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   RE: [xml-dev] Using Me Using You

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  • To: "Bullard, Claude L \(Len\)" <len.bullard@intergraph.com>, XML Developers List <xml-dev@lists.xml.org>
  • Subject: RE: [xml-dev] Using Me Using You
  • From: Jason Aaron Osgood <mrosgood@yahoo.com>
  • Date: Fri, 27 May 2005 06:30:45 -0700 (PDT)
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  • In-reply-to: 6667

Hi Claude L (Len) Bullard- 

You originally voiced the opinion that communities are opting out. 
Also, that predators are becoming more widespread.  I tried to present
an alternative optimistic viewpoint.

> So is devolution.  In the limbo world, "how low can you go?"

If I thought that, I wouldn't ever get out of bed.  I'm a huge fan of
the ratchet effect.  Robert Wright related cultural evolution in terms
of game theory.  In brief, progress occurs when nonzero sum games
(win-win) can be devised to replace select zero sum games (I win, you
lose).  Wright argues that while progress may have been delayed (e.g.
Mongol hordes disrupting Chinese society), overall, society doesn't


And, yes, I believe sentience is inevitable and not accidental.  My own
special little faith, since it can't be disproved (in the Popperian
sense).  See below.

I also acknowledge that regression occurs, but only in the short term. 
I was walking around our popular Broadway neighborhood a few weeks ago.
 It was like the Reagan era all over again (decay, pan-handlers,
general shabbiness).  The cause of progress is saved because better
ideas outcompete less good ideas.

> But to summarize your point, radar guns spawn radar detectors. 

No.  I'm saying that communities fissure.  Life's arms race is
something else entirely.

> The reason for 'professional behavior' is to mask personal 
> preference, and therein is one approach to the problem. It 
> isn't one that works on all levels.  It isn't that everyone 
> wants a close personal relationship; it is that we have 
> few good means to filter.  FOAF is interesting, so if 
> we see repeats of patterns, I suspect it won't be individuals 
> but networks in that model that go 'behind the gates' somewhat 
> the way we have closed social clubs now.  Legal?  Another 
> interesting question.  Are information force fields legal? 
> Not my term.  There is an article about that on the web 
> related to all of the devices that will be able to detect 
> and phone you someone at the ubqiquity level of Coke signs. 
> There are already test cases related to institutions that 
> are shielding cellphone traffic.

I didn't follow most of these bits at all.

On the job of filtering, I think humans are brilliant at it.  It's the
only way to preserve our sanity.  I wouldn't be surprised if it's
integral to our intelligence.  Smart babies will go to sleep when
they're overloaded (too much tickling).  Marshall McLuhan argued that
we "auto amputate" portions of our sensing ability when we're over

The primary filter we have is attention.  Either to opt out or rely on
reputation.  Clay Shirky's observations on the effects of power laws of
distribution are fascinating.

Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality

The other force at work is foraging behavior.  (See below.)

> The communications model we have today has never existed 
> in recorded history at this scale and level of penetration.  
> That is what makes it fascinating.

I believe communication patterns are self-similar (independent of
scale).  In other words, I don't find today's world terribly
exceptional.  The sole difference is the occasional flurry of
self-awareness afforded by science and reason.

Danny Hillis spoke at the first Java conference (1996), before it
became JavaOne.  (I can't find a working link to the article I wrote
back then.)  He related his view of progress.  At the scales of atoms,
molecules, cells, organisms, communities, and then (perhaps) societies,
in each system of interaction, communication crosses a complexity
threshold that then becomes computation.  At the scale we're relating
at, it's called social cognition.  This book was a mind blow:

"Swarm Intelligence" by Eberhart, Shi, Kennedy

(Careful, there's at least 2 other books with that same title.)

Please know that I'm not an extropian, transhumanist, or any of those
goofy Omni and Mondo2000 caricatures.  It's just that I find these
fundamentally optimistic ideas both helpful (an integral part of my
suicide avoidance strategy) and useful (a narrative that helps with my
decision making).

It's also why I don't get worked up about encoding and schemas.  At the
end of the day, it's all 1s and 0s, and subject-verb-object clauses. 
The only variables are choosing the abstractions (representations) and
algorithms, how much to leave implicit versus making explicit, and
whether to reuse or redo.  And in making those decisions, one's use
cases and tolerance for pain are the only useful guides.

Cheers, Jason Aaron Osgood / Seattle WA

PS-  Someone let me know if I go off topic.  hahahah.



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