“Paradox is a pointer telling you to look beyond it. If paradoxes bother you, that betrays your deep desire for absolutes.”
Frank Herbert

God Emperor of Dune

On Demurrage (negative interest) – Reply to Albert Wenger

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This post is a long comment on Albert Wenger’s post about Money as Commons (and if both our sites were powered with IndieWeb abilities then I would have been able to comment on his site and have the comment automatically posted in my own site).

Demurrage in Nature – Decay

If I was a grain farmer and I was left with unused / unsold stocks it would be a natural imperative for me to find something to do with the grains because they will eventually spoil. This is the natural state of everything. Plants, animals, people, buildings, societies, radioactive materials, ideas … everything decays.

Flow needs Debt (not money)

If I were that farmer with spare grains, instead of waiting for them to spoil I could, for example, bake breads. But there is only so much bread I can eat, so I could give that bread to my friends and family and sometime in the future, they could repay me with something they have and I need. There would be a standing debt between us.

Modern economics is founded on a story. It says that originally one farmer traded with another farmer 30 chickens for a cow. Introducing money supposedly made that transaction easier because sometimes a cow farmer needed a chicken without having a spare cow to trade.

According to David Graeber in Debt: The First 5000 years, this narrative is false and unsupported by anthropological findings. Ancient transactions, he suggests, were rarely so definite and atomic when I had spare grains (in summer or fall) I gave some to my neighbor to feed his pig and later in the year (in winter) when he butchered the pig he could repay me in meat. A key element in this transaction was the debt that remained. That debt was the foundation of a relationship between the two farmers. Such a constant flow of debts created community.

In our modern times, when I walk into a store, pick up and item and pay a cashier for it, the transaction is completed. I do not owe anybody anything and nobody owes me anything … and we’ve gotten used to that … and we like it. But with that we also lose the social fabric that connects us. We don’t owe anybody anything and nobody owes us anything. We do not need to relate.

It is interesting to note that dominant and popular technologies are in alignment with this trend. If the interaction with a cashier is low on the “relationship” scale then what will an Amazonian future (with no cashier or drones descending with produce out of the sky) look like? It seems that the more standardized/efficient/automated we get the more relationship we drain out of our lives and consciousness.

Money Defies Decay

All money (as we currently know it) is created carrying interest (the interest itself not created!). Interest demand growth. If I get a loan for $1000, it is because who ever is loaning me that money expects me to pay back $1050 … and we have the growth imperative. But more importantly, we have created money that opposes decay … and as money intermediates almost everything … there is an inherent conflict between how money works and how everything else works … and so we find ourselves living in a world where money requires infinite growth from a physically finite world (see climate change).

We’ve been forcing our money ideology onto the world for some time now, but the world seems to be pushing back … and interest rates around the world are hovering around zero (and growth seems to be headed in a similar direction).

Obstacles Preventing Flow

It seems to me that the way negative interest is currently being introduced is as an external force applied to a system that isn’t flowing well. It is like attaching a powerful pump to a o clogged system and hoping that, by sheer force, it will unclog the system and cause flow.

This approach seems to be denying that, if to use the metaphor of flow, there are obstacles that are preventing flow – these obstacles are like entangled and knotted arteries. Their entanglement is locked in tightly because they are holding up against massive pressures already. To enable better flow the obstacles to flow must be removed (or at least improved). Applying more pressure will not remove the obstacles, but force the flow to find other bypasses … or to rupture.

It may very well be that some of the obstacles to good money flow are in our money creation and banking systems. But there are subtle (can be easy to overlook) obstacles embedded inside each and every one of us. It isn’t gong to be enough to change the mechanics of money (such as negative interest). We are also going to have to address personal and social change. If we are to experience flow again we will need to reconnect with each other, to experience relationships, to relearn community.

If we come at this with a forceful mechanistic approach (the illusion that this is a system which we can control by pushing some buttons). If we focus on changing one thing (such as negative interest) we will be doing ourselves a double-injustice. The first is simple and direct – it won’t work, it won’t produce the results we expect it to. The second is is more subtle, more deep and more dangerous … we will falsely conclude that “negative interest” does not work and recovering from that will be even more difficult.

What about Venture Capital

I raise this point as a question/reflection to Albert because I believe that if we are to truly relate to these changes (as more than theoretical ideas) we need to look closely at our own reality and see where they effect our lives, our work, our livelihood, our beliefs.

  • How do the current models of venture capital relate to all this?
  • What aspects of venture capital are aligned with flow and what aspects are aligned with the extractive nature of interest-bearing-money?
  • Can venture capital be of better service and better aligned with economies and societies of flow

 

Posted in AltEco, Business, Community, Intake, Money, outside | Tagged | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours

Has the IMF realized austerity doesn’t work?

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“Sometimes an ideology is so brilliantly propagated that observers might not even notice it’s an ideology. In the corridors of power and in mainstream discussion, it ceases to be questioned. Then it goes catastrophically wrong. And it begins to seen again for the ideology it is. It becomes questioned again. And, if they are smart, leaders hear this and start to self-correct. This is where we’ve got to with neoliberalism, austerity, and rising inequality. Except for the self-correct part. Right now, instead of self-correction, we’re seeing many mainstream politicians unable to shift away from dead economics, and what seems in too many countries like the start of social breakdown. Change is well overdue. Who can prompt leaders to drop the old economic nostrums that are causing so much harm?

Enter the IMF with a sledgehammer … Today the IMF will launch a new report … Packed with detailed quantitative analysis it demonstrates that much of what elites have been advancing as unquestioned economics is demonstrably harmful both to economic growth and to public wellbeing …

Lives and livelihoods are being lost because those who design policies are following a damaging model. And now, in countries around the world, the lack of action in inequality is leading to a resurgence of xenophobic nationalism and the far right. Broken economics is breaking society. But too many leaders still seem trapped in the belief that there is no alternative. So let them know that today the IMF – yes, the IMF – has comprehensively set out why that broken economics must be consigned to the dustbin of history.”

source

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Lecture Summary of Samkhya Philosophy

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I came across this PDF which is someone’s lecture notes on Samkhya.

I don’t know who wrote it, I found it here, I found it good enough to read through and store in my own archives.

I am still looking for a more integrative experience of Samkhya, something less bullet-list, more whole story.

Posted in Samkhya Karika, Yoga | You are welcome to add your comment

Life goes on … even under Stalin

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Good reminder now that Trump is …

source

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My Periodontitis … and Trump!?

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For years my Israeli dentist has treated me for Periodontitis – a gum disease. The disease, as he explained to me is not curable, only manageable and could be hereditary (my mother also has it). The treatment involved a yearly cleaning called “deep-scale” which means getting in and cleaning the spaces between the gums and the teeth. Because my gums are sensitive it can only be done with local anesthesia. My Israeli dentist is a friend and a deeply caring person and yet the treatment is not a pleasant one.

After moving to Romania I kept up the treatment during my almost-yearly visits to Israel because I did not find a Romanian dentist to carry on the treatment. Until last year, through Iulia, I finally did meet one. I explained the situation to him and he agreed that periodontitis is indeed not curable, only manageable. However he did not agree that I have it. In fact, he said that my gums were perfectly healthy.

I am guessing that many people have experienced differing opinions when consulting with different doctors. But such complete contradiction? Now add to that my personal experience. For years, both in Israel and Romania, I felt that the sensitivity of my gums was related to my general sense of well-being. When I wasn’t feeling well (emotionally, energetically, physically) my gums tended to bleed more. When I was feeling better my gums bled lss (or did not bleed at all). In my recent years in Romania (which implies drastic changes in lifestyle) my gums stopped bleeding.

Lets make things more interesting … I just came back from a short (one week) visit to Israel. It was a purposeful visit (around Yoga studies) and while there I was in a relatively safe and predictable bubble. Yet it was a difficult visit for me. There is a lot of disturbance in the air … a volatile energy … a lot of anger, frustration, difficulty, negativity. I had numerous head-aches. I felt drained and tired a lot of the time. My stomach was bloated …. and … my gums started bleeding again. I didn’t visit my Israeli dentist this time … but if I did would he have again diagnosed me with Periodontitis?

What does this say about our modalities of thinking? What does it say about empirical science (both dentists are trained in similar empirical sciences)? What does it say about our understanding of disease and illness AND treatment and healing? What does it say about our ability to diagnose and predict? What does it say about our understanding of contexts and conditions?? What does it say about thought as an act of creation – did I have an “incurable disease” because my dentist believed I did and convinced me of it?

What do we really know? … and most importantly (and brings us to Trump) … what don’t we know? …. unknowns …

“The world comes to us in an endless stream of puzzle pieces that we would like to think all fit together somehow, but that in fact never do. There are always some pieces like platypi that don’t fit … we can ignore [them] … give them silly explanations … or we can take the whole puzzle apart and try other ways of assembling it that will include more of them”

Robert Pirsig – Lila: An Inquiry into Values

Most of what I’ve seen about trump is reactionary and prophetic. Whether from conservative or progressive thinking … on almost any subject … people seem to be craving a way to predict what is going to happen. In that approach is a subtle trap … people are assuming that we are acting primarily in a mechanistic world of knowns … that if we identify and measure all the parameters and put them into some kind of black box it will yield a result (I’m just realizing how this seems to coincide with the rise of AI). This thinking, by definition, does not take into consideration unknowns.

I believe that unknowns are present almost all the time and that they have a bigger role in the unfolding of our world then we give them credit for (primarily because our mental models are not trained to handle unknowns). But now is a special time … knows are declining and unknowns are rising. And yet we forget to take them into consideration (how to approach this is beyond the scope of this post … but I would point in the direction of spiritual practices and creative arts in which unknowns are a key ingredient).

My life in recent years has gifted me a fair share of unknowns, so I have become slightly more accustomed to them. But these days I find myself almost seeking unknowns. When I look at the world through what is known the world looks sad and grim. But when I remember that there are so many unknowns in the air … then the world looks more … unknown … and less grim.

I thought that I was living in a world where Periodontitis can’t be cured and Trump could not become president. “Unknown” doesn’t mean we live in a world where Periodontitis can be cured and Trump can be … undone.

Unknown means that we don’t really know what Periodontitis is nor what a world with a president Trump looks like. It means there are possibilities we can’t imagine yet … let alone comprehend. This makes me feel lighter, softer and more spacious.

P.S.

I would like to say something about conditions. We of a western mentality tend to believe we can assert an extensive degree of control over the world. I, in reflecting on my life experiences of recent years, have come to believe that while I may be able to assert some control, I have much less of it then I would have liked to believe. I have wrestled with and come around to embracing the idea that the conditions in which I am immersed have much more effect on me than do my own actions. The upside of that is that I focus most of my energy and actions on changing my living conditions! I believe that the changed conditions of both being away from Israel (and all that that implies) and being here in Romanian ( and *oh my god* everything that that implies) was key to changes that, amongst other things, manifested as heathy gums.

I believe time will tell a similar story about Trump. I believe that president Trump is much less significant then the conditions of the society he is presiding over. Individual healthy, economy, ecology, social fabric, international relations, militarization … all these and more are issues that matter much more.

 

Posted in About, Expanding, inside, Myself | You are welcome to add your comment

Symmathesy: a Living System of Mutual Learning

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The ideas put forth in this article feel good, though I wish they had more bite … that they were already a part of mainstream thinking. The article suggests a new word “Symmathesy” to differentiate between mechanistic systems (that are assembled) and living systems. It suggests, and I agree, that mechanistic system thinking is narrowing our ability to perceive and partake in the world.

The direction of this research resonates (in me) with the work of Christopher Alexander.

It is a long article and what follows is an excerpt I collected while reading it:

“I would like to propose a new word for “System” that refers specifically to living systems … The existing word, “system”, while useful for discussion of many kinds of systems, does not communicate contextual fields of simultaneous learning as is necessary for life. The inclusion of mutual learning in the terminology is specifically meant to preclude the models of engineering and mechanism that are implicit in much systems theorizing today. We have learned that when dealing with living systems, the many variables of developing interaction become untenable to consider in such mechanistic parameters.

… As studies ranging from cognitive science to epigenetics, social science, ecology and evolutionary theory, are increasingly showing, evolution emerges in interrelationality, not in arrangement. Therefore the need is acute to create a differentiation between living systems and other systems.

… A jungle can be understood best as a conversation among its flora and fauna, including the insects, the fungi of decay, and contact with humanity. Interaction is what creates and vitalizes the integrity of the living world.

I want to put the Greek prefix Syn/ Sym (together) + Mathesi, (to learn):

Symmathesy = Learning together.

(Pronounced: sym- math-a-see)

A working definition of symmathesy might look like this:

Symmathesy (Noun): An entity composed by contextual mutual learning through interaction. This process of interaction and mutual learning takes place in living entities at larger or smaller scales of symmathesy.

Symmathesy (Verb): to interact within multiple variables to produce a mutual learning context.

… If a living entity transforms, even slightly, some of its contextual interrelationships, it is within that shift that a calibration change is revealed. The same kind of tree in the same forest does not necessarily grow to be the same shape. One may have higher winds to contend with, or grow with a thicker density of flora around it.

… The viability of this new term is a step toward a clearer understanding of the way we describe the difference between what we can “control”, i.e. in material terms, and that which requires another approach, i.e. interacting with the complexity of evolving living systems.

… The explanation needed to differentiate the characteristics of a living system from a mechanical system seems to necessitate a repeated listing of the processes of interrelationship that currently must be tagged onto every discussion …

Mutual Learning Contexts:

The International Bateson Institute was founded in 2014 with the mission of developing a process of inquiry that would begin to take into account the many contexts that any particular field of study exists within … Research without the study of multiple contexts renders the information about a given subject as though it were isolated from the many systems it is within, and therefore a great deal of data is not visible.

… Any symmathesy, such as a person, a family, a forest, a nation or an institution, can be viewed or studied in the hope of revealing the way in which it has learned to form itself within the contexts it interfaces with … Transcontextual research brings us discovery of new interactions and provides a wider angle lens.

… To incorporate a comprehensive base in our syntax of this theory, I believe we will need to stretch even our understanding of grammar …

The tendency to think in terms of functioning parts and wholes is misleading for our future inquiry of living, co-evolving systems.

The primary downside of the word “system” is its invocation of “arrangement” (inherent in the Greek prefix “sys”) …

The way in which we have culturally been trained to explain and study our world is laced with habits of thinking in terms of parts and wholes and the way they “work” together …

Reductionism lurks around every corner; mocking the complexity of the living world we are part of … The language of systems is built around describing chains of interaction. But when we consider a forest, a marriage, and a family, we can see that living entities such as these require another conceptual addition in their description: learning.

If systems are comprised of parts and wholes, what is symmathesy comprised of?

If we perceive that the functions of living ecologies are the effect of processes taking place between parts and wholes we become prone to assigning agency to “parts” … Agency infers that parts can be separated from wholes and exert individuated action. In symmathesic thinking, the notion of agency does not apply. This is because the formation of the ecology in question is necessarily evolving within its context, not its parts.

The context is not inside any of the parts but is created in the interaction … We might do better to employ a word that invites us to think in terms of the “parts” being alive, and not simply cogs …

At the same time the “whole” is best thought of as another interactive symmathesy at the next larger context.

Instead of “parts” and “wholes”, let us think of boundaries in symmathesy as interfaces of learning. We will refer to these interfaces as “vitae” (a term derived from the Latin vita, meaning life).

Multiple Description and Interfaces

… The complexity of this sort of inquiry is daunting. If we are to study, for example, the way in which food impacts our lives, a multi-faceted study of ecology, culture, agriculture, economy, cross-generational communication, media and more must be brought to our study in a linking of interfaces that together provide a rigorous beginning place from which we may better understand what is on our plates. From that beginning position our inquiry into eating disorders, poverty and hunger, and the dangers of GMOs, can be approached in another fashion altogether.

… What is a hand? A violinist has memory and ongoing learning in her hands. A sculptor has another sort of learning in his hands. We each have handwriting that is almost but never quite consistent. We know the touch of our partner. A deaf person uses the hand to express language. We gesture, we stroke, we sense, we know, we learn through our hands… So what is a hand?

… It is important to the use of the concept of symmathesy to think about the boundaries and “parts” of living things as interfaces … The skin of our bodies provides what looks like a boundary around the self, but the self extends well beyond the container of our flesh, both biologically and socially. Touch, temperature, expression, health, embarrassment, and so much more information is transmitted through the skin …

This is a rigorous endeavor. The pull of our old thinking in terms of parts and wholes is difficult to move away from. However the vistas from which we can begin to view life anew with these concepts reveal possibilities of richer inquiry …

How will we illustrate Symmathesy?

… For our purposes illustrating and expressing the presentational communication of symmathesy, caution is needed to avoid the traps of thinking in terms of blocks. Thing-i-fying in our studies will derail the ability to perceive the symmathesy.

… Art may be the only way to truly describe living complexity. Why? Because living entities exist in interaction over time. They are learning, and this frames direct communication as freeze frame in time and space …

The terminology we use to describe living things carries meta-meanings:

… Words say more than they spell … The transfer of perceptions into each other like colors into music, tastes into words, emotions into smells and so on, provides a natural cross referencing of information … Symmathesy, as a term, changes the flavor of the thoughts and theories we can generate about life, placing them inextricably in relation, and in constant learning …

To discuss the sort of things we want to discuss here—things like families and cultures, like ecologies and organizations– we are going to have to care about the words we place on the page, and the words we shape in our mouths. We will live in them, and our stories will be furnished with their upholstery …

When we think of systems, what do we perceive? How do we describe what we perceive? How do we think?

Perhaps the labyrinth of our epistemological errors has no beginning. People point to Descartes, but certainly Aristotle shares the blame. Before Aristotle there were probably others … For now, let us just say that there is no causal path to unwind us out of this habit. At this juncture the best course is simply to move on.

Mechanism has its place:

There is nothing wrong with thinking in mechanistic ways: After all, the productive innovations of humanity have largely stemmed from this approach … But we need another kind of thinking as well, without which we will probably destroy the ecosphere and likely each other.

What is Learning in Symmathesy?

Learning in a living context can be best thought of as a change in calibration

The most common definitions of learning involve the acquisition of knowledge within a progression of stages of physical or intellectual development. But in our use of the term, learning has been stretched to include the entire living world, as a context of learning in and of itself, as a symmathesy of symmathesies. Learning has also been stretched to include much of what we think of as adaptation and even addiction. And of course the living world itself is made up of living worlds …

  1. Contexts: The characteristics of learning in symmathesy are contextual, even at the smallest scale … The ‘loving’ or ‘mean’ things that someone says at breakfast have an effect on blood pressure, digestive process, and cognitive (implicit or explicit) understanding of identity within a culture …
  2. Calibration: Learning in symmathesy is an ongoing process of calibration within contexts of aggregate interrelational variables. This calibration does not require conscious involvement. The learning that any living thing must either continue within (or else become obsolete) is a wide-angle process receiving of information of difference from simultaneous multiple (countless?) interactions. Complexity does not divide itself and therefore life requires calibration within multiple streams of information and interaction. In order to do a simple task, such as walk across a room, a staggering calibration of information must take place. Not only does one have a reason to cross the room … but also perception both visual and tactile are in use, as are memory, balance, rhythm, language and more … Learning is the process we are referring to here as calibration within variables of interrelationship.
  3. Bias: The bias of the calibrating entity at every scale is the particular momentary integration of the multiple variables of interrelating information … bias forms differences … each organism in an environment has its own perspective … Imagine there is a bowl of blueberries provided for a table of friends. It is our habit to assume that blueberries, are blueberries; that the numeric nutritional values and knowable recipes for serving blueberries are obvious. However, the bias of each person at the table presents a collection of understandings and filters through which the blueberries are ‘known’ … For one person at the table blueberries may be a reminder of summer … a smoothie ingredient to eat after a workout, a symbol of health, a super-food, a virtue … a visceral trigger of memories of a smell of blueberry pie being baked during a traumatic experience of being raped by a relative … The numerical nutritional values of the blueberries are altered by this bias. The digestive system, the nervous system, the seasons, the conversation at the table… all of these alter the way in which each person incorporates the blueberries into their luncheon. So what are blueberries?
  4. Stochastic process: While learning is a process of evolution existing in patterns that appear stable, the random inputs and the implicit variables between the vitae of a symmathesy are unpredictable. There is pattern, and there is also the random. There is structure, and there is process … The paradox that this combination forms is inherent, and unsolvable. The contingency for life and therefore learning is that the tangles of relation, communication, and information between all the vitae of a symmathesy are simultaneous. Both in pattern and in process.
  5. Play: Practice, repetition and experimentation in communication and behavior around the edges of a bias are the frontiers of learning, evolution and change … “acquisition of knowledge” is really just a lower level learning, which has been raised to the top in our positivist/mechanist/boxist/quantitativist society … play is a process of learning to learn.
  6. Boundaries: the interfaces of learning … where is the edge of the context? A body needs a heart and lungs and a nervous system, the difference in these is as necessary as the unity of them. But, it should be noted that boundaries disappear, and at a wider view are non-existent.
  7. Time: Any living organism, or vitae of a living organism is revealed as existing within a context of mutual learning when time is considered. Time reveals that order is not static.

Part IV: The Word In the Belly

This transition in thinking is a personal, cultural, political, and academic dilemma.

… The dilemma of how we change our thinking about “systems” is one which should be addressed at all its levels simultaneously … To discuss the patterns and processes of the living world we will need to open the form, open the genres of our communication …

We will not find the symmathesy if we do not name it. The word matters. Words are what we have … What we say is measure of what we have not said. Words have salt. They are wise. They nourish and poison. They are our vehicles and our bindings. They are not located. They lie and in lying show us the edges of our honesty …

Patterns of industry are hardwired into us at a deeply personal level:

Deep inside, below the level I can monitor, my life is charted like a mechanistic production factory … the world of mechanism has influenced my personal identity …

We find what we are looking for:

The difficulty of catching ourselves when we begin to apply mechanistic logic to living systems is not to be underestimated. I get lost. I can only occasionally see the edges …

The danger is that if I look at life in the natural world … and I am trying to find an arrangement of parts and wholes within it, I will find it. I can probably put names to the parts and wholes, and even diagram them in a model. We find what we are trained to see; we find what we have named.

What I won’t find with that lens is the interrelational communication, learning and contextual timbre.

What I won’t find with that lens is what is holding the systems together through time and into its evolution.

… The word “system” is ironically as bound in thinking errors as the system to which we are referring. Perhaps not explicitly, but implicitly the term has come to mean a mechanism. It means something over there, observable from here. It means something we can chart, graph, and diagram. It means boxes and arrows …

Google the word “systems”, look under images… and you will not see photographs of living things. There is no art there. Not a single illustration of something in “relationship”. Instead: You will see squares and triangles, and arrows and circles – all sharp with educated and earnest attempts to code-crack life. These graphics seem to me to be maps that lead us right back to the school of engineering from which the culture we live in first found footing.

As systems research develops we find ourselves increasingly at a junction of what is disparagingly referred to as “linear thinking”, and ‘non-linear’ thinking … it is important to recognize that non-linear thinking in a world that mechanizes our imagination often leads to a tricky masking of linear thinking dressed up as non-linear thinking.

More than circular:

Circles have come to be the branded motto of recycling, ecology, and the cycles of living things. But for our work the model of circles is not enough … The notion of a symmathesy and a learning context within other contexts does not define a field of variables in interaction that is two dimensional, nor does it return to where it began. A better visual might be the double helix, as the model of a learning system must have at least three dimensions. Four if you count time.

… Delivery from the dilapidated state of the world now is not the providence of the mechanic. There are no parts to fix. No particular manuals to write, or scripts to edit. The poverty of our description of these living things we call “systems” will starve us from a future of juicy life.

Part V: Implications and Applications of Symmathesy.

Education: an education in the world as a mutual learning process would look at the interconnections between what we now call “disciplines” or subjects. Forests are interactions, food is culture, and so on. The ability to study both the details (existing disciplines) and the relationships of learning between them will increase our students’ ability to see and interact with a level of complexity that is necessary for future generations’ survival ..

Education: an education in the world as a mutual learning process would look at the interconnections between what we now call “disciplines” or subjects. Forests are interactions, food is culture, and so on. The ability to study both the details (existing disciplines) and the relationships of learning between them will increase our students’ ability to see and interact with a level of complexity that is necessary for future generations’ survival …

Therapy: If a living context is a mutual learning context then the way we approach a notion of “pathology” is radically altered. A symmathesy, as a person, or a family, is learning to make sense of its world … all pathology is also learning. We can learn to be sick. A tree learns from its context that it needs to grow crooked. Remove the value judgment from that process and we will instead see a remarkable feat of life to survive in whatever tangle it perceives …

Healing: If pathology is learning, then healing is also learning … The approach then to our notion of health would be geared toward providing circumstances for calibration of multiple aspects of life to be cultivated for an individual, a family or perhaps even a society to generate combined realms of learning in order to shift.

Ecology of Institutions:

Much like the body in paralysis whose many systems for making sense of the world are interrupted and disorganized, the institutions of our civilization appear to be equally entwined in a holding pattern of dysfunction involving immeasurable interweaving … Together we have a context of economic, social and cultural institutions that have learned to accommodate us as they do today even as we have learned to accommodate to them. If the question is shifted from “how do we fix the institutions?” to “how have we learned to interact with these institutions as a context?”—we may find that our set of “solutions” is significantly more productive …

What if we look at the interlocking, interdependency of our institutions as an ecology in and of itself? Ecology can be loosely defined as a totality of patterns of interrelationship that form interdependencies. In this sense our institutions function very much like a forest or an ocean … The difficulty we face is in the fact that the larger ecology of biosphere is at odds with the ecology of our institutions, and right now we believe we need both to survive.

As an approach, how can we address the context of these institutions instead of attempting to chase down the crises as separate issues? …”

 

 

 

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Are You An Anarchist?

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“Many people seem to think that anarchists are proponents of violence, chaos, and destruction, that they are against all forms of order and organization, or that they are crazed nihilists who just want to blow everything up. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Anarchists are simply people who believe human beings are capable of behaving in a reasonable fashion without having to be forced to …

If there’s a line to get on a crowded bus, do you wait your turn and refrain from elbowing your way past others even in the absence of police? If you answered “yes”, then you are used to acting like an anarchist! The most basic anarchist principle is self-organization

Are you a member of a club or sports team or any other voluntary organization where decisions are not imposed by one leader but made on the basis of general consent? If you answered “yes”, then you belong to an organization which works on anarchist principles! Another basic anarchist principle is voluntary association

Do you believe that most politicians are selfish, egotistical swine who don’t really care about the public interest? Do you think we live in an economic system which is stupid and unfair? … Anarchists believe that power corrupts and those who spend their entire lives seeking power are the very last people who should have it

Do you really believe those things you tell your children (or that your parents told you)? “It doesn’t matter who started it.” “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” “Clean up your own mess.” “Do unto others…” … Because if you take these moral principles to their logical conclusions, you arrive at anarchism … “

source

 

 

 

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Damien Rice – Look at Me

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… moved not only by the song itself but by the impeccable timing the universe delivered it to me:

the story behind it … and the full album:

 

Posted in Enjoy, Expanding, inside | Tagged | You are welcome to add your comment

Why Aaron Died

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“I believe Aaron’s death was caused by exhaustion, by fear, and by uncertainty. I believe that Aaron’s death was caused by a persecution and a prosecution that had already wound on for 2 years (what happened to our right to a speedy trial?) and had already drained all of his financial resources. I believe that Aaron’s death was caused by a criminal justice system that prioritizes power over mercy, vengeance over justice; a system that punishes innocent people for trying to prove their innocence instead of accepting plea deals that mark them as criminals in perpetuity; a system where incentives and power structures align for prosecutors to destroy the life of an innovator like Aaron in the pursuit of their own ambitions.

Ask yourself this: If on January 10, Steve Heymann and Carmen Ortiz at the Massachusetts US Attorney’s office had called Aaron’s lawyer and said they’d realized their mistake and that they were dropping all charges – or even for that matter that they were ready to offer a reasonable plea deal that wouldn’t have marked Aaron as a felon for the rest of his life – would Aaron have killed himself on January 11?”

source

Posted in Intake, Intellect Run Amok, outside | You are welcome to add your comment

Portugal National Participatory Budget

n

“Portugal has announced the world’s first participatory budget on a national scale. The project will let people submit ideas for what the government should spend its money on, and then vote on which ideas are adopted.

… Proposals can be made in the areas of science, culture, agriculture and lifelong learning, and there will be more than forty events in the new year for people to present and discuss their ideas.

… The model began in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in 1989, and has become popular around the world in recent years, with more than 1,500 places estimated to have adopted some variation. The largest by funding is in Paris. In 2016, only its third year, the scheme disbursed €100million (some $110million) and it plans to have spent €500million ($550million) by 2020.

… Portugal has allocated only €3million for this first year …”

source

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Targu Mures City Council

n

Due to efforts by local political activists there is, on the Targu Mures city council at least one councellor (if not three) who believes in transparency. He live streams the city council meetings with a mobile device and then makes the recording available online. The transcriptions of the meetings are also available in PDF files published on the municipality website. I don’t know what kind of engagement, if any, this creates with the populace. Do people watch these videos? Do they comment on them?

The live streaming is not welcomed by the other council members, they view is as threatening and would prefer it wasn’t there. Though I agree with the idea of trasparency, I felt that the way this “transparency” has been introduced is defiant and has a protesting quality to it.

I was wondering if there was a way to make the ripples of his efforts reach further. To reach further into the community of Targu Mures and to become an interesting experience for the other council members. This is what came to me. What if:

  1. Good Publishing: te council meeting was published in a more meaningful and accessible way. Instead of just dumping it online (in a video or transciption PDF) what if it was transformed into a list of Agenda Items. Each agenda item would be described briefly so tha citizens could review the list without having to wade through all the information. It could then be possible to go deeper into each agenda item:
    • Read a longer description about it.
    • Read the part of the transcription which relates to the agenda item.
    • View the part of the video which relates to theagenda item.
    • See the positions of each of the counselloers relating to it in the meeting.
    • Find links to other documents and resources which relate to the subject matter.
    • Link to other council meetings during which the agenda item was discussed.
  2. Agenda Rank Voting: every citizen could partake in a simple online voting interaction in relation to the agenda items that were discussed during a meeting – such as: rank the three most important agenda items for you and possible object to one agenda item.
  3. Councellor Voting: every citizen could partake in a simple online interaction  in relation to the contribution of councellor members during – such as: who was the most well spoken councellor? who was the most intellectually coherent councellor? who was the most compassionate councellor? who was the most ill-behaved / least contributing / disruptive councellor.
  4. Point Ranking: the voting would be integrated into a kind of ranking system. The more citizens vote, the more points there a on the table. Points would be distributed between councellors based on their own positions (as presented during the council meeting) on the agenda items. The result would be a ranking of councellors in each council meeting that reflected the degree to which they are in tune with and represents the positions of the citizens.
  5. Integrity Validation: voting would be cross-checked for internal integrity. If a citizen tried (for example for political reasons) to give a councellor a vote for intellectual integrity, but her top 3 ranked agenda items do not align with the position of the councellor … then her vote would be flagged for integrity and that would be included in the point score algorithm.

Such a participatory environment could be further enhanced in different directions:

  1. Accumulated and publicly available councellor rankings may become some kind of reerence for councellor performance and social status. If it offers substantial content (such as a thorough record of public discourse) it may be adopted and refernced in mainstream media.
  2. Such public exposure may incentivize councellors to seek better ranking, to become more attentive to public opinion and to relate to it differently.
  3. Councellors, who are less political and more passionate about actual good governance,  may want to have a platform where they can better express their independent positions.
  4. Expanding the “agenda items” into a public platform where citizens could continue to discuss, together with experts and politicians, agenda items.
  5. A question might arise about how agenda items are set in the first place? What if the citizens could not only respond and comment on a predetermined council agenda, but there could be a social process during which the agenda is continuously discussed and created through social participation.
  6. Citizens may become better informed. about the workings of the city council.
  7. Citizen groups may form to discuss and develop agreed positions on agenda items.
  8. Activist may become better informed and able to interact with the populace.
  9. Alternate opinion leaders may emerge through a participatory process. A citizen who consistently votes and comments and contributed to an agenda item may gain actual political capital in the community. Citizens may gain some of ranking … not unlike repeat reviewers on Amazon.
  10. Councellors may discover that trasparency is not there enemy. That knowing the populace better may be helpful in governing. Ultimately, they may come to recognize that governing on behalf of their community is better then trying to manipulate and control their community behind hidden doors.

The foot in the door that was created into the Targu Mures city council can be an opening to a more meaningful and constructive public discourse in which representative may learn to better represent and citizens may learn to better participate in shaping governance and their society.

 

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On Intelligence – Human and Artificial

n

In some ways I feel that we have barely tapped into human intelligence (an experience that can go way beyond the narrow field of intellectual comprehension), yet it seems that the progress we have made, as expressed in AI, may undermine the possibility for many people to continue to evolve their human intelligence.

“… artificial intelligence opens a new world of image, audio, and video fakery …

… Another obvious beneficiary would be hoaxes. Consider the video below — a demonstration of a program called Face2Face, which essentially turns people into puppets, letting you map their facial expression to your own. The researchers demonstrate it using footage of Trump and Obama. Now combine that with prototype software recently unveiled by Adobe that lets you edit human speech (the company says it could be used for fixing voiceovers and dialog in films). Then you can create video footage of politicians, celebrities, saying, well, whatever you want them, too. Post your clip on any moderately popular Facebook page, and watch it spread around the internet.

… we can’t deny that digital tools will allow more people to create these sorts of fakes … AI-powered fakes and manipulations aren’t hard to spot now … but researchers say they’re just going to get better and better.”

The proliferation of realistic fakes would be a boon to conspiracy theorists, and would contribute to the current climate of deteriorating confidence in journalism.”

source

This article I read a couple of weeks ago makes this even more poignant … the software engineers who create and train deep neural networks do not know how they actually work and make decisions. The neural networks, it seems, can only be indirectly affected and tweaked … by intuition …  are scientists pushing themselves off the edge of reason? Even at this early stage we do not have “control” over these creations:

“Yesterday, the 46-year-old Google veteran who oversees the company’s search engine, Amit Singhal, announced his retirement. And in short order, Google revealed that Singhal’s rather enormous shoes would be filled by a man named John Giannandrea.

Giannandrea, you see, oversees Google’s work in artificial intelligence … Early in 2015 … Google began rolling out a deep learning system called RankBrain that helps generate responses to search queries.

… Singhal carried a philosophical bias against machine learning. With machine learning, he wrote, the trouble was that “it’s hard to explain and ascertain why a particular search result ranks more highly than another result for a given query.” And, he added: “It’s difficult to directly tweak a machine learning-based system to boost the importance of certain signals over others.”

… in order to tweak the behavior of these neural nets, you must adjust the math through intuition, trial, and error. You must retrain them on new data, with still more trial and error.”

and if you got this far and would like to go a bit deeper … this up-to-date primer on artificial intelligence.

Posted in Intake, Intellect Run Amok, outside, Tech Stuff | Tagged | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours

Three Languages You Need to Take a Project from Dreams to Reality

n

A generally good reminder about speaking from and to context:

“… By distinguishing these languages and the needs that they serve, certain kinds of confusion may be avoided.

The Inward language is the way that those at the heart of a project make sense of what they are doing, the way of seeing the world that makes it possible. It may be a complex model of how things are and how they could be; it may be entirely intuitive and largely unspoken. It is a creative, living language. Over time, it comes to include the shorthand expressions and the charged words that build up among a group of people working together to bring about or sustain something that matters to them deeply.

The Upward language is the language of power and resources: the language of funding applications, the language of those who are in a position to intepret regulations and impose or remove obstacles. It is not a reflective or a curious language, it is a language of busy people who make decisions without having time to immerse themselves in the realities their decisions will affect. It is an impoverished language and when you have to describe what you are doing in its terms, you will feel that something is missing. You need a guide who is initiated into the relevant version of this language, who knows which words currently act as keys to which doors, what you have to say to have a decent chance of the gatekeepers letting you through. Yet even inside these institutions, you are dealing with human beings, so if you can allow glimpses of what matters about your project to show through the filter of keywords, it may just make a difference.

The Outward language is the language in which people who meet your project at ground level, in the course of their everyday lives, start to talk about it. It’s the language in which you can explain it to your mum, or to someone you just met in the pub, and realise that they get it — not that they have understood everything about what you’re doing, but that something here makes sense and sounds good. This is not about how your project works, it’s about what it does. In the corporate world, money is spent on people who are good at spinning words to create an Outward language for a product or a service or an organisation — much of advertising and public relations is about this — but the results usually have a synthetic aftertaste. You may get advice to try to imitate these publicity processes, but this is probably best ignored.”

 

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Software is Politics

n

Richard Pope, formerly of the UK GDS project, writes in Software is Politics:

“It’s time to stop designing digital services to just be easy to use and start designing them to be understandable, accountable, trusted, and easy to use.

1. Accountability at the point of use

Imagine if Uber made it clear exactly how much a driver earned and whether it met a living wage, directly on the email receipt …

2. Expose the rules

One obvious way is to examine the source code directly. The U.K. government increasingly opens its code …

3. Reimagine permissions

In a government context, that would mean explaining to users exactly what their data is being used for in a way that is understood …

4. Digital tools for digital consumer rights

For users to really trust stuff in the digital world, they need trusted third parties to do some of the hard work for them. And this means giving elbow room to some new digital watchdogs.”

 

 

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What design sprints are good for

n

Though I have never participated in a week-long design spring I resonate with the ideas of this post.

“Design sprints offer an apparently straightforward value proposition: get from idea to insight while skipping build and launch. High impact, risk reduction, and learning at minimal cost — all perfectly aligned with current trends …

Particularly for stakeholders who see design as all downstream aesthetics, a sprint demonstrates that design decisions run all the way through a product, like mould in a good cheese … If your sprint goes really well, your client will spiral into existential crisis about the difference between design and product management …

By the end of the week, you may all be convinced the project doesn’t have legs. Usually no one will say so on the spot, so as not to repudiate a tough week, but if the week’s primary outcome is to shitcan the project, that’s great …

Sorry. Even though you have to select tight boundaries for your prototype, you’re still going way too fast for considered design … A sprint is the opening gambit of a long, complex game — a tool of provocation, not delivery.

… The design sprint doesn’t really shine a light on more sophisticated research methods, and nor is it meant to.

… Don’t expect to learn much about market sizing or segmentation, customers’ propensity to pay, business model viability, or your propositional appeal against competitors … Proper market research this is not.

… The only acceptable approval decision after a design sprint alone is “Let’s not do this project”.”

I believe the broade subject hinted at in this post is how does a design-spring serve a wider product-making process. When such processes have holes and unmet expectations in them, stakeholders can pile-up incorrect expectations on processes/people/tools.

These days I am more interested in the activist/civic space and less in the corporate space. A popular pattern in this space seems to be the hackathon – a sprint of code writing. I am amazed that anyone believes that something substantial can be built in this way.

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Sharing Economy in Amsterdam

n

“Amsterdam has developed an Airbnb for city-owned offices, so residents can use them for free, and may do the same with municipal cars and tools.

… To avoid damaging the market for companies that provide office space, the project is available only to organisations that are working for a social purpose.

… Some of the groundwork for sharing the city’s car fleet has also already been done. So that people don’t need to pick up keys and vehicles from some particular garage, the city has converted its cars so they can be opened with a smartphone. The technology came from a local start-up called We Go, which also means the cars are tracked and can be parked anywhere. The scheme has been running for a year for municipal employees.”

source

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Asana Practice – December 2016 (Before Review)

n

My current practice is:

ronen_asana_practice_december_2016

Some comments on asana:

  1. I forgot to note on the page that the practice begins with kapalabhati 20br + 30 br
  2. The repeated langhana pattern (3, 4, 16)  of midrange and micromovements was gradually introduced to introduce a sense of containment. During summer I found especially during the first part of the practice my mind was jumpy … and this pattern helped in collecting myself.
  3. The most prominent theme I have been exploring is softness. It is an extensive and subtle exploration … and I am not, at this time, interested in writing about it.
  4. During the recovery practice period I replaced maha mudra with janu sirsasana – I was not able to support a quality stay in maha-mudra. In the last 4 weeks I have re-introduced maha-mudra. I have left in janu sirsasana as I feel it is still supporting opening of the hips and is a good preparation for maha mudra. I may phase out janu-sirsasana in the coming weeks.
  5. I have been through of waves of distraction and regular practice and I feel I am the end of a cycle fo recovery … so finding my way back to a core stability I had not felt for some time. The length and quality of breath has been recovered. Most of the stiffness that built up in my shoulders and hips has softened.
  6. I have not explored the alternate practice path with shoulder-stand and lying back-bends.
  7. I feel physically strong, emotionally vulnerable, energetically stable. In recent weeks I have not been sleeping well.
  8. I have resume some semi-regular software development … and I do feel its disturbance.

In Pranayama I have only recently transitioned from an Anuloma practice to Pratiloma. I was practicing an Anuloma with a base ratio of 10.0.15.0 x6br. I attempted a direct transition to Pratiloma but that was too much and exhausted me (it involved a transition of both technique and an increase in number of breaths from 6 to 8). I started a path of transition by gradually building up to 8 breaths in anuloma. But then I decided to shift down to an 8.0.12.0 ratio so that I could access the more subtle quality of Pratiloma. I am now settling well in Pratiloma and hope to resume the path Paul outlined for me last spring.

Posted in Yoga, Yoga & I | You are welcome to add your comment

On Choice and Constraint

n

An excerpt from Off Our Butts

“Now, in 2016, cigarette smoking in North America is indeed more common among people living in poverty. They smoke because they do not have the time or money to eat properly, because other, more respectable mind-altering drugs are not available to them, because it is something to enjoy. They do it because their jobs (when they still exist) are so boring and physically painful that they would rather die. Yet professionals in the wellness industry routinely describe their smoking social inferiors as “stupid” and “irrational” on the basis of their supposedly self-undermining lifestyle choices.

It’s by now an iron law that whenever the poor are discussed, so are their “bad life choices.” If professionals can’t do something properly or fast enough, they can readily avail themselves of a diagnosis of one or another “health problem”—even something as vague and generic as “stress” or “burnout.” These are conditions that are imagined to have stricken them randomly—as opposed to a malignant, self-inflicted malady tied to their lifestyle, upbringing, or that sketchy antidepressant they stupidly decided to take. Even though so many children of the professional class clearly have asthma due in part to the persistent bourgeois hygiene neurosis (the antibacterial hand gel all but mandated by this neurosis being a proven contributing factor), they and their germophobe parents deserve empathy, time off, and specific disability rights. By contrast, working-class smokers deserve only reproach and are asked to tiptoe around the expansive, socio-moral and self-induced sensitivities of the rich.

Once, at an Occupy Wall Street assembly, standing six feet beyond the last concentric circle in the parking lot, I lit up a cigarette. In short order, I was asked to leave. I insisted on Occupying.

Like them, we shall pursue our own desires for pleasure no matter how whimsical, and if our desire is to smoke, then offended professionals can just hold their breath for once—perhaps using this blessed interval of silence to meditate on their thieving class and its own grotesquely swollen “carbon footprint.” If state and capital are going to steal our precious energies and vast hours of our lives to line their pockets with profit, leaving us with poor sleep, insufficient rent money, and a diet of 7-Eleven specials as we provide the country’s most basic services, the very least we deserve is to enjoy our cigarettes in peace. So if anyone asks, it’s not that smoking should be permitted because cigarettes can be proved an absolute good, which they cannot, but simply because for the time being we happen to smoke them. We might call this giving professionals a taste of their own entitlement. Heaven forbid they choke on it.”

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Wintergatan

n

You may enjoy following my journey of discovery, or you may want to skip to the last video … but don’t miss the last video.

I started here:

then the wheel:

and arrived here:

and with a feeling of sweetness I thought I was done and … well… then this:

“Thank you for that! But I do think, though, that it is mostly about being able to put in the time! I mean the talent of being stubborn and able to see things through are more important than the abilities you have to start with. If you work hard on anything, you will learn what you need and success!”

… and there’s more … seek and ye shall find 🙂

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Douglas Rushkoff at SXSW 2016

n

I have been following Douglas Rushkoff since his launch of the TeamHuman podcast. I recommend it very much. This talk is a good introduction to his work.

The main thing I like about him is that he builds a good bridge between two worlds that in my existence seem separate. The people in my life can be clearly divided into two camps:

  1. One is the “mainstream people” which includes people who live a mainstream life and people who are aware that there are other avenues, but do not pursue it … so still living embedded in mainstream society. When I can and there is an interest I try to give these people a glimpse of the other alternative world I am exploring.
  2. The other group are the “alternative people” who are partners in the exploration-into-an-unknown  I find myself living in. Some of these people are also comfortably embedded in this alternative world that they are sometimes less informed about the happenings of the mainstream world.

Douglas Rushkoff, I feel, does an excellent job of bridging these worlds. He is able to describe both the mainstream world and the alternatives in a coherent, sensible and continuous narrative that makes it accessible to both of “my worlds”. With that in mind I offer this excellent talk to both of “my worlds”:

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