Intelligent Systems And Their Societies Walter Fritz

"The members of a society have
a limited life span . . ."


The life span of individual members of a society is not constant. For instance, chance influences it. A member, by chance, has a fatal accident or by chance, catches a (non genetic) fatal disease. These chance occurrences average out, and the average life span of the member is not affected. That is not the case when knowledge changes. The average member may gain knowledge on accident prevention. He may gain knowledge on avoiding illness by leading a saner life. The knowledge of healing of the medical profession may increase. Scientists may find methods of changing those genes that cause or affect diseases. All these lead to an increase in average life span. This has effects on the society. The percentage of economically inactive members may increase. There may be an increased total consumption without an increase of the economically active part of the society.


Learning and Knowledge
If a society would have members of a very long life span, knowledge would accumulate in the members until the knowledge of each member equals that of the society. But since, by our definition, the life span of its members is appreciably shorter than the life span of the society, this is not the case. That means that each member can learn only a small part of all the knowledge that exists, and apply this to its daily affairs and its work. This is the reason for the division of labor. Each does what he or she can and buys the product of the work of others who have other types of knowledge.
We should differentiate between the knowledge of the average member, the knowledge common to all members of a society, and the total knowledge of a society. Let's look at each:


Knowledge of the average member
Intelligent systems learn. Members are IS's. Therefore they learn. A simplified formula could be: (Simplified because it expresses curves as straight lines)

K is the amount of knowledge of the average member of a society. It is expressed as the amount of response rules that the member has. All knowledge can be sub divided and finally expressed as a minimum of response rules. As a measurement for the total existing knowledge we use the amount of these response rules.
c1 is the learning rate in the first stage of life (learning stage). t1 is the length of this stage. f1 is the rate of forgetting. A1 is the amount of members at this stage.
c2, t2, f2, A2 correspond to the adult stage.
c3, t3, f3, A3 correspond to the elderly stage.
c1, c2 and c3 can be expressed as net response rules learned per year.
In any society c1 is far higher than c2 and c2 is far higher than c3.t1 is typically 13 to 23 years. t2 is about 40 years and t3 about 15 years.t1 can be reduced if c1 is higher. t1 * c1 gives then the same result. Also t1 is reduced in primitive societies, the total available and needed knowledge is less.

This formula indicates the amount of response rules only (learned and known), it does not say anything about the value of these response rules. But, as we have seen, the IS soon forgets those response rules that are really useless for a given environment. Those that remain, have a value, distributed according to a bell curve and there is an average value. In counting knowledge we count only response rules. The IS also learns concepts as part of the response rules, but here they are secondary; they have no use without the corresponding response rules.


Common Knowledge of members of a society
Some of the knowledge of the members of a society is common to nearly all. We can define the concept of common knowledge as the knowledge common to (for instance) 80% of the members of a society (also called the culture, the habits, of a society). In primitive (hunting and fishing) societies there is little specialized knowledge. The common knowledge is nearly the same as the individual knowledge and the total knowledge. But in today's highly civilized societies there are over a hundred specializations, and new ones appear continuously. The common knowledge of such a society is very much less than the sum of all individual knowledge.

It is very important for the survival of the society (and the survival of its members) that at least some basic knowledge of the structure and function of societies is part of the common knowledge. It seems to me that today, in too many societies, this amount is insufficient, and is the cause that these societies function badly or even that they disappear.


Total knowledge of the society
This is simply the sum of all knowledge of all the members, without counting duplications. The total knowledge determines how sophisticated a society can be. A modern highly technical society needs a large amount of total knowledge. This includes the sum of the knowledge of each specialist. The total knowledge of a society includes the knowledge of subsocieties, of individual members and of common (public) stores of knowledge as in book, periodical, film and electronic libraries (and data bases). Naturally all said here for the society is true of sub societies. They have their own average knowledge, common knowledge and total knowledge (This is of special importance in their governing subsociety).


Source of knowledge
Since IS's have a short live span, there is a constant renewal of members in a society. Therefore a society needs an efficient method for passing on existing knowledge to future generations of members. These obtain part of the knowledge from persons of authority and through teaching (home, schools, universities).

The present school system, all over the planet, is antiquated. About the same subjects, as about a 100 years ago, are taught today (Yes, the contents are updated).
We should find out by a poll, from persons in the middle of their life, which were the subjects that were most useful to them in their life and which were the least useful.
Then time spent in school on a subject should be adjusted in proportion to its usefulness. New, useful subjects (economics?) should be added, and the least useful should be dropped.
Useful subjects, it seems to me, are "How to obtain information" (library, internet), "How to analyze the truthfulness of an information", "How to have useful objectives", "How to choose an action", "How to reach your objectives".
They obtain another part of the knowledge by reading (books, periodicals, newspapers) and by watching television and movies. Ultimately the World Wide Web (or Internet) is fast becoming an inexhaustible source of knowledge for more and more persons. Finally they obtain knowledge by experience, through acting and observing (during play and work).
Societies vary by the percentage of knowledge that their members gain from persons of authority. Also societies vary by the amount of time invested in increasing its knowledge (Investigation). The green revolution, the outcome of agricultural investigation, has pushed back by many years the moment where either the human population on earth has to be stabilized, or the average human will have constant hunger due to under nourishment.

It is important for a society that its members have easy access to the (constantly increasing) accumulated knowledge of the society, as this results in a better standard of living for all. Further this accumulated knowledge has to be transferred to the next generation by schools, universities, books and so on.


For continuous reading, like a book - continue here.
Jump to the e-book Contents / Society document / top of this page.

Last Edited 5 June 2013 / Walter Fritz
Copyright © New Horizons Press >