logo Ming the Mechanic - Category: Knowledge
An old rigid civilization is reluctantly dying. Something new, open, free and exciting is waking up.

Monday, December 16, 2002day link 

 Bloggers Unite!
Doc Searls: "I came to the conclusion ... that blogging is about nothing more than writing — and that more of us will be writing to more people, with more effect, because of it. Every new blogging tool is one more step in the evolution of the Web as, literally, the ultimate writing medium: one that lets anybody write for everybody."

Britt Blaser: "The problem with a planet of bloggers is, how can we quantify the clustering of discrete trends and imperatives the bloggers feel strongly about? My proposal continues to be a coherent blog aggregation protocol:

Culture-wide Blog-based Knowledge-Logs
Let's take all blogs' RSS feeds and slice and dice them to aggregate our combined sensibilities.
1) Create a mechanism for people to identify and define the issues they care about, and the major positions that surround each issue.
2) Inspire and help bloggers to structure their RSS feeds to expose which issues they're discussing and where they stand on each issue.
3) Let bloggees indicate where they stand on each issue as they view it. Compile all these data points and let a million flowers bloom."
Yep, we'll need something new and better. I follow around 30 weblogs through their syndicated RSS feeds, aggregated in Radio Userland on my computer. I look at maybe 10 more directly. And I pay attention to the 50 or so newslogs that are automatically aggregated in the NCN member area. But otherwise, what I run into depends on luck and synchronicity.

There are around 15,000 weblogs that are tracked by the prevalent blog ecosystem sites. And there are maybe 50 or 100,000 total. And, as Doc Searls says, it is basically writing. People writing words. But it also emerging as something more - a grassroots global brain of sorts. But to make it actually work well at that, we need better tools, better structure, better ways of navigating the whole thing. Beyond being just 100,000 daily journals, or 100,000 soapboxes and megaphones, I want to sense what it adds up to. How do the winds blow? Where does the grass grow?
Britt Blaser: "I want a new superorganism - a culture - that reflects my values and beliefs, and I want that culture to take over the world as soon as possible. I want freedom from want through economics based on abundance, not scarcity. I want young people raised by adults confident enough to be gentle, reasonable and informed enough to mentor them skillfully. I guess I want to live in Jean-Luc Picard's world. Above all, I want patriarchy and fundamentalism to be a distant bad dream. Is that too much to ask?"
No, it isn't. I want it too.
[ | 2002-12-16 21:09 | 13 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Saturday, December 14, 2002day link 

 Devices - Instant Revolution
picture It is hard to introduce new ideas when you're dependent on only verbal persuasion and education to change people's minds. Things often don't change that way before the people with the old ideas die out.

But give people a technological device that happens to do something they like, and the world might be changed comparatively instantly.

Devices don't discriminate. Devices are generic. A telephone doesn't care what race, religion, height, weight or gender you are. It is equally present for anybody who wants to use it. It has no feelings about it.

But devices organize people. Or, rather, their presence allow people to self-organize in new ways. And that will typically be ways that are less dependent on emotions or separateness or classification of people.

Devices make you unite with others, not based on some way you in particular are different from others, but based on how you're all connected. The connectedness of technological devices brings things together that previously wouldn't be together. People are connected and united through technology who wouldn't have dreamt of connecting with each other without it. The same phone system, the same Internet, the same water pipes, the same TV standards, the same cars, the same nuts and bolts are used by very different people. And it unites them, without them having to consciously make a decision for or against it.

The spontaneous and voluntary adoption of new technological devices is a force that changes the world faster than anything else. A revolution takes place, meeting next to no resistance.

It rests on the shoulders of technological designers to think up devices that not only are useful and compelling for their prospective users, but that facilitate social behavior that is inherently beneficial for everybody involved, and for their families and communities, and for the planet. Individuals might adopt a new piece of technology because they selfishly like what it does, but it is the social and environmental re-organization that is the most important result.
[ | 2002-12-14 23:47 | 30 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Thursday, December 12, 2002day link 

 Who'll read your weblog when you die?
picture I just realized that people I knew who had websites and who died, and who's websites STILL are up, seem, well... less dead. My referer logs still show quite a few people coming from Sasha Chislenko's Great Thinkers and Visionaries page. Which is still excellent, and I'm glad somebody is keeping it up in his memory. And somehow he doesn't quite feel gone, because his website is still up. Nicholas Albery died suddenly too, but the Global Ideas Bank is still continuing as before in other people's capable hands, and is still on my server. But somehow, because our relationship was virtual, I wouldn't be terribly surprised if I suddenly got an e-mail from Nicholas. Another dear friend with a site on my server, Diane Dornbusch, is also no longer with us. And I haven't even cancelled these people's accounts on NCN or anything, because I didn't know what to do with them. Their accomplishments still stand, their websites are still up. You just can't send them e-mail.

When I die, I'd certainly want to continue existing in cyberspace. But now, my point is, a weblog is not necessarily a good format to exist in, if you aren't updating it any longer. It is not a very eternal format. It deserves to be preserved as a historical resource, but if not seen in relation to fresh material, it gets to look dated really quickly.

So, if the material in a weblog could flow, not only into a chronological and categorized and indexed archive, but into something like a mind map. Maybe not all of it, and maybe not looking the same, but I want something that allows me to fill out a mind map of what I'm about and what I've learned, in the same breath I use for posting in my log. It needs to feel integrated, but it would flow into two very different presentation formats. And one of them will be of more eternal value than the other. Maybe, if I will no longer be posting live material, somebody can flick a switch, and it is a different view that is presented as the front to my weblog. Instant Memorial Library, rather than Faded Newspaper of Last Year.
[ | 2002-12-12 01:53 | 19 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Monday, December 9, 2002day link 

Steve Denning talks about the role of storytelling in transforming organizations. He has a book: The Springboard - How storytelling ignites action in knowledge-era organizations.
"I found that a certain sort of story enables change by providing direct access to the living part of the organization. It communicates complicated change ideas while generating momentum towards rapid implementation. It helps an organization reinvent itself.

Storytelling gets inside the minds of the individuals who collectively make up the organization and affects how they think, worry, wonder, agonize and dream about themselves and in the process create and recreate their organization. Storytelling enables the individuals in an organization to see themselves and the organization in a different light, and accordingly take decisions and change their behavior in accordance with these new perceptions, insights and identities.

The attractions of narrative are obvious. Storytelling is natural and easy and entertaining and energizing. Stories help us understand complexity. Stories can enhance or change perceptions. Stories are easy to remember. Stories are inherently non-adversarial and non-hierarchical. They bypass normal defense mechanisms and engage our feelings."

[ | 2002-12-09 15:31 | 13 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Tuesday, December 3, 2002day link 

 Exclusive Rights or Public Domain?
Lawrence Lessig talks about the 1976 Copyright Act which, amongst other things, greatly extended the previous length of copyrights. A 1998 U.S. law extended them further. See timeline. Big publishers and media companies are perfectly happy with that, wanting to keep their own copyrights for as long as possible, claiming exclusive rights would be the only way of assuring that the content would get distributed. Nowadays, with the Internet, that would in many areas be a blatant lie. For example, the U.S. Copyright Office and IMBD say there are close to 37,000 movies released in the period 1927-46. Of those only 2,480 are available in any format, which is 6.8%. In other words 93.2% is not available, because it is owned exclusively be somebody who doesn't see any commercial interest in distributing it. As Lessig asks: "Does anyone really doubt the public domain wouldn't do better?"
[ | 2002-12-03 23:59 | 2 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Saturday, November 30, 2002day link 

 Brain does quantum computing
picture Most scientists who have studied brains and tried to figure out what consciousness is have started with the assumption that a brain is some kind of computer and that consciousness is is a new property that emerges from complex computation. I personally think that's a very silly assumption to make. But there is traditionally a huge split between the people who think that consciousness is some peculiar by-product of a fundamentally material universe, versus the people who think that consciousness exists eternally and the material universe is a temporary structure that it is manifested in. Oh and maybe a third category of people who think that some external deity made the whole thing, and it is none of our business to mess with it. Anyway, some of these camps might come closer together if it can become more clear what brains are really doing and what they have to do with consciousness.

Stuart Hameroff at the University of Arizona Center for Consciousness Studies has a theory of quantum consciousness. Together with Sir Roger Penrose he has developed a model of quantum computation in brain microtubules.
"Neurons may be far more complicated than mere switches. If we look inside neurons and other cells, we see highly ordered networks (the 'cytoskeleton') comprised of microtubules and other filamentous structures which organize cellular activities.. Microtubules are cylindrical polymers of the protein tubulin arranged in hexagonal lattices comprising the cylinder wall. Cooperative interactions among tubulin subunits within microtubules have been suggested to process information, as in molecular scale 'cellular automata'. As the states of tubulin are controlled by quantum mechanical internal forces (van der Waals London forces), they may exist in quantum superposition of multiple states ('quantum bits', or 'qubits'), and microtubules may be seen as quantum computers involved in cellular organization."
As he says, the theory has met intense criticism from scientific, computational and philosophical establishments. No big wonder. And whether it works exactly like that, I have no way of judging. But intuitively it makes a lot of sense if a brain is a quantum computer that potentially might function as a lens that can be tuned into many different realities. Makes a lot more sense to me than that it would be some kind of big ROM chip. Memory chips don't forget things and then remember them again later.
[ | 2002-11-30 01:42 | 10 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Tuesday, November 26, 2002day link 

Arch-skeptic Michael Shermer says some good things about intuition in The Captain Kirk Principle - Intuition is the key to knowing without knowing how you know:
"Intuition is not subliminal perception; it is subtle perception and learning-- knowing without knowing that you know. Chess masters often "know" the right move to make even if they cannot articulate how they know it. People who are highly skilled in identifying "micromomentary" facial expressions are also more accurate in judging lying. In testing college students, psychiatrists, polygraphists, court judges, police officers and Secret Service agents on their ability to detect lies, only the agents, trained to look for subtle cues, scored above chance. Most of us are not good at lie detection, because we rely too heavily on what people say rather than on what they do."

[ | 2002-11-26 04:14 | 7 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Saturday, November 23, 2002day link 

Stimulating article by Fabio Sergio, covering many aspects of the connected world that's emerging, with many references. In the near past the concept of 'information anxiety' emerged. You know, there's so much information available that there always seems to be an ever-widening gap between what we know and what we think we should know. Now most well-connected people have probably given up on trying to know everything, and are probably getting used to the fact that you can figure out most things rather quickly, if your Internet connection is just close by. So, that opens up to the new concept of 'interaction anxiety'. I know that one. You know you could figure things out if you could just go to Google, or if you could just send a message to so-and-so, but if your DSL connection is down or you're on the road, you can't. Next step would be that everything would be more automatic, so you don't have to worry about what database you left that phone number in, or how you dial up to your ISP. The technology might become more invisible so you can concentrate on what you're doing.
[ | 2002-11-23 20:21 | 14 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Friday, November 22, 2002day link 

 File swapping will win, lawyers will lose.
According to The Register, a group of Microsoft researchers have concluded that peer-to-peer file swapping networks will win and DRM (Digital Rights Management) and the lawyers will lose. We knew that all along, of course, but it is refreshing if even Microsoft might understand some of that. They explore a number of different scenarios, and conclude that no matter how much copy protection is put into hardware and software, smart people will always find ways to get around it, so they can share with each other. Most important is the understanding that file swapping networks are competitors to the monopolized 'legal' high-security media companies. If P2P networks deliver a higher quality and lower cost product, that's what people will choose. Of course people don't want crippled content that's expensive and complicated to buy, and which they can't use in ways that work for them. That is worth much LESS than a high quality product that is easy to get and to use. So, vendors will need to compete on price and convenience in order to stay in the game.
[ | 2002-11-22 17:07 | 3 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Wednesday, November 13, 2002day link 

 Public Domain
pictureAndrius Kulikauskas dared me to put my weblog here into the "Primarily Public Domain", and after a bit of thought I decided that, yes, of course that would be the right thing.

I believe very much in ideas and writings and creative works being in the public domain. Public domain means that there are no copyrights, no exclusive rights, and that the resource is owned by the community at large. That's the easiest way of ensuring that the resource is available for anybody who needs or wants it, and that it can be automatically included in libraries gathered for the common good.

For software there are some additional concerns. Specifically, if one desires free software to remain free, even when modified, the "copy-left" license might be the best idea.

With substantial things I've written in the past, like my Transformational Processing books, I've previously chosen to mark them as copyrighted, adding that they can be freely copied and distributed for any non-commercial purpose. But I think public domain probably makes it more clear to people that they're free to use it. Many people contact me, asking for permission, just because they see the word "copyright". And I really don't mind at all that people quote or copy what I write, even in books that people pay for, or classes that cost money. As a matter of fact I'm flattered that they would want to.

For good public domain resources see for example: ibiblio or Wikipedia
[ | 2002-11-13 04:38 | 10 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

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