I have just cross-linked my “Adopt An Ostrich” article on Daily Kos. (It took a little while to figure out the convoluted format.) I’ll only do this for the most “important” essays and I doubt I will do much comment-response there. So any Kos-ers who keep an eye open over there, please let me know if I ever need to pay closer attention.
And yes, go thou forth, all of you, and Adopt an Ostrich! Seriously. People like you are only a couple of degrees of separation from the civil servants and skilled officers who we must reach. The inherently conservative -- but modernist and deeply loyal and sincere -- men and women who are members of the Protector Caste, who need to be awakened to a basic truth. That the Republic and civilization is in greater danger now than it has been for all our lives, and from an enemy as bad as communism ever was.
If we can waken enough of these sincere Goldwater conservatives, a tipping point may be reached and our civilization may yet be saved. Be tenacious, relentless.
==How Societies Work==
Some of you may be interested in a paper by Rand Corp research David Ronfeldt, part of his continuing efforts to develop a framework about social evolution -- past, present, and future: In Search of How Societies Work: Tribes -- The First and Forever Form.
I’ll give the entire abstract here, because I think it is a fascinating topic and one worth considerably more sophisticated thinking than most of us apply to it.
ABSTRACT: "The latest in a string of efforts to develop a theoretical framework about social evolution, based on how people develop their societies by using four forms of organization-tribes, hierarchical institutions, markets, and networks-this installment focuses on the tribal form. The tribal form was the first to emerge and mature, beginning thousands of years ago. Its main dynamic is kinship, which gives people a distinct sense of identity and belonging-the basic elements of culture, as manifested still today in matters ranging from nationalism to fan clubs.
"This report provides a lead-off chapter that sketches the entire framework, plus a "rethinking" chapter that shows why David Ronfeldt thinks that social evolution revolves around four forms of organization. A chapter then traces the evolution of tribes and clans, and the final chapter describes modern manifestations of the tribal form. An appendix reprints three op-ed pieces that sprang from Ronfeldt's efforts to understand the tribal form and its continuing relevance. Ronfeldt maintains that societies advance by learning to use and combine all four forms, in a preferred progression. What ultimately matters is how the forms are added and how well they function together. They are not substitutes for each other; they are complements. Historically, a society's advance-its progress-depends on its ability to use all four forms and combine them into a coherent, well-balanced, well-functioning whole. Essentially monoform tribal/clan societies and biform chiefdoms and clan-states, some dressed in the trappings of nation-states and capitalist economies, remain a ruling reality in vast areas of the world. It therefore behooves analysts and strategists who mostly think about states and markets to gain a better grip on roles the tribal form plays in both national development and national security.”
Fascinating stuff, by one of the brightest and most agile social thinkers around.
And while we are being intellectual, let me reiterate the recommendation that folks have a look at Must-know terms for the 21st Century intellectual by George Dvorsky. Another fellow who pours far too much energy into blogging... to our benefit. Dvorsky strives to come up “with a list of the most fundamental and crucial terms that are coming to define and will soon re-define the human condition.” Following all the links could keep you plenty busy. Too busy to go out to bars hunting for a mate. So it is a eugenics plot, after all.
See screen shots of the proposed GUI for MIT $100 computer... the project, the initiative to put $100 laptops in the hands of children around the world. The interface uses a highly abstracted spatial navigation metaphor, an extension of the familiar desktop metaphor, for easy, intuitive navigation that makes the most of the laptop’s networking capabilities. Children can move through four levels of view—Home, Friends, Neighborhood, and Activity—and connect with others in the network “mesh” formed by users.
Of course this is an area of great interest. Let me offer some thoughts.
1) by the time these laptops are mass produced, they will also have cheap cameras, augmenting the effect that cell phones are already having in the Developing World (see my earlier posting about this) empowering local activists with powerful tools of reciprocal accountability. (Obviously I am expecting that parents will also use these machines.) The proliferation of cameras, P2P computer nets etc will worry hierarchical despotisms... And yet the most sincere of those despotisms will WANT some of the anti-corruption effects of reciprocal accountability to apply upon LOW level public officials, whose waste and parasitism depletes the entire nation, the way an infestation of tapeworms can impoverish your body. You can expect nations like China to embrace grass-roots anti-corruption efforts, enhanced by these tools, while suppressing them at national levels.
2) As mentioned, there is discussion of empowering these laptops with peer-to-peer (P2P) capabilities so that they can network even without the existence of local hubs. If this happens, it will be one more example of how the 3rd world may leapfrog past the 1st world, with capabilities that we, here in the West, badly need. I feel that today’s cell phone companies, for example, have utterly betrayed the national and public interest by not engendering a P2P backup capability for at least text messaging -- capabilities that would have proved useful during crises like Katrina. (See more about this under “Comments” later, just below.)
If another disaster happens, in which many thousands or millions are cut off, with charged/sophisticated radios in their pockets that are completely useless when needed most, there will be hell to pay. Or there ought to be. Next time, the cell-cos themselves may get some of the blame.
3) Back to the $100 laptop. It is a great program and deserves massive support. And yet...
And yet... you keep hearing about how smart the interface design people at MIT are... and I don’t get it. The layered GUI of the proposed $100 laptop is sweet and intuitive... and still misses several key insights having to do with allocation of scarce human attention. It is an incremental improvement... and may do a lot of good. But it patronizes the ultimate users. And strenuously avoids the bigger steps that would actually help make things a lot better.
==Communication for the 21st Century==
And yes, this segues into my Holocene invention. The recent awarding of my incredibly broad (126 claims) patent has somewhat raised the level at which people are taking these ideas seriously. Seriously... but often with a sense of heated rage... almost like the way a tsunami of geek-letters poured in, after my “Why Johnny Can’t Code” article, a few months back.
So far, I have been amazed by a rich variety of responses that seek to AVOID discussing the issues raised by my patent... how to help online users divide and allocate scarce attention across screen based environments, using methods and tools similar to those we already have used in the real world, ever since the caves.
Instead, a majority seem driven to complain at peripheral issues like:
“Why would anyone want to do that?”
“How can you patent something so obvious? Of course there’s prior art!”
”Patents are evil!”
Look... either these things are being done, usefully, right now, or they are not. The question is a simple one. And yet, a vast majority seems determined to avert their gaze in ANY direction but at the very basic issue, almost as if it hurts to look at a conceptual blind spot...
...but I won’t waste space here at the top level, answering this nonsense, especially since a few of the very brightest out there are starting to lift their heads from the depressing-dulling imagination-suppressing effects of the 21st-Century-So-Far.
I may add a little riff, below, in comments, elaborating. Overall, though. I am learning the value of patience. Waiting for the times to catch up, I suppose.