The Difference Between the Internet and a Walk

Earlier this week I brought up that apps are not necessarily the solution to every problem in our society.  I then went ahead and gave a description of two general types of society and which one apps and internet things are a part of, but I failed to go into a better explanation of why, so here is the beginning of that:

Let us look back at the idea of a vertical society, part of a vertical society is limiting the journey from point A to point B.  Cars, metro and if it was ever physically possible I guarantee it would be taken up–teleportation.  All of these things make it so that a person can go from one place (their home) to another place (their workplace on usual work days) with minimal time, effort and dealing with others.  Yes, one has to interact with others while driving or elbowing your way into the bus in the morning, but it is not the same as walking through a marketplace or walking through a park.  How often do you stop and enjoy the moment in any of these forms of transportation?  You listen to music or read a book probably on the bus, while driving you listen to the radio or focus on just not getting into a wreck, plus, mostly, you have a specific goal in mind and attempt to get to that goal in the shortest way possible.  The internet is just like this, only, you actually can teleport!

Think about it, one cannot go for a walk through the internet, there is no “public” space which one can explore and see what there is to see, you have to either be looking for something or know the actual end goal that you have.  You can end up in random places through say stumbleupon or something like that, but that is not randomly “strolling” through the internet.  That is a violent jumping all over to specific places, akin to being able to go from your room to the art museum, to the library, to the grocery store, to the police station and on and on without having to actually take a step.  This is how the internet and how I think computers work in general.

Computers are like this in a more complicated way and it becomes easier to approach computers through a different image, that of a conversation.  When you are having a great conversation with a friend of yours, stories are told, facts are shared among who knows what and you and your interlocutor randomly talk, no specific goal, just talk about whatever comes to mind and where ever you end up.  Computers, how I understand them, cannot handle this though, they cannot just go anywhere for no reason, there has to be a specific goal.  Solve this mathematical problem, execute this command, share this data and so on, a conversation between computers would be amazingly boring.  I imagine it would be like two people just sharing their current health status without anything else:

“I have a heart-rate currently of 60 beats per minute, my blood pressure is 120/80, current body temperature is 98.6 degrees Farenheit….” and the other responds with their information and then walk away and continue onto something else, preferably whatever their original end goal was.

Anyway, it appears that apps and computers and the internet is limited by this, the thing that I think we can begin to point at and say “this is part of being a human.”  It is as simple as taking a walk.  I use this in comparison to the teleportation through a city.  In going for a walk, you, as an individual have infinite possibilities every single moment on that walk.  You can continue to walk forward, you can turn left, right, make a 180 degree turn, a 90 degree turn, a 78.675 degree turn, you could literally stop and sit down, you can stop the enjoy the sun on your skin.  Transportation in a vertical society attempts to avoid this, there is no end goal in any of these things, they are simply being present in the moment (to use meditation language).  While going for a random walk through your neighborhood you have all of these options and more, you can also randomly see a friend of yours, a neighbor, an enemy, a person you’ve never seen before but decide at that moment you want to get to know better, you could see someone in need of help and give them that help, or not.  On this walk you also have the option of deciding you have somewhere to go, to a friend’s house, to the park, to get some groceries and you can immediately act upon that decision.  None of this is possible on computers or the internet.  Yes, you can change your mind but outside of canceling, you can only make the change after you have hit the end goal that you started off with.  It would be like if you decided to go to the library but half way there decided to stop at a cafe but you physically could get to that cafe until you have been to the library, or reset back at your starting point.  This is essentially what has to happen in apps and computers.  This is also the essential limitation of apps and computers and why they cannot be considered the best solution to every problem.

Hopefully this helps make something a little bit clearer.  If not, I hope it makes something more confusing and makes you stop and think some more.

There’s An App for That

So I just finished participating in an amazing leadership conference.  The name and other info I will not be sharing but, at the end of this conference the ten groups of students made pitches to three somewhat powerful people and these pitches were of ideas that would make our city better.  All of the ideas though were apps/websites or some combination thereof, which I find somewhat problematic.

Besides access problems, which people think can be solved by access to library computers and other public places with computers, the problem with apps, especially those to create a sense of community or connection, is that they do not actually work against the problem they are trying to solve.

What I mean is, we now live in what I will be calling a vertical society.  By a vertical society I mean a society in which public spaces are small and generally places to be avoided and as much as possible is cut off from public spaces as possible.  Think of all of the doors one has to pass through every single day, I know there are security and weather concerns too, but in a metaphorical sense, think of all of those doors.  Each one is open only to you and those who meet the same or similar requirements as you do.  I do not know for sure but say a library, is someone who is homeless allowed to actually step in without being herded out by security?  I am pretty sure this holds true for the university doors I step through every day.  The homeless individual does not meet the requirements of looking like a student or VIP and then gets shuffled out probably, back into the limited public space there is.  In short, in vertical cultures there is a clear line between private and public life and the various types of public life one can have.  Apps and websites do not actually fix this.  Instead, they operate within the confines of this type of society.

Apps and websites allows one to stay within their private life until they decide to go into a public place and meet with specific others to do something, in another policed, more private public space.  To put an image to it, one person lives on the 8th floor of an apartment building and is on their computer and gets in contact with a group of people who also live on various floors in various apartment buildings.  This group decides to get together to chat, so they go downstairs onto the street, the purely public space, meet at some pre-determined point and then proceed to a restaurant, cafe, bar, club, another apartment etc.  All of these are “public” yes but not purely public like the street is where one can bump into every single possible type of individual there is.  The only equivalent in a city might be a public park but that probably depends on the specific laws within the city.  Apps and websites are useful in this sort of situation in getting people to meet with each other and possibly form communities, but these non-spontaneous sorts of meetings are limited in various forms.

The first and probably most important is, it means one can avoid meeting people with different views from themselves.  Access to the internet has made everything customizable, including who you talk to, the main exception to that is family probably since you can avoid talking to you co-workers to an extent.  This customization though can cause problems I think, it allows for the extreme viewpoints who just screech at each other across the room instead of people being able to hold discussions.  This also weakens the sense of a need for public spaces which then allows stricter laws to be put into place thus weakening our rights of public assembly and putting marginalized groups into even harder situations.   I do not think apps and websites can actually fully solve this sort of a problem.  Instead, to deal with this will take a conscious decision by each individual and our society as a whole, to become a more horizontal society.

By horizontal society I do mean the opposite of a vertical society.  A horizontal society would have much less clearly defined private and public lives, have much larger and broader public spaces.  Life would be focused on the public life and lived mostly there, it would be like Ancient Greece I guess with the Agora.  Everyone and anyone can stroll around and end up there without being pushed out.  Things would happen spontaneously too, meetings, speeches, etc.  No, everyone would not sit in a circle and sing peace songs, but it be much harder for an individual to entirely customize their experience of their surroundings and friends.  You could actually end up speaking to someone you consider an enemy or opponent, in person, you would have to find some way to deal with the fact that they are another human standing in front of you.  It suddenly becomes a lot harder to act in some ways towards that opponent when you are forced to accept that they are a living, breathing human who also has a life I expect.

Apps and websites are great, do not get me wrong, I am not saying we need to step backwards technologically, I think we just need to be aware that technology is not the solution to everything, especially not human community.

Can Democracy Work With Borders?

I don’t think so. I think that a democracy as envisioned in the Enlightenment cannot actually function with set borders.  In other words, in order to have a proper democracy as places like the U.S. like to pretend we have, we cannot have strong borders like we do currently.  This is because borders entail exclusion and the ideal of democracies like the U.S. is that no one is excluded and borders make it possible for people to be born into the country, which, if democracies are to actually work off of “social contract” theories that they tend to lean on now, every individual has to come to sign onto the contract on their own.

The first part is relatively simple, a border defines an area that is yours and an area that is mine.  That is the point of borders, if you do not agree try to create a border that does to rely on this fundamental separation.  Borders are exclusion.  Democracies in our world constantly want to promote “multi-culturalism,” “openness,” “diversity,” and all those other pretty sounding words that get thrown around a lot.  Barring the internal issues that exist in these countries (that’s a can of worms that I will not open, so just stay in International Relations please), borders fundamentally deny these pretty words that like to get thrown around in democracies.  Basically, having a border, means that there is a part of the Earth that is “mine” (the citizen’s) and part that is “yours” (the non-citizen of any sort).  Operating off of that assumption means that a person has to work to become a citizen, (citizenship tests) which causes problems since the basic assumption made when say, the U.S. Constitution was written, was that of social contract theory.  This theory is essentially that the individual signs onto the contract of a government, which is just fine and dandy, if the person can read the contract and understand it, go ahead and sign on all you want, requiring a person to take a test of random facts of the history of the country is not really useful in this way.

As a history note, us Euro-Americans are quite good at letting people sign contracts when they do not necessarily understand the contract and what it entails.  Why do we suddenly care about a person understanding the contract when they want to be a citizen? Anyway, just a reminder, the U.S. is far from perfect like some people seem to want to say.

The discussion above has gotten dangerously close to my second point so I will just go ahead into it here.  So we have this social contract theory and with well and strongly defined and defended borders makes this contract inherently exclusionary which is exactly against the ideals that people like to claim in the current world.  The next problem is that this sense of there being borders means that a person can be born into a contract, which is not necessarily a bad idea in theory I guess, but this being born into a situation leads to two problems.

1) laziness, being born into something means you probably do not feel the same impetus to work for it or care.  This does not apply to all people in all situations, it does seem that it applies for voting though, since an individual is just born into a democracy they do not really feel the need to participate to have citizenship in a democracy which weakens a democracy by their lack of participation.  So, if everyone, in order to actually gain citizenship had to participate (i.e. vote) those that actually want to be members (i.e. sign the contract and join-in) would go ahead and vote and choose to become a part of that society.

2) it allows a sense of “us” and “them” to form.  Being born in a certain place and gaining citizenship automatically allows one to have a sense of that area being theirs and that people who move in are outsiders and frankly, in North America, that is entirely false.  Essentially, when being born in a place equates to citizenship nation-states are created which have all sorts of problems of exclusionary practices.

This is admittedly, poorly argued at this point, but my point is that a democracy cannot function with borders because borders allow the creation of nation-states which means exclusionary practices and lax-ness on the part of the citizens that are born into the nation-state.  So, in order to get a democracy that truly works, the concept of a border has to be taken apart.  Luckily, these are just musings that I never have to worry about coming to fruition!

Un-liked Conclusions

Caution: Possibly offensive ideas below.

Note: Don’t you dare attack me for saying any of this, I am just walking through the conclusions that come to me when looking at the world, I am not necessarily advocating these views.  This is more an experiment in realizing our western way of life is as absurd, if not more absurd, as any other way of life that can be imagined.

So, I just saw something that mentioned special-needs kids.  Now, considering that Western Culture believes in the church of logic, why are special-needs kids defended so much?  For this world of science it seems to be a form of sacrilege really, or maybe simply a way to keep human experiments around without having human rights issues.

Stop and think about it, if human beings are simply another species of animals, why are people so afraid of the general law of fittest survives?  If this is truly the scientific fact, why do we not go along with it like we tend to do with every other scientific fact? Seriously, every single medical advance is touted as wonderful, every new little piece of technology is amazing and life-changing.  Yet the fact that we are just animals is covered up as best as possible.  How does this work out in such a “scientifically advanced” society?

In such a society there must be a reason that we want to protect these special-needs kids so much.  Simply saying because they are human too/we feel bad does not apply in logic.  So what else could it be besides a form of scientific experiments with the children?  It makes sense, a child which does need help and would not be “scientifically” fittest arguably would not make it in the “animal” world.  But if we do keep them alive we can continue to advance our “science”! We can solve more problems! We can gain more knowledge! So now we just have unofficial laboratory experiments across the globe? Didn’t we have serious issues with this when they first started happening?

So, are we “scientifically advanced” or are we something else?  Are you really athiest? Do you really believe in God? Can you really defend acting like this otherwise?  Just saying, maybe you should make a decision.


A Fundamental Logical Error

The law of non-contradiction: X cannot have the adjective q and not-q at the same time. Within logical systems this of course works and is fundamental for a lot of ideas, theories, etc. But, it has expanded too far; it expanded into the human realm with the assumption that an individual cannot be both an individual and not an individual.

The law of non-contradiction made it so that one cannot say that a person is both an individual and a part of a group.  They cannot be both the private person and the public person; only one or the other is allowed at one time.  For some reason I am not sure of yet, the Enlightenment chose the individual, private person as the main focus of reason/logic. This is the point that I think one must put on the breaks.

Only through being aware of one’s connectedness can one really accomplish anything.  In other words, humans are a social animal, I am personally incredibly okay being alone for periods of time, but I know that being alone all of the time is both boring and bad for me.  A lot of great thinkers have struck on this idea: Aristotle being a big early one, there is Alexis De Tocqueville in Democracy in America, he calls this idea “self-interest rightly understood” (or something along those lines), Feminists with the ethics of care have hit it, Jesus with “love thy neighbor” (if you’re feeling religious), for the underdogs we have Marx who talks about this idea, Nietzsche considers humans as herd-animals, wanting to get more scientific our cousins the primates, apes etc. tend to be social, not to mention our friends: dogs.

Dogs brings up an interesting subject with cats and dogs being usually two of the most popular pets: cats are solitary and dogs are more social.  Could this be an image of this unusual spot humans find themselves in?  We somehow go back and forth between the two extremes of being solitary and social.  The problem with the law of non-contradiction is that it does not allow one to be both or work on being both at the same time.

It also seems that no one wants to attempt to deal with both of these natures at the same time.  I think it could be a solution to the theological problem of evil, I also definitely think being aware of this back-and-forth allows for a much more fluid and useful ethics.  It also allows for massive critiques of a lot of Western society: education and economics specifically.  I intend to go into these later.

So consider, which is “more” human?  The individual in the “state of nature” as our society is founded upon or the individual in a family/society as the ethics of care and virtue respectively are roughly founded on?

A Statement on Economists

Economists do math on a giant thing which doesn’t really exist only show the problems of doing anything with it without providing a good solution.

Economists do not want anything to actually happen to the economy because they will be jobless.

Economists also probably recognize that our world is so focused on money as it is currently viewed that any actual change would cause massive problems for a while.

Economists tow an odd line where they are balancing: keeping a non-existing entity which the world relies on in existence in some form and being asked to give solutions to problems so fundamental to this entity that the only way to fix the problems would be to get rid of the entity.

Becoming Yourself

“It takes a village to raise an idiot.”

Why does it only take a village to raise an idiot but not a person?

Only through community can one become an individual.  This is a key thing that no one seems to think about in life. I think that this is an entirely under-appreciated aspect of life as an individual if you’re a person who enjoys the individual.  Being a U.S. citizen it is almost my civic duty to support the individual entire, just we aren’t ever told how to do that.

Anyway, think about it, throughout your life you get told to be yourself, live your own life, take the road less traveled, etc. etc. etc.  But how do you take that first step?  That leap of faith?  You need to have firm ground from which to start it seems, in other words, in order to jump off the cliff you need a steady cliff.

This jump is where the individual is made in my opinion, where a person is swept off their metaphorical feet of their community and forced to build a new ground below them.  In order to build this new ground though, the individual has to know what it feels like though.  They have to know the firmness of the ground, the warmth or chill of it, even the rosebushes on this ground.

This idea, this need of an original anchor for someone to let go off in order to be an individual, has never been directly addressed in my education, to my knowledge.  It may have been dealt with in some ways and just gone over my head, but for me this discussion simply has not seriously been had in my life.  It is just assumed that I can become my own individual without anything to start with.  I couldn’t possibly be the individual I am today though without having had my original community to live in, my tiny town that is barely ever on a map and a family that was stable and loving.  This little community gave me a ground upon which I could take my first steps, this community gave me both the ground and the fuel to later on take some massive jumps to separate myself from the community, break myself off from all of the habits, thoughts, prejudices and assumptions of this community.  But this community also gave me a sense of life and knowing that there can be something beneath my feet if I look for it or make it myself.  I think it has paid off for me.

It is hard to find this community though, children live in broken homes, apartment complexes where one does not even know their own neighbor and there is no sense of any type of history to the family, to their lives, to their home.  They essentially have no ground upon which to stand, no anchor.  All they have is free-fall.  People have “individuality” but there aren’t too many individuals to be found due to this lack of original jumping off point for the individual (I think anyway).  If this type of thing isn’t a serious issue, I probably never will know what one is.

In order to fix this though is going to require a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of re-thinking on the part of U.S. citizens.  There is no cure-all or immediate fix to this as we like to imagine exists for getting healthy and any other problem we come upon in this country.  It will take a concerted effort to come to understanding “self-interest rightly understood” (as Tocqueville called it) again.

The first step is going to be teaching ourselves self-interest rightly understood again.