LIFT07 to reboot9: Floccinaucinihilipilification

I have been in a ranting mood these past weeks. It could just be that having put myself on a weekly diet of 10’000 words of newly written fresh words of storytelling never-told is doing strange things to my mind, or it is doing strange things to the revelation of lack of mind!

 

The notes that follow have a complex structure, if you get lost, do so at your own risk.

Yes, I do like self-referential contradiction, and self-referential contradiction is not oxymoronic, it is more a ying-yang duality characteristic. I like to think that to translate ying-yang to terms that our culture can better relate to, is to translate it to the conjugate pair of freedom and respect. Conjugation is appropriate here to designate the relationship between these two ideas of respect and freedom. In our society I would conjecture that we do value these two very much, or at least claim to value them. We, and I do mean we the whole of society, value these so much that we start wars to defend these values. In case that you have not yet noticed it, in the XXI century there are wars going on while some of us indulge in the debate of what digital technology is bringing society in the form of challenges and opportunities.

 

The conference called Lift, and happening in Geneva now for two years in a row, has changed my life, twice. It is a welcome change, and it is uncomfortable change. Although the realm of personal reflection is one that I prefer to indulge in the next, when it comes to action research, I would like to think that this blog is more the place for it since it can be filed under the categories development and intellectual. But are the following reflections on communication, an issue that I return to again and again, to be considered as action research? One can consider them as such, or one can also consider them exploration and reflection on what has been said, and how that impacts my own life. Impact is a good word to think about.

After LIFT07 I did get my chance to go air out my mind in the tepid temperatures of the eternal city, be pampered by caring friends, while for some irritating reason keeping Calvin’s city present in the background. What would Steinbeck have done in my place? My supercilious old ego, arrogant in nature, has no idea.

Communication has always been a challenge for me, however the circumstances surrounding this challenge have very peculiar singularities and I have lived most of my life in the false belief that it was so for everybody. It is not, and I am surprised that in the process I have learned more about communication than I had ever hoped for. The study and exploration of the nature and practice of communication is an intrinsic aspect of my own life. But why am I even surprised?

A writer, be it novelist or non-fiction scribe, spends a lot of time either reading, or starving and then writing. In the time interstitials of these solitary activities one gets to brush one’s teeth, sleep and perhaps on a good day, there is time for family and friends. An observation is that we are all so busy with productivity, or making our dreams reality, or just dealing with fate’s generosity or indulging our own very healthy egoism, so that most of the time friends and family do get the short end of the deal. We are hedonistic, solitary and we barely know how to reach out and ask for help.

I know that I am an hedonist. I can not understand what anybody as a self-sacrificing self-declared or otherwise, not an hedonist, has to offer to those around them other than to induce guilt, pity or righteousness depending on how the others are inclined. But it simply is not that simple, not really. I am the kind of hedonist that engages in the ascetic practices of fasting and meditation, submits to demanding hierarchies, and has not quite given up on meritocracy. Is an hedonist a simple pleasure seeker, and if so, what is pleasure then?

For those reading between the lines, you have by now figured out that indeed, my insistence – in spite of many self generated distractions and foreign inducements – in doing what I want to do, has caused a few serious breakdowns along the way.

I have been thinking about the saving grace that ambiguities in communication provide us in social situations, and the ever so benefactive white lie, or why complete knowledge of another – that is total transparency – is an obstacle to satisfaction at any level, regardless of what consists satisfaction, or how you define it. There is however a fallacy intrinsic to the expression of complete knowledge, and that is that complete knowledge is at best a chimera, but certainly not anything attainable. When would you know that you have complete knowledge of anything? Here lies the first, if not the fundamental problem with what is often called transparency and the ungodly beast of identity.

My intimate experience of the the arab world taught me the value of that precious stratagem, the white lie or shaving the truth, or just allowing the other and yourself to both keep face. Indeed, in the face-to-face world, keeping face is the name of the game. It is the social game, the only game that we ever endeavour to master is keeping face. Game theorist here or there, humans are gamers, and some players are just better than others. So when will we face the fact that it is all a game anyhow, and that some are better with the rules, the roles, the strategies or just the invention of the games?

Another way of looking at it is to consider the possibility that to keep face, is just another expression for respect and that it includes self-respect.

Ah… these are just a few loose thoughts left out in the wild of my machinations, or expectorating fantasies. I think that the present day geeky social web applications are way far off the mark and at the same time right on track in terms of empowering the world of relationship technology that allows for social evolution. While checking out how the reboot wiki site is evolving I stumbled on the idea of ambient intimacy. This is interesting, and it is part of the story. I also like to think that one psychological ingredient that makes Twitter so popular is the considerable amount of insensitivity space that it allows. I can at any time decide to respond or not respond to something that somebody whom I may know or not know shares within the twitter timeline. In short an interaction is not expected, and it is at the same time possible to interact. These options are the equivalent of giving me my personal space and privacy, and I am the one in control. I can consume twitters, or I can turn it off. Nobody in their right mind expects me to stay glued and attentive to the chatter on twitter or twittervision. I may have an interest in following the noise, and then I may not. My hedonist needs this much space, your mileage may differ.

I also happen to think that there are a few fundamental flaws in the thinking around science and how to use it, but then… how many of us have a really deep insight on how human beings function and interact?

Yes, I think that values are important, but I also think that the name of the game is called power. If that is so, tell me, what is power?

 

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Reboot 8.0 – Renaissance

After I was good and overwhelmed with all the interaction going on at reboot, Euan Semple held the last keynote presentation before the closing of reboot 8.0. It was a bit zen. If I remember correctly, and I made no notes, it was something about the internet being about love. Four letters of pure misunderstanding is what love tends to be about in a lot of occasions, but not always. Love I understood in this reboot context to be taking the form of connection which is what the live web does allow us all to do. Renaissance pure it is!

Take it for a fact that right now here I sit at my desk writing on a somewhat complex piece of electromechanical machinery and that within seconds my friends in India and California can be reading my opinions and then commenting on them. Furthermore, if they feel like it, then they can call or skype or email. It is all occurring at the speed of light? No… electrical signals do travel a bit slower. Anyhow, for human perception, we are all connected at the push of a button that takes less than one second to actuate, that is to say, instantaneously or thereabouts within seconds.

We are connected and we are autonomously alone simultaneously. The imperative duality of human nature (more on this later) is finally represented in our physical world, Euan is talking about love, others are talking about how to be a renaissance man and that markets are not just conversations, they are relationships (à la Doc Searls). Whatever…  markets are secondary expressions of human needs. The latter are simple: food, shelter and love. That is humans are social animals that eat and drink and are ill adapted for living on trees or on the hot sands of arabia.

I was born in the late fifties, went to college in the seventies and eighties in California and that puts me in a generation that arrived at the tail end of the hippie culture and Timoty Leary. For me drugs and sex were always there for the taking even if I was not at Berkeley; rock-and-roll was optional. This is the generation that gave us the personal computer, also known that instrument that marked the beginning of the erosion of slow communication and expensive advertising campaigns. In those days communication was specialized, slow and it could be controlled. Today communication is a commodity at the finger tip of any individual able to connect to the internet by whatever device. Although these days I am not willing to pay for what a Nokia N90 costs, it is one pregnant device with the shape of things to come. Make that same mobile device a plug in object into my PowerBook, and then I may not be able to resist. I like plug-and-play and multi-functionality that involves socializing hardware itself, not just humans. Besides that I need something that allows me to write fast enough and that allows me to think. I also do not always feel like voicing my thoughts, thus a recording device that writes may also not cover my needs.

But where am I going with all of this rambling about the seventies, the democratization of communication, the non-existense of markets in an abstract sense, abstraction itself and the renaissance man? Or to phrase it differently, what does sex have to do with software?

Really, I am talking about software, not some dysfunctional being’s fantasies or delirium. In this Renaissance of ours midwifed by the likes of geeks and hackers, software is going to be a commodity, like electricity is a commodity now, while energy may present us all a challenge. Our present wars are about land, water and oil. Technology is incidental and commodity-like. Terrorism is a form or warfare using intelligence as its key resource and not technology. It is perhaps not too surprising that using technology to fight intelligence is failing.

Could we perhaps consider that if we want to give this world another perspective we might want to be looking at what values are being served by the creation of new commodities?

Why do I blog this? These are incomplete thoughts that have been inspired by the multitude of experiences and exchange of ideas at reboot 8. I use blogging for publishing both drafts and lose notes of ideas. To me the web is alive and an ongoing conversation on several planes.