Hidden Abilities

There are some human abilities that are equivalent to superpowers, in that they seem superhuman. The most obvious examples are certain kinds of athletes and performers. Some of these people can do things that are hard to believe a human can do. In watching acrobats and contortionists, one worries they might hurt themselves.

I have some athletic ability. I’ve played sports and I’m decent at juggling. My greatest physical skill was hacky sack or, if you prefer, footbag. I played all the time and even invented tricks that were quite impressive. But even then there were surely thousands of other people just here in the Midwestern United States that were at least as good as I and probably far better. My skills, as great as they were, were not at the level of the superhuman. I’m not a genius in physical ability, just above average.

That is fine. Most people don’t mind having limited athletic skills or whatever. We live in a society that only moderately admires and rewards such abilities. For all the wealth a professional athlete can accrue, a popular movie star or powerful CEO will still make vastly more money, and no one even cares to watch the CEO. Besides, the movie star or CEO doesn’t have to worry about potential physical injury and permanent brain damage that might lead to chronic pain and a shorter lifespan.

What gains respect in our society, more than anything, is cognitive ability. Even the entrepreneurial businessman is largely admired because his success is supposedly a sign of intelligence and innovation, whether or not that corresponds to book smarts. It’s a different kind of cognitive ability than a professor or scientist, but it’s the same basic quality that compels respect in a society such as this.

Yet, at the same time, Americans tend to only appreciate outward forms of intelligence as they manifest in worldly achievements and positions of authority. A scientist, for example, will be much more respected if he invents a new medicine or technology. It’s the rare scientist, such as Albert Einstein, who is respected for merely developing a new theory.

That is the rub. Intellectual capacity is rarely obvious. The most brilliant people, even geniuses, don’t get much respect or reward for all their talents, no matter how hard they work. It’s partly because the greatest thinkers don’t tend to have an immediate and spectacular impact on the world around them, as any society will be resistant to change. To appreciate the impact of a great thinker might take centuries, until the rest of society catches up.

Plus, many people with immense cognitive abilities have their talent wasted. They are working at jobs that don’t make use of their intelligence, creativity, etc. I suspect more geniuses are never discovered than those who get the opportunity to live up to their potential. Working class jobs, poor communities, homeless shelters, prisons, etc are filled with lost and wasted human potential.

It’s not unusual to meet people with all kinds of talents and abilities. Rarely are these people doing much with what they have, partly because life is tough and most people are simply trying to get by. Being smart most often won’t do you much good if you live in isolated, desperate poverty with few positive outlets of intellectual achievement. But it doesn’t require poverty to obscure human potential. Let me give an example.

My friend’s father is a bookdealer, although he collects books more than he sells them. This guy easily could be doing greater things than running a practically nonprofit book business. He is smart, clever, witty, and has a near perfect memory filled with vast information. He was working on his dissertation when stress and a psychological breakdown caused him to drop out. Despite his being well respected by other bookdealers, few others would suspect that this slovenly guy is anything special.

There are many people like that.

I live in a town filled with smart and well educated people. A large part of the working class around here has college degrees. Many people I know don’t do anything with their education: someone with an architecture degree who is a busdriver, someone with a psychology degree who is a postal worker, someone with a history degree who is a bartender, someone with a religious studies degree who is a baker, someone with an art degree who is a maintenance worker, etc. One of my coworkers who works as a cashier has a PhD. Even the homeless population around here is far above average.

That’s just talking about the well educated. Genius is a whole other level. If you met a mental genius, how would you know? Someone could be having genius thoughts right in front of you and you’d probably not notice anything unusual was happening. It’s harder for a physical genius to hide their talents while using their talents because, well, they are physically apparent. You might not pay close attention to the street juggler as you pass by, but you most likely will at least notice that juggling is happening within your vicinity.

In reading books, I sometimes come across a writer who has amazing knowledge, understanding, and insights. Most of the time, such people aren’t famous and well paid authors. There seems to be a negative correlation between how brilliant a writer is and how well they are rewarded in their profession. The more brilliant a writer is the far fewer readers there will be to appreciate their brilliance. It takes above average intelligence to even recognize brilliance, much less fully appreciate it.

That is the difference. Anyone can watch physical ability and be awed by it. Cognitive ability, at the extremes, tends to just go over people’s heads or else is ignored. A scientist doing cutting edge research often would have a hard time explaining the research to most people in a way that would make it both comprehensible and interesting. The fact of the matter is most scientific research is boring and, besides, it happens in laboratories few people ever see. Scientists are hidden away while doing their scientific work. That is the nature of most intellectual pursuits. They are outwardly unimpressive and not easily seen, at least until some worldly result is achieved, which comes out long after all the hard intellectual work was done.

The work and thought being done that will change the world in the future is happening all around us. Knowledge, ideas, and inventions slowly percolate through society. Meanwhile, a large part of the population is watching sports.

Social Environment & Human Potential

A thoughtful article:

Cities and Ambition
By Paul Graham

“Great cities attract ambitious people. You can sense it when you walk around one. In a hundred subtle ways, the city sends you a message: you could do more; you should try harder.

“The surprising thing is how different these messages can be. New York tells you, above all: you should make more money. There are other messages too, of course. You should be hipper. You should be better looking. But the clearest message is that you should be richer.

“What I like about Boston (or rather Cambridge) is that the message there is: you should be smarter. You really should get around to reading all those books you’ve been meaning to.”

This reminds me of a report by Luminosity that claimed that Iowa had 6 out of 100 of the smartest cities in the US. There measure was a specific test for cognitive ability.

Some years ago, I read that Iowa City (where I live) had the highest per capita of degrees and PhDs, but I don’t know if that is still the case. Iowa City does have the second highest per capita of doctors. Sure has a lot of writers and artists as well. I’m not sure what message Iowa City puts out in all of this.

I have a friend who grew up in Iowa City. She moved to Portland, Oregon many years ago. She loves it there.

Like Iowa City, Portland has a writers workshop, although it is more alternative than the mainstream workshop here. Compared to other US cities, Portland has (or did have, the last time I checked) the largest bookstore in the US and the most book stores and coffee shops (either according to per capita or per block, I forget which).

Portland is a very creative town with tons of artists and writers. But it also seems a bit like a hipster town. Living there, you want to be or be perceived as intellectual and creative, but you also want to be hip and cool.

Iowa City lacks that hipster quality for the most part. Instead, it feels more middle class. In Iowa City, even the mailmen and bus drivers not unusually have at least a college degree. Artists and writers don’t starve in Iowa City for they just get a job at the University or the City or one of the other large employers here.

“You can see how powerful cities are from something I wrote about earlier: the case of the Milanese Leonardo. Practically every fifteenth century Italian painter you’ve heard of was from Florence, even though Milan was just as big. People in Florence weren’t genetically different, so you have to assume there was someone born in Milan with as much natural ability as Leonardo. What happened to him?

“If even someone with the same natural ability as Leonardo couldn’t beat the force of environment, do you suppose you can?”

That is the most important point to take away. I’ve been convinced by the theory that some of the most intelligent and innovative people in America have their skills squandered or else apply their skills toward ends the mainstream considers immoral, for example (Gang Leader for a Day by Benjamin Wallace-Wells, Washington Monthly):

“In the project, Venkatesh finds men and women who easily flit back and forth between the legal and illegal economies (depending, usually, on which pays more at any given moment). Drug dealers aspire to buy small businesses, and their subordinates move between legitimate jobs and the hustle of drug dealing and prostitution. What Venkatesh is able to develop, through the view J.T. grants him, is a new way of thinking about the ghetto and ghetto crime, as the consequences that come when morality is uncoupled from the law.

“J.T. is a good tutor. He is a learned and steady bureaucrat of the drug trade, a man with some college and management experience behind him. Most of his life is spent dealing with, somewhat endearingly, the small headaches of petit bourgeois career life—managing less-than-competent subordinates, handling the objections of Taylor Homes residents, and trying to restrict police access to the project.”

In a country like the US, with a shrinking middle class, social mobility and good job opportunities, with growing poverty and desperation, an entire underclass is created with its own separate communities. As with cities, what community or neighborhood you live in or come from can make a big difference, not just in your opportunities but in shaping who you become (often the opportunities you are able to see and the opportunities that you value).

Many potential Leonardo da Vincis are gangsters tagging alley walls and dumpsters or working at Walmart. Many, probably most, of them don’t even know about even an iota of the talent and potential they have within them.

Genius or even just above average talent doesn’t arise in a vacuum. Without social capital, potential remains potential. Countries, cities and communities that invest in social capital at the same time invest in human capital.

An Amusing Example of Hypocrisy

I comment on a lot of videos, but I feel particularly compelled to comment when someone states something that is misinformed, is illogical, is a bad example, et cetera. That was the case yesterday when I responded to a video by MrHerrIQ (Why Leftists do not debate rightwingers even when they attempt to?).

He seems like he might have the capacity for making a good argument, but he wasn’t making one in this video (to be fair, he does admit that he is ranting). I pointed out some problems with his argument. For example, he said that leftists just repeat themselves (which he bases on his claim of having debated a thousand leftists and having won all of these debates in recent years). I pointed out my own experience that, yes, I do often repeat myself in arguments with rightwingers (I’m not talking about the average conservative) because it often seems they don’t understand or acknowledge anything only stated once. I also pointed out that the data shows that liberals (the same as his ‘leftist’?) are the most educated demographic and that most scientists identify as liberals… by which I was implying that there might be an intellectual inequality between liberals and rightwingers which might explain communication difficulties.

By the way, if I sound condescending, please realize I’m responding to a video that was condescending to all leftists. Take note that I usually don’t generalize about all conservatives. Instead, I try to speak about specific demographics such as ‘rightwingers’ (to be more specific, US ‘rightwingers’)… which I often define in the context of the psychological research about Right-Wing Authoritarians (RWAs) or, in other contexts, as the far right which in the US population usually means the social conservatives and fundamentalists (anyway, the research shows a correlation in the US population between RWAs and social conservatives), although the label ‘rightwingers’ can sometimes be used to more loosely apply to the radical right such as anarcho-capitalists, objectivists, and militant libertarians (these latter groups often don’t identify as conservatives). However, it would appear MrHerrIQ is using the ‘rightwinger’ more generally to refer to all right-leaning people (in all countries?) which isn’t how it’s typically used in the US. Also, his use of ‘leftist’ leaves me uncertain since to me that implies someone on the far left. So, I don’t know if he means all people who lean left or if he means the far left (Communists? Marxists? Anarchists?). My sense is he means the former because he is speaking very generally, but some of his comments could be interpreted as specifically referring to just social liberals (which isn’t how I would define ‘leftist’). I think in one of his videos he mentioned English isn’t his first language and so maybe he doesn’t understand the US context for these words… which might explain some of his frustration considering the YouTube viewership is a largely American audience.

Another commenter pointed out an even more obvious flaw to the argument: It was just a straw man from start to finish, although it’s hard to know if he was making a straw man argument as I’m not sure exactly that he was presenting a false argument or just a false portrayal (he seemed to conflate his idea of a liberal with his perception of the behavior and arguments of liberals; and, so, his dismissive portrayal of how liberals supposedly argue was seemingly being presented as a disproving of the argument of liberalism in general)… to put it simply, I was confused by what he was even trying to communicate. He presented his argument using only his personal experience which he didn’t even go into detail about… and then using these vague references he made a generalized portrayal of all leftists (Are these self-identified ‘leftists’ or his he assuming to know who is and isn’t a ‘leftist’?). To put it in simpler terms, his argument was that leftists suck at argument because he doesn’t like leftists and they’re stupid losers.

If the straw man fallacy doesn’t apply, there are potentially many other fallacies that could be applied to various aspects of the presentation of his argument (as well to my interaction with him in comments and private messages): appeal to ridicule, fallacy of distribution, psychologist’s fallacy, reification fallacy, accident fallacy, cherry picking, fallacy of composition, hasty generalization, association fallacy, sampling bias, ad hominem, appeal to emotion, weasel words, poisoning the well, et cetera. I don’t know. It would be difficult trying to analyze in detail (sentence by sentence) the precise logic or lack thereof within his argument… and I don’t feel that motivated.

He is free to have his opinion, but I was hoping he would expand on his argument using more objective evidence (and, of course, a more clear presentation). In particular, a simple definition of terms would’ve been helpful along with maybe some demographic data to clarify exactly the group of people he is talking about (I’m assuming the demographic labeled as ‘leftist’ would be different depending on the cultural context of different regions of the world… and I don’t know the country this guy lives in or what his personal experience has been with so-called ‘leftists’).

I was wanting to give him the benefit of the doubt. I realized he might only be referring to leftists from his own country, although he seemed to be generalizing about some hypothetical ‘leftist’ that exists beyond any specific context (which I might accept if he was speaking about liberals in more psychological terms in reference to scientific research). I’m fairly sure that what he thinks of as ‘leftist’ isn’t how most US liberals think of themselves. So, I was prepared to have a debate about possible cultural differences of how we perceive labels and how we interact with those who are different.

Alas, that wasn’t to happen. I noticed today he had left a response to me:

“I don’t exactly follow the argument being made,”
1)This is my experience with leftists in debates, 2) What is yours? 3) Why do you think this is?
“I know that the research shows that liberals are on average higher IQ and higher educated.”
Since the 1960’s cultural-revolution, education has gotten liberal so this could be a chicken and the egg scenario with a-political high IQ individual being influenced by leftists. However if high IQ select against itself, it lacking in value.

So, I clicked on the link to the comments page. He had removed all of my comments along with all of the comments of those who disagreed with him. I just had to laugh. I hadn’t seen such blatant hypocrisy in a long while. He was making an argument about why leftists don’t debate rightwingers. And, when leftists try to debate him, he removes their comments. I wonder if he has enough self-awareness to even realize the hypocrisy of this.

After laughing, it did make me feel a bit sad. He obviously is frustrated about not being able to communicate to those who are different than him. But, because of this frustration, he has given up trying to communicate those who are different than him. So, he has resigned to find comfort in his preferred reality tunnel and block out all the voices that disturb him.

If he just seemed mean-spirited or uneducated, I could dismiss him. But he seems intelligent. I always find it sad when I meet someone (even a stranger) with potential for intelligence who is afraid of intelligent debate. I’m not sure why it makes me sad, but it does. Maybe it’s just a matter of seeing yet another example of wasted human potential. We humans have so much potential and yet look at the world we collectively create with all of its conflict and suffering.

I’m included in this. I too waste potential. I wish I was a better person. I wish I knew how to debate rightwingers, how to communicate to communicate well to people in general. But I fail at this as most people fail.

– – –

I would share my comments to him on his video, but he deleted them. In order to add some more context, here is a message he sent me:

Put yourself in my situation.
I’ve debated a thousend leftists and the last 300 has not impressed me enough for me to find that it’s a netgain for me. If you want to debate me, you have to somehow ensure to me, you’re legitt.
You wont lose your face, your facade wont break.
You will be honest and admitt your shortcommings.
You will not repeat youself and reconstruct your argument.
You will abide by the rules of logic.
No red herrings.
You will not be passive aggressive, sarcism could be argued to be appealing to ridicule and it’s just mere autosuggestion at most.
Make your own points, I shouldn’t have to dragg them out of you or ask of you what assumptions you are basing your argument on.

If you can do this, I will have a yellow card, red card system. I tolerate 1, possibly 2 fuck ups. Nothing more. I used to but not anymore.

What is it that you would like to argue about?
Leave a PM on youtube and I will get into contact with you when Im available.

Perhaps you’re the one, who knows.
From where Im standing I doubt it, but if the shoe was on the other foot, you wouldn’t blame me.

My response:

You’ve debated many people. So what? I’ve debated many people. Many people all over the web have debated many other people. It happens all the time. You aren’t special.

I have to ensure you? (By the way, you probably mean ‘assure’. I think I heard you say that English isn’t your first language.) Why don’t you assure me? You are the one who deleted my comments. I didn’t delete your comments. As an outside observer, your actions look like hypocrisy. But you claim you aren’t a hypocrite. Why should I trust your words when your actions imply otherwise? How do you accidentally delete that many comments (something like 10 or 20 of them)? It doesn’t seem possible. So, unless you can explain that to me I don’t feel assured.

Yet, your tone here is that of condescension. You will condescend to allow me to debate you if I follow your rules. So, should I condescend to overlook your apparent act of hypocrisy?

Anyway, your rules seem to only serve the purpose of your trying to avoid debate. Why are you afraid of open and fair discussion?

For example, one of your rules is: “You will not repeat youself and reconstruct your argument.” This would be a difficult rule to follow. English isn’t your first language. So, there might be many miscommunications. Also, does it count as repeating if I state again comments you’ve deleted?

Another example of one of your rules is: “You will not be passive aggressive, sarcism could be argued to be appealing to ridicule and it’s just mere autosuggestion at most.” This is purely subjective. Do you have to prove I’m being passive aggressive or sarcastic? Or is it merely your personal perception? Why do I have to conform my behavior to your subjective biases? Also, once again, what about miscommunications? I assume you come from a different culture than I do. How am I supposed to know what is considered passive aggressive or sarcastic in your culture?

And yet another example is your last rule: “Make your own points, I shouldn’t have to dragg them out of you or ask of you what assumptions you are basing your argument on.” This rule is utter nonsense. Every single comment any person makes has an infinite number of assumptions it’s based on. This also comes back to the issue of culture and language. How am I supposed to know what assumptions you care about or what assumptions you are or aren’t aware of? Do you hold yourself to this same standard? How am I supposed to know all the assumptions you are holding in the context of all your rules?

All in all, your rules are unrealistic and unfair expectations. I suspect that is their purpose. No one could follow all those rules. Or, rather, one could only follow all those rules to your satisfaction if they happened to share all your assumptions, all your values, all your beliefs, and all your cultural biases. Have you considered that this might be at the bottom of your frustration with interacting with those who are different from you? You seem to want others to conform to your expectations and your worldview. Have you considered that it might be more fruitful if you were willing to meet people in the middle, willing to compromise, willing to understand new perspectives?

I have no doubt that, from where you’re standing, you doubt it. You’re frustrated because you’ve set yourself up for frustration. And then you blame others for your frustration. It seems like a no-win situation. From where I’m standing, I have plenty of doubts about both your actions and your words. I don’t know you and so I don’t really care who is to blame. I’m not blaming you for anything, but you do seem to be blaming others. Why do you keep telling me to see things from your perspective? Why don’t you try to see things from the perspective of others? If you actually understood the liberal view, you wouldn’t be blaming liberals. So, why are you blaming liberals for your lack of understanding of the liberal view?

I’m being honest with you here. I’m not attacking you. I’m just calling them as I see them. I’d love to try to have a fair and rational discussion with you (I’ve never liked to ‘debate’ per se), but you’ve so far given me no assurance that you’re even interested in trying. All your comments seems to show that you see everything in terms of being about you. That isn’t a helpful attitude. Even so, if you’re willing to seek a middle ground of understanding, I’m all game. But if you just want a battle of egos, a pissing match, a game of rhetoric, then no thanks.

On a side note, I suspect your real frustration has nothing to do with liberal vs conservative, nothing to do with politics or ideology of any kind. I’ve studied psychology for years, specifically personality types. I’ve seen these kinds of communication difficulties many times. If I had to make a quick (and, of course, rather superficial) guess, I’d say you are probably what is called in MBTI an NT (iNtuition Thinking) or to be more exact I’d guess an INTJ (Introverted iNtuition Thinking Judging). I’ve found most conflicts of communication are at least partly if not mostly grounded in psychological issues. I learned a lot about myself and about others by studying personality types and trait research. It’s easy to blame others. It’s much more difficult to come to self-awareness and self-understanding.

After that, he sent me a message that was pages long and so I won’t quote it here, but it was just a continuation of what he had already said. Basically, he was saying that going by his own experience he knew that he was intellectually superior to most people and that he had grown tired of debating the lowly leftist masses. Here is my response to that long message:

Reading this new message, I feel even less assured. You believe you are right and you believe you are intellectually superior to almost everyone. I don’t hold such arrogant assumptions about myself. And I tend to not like to interact with people who are that arrogant.

Also, your arrogance seems naive. You say you’ve won all these debates. But how do you know? Did you declare your own victory? Maybe those you debated also had the exact same opinion about themselves. Maybe even others told them that they had won.

The only thing that you’ve made clear is this. No matter what I say, you will claim I broke one of your rules. No matter how well I argue, you will simply claim you won. It’s not that you’re tired of debating. It seems you’re tired of even trying to debate.

Why not drop the arrogance? Just relax. You seem to be taking everything too seriously. The reason I don’t like debate is because I’ve found closed-minded people love debate. I like people who enjoy learning. In particular, I like people who like learning new perspectives. But you’ve given no inkling that you actually understand others or want to understand others. In such a situation, how can useful or pleasant communication even be possible?

Just the fact that you generalize about all ‘leftists’ shows a lazy intellect. It also demonstrates that you are unlikely to treat respectfully anything I present. You assume you’ve already got my type figured out, but going by your own words I’m not sure you understand leftists at all. If I tried to discuss/debate anything with you, I’d probably just end up being more fodder for your self-fulfilling prophecies. Think about it. Who will decide who wins the debate? You will, of course. And, since you haven’t admitted to losing a debate in years, why would you admit any such thing now? In your eyes, I can’t win for losing.

You seem intelligent, but there is something about you that seems self-enclosed almost to the point of narcissism or something. I don’t know if I’d be able to break through the protective barrier you are hiding behind. Honestly, I don’t at the moment see it’s worth the effort.

You say I came to you. Yes, I did. And then you deleted my comments. You responded that it was an accident and that it was only 8 comments. I still don’t see how 8 comments could be deleted accidentally. It just doesn’t seem logically possible. I could understand accidentally deleting 1 comment, but 8 comments is no accident. My allegation of hypocrisy still stands and you have yet to refute it. From my perspective, such hypocrisy is a sign of your character. I can only assume that if I were to discuss/debate with you that I’d expect more of the same underhanded behavior.

If you hadn’t deleted my comments, we could already be having a discussion/debate. I offered you evidence in those comments. You dismissed that evidence and you didn’t even offer any evidence in return. I just don’t know. meh

Developing Technology, Controlling Society

Developing Technology, Controlling Society

Posted on Jan 2nd, 2009 by Marmalade : Gaia Explorer Marmalade
There is a lot of technology that is quite impressive, but most of it feels like its still in development.  The whole internet and computer industry feels like its in permanent Beta mode (similar in concept to Orwell’s endless, permanent war).  There always glitches and compatability issues.  They always come up with a new product or service before ever quite perfecting what they provided before.  The companies are more afraid of controlling their product than offering the best possible service.  Its a shame considering the potential.

There are the cable and dish tv companies that have near monopolies.  These monopolies are being challenged.  Also, the monopolies of other media (newspapers, networks, etc.) are likewise being challenged.  And they’re all fearful of the internet and wary of investing too much in it.  But mostly its just the monopolies from one industry butting heads against the monopolies of another industry.

Its not all negative.  A few companies are paving the way.  Starz and CBS have stood out as companies who are willing to make deals and experiment.  As for internet companies, Google and Amazon seem to be the leaders in bridging to non-internet companies.

The problem is that integration and standardization is happening slowly and in a very flawed fashion.  For example, Blu-ray won the war of new video format and has been out for years, and yet it has so many flaws as to be almost utterly worthless to the average person. 

Three companies that personally interest me are Netflix, Amazon, and Rhapsody. 

Netflix has a great service, but you can’t buy movies from then and instead have to go to another site such as Amazon.  Amazon has a wide selection of services including two that I’m attracted to.  The Kindle is revolutionary, but relevant to Netflix is Video On Demand and the Unbox.  However, in order for Amazon to make its deals with the movie industry they have to control the data.  So, you buy a movie and yet you don’t own it.  Its very convenient and reliable, but whenever they lose rights to a movie you lose the product you bought.  You can download it to your computer and that is fine as long as you keep using the same computer.  Netflix is also having a constant change in the movies available in the online streaming.  The movie industry seems to be fidgety and unwilling to come to any final agreements. 

The music industry is similar, but is quite a bit more established online.  Rhapsody is one of the best models ever created.  They have a reasonable subscription price for an all-you-can-listen-to service which has an immense selection.  Also, they’ve copied Amazon in selling MP3s and they’ve made them DRM-free which puts them above iTunes.  Rhapsody is doing what most companies fear.  Besides offering compatability with players they don’t make, they’ve also encouraged scrobbling with Last FM.  They’ve have made their own player, the ibiza which does what no other player does.  It uses a similar concept to Amazon’s Kindle in that it directly connects to your account.  The downside of Rhapsody is that they don’t have much in the way of spoken word and no audio books.  Also, they don’t have movies.

What I want is to have tv, movies, music, music videos, spoken word, audio books, and electronic text from a single company… instead of needing multiple companies and constantly having to search around.  What I want is fairly simple in that its not beyond present technology.  If Netflix, Amazon, and Rhapsody merged or integrated their services, that would be awesome.  And if they could make permanent deals with the entertainment industries, they’d have a perfect product.

The problem at the moment is that there isn’t enough cooperation and neither is there enough competition.  There are just a few mega-corporations that own practically everything in the world, and so its not that far off from being a complete monopoly.  These companies have no reason to be in a hurry to offer a great service because they have the only game in town.  And any company that attempts something new (such as Youtube) eventually has to chose to go out of business or sell out to one of the large mega-corporations.

Another reason that companies don’t want to cooperate is because they probably think they can get more by nickle-and-diming the customer.  If something you bought a few years ago isn’t compatable with somethin new you’ve bought, then you have buy a new version of that or a new upgrade.  Also, it would seem like more money if you paid for all these technologies and services together.  Separately, the customer is less likely to notice how the cost adds up.

Humans are strange.  If we wanted to, all kinds of things could be possible… but something always holds us back.  There were all these utopian dreams from the ’50s (and also from the 1800s).  The thing is the only thing unrealistic about those visions is that they didn’t take into account the limitations of human nature.  Technologically-speaking, we could have fully functioning colonies throughout the solar system by now.  We could have robots that did almost all manual labor and people could be freed from long work hours of drudge work.  War, famine, and poverty could be ended almost instantaneously.  Humans have proved themselves capable of near miraculous leaps in development during certain periods… often periods of war, unfortunately.

However, it comes down to control.  Change doesn’t happen because those in power would rather have control than change and those not in power would also rather the world stay predictably the same.  Companies only create new services if it helps them control consumers better.  Corporations have become quite talented at manipulating people.  We aren’t free because the manipulation is unconscious to us in that its seamless.  There is no way to protest except to feed back into the system which is something Tim Boucher talks about.

Its to companies advantage to keep customers contented.  But its also to their advantage to control development and feed it slowly to the public.  People in power have a vision and it takes decades or even generations to fulfill that vision.  Its no accident that most politicians come from the same set of families and that those families have royal blood.  Its no accident that politicians have good jobs waiting for them in the industries they used to oversee.

The one nice thing about this internet age is that the world is becoming more complex.  Its less clear who is manipulating who.  Its easier for the oppressed masses to manipulate in return.  The real hope is in the potential for cooperation.  Humans have never been good at equal-opportunity cooperation especially on a large-scale.  This is becoming a real potential with the internet, but its still yet to be seen whether it will ever become more than potential always just beyond the horizon.

From a spiritual perspective, maybe seeking for freedom in this world of power games and materialism is looking in the wrong place.  Still, it seems we humans are incapable of giving up on the hope that the world might eventually be transformed.  Places like this here Gaia seem to be all about that hope.  Gaia maybe primarily about the connections between people, but human connection is inseparable from human technology. 

Even our understanding of God is limited by our technological metaphors.  That is an area that is explored by many Sci-Fi stories and movies.  I guess I managed to bring this blog back to my recent thinking.

Access_public Access: Public 11 Comments Print Post this!views (258)  

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

about 1 hour later

Marmalade said

My personal motivation is that I’m very curious, but of limited means. I can only explore my curiosity so far. I’d love to own an Amazon Kindle and I’m thinking I’d enjoy Rhapsody’s ibiza. Its not that I can’t afford either of these, but that these technologies are imperfect.

This goes back to the idea of technology in eternal Beta mode. If I buy an expensive piece of technology, I’d like to know if it will work well several years from now and continue to be compatible with other developing technologies. And there is always the possibility that one can buy a technology for a specific company’s service and that service is discontinued for any number of reasons.

I’d love to see both more competition and more integration. However, the more integration that I’d like to see might lead to less competition. Google has done a lot to integrate many different technologies and services. If Google gets any more powerful, it might become a near monopoly of the whole internet.

Monopolies are a natural tendency of human nature. It goes with globalization. People seek ever greater power, and people seek ever greater forms of social connection and cultural aggregation.The development of civilizationhas been primarily a history of the slow but sure concentration of power… political, religious, and capitalistic. Along with this, its also been the concentration of human knowledge and wisdom.

So, this is far from beingan inherently bad tendency. Much benefit has come from civilization of course. Anyways, even if the tedency is inevitable, the specific direction it takes isn’t. Many people would like to control the direction of this development, but I suspect its an unpredictable phenomena.

To bring inthe spiritual angle, I think there is an obvious and direct relationship between this tendency and Monotheism. And this reminds me of the conflicted relationship between mainstream Christianity and Gnosticism. Gnosticism, even though Monotheistic, was wary of how Monotheism could be used politically to oppress the individual.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 15 hours later

Nicole said

eternal Beta mode, that’s a great way of stating it.

I’d never thought of the connection between monopoly and monotheism. Monogamy too I guess? 🙂 Singularly focussed…

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

about 19 hours later

Marmalade said

I didn’t come up with the “eternal Beta mode” on my own. I came across that idea a few times this past year in my various researches. It makes a lot of sense to me. The original contribution I made was in relating it to Orwell’s idea of continuous war… which is a dystopian idea that seems to have come true or maybe was always true. I think I remember reading that America has been continuously involved in one war or another since it became a country.

The connection between monopoly and monotheism is something I thought of on my own, but I’m sure others have thought of it before. Itsa simple and somewhat obvious view. And, yeah, I’d add monogamy in the mix. Stories of polygamy in theOld Testamentrepresent a time when polytheism still had major influence in Jewish culture.

Monotheism isn’t really any great insight limited to the Judeo-Christian tradition. Any culture that develops a centralized government will come to a conclusion like this about the divine. Even seemingly non-theistic religions will end up focusing their “worship” on some singular ideal.

Marmalade : Gaia Child

about 21 hours later

Marmalade said

Its kind of funny that this isn’t the blog I intended to write when I started it. I think I originally just wanted to write about technology. I’ve had all these other ideas on my mind for a while. I suppose it all goes together, but my mind wasn’t very focused when writing this.

Let me add a different factor. No monopoly will ever be absolute. Its just one tendency amongst many. Similarly, if “monotheistic” religions were completely monotheistic, then they wouldn’t have these complex hierarchies of spiritual beings. Likewise, if monogamy was the only tendency of humans, then studies wouldn’t show that possibly between 10 and 20 % of children aren’t of the father that claims them and married women wouldn’t be more likely to cheat when most fertile.

As for capitalism, that which undermines the monopolistic tendency is two-fold.

Specific to computers and the internet, the open source community has many loyal followers. This levels the playing field, but open source will never be the central player. Mega-corporations aren’t entirely against open source because it gives them a free resource of ideas that they can co-opt.

More generally speaking, the black market is the closest that capitalism gets to being a free market. Black markets force companies to be more competitive and hence innovative. The main motivating force behind coporate innovation online is to provide a better product than what people can find illegally for free. The music industry was the first that had to come to terms with this. The plethora of nice music services such as Rhapsody is a direct result of free file sharing.

1Vector3 : "Relentless Wisdom"

1 day later

1Vector3 said

An interesting intersection of ideas !! I’d like to address some underlying ideas, even though I recognize they don’t contribute much to your actual discussion, but to me they are super-important. Part of my mission in life is to make sure people are clear about these economic ideas, because almost no one IS clear, and there is a lot at stake in our way of living, if misunderstandings persist and we make choices and decisions based on them.

Based on my research and studies, we don’t really have “capitalism” in this country, never have. We have a so-called “mixed economy” which technically is a Socialism-Fascism mix. Capitalism is synonymous with “free market” – the government does not interfere with the economy in any way. In Fascism the government regulates or controls some or all of the economy. In Socialism, it owns some of the economic entities. (In Communism, it owns all of them.)

I found it interesting you called for a big conglomerate, and then recognized you were suggesting something akin to a monopoly.

In capitalism, there are “natural monopolies” but they come and go. Whenever a monopoly persists, you will – with sufficient research – find government regulations are the force keepingit from its natural dissolution (from a significant competitor emerging.) Utility companies that you mentioned, are not “natural monopolies.” In fact, most of them are not just allowed or supported by government, they are government-mandated/created.

Thanks for letting me hold forth. I hope this was seen as somewhat relevant. I really enjoyed your thoughts !!


OM Bastet

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

1 day later

Marmalade said

Its all good, OM. I don’t even know what my actual discussion is. Myset of ideas feels rather sprawling.

I think I agree with all that you said. Yep, “capitalism” doesn’t exist in the US. That is what I was implying with my comment about black markets. I don’t know exactly what kind of economy we have, but your description of a “mixed economy” sounds about right.

I’m glad you noticed the conflict in my view… which I was conscious of. The concentration of power and knowledge has advantages… and disadvantages. I like your idea of “natural monopolies”. I wasn’t thinking in those terms, but it does clarify the problem of how utility companies are forced into a permanent monopolistic structure by the government itself.

I don’t know how it works in other cities, but here the government disallows competition. There is one electricic company and one cable company. You have no other choices other than turning to other forms of technology. Also, the city runs a monopoly their own monopolies on certain utilities such as water and parking. Maybe this is a necessary evil for utilities such as water, but not for most utilities. However, maybe even water could be provided in new innovative ways if it weren’t controlled as a monopoly.

I shouldn’t complain too much as I personally benefit from the City government’s monopoly on the parking industry… where I’m employed. Its run innefficiently with way too much overheadand doesn’t even provide that great of service considering the money spent. If every parking ramp downtown was owned by different private companies, then there might be cheaper parking or else at least improved options. Besides, there is no reason for the government to run parking ramps. Its not as if their isn’t a market to motivate private companies to invest.

I’m glad to have you hold forth. Its all relevant in my book. Enjoyment is all around.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

2 days later

Nicole said

yes, I can see the connection to Orwell’s continuous war.

I’m intrigued by the stat about married women cheating more when fertile, it seems a difficult thing to establish with clarity. But more importantly, are human tendencies away from monogamy a sign that it’s a bad idea or … something else? Worth pondering especially for those in monogamous relationships 🙂

Marmalade : Gaia Child

2 days later

Marmalade said

I first heard about such stats on a tv show that was about human sexual behavior. I did a websearch and tons of pages came up, but most of it is discussion. The Wikipedia article about evolutionary psychology is interesting, and I thought this quote relevant:

“In particular, Haselton and Miller (2006) showed that highly fertile women prefer creative but poor men as short-term mates. Creativity may be a proxy for good genes. Research by Gangestad et al. (2004) indicates that highly fertile women prefer men who display social presence and intrasexual competition; these traits may act as cues that would help women predict which men may have, or would be able to acquire, resources.”

The difficult to establish part is something I’m not sure about as I don’t know about all of the research. I haven’t come across any research (not that I was looking that much) that was based on direct observations of human women cheating. The research I have heard of is various.

There are direct observations of animal behavior, and research is starting to show that even animals considered monogamous still cheat. The human research is about studying how women dress in more sexually attractive ways when fertile (skirts instead of pants, showing more skin, etc.) and that fertile women shift their behavior to a pattern that fits mating strategy.

I really don’t know the research that well, but there seems to be plenty of it out there if you wish to spend the time to ferret it out.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

3 days later

Nicole said

hmm! 🙂 well, not at the moment, but thanks for sharing what you do know.

Marmalade : Gaia Child

3 days later

Marmalade said

I didn’t think you would necessarily be. I’m not all that inspired to research it much myself. Its just an interesting piece of info… whatever its validity or meaning.

My personal theory is that (most? many?) humans are genetically programmed to be polygamous but not openly. I suspect that the outward display of monogamy is necessary for social order and peacable relations.

My personal attitude towards life is that I prefer monogamy. I’m too lazy to deal with multiple mates. I hardly can handle a single one. Throw in the normal tendencies of human jealousy, and polygamy doesn’t seem worth it to me.

I don’t see it as primarily a moral issue. Our moral ideals cause us as many problems as they attempt to solve, but I don’t think idealizing the opposite of the social (genetic?) norm is helpful either.

But all of that is neither here nor there as it pertains to this discussion.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

4 days later

Nicole said

yes, I do see your points – from a practical standpoint one person is more than most of us can handle! LOL!

Technology: Information, Imagination, and more

Technology, of course, is having a massive influence on society.  But it isn’t technology itself but what it makes possible.  Two aspects to this are information and imagination.  Human potential is increased and so are moral issues.

Individuals and groups have more information technology which offers more power.  The results of this are too numerous to list.  A simple example is how cellphones have given oppressed people a quick and easy way to organize.  A protest can form and disappear before the police even realize what is going on.  On the other hand, technology offers better ways for the government to control its citizens and propaganda is becoming more advanced.

On the level of imagination, it’s even more interesting to consider the consequences.  Television and movies have opened wide the gates of our collective imagination.  And other things (such as cameras, software, and websites like YouTube) have given an opportunity for average people to create and explore possibilites.

The problem is that the more people know and imagine the more they become dissatisfied and restless.  And our normal lives pale against the fantasies we obsess over, whether porn or pop stars or travelling.  And this is the moral issue.  In the past people repressed their imaginations.  Thinking about unnatural sexual acts?  Just repress it and say 100 Hail Marys.  That often works, but often doesn’t.  Even priests end up acting on some of those urges.  And repression works even less in a culture like ours where everything you can imagine satiates the media.

Right now, many governments are trying to figure this all out.  Violence and sex are legislated, but imagination is more difficult to legislate.  It only becomes an issue when someone’s imagination becomes a product, something to be shared.  There has been many cases in the past decade about animated porn and violence.  In the US, violent video games have been mostly winning this battle as some big cases have been thrown out of the court. 

Anime porn is an even thornier issue.  Art has often been held above the level of pop culture, but the distinction grows less with advancement of technology.  Is a picture of an underage nude person porn?  Does it matter the intentions of the photographer?  Is there such a thing as tasteful nudity?  Is the human body to be considered a respectable subject of art?  Is it simply a matter of age?  If so, what about a painting of a nude underage person?  Or what about anime?  How legal officials determine the legality of photographic or video porn is by determining the person’s age, but how does one determine the age of an animated figure?  An anime character isn’t real and so how does age of consent apply?  And who is the victim?  Is society as a whole a victim?

It’s well-known that a certain sector of Japanese culture is obsessed with images of young girls.  And this has gone beyond anime.  There has been computer programs created that portray a cute underage girl you can play with and give gifts to.  There have been robots created to look young.  Would sex with an android that looked like a child still be pedophilia?  These are real questions society will be struggling with very soon.

I have some interest in virtual worlds, but I’ve only been on a couple of them such as Second Life.  I’ve heard of another one called Red Light Center.  It’s designed so that people can use avatars to have sex with other people’s avatars.  I don’t know but something seems missing in the equation.  Having virtual sex with a stranger’s virtual self doesn’t overly appeal to me.  But the concept of it is fascinating. 

This type of thing is just the beginning.  Such technological imaginations are also used towards practical ends.  Architects, chemists, and doctors all use these technologies to portray information visually.  Also, if you consider what science has learned, it’s going to be a brave new world.  Science has researched about how the brain works and various techniques to read minds and alter functioning.  Scientists now understand how brainwashing works and much money has been put into light and sound machines that can have powerful effects on the brain.

On a really dark note, the development of robots and AI have been put to military use.  The US has thousands of unmanned robots operating overseas.  I read about a problem when something went wrong with one robot and it started targeting US soldiers.  Wars of the future will be technological.  Warfare is already happening on the internet.  I forget which country, but one of Russia’s neighbors had its whole internet system knocked out.  Fortunately, they were prepared for such an attack, but many countries such as the US supposedly aren’t prepared.