May 14th, 2011


Preserving nonidentities

After seeing Gwillen's tweet, I swung by Fleetingpages. It's located in the space where the Borders near Wholefoods was, and until the project dismantles, it's a spiffy indie bookstore. There is T'd'O there! Also: a set of really interesting books, neat customers and volunteers. and workshops/talks. We should have plenty of places set aside in our civilisation for community projects/places like Fleetingpages. I'm going to volunteer there, I think, to sip a bit more of the cup of community before I leave Pittsburgh.

I'm reminded how when volunteering in the past I've generally met really interesting people; they were not all intellectuals, but I usually liked them in other ways. Staying involved with community (but carefully so I don't blow my introvert social-fuses) is important! Anyhow, everyone, go check out FleetingPages if you're in town. I think they'll be open until the middle of June.

Moving: I should have keys to my new apartment soon. This means I can devote more attention to finding a job. I might try to spread my time more evenly between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia if I can figure out a way to still drive back and forth without renting a car for 4 days at a time. Much of the work I do I can do remotely.

Interesting philosophy idea I've been thinking about (idea is from Badiou), from a PDFbook I'm reading on my Kindle:Collapse )

Recently I've been wondering; if I were stranded on another planet with, say, 30 infants that I could raise any way I saw fit, how would I raise them? I think I could preserve a reasonable subset of the human knowledge they would get naturally, raised in a more normal community on Terra, and it would be great fun to be the parent of a new civilisation. The current question I've been asking myself for this scenario concerns religion and philosophy. Apart from my own philosophy (an atheistic constructivist empiricism with a socialist/communitarian political bent), what would I teach them about ideas that are not mine? Would I teach them about Christianity/Judaism/Islam? Probably not, although if for some reason I decided to, I probably could construct the narratives and some of the theology/traditions of one or all of them. Would I teach about other secular philosophies? Or would I just leave a giant question mark beyond the borders of my philosophy as I passed it on? Teaching only what I believe/hold/have concluded would feel wrong, I think in the way that a lot of communities maintain their philosophies by virtue of not letting people see other ways of thinking seriously until they're already adults and set into a perspective (Judaism and Islam are pretty bad about this). I think it would also feel wrong to recreate "enemy" philosophies. The tension between the desire to make room for differences of opinion and the desire to define perspectives in the absence of other influences: interesting. I suspect I'd have to look for a middle ground with which I could be minimally uncomfortable.



I recently had a realisation as to why the NC licenses promoted by CreativeCommons exist: it comes down to how I'd happily contribute to communities where I feel vested, but only rarely do I feel vested in communities where money is flowing around (particularly if I'm a volunteer). The noncommercial licenses CC provides are meant to contribute to communities in that same spirit. I remain an IP-Abolitionist (and a supporter (roughly speaking) of the GPL as a stopgap measure until we can change the laws), but I better understand where the NC-license-boosters are coming from now.

I've been thinking about what kind of lightweight, no-install-or-easy-install system we could design to provide distributed wikilike functionality. I suppose one way would be for some company (Google? Yahoo?) to offer to host personal wikis for the world; I'd say there are privacy concerns, but then I remember that I already have a (secondary) email account on GMail. What's so important about wikis?

  • Data are in a user-comprehensible, simple format (contrast to TeX)
  • Linking between documents (pages) is simple
  • The format is extensible
  • It's a nice, no-nonsense way to organise information, with inner links having properties suitable for exploration
Wikis remain very weak for non-texty-non-image data, and the need for graphical editors for tabular data lessens the value (or at least shows the limits) of the wiki format. Along with redefining how spreadsheets work (learn from Apple's Numbers or Lotus's Improv and take things much further), making a truly next-generation Wiki is among the few really interesting vision/conceptual problems in the "information application for end-users" field. More interesting yet is that there is a huge body of content in both formats, a widespread recognition that things should be better, and tension between flexibility and power with any solution.
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    Max Weinberg - Late Night with Conan O'Brien
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