Recursive Exhaustion

The most important thing I have ever discovered is the use of Recursive Exhaustion in very large scale Social Data Collection.  I believe that the most significant new developments in Social Technology will come from that area.  To bring attention to it, the rest of this post is a copy of the front page of the Recursive Exhaustion website, as first created.

Recursive Exhaustion is an algorithm. Here I discuss it in the context of social technology.

Among other techniques applicable to society are those for collecting and using personal data. The most notorious example of this to date is the misuse of Facebook information by Cambridge Analytica.

To me, this was almost trivial. They collected a small amount of information on a mere 87 million people. Through Recursive Exhaustion it is possible to collect a vast amount of information about almost everybody.

Essentially recursive exhaustion works by repeatedly exhausting the space of known individuals and their attributes.

In computer science there is a method known as an exhaustive search, also known as a brute-force search. Sometimes it is referred to by its fundamental technique and is known as generate and test. It is one of the most powerful of the general problem-solving techniques, but is computationally expensive.

An exhaustive search is usually conducted on tree structure, which is a discrete combinatorial object. One might somehow transform a list of people into a tree structure then perform a search to find a person meeting certain characteristics.

The problem with this is that the human population changes. People are born and die. Living people change all the time. A fixed tree structure for the human race is impossible.

A recursive exhaustive search is one in which the attributes of one person are reevaluated at each step by considering all changes in his or her social environment. The individuals in that social environment will also have to be reevaluated, so the search for one person requires a data collection step which can propagate recursively throughout the whole population.

As applied to the whole of human society, this violates the most fundamental requirement of a recursive algorithm: it has no end condition.

Nor should it. There is no end to the changes society goes through.

Various implementations of this algorithm are discussed on another page. Details of its application to human society are elsewhere.

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Former Front Page

This p0st is intended to keep some continuity and reflect history by reproducing the last front page of this website. That page was never very good and will be replaced at once, but it does make the odd good point:

There have been so many advances in mobile computer and networking hardware that the greatest need is for new social software development. This site is more general, and will discuss new hardware possibilities as well.


There is a cycle in which demands for new capabilities or higher performance force the development and adoption of specialized hardware, which then becomes obsolete as better software running on more general purpose machines replaces it. New performance demands then lead to new hardware. Some of the powerful video display processors of former years were replaced by single chips which converted the output of the a port on the CPU to a video signal. That was not good enough, so more and more powerful video cards have been used. But increasingly these graphics processing units, or GPUs are just general purpose computers in disguise — C language compilers have been written for them, and programmers can use them when performance requires it. Indeed, current supercomputers are often just stacks of interconnected GPUs. A fictional arms race of this sort appears in the novel Society Changed.

Some of the problems in social technology involve evaluating or approximating the solutions to problems which increase according to the factorial of the number of nodes in the network. Elsewhere in the same long novel, a hardware specialist kept producing better and better chipsets, such as neural network chips to deal with these problems. His software opponent demonstrates first that neural networks can always be emulated in software, which showed that software was adequate for the job, then she found much better algorithms not based on neural networks.

There are clearly some hardware requirements which cannot be made obsolete by better software. For example, a device for doing some important aspects of advanced social technology should have an array of three or even for cameras directed at the face of a person using the device. Elsewhere in the same work of fiction, it is described how an array of four cameras is connected to a piece of video input hardware at least as powerful as the GPUs on the best new personal computers. In this case the specific need was for video input processing to simulate the way the human brain sees in three dimensions, without closer objects appearing disproportionately larger.

What seems a most likely solution to the problems of a truly advanced social technology would be a handheld device like a smartphone, incorporating multiple backward facing cameras, a powerful video input chip, equally powerful video output chip, and some specialized hardware for solving a specific kind of combinatorial optimization problems. Hardware for continuously interfacing with a telecommunications network should probably be included. It will not be enough for people to make phone or video calls to one another, the device itself will have to coordinate its activities with similar devices carried by other people.

A fictional example of this from the same novel involves software which suggests music to listen to, based on the user’s tastes — he or she could indicate by a button push or verbal command that the current piece of music is not wanted right then, and perhaps never. This would work better if the device could monitor the user’s activities by means of sensors, also useful for other purposes. By invisibly sharing information with compatible people from the same social environment, their own tastes could be coordinated, so that without asking specifically for it, people would be given the opportunity to hear music their friends like.

Since people may be listening to music through loudspeakers, not earphones, the novel suggests a need for full-duplex audio, not just for noise-cancellation but for adapting what the user is listening to, so it fits the sonic environment.

As well as audio and video inputs, other sensors, such as motion sensors will be useful, and they should be much more sophisticated than the ones used to find the orientation of a tablet. As well as just sensing motion in the large, tiny motions need to be measured. This could be thought of as a downward extension of the audio inputs — like the toys of some audio purists who refuse to consider a cutoff or rolloff of the bass frequencies. They want their equipment to handle frequencies right down to DC — direct current voltages or amperages. As regards input, that means a microphone which can also be a barometric pressure sensor!

No amount of software could replace these sensors, which are inevitable, but a lot of software development will be necessary to make use of them. This site will also discuss the creation of new software, but that will be more the focus of the main social software development site.

For software, an open source project with contributions from many people should suffice. Please refer to the new Social Systems Project website, and for those with any management skills, its Project Organization website. Hardware is a harder problem, so to speak.



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Network of Websites

My strategy is to have a large network of websites, instead of hiding my pages within a few of them, or posting them on a blog.

If you do not see much content on any one website, it is because material intended for that site is on another one. See if any of the ones below look interesting.

All of these sites are related to the main Social Technology site and have been added to the network at various times over the years. As well adding new material, existing content is being slowly redistributed or copied. That will take a while. For more information see my personal home page and then the Social Technology History page.

Some of those websites have domain names associated with them:

Other websites have no associated domain name, and can only be accessed via another site. Some of them are very important sites, but no obvious domain name which was unique and descriptive could be found.

In addition to these sites, there are a few relating to fiction written to explore and explain social technology. These are discussed on my Books website and there is a list of them on a page there.

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Like most the older pages and posts on this website, it is largely obsolete because implementations of Recursive Exhaustion will allow the collection of vast amounts of information about everybody without their knowledge or permission.  I am including the material below for its historical interest,  using a strikethrough font where necessary to cross out the most naive and egregious items.

Over the next few years there will be many new applications of social technology, even without the stimulus of this website.  Some possible ones are listed here, though many might find a more appropriate home at the companion Technological Fantasies website.

Some of these future applications of social technology will come from people’s individual needs, expressed by sentences beginning “I wish I could …”.

One example is an application of real-time facial recognition software, to satisfy someone who says “I wish I could know he was telling the truth” about an online conversation.

The ability to hold a conversation with video over the Internet is already a kind of social technology, but it has its limitations.  Those are most severe when coupled with another application, which helps people find others for marital or sexual relationships.  The latter are not well developed at all, but prevalent enough to cause trouble.   The combination of interpersonal matching technology with software to reveal the other person’s true emotional involvement and honesty would be safer and better.

It may seem as though software to detect another person’s emotions and see if they match their spoken words is by far the harder problem.  Actually, it is the interpersonal searching and matching which is the most difficult.  It is easy to show that problems of matching people grow much harder as the number of individuals increases.  Typically the amount of computing power needed goes according to the cube of the number of participants.

This also applies to the corresponding problem of matching employers to employees.  A reliable employment service that solves this problem must make use of social technologies far beyond anything available today.

In finding jobs for people, their appearance does not especially matter, nor should it.  In interpersonal matching for marital and other sexual relationships, they are extremely important.  At the moment, people using dating services depend on pictures of their possible mates.  That is almost as bad as depending on their self-generated descriptions.  Instead, a person might say “I wish I could find someone with the kind of face I like, without looking through all of these pictures.”

It should be possible to express a person’s preference for specific facial and body types in terms of a feature space.  This could be done by having individuals select those they most and least like from a set of lifelike but computer generated samples.

There are several other applications related to the general area of interpersonal matching, which will be discussed on other pages.

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This site uses the free DigiProve plugin for WordPress, which provides proof of copyright status.  They offer a free single-site service.  Multiple sites require a subscription, which I cannot afford, so all of the serious development connected with Social Technology that I do will be on this R & D site.  The other, Software Development Site, will only be used for comments on software.  It will contain a copyright notice, but no more.

Some of this material should be patented.  I cannot afford to do that.   This DigiProved copyright should at least prevent others from patenting my ideas.  If anyone wants to help me obtain a patent or patents, so that they may use this material with that degree of protection, please contact me.   Other ways to help me obtain this basic protection is mentioned on my  How You Can Help Page.


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Proposed Hardware

Like most the older pages and posts on this website, it is largely obsolete because implementations of Recursive Exhaustion will allow the collection of vast amounts of information about everybody without their knowledge or permission.  I am including the material below for its historical interest,  using a strikethrough font where necessary to cross out the most naive and egregious items.

The following old account emphasizes hardware and suggests it is special purpose.  Little is new about the hardware, except having four front facing cameras.  Most of the rest of what is needed can be done with software.   Nothing new in the hardware will be special purpose.   There is no reason they would be useless to other apps.  Of course they would be, probably to many.

Current social media trivialize serious problems.  Some social networking problems are so difficult that even powerful supercomputers cannot handle them.  To solve these problems, it seems possible to make more use of human intelligence, using some device which works interactively with each individual person. There is clearly a need to go into hardware design, which must be based on much more than the kind of sketch a marketing person might produce, but let’s start with one of those, as a visual illustration of the requirements to be met.  Click here to review the kind of scenario for which it is intended.  Click on the image to enlarge it.


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Enrich Lives

Like most the older pages and posts on this website, it is largely obsolete because implementations of Recursive Exhaustion will allow the collection of vast amounts of information about everybody without their knowledge or permission.  I am including the material below for its historical interest,  using a strikethrough font where necessary to cross out the most naive and egregious items.

What will the coming technology do for a person?  Image a pocket-sized social tech device using speech and facial recognition as well as having ordinary smartphone capabilities.   What will it do for you?

It will not only connect you with ordinary or intimate friends and help manage your career, it will provide you with the level of personal and financial advice which made the fictional Ken Green the richest man in the world.  We cannot all be the richest person in the world, but we could all be wealthy, both in financial terms and in terms of our social environment — the people in our lives and work we do. The only question remaining: how soon?

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A Scenario

This post is entirely obsolete because of the discover of Recursive Exhaustion.  I keep it around to illustrate my views before any adequate implementatio of this the new algorithm would make possible the collection of vast amounts of information about everyone without their knowledge or permission.

I have applied a strikethrough font to the parts which were naive and are not just wrong.

This scenario is set in the near future.  The hardware platform may resemble the one in the header image, which looks like an ordinary smartphone.   A very close inspection with a magnifier might reveal four dots in the corners, which are to be understood as camera lenses.

Suppose that a person seeks a friend, lover, coworker or employer. He or she may use this future device in the following way:

  • turn on the device and use speed-dial links on the touch screen menu to get to social technology functions, then to select the appropriate kind of matching, OR
  • use voice control for all of this
  • interact with the device using a speech recognition interface (like Siri) to find and select the right kind of matching
  • update a previous virtual questionnaire, or respond to a new one — while responding to the machine generated questions, the backwards looking cameras look for stress and other indications of dishonesty
  • periodically question the speech interface about the interim results of this searching and matching operation — using the device for an hour will give much worse results than prolonging this process over a week, returning again and again to respond to more questions
  • as well asking questions about yourself, the device will ask about what you want — for interpersonal relationships it will display paired pictures of individuals, probably famous ones, asking you to pick the more attractive one — this will give the software a sense of your preferences
  • as time goes by the device will occasionally suggest getting into communications with someone, a potential friend, lover, spouse, co-worker or employer — if you are an employer, it will occasionally suggest communicating with someone about a job offer
  • the device will facilitate secure, anonymous communication with other people
  • it’s suggestions will usually be for someone who will make your life better in every way, including making you a better person
  • it will never help an aggressor how to communicate with a potential victim but will instead try to create a social environment which will dampen out potential violence or exploitation

This is only a brief sketch.  More detail to come.  Better yet, add your own thoughts!

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Image on Smartphone-Like Hardware

The image of a young girl is a photograph by

Petr Kratochvil

obtained from  This link should take you to the original picture, titled Teenager With Smartphone.

According to the company website: “We obtained Model Release form for this image but please note that file must not be used in a way that places any person in the photo in a bad light or depicts them in a way that they may find offensive.”  The identity of the model is not given.

The image of the smartphone itself has been altered so that it does not represent any existing device.  That is appropriate, since it is here to represent a device that does not yet exist, implementing a future technology.

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Virtual Questionnaires

Tasks for those with a Background in the Social Sciences

Like most the older pages and posts on this website, it is largely obsolete because implementations of Recursive Exhaustion will allow the collection of vast amounts of information about everybody without their knowledge or permission.  I am including the material below for its historical interest,  using a strikethrough font where necessary to cross out the most naive and egregious items.

Some important tasks remain to be done, however.  Mostly they will be defining entities to recurse over.

Questionnaires are a type of software, it seems, though pen and paper are hardware. The design of questionnaires and other survey instruments is software development, but it is discussed here on the more general R & D site rather than the social tech software site. which is more for programmers and analysts.

The development of advanced social technology will require questionnaire creation and testing, though in the scenarios given here the questionnaires will be answered by voice, with video, and biometric testing will be used to look for dishonest answers.

One important goal is to find out how well two people will work together, so that network reorganization software can be applied to relink people into a more effective and more pleasing structure. A related goal is to match employees and employers, but first let’s consider interpersonal matching.

There are three sub-problems:

  • do these people have common interests
  • do they have complementary abilities
  • what is their error covariance

The last item needs some explanation. Two people should not work together if they tend to make the same kinds of errors. Ideally their errors should cancel out.

People who work together well in person may not work well over the phone or Internet. One question then will be the question of relocation.  In discussing an important meta-cause or meta-organization, an organization to develop and apply social technology to other causes as well as itself, the question of self-organization arose. How to tie together a group of people for such a purpose?  In ordinary non-governmental organizations the pleasures of working together in person is important.  Sometimes that involves relocation.  For any specific individual, is relocation to work with someone else a good idea or not?

This is a hard problem which people with a social science background might like to address, perhaps with the aid of subtle questionnaires.  Needless to say, this issue is more important for people liable to enter into romantic interpersonal relationships because of using advanced social technology to suggest the move to another city.

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