Limiting (Negative) Feedback Loops


(Caroline Savery) #1

Boundaries of Gameplay (Or, That Which Constrains) in Cosmos

Organizational controls, embedded. “May the extent of my power end where yours begins…”

Controls & constraints are the pressures that enable innovation by resulting in bottlenecks requiring ingenuity. Boundaries are the “rails” or track that focus activities and drive progress and transformation toward the desired future state (i.e., the goals). This document focuses on the design of internal controls, limiting feedback loops (i.e. those that hinder or dissolve a process that is already underway), and the dynamic calibration of boundaries and openness just like in a human relationship (with the focus being on the relationship between Cosmos and user, with considerable room to expand this document about user to user relationship and group sub-space to overall platform relationship terms).

Applying Energy = Embodied Energy

This section discusses how the abundant and diverse forms of capital discussed in Generative (Positive) Feedback Loops would be utilized or metabolized for specific applications.

The application of a specific resource locks it into a historical event which feeds the “stratification” of energy in the system.

More on "stratification"

I know “stratification” can be an ugly/scary word for people (given our highly stratified, chokingly so, society). But I use in the sense that Manual de Landa used it in his book A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History, to mean: the layering of structure progressively over time.

When a unit of energy is “metabolized,” that means it is put to a specific use, which may result in that energy no longer being available in “liquid” form to circulate to others in the system. Intentionally applying energy usually results in that energy becoming embodied or calcified in some way—like the millions of kilowatts of “embodied energy” represented by a fully constructed house. These structures usually constrain further possibilities by virtue of their shape and characteristics, displacing space and locking in certain patterns. For instance: anything that is said about Cosmos today will have undoubted, if nonlinear, effects on what Cosmos becomes in the future. If nothing were said about Cosmos today, the future would be more spacious.

But that’s not to say “not speaking about Cosmos” is better than speaking about it, or vice versa. Potential energy, if forever unapplied, is effectively useless. It’s sufficient to acknowledge that words are invocations: words themselves have power, and their expression changes (and conditions) the future. Some amount of energy is used in interactions, is used in the application of attention. (See Praxis & “what is its use value or benefit to the community/members?”).

Though we might love the mental image of energy circulating endlessly and therefore generating more power and wealth for all—there is an intrinsic “cost” to committing energy in one form or another, which may simply be: energy is turned “solid” (into an “asset”) and thus may no longer ever be available in the form of liquid capital in the system again. Once converted (in an irreversible or costly-to-reverse act), future possibilities may be effectively limited (or at least shaped) by such structural realities in the now.

On Relationships and Boundaries: Limits and Controls between Cosmos and User

SEE: DIALS!! The ultimate variable/user-affected negating & enabling feedback loops. A primary function of a user’s dashboard (once built) would be to set the “controls” affecting their attentional concentration or diffusion throughout the system of Cosmos. We enable people to control the incoming flow of information and mindfully select the spaces, groups, conversations and “modes” they wish to be in. Through the frame of the dashboard and through the personally-customizable algorithms governing what passes into that frame, members have choice— within an acceptable range, set by the meta-system —for how affinity versus divergent they want their feed. What we don’t want to create (without consent, at least—see customizable algorithms) is the “bubble” effect we see with Facebook’s news feeds, where people’s interactions increasingly become “echo chambers” of what they seem to already think and feel (a result of Facebook’s algorithms, which are secret, but more deeply, of Facebook’s objectives: to get you addicted to your own self-gratification which supports their advertising revenue sales as you get more and more “boxed in” to your ideology, preferences and appetites.)

Acknowledging that some “surprise” or divergence is necessary for everyone’s growth , would Cosmos have the authority to collect data on attentional patterns and bubble effects in the forming of sub-groups on the site, and either enforce or suggest interventions/adjustments by modifying the algorithms? What override powers does Cosmos have to affect its members’ settings? What override powers and methods do Cosmos’ members have to adjust Cosmos core functioning? [This may tie in with Marco’s void coin idea.]

Organizational Algorithms: Operational, Governance, Financial, etc.

As discussed elsewhere, Cosmos (in the form of a collaborative community of users) would attempt to program the platform, the community/social spheres, and the economic currencies and other games in the platform according to values and practices that are known to result in beneficial outcomes in accordance with design principles.

The main resource streaming through Cosmos’ channels is attention. Attention being limited by biological and “external” constraints, this is the vital essence flowing through the system—but is also naturally limited (like water in a landscape).

To maximize the application of members’ attention, their Dashboards, its settings (dials) and the responsive interactions/behavior of MindfulAI are designed to best serve members’ purposes—which mean curating what media enters the “feeds” of users and where/how users are spending their time (the “frame” limiting what they are presently viewing/interacting with in the overall system). These reflexive “framing” devices are meant to support member aspirations, but function to limit how, where, and to what purposes member attention is applied.

Other major systemic constraints are: value acknowledgment (through the variable LitCoin); skill/knowledge/experience-asset acknowledgment (through badges); trust/reputation acknowledgment (through socially-rated badges and as measured by degree/rate/type of LC exchanges, engagement in spaces and conversations, and other such activity associated with a member). [ What else does the system need to dynamically account for?]

Member intake process. The member intake process is constrained by mutual consent between Cosmos and member. Typically a member will apply (or “petition”) Cosmos for membership. They fill out a form capturing information about themselves, and then submit it. At some later point (could be near-instantaneous if certain conditions were “just right” for Cosmos, or could be days or weeks later after either closer investigation/vetting or once Cosmos is in a position to accept new such members), Cosmos accepts the member (members not yet accepted are just “pending.” No one is rejected, per se, and pending-members may receive information on what they could do to improve their application.) Note that Cosmos’ acceptance of members is contingent upon its capacities and its “leveling up” trajectories. Waves of new members, correlating to interior calibration mechanism results in Cosmos, may occur on periodic bases.

Occasionally, due to a person’s specific set of skills/experience as having high value/relevance to Cosmos, Cosmos may extend an invitation to a person to become a member. That person, then, has the choice of whether to accept or reject the invitation. But this will be rare in the overall.

Either way, the “yes/no” vote here—that requirement of mutual consent–functions as a constraint. For more on this, see Member Intake Process in Membership.

Limitations to Growth (I.e. “Carrying capacity,” scarcity, and dynamic calibration). Though it is, truly, an open game design encouraging broad customization in member choice and interactive possibilities, the distribution curve of users’ intensities of engagement with the platform/communities will quite likely follow a pattern. Probably, per the 80/20 rule, the naturally emergent pattern will be of a high number of light users and a low number of intensive users. (See: Spectrum of Engagement for this same idea.) As people intensify their relationship with Cosmos and raise their level of investment and benefit, the available “seats” for members may reflexively grow scarcer (dependent on available resources in the system). This assumption is represented in our model.

“Scarcer seats” may mean harder-to-cross threshholds (harder in terms of skill, experience, knowledge, or trust, thus acting as a natural filter) or literally fewer opportunities (as in highly skilled job positions) as the qualifying criteria escalates. For instance: often more advanced features must be built up gradually. Thus, newly-emerging advanced features may only be offered to a select group of highly-investing participants at first—for instance, by making access possible only through C> (or other selective-perk mechanisms including lotteries). When appropriately limited to contexts of inner game play scenarios, scarcity and the resulting competition–as a gamification method–can heighten the excitement for gameplay, and be fun and invigorating insofar as it encourages personal growth.

Depending on circumstances, we may ALSO provide limited options for people “buy in” to test spaces via substantial donations & perhaps in an auction or lottery format. With LC as internal mechanism, a user may avoid paying $ to take advantage of additional spaces/features—through arranging to do work for Cosmos and thus earn LC, that value can be spent within the system on that prized feature-access. For example: say you’re an aspiring podcaster who wants to utilize Cosmos’ podcasting suite, but can’t afford the fee. If you work X hours for Cosmos and earn enough LC, you can spend that LC on buying access to “plug-ins”/products/services on the Cosmos platform. Until LC can be cashed out, working for LC won’t pay your rent, but it will support the incubation and resourcing of Cosmos’ development (and thus, benefits to you). Cosmos may even put a premium on forms of energy (currency) that cannot leave/be cashed out within the system when putting “bounties” or “gate fees” on features in the system, like: a product being priced higher in cash than it is in LC.

Metabolic budgeting. Cosmos affords attention and resources to its people in accord with the attention flowing into it by those beings. [This is the same as the C>/patronage notion.] For instance, people who hold only forum accounts (and are not members) are liable to receive less attention in terms of affordances, features and resources by Cosmos, and may more casually be removed from the platform compared to members. A practice of designing “from patterns to details” on the platform also means there is natural “nesting” of how potential is fulfilled on the platform, such that certain basic functionality are shared at all level whereas rarer or more costly functionality is accessible only to those at the highest levels of investment.Generally, design choices made at the “highest” (or most intensive) points in the system, trickle down into the structures used by the less-involved and non-paying customers of Cosmos. Effectively, “lower investment” requests would be priority-weighted, and thus many similar requests from less-invested levels might be “stacked” or “nested” within work to expand and improve functionality for “higher order” participants. E.g., forum account holders may only get updates to the extent of their accessible functionality when a higher order update occurs that better serves other stakeholders in the community. This is natural because the participation of forum account holders has a marginal impact on Cosmos’ well-being and continued existence beside those more intense relationships. There is braiding of intensity of use and intensity of care on the platform: the greater the benefits circulated through the relationship, the more integral that relationship becomes to the life and thriving of the platform.

But all relationships are honored for whatever level at which they occur. Cosmos might be able to afford you less attention and resources if you are at a lower level of engagement, but that does not mean Cosmos doesn’t care. Its attentional affordance is not strictly, or algorithmically, based on the status of your membership or the exact nature of your participation, calibrated to a cold and calculating result. After all, crucial and great ideas can come from anywhere in the system–what matters is that they are free to pass through the web via conversation (not “up the chain”) to eventual cognizance by the system. Anyway, individual member involvement can change in an instant, as can Cosmos’ own viability, making it a mutually vulnerable system especially attuned to and interested in feedback.

Now, because we’re talking about people and their needs and not proteins or molecules flying around in a body, it should be clarified that people are in control of how intensive they want to become in Cosmos’ system (to the extent they align with its core mission, of course). People self-select into their participation patterns and intensities, though with some friendly influence from the platform and its community. Each person gets to choose how they want to play and on what they want to “level up.” In other parlance: everybody gets to choose how intimate and intense a relationship they want with Cosmos. (However, this occurs in the context of a two-way conversation: Cosmos can respectfully promote or “urge” its members to take on work that the whole system requires to function, even if few in the system have explicitly or autonomously expressed the need thereof.)

Further, each member class gets to advocate for the features and functions they want to see happen: what would amplify your enjoyment and experience of Cosmos? Users may assign

“bounties” to their desires, that is, how much they’d be willing to contribute in order to see the new capacity or feature realized. System admins & data analysts working within Cosmos would look for opportunities to “stack” (combine) aligned requests emerging from multiple user perspectives; in combining for alignment and assessing internal demand, such system admins affect the “weighting” of various “enhancement requests” in the system.

Naturally, the most popular and most highly invested projects get resourced. With each new meaningful feature that gets built, the future shape Cosmos can take is irreversibly altered. Thus, we “do our best” within the limits of our total attention (and, thus, the intelligence) in the system. The more minds, and the more they are meaningfully integrated with Cosmos–the stronger the collective genius.

Cosmos (and its constituent community) also practices “composting”–dismantling dysfunctional structures and in the process, learning from mistakes. What might have seemed like a good idea at the time can end up in wasted effort and resources–this is an opportunity for Cosmos to deepen its understanding of itself, and of the nature of its members’ needs, so as to “come at the problem” better next time. Just like in a mastery-oriented game.

Constitutional Rules. The dials in one’s dashboard would not be 100% free for members to dictate. In Cosmos’ Constitutional rules, for instance, it may be so encoded that a user cannot lower the “surprise/randomness” dial in their dashboard beyond 10% (limiting settings to 90% affinity of content to interests in their feed). This would be there as a safeguard that Cosmos enforces, to make sure noone can form truly closed bubbles of content. This is one example of a limitation that can be encoded into Cosmos’ constitution and thus “forbids” certain kinds of “game play or settings” in the user’s experience, due to the potential or actual effects that that rule being broken would have on other users.

What about disturbances to Cosmos’ business-as-usual, effectuated by the members’ will—such as in the form of work-stoppages or other forms of protest?

Indeed, there are some adjustments to esp. constitutional algorithms that would, if implemented, effectively “break” the system. For instance, changing the rules to allow members to withdraw all LC, dC and C> that’s “in their name”: this may leave the co-op with insufficient operational and reserve capital, and thus unravel and annihilate the system itself. (Perhaps appropriate if the purpose IS to kill the system [if that emerges as the collective will for whatever reason], but otherwise: would be directly counter to the stated mission/purposes of the system.) The system might try to mitigate the likelihood of catastrophic changes by presenting a wall (or, more aptly, a high threshhold) which members must rally large amounts of social consensus and political momentum to overcome through a formal vote (like a referendum). As a system comprised of free human beings, if we choose to take a wrong turn, that’s our prerogative: we must always be prepared to accept the consequences of our actions as mature beings. When the consequences may be severe, however, it is imperative to obtain all or most of the memberships’ buy-in to the decision.

Spaciousness v. Focus in Spaces & Conversations - How Much Prescriptive v. Responsive “Norming” is Appropriate?

How many expectations—no matter how well-adjusted and generally optimized for mutually positive outcomes—should a being enter into a co-created relationship with?

Unwieldy growth or “drift” of conversation content is counterindicated for focus & concentration of attention. Attention, appropriately funneled, generates power and new potentials. Yet divergence (and more generally, difference of perspective) generates new, often-more-vibrant forms. How do we balance this at the collective scale? As the number and variety of conversations proliferate, without filters, there is a scattering of attention. As practitioners, we aim to cultivate spaces where attention can be concentrated even into like a laser beam of amplified resonance—which means we’d like to avoid fragmenting attention (it is by nature of the status quo coercive/co-opting advertising ways that our attention is already fragmented, and Cosmos aims to be a constructive response to that). How can we include others in our awareness, aiming to amplify our potential energy (like in a regenerative system) without scattering/fragmenting our energies in a depleting away amidst growth/proliferation of conversations?

In the context of limited attention, say a fellow member who is a friend posts two emotional comments, deserving of unpacking, on two threads in one day. On that same day, someone posts a thread that you positively want to engage with. Within the limitations of your available time, do you choose to engage with the two emotional comments or the one galvanizing thread? That probably depends on whether you are in need of replenishment in that moment or opportunity to be of service. Sometimes it’s simple economics: you only had 30 minutes to be on Cosmos, and engaging with the two emotional comments by your friend would “cost” as much, if not more, of your cognitive bandwidth than responding enthusiastically on the positive thread.

What might be the consequences of choosing one or the other? Every act is consequential to others in the system, and therefore should be done with discernment. If attention is a source of nourishment, lacking attention is a kind of deprivation. Kind of like upvoting/downvoting—or, more profoundly, non-voting comments on Reddit—when you choose not to engage with a comment, others’ likelihood to focus energy there additionally diminishes. This can cause some local “pain” to a comment author, but insofar as it’s authentically reflective of users’ choices, “it is what it is.” We can validate through LC and through attention/responsiveness the most that we can, but nobody can fulfill everybody.

Is it true that our ecosystem doesn’t have room for and marginalizes particular, perhaps divergent voices? Is it true that there’s no place for your friend’s emotionally-intensive comments? No, it doesn’t need to be that way. Any healthy ecosystem needs a diversity of presences, occupying a range of niches. Sub-groups can and should form around particular tastes, cultures, ideas or beliefs, etc. Cosmos is spacious and members are encouraged, tangibly and intangibly, to find a context in which they are socially/mutually validated—because everyone deserves that, and especially if Cosmos selected to have you as a member then it believes you have profound worth and that you will be recognized for it, ultimately. If you are overwhelmed by wide open conversation on huge topics: find a small group of intimates who have space and attention for just you . It is always in the power of the member to accept “yes” and “no” from peers, whether implicit or explicit. For instance, the author of the emotional comments may not ultimately receive much engagement on those comments. It is within their power to find alternative ways to meet their needs, whatever those core needs may be—not to project judgment onto the lack of response. Whatever you seek, you deserve to find—or to make happen—in Cosmos.

The Constitution may lay down some open-ended, interpretable guidelines for interpersonal conduct that do apply to all spaces—but, maybe, it may not. In order to have deep and potent conversations, how much do we need to regulate the particular patterns of acceptable speech? Like: what “nutrients” (in the form of speech or other tangible contributions) are metabolize-able by the system—which are the “preferred foods” and which are not edible, thus constituting a “flood” of “waste”? Or does this line of inquiry unacceptably limit diverse self-expression? (If all patterns of speech and interaction become strictly limited to mere templates, that means no room for experimentation/divergence! Which would conflict with Cosmos’ purpose!!) Can we be sure that cultural divergence isn’t healthy to have “within” the skin of Cosmos?

Maybe let there be “templated” or ritual spaces, designed to accomplish certain things (e.g. a ritual monthly meet-up of Cosmos workers who work in the same “department” and who live in the same geographical area; a ritual meeting space centered on processing trauma and exclusively accessible by a select group of 4-5 people [self-curated] who qualify as survivors of relationship violence; a space for podcasters to find editors to move forward on the Editors step of their creative production process [per the Production template, see Five Pillars]). In other words, these sub-spaces are defined by more “narrow” framings of what’s acceptable and what’s supportive of their explicit purpose. And also let there be radically open, expansive spaces, ideal for divergence, for ranging experimentation and for testing boundaries. Whatever people want and need—is there room to make it within Cosmos? Can Cosmos be resilient enough to be extraordinarily spacious in this regard?

What about when users choose settings and spaces/groups that do not reflect healthy patterns nor progress toward their goals? When and how is it appropriate for Cosmos to undertake mindful, micro interventions?

The function/role of disturbances/disruptions. If each user’s “dash” is their “local” portal to the ecosystem, and attention and engagement is the energy that flows into (ideally) virtuous engagement/progression loops, then does Cosmos have the power or reason, even, to cause “disturbances” (surprises/outside influences, nudges or requests that push a user to try new things or gain new skills, etc.)? What affordances for mindful intrusion would members give to Cosmos?

Any disturbance can disrupt the ecosystem in ways that critically compromise it OR diversify & eventually enrich it. Perhaps what the Cosmos core team can get good about is executing “controlled explosions (or implosions),” where we make sometimes stark choices to kill a project or feature but in a way where we’ve used data to model anticipated results. We’d like to say we, as a community, enjoy and attract drama/stimulating difference/chaos magic, but when does managing the emotions AND thoughts emerging from the mess/drift amount to a draining, not replenishing effect on energy? Do our members deserve a sanctuary—deserve to insulate themselves as needed and at their discretion?

Cosmos may embody a habit of mildly “intrusive” notifications or nudges, that are productive/constructive to help a user “mix it up.” For instance: MindfulAI: “Hey! I notice you haven’t updated your ______ filter (dial) in some time. I recommend mixing it up so you broaden your spheres/exposures on Cosmos. Change it now [slider in message].” With a prominent X (or a keystroke) enabling to close/hide such notifications.

Possibly Cosmos could even force changes to user settings, which users could easily and instantly choose to reverse (like the “go back to older version” temporary option when a new version of software is implemented).

Deliberately curtailing addictive, exploitative or maladaptive patterns - introducing limiting (negative) feedback loops into standard flows

Limiting usage of the platform (in such a way that serves the member’s stated needs or goals) is one example of how Cosmos would introduce a negative feedback loop to modify the overarching Progression Loop (or, total game path through Cosmos for that player).

Though we would utilize the best thinking emergent from the field of game design, our goal is not to get the user addicted to the platform. This is another special design consideration of Cosmos: because the platform and community are so devoted to doing what is truly best for the user, we differentiate beneficial and harmful use of our platform.

We understand that addiction of any kind weakens and “reduces” the member’s total potential and power, that it does not serve authentic self-actualization. When conditions indicate it is appropriate to do so, a user’s dashboard can effectively self-terminate: that is, “go black” and/or not allow the user to access it for a time. “Turning off Cosmos” may be a non-mandatory recommendation prompt by the platform, too. And users can create “frames” where their attention becomes strictly focused on just one thing—something the user interface facilitates. For instance, a user defining that “today I want to spend six focused hours just on writing my book”: their dashboard might “lock” so that no other activities or functions besides writing–or even, no functions whatsoever if the writing is taking place through a tool that is outside of the platform—were enabled for six hours.

If Cosmos observes in a user what seems like addictive patterns (which might look like: high rate of platform usage, but low progress marked on the user’s self-actualization goals), this would trigger a process whereby a dialogue would be held and then a potential negative feedback loop would be implemented, designed to reduce user usage of the system itself. That a dialogue with a user is a necessary precursor to action implies a broader point: that the definition of an action and whether it is part of a negative or positive pattern is up to the individuals and the communities involved. Dialogue is crucial to arriving at meaning. Thus, the platform (mindfulAI) would bring its concerns to the user, illuminating where it sees a potential imbalance, and in the process drawing attention to the concerning behavioral patterns that the user is exhibiting. It would then invite the user to respond, and they would decide collaboratively—if indeed, the behavior is trending towards a “spiral of erosion,” which course of mitigation is appropriate (e.g. new restrictions on platform usage, random or prescheduled mandatory temporary “shut downs”, user enrolling in a support group, etc.).

But, isn’t intensity of participation rewarded through C> (patronage)? Don’t those who engage more heavily with the system earn more power within the game? Yes and no. In reality, self-actualization takes place on and off the platform. A user’s reported progress toward their goals would count as “successes” for Cosmos, even if some of it happened off the platform (for instance: a user updating their stated goal for financial resources because they got an appropriate/suitable job outside the platform. Insofar as garnering more income in a suitable way was part of their personal goals, this counts as “success” re: the user’s “leveling up” as far as the platform is aware.)

Patronage (C>) may be calculated without respect to the intangible on/off platform values created—that is, without respect to an individual’s “game success”. However, degree of generative participation and Cosmos’ collective progress on ITS goals are two distinct lines of success. In the scenario suggested, the job-getting user might be spending less time on the platform as a result, but Cosmos has registered the progress achieved in the event of the member reaching her goals—so although the member’s personal patronage rating lowers due to lowered participation on the site, her apparent contribution to Cosmos’ collective “leveling up” is heightened. These two aspects are in generative tension. Furthermore, we’re not even considering how financial attainment in the personal life of a member might result in them spending more money within the Cosmos context on theirs and others’ art.

Meaningful (traditionally, economic) participation (which patronage measures) concerns the solubility of the overall cooperative enterprise at any point in time, to be sure. However, the collective self-actualization of its constituent members drives the pursuit of collective fulfillment forward. This is the domain of ever-richer aspirations for the collective: its own “leveling up” process. The latter is the real focus, whereas enterprise self-sufficiency is just one key indicator that the collective is on the right path to progress.

To deliberately optimize for the user’s experience, even if that means reducing overall usage of our platform, might seem counter to our fiscal bottom line. But at the dynamic systems level, Cosmos is concerned about maintaining appropriate balances , and we desire to curtail any patterns that appear to be exploitative. As stated elsewhere, the highest value of the platform is its USE value: if it is not being used for benefit, then that represents a subtle but concerning divergence from Cosmos’ true path. Our true “bottom line” (in terms of fulfilling the organization’s purpose) IS the well-being, development and fulfillment of PEOPLE. Cosmos should integrate with what it means to live a good life in reality; thus, Cosmos takes a deep and broad perspective on what creates values in its members’ lives.

Consent is huge: Cosmos would not try to exceed its members’ desires for the appropriate role of this in their life. Accepting what is offered and offering generously are complementary ethics that Cosmos and its members share. What is offered to Cosmos in terms of member energy, in balance with what members receive from Cosmos, should be plenty and enough (dynamically calibrated).


**Key Docs Table of Contents**