Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Link to good detailed analysis of Iranian leadership

I have no way to verify the details, but this analysis makes sense to me.

In coverage of Iran, I have seen a discontinuity between what was said just before the last Iranian election (Iranians tired of Islamicist dogmatism and corruption and want to join the advanced modern world) and what was said since the election (Iranians backing someone who is a right-wing extremist even by Iranian standards). The post-election coverage did not even mention this discontinuity, no less explain it. Was there a real shift within Iranian general opinion or had we just misread the pre-election situation? Or is the post-election explanation misleadingly simplification?

Or is the situation in Iran too similar to the situation in the US to tolerate seeing it accurately (those least well off under the current system taking refuge in religion and extreme right-wing religion that seems to go against their own material interests)?

The analysis in this article is consistent with both the pre- and post-election appearances and that gives it credibility in my eyes: http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/HD26Ak02.html

I read http://www.atimes.com daily for the incredible variety of viewpoints expressed. Many are tendentious (=all but mouthpieces for some political interest), some are simply moronic, but many are jewels, it becomes very obvious very quickly who the mouthpieces represent (usually viewpoints one never hears directly in the mainstream media), and Spengler is quite thought-provoking even if I totally disagree with him more often than not.

This web site would be a great resource for a course on critical thinking.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Human Body and Who We Are

As a species, we evolved walking across the savannah. Tens of miles a day. So our body is optimized for walking - a human being is the fastest land animal on the planet over very long distances. Partly because we don't have to stop and chew our cud. Although many of us do, in point of fact.
On the other hand, our heads have evolved to be large enough to hold very large brains.
These two facts form the razor's edge of our evolutionary development. The hips of human females must be narrow enough to walk long distances but wide enough to give birth to big-headed babies.
This makes birthing in our species uniquely difficult.
Also, if you compare the timing of the major events in the life span of humans with that for other primates, everything is proportional. Except birth. If we spent the same proportion of our lives in the womb as other primates do, we would be born 15 months after conception, not 9. So in a sense, all humans are born 6 months premature.

Links We Have, It's the Chain That Missing

The Sociology of Enlightenment

Since the 1960's, the West has witnessed an explosion of traditional wisdom teachings from the East, yoga, 37 flavors of meditation, tai chi, chigung. There has also been massive development in experiential psychotherapies. Nowadays we have a vast panoply of techniques and teachings to help us develop the self and to go beyond it.
These are the links. The chain does not exist yet. What is waiting over the horizon is the whole that each of these practices and teachers and communities of practice are the parts of.
But right now, the whole does not exist and the parts are held back by having to function without the whole. However, the fact that someone can imagine it, suggests that it is coming into the range of future possibilities.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Link to detailed analysis of Iranian nuclear issue

I don't agree with all of this article, but it has more detail and just strikes me as more knowledgeable than anything else I have read so far. So I see it as a good starting point.
I also like that this author constructed his recommendations on Iran without invoking either a demonic Iran or demonic US president. And that he seems to actually like the Iranian people


Sunday, April 02, 2006


I give Serenity the movie and Firefly the TV show (out on DVD) 5 out of 4 possible stars.
Check them out.

Patents, liege lords, copyrights, and droit du seigneur

The issue of intellectual property takes many guises: music and movie piracy/anti-piracy, generic drugs, the cost of AIDs medicine in poor countries, students lugging 50-pound backpacks full of obsolete textbooks, high tech patent wars and allegations of "patent trolls". As the economy is driven more and more by knowledge (and less by labor or hardware), these issues will become more crucial, widespread, and bitter.

No enduring solution will be found under anything resembling the current economy. Knowledge is as different from the material goods our economic rules are designed for as modern industry is different from medieval peasant farming. Maybe more different.
The difference is so obvious that it can be overlooked, so familiar that it can be forgotten: If I give you my car, I no longer have it. If I give you a copy of a DVD or CD, we both have it. Materials goods are inherently scarce and economics is about doling out that scarcity. Knowledge is inherently abundant and wants to spread and develop.
In our material-goods economy, we have two ways to treat knowledge. Both fail. One way is to use patents and copyrights to make knowledge as scarce, hard to reproduce, and expensive as material goods. This worked to some degree as long as knowledge was a small, peripheral part of the economy. It also helped that the most economically important knowledge was held within large organizations and largely kept outside of the marketplace.
But now that knowledge is the central force of the economy, crippling the spread and combination of knowledge means slowing down the economy. And as the Internet shifts economic activity from monolithic organizations (think IBM or the Soviet Union) into complex varying networks (think of the supply chains from China to Walmart's or Dell), it becomes necessary to share valued knowledge across organizations that are not permanently united.

When we don't treat knowledge like coal or iron or wood, we treat it like air. We just take what we want for free. This works great for the spread and combination of knowledge but it cripples the creation of knowledge. Musicians won't create music for free. Nor will biochemical researchers drag themselves to work. If you're not getting paid anyway, might as well go surf.

How can we both facilitate the spread and combination of knowledge and reward those who create it? Sorry, I don't know. Once I look the problem square in the eyes from an overall point of view, not from the view of one particular interested party, such as a patent holder or someone who wants to buy music without being ripped off by the music industry, I can not even imagine a workable solution.
Actually, I don't think it is even possible to know. Yet. We (that means the entire first world and probably the third world too) will have to evolve an entirely new level of social organization, as different from us now as we are from Europe in the Middle Ages. And it is not possible to see that kind of thing before it comes. The most one can do is peer slightly over the horizon.