Reading In All Media

There is no end to people complaining about technology and new media. It isn’t limited to luddites and other varieties of reactionaries. One hears all kinds of views why the world is going down the crapper, from high-minded critiques from academics to your mother’s nagging about her grandchildren. Recently, Michael Harris wrote about this on a personal level:

“For good reason. It’s embarrassing. Especially for someone like me. I’m supposed to be an author – words are kind of my job. Without reading, I’m not sure who I am. So, it’s been unnerving to realize: I have forgotten how to read – really read – and I’ve been refusing to talk about it out of pride. […]

“For a long time, I convinced myself that a childhood spent immersed in old-fashioned books would insulate me somehow from our new media climate – that I could keep on reading and writing in the old way because my mind was formed in pre-internet days. But the mind is plastic – and I have changed. I’m not the reader I was. […]

“For many writers, this is the new wisdom. A cynical style of reading gives way to a cynical style of writing. I’ve watched my own books become “useful” as they made their way into public conversation. I never meant them to be useful – in a self-help sense – but that was how they were often read. I say this with less reproach than surprise: Almost every interviewer has asked me for tips and practical life advice, despite the fact my books offer neither.

“Meanwhile, I admit it: The words I write now filter through a new set of criteria. Do they grab; do they anger? Can this be read without care? Are the sentences brief enough? And the thoughts? It’s tempting to let myself become so cynical a writer because I’m already such a cynical reader. I am giving what I get” (I have forgotten how to read).

There is some truth to it. I can’t deny that. But I can’t fully agree either, at least not for me personally. My brain doesn’t operate normally, something I know because I have the official tests from when I was diagnosed as learning disabled in childhood to when I was sent off to a psychiatric ward in my early 20s. I’m fully documented as ‘special’.

I don’t give a flying fuck if a book is written and presented in a linear manner. I never have been prone to linear thought, much less linear reading. It’s long been my habit to read dozens of books simultaneously. I skim books and I flit around them like a drunken butterfly. I often read the conclusion first and impressively will then proceed to read the text backwards, paragraph by paragraph. No linear cultural expectation is going to keep me confined. Fuck that!

All of that was true for me long before the internet. It’s why I hated formal education, to such an extent that I learned to read late, almost flunked out of 7th grade, only graduated high school by cheating on tests, and dropped out of college twice. Schools don’t teach the way my mind works. I remember when I first started spending much time on the world wide web. It was mind-blowing! For the first time in my freaking life, I was experiencing something in the larger society that operated the same way as my ‘abnormal’ brain. If I was abnormal, then all of the internet was abnormal and it was my kind of crazy.

I still love to read. And I feel little conflict or competition between literary media as a physical book and electronic media as the internet. I simply have different contexts in which I immerse myself in any given media. It’s all good.

I like to go for long walks in the morning and that is when I find the best time for concentrated reading. My reading-while-walking habit also began long before the internet, maybe back when I was in high school. I typically walk out to my parents’ house at the edge of town and it takes about an hour-and-half, allowing me to read a couple of short stories or maybe a few chapters of a book. I also like to snatch some time to read while riding in a car/bus or sitting around waiting for something, including free moments at work. I always keep a physical book nearby for any occasion with my ever present backpack usually containing many choices of reading material.

There are hundreds of books I’ve read that I never would have discovered if not for the internet. I’ve probably spent thousands of hours reading book reviews and perusing Google Books. On the other hand, I admit that social media can be addictive and pointlessly distracting. I had to learn to avoid much of social media or at least avoid the worst elements of it. I don’t have any doubt that I’m being subtly influenced in ways that I’m unaware. But I seem to have a certain amount of immunity that others lack, as it doesn’t feel unnatural or foreign to me. I love all the vast info available on the internet, as I love books. Media whore that I am, I love it all. I devour all forms of media. And after a while, they all blend together in my mind and experience.

Bring it on! Let the world be transformed by media. It will be a fun social experiment. Anyway, physical books are more likely to survive climate change than is the human species. For the last remaining humans huddled around fires as civilization collapses, there will still be plenty of physical books left in old decaying libraries. The survivors will have plenty of time to read, in between fighting off packs of mutants and evading zombie hordes. But until then, may media bloom like a thousand flowers.

Capitalist Realism and Fake Fakes

“This is where ‘we’ are now: not Harawayesque cyborgs affirming our ontological hybridity but replicant-puppets (of Capital) dreaming kitsch dreams of being restored to full humanity but “without any Gepettos or Good Fairies on the horizon”.”

~ Mark (k-punk), 2009
Honeymoon in Disneyland

* * *

“Where does that leave us? I’m not sure the solution is to seek out some pre-Inversion authenticity — to red-pill ourselves back to “reality.” What’s gone from the internet, after all, isn’t “truth,” but trust: the sense that the people and things we encounter are what they represent themselves to be. Years of metrics-driven growth, lucrative manipulative systems, and unregulated platform marketplaces, have created an environment where it makes more sense to be fake online — to be disingenuous and cynical, to lie and cheat, to misrepresent and distort — than it does to be real. Fixing that would require cultural and political reform in Silicon Valley and around the world, but it’s our only choice. Otherwise we’ll all end up on the bot internet of fake people, fake clicks, fake sites, and fake computers, where the only real thing is the ads.”

~ Max Read, 2018
How Much of the Internet Is Fake? Turns Out, a Lot of It, Actually.

* * *

“In my writing I got so interested in fakes that I finally came up with the concept of fake fakes. For example, in Disneyland there are fake birds worked by electric motors which emit caws and shrieks as you pass by them. Suppose some night all of us sneaked into the park with real birds and substituted them for the artificial ones. Imagine the horror the Disneyland officials would feel when they discovered the cruel hoax. Real birds! And perhaps someday even real hippos and lions. Consternation. The park being cunningly transmuted from the unreal to the real, by sinister forces. For instance, suppose the Matterhorn turned into a genuine snow-covered mountain? What if the entire place, by a miracle of God’s power and wisdom, was changed, in a moment, in the blink of an eye, into something incorruptible? They would have to close down.

“In Plato’s Timaeus, God does not create the universe, as does the Christian God; He simply finds it one day. It is in a state of total chaos. God sets to work to transform the chaos into order. That idea appeals to me, and I have adapted it to fit my own intellectual needs: What if our universe started out as not quite real, a sort of illusion, as the Hindu religion teaches, and God, out of love and kindness for us, is slowly transmuting it, slowly and secretly, into something real?”

~ Philip K. Dick, 1978
How to Build a Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later

“…we can’t pretend they don’t exist anymore.”

James Bridle (from YouTube transcript):

But the other thing, the thing that really gets to me about this, is that I’m not sure we even really understand how we got to this point. We’ve taken all of this influence, all of these things, and munged them together in a way that no one really intended. And yet, this is also the way that we’re building the entire world.

We’re taking all of this data, a lot of it bad data, a lot of historical data full of prejudice, full of all of our worst impulses of history, and we’re building that into huge data sets and then we’re automating it. And we’re munging it together into things like credit reports, into insurance premiums, into things like predictive policing systems, into sentencing guidelines. This is the way we’re actually constructing the world today out of this data.

And I don’t know what’s worse, that we built a system that seems to be entirely optimized for the absolute worst aspects of human behavior, or that we seem to have done it by accident, without even realizing that we were doing it, because we didn’t really understand the systems that we were building, and we didn’t really understand how to do anything differently with it.

There’s a couple of things I think that really seem to be driving this most fully on YouTube, and the first of those is advertising, which is the monetization of attention without any real other variables at work, any care for the people who are actually developing this content, the centralization of the power, the separation of those things. And I think however you feel about the use of advertising to kind of support stuff, the sight of grown men in diapers rolling around in the sand in the hope that an algorithm that they don’t really understand will give them money for it suggests that this probably isn’t the thing that we should be basing our society and culture upon, and the way in which we should be funding it.

And the other thing that’s kind of the major driver of this is automation, which is the deployment of all of this technology as soon as it arrives, without any kind of oversight, and then once it’s out there, kind of throwing up our hands and going, “Hey, it’s not us, it’s the technology.” Like, “We’re not involved in it.” That’s not really good enough, because this stuff isn’t just algorithmically governed, it’s also algorithmically policed. When YouTube first started to pay attention to this, the first thing they said they’d do about it was that they’d deploy better machine learning algorithms to moderate the content.

Well, machine learning, as any expert in it will tell you, is basically what we’ve started to call software that we don’t really understand how it works. And I think we have enough of that already. We shouldn’t be leaving this stuff up to AI to decide what’s appropriate or not, because we know what happens. It’ll start censoring other things. It’ll start censoring queer content. It’ll start censoring legitimate public speech. What’s allowed in these discourses, it shouldn’t be something that’s left up to unaccountable systems. It’s part of a discussion all of us should be having.

But I’d leave a reminder that the alternative isn’t very pleasant, either. YouTube also announced recently that they’re going to release a version of their kids’ app that would be entirely moderated by humans. Facebook — Zuckerberg said much the same thing at Congress, when pressed about how they were going to moderate their stuff. He said they’d have humans doing it. And what that really means is, instead of having toddlers being the first person to see this stuff, you’re going to have underpaid, precarious contract workers without proper mental health support being damaged by it as well. And I think we can all do quite a lot better than that.

The thought, I think, that brings those two things together, really, for me, is agency. It’s like, how much do we really understand — by agency, I mean: how we know how to act in our own best interests. Which — it’s almost impossible to do in these systems that we don’t really fully understand. Inequality of power always leads to violence. And we can see inside these systems that inequality of understanding does the same thing. If there’s one thing that we can do to start to improve these systems, it’s to make them more legible to the people who use them, so that all of us have a common understanding of what’s actually going on here.

The thing, though, I think most about these systems is that this isn’t, as I hope I’ve explained, really about YouTube. It’s about everything. These issues of accountability and agency, of opacity and complexity, of the violence and exploitation that inherently results from the concentration of power in a few hands — these are much, much larger issues. And they’re issues not just of YouTube and not just of technology in general, and they’re not even new. They’ve been with us for ages.

But we finally built this system, this global system, the internet, that’s actually showing them to us in this extraordinary way, making them undeniable. Technology has this extraordinary capacity to both instantiate and continue all of our most extraordinary, often hidden desires and biases and encoding them into the world, but it also writes them down so that we can see them, so that we can’t pretend they don’t exist anymore.

We need to stop thinking about technology as a solution to all of our problems, but think of it as a guide to what those problems actually are, so we can start thinking about them properly and start to address them.

Competing Media Manipulations

I’ve been noticing something these past months. It partly relates to another thing I’ve noticed before. Facebook doesn’t always notify me when someone posts a comment and that is particularly true for strangers. I could set my account to private or whatever, but I don’t feel like doing so. What is different recently is the comments I’ve come across, when looking back at recent posts. It’s both what is posted and who is posting it that stands out.

There is a particular article from a particular website that keeps getting posted. The article is critical of Trump, listing some of his scandals and including some of the creepy pictures of him with his daughter. It’s the same article posted repeatedly for at least the past two months. More interesting, every Facebook account that is posting it is different. But they all show the account as being from Georgia (the country, not the state). I assume they are fake accounts.

I just delete the comments and block the accounts. It’s not of any great concern to me. If some organization or another wants to spam anti-Trump material, more power to them. It just makes me curious about who is behind it. And why are the accounts all portrayed as being from Georgia?

It reminds me of the paid trolls from the Clinton campaign. After a while, one begins to think that half the internet is being run as competing agendas of manufactured consent, political propaganda, perception management, public relations campaigns, astroturf, disinformation, controlled opposition, etc. All of it goes down to a deeper level beyond the obvious examples of fake news. This is magnified by how the media in general has simultaneously become concentrated into fewer hands and placed into an international system, which combined brings greater forces into clashing influence.

Meanwhile, the average person is drowning in a tidal wave of manipulation beyond his or her comprehension. The alternative media that could offer perspective too often gets lost in the noise.

Online Weirdness

The internet, especially social media, makes people weird. This includes: suspiciousness, rudeness, aggressiveness, unresponsiveness, misplaced common courtesy, absent social norms, lack of typical friendliness, bluntness, etc. I notice the differences in others, as well as in myself.

For instance, there is a fellow blogger I know. We mutually follow each other’s blogs. He recently shared his personal experience in his blog. He doesn’t usually write about personal experiences and so I thought this would be a good opportunity to get to know him better. I responded with some personal experience that was similar to his. I had interacted with this guy before and was trying to make a personal connection, to treat him like a normal person I might meet in normal life, but he gave me no response whatsoever. Just silence.

As another example, I was interacting with a guy I know on Facebook who lives in my community. He mentioned working at a library. As there are several libraries in town, I asked him about which library he works at (with an added “if you don’t mind my asking”). I got no response, not even saying that he’d rather not tell me, despite my having interacted with him online at least hundreds of times over many years, live in the same area as him, know some of the same people, and likely have met him in person at some point.

Ignoring people like that seems rude, or at least it would be in normal life. How can people apparently be so oblivious and unaware about their behavior? why don’t they think the same rules of conduct apply in all aspects of life? Why the division in relating, the dissociation of experience, or whatever it is?

It isn’t just strangers and casual acquaintances. I’ve had similar experiences with people I known personally for years and decades. Sometimes close friends won’t even acknowledge comments I make to their Facebook posts or posts I make to their page. Such silence wouldn’t be considered acceptable in a face-to-face encounter. Why is it acceptable online?

I always respond to people, even strangers, as long as I deem them worthy of a response. On my blog, if I deem someone unworthy of a response, I also deem them unworthy to have their comment to be approved for showing up in my blog. I treat my small corner of the internet as a semi-personal space and so I treat people I meet on the internet personally, which includes both positive and negative responses.

People I meet online are real to me in my experience, even if I’ve never met them in person. I’ve had internet friends who I’ve known and regularly conversed with for years. I know about their lives and their dreams, although I’ve never even heard the sound of their voices. I also treat people I know from my everyday life the same way online as I do offline. I don’t treat the two worlds as separate. It is all the same world, same common courtesy, same way of relating.

I do act differently online, in some ways. I’ll admit to that. I’m an introvert and, like many introverts, I find it more comfortable to be friendly online. I like meeting people online, but less so offline. I’m not a social person in the traditional sense, but I’m not exactly a private person either. I’ve always been a person to which applies, what you see is what you get. The internet hasn’t changed that, although the internet has given a vehicle for that philosophy to play out differently.

I also can be more aggressive online, at times. So, maybe I’m not in a position to judge others for acting out of character. That said, I tend to only act aggressively online to strangers, the type of people I’d never normally interact with at all. So, the internet merely opens me up to interactions that wouldn’t otherwise happen, but it doesn’t change the way I interact with people I already know; at least, I don’t think it does.

I’m not sure what is my point. Maybe people are always weird, but are better at hiding it in everyday life.

Rich Liberals Vs Conservatives w/ Author David Callahan

In this interview, David Callahan’s view intrigues me.

He is arguing that the liberal rich has been smaller in recent decades than the conservative rich. However, supposedly with the growing technology industry and the knowledge economy, there has been a growing liberal rich. These wealthy liberals are highly educated and got their wealth through entrepreneurship. It’s an interesting argument. Entrepreneurs are more likely to be liberal whereas old money and established corporations are likely to be conservative.

Over the last half century or so, the conservative rich created a massive infrastructure of conservative media, think tanks, lobbyist groups, and astro-turf movements. Liberals, on the other hand, have been very lacking in organization. But this apparently has been changing this last decade. I’d probably say it’s the internet that has been a boon for liberals because the internet makes it easier to do grassroots bottom-up organization which is where liberals excel. The argument, however, is that the internet has boomed along with the wealth of the liberals who started businesses in this sector. So, there was the introduction of tools for grassroots organization at the same time new money was funding liberal organizations and media.

It still seems liberals aren’t quite organized in a lock-step way as is seen among conservatives, but definitely a shift has happened.

The shift the author sees is in that the upper class is shifting away from the Republican party. “The upper class is becoming more educated, more secular, more based in urban America (particularly on the coasts). And the Republican party is becoming more religious, more based in small town America, and becoming less educated.” This argument seems supported by the evidence showing the average IQ of Republicans has decreased since a high point during Reagan’s administration.

Checking the Facts

Debunkers of Fictions Sift the Net
By Brian Stelter

David and Barbara Mikkelson are among those trying to clean the cesspool. The unassuming California couple run Snopes, one of the most popular fact-checking destinations on the Web.

[…] Snopes is one of a small handful of sites in the fact-checking business. Brooks Jackson, the director of one of the others, the politically oriented FactCheck.org, believes news organizations should be doing more of it.

“The ‘news’ that is not fit to print gets through to people anyway these days, through 24-hour cable gasbags, partisan talk radio hosts and chain e-mails, blogs and Web sites such as WorldNetDaily or Daily Kos,” he said in an e-mail message. “What readers need now, we find, are honest referees who can help ordinary readers sort out fact from fiction.”

Even the White House now cites fact-checking sites: it has circulated links and explanations by PolitiFact.com, a project of The St. Petersburg Times that won a Pulitzer Prize last year for national reporting.

Media bias in the United States
(Wikipedia)

Organizations monitoring bias

Non-partisan

Liberal

Conservative

Ephemeral Media

Many things are changing with the new media. I remember a time when I was but a wee child sitting blank-eyed in front of picture box. When I wanted to change the channel, I had to stand up and manually turn a knob. That was about as interactive as it got, but now with the world wide web interactive is the name of the game.

There is a specific change I had in mind. It’s become increasingly apparent that the new media is simultaneously more permanent and more ephemeral. If you’ve ever posted, commented or uploaded anything on the web, you can try to remove it but you can never be sure it’s entirely gone. Someone else could’ve downloaded it or copy/pasted it. The web trawlers capture almost anything that has been up any amount of time.

That said, it’s easy for things to disappear or become inaccessible. I’ve noticed the fickleness of search engines. I’ve known something exists, but couldn’t find it in a search. Or you can know precisely what you’re looking for and yet look through hundreds of results before finding it.  Search engines only show what the web trawler has noticed and it only shows results according to equations of relevance. And if you live in China, much of the world’s internet would be entirely invisible to you. You can’t know about what you can’t see.

My thoughts, however, are focused on another aspect. A famous example is the Kindle book that was simultaneously removed from everyone’s Kindle because Amazon didn’t have the rights. That would be like if a bookseller did a recall and entered everyone’s home while they were sleeping to retrieve the book. Another example was a cellphone company that managed to lose all of its customers data (contact info and whatever else).

More pertinent to my own experience are examples related to online forums and websites. The first forum I was an active member of closed down a while back. The sad part was it just disappeared one day without warning. I had many wonderful discussions that were almost entirely lost… except what the web trawlers managed to save. Could you imagine if real life communities could just disappear instantly like that? In the case of the forum I mentioned, I did still have contact with some of the other members through other sites… but it still sucked.

Even more recently, the only other online community I’ve been active in also shut down. It was where my first blog was. Fortunately, I had a two week warning. I realized, though, that I wouldn’t have had a warning at all if someone hadn’t told me about it because I hadn’t visited the site as much in recent months. If someone hadn’t sought me out on my new blog, I might’ve lost all of my old blogs… and that would’ve really sucked.

The people from that community have mostly moved over to Ning and started new communities. That is fine. I wasn’t too sad about any of it, but I learned something about Ning that gives me pause. The Ning management has an absolute policy about every individual having the rights to their own material. So, any person can delete everything they wrote, but the messed up part is that all responses to the deleted material will also be deleted. That is just not right.

A similar thing has happened to me on the local newspaper website, but on a smaller scale. If a comment gets reported for breaking some rule (such as slander), then that comment is removed and all responses to it automatically disappear as well.

One last example directly related to blogging itself. I have many posts in this blog. I have some of them saved, but not all of them. If someone hacked my account, they could delete my blogs or even cancel the account entirely. I’ve heard of examples on other blogging platforms where blogs get accidentally removed or deleted by a system error. Sometimes they are able to be put back up and sometimes not. I haven’t heard of any problems with WordPress, but it’s always a possibility.

To be fair, all of life is ephemeral. A fire could destroy all my books in a very short amount of time. In the past, I’ve lost a notebook that had personal writings in it. Or a more odd incident involved a pile of printed material I was saving that one of my cats peed on. That is life. Things get lost and destroyed, but there is something about a physical book, newspaper or magazine that feels more real because you can physically hold it and possess it. Writings on paper can last for centuries and millennia. If the internet collapsed or was destroyed, would it be as bad or worse than the burning of the library of Alexandria?

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.

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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 !!

Blessings,

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!