Mondays Are Complicated
Thank you for subscribing. I understand reading this newsletter is not always easy. My job is to challenge established ideas. It is not easy to have our systems and hierarchies challenged weekly. The constant barrage is tiring but also changes how our minds work.
Learning changes our minds’ structure. Learning adds new knowledge incrementally to our body of knowledge. Each brick reinforces and builds upon the prior knowledge.
Disrupting also changes our minds’ structure. Every brick is examined before being added to our body of knowledge. Everything under construction is challenged for weakness. This process takes us from believers to non-believers. The goal is not to simply learn.
Disrupters learn with dual purposes. They add to the body of knowledge both constructively and destructively. Discovery comes from looking at existing structures in different ways and from finding the flaw in existing structures, fixing it, and building a completely new structure.
That thought process is initially tiresome and deeply rewarding once accepted, synthesized, and applied. Most of you are working through acceptance and synthesis. Those are the difficult stages, and the reward only comes after application. Thank you for taking the hard road with me because it will not get easier from here.
Disruption is a causal concept because assumptions are a central theme of causal methods. There are assumptions in our data. Machine learning discovers assumptions and adds to the body of knowledge with each feature. Causal comes in like a sledgehammer and forces us to map every assumption, then defend them against constant attacks from its blunt instruments.
Causal knowledge changes everything through that process. No assumption is safe, and disruption is the process of refuting a fundamental assumption. Web3 refutes the assumption that centralized structures are optimal. Machine learning looks at existing data and cannot learn a world with a decentralized structure until someone else builds it. Causal rebuilds the graph and allows us to test Web3’s new assumptions.
Causal gives us the framework to accept any new structure without fear. Why not evaluate new assumptions? Causal is built to challenge our assumptions and everyone else’s. Bring all assumptions, and we will learn together.
Creative ideas and experiments are the two most valuable elements in a causal paradigm. Causal offers a high reward, low-risk process to learn by challenging assumptions. We have a new way of learning through incremental disruptions. However, that is only possible if we change our minds’ structure to be comfortable with uncertainty. What we know could change at any time. The systems and hierarchies of today could be obsolete tomorrow.
Incremental learners do not thrive in an environment of continuous challenge to their assumptions. That mindset thrives in certainty, even if they are certain about a flawed assumption. Incremental learners represent a growth mindset. Linear learning leads to continuous improvement. Always forward is the mantra of the growth mindset. Refuting an assumption means all that learning was a waste of time. We understand the dangers of a fixed mindset but overlook the risks of a growth mindset.
We need a new mindset to handle continuous disruption in the causal paradigm. Assumptions are unstable. This is reality. Anything learned today is the best-supported assumption. Those could change at any time. The purpose of learning the best-supported assumption is so it can be challenged through creative ideas and creative experiments. Memorizing the graph of current assumptions is less important than learning how to challenge assumptions.
Why memorize what will likely change? I can look up assumptions on Google. Children challenge the assumptions our knowledge graph is built on. Our current response is either “That is correct” or “That is wrong.” A causal paradigm changes our response to “How would we validate or refute that?”
Last Monday, I explained our need to be oracles for our children. When they ask questions, we want to comfort them with certainty. We teach them that questions are good and wrong answers are bad. We teach them that certainty is comfort, and we increase our certainty through incremental learning.
A child lives in uncertainty and a flexible concept of reality. They are born comfortable with continuous disruption. We replace that mindset with a growth mindset. By doing so, we never challenge the assumptions that certainty is comfort and wrong is bad.
Certainty hides flawed assumptions. How can that be comfortable? A new interpretation creates an environment to reveal flaws or reinforce our perception of reality. Isn’t that better than confident ignorance?
We are born with a disruptive mindset, and our oracles usually replace it with a growth mindset. Growth mindsets add assumptions to the graph without altering all the others. Disruptive mindsets break the graph to make a more accurate one until they run out of ways to challenge the graph or prove their wildest assumptions.
I am a threat to a growth mindset, but for a disruptive mindset, I am an opportunity. In one of my earliest physics classes, I had a professor struggling with disruption. He said it out loud, and it felt like he immediately regretted it. “I am struggling with time. It doesn’t fit. The fundamental forces lack the variable of time. Energy to mass lacks a variable of time. So does the universe impose time, or do we?”
After a pause, I remember him smiling nervously and saying, “Forgive me. I need more sleep.”
He is not wrong until we create an experiment to allow our assumptions about time to be challenged. I have never been sure about time because I cannot prove it. His statement fundamentally changed my mindset, and I did not realize it for a long time.
Here we are. I do not trust time, and you likely do. My assumptions and ontology are different. If we both hold to a growth mindset, there is conflict and no way to resolve it using evidentiary means. We are on opposite sides, and the existence of my ontology makes learning your ontology a wasted effort. It takes away your ability to be an oracle who can bring certainty and comfort. I am a threat; without a framework to manage that, our conflict could escalate.
If we both hold to a disruptive mindset, you and I are the most valuable assets the other can have. You have the creativity to challenge my ontology. Together, we must find an experiment to better map our assumptions. Neither ontology works because we know that an assumption is not entirely supported. We continue to build on our ontology, but we see the value of building on the alternate ontology. You could be the one moving progress forward, or I could. All that matters is one day, we will find that experiment and have a well-developed ontology around the correct assumption. There is collaboration in our disagreement. I must build both ontologies because either could be where actual progress is made, and the same is true for you. We must continue working together on an experiment to end the duplication of effort.
A disruptive mindset allows for multiple, conflicting ontologies to coexist with all sides collaborating to reduce the number of probable ontologies. Experiments allow us to minimize all possible ontologies to a much smaller subset of probable ontologies. Until we have experimentally supported an assumption to exclude all proposed alternates, there are multiple probable ontologies.
Disruptive mindsets admit the truth. If I cannot disprove it, I cannot ignore it. I can choose to hold any assumption that has not been refuted, but I cannot ignore the uncertainty. My assumption about time is a low probability assumption. Instead of rejecting that reality, I embrace it. Time is such a core assumption that the magnitude of potential disruption makes the work on a low probability ontology critical.
I must persist and either increase or decrease my ontology’s probability to the point where it is more widely accepted and worked on or has such a low probability that continuing no longer makes sense to me.
This is the fundamental disruption of Web3, and the blockchain, as it is built today, does not support it. The need for a single blockchain to facilitate interactions creates a need for consensus and a reconciliation method when there is disagreement. On the blockchain, the majority rules. That means the current infrastructure is centralized by nature because different blockchains cannot interact with each other, and the same blockchain cannot facilitate interactions between different versions of the same blockchain.
The invalid assumption that the blockchain is decentralized hides the disruption of Web3. The next generation of blockchain will facilitate interaction when blockchains do not agree. Who owns the monkey? It could be different on my blockchain than on yours. We could both own the monkey, and that would be fine. I could sell you the monkey, and we would both agree that you own the monkey. We could disagree about this monkey, and I could still buy a different monkey from you. Why not?
The disruption is the ability for people to interact without ever coming to a consensus. My blockchain and yours are different, but we can still interact on the parts of our blockchain that agree or where we choose to ignore the disagreements. Me buying a monkey from you that I believe I already own is an example of ignoring the disagreement. My blockchain remains unchanged concerning the monkey, but I have bought consensus between our blockchains.
If I am so bothered by the difference to be willing to pay for reconciliation, and the other party is ready to sell, that is a method of establishing consensus. Otherwise, we can choose to live with the differences. We show up at the same bar in the multiverse with the same monkey. I don’t see the problem.
To see the possibility of decentralization, we must embrace an assumption that conflicts with ours. I don’t need to adopt it to explore and understand the implications. That is how I came around to Web3. In my ontology, I accept the promise of decentralization as an assumption. I reject the assumption of the current blockchain even without a solid replacement. I add in the assumption of machine learning being required to manage a decentralized platform.
This is the ontology I present to you for evaluation. As you come to adopt a disruptive mindset, this is good. Using a causal framework, we can assess the validity of this new ontology. This is an opportunity, not a threat. The exploration of this ontology is not a waste of time. It is necessary to support your current ontology or replace it with a new one that is better supported.
The assumptions contained in our ontologies all have asterisks next to them. Few assumptions are rigorously validated, and we can pretend they are or create a framework to live with the uncertainty. I am far more comfortable living in uncertain reality than living with hidden doubt that requires me to adopt fanaticism to overcome. Disruptive mindsets embrace discovery over certainty. Causal discovery changes everything.