Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

Time Makes Strangers of us All

From someone I know from elementary/middle/high school that recently got back in touch:

The "challenge" courses really turned us into freaks of the world and rather closed in from the rest of humanity. I find it hard to fit in in most situations as does -SIBLING-. It seems that most of us are still single or if in a relationship finding it hard to stay. It all seems connected somehow to the way we were all taught to think so freely. Others don't always seem so receptive to this type of thought, attitude or behavior. Maybe I'm wrong. I don't know for sure.
(sibling's name/gender redacted to hopefully make her less identifiable)

I think she's probably right, although I don't regret it. We were treated differently, managed by a psychologist, and had a number of specially-trained (often University professors) teachers. It may be no more different than what Montisori kids got (or maybe it was -- it's hard to compare). The only thing that I have had to deal with is the assumption that I am more intelligent and know better than everyone else. This is true in most situations, and I think it is right to push against populism when it goes against thinking, but it's very rough on potential friendships when I'm trying to decide if someone is a peer or not, and on what topics. Is it right to give any weight at all to unconsidered ideas on science or unthought opinions on politics? No - such things are rubbish. Is it helpful to make people hate one by starting off with no respect and waiting for them to show signs of intelligence before listening to them? Probably not. Is there a good solution? I really don't know. To really believe in the importance of education and careful thought is very anti-democratic (or at least anti-populist, which is a dominant trend in some democracies), and to question that value (or some others) is a quick way to be seen as arrogant.

Still, if we are freaks of the world, it may make us less happy than we could be. To what degree we were found so versus made so is an open question. I have to rely on her experiences here (described elsewhere in the email) -- I haven't really kept in touch with any of the other people from the programme, and while I know that I'm lonely and feel that I see the world in a rather different way than most people do, I always attributed that more to my effort to explore the world through philosophy rather than the program. Maybe the two are related, although if the programme is really more of a cause, it's a bit humbling. Then again, we can never be really free of our roots.

A few, pretty unrelated things:

  • Contents of someone's head
  • And someone else
  • A quote I came across recently that I half-like: "The constraint of law is the beginning of freedom". I only half-like it because law is only part of society, and is often too formal. What's more important than law, and what law approximates, is the idea that many types of interactions between people are open to outside review (and consequences). It is this that shoves us towards being civil to each other in society, and keeps ego and cowboy mentalities from running amok.
  • A half-baked further analysis of Naked Lunch: The reason Naked Lunch stands out is that, like the worst kind of porn that most people eventually delete from their computers, it is simultaneously arousing and deeply disturbing, making people see how far their biologically-derived values (lust) and their civilised nature can be at ends.
  • I was starting an essay for Wikipedia, but now that I'm retired, it's not really worth finishing it. It was a reply to the frequent "What's it hurting?" argument relating to nonencyclopedic content on an encyclopedia. It's not in as formal a tone as it would've been if I had put it up (which might make it, ironically, more approachable than if I had finished it?). Here we go:
Ever heard of "With a million eyes, all bugs are shallow"? It's one of the reasons Wikipedia works - by tapping the spare time of millions of people, to produce, edit, and refine content, we can produce a really great encyclopedia. The equation changes in two important ways if we decide that "it is hurting" nobody to allow widely off-topic content in large amounts. First, it spreads us very thin - the "million eyes" phonomena works primarily by having a good ratio between people looking to refine content and actual content. When both the content and the people are vast, things stop working, especially when things become dilute enough that people can successfully fight to keep bad content on the site, with the damage to reputation and community such things can cause. Second, when the ratio grows further yet against our favour, we start to accumulate users and content that directly prevent us from focusing on good, encyclopedic content by stressing the institutions, both technical and social, on which our community is built. There are only so many mediators and arbitrators, and servers/bandwidth may be cheap in some sense but are not free.

Umm.. and finally, an odd snippet from a conversation on IRC sometime back:
Improv: huggin: Maybe I'm really SGIsexual :)
Improv: Hmm. I can just imagine going down the aisle with a SGI InfiniteRealityMonster ...
Improv: I'd lift the veil, and see STUNNING 3D graphics


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