Category: Books

iGod: Willemijn Dicke, Dirk Helbing

iGod is a science fiction novel with heroes, love, defeat and hope. But it is much more than that. This book aims to explore how societies may develop, given the technologies that we see at present. As Dirk Helbing describes it in his introduction: We have come to the conclusion that neither a scientific study nor an investigative report would allow one to talk about certain things that, we believe, need to be thought and talked about. So, a science fiction story appeared to be the right approach. It seems the perfect way to think “what if scenarios” through. It is not the first time that this avenue has been taken. George Orwell’s “1984” and “Animal Farm” come to mind, or Dave Eggers “The Circle”. The film ‘The Matrix’ and the Netflix series ‘Black Mirror are good examples too. “iGod” outlines how life could be in a couple of years from now, certainly in our lifetime. At some places, this story about our future society seems far-fetched. For example, in “iGod”, all citizens have a Social Citizen Score. This score is established based on their buying habits, their communication in social media and social contacts they maintain. It is obtained by mass-surveillance and has a major impact on everyone’s life. It determines whether you are entitled to get a loan, what jobs you are offered, and even how long you will receive medical care. The book is set in the near future in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Lex is an unemployed biologist. One day he is contacted by a computer which, gradually reveals the machinery behind the reality we see. It is a bleak world. Together with his girlfriend Diana and Seldon, a Professor at Amsterdam Tech, he starts the quest to regain freedom. Excerpt: ‘Clever way out, Lex! I did not expect your solution in this episode of the game at all. You are the first person to come up with it. This makes me curious.’ Lex looked puzzled at his screen. This direct and personal intervention was not how game managers would normally address the users of MultiLayer. Lex responded puzzled: ‘Who, who are you?’ ‘I thought you would never ask’ – a low, raspy but still velvety feminine voice sounded in his apartment. Lex checked where the sound came from. If he was not mistaken, the voice employed the same sound devices he used for his games and his communication with the SmartHouseProgram. ‘I like to call myself “I am”. I am the mastermind behind what happens in the world.’ Lex was too surprised to respond. ‘Or, to put it more down to earth: I am the Artificial Intelligence behind your MultiLayer game and behind your SmartHouseProgram and a lot more things… This should suffice for the moment’, the low voice continued. Lex got up and paced from one corner to the other. ‘Wow. Did I get it right? You are a female AI system that was all the time hidden in my MultiLayer game and my SmartHouseProgram?’ ‘Well, whatever you prefer. I can also express myself like this…’ Lex heard a male voice. ‘Ok, I got it. You are trying to create the impression of an Artificial Intelligence system making fun of me. But how do I know that someone didn’t just hack the sound system of my SmartHouseProgram?’ ‘So far, so good, Lex.’ She switched back to the mature female voice again, much to Lex’ approval. ‘You are a smart guy, and you will get to know me better. Trust me – you will soon know that I am more than just a hack or a computer program. At this moment I will need your trust and patience – as in any relation.’ ‘I am neither strong in the trust part nor in the patience part.’ ‘Let’s give it a try, Lex. I am sure your curiosity will win.’ ‘You seem to know me well. But in order to be able to relate to you, I need to know your name.’ ‘ “Universal program” or “Singularity” does not do the trick, I presume?’ the voice asked coyly. ‘Not really, no.’ ‘You humans are so romantic – as if a name would change anything. I am known under many different names. What is your name for someone who is present everywhere and who knows everything?’


From Matter to Life

“From Matter to Life: Information and Causality”
Edited by Sara Imari Walker, Paul C. W. Davies and George F. R. Ellis
Cambridge University Press, 2017

Recent advances suggest that the concept of information might hold the key to unravelling the mystery of life’s nature and origin. Fresh insights from a broad and authoritative range of articulate and respected experts focus on the transition from matter to life, and hence reconcile the deep conceptual schism between the way we describe physical and biological systems. A unique cross-disciplinary perspective, drawing on expertise from philosophy, biology, chemistry, physics, and cognitive and social sciences, provides a new way to look at the deepest questions of our existence. This book addresses the role of information in life, and how it can make a difference to what we know about the world. Students, researchers, and all those interested in what life is and how it began will gain insights into the nature of life and its origins that touch on nearly every domain of science.

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This invaluable book is the first of its kind on “selforganizology”, the science of self-organization. It covers a wide range of topics, such as the theory, principle and methodology of selforganizology, agent-based modelling, intelligence basis, ant colony optimization, fish/particle swarm optimization, cellular automata, spatial diffusion models, evolutionary algorithms, self-adaptation and control systems, self-organizing neural networks, catastrophe theory and methods, and self-organization of biological communities, etc.

Readers will have an in-depth and comprehensive understanding of selforganizology, with detailed background information provided for those who wish to delve deeper into the subject and explore research literature.

This book is a valuable reference for research scientists, university teachers, graduate students and high-level undergraduates in the areas of computational science, artificial intelligence, applied mathematics, engineering science, social science and life sciences.


The Science of Self-Organization
By: WenJun Zhang


Non-Equilibrium Social Science and Policy

Between 2011 and 2014 the European Non-Equilibrium Social Science Project (NESS) investigated the place of equilibrium in the social sciences and policy. Orthodox economics is based on an equilibrium view of how the economy functions and does not offer a complete description of how the world operates. However, mainstream economics is not an empty box. Its fundamental insight, that people respond to incentives, may be the only universal law of behaviour in the social sciences. Only economics has used equilibrium as a primary driver of system behaviour, but economics has become much more empirical at the microlevel over the past two decades. This is due to two factors: advances in statistical theory enabling better estimates of policy consequences at the microlevel, and the rise of behavioural economics which looks at how people, firms and governments really do behave in practice. In this context, this chapter briefly reviews the contributions of this book across the social sciences and ends with a discussion of the research themes that act as a roadmap for further research. These include: realistic models of agent behaviour; multilevel systems; policy informatics; narratives and decision making under uncertainty; and validation of agent-based complex systems models.


iGod: A science fiction novel by Willemijn Dicke – inspired and introduced by Dirk Helbing

‘Unless you have a brilliant hidden plan, I think you really screwed it up this time!’

It was unusual for Lex to blame iGod without any signs of holding back.

‘I am afraid I have not taken into account all possible linkages and feedbacks when I tried to optimize the financial system’; she answered in her dark brown raspy voice that maintained its usual calm and confidence. Unlike most other encounters, there was no trace of irony in her voice. ‘But it can be fixed. In fact, I have already started rescue operations – as you may have noticed. Soon, it is all under control again.’

iGod immediately projected a hologram. All of a sudden Lex’ small apartment was filled with the mass demonstration that had taken place earlier that day in Washington DC. Outraged people did no longer trust the financial system with the virtual money streams. They were holding banners demanding to get their old BitCoins back, shouting and throwing fireballs towards him. Lex’ instinctively moved aside, but the fireballs dissolved just before their images would reach him. The hologram of the furious crowd faded and next, iGod projected a video of the president of the United States delivering a speech before the United Nations on Lex’ wall on the left.