The Gap (Friends and Enemies)

Gallimaufry I,” by Stephen F. DeAngelis, Enterprise Resilience Management Blog, 9 June 2006, (from Connecting in Conversation).

Steve DeAngelis quotes Tom Friedman and references Tom Barnett, deftly tying the world’s greatest globalization pundits together:

Harry Truman’s great achievement, argued Mr. Beinart, was persuading his party and the country “that anti-Communism was a liberal principle, not just a conservative one, and that Democrats had their own strategy to deal with it — a strategy that included powerful international institutions like NATO, which made American power legitimate abroad, and civil rights, which made America a better country at home.” Democrats need to do the same today. That means, he said, building institutions that can intervene in failed states, offering their own strategies for confronting the jihadists, and dealing honestly and decently with prisoners in this murky war. [Emphasis added]

One of those institutions would be Tom Barnett’s System Administrator Force, whose primary purpose is to aid failed states or secure the peace in post-conflict situations. Even more important than institutions, however, is the establishment of an approach that can be used to help coordinate the activities of extant institutions. As I have often written, we believe that Development-in-a-Box with its standards-based foundation and flexible framework is such an approach.

Tom Barnett has two strategies for Shrinking the Gap: the A-Z Ruleset for Invading and Repairing States and Globalization Itself for Lifting Poor Countries Up.

Building the System Administration force is definitely part of this. Sadly, too many in Congress oppose shrinking the Gap. This comes from both the left, such as the Democratic Party’s opposition to free trade with Central America, and the right, such as the Republican Party’s opposition to immigration.

We have a lot of work to do. But it’s worth doing.

Shrink the Gap!

Notes on Summer Reading

Today I read the first section of the three books that are (unofficially) on the reading list for Genetic Politics, a class taught by an innovative researcher that I am looking forward too. I tried to take my notes by subject, and I have illuminated them with graphics when possible. The three portions I read were:

Interesting, Adapting Minds was featured on Gene Expression, a genetics blog that I have been frequenting. You can read more here, or over there.

Topic: Press Incompetence and Bias
“The refusal to acknowledge human nature is like the Victorians’ embarrassment about sex, only worse: ti distorts our science and scholarship, our public discourse, and our day-to-day lives.” (Pinker ix)
“‘Revealed: the secret of human behaviour,” read the banner headline in the British Sunday newspaper the Observer on 11 February 2001. ‘Environment, not genes, key to our acts.'” (Ridley 1)
“It [nature v. nurture] had divided fascists from communists as neatly as their politics.” (Ridley 3)
“For invoking nurture and nature, not nurture alone, these authors have been picketed, shouted down, subjected to searing invective in the press, even denounced in Congress.” (Pinker viii)
“During almost every wait in the supermarket checkout line, I would find reference to the evolutionary psychology of human mating on the covers of women’s and men’s magazines.” (Buller 3).
“I found that published criticisms of evolutionary psychology typically contained more vitriol than serious analysis of the reasoning and evidence behind the claims made by evolutionary psychologists… Accordingly, it was too easy to find critics attacking evolutionary psychology for its ‘directly political dimension’ and its ‘culturally pernicious’ political claims.” (Buller 4)

Topic: Identities of the Field
“This book i s about the moral, emotional, and political colorings of the concept of human nature in modern life.” (Pinker viii)
“The two sides of this argument are the nativists, whom I will sometimes call geneticists, hereditarians,, or naturians; and the empiricists, whom I will sometimes call environmentalists or nurturists.” (Ridley 3)
“A year’s research later, it was clear to me that there were distinctly different lines of research being conducted undre the ‘evolutionary psychology’ label…” (Buller 3)
“The term ‘evolutionary psychology’ is sometimes used simply as a shorthand for ‘the evolutionary study of mind and behavior’ or as a shorthand for theories ‘adopting an evolutionary perspective on human behavior and psychology.’ When used in these ways, ‘evolutionary psychology’ designates a field of inquiry… For fields of inquiry are defined not by specific sets of doctrines, but by sets of related questions. Fields of inquiry are
defined not by specific answers to questions, but by the importance they place on particular kinds of questions. Mayn researchers in the field of evolutionary psychology often deliberately resist the ‘evolutionary psychology’ label, however, preferring to calsify their work as, for example, human ethology, human behavioral ecology, or evolutionary anthropology.” (Buller 8)
“When the term ‘evolutionary psychology’ is used to designate only work conducted under the auspices of the above theoretical and methodological doctrines, the term designates what the late historical and philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn called a paradigm…. The paradigm is the cluster of fundamental doctrines on which scientists agree, and once a paradigm emerges within a field of inquiry it provides a large number fo working scientists with a common research focus… a paradigm provides scientists with a shared theoretical understanding… a paradigm provides scientists with a shared set of methods… a paradigm involves one or more exemplays, which are specific examples of empirical research that the scientists working within the paradigm accept as significant achievements and as exemplary of how their science is to be done.” (Buller 10-11).

Topic: Nature v. Nurture
“Genes are designed to take their cues from nurture.” (Ridley 4)
“Human nature is indeed a combination of Darwin’s universals, Galton’s heredity, James’ instincts, De Vries’ genes, Pavlov’s reflexes, Watson’s associations, Kraepelin’s history, Freud’s formative experiences, Boas’s culture, Durkheim’s division of labor, Piaget’s development, and Lorenz’s imprinting.” (Ridley 6)
“The idea that nature and nurture interact to shape some part of the mind might turn out to be wrong, but it is not wishy-washy or unexceptionable, even in the twenty-first century, thousand of years after the issue was framed.” (Pinker viii).

Topic: Important Founders
“Charles Darwin: seek the character of man in the behavior of the ape… there are universal features
Francis Galton: fervent champion of heredity
William James: instinct and… human beings have more impulses than other animals, not fewer
Hugo De Vries: discovered the laws of heredity — beaten to them more than 30 years before by a Moravian monk named Gregor Mendel
Ivan Pavlov: empiricism.. the key to the human mind lies in the conditional reflex
Emil Kraepelin, Sigmund Freud: away from “biological” explanations and two very different notions of personal history
Emile Durkheim: reality of social facts as more than the sum of their parts
Franz Boas: culture shapes human nature
John Broadus Watson: “behaviorism” .. claim to be able to alter personality at will merely by training
Jean Piaget: imitation and learning
Konrad Lorenz: revive the study of instinct and describe the vital concept of imprinting
others: David Hume, Immanuel Kant, George Williams, William Hamilton, Noam Chomsky, Jane Goodall (Ridley 4-6)
“Robert Wright introduced many of the ideas of this paradigm to a broad audience with his 1994 book The Moral Animal… Steven Pinker articulated the theoretical underpinnings of the paradigm in two books written for a general audience, How the Mind Works and The Blank Slate… David Buss introduced the public to many of the details of the sexier aspects of the paradigm in his books The Evolution of Desire… and The Dangerous Passion… this group f researches has been so effective in marketing gits paradigm that it has become the single most dominant paradigm within the field of evolutionary psychology… To repeat, this book is a critique of Evolutionary Psychology — the paradigm associated with thte work of Buss, Pinker, Cosmides, and Tooby, and Daly and Wilson.” (Buller 11-12)

Topic: Social Engineering
“The belief that human tastes are reversible cultural preferences has led social planners to write off people’s enjoyment or ornament, natural light, and human scale and force millions of people to live in drab cement boxes.” (Pinker x).

Free Kosovo, Free Beer: A tdaxp Fatwa

The feared freedom fighter, tdaxp al Mujahid, read Chirol’s post on the coming European microstates with interest. tdaxp al-Mujahid thus chose to ally with the British and Americans, and demand liberation and independence for the proud Kosovar people. “We are all Albanians!” tdaxp shouted to the camera, as his demands prepare to travel the blogospheric info-waves:

However, tdaxp al-Mujahid knew this must be done peacefully…

The Holy Warrior threatened with death any who would achieve their ends with violence and weapons, such as the dead dog Abu Musab Zarqawi

The humble pilgrim emphasized his words with additional weaponry

Exhausted from a hard day of fawtaing, tdaxp turned on the television:

And saw the most beautiful, devout anchorette this (or any other) side of Paradise, Mujahidah al-tdaxp, issuing a similar fatwa on Fatwa TV! What luck!

“Free Kosovo! Free Berry Weise!” the freedom fightress shouted. Thus two causes were joined.

Free Kosovo! Free Beer! Inshallah!

Coming Anarchy 7, Humility

Note: This is a selection from Coming Anarchy, part of tdaxp‘s SummerBlog ’06






Humility and Pride

“Some individuals stress humility, others self-assurance, but in actuality all of the people we interviewed seemed to have a good dose of both (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996).”
We thought that this dichotomy was especially interesting as it pertained to the people we studied in class. Many of the people were very humble, which one might not expect given their enormous success and obvious superiority. Yet, you still got the sense that they knew they were the best, and they enjoyed all of the recognition and attention they were getting. It is just amazing that creative people are able to harness the benefits of both humility and pride in the proper setting. In society today, it seems that many people only exhibit one of these traits most all of the time, whether or not it is appropriate. For example, the huge egos (pride) of professional athletes that forget they are playing only as part a team and should therefore maybe be a little more humble about their contribution.

Relevant Quotes From Interviews (Select):

When asked the question, “How would you describe yourself to yourself?” the following answers were elicited:
Chirol: “[I’m] someone who perhaps doesn’t understand perhaps a great deal, which is why I read so much. For Example, one thing I seem to be lacking is an ability to be offended. … Thus, I check the news every morning, afternoons if I’m home and always in the evening. I’m the person you don’t want to say “Did you hear that…” to, because I already read it and will know more about it than you.”
Curzon: “On the outside, I’m extroverted and arrogant. On the inside, I’m ambitious. I am good at making friends with people regardless of their age; I find it hard to focus on details — I’m a big-picture guy…”
Younghusband: “I think I am the worst of the 3 on our site… [The graphic design], it is 100% because of me.”

Organizing The Information From The Quotes (Organize):

It is amazing how both extremes of the dichotomy came out in such a short interview. “Moderate” comments were not so notable (i.e. no one came out and said, “I am average”). Humility and pride is the area where the answers between subjects were the most similar. Any future attempts to determine how identity and creativity interact may want to start from here first.

Association With Our Course Readings (Associate):

“Creative individuals are remarkably humble and proud at the same time (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996).”
“No matter how modest these individuals are, they know that in comparison with others they have accomplished a great deal (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996).”

Nagging Questions (Regulate):

Perhaps because of the prominence of “flow” in creativity, might creative people be less likely to have an “explicit theory of self” because their metacognition is weaker? Might the fact that on occasion our subjects were very humble be the reason why more of them didn’t feel that their work in the domain identified them?

Coming Anarchy, a tdaxp series:
Coming Anarchy 1: Introduction
Coming Anarchy 2: Methods and Analysis
Coming Anarchy 3: Identity
Coming Anarchy 4: Failure
Coming Anarchy 5: Obsession
Coming Anarchy 6: Sacrifices
Coming Anarchy 7: Humility
Coming Anarchy 8: Geography
Coming Anarchy 9: Recognition
Coming Anarchy 10: The Gap
Coming Anarchy 11: Conclusion

Around Flandreau: Donkeys, Pigs, Typewriters, and Ghosts

The mini-vacation to Mitchell continued with a tour of the countryside around Flandreau, South Dakota. Flandreau is the home to the Flandreau Santee Sioux tribe of the Dakota Indians, who surrendered after their attempted ethnic cleansing of white fell-through after the Dakota War. Unlike their less astute west-river Lakota brothers, who would suffer family liberation, Dakota culture has continuously evolved with the same sort of melding of traditions I saw in Tianjin, China.

The most delightful site were a small pack of “very cute” donkeys by the roadside:

Indeed, they were cute all around…

The youngest was constantly shooed away from us by the older ones, but was quite curious.

Eventually, egged on by an adolescent, the pack approached us. Good times were had by all.

The same was not true of pigs, seen just inside the Minnesota border. Pigs are often seen in cartoons as shy, cute animals one might feed from the hand. They are in fact omnivorous enemies of Man, kept only because of their deliciousness. As Homer Simpson might proclaim, any animal that could give us pork, bacon, ribs, and hot-dogs is some kind of wonderful, magical miracle.

The geek in my was excited by a display in the Flandreau Museum, showing an apparently pre-qwerty keyboard.

Sadly, it was not so. The typewriter’s original manual explains that the “Blickensderfer Scientific Key-board” is an improvement on qwerty. Hah! And the dvorak typeset supposedly is too. Nobody uses either

Also in the museum, a century-old box in what could be identified as a Chinese style. America, as part of her traditional anti-imperialism, strove to protect the Central State from the Victorian Pagans.

With Google Maps, I am 90% sure that the abandoned host is exactly here. My farmer grandfather had always assured that my childhood thoughts were alive with “haunted houses,” and I wanted to experience one. It became more interesting the closer we got, as work was apparently done on it recently (just a few years ago) — work which was abandoned overnight and never resumed.

From the stoop of forgotten dreams, prairie wild flowers and a feed shed. South Dakota is beautiful:

…. and onto Mitchell, South Dakota!

My trip to China was wonderful. The Emergency Room was interesting, the Fragrant Hills Beautiful, the Botanical Gardens striking. I’ll remember special places — like a delicious barbecue restaurant or the bustling downtown of Beijing, as well as the special people I met. But all things must end, and soon we found ourselves flying east from the Northern Capital of the old Middle Country to the Middle-West of the Northern New World…

Now the wheel had shifted. It was my turn to show the Beautiful Country as she had shown me fair Cathay. Not only the beautiful sunsets of Lincoln, Nebraska…

But also Cows. Cows are remarkably shy animals around people, and in clumps made a calculated retreat from a distance gaze.

Even simpler animals, turkeys merely gobbled excitedly at the nothing that confuses their lives.

The Cows were seen on Old Highway 16, but the Turkeys are part of the industrial farming operation of the Old Elm Springs Colony of the Hutterite Church. The hutterites are Germans from Russia. These German-speaking Tyrolian and Bohemian pacifists were invited into Germany by their countrywoman, Sophi von Anhalt-Zerbst, and left under late Czarist, Leninist, and Stalinist oppression. Those that stayed behind would perish in Siberia. Generally they found a happy home in the United States…

… if one ignores the occasional pogroms. The actual old Elm Springs colony was abandoned at the outbreak of the Great War, a time of anti-German lynchings and burnings-in-effigy in South Dakota. The Maxwell Colony had its cemetery plowed over, and one wonders how these brick buildings so decayed in a mere two decades of unoccupancy…

The Jim River, from an abandoned structure:

Another of an abandoned colony building at the Jim. The Jim River Valley is the most strikingly beautiful region of South Dakota east of the Missouri.

Ghosts of the Dead Past

The new colony, the old colony, and the river. Click on the image for a sense of scale impossible in this cropped portion

Red Star over Ethan. Noted the Communist (actually, probably “industrialist”) style of a star at our lunch stop

We ate at this country dinner, The Cooks Inn. By chance I met a man who knew my ancestral town in South Dakota, and we discussed my great uncle.

The banks of Lake Mitchell on the dammed Jim. This is at the ancient Indian village, a fortified farming settlement of the Mandan from a millennium back. That was before they were ethnically cleansed by the Ojibwe, who in turn felt the Sioux’s tender mercy.

Unlike the Ojibwe and themselves before them, the Sioux had their lives and fortunes protected by their conquerors. The United States and the State of South Dakota recognizes a number of quasi-sovereign Indian reservations, and race-based discrimination never reached the genocidal levels the Sioux would have found familiar.

No trip to Mitchell is complete without seeing the facade of the utterly disappointing World’s Only Corn Palace. “Do we have to go in?” tdaxp: “No.”