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One page teaser for the upcoming JTF planning grant proposal

Ritual is the earthly social process by which humanity’s distributed "code books" stay in sync with the Big Data of our lived worlds

A seminal 3 hour discussion of our proposal with Karl Friston (the world’s most cited Neuroscientist)

In brief: We aim to demonstrate how distributed worlds — with institutional facts — are encoded and stored in distributed neural structures via ritual. As a slogan “ritual builds worlds”.

Intuition: An institutional fact is a distributed computational structure, represented in two or more intelligent agents, that modifies perception and action models. Measurable as differences in behavioral capacities of long term (multigenerational) memory, coordination, communication and prediction — in the wild (E.g. ).
Approach: Blend the complex systems analysis of Religion and Ritual (Rappaport), Computational neuroscience (Friston), and contemporary analytical philosophy (Searle)
Flowchart: Ritual -> Distributed Generative Models for Active Inference -> Ontogeny of Institutional Facts (Measurable via patterns of choice behavior in groups of ritualized agents)
Definition of world: We might define the worlds being built as collections of possible action pathways.
This is literally the definition of action policies used in AI — reinforcement learning algorithms as well as in Friston’s Active Inference framework.
It echoes a popular quote from Wittgenstein: "The world is the totality of facts, not things"

In DARPA’s format ...

What are you trying to do? Articulate your objectives using absolutely no jargon.
We aim to understand and naturalize —using adaptive, cognitive, ethnographic and cybernetic methods— the ancient, essential, and constructive role ritual plays in developing humanity
By naturalizing the role of ritual for humanity’s distributed “world building”, we will be following through on Sir John’s expectation that “scientific revelations may be a gold mine for revitalizing religion in the 21st century”
How is it done today, and what are the limits of current practice?
Research methods and tools developed in Anthropology and Social Science today lack sufficient Computer Science and Data Science talent and fit-for-use advanced modeling frameworks
This has left many areas of study (e.g. ritual and language) deprived of the remarkable progress over the last 10-15 years in machine assisted data analysis techniques (e.g. text modeling, video extraction, semantic processing) and tools for realistic and large scale inference and simulation (e.g. Active Inference, Free Energy Principle, Open AI Gym)
What is new in your approach and why do you think it will be successful?
An exceptionally motivated team with a radically Neuroscience and AI oriented approach, teaming with the wisest researchers in the Anthropology of Religion and Culture, to unlock the multimillenial trove of ethnographic data on ritual in culture, that is being aggregated and is waiting for at-scale activation.
We expect to find important scientific revelations by applying newly developed, but proven, machine learning and simulation tools from AI (e.g. Natural Language Processing – Watson Jeopardy, realistic multi-agent, and symbolically enabled ABMs – Free Energy Principle) to the vast amounts of messy, but highly pertinent, ethnographic data on socioecological ritual practices (e.g. , , ).
Who cares? If you are successful, what difference will it make?
Communities of engineering and business practice (e.g. Meta’s VR R&D team, AI Research Labs, Cognitive therapy practices) will enable bridge building between the study of religion and ritual and scientific thought leaders -- particularly in the area of Neuroscience and AI -- ultimately fostering the mainstream adoption of Ritual as "globally vital technology"
A two way benefit integrating the study of ritual into AI and brain sciences, with the computational treatment of Ritual becoming a recognized area in CS, AI and Cognitive Science, while helping retool areas of study in Anthropology and the Social Sciences
What are the risks?
The work is ignored and AI, brain sciences and CS drift further apart from sources of “spiritual knowledge”, missing out on socioecological lessons from thousands of societies
How long will it take?
POC (proof of concept): 3 months
Pilot: 9-12 months
Production: 2 years (where a growing community of practitioners in science, engineering and religion will develop deliverables e.g. scholarship, tools, and material for public outreach)
Integration: 3 years (a rollout period where toolkits will be integrated into various centers of research to develop regional communities of technical implementation and social practice)
How much will it cost?
POC: $50,000 (Viability oriented simulation mock ups, Wise Counsel - experts meeting and video archive, searchable bibliography and artifacts)
Pilot: $150,000 (ABM demonstrations, published paper, practical use cases and interviews)
Production: $1,200,000 (4 Work-streams: FEP, NLP, Pulotu++, Community Engagement)
Integration: $2,400,000 (Establish centers of practice at 2-4 leading universities, including Brain-measurement, Anthropology 2.0, AI 3.0, CBT & Wellness)
What are the mid-term and final “exams” to check for success?
Entrance test: End of Pilot
Midterm: Proof of value and buy-in from prestigious scientific journals
Final: Centers of practice established at leading universities

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