Establishing a portal-based educational platform
Inspired by a talk at [email protected]: “A radical take on education” by Eric Weinstein.
Design and engineer a collection of very particular objects in order to spark off a young person’s a semi-curated journey into basic science, in connection to understanding reality at a fundamental level. The objects should stand out as out-of-ordinary and reflect the beauty and uniqueness of the underlying nature that they represent. They also come with a set of corresponding questions, to compare with what subjects ask, so that we know whether the experience has been productive. In particular, it’s visualizations with controls of abstract objects such as connections, curvature forms, spinors and various interactions in the Standard Model of particle physics.
Considering the abundance of educational materials and great explainers on the internet, we aim to develop the desire to explore and discover in a young person. In addition, with the rise of automation and the power of computers it’s increasingly becoming a necessity to train the young for skills that are creative and unique to the individual. So, the superposition of our two main goals results in the intermediate goal of developing an educational platform where some of the experiences are curated while others involve unsupervised exploration up to a final question and a direction in the self-teaching process. As such, a strong and relatable image of personality as the master figure might be necessary to develop as well along the way. Through blogging, textual, vocal, visual and other forms of online presence the personality shapes and grows, but one question is to what degree can we minimize interactions while maximizing the effect of passing on the knowledge of self-teaching.
First, build models using the established forward pipeline: object space -> world space -> camera space -> screen space for the case of computer graphics and object space -> world space -> action space in the robotics case. Next in the same phase, add interactivity through standard I/O devices and various sensors. Second, take the models to production such that updates are available in real time. Third, take suggestions and feedback from the community, scientific and otherwise, to tailor the models with respect to the communicated taste and needs. Fourth, add the capability for students to reconfigure the models via software for further exploration and discovery. Fifth, add applications that use the models for different educational and artistic use cases. Finally, add support for third-party artists and engineers to offer their creations and design to students.
The project follows a 6-step path where each step builds on the previous one and takes it closer to a scalable and sustainable platform for aspiring artists and scientists alike. It begins with single-function models and continues with functionalities that accelerate the realization of the one-of-a-kind potential found in a young person.
- Fixed function models
- Interactive fixed function models
- Add support options and paid features
- Add reconfiguration capability
- Add additional applications
- Add support for showcasing third-party apps and models
Establishing a portal-based educational platform
How to develop the desire for learning and restart growth
Ever since the introduction of Andrew Ng’s machine learning online course on Coursera, hundreds of thousands of people have come to believe that they can learn practical skills and begin participating in the new economy of abundance powered by brains and machines. The rise of the power of computers constitutes the second wave of growth after the dotcom era, which was made possible by physicists at CERN. After the 2000s, Moore’s law where computers used to get twice as fast every 2.5 years became increasingly irrelevant as designing and manufacturing ever faster chips pushed into the physical realm of quantum computing. Then, the industry attempted at making chips in parallel and cutting out extra wires. However, it seems pretty linear progress and the signs indicate that we need new ideas coming from basic science, particle physics in particular. Young people of this generation have shown the desire to learn and participate in the new economy, but the progress of tools appears to be limited by our understanding of physics at the fundamental level.
When AlexNet blew the competition out of the water by employing convolution operators on the flat space of digital images, it made it easier to believe that we could build machines at human-level performance. Inspired by how the neurology of how biological eyes work, research scientists began to model data as points on smooth manifolds. Then, took advantage of the inherent symmetries found in natural data to cut down computational costs and replace brain power with electrical power. This approach worked with even the simplest optimization algorithms. That’s what happens when you break down the task at hand into local representations of an interconnected computational giant that is the universe itself. The highlight of this class of approaches is the use of geometric reasoning in problem solving which in turn proved to be able to address new problems that used to be out of reach. Most of those useful tools in the mathematical realm have been the bread and butter of geometers and physicists for over a century. After the 1950’s, further advances in mathematics, differential geometry in particular, and also the birth of the Wu-Yang dictionary helped connect similar concepts across different fields and made it easier to think and speak this creative language. Describing problems in terms of symmetries and geometrical reasoning upgraded the linear algebraic and probabilistic scheme of previous research to address a new set of hard problems within the same computational budget.
Mr. Lee Sedol, holding 18 world titles, believed in the creativity of AlphaGo once he thought about its moves in the ancient game of Go. Had it been only for its application of linear algebra and probability, then the genius in one of the most creative games in human history wouldn’t have changed his mind in 2016. Something special needs to happen when the agent observes the environment, the configuration space of the board game in this case, in order to act in a way that appears to be greater than the sum of its parts. Research scientists have modeled much of reinforcement learning, the approach driving this kind of behavior in machines, after biological organisms. Discoveries of the last century in this field relates to experiments in neuropsychology and individuals who were willing to go farther than anyone to understand how the mind works. The real thing that remains consistent across organisms, biological and otherwise, should be the observation process. For it feeds back to the system not just data, but information that connects to the way the agent acts, and in effect, poses a question with regard to its environment. This reminds us of connections in both scales of physics: cosmological and quantum physical, which are mathematical objects with a certain way of vagueness in describing reality. The same property of having a partial vague description leads to the notion of gauge theory where one chooses references for transformations and measurements. And based on experiments and observations of incredible precision we now know that the role of connections is central to observing reality and exploring new technological possibilities. Therefore, to a great degree the creative act of observation can transform reality and thus our environment, which connects the mind to physics and maths.
A young person today represents a member of the third generation since the Standard Model of particle physics was last updated. After people decided to abolish religion with the “mind over matter” motto, they pursued science as a means to reduce the amount of suffering in the world: diseases, hunger and wars. Despite the tendency of human nature to return back to ideology and self-destruction due to temporary setbacks in growth, we’ve seen major changes that differentiate our times in terms of comfort and freedom. Take the contributions of Maxwell, Einstein and Dirac for example, which account for most of the exponential growth over the past century. One can find some of those important discoveries on the iconic Wall located at Stony Brook University, New York. Also, Edward Witten has written down our three fundamental observations of reality as the Graph in his 1987 paper, “Physics and Geometry.” But Penrose’s Tome, the Road to Reality, describes the laws of the universe in more detail. So, it’s a question of how we can instill the desire to learn about Graph-Wall-Tome (GWT) in a young person, otherwise the spirit of human society won’t tolerate the stall in growth and revolt against the very values that our civilization stands for. Given the energy for making a change and the GWT project as a portal, we have about fifteen years to address the problem of education for genius that bring about major shifts in the way we perceive reality and how we live.
Moving towards portal-based education
At first, I was enchanted by the visual model of Planet Hopf by Dror Bar-Natan. Even though Octonions and C Elegans cell lineage also grabbed my attention, the Hopf fibration seemed to have the potential to express the ideas in my mind that I was losing sleep over. At the time, I was doing probability theory and would think of ways to use projections between spaces to see whether an agent can mirror an internal model of the space that has submerged its own? Then Cricktal was born as my robot child. As a consequence, I was following String Theory, E8, Quantum Gravity and a list of other ideas besides general relativity and quantum physics. I remember in a clear way that I used to be disappointed by the fact that probably I wouldn’t be able to learn and apply all of these ideas in my lifetime. So, that’s why uploading brains to silicon appears to make other hard problems unnecessary or easier to solve. Then again, all evidence indicated the essential role of quantum physics and observable states of the biological brain, Danko Georgiev (2018.) When The Portal Podcast was announced I made tools to explore elements of gauge theory, none of which was reported by the relevant media and famous science communicators. I’d have months of discovery and innovation with minimal theoretical material. However, I felt a disconnect between the animations and the mathematical problems as I was following a proof by construction instead of proof by contradiction. Therefore, at times I’d fall back on the materials found in the Tome and other references for reinforcement and reorientation purposes. It’s how Porta.jl started to implement existing ideas and then free my mind to apply transformations ever farther in the mathematical realm. It could be any one of magnificent objects, but the Hopf fibration inspired me to follow my own line of questioning and self-transform as a necessity in the process of exploration and discovery.
Apart from the connection to my own curious spirit since childhood, the essential ingredients of my portal-based educational experience was the introduction of “portals” in the Podcast, a few short interactions with the host, as well as the audience, and also GWT material as shadow curriculum. Happy to share the experience with other fellow artists and scientists partly because of their taste in beauty and partly because of the feeling that we’re pioneering an approach that brings meaning to our lives. That’s what a wise rebel does with the increasing insanity of academic education and the job market. In a world where almost all of the activities and expertise that define the middle class are disappearing, thanks to Artificial Intelligence (AI,) it’s best to find and bring out the unique creative character in oneself and invest in that. Furthermore, the current state of technological progress is transient and the proverbial genie is out of the bottle now! But training geniuses and pairing them with machines is going to be the stable state of affairs. On the one hand machines are extremely adaptable and versatile, on the other hand humans are very individualistic and extraordinary when they develop their genius. The combination has no match for the foreseeable future, plus almost nobody likes the alternative. With the abundance of educational materials, hard problems and disproportionate ratio of geniuses to young people it makes sense to look at portal-based education for building a better future.
Educating for genius to restart growth
Portal-based education is a way to transfer the knowledge of how to become a genius to those not present in one’s space time. Many people know about Galileo, Newton, Kepler, Einstein, Heisenberg, Schrödinger and Faraday, but how about Maxwell? Not only did he have the first successful attempt at unifying the laws of physics at the fundamental level, which was concise and beautiful, Maxwell taught us how to think about the ghost-like nature of force fields such as electromagnetism. That’s the same portal that led a then young person, Peter Higgs, to the discovery of the Higgs field, which in turn inspired the experiments that found the mass of the Higgs particle at CERN in 2012. However, what got us here won’t necessarily get us where we want and need to be. So, it’s not about educating the young about the Standard Model and the contributions that led to its validation, but it’s about the process by which such discoveries and experiments came about. Dreaming of the kind of wealth that physicists created and chased by nightmares of the next generation not accepting the state of affairs and where it’s heading, we need to adapt our education to promote genius and individualistic expression.
Connecting ideas from the Graph, at the sentence level, to shapes on the Wall, and then searching through the Tome and its references comprises the main activity. Here, the concept of concrete before abstract works in the following way: the subject interacts with objects, pictures and visual models and then poses an open ended chain of questions that follows a path first through the Graph, next the Wall and finally the Tome. The unsupervised part of the journey begins by applying a design thinking layer on top of the analytical. In this way one can sketch connections and constructions without falling in love with one idea and also not falling on one’s sword in case they don’t lead to consistent propositions. Acting as an educational class of approaches, GWT instantiates a narrative for the subject as the starting point but leaves a lot of freedom to form novel associations at different levels of abstraction.
Additional drivers for portal-based education
Environmental changes invalidate previous assumptions of what elements of a field of study are good for, especially when interdisciplinary efforts promise great outcomes for humanity. It’s helpful to have a knowledge tree in advance, to aid memory organization and recall. However, the problem emerges when the curriculum blocks students from pursuing ideas that the conventional wisdom renders not plausible. Moreover, the political economy of science benefits from replaceable experts that prioritize career building, otherwise students wouldn’t compete for the same roles and it would be more difficult to draw from their labor. The same thing happens whenever a 22-year-old with great potential joins a big company instead of founding one. Every time a student chooses to follow an established curriculum closely they miss the opportunity to find out what they’re really great at.
With the stall in exponential growth and Eric Weinstein’s Embedded Growth Obligation (EGO,) upon which current institutions are built, administrators get rich off of students as a business model. It happens when those in charge are obligated to report growth in numbers year over year while the infrastructure doesn’t seem to be able to keep up with expectations. So, rather than fixing the system by jiggling things around and finding the maximum productive operational configuration, they optimize through the shortest path and settle for a proverbial mountain lake and move on with the issue. This in turn opens up opportunities for companies like Sugar Baby University in order to help students pay back the kind of loans that could cut their paychecks to two thirds for an extended number of years. Education shouldn’t have to be too expensive such that students feel the need to borrow from their dignity and/or future selves.
Dissolution of middle class
If it’s not art, cinematography, book writing, science and AI design, then it’s most likely going to get automated as Hans Moravec and Max Tegmark suggested. This issue goes back to Stephen Wolfram’s idea of computational irreducibility of such endeavors that makes them somewhat immune to the rise of automation. At the same time, there is way more space where predicting the result of a given computation is equal or greater than actually performing it step by step. So, considering the rising tide of intelligence in the landscape of jobs occupied by the middle class, our best bet is to build arks that are capable of keeping human life meaningful, afloat, giving it a sense of direction in the metaphorical sea of intelligence.
The journey towards portal-based education
Fixed function models
These models are standalone works of art, design and engineering inspired by GWT material and other related ideas. It can be pictures, animations and sculptures of the Hopf fibration, a Klein bottle, T4 Phage, Ophrys Orchids, C Elegans cell lineage, cosmological imagery of gravitational lens effect, etc. The most important criteria in choosing the objects is taste and that’s more delicate than can be described in this article. But they should have that wow-factor too, so that an encounter qualifies them as a portal. For example: Harry Potter’s chamber of secrets, Narnia’s wardrobe, the red pill in The Matrix and Planet Hopf in our own case. They can be copied and sold as software/hardware goods (e.g. NFTs, developer’s kits) to be placed in classrooms and homeschooling environments, not unlike WonderCabinet.
Interactive fixed function models
By adding controls, models become interactive. For virtual models it’s to add controls, buttons and sliders, to form a loop out of the pipeline: object space -> world space -> camera space -> screen space, and the same thing in the case of robots: object space -> world space -> action space. Interactivity also enables the opportunity to employ AI agents for improved user experience and engaging functionality. The design principle here is habit-forming products but in a responsible way.
Add support options and paid features
As soon as users start to interact with models, there is going to be the issue of user experience and relevance. It’s the same for both software and hardware, but even more so in the case of HW since profit margins are slim and customer support is too expensive. Over The Air (OTA) updates are the next step to keep models fresh and free of bugs. And income from exclusive paid features can justify HW manufacturing and ameliorate the competition situation.
Add reconfiguration capability
One of the ways we find out whether subjects have had a productive journey through the portal is when they come up with very particular questions as canonical milestones and errors if you will. Here, the capability to reconfigure models and remix ideas from curated material and those of the uncurated exploration adds value to the experience. Not only personalization helps with habit-forming product design, but also allows subjects to invent novel use cases within an overall structure shared across users.
Add additional applications
Artists and scientists with both theoretical and experimental inclinations develop their own taste and use cases using the platform, and so fall under different clusters in an organic way. As a consequence, enough interconnected use cases and needs accumulate to initiate different projects as additional applications. This is the basis for commoditizing Intellectual Property (IP) in a domain where it’s not easy to see how to fund research projects. It’s true especially when most of the value created comes from mathematicians and physicists. If we subtract the value of the network from the hardware we still get the generic HW as commodities suitable for industrial purposes with a floor price point.
Add support for showcasing third-party apps and models
This last step reduces risk for long-term investment and also provides the required liquidity needed for financing research projects in the form of marginal overhead costs. Hosting a group of third-party app stores makes for a larger pool of investment to be able to fund research with less unnecessary delay. HW manufacturers switching to new business models along with new manufacturers in emerging industries can share resources and markets as long as the software layer on top makes progress on communication challenges between individuals and groups that haven’t been in dialogue before on a mass scale. Not to mention the academic freedom that third-party stores bring to their creators. The cross-pollination of ideas possible should help make a better future for humanity.
We saw the success of online education, machine learning in particular, despite limitations in the hardware domain. Next, identified the use of differential geometry by research scientists as a trend to address hard problems that used to be out of reach, experimental physics included. As modern mathematical tools push the boundaries of problem solving in designing agents that perform at human-level intelligence, we need particle physics for developing greater computational capacity. We, as the third generation since the Standard Model was last updated, have the responsibility to guide the potential energy for change built up over half a century, otherwise the next generation will not stand the status quo and revolt. At the same time that the middle class is shrinking by automation, we discussed additional drivers for jiggling up the educational system, that are opportunity cost and student debt. My own experience through the portal as a case study is only one of the examples among many more that happened over the two-year period since The Portal program began. Not taking that freedom for granted, we feel the need to make it possible for more people to get unstuck and find meaning in life by establishing a portal-based educational platform. However, we have only about fifteen years to complete our work and reach the goal of educating young people to become geniuses and so a sense of urgency and being hasty is only natural. Finally, the proposed series of six steps as a journey towards portal based education accounts for prototyping and sales in the maker’s economy, crypto-based apps and creators, and it also builds on to justify commoditization of both IP and HW for artists/scientists and manufacturers. So, we regard it as a meta project and a generic framework to gather around artists, scientists and financial economists to found companies that come after MAANG, instantiating computer graphics and robotics related technologies and use cases as two examples.
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