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 False Authorities
pictureSome more thoughts and hints about recognizing false or misleading information.

So much information is passing through our lives that we most of the time have to rely on the word of somebody else in deciding what is true or false. Often it is relative strangers talking to us about events and people far away. Journalists, scientists, public officials telling us about what goes on in Iraq, on the moon, in laboratories, or many other places where we can't easily go and verify the story. And we usually wouldn't know how to verify it.

So, what we do is:
  • We examine the story itself, to figure out if it is internally consistent. I.e. does it agree with itself?
  • We look at the presented credentials of the people who present the story to us. I.e. does their position or qualifications seem to match the story they're telling us?
  • We look for any claims of endorsenment or verification from people we might know or trust. I.e. who else says this is true?
  • We assess the presentation of the material. Body language, writing style, tone of voice. Is it consistent with somebody telling the truth?

    None of that is really any evidence of whether we're being told the truth or not. But they act as initial, superficial steps of due dilligence in trying to verify whether something is real or not. In many cases we don't have time to do anything more than that.
    [ | 2002-10-11 14:06 | 16 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

  •  Communicationism
    Lots of good people out there working on practical models and protocols for self-organization of groups. I just ran into Communicationism. As it says: "Communicationism is the applied philosophy of improving society through the design and development of communication systems. It is principally focused on open designs for enhancing: individual self-determination and inclusive deliberative democracy within communities. It also seems to focus a lot on protecting minority opinions, and arriving at consensus by making sure all objections are dealt with. One of the interesting articles there is some suggested Procedures for Online Consensus Democracy.
    [ | 2002-07-10 18:41 | 24 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

     Sociocracy
    I'm just reading in a new member site about Sociocracy. It is quite similar to what my vision would be of how groups of people ought to organize and make decisions. The main 4 principles are:

  • Governance by Consent
  • Circle Organization
  • Double Linking
  • Elections by Consent

    The "Governance by Consent" thing is almost the same as what I'm used to calling "Consensus". But in the text it is contrasted with Consensus. Which I can understand, because for many people "Consensus" means that everybody agrees. Whereas the Consent principle is more that everybody can live with it and don't have any specific and substantial objection.
    [ | 2002-07-10 18:00 | 15 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

  •  Patterns in Virtual Spaces
    It is very interesting how we perceive meaning in the way things are arranged. Different spaces will have different functions based on how they are arranged in relation to other spaces.

    A classic book on this is "A Pattern Language" by Chris Alexander, who's an architect, which lays out how many different patterns in how spaces are arranged will affect what is likely to happen in those spaces. He is talking about physical buildings, but similar principles apply to virtual spaces.
    [ | 2002-06-21 01:52 | 25 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

     Emerging Order
    I'm very interested in emerging order in human systems. Meaning, self-organization amongst humans. Or, how a bunch of people might get something useful done, voluntarily, without being forced to do so. I'm most particularly interested in what might emerge amongst people of good will who are fully aware that they're free to make their own choices, and who live within a system that ensures that it remains like that.
    [ | 2002-06-14 01:04 | 28 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

     Weavers
    I believe one of the key roles in the building of better societies is that of what we could call a Weaver. We could say it is somebody who helps self-organization to happen, even if that sounds a little paradoxical. Somebody who notices things that are possible and assists them in emerging, by making connections where there were none.

    In order to release our collective intelligence I think it is a firm requirement that creative diversity is allowed and nurtured. That people are inherently free to come up with different approaches to things, and they're free to move about and pursue them in the ways they find appropriate. In other words, a free market of ideas and activities.

    But, as that will often seem rather chaotic at first glance, there's a great need for people who will assist in making what is going on clear and meaningful, and who will help new meaningful things in becoming manifest. There are probably several different distinct roles there. But let me talk a bit about the Weaver role.
    [ | 2002-06-13 14:24 | 13 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

     Dimensions
    pictureA subject that continuously fascinates me is that of higher dimensions. I'm not primarily thinking about the meta-physical idea of dimensions, but rather the matematical. I believe that a lot of our problems would be easily solved if we learned to think and operate in more than our customary 3 or so dimensions.

    We can most easily understand that by studying dimensions of a lower number than 3. If you look at something in 2 dimensions, it is all flat, like a piece of paper. And you can see everything on the paper at the same time.

    Likewise, a 4th dimensional being would quite naturally be able to see everything in a 3 dimensional scene at the same time, including what is at any point inside your body, or inside closed rooms, or inside solid objects.
    [ | 2002-05-11 02:53 | 19 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

     Designing for Diversity
    I've noticed an omission in the design of this support structure for NCN. Or, rather, it is something that ought to be invented, or arranged a little differently, in order for things to work more smoothly and synergetically.

    I'm often preaching about my vision of a world that needs to have room for all sorts, having freedom enough for people to make their different choices. And how NCN ought to have the same kind of basic principle. You know, we don't have to agree, and if you want to do something, go and do it, even if nobody else agrees. I will always defend that principle, but the problem here is that it is something I've been *preaching*, and something one would sort of have to buy into. And if somebody didn't agree with it, we'd have to have a big argument about it, etc.

    The much better way would be if the virtual environment we meet in here automatically would facilitate a creative diversity amongst us, and help things flow so as to avoid unproductive clashes.
    [ | 2002-02-26 19:04 | 7 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

     Group Specifications
    These are some sketchy ideas around the subject of specifying what a group is about, so that people know what they go into when they join it, and so that others know what to expect from the group.

    I believe that a lot of inter-personal conflict comes about because people have different, unspoken assumptions about what group they're in together. If I think we're doing A and you think we're doing B, and we haven't really talked about that, then no wonder we'll get into an unsolvable argument about how to do things.
    [ | 2002-02-22 21:08 | 8 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

     Puzzle
    Please read this sentence:

    FINISHED FILES ARE THE RE-

    SULT OF YEARS OF SCIENTIF-

    IC STUDY COMBINED WITH

    THE EXPERIENCE OF YEARS.

    Count the F's.

    How many did you find?

    The correct answer is below.
    [ | 2002-02-01 01:06 | 32 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

     The Myth of Public Information
    pictureThere is a widespread myth underlying most media information, most analysis of the activities of governments and corporations, and most scientific debunking of anything unusual going on in the world. That is that most things are known by the public, and if anything unusual would be going on, we'd know about it. In other words, there are no conspiracies, no big things going on in secret, nothing much happening that isn't described in the official school textbooks and in the newspaper. The myth reasons that if any large number of people are expected to keep a secret, there will always be somebody who spills the beans. The problem is that this isn't true at all.
    [ | 2002-01-17 19:43 | 28 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

     Post-Modernism
    pictureThe term "post-modernism" has always confused me. Or, rather, I must admit that I never got a good definition. Now, researching it some more, the best explanation I can find is in these pages. Modernism was characterized by a belief that rational, orderly progress of one well-identified central metaphor, such as Science or Capitalism or Communism, was going to solve things. Post-modernism is the end of belief in any such absolute truths; replaced with a sense that everything is relative; there are no universal answers or agreements; culture just fragments into a playful celebration of chaos. We're surfing across multiple paradigms, without any of them being the obvious RIGHT one. Mostly it means that Science and your local Political Paradigm have been deposed as gods of your world. You can make up the truth as well as they can.
    [ | 2002-01-06 22:18 | 25 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

     Seeing Patterns in Data
    pictureI'm reading Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson. It is sort of a thriller about secret codes and stuff, taking place both in WWII and today. Anyway, one of the recurring themes is about finding patterns in apparent randomness. *Information* is essentially the stuff that is different within a volume of data. If I say AAAAAAAAAAAAAABAAA, there isn't a whole lot of information. It is a bunch of As and a B. The B is what sticks out, of course. There is no information if everything is the same all the time, or if it is just the same repetitive pattern. Information is conveyed when something different takes place, which somebody can make sense out of.

    Through intelligent analysis one might find patterns of information where the untrained eye wouldn't expect or notice any. An example from the book: a secret installation that is working on breaking codes, using a certain kind of machines, has hired mainly women who are taller than the norm, because of the way the machines are constructed, as they need to be able to reach to the top of them to change the paper. Somebody who had access to personnel records and were analyzing them might notice the height variance. That is information. It points to a deeper pattern. A smart intelligence person would notice that variation and would investigate it further to find out what it meant.
    [ | 2001-12-11 04:27 | 10 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

     Is it sharable?
    Most things I seem to care about are sharable. There's a certain enjoyment in sharing. Sharing an experience, a story, something one has learned, a piece of good information, a better way of doing things, a spiritual revelation, sexual ecstasy, whatever it may be. Nothing is quite so much fun if it can't be shared. Even if it is a deeply personal experience. Then maybe you'll share your subsequently different outlook on life, or you'll go around emanating a different vibe.

    I'd also go as far as saying that in most fields it is good that something is sharable, and bad when something isn't sharable. In fields such as technology, communication, information, politics, art, or just about anything else I can think of - if something useful and desirable is sharable, it can benefit many people, and possibly the world. If something considered useful and desirable is not sharable, but is only available for the select few, under very limited circumstances, it is probably a waste of resources and the world is bereft of a potential positive benefit.
    [ | 2001-12-07 23:46 | 21 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

     Fault-tolerant technology
    Seems to me that a lot of potential problems in the world are there because of technology and systems that only work when everything is going well, and that aren't prepared for things going wrong, or for deliberate misuse. Un-collapsible buildings and un-highjackable planes are certainly technologically possible. But it is generally not how we design things. Too many of our technological constructions have single points of failure. Knock out a few key pieces, and the whole thing tumbles down. Blow up a few supporting pillars and a building falls down. Cut the right cable and millions of people have no TV or electricity. Pull out the plug out of your own computer and, no matter how many millions of transistors it has, they all stop working.
    [ | 2001-10-09 20:21 | 32 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

     Propaganda
    This is a pretty good site on propaganda and propaganda analysis:
    [link]

    It covers a number examples of how communication is used to deceive, and how one might be aware of that.
    [ | 2001-09-25 20:09 | 16 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

     Generalities and Specifics
    One way of being deceptive is to provide an inappropriate mix of generalities and specifics. E.g. to give vague generalities when specific information is called for, leaving the audience thinking their questions have been answered when they really haven't; or to give loads of confusing specifics when a big picture summary was what was needed, possibly leaving the audience completely ignorant that there is a bigger picture.

    A politician is typically an expert in the first kind of deception, answering in generalities and avoiding really saying anything. The news media and most educational institutions are very skilled in the second deception. They work very hard at telling you a lot of things, "keeping you informed", "teaching you", but are likely to omit the most central and important facts that would tie it all together.
    [ | 2001-09-08 16:50 | 15 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

     Truth Pattern Analysis
    One subject I'm really interested in doing something with, but which I haven't really gotten around to, is the analysis of information in order to learn the truth. Hm, I guess it is a little hard to express what I mean, but I'm talking about the ability to track down what is true and false by studying clues in the information available. There is lots of information that will indirectly reveal whether something else is true or false. Somebody who's trying to deceive and hide the real truth will reveal that fact in an assorment of ways.

    Now, the reason I'm so interested in this is that the majority of the population has no clue about what is true or false, and is easily deceived. Most all media is built around that fact. All legal institutions are based on the principle that whoever argues the best for their version of truth, wins, and doesn't have any technology for actually finding truth. Likewise, science is built on models that large numbers of scientists can agree on and demonstrate the validity of, and will happily ignore huge chunks of reality that don't fit the agreed-upon reality.
    [ | 2001-09-08 01:13 | 16 comments | PermaLink ]  More >



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