Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

The Best Gift is a Loan

I recently subscribed to the LJ Feed for Google Earth blog. Some people are doing some amazingly cool things with Google Earth. This is part of a generally neat thing about human nature -- when people are not thinking too much about how to make a buck off of each other, they can collaborate to produce some amazingly cool projects (this is also the idea behind Wiki). As much of a disappointment it is that Google Earth is not yet available for Linux (we're going to get a native port soon though, apparently), I'm enthused about how open it seems to be. I also realise that Google Notebook is very close, technologically, to the old Mosaic ability to annotate webpages that I've mumbled about being missing in more recent browsers. I am pleased also to note that despite their documentation saying trials of it are by invite only (and my not having recieved an invitation), I was able to log into Google Spreadsheet using my google account and play around. Right now, it's fairly primitive, with at least two difficulties that stop it from being suitable for me..

  1. Lack of a box displaying the current formula for a cell
  2. No ability to chart (Ouch!)
It's otherwise usable, and pretty cool for something done entirely in Javascript. A friend who's really in the know on tech matters commented that Microsoft was not pleased at how well done the collaborative editing is, especially given that to do the same thing in MS Office requires a very expensive set of software. It occurs to me that this is exactly the thing that Microsoft was worried about in the age of Netscape 2.0 when Marc Andreesson was pushing Netscape (and browsers in general) as being the operating system of the future. At the time, I was very protective of my data, sure that I would never want my stuff running on computers I don't control. I've eased up a bit, and Google has helped by nature of doing it well, making it (mostly) free, and exploiting the possible connections between all the parts of the google software to make it easy. The network-centric computing model is not as mature as it might be yet, but it is taking rapid steps and it will, I think, change the way we use computers in some fundamental ways. It is disappointing to see that it's built on advertising dollars though...

Working my way through more of Collingwood's Idea of History again, he outlines three major crises in the development of the idea of history, the first being the birth of history as a science in 5th century BCE, the second being the impact of early christianity on history, and the third .. hasn't been covered yet in the chapter I'm at so far. The impact is outlined as:

  • Universalism transforming history from being the story of one nation (usually Rome) to one covering all humanity
  • Humanity's will as subservient to the christian god leading to a break from the idea that all human events are born of intent of their participants
  • An end to an optimistic view of human nature
  • Division of history into historical periods, starting with pre and post jesus, and later into many separate divisions
Some of these strike me as positive developments, and some as negative. I don't know if historical periods are as fine-grained as I'd like (understanding people based on both the culture of their time/place and modern mores seems to be a better direction to me), nor do I think that the pessimistic view of human nature and desire is positive -- I agree with Nietzsche that Christianity is fundamentally life-denying. I view the end he outlines between what actually happens and the need for human intent to steer things in that direction to be a step forward in understanding, but I don't think that it's healthy to replace it with the need to document "God's plan" instead. "Shit Happens" seems to be a better guide to a clean way to understand history. I note that I am not disagreeing with the author (who does interpret these things but not in these directions), just elaborating and evaluating further on points he brings up. I do, by the way, highly recommend the book -- it does make demands that its readers be well-read, and if I understood more Greek than being able to kinda-sorta read the Greek alphabet and know a few Greek words, I would probably catch a bit more meaning, but it's pretty readable all things considered.

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