Matthew Schutte

CEPTR, infratructure for the future of communication

Anyone that knows me knows that I’m passionate about improving the collaborative capacity of large groups of people.  More specifically, I’ve spent over 15 years searching for better structures to help our global society better regulate itself.

This search has driven me to look away from traditional political structures and to focus more on information technology and related processes.

However, though my work “gets geeky” in the computer sense, the underlying philosophical concepts that drive it mirror those of traditional liberal political theory.

In his essay on The Use of Knowledge in Society, Friedrich Hayek stated:

“If we can agree that the economic problem of society is mainly one of rapid adaptation to changes in the particular circumstances of time and place, it would seem to follow that the ultimate decisions must be left to the people who are familiar with those circumstances…”

My focus has been on how to build human processes and digital tools that enable individuals, groups and societies to adapt more rapidly to changing circumstances. In that hunt, I’ve encountered a decent number of “fellow” explorers that are aiming to create similar structures.

Some of the most promising work that I’ve seen is being done by the members of the Metacurrency project, including Eric Harris-Braun and Arthur Brock.  Yesterday, they presented their project, CEPTR, in a video conference as part of MIT’s Kerberos Internet Trust Monthly Series.  If you are at all interested in the technical side of these issues, I’d recommending viewing their work.

Philosophically, CEPTR is rooted in a focus on the capacity to receive information (reCEPToR), even information that you do not currently know how to handle.  It includes a protocol for protocols and attempts to shift protocols from being simply human readable documents into pluggable pieces of software. It also includes semantic trees as the basic building block of the system, which allows for richer detail to be available, yet abstracted away when not needed.

I’d start by browsing the Prezi and then would watch the video.

Video is here:

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2 Comments

  1. My concern is the complexity. In my opinion, a protocol should be human-readable by someone who is *not* a subject-matter expert.

    • Hi Andrew,
      Thank you for the comment.
      I like the inclusivity of the approach that you outline.

      I believe there is usually some “pre-requisite” needed for two parties to communicate. Because I am using the protocol of written English in this reply, you need to be a subject matter expert in both English and reading. Otherwise, you need to make use of some translation tool that can convert the protocol that I am using into a protocol that you can understand. Maybe using Google translate if you are fluent in Spanish but not English.

      Both of those are viable options.

      However, another thing to note is that many of us make use of protocols without understanding those protocols. For instance, we use a variety of protocols at the subatomic level (Physics), the molecular level (chemistry), the organism level (biology), the social organism level (politics/economics/sociology /etiquette Etc)

      Right now there are many protocols that are being used to transmit this message to you. I am, doubtless, unaware of the majority of them. Nonetheless I make use of them, because I am able to rely on someone else’s understanding (and navigation) of those protocols.

      Some folks will become fluent in Ceptr. Just like today some developers are able to code in C++ or Python. Others are able to leverage the tools that those people build, without necessarily being fluent in the lower level protocol.

      What do you think? Does that sound right? Or should it operate somehow differently?

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