Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn
dachte

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On Saving the World

For those who like messages of people summing up human life in a goodbye, I found Elizabeth Edwardsのfarewell to be touching. Statements of that sort have long been interesting to me - while the product of a life is mostly that life - the social ties we build and occasionally the contributions we give to others through our work and other projects, when someone is getting ready to leave the stage it's hard not to listen. I confess extreme irritation at any mention of Randy Pausch at this point, but that's mainly because CMU's PRfolk will not STFU about him; I know that this is similar, and that most of us may have similar moments when our times come. Books, lectures, a few words, perhaps the endless streams of words that some of us bloggers produce - this is our story, and one side of it may be a futile stand against anicca. I like the idea of the human race keeping that British "stiff upper lip" in that "good fight" we're programmed into, made more ironic by our ability to make breathing space for our species, within civilisation, for us to engage art, fiction, and culture for their own sake.

Wonder: How does nuclear deterrence compare to the entangled alliances that made WWI possible? Related - Salon had an interesting editorial about the passing of the American Empire - something I believe is very likely. Primarily, I suspect that failures in both our political system and our democracy have finally collaborated to doom us to mediocrity; neither the American Left or Right are interested in the kind of regime we need - a technocratic, high-taxes, high-services, one focused very strongly on infrastructure and education and at least willing to tackle environmental problems. Additionally, we need to rework entirely our electoral system to remove all corporate influence.. This isn't going to happen, and I doubt the kinds of change we need will come from either party.

A few more thoughts about Wikileaks:

For those of us who more-or-less support Wikileaks, a question - do we believe in absolute openness or the uncertainty of occasional leaks? I think there's a point to the concern that absolute openness will make some kinds of diplomacy difficult, others impossible. Can we expect other nations to be willing to make plans with us or discuss things frankly when the eyes of all humanity are upon them? Should we demand that of them? Are we willing to accept the price of some kinds of diplomacy being impossible under those circumstances?

The reason we support Wikileaks is that we feel, in some cases correctly, that there are immoral or improper things happening behind the scenes, although we may not all agree on what that means - for some, anything beyond convincing others to things with no promises or favours attached would be considered immoral (so, no use of earmarks to convince people to support a bill), for others, some use of these persuasive tools are acceptable and they're primarily concerned about other things. In the case of Cablegate, there is very little that's surprising that we've seen so far - the most ardent conspiracy theorists will find that international politics is not much different than what they could guess by reading current events journals; we get a slightly rawer picture, but not much. This is not true of all of the Wikileaks projects - several past leaks, particularly the ACTA drafts, are large bodies of legislation that will slide greased through our congress with little public input or debate and avoid discussions which should happen. Cablegate is special because it's diplomatic information and because it looks bad; little is likely actionable by other governments, although it confirms in many cases the dirtiness of politics in countries that have less public discussion of these matters.

Perhaps some of us support the site and its projects because of a deep belief in openness in governance to the extent that everything should be public. Perhaps some believe that leaks are inevitable because they're so easy, and that wikileaks is the start of an inevitable much greater transparency than the relative transparency the Obama administration calls for. Perhaps some of us are apalled, out of the regular context of state power for actually legitimate causes, at the roughness with which Assange's organisation is being treated, and considering them press. Perhaps some of us are doing some complex cost-benefit analysis, others standing on some principles.

In my case, I am not certain whether absolute transparency is necessary, but I do support at least occasional leaks from banks, governments, and the like - I understand that people take their careers in their hands when they leak private information, and trust that people with morals enough to break nondisclosures and secrecies, when the greater good is at stake, will do so. I suspect we don't really need to know most of the things that Cablegate has shown us, at least not urgently. In the long run, they should contribute to history (and if this stuff isn't making it out into the hands of historians within 40 years of being produced, that's a problem). Occasional important, targeted leaks are very useful to expose particular scandalous things, but I am comfortable with bulk releases like these being very rare. We sometimes should have them so we can get the general flavour of how our government acts (and how international diplomacy works), but we don't need a Cablegate every year (for starters, at the current rate of release, these cables won't make it out entirely within a year). Compared to other Wikileaks releases, Cablegate has a different, lower-value, big-picture role. It's a pity that this may be what puts an end to Wikileaks as an organisation (or at least puts them on the run enough that access and financial solvency become difficult).

I'm trying to get into making more content on my youtube channel - I doubt I'll ever try to be some big public figure like a few people I know, but it's amusing, for now, to sometimes toss some stuff up.

Recently I've been thinking a lot about information flow in interactions with friends. What do most people talk about? What do I want to talk about? What makes for a good friendship? Relationship? I think a lot of people talk about their lives - it seems that abstract ideas are a bit more rare. Trying to think back on conversations with close friends - difficult. I remember a few specific ideas or topics, but the vast majority of things I spoke with them about seem lost. I'm not entirely surprised - maybe these things were either often of no consequence, repetative, or about day-to-day slices of life that have also been forgotten. Or, perhaps these conversations did have interesting things that have been lost to time anyhow. I wonder what it'd be like to have logs of in-person conversations. I suppose people arn't used to ideas like that and could easily be made uncomfortable - I think a lot of the time people like to understate themselves so they can maintain wiggle room for who they are, what they believe, what they've done, etc, and the fog of memory helps keep us secure in the ability to redefine ourselves, our past, and the like. Maybe this is why many people feel stifled by the presence of their parents - more than almost anyone else, parents can see through this. Perhaps it's a mark of discretion for a parent not to do so publicly. Conversational fingerprint - how distinctive are the topics and levels of information flow to a person's conversational preferences? How quickly would we notice if we replaced one person's habits with another's? Topics? (Pardon the topical shifts here, this is more a thoughtstream than a tight idea)

Still slowly working my way through Salman Rushdieの「Haroun and the Sea of Stories」. I'm happy to hear there's a sequel of sorts that came out this year (「Luka and the Lake of Fire」).

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