’s not us, they’re helping the AI.” It reminds me of somebody saying, “Oh, build these pyramids, it’s in the service of this deity,” but, on the ground, it’s in the service of an elite. It’s an economic effect of the new idea. The effect of the new religious idea of AI is a lot like the economic effect of the old idea, religion.’


Interesting side note: Jaron Lanier has no social media accounts at all and all purported ones are fake.

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Winter Warmers for Cabin Fever


Notes from a Conversation on the Brain and Creativity…

Intelligence is important, of course, but the brain circuitry employed in creative endeavors is running on a different track. In fact, its running on lots of tracks, stopping off and perusing various experience files with an entirely different motivation than our intelligence circuitry. This is heartening news, in my opinion: you don’t have to be a rock star physicist – or anywhere close – to co-create your reality. You just have to have a motivation. A bit of background, 1st:

A Positive Approach is Refreshing

‘In 2009, the John Templeton Foundation…put out a call for grant proposals aimed at investigators “conducting research aimed at gaining a better understanding of the ways in which the brain enables flourishing.” Qualifying projects had to “apply tools of neuroscience to positive psychological concepts”, and focus on one of the following areas:

  • Virtue, strength, and positive emotion: What are the neural bases of the cognitive and affective capacities that enable virtues such as discipline, persistence, honesty, compassion, love, curiosity, social and practical intelligence, courage, creativity, and optimism?
  • Meaning and positive purpose: How does the brain enable individuals and groups to find meaning and achieve larger goals?
  • Decisions, values, and free will: How does the brain enable decisions based on values and how can decision-making be improved? What can neuroscience reveal about the nature of human freedom?
  • Religious belief,prayer, and meditation: How do religious and spiritual practices affect neural function and behavior?

– source: Wikipedia

All That, Distilled’s K. Tippett interviewed Rex Jung, a professor of neurosurgery, about the workings of creativity in our brains. Below are some of my notes and paraphrasings that you might find interesting…

  • ‘creativity is something both novel and useful.’  There is a producer and a recipient.
  • Different brain networks are involved with creativity than intelligence. The back and front lobes’ connectivity equals more intelligence. More is better. But less is better with creativity: Front lobes will slow down/allow a freer interplay of ideas and a broader range of roads.
  • Another definition of creativity is ‘unexpected‘. This also connects to humour as the laugh is unexpected. Humour is an expression of creativity. It does not correlate to measurements of intelligence.
  • Left brain equals logic/right brain equals imaginative is not true, in greatest part. Parts of both sides work in tandem for creativity to happen.
  • Having too narrow of a view will stagnate creativity. You must be in a place where you interact with diverse personalities and disciplines. You must be forced to think outside your comfort zone, move out of the ruts in the road of your daily thinking.
  • There’s the knowledge acquisition mode and then you have to go to quiet time to assimilate the knowledge creatively. Walk, meditation, exercise, feeding the livestock, practicing a skateboard move. Stop ongoing cognitive workings so meandering can happen.

How to cultivate creativity with purpose: some strategies:

1. Get some stuff in your head, raw materials, with which to be creative. 2. Practice practice practice. It takes time to change the structure of your brain. Pick one thing, get lots of experience. 3. Playfulness is an aspect. Bath, long walk, glass of wine. 4. A lot of rejection is usually the course for creative people. Creative people put out LOTS and lots of ideas that are not so great and get rejected. (So dont give up!)

Helpful? There’s much more at the link above.

Big Data Movement

One from TED  –  ‘As web companies strive to tailor their services (including news and search results) to our personal tastes, there’s a dangerous unintended consequence: We get trapped in a “filter bubble” and don’t get exposed to information that could challenge or broaden our worldview. Eli Pariser argues powerfully that this will ultimately prove to be bad for us and bad for democracy.’    …and greatly cripple our creative faculties, too..

And Two on Personal Connections

revolutionEdge talk, the Science of Social Connections, dovetailed nicely for me with the deep writings of mystic Jenna Lilla about the bridge which manifests the mirror images of ego and soul. Plan some quiet time for her post; Edge speaker, Nicholas Christakis, effectively shows the scientific data that so naturally reflect some of her interpretations of Jung.

And the Astro…

Mercury square Saturn has been a recent pinger for all with many hearing the Hard Facts of a situation as it stands in its current manifestation, like it or not. Others came to a personal solid conclusion; no more fence-sitting. The good news that I am seeing and hearing is that most of you want to be put straight. It may not feel so nice, but its certainly true that you know better where you stand and thus how to proceed. And that does feel nice. As the sun moves through Aquarious, we are happy to expand our thought paths from a two lane bi-road to the super highway. This is a potentially highly-creative time and involves networking for the sake of our ideals. Venus moves forward in Capricorn on the 31st and I, for one, am looking forward to it.

liftarn_Owl_on_bookI am finishing up a course on Saturn and its impacts as The Teacher archetype at pivotal moments in the individual’s life experience. I plan to incorporate some backward-looking illumination exercises into our Grounding Series for lots of ‘a ha’ moments that we can use as yet another tool for clarity in forward movement. Very cool!

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Image Credits: sonojacker and worker and liftarn