Monthly Archives: March 2007

Google on AI

http://zdnet.com.com/1606-2-6160334.html

It looks like what I am thinking too. It is interesting that Page compare an OS to DNA. (Normally people would think a computer as a brain cell) And he mentioned “boosting the brain”. See the goal? To make search engine understand human language.

Not sure on what level Google think about a single computer, webapp, and so on.

This blog seems totally missing the point.

http://www.searchme.co.in/2007/02/larry-and-me-not-on-same-page.html

(http://battellemedia.com/searchmob/story/Page-is-wrong-about-AI/)

But the links the blog put up can definitely help me revisit the knowledge of genetics, one of my favorite part of Life Science (the other part is the brain).

I need to review genetics, brain and think about this. (TODO)

Animations depicting Transcription:

Very Basic
Another basic
Technical

The next step is the process of Translation wherein the information in the RNA is used to create the protein.

Animations depicting Translation:
Very Basic
Another Basic one
Technical

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Filed under Programming, Random Thoughts, To Do

Web2.0 is grassroots

This article just serves as an introduction to web2.0 for the grassroots people. So this article is by no means academic. I will try to avoid tech terms.

Web2.0 is grassroots in the sense that if you look at web2.0 websites (meetup, craigslist, youtube, flickr, del.icio.us …), they are all built by the user. It is the user who created those groups and activities on meetup.com website, put the ads on craigslist, and videos and photos on youtube and flickr and tagged them with their own tags. And a good web2.0 company constantly gets feedback from the user to incorporate into the next release of the website/software. So it is the user who builds the software. They help the techies to figure out how to build software in a specific social domain by their participation.

So each successful web2.0 website is to just look at the core values of each specific social domain, and figure out how to connect people together, come up with a way to bring in user participation, and use computer science to work behind the scene to turn user participation into user cooperation and thus provide a service in that domain.

For example if we look at music industry, the core value here is musicians expressing themselves with music, and the listeners get the nutrition of life or entertainment through the music. The market is just to distribute music. But somehow in the traditional music business model, the business and market people dominate the field. They dictate the musicians. They dump trash to the listeners. So the new model of music industry through web2.0 is to connect the musicians with the listeners directly. There should be a way for musicians to easily upload their music and video online. And there should be a pricing model based on user participation (downloading or ranking). There should be an online community to connect musicians together, and to connect musicians with fans together.

The same thing applies to citizen journalism. When we look at the core value of journalism, I think we need journalism because it helps us to know what is going on in the local community or in the world, also it tells life stories, or it informs us so we can make well-informed decisions. But we look at our current main stream media, how far are they from those core values? So then you can think how web2.0 can connect different essential parts of journalism together (news source, professional journalists, and the readers).

So all these domains are social domains. To write software successfully in these domains are usually very difficult. The difficulty comes from the following:

1. very often, tech people don’t understand social issues (although I think they should, and their profession demands so)

2. even most social scientists don’t really understand these social domains. (social science, to a large extent, is a joke). So when programming in these social domains, the programmers don’t have any sound theory to fall back on. Their only way is to explore the social domain with their software, especially by coming up a way to involve users in the process of exploration.

3. the social domain is complex. There are something collective here. So there has to be a way to let the user participate

4. the social domain is quick to change

5. the content has to be huge so that the software can be effective

In a summary, social domain has a lot of life. So the social software has to be exploratory, organic, involving the user in the process.

All these demand a new way of building software. Actually web2.0 is a natural continuation of the open source movement. (If you don’t know what open source is, Linux is open source. Also most websites today run on a web server called Apache, which is also open source. I think most of the web2.0 websites are built in open source programming language and software as well.) Web2.0 is an extension of open source into the social domain. Or we can say web2.0 is social software.

To better understand how the grassroots efforts in software are related to other grassroots movement in general, I have to spend some words talking about the essence of software. So please bear with me.

Web2.0 is actually a part of the long time software engineer efforts, whose dream is to make programming easy so everyone can program (my revision of it is that if you can think mathematically and logically, and you know you domain, you should be able to program). If everyone can program, we can unleash the domain knowledge from the domain experts, and thus channel the mental world into the physical world. Python (a powerful and easy to use open source programming language)’s author wrote an essay about how programming is the next literacy that can record knowledge and share knowledge. (http://www.python.org/doc/essays/cp4e.html) Recalled from my memory and expressed in my own words, this essay says that for example if you are a professional journalist and you understand the core values of the journalism, how do you share your domain knowledge with other people? Well, you can write articles or books about it. Of course, then many people will debate with you. So it is hard to tell whether your knowledge is right or wrong. If you can program, however, you can turn your domain knowledge into software. Prove your idea with your software and make a buck. So by converting your knowledge into software, have it up running and used by many people, that is a verification of your knowledge, proving that your knowledge is working. Your knowledge is stored in software as well, just like stored in writings. But with software, different from literature writing, software is more like a dynamic writing, or a literature with actions. By using and reading the software (if open source), you learn about the domain knowledge as well. So software is a new form of expressing, storing, and sharing knowledge. That is why the Python author Guido said it is a new literacy. Actually a lot of successful web2.0 sites are made by people who really understand those social domains, and they just transferred their knowedge into online software, and they continue exploring those social domains with their online software by incorporating user participation.

Software connects the mental world to the physical world. It gives the thoughts a physical form. What is in our mental world can be stored, run, verified, modified, participated in, and shared. It is an effective tool to work with our mental world. So this is what software is about.

As we continue to improve our productivity in producing physical products, we human being are very weak in producing good social products. (Physical product is used here to refer to product that satisfies our physical needs, such as clothing or food. Social product is used to refer to product that satisfy our spiritual needs, such as learning material, musics, journalism, and so on.) So our current time is more about how to produce better social products than about how to produce more physical products. It is about how to pursue our real happiness. (For more details on this, you can read my comments on the article “whither the world”: https://freestone.wordpress.com/2007/04/27/comments-on-whither-the-world/)

As we mentioned above, misguided by science, social science isn’t able to provide any sound theory to guide us in producing good social products. What social science produces are social Darwinism, eugenics, scientific management, compulsory schooling… Such lack of understanding of human being ourselves can lead to disasters, as it has done in the recent century. Science is not able to understand mind because you cannot understand yourself if you exclude yourself. When it comes to understanding mind, it is about experiencing. It is all inwards, not outwards. All secrets are inside of you.

To understand ourselves, to understand mind, studying Buddhism will be enough. Whatever about mind, Buddhism talks about it the best. If I sound like a missionary, let me put it this way: out of so many philosophies/religions/thoughts, you will find that Buddhism is totally worth your time invested in. It goes beyond philosophies/religions/thoughts. Buddhism is the best school teaching of mind.

But to make the world a better world, mere Buddhism is not enough. Buddhism alone cannot save the world. (Of course, if everyone studies Buddhism very hard, maybe it will be different. But that never happened.) To really make the world a better world, we have to change the underlying structure of the world. Some limitations have to be broken through. Software is to break those limitations.

As we mentioned above, the social problems are usually very complex. Social software has traditionally been very difficult because of the problem of dealing with the complexity. The recent development in software, such as open source, web2.0, agile programming and so on, makes it possible to deal with that complexity in social domain. So software is actually handling that complexity in a way that social science is not able to.

So software is to bridge human world and physical world. It is a good tool to make social products. Web2.0 is the grassroots approach of making the social product.

So web2.0 itself is a grassroots movement in the software world. All the important tech in web2.0 are from grassroots efforts. Those grassroots efforts share similar visions of how software will change the world. So people involved in web2.0 have to understand grassroots. It is not just about making money. When it was not making money, a lot of people were still devoted to those visions passionately. Thus we have web2.0.

I am aware of the fact that technology can be misused and was misused. I never denied that. That is why it is important that grassroots people need to learn how to take control of technology. The grassroots effort in software world is also trying to make the programming easier for everyone. Furthermore, the misuse of technology is nothing if compared with the huge change that technology brings to society. To understand the impact of web2.0 on society, you can just contemplate what magnitude of change that the invention of printing or the invention of machine has brought to human society. Times that magnitude by 100, then try to imagine what kind of impact that will be. It is going to bring a huge change in the near future. Many social ideals that great people in history have been talking about for thousands of years are going to be realized in our hands! So it is on this level we are discussing the impact of web2.0.

Of course, the prospect of technology being misused is still disturbing, considering the lessons we have in the past (eugenic, world war II, scientific management, compulsory schooling…). With the advance of nano-tech and computer tech, as warned by Bill Joy, the West has to have better understanding of mind and ourselves before proceeding.

Here are some links to some easy reading that you can learn about web2.0:

http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/oreilly/tim/news/2005/09/30/what-is-web-20.html

http://youtube.com/watch?v=NLlGopyXT_g

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Below are some extra stuff that used to be a part inside this article. As this extra stuff provides more arguments about web2.0’s grassroots role, it is more scattered thoughts. So I put it as the last extra part. You can read it if interested.

Adam Smith’s capitalism as described in The Wealth of Nations is a grand design with very noble ideals. Its assumption is that the prosperity of a society depends on whether each individual can have the freedom to pursue his/her own happiness. Free market is the mechanism to achieve it. Of course, the current system in US is far from Adam Smith’s capitalism. It is far from the free market. Web2.0, by empowering professional individuals and dismantle mass production, is to bring back the free market.

In most web2.0 websites, users create their user profiles. This of course establishes their identity on the web. Users participate in building the software out of their own interest. Their collective efforts, somehow build a better software and solve the domain problem. This is in tune with Adam Smith’s social ideals.

Of course, a profile on a website is only one aspect of user identity. Blog is also another aspect. To freely aggregate various aspects of one user’s identity together and use it for various purposes will be one important part of the next stage of web development.

Talking about democracy, in any kind of democracy some kind of authority is still needed. Someone has to take initiative, be in charge. Just merely for the purpose of keeping the integrity of concept, it is better to have a small “dictator” in a specific domain. If there is no effective way to incorporate people’s participation, then some dictatorship is always fallen back on in the past. The issue is how authority is created and whether it allows flowing in both directions (I have to put some restraints on this to avoid confusion. First of all, such dictatorship stays in the profession. It doesn’t extend to private life. Secondly, if there is a way to democratically incorporate member participation in an effective way, it is always a much better approach. The existence of dictatorship only serves the purpose of preserving conceptual integrity and unleash the full potential of a single independent entity. However, in the possible future open organization and open playground, conceptual integrity is probably not a big concern since it doesn’t have to be heavily involved in a lot of strategic fights, unlike conventional organizations. In the open playground and open organizations, the leader of an organization will be more like public officer, whose authority is based on merits in that profession instead of private ownership. An open organization puts more emphasis on member participation than high demand battling efficiency. More emphasis will be put on leveling the playground and make it easy for all members to play instead of imposing a vertical hierarchy and relying on it. Of course, this is a debatable issue. I am open to new thoughts and experiences.) The current form of representative democracy in US is of course a form of dictatorship. It is dictated by big corporation or big government (which is often under control of big corporations). That is why although the majority of Americans are against invading Iraq, US government still did so. So web2.0, by having a way to effectively incorporate user participation in each social domain, of course is very powerful in changing the social structure.

For each web2.0 website, its building at the beginning is out of some kind of dictatorship. By which I mean it is out of one person or a couple of people’s craftsmanship, based on their own understanding of the social domain (although that understanding comes from their personal interaction with people in that domain). But a good web2.0 site will leave a degree of openness, a space for users to innovate. It gives users the power to do what they want, quite often out of the expectation of the website founders. This space of user innovation is very vital in the evolution of the website. There is always a balance between the dictatorship and the democratic participation. Some websites do more user innovation. Some websites allow less. It depends on the mechanism they used to incorporate user innovation effectively. If a website allows too little user innovation, users often feel suffocated. With the future open playground and open organizations, after the initial stage of the organization (after its mission and core values get well-defined and recognized), the organization will take a more open process.

So web2.0 is grassroots. It is the grassroots efforts in the software world to make programming available to everyone, so we can unleash the potential from everyone. It is intended to change the world from bottom up, in the grassroots way. As software programmers, we are doing our part in making programming easier. The other side of the coin, is that as a passionate individual in the grassroots movement you can learn more about web2.0 and learn how to use it to advance your causes. We both need to make our efforts. When these two forces come together, we will have real grassroots based society.

Note: Please join our efforts at Web2.0 for Grassroots Causes (Tech Activism) Group. We are based in New York. We intend to combine Tech, arts and activism together. We serve the artists community and activists community in New York City.

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Creativity, Business and Buddhism

During my first day of meeting with my teacher, I brought three things to him: a stone, a pine tree branch and an acorn. I asked him that of these three things what are the same, what are different and which one he likes the best. Heaven on earth, here life takes on different forms. Everyone likes the flower the best, right? Creativity is to perceive the same common nature shared by various things, witness different patterns in different forms of lives, combine those patterns together in a different way with free will into another form of life. That is creativity. That is why Buddhism is the art of all arts. That is what Buddhism practice is about. It is the same as playing an art.

Deep in everyone of us, there is a creative core. We need to work hard to dig into it. It is the highest fun.

About business, what should I say? First of all, business is how this world is run. If you don’t understand business, you miss a big part of the truth. You won’t achieve anything in activism if you don’t understand business.

Business is about getting you hands dirty and being able to DO things.

Everyone has a huge army. We need to train ourselves to be a good general. You have ears, eyes, nose, hands, legs, brain… You need to know how to command them. When there is no enemy, a good general shouldn’t let his army running around, exhausting itself. The army should rest, but be fully awake. If you are asleep, even though the enemy put the knife on your neck you won’t know. Whenever the enemy attacks, you can get your army to respond immediately whichever direction the enemy comes in.

Out of free will, we are doing various activities in our daily lives. There are different types of activities. A complex activity such as writing software demands the use of brain. You have to think. Some activity such as sports and playing music requires a very high physical coordination of your ears, eyes, and your body. Playing is the best way to coordinate them. So you have to play. Some activity is more responsive, like when interacting with people. Then you have to be mindful, mind responding to mind, reading the mind. Interacting with people is the real fun. Sometime to do the activity well, you have to have responsibility. Responsibility is very important. It comes from true love. But responsibility is not enough. When playing some extreme activity, you have to PLAY. You should command your army well to do best in those different activities. So practice to be a good general. It is all about experiencing plus and minus in the activities. That is the thing you are doing every day. That is emptiness. That is peaceful.

If you can only find peace in meditation, this is the answer.

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Some minor disagreement with Mr. Gatto

Mr. Gatto’s books are indeed very profound. I learned tremendously from his books. Here is just some minor disagreement I have with him. Some of them, if not corrected, can be very misleading. Since I recommend everyone to read Mr. Gatto’s books, I certainly also need to point out these flaws.

Below are just some notes I made along my reading. I probably should work on my writing a little bit. (TODO)

1. About western spirituality and religion, also his misunderstanding of Dalai Lama. (http://johntaylorgatto.com/chapters/14h.htm):

After rereading these paragraphs, it seems that Gatto endorses christianity a little more than Buddhism in a very subtle way based on Dalai Lama’s talk about happiness. Gatto misunderstood a little what Dalai Lama was trying to address. Dalai Lama certainly didn’t mean that Buddhism is a utility to gain happiness. I would guess Dalai Lama will also say that happiness and suffering are the same thing under another condition. Furthermore, spirituality doesn’t have to come from religion. Religion is still an outside object imposed externally.

Another page: http://johntaylorgatto.com/chapters/14j.htm

Certainly Mr. Gatto misunderstands Buddhism. Thus he endorses the western spirituality.

Although hardship is needed, it is stupid to seek for hardship in life. A person with free will is of course seeking happiness. In that process, s/he is willing to endure any pain because s/he can only grow after that. As Roshi said, plus always starts first, and the minus will follow immediately.

As Gatto talked about the need of suffering in order to achieve good, full life, inner peace, isn’t that to seek happiness? So first of all, self arises. Plus arise. The free will is to seek happiness. But in the process of seeking happiness, you have to go through endurance of suffering. To endure the suffering is the minus. Plus and Minus cancel out each other. Thus emptiness.

This is another paragraph on the same page of Mr. Gatto’s book: “I heard second hand, recently, about a woman who said to her mother about an affair she was conducting openly, despite the protest of her husband and in full knowledge of her six-year-old daughter, “It’s no big deal.” That’s what she said to her mother. But if infidelity, divorce, and the shattering of innocence in a child isn’t a big deal, then what could ever be? By intensifying our moral sense, we constantly feel the exhilaration of being alive in a universe where everything is a big deal.”

Mr. Gatto doesn’t have to fall back on moral (e.g. the concept of good and evil). Just be fully aware of your existence, and be fully aware of other individuals’ existence. That is the essence of individualism.

Also Mr. Gatto doesn’t have to fall back on religion just because the current science is not complete.

Again, Gatto doesn’t have to think everything in the western spirituality is right, although western spirituality should be the place he starts.

Furthermore, western spirituality is very different before and after Christianity. Gatto shouldn’t mix the Greek traditions with the Christianity religious tradition.

“I have the greatest respect for every other religious tradition in the world, but not one of them has ever done this or attempted to do this. Western religion correctly identified problems no one can escape, problems for which there are no material solutions, problems you can’t elude with money, intellect, charm, politics, or powerful connections.”

Well, that is why Buddha left his palace and all the money, women, power, politics… and went through very tough training (the traditional meditation in ancient India is very hard. Practitioners ate only two or three grains of rice for days.) He finally put down everything, including all the intellect means, sat down under a tree for 7 days until his enlightenment. In his sutra, he said you should not be attached to any form of thoughts or material means. Buddha started his practice because he saw problems that no one could escape, for example death. Thus he was determined to put everything down, to go through any kind of suffering to look for the answer. So this is certainly not just a western religion thing.

“But none of those things has any particular meaning until you see what they lead up to, finally being in full command of the spectacular gift of free will: a force completely beyond the power of science to understand.”

Well, not the current science.

The above, if not corrected, can be very misleading. For a great book like this, this flaw should be pointed out.

2. About Chinese part: the case of Dewy’s influence on Mao; the case of Chinese simplified characters.

About John Dewey, his student Hu Shi, and Mao, it is a complicated story. I am not sure John Dewey has direct influence on Mao. Probably they were just influenced by the same popular thinking around that time.

“Turkish experimentation is echoed today in mainland China where a fifth of the population of the planet is cut off from the long past of Chinese literature and philosophy, one of the very few significant bodies of thought on the human record. The method being used is a radical simplification of the characters of the language which will have, in the fullness of time, the same effect as burning books, putting them effectively out of reach. Lord Lindsay of Birker, a professor at Yenching University outside Beijing where I recently went to see for myself the effects of Westernization on the young Chinese elite, says the generation educated entirely in simplified characters will have difficulty reading anything published in China before the late 1950s.”

From what I know, the simplified Chinese was adopted by the CP for the purpose of improving people’s literacy (sure, I might be wrong. But I feel this is probably true.). Before that, simplified Chinese had been used widely as a convenient way in communication and efforts to start using simplified Chinese was started by the other party before CP took power. I am not sure if the other purpose claimed by Gatto existed. I am not sure I can read all ancient classical Chinese literature. But I have no problem in reading the traditional Chinese from Hongkong and Taiwan. And I know many of my friends in mainland China have no problem in reading traditional Chinese. It is very easy to guess the traditional Chinese characters since they are like pictures of the meaning. The opposite is not true. It is more difficult for people growing up with traditional Chinese to guess simplified Chinese. But many of my friends are able to do that after some efforts.

This, if a mistake, is a quite minor one. Westerners often make very basic mistakes about China. I watched a program on the History channel about Chinese Great Wall. It talked about the first emperor of China building the Great Wall. Then the program showed some pictures of the first Chinese emperor, Qin. And it also showed pictures of Chinese during that time. The pictures shocked me! The emperor Qin and those Chinese shown all have the pig tails. That is not what Chinese 2000 years ago look like. That is only what Chinese in the last dynasty (the Dynasty Qing, which sounds like Qin but is totally a different Chinese character. Dynasty Qing started 1640. So history experts in the history channel made a laughable mistake.) looks like. The pig tail was forced upon Chinese Han people by the invading Manchurian. I was surprised that a channel like the History channel will make such a mistake. Why didn’t they just ask any Chinese to review the program before they air it? Any Chinese can spot this mistake immediately. I don’t know how much I can trust the History channel on history of the east anymore.

This is just a minor mistake. Although dumbing its people down has been carried out by every dynasty in Chinese history through various means, simplifying Chinese is probably not one of them. However, I don’t know if most Chinese in mainland won’t have problem reading traditional Chinese (I do feel that most of Chinese, capable of reading simplified Chinese, shouldn’t have any problem reading traditional Chinese). Ancient Chinese too many years (such as 2000 years ago, before China was united, each small country have many different ways of writing the same character. It is emperor Qin (the one who united China) that united Chinese characters. That makes a big difference between Qin and Alexander, and thus the future geopolitics in China and in Europe. But that is another story.) I might be wrong on this.

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Against Compulsory Schooling: from mass production to empowering individual professionals

Modern compulsory schooling is a product of mass production. It is to produce laborers for the mass production.

When people learned to unleashing the power from the coal and later oil, we entered a new era of human history, the age of machine or the age of mass production. For a moment, please put yourself back to that time and try to understand that era.

Mass production demands a single huge stable market. Otherwise the profit cannot be guaranteed for the investors. A diverse market is too risky for investors. To create such a single national market, people had to be dumbed down, so they would buy whatever was advertised on the TV.

For mass production, they need laborers to work as a dumb machine on the assembly line. But no one wants to be an assembly line worker for life. So they have to dumb people down.

Furthermore, Scientific Management was conjured to improve efficiency. SM basically is to say that workers shouldn’t think. Workers should focus on their mechanic repetitive work. If they think, it will slow the production down. Leave the thinking to a few managers. Only a few people can be the brains. Most people should be legs and hands. This worked. But people, essentially free and complete, are denied their basic rights.

SM is quite easy to understand if you think of yourself. If you want to do something with best efficiency, what do you do? First of all, you need to use your free will to think and feel what you should do. After you think about it, you just do it, finishing those steps without thinking until it is time to do the next round of thinking to prepare for the next round of execution. So SM is totally understandable. But to deny the majority of people their rights to be complete people and to think and feel for themselves, is a mock of our historical limitation.

How do they turn people into machine? Through compulsory schooling. School is not to teach you how to learn math. It is to make you hate math. It is not to teach you English, it is to make you hate English. Some people start understanding math earlier. Some start later. Some people start reading early. Some later. Some start music earlier. Some later. It is totally normal. But compulsory schooling demand children have to learn this much of math and this much of English in a certain grade, and humiliate children who are not ready yet with their test scores. Schooling makes children believe that they cannot do math, or they cannot do literature. So they had better stay in the literature domain to become an English worker, or stay in the mathematic domain to become an engineer. So schooling becomes a sorting machine. It sorts people very early in their lives into different categories of laborers to be employed by mass production in the future. By lengthening the school hours and years, they take people away from real life. Without in touch with real life, people are made to believe they should just be engineer and engineering is the only thing they need to learn or they should be literacy worker and English is the only thing they should learn. If they are ever in touch with the real life, they would know that in real life it demands all dimensions of knowledge. Otherwise they cannot understand the world. Making people only focusing on one subject of knowledge makes people powerless, only suitable to follow command to do some simple repetitive work. They cannot survive once the pre-defined environment change and there is no order to follow anymore.

Of course, school never really teaches you math or English. School only teaches you some facts, just enough for you to be employed in a predefined environment. You are given an illusion that you have mastered a subject (at least you got the degrees). School doesn’t want you to connect dots. It is pretty much true that whatever you major in college is going to be the major you are going to get screwed up with. That is why CS graduate don’t know how to use Unix or do programming. That is also why history major doesn’t know history, philosophy major doesn’t know philosophy, English major hasn’t read much literature, psychology major doesn’t really know the historical background of psychology, business major hasn’t done any business, and so on.

By taking people away from real life, schooling also takes people away from community and family. It is community and family where people learn of friendship and love. Without a taste in friendship and love, people are alienated.

Mass production took all the producing activities from once self-reliant families and turned families into parts of social machine. It might make sense to mass produce clothing and food. But do you believe that the school is better than the family/community in producing men and women? To have real men and women, they need to experience love. Schooling cannot produce men and women. What they can do is only to mass produce laborers.

To make the case more convincing, I want to provide links to the two congressional investigation into the role of business played in shaping American schooling. Mr. Gatto did an awesome job in providing this information: http://johntaylorgatto.com/chapters/12o.htm (notes: you can search congress on this page)

Now in our time, we are in the transition from the age of machine to the age of individuals. Enough sacrifice. It is time to make everyone complete.

The book Long Tail talks about the new phenomenon on the web that product or service is able to reach a small market and thus meet people’s diverse needs. So in the web2.0 era, you don’t have to mass produce or have a mass market to be profitable. This definitely changed the rule of the game.

Web lowers the cost of transaction in the market, making it a lot easier for individual professionals coming together to build their own small business. It also makes it easier for individual professionals in different fields to cooperate with each other. We see the evidences in citizen journalism, music industry and so on. So this new age is about empowering individual professionals so more people can be directly involved in creative work. In the old world, business and finance people are in charge. They reap most of the profits made by creative people. Creative people, in a sense, are exploited. In the new age, creative people will be in charge and make key decisions in their business. Google is a good example. Google is basically a technology company in the sense that technology people are making the key decisions instead of being dictated by business people. So is ohmynews, where professional journalists are making the key decisions. Independent musicians will be able to make profits by distributing their music online, or cooperate with independent photographers to make albums. So the new age is all about independent professionals cooperating together on and off the web. This of course has vital meaning for the humanity. We will be in a much better world where everyone has the freedom to pursue one type of art that s/he likes and is very good at. This is what makes people complete. This is what makes people experience beauty, real power and thus true love. Only by enabling people to pursue arts, to understand their selves, to be independent and self-reliant, can we resolve all those social issues we have today.

Of course, all these are built upon the progress we have made in mass production. More efficient use of machine means less people have to do the manufacturing jobs. I certainly hope that less and less people will have to work in the manufacturing jobs in the near future. Not just in the states, but also in China, India, and other third world countries.

I am imagining that some years later it is norm that people only work 5 hours a day and 4 days a week in their companies. All the rest of their time is theirs.

The other side of the story is that people doing creative mental work would love to do manual labor once for a while. For example, I would love to work in the restaurant or be a house cleaner on the weekends. It is good relaxation and refresh of mind. So more people can share the load of manual labor.

Furthermore, as I said before, finally we have something to make the incomplete science more complete. Ever since the founding of modern science, we excluded human being from the scientific research for the sake of not letting subjectivity interfere with objectivity. Misled by such kind of principle, the human science is going nowhere. Alexander Christopher, however, builds a new framework of science, which brings in human’s feelings into scientific research. Briefly, his basic argument is that when asked to compare two paintings, more than 90% of people will point out the same painting as the more beautiful one. So, Alexander argues, that our subjectivity is indeed objective, and that we cannot fully understand the world without bringing in the human subjectivity into our exploration of the world. Computer software is such a tool to explore human world. It is a tool to work with human’s mental world. It is to bridge human’s mental world with the extern physical world. Web is to connect people’s mental world together. Thus we finally have a new way to explore human science. Contemporary software is largely based on Alexander Christopher’s Pattern Language.

Most of the alienation of modern society (scientific management, eugenic, social Darwinism, behaviorism, compulsory schooling) can be traced back to the misuse of the incomplete science. It is time to incorporate human feelings. It is time to understand human mind.

We are indeed standing at the beginning of a great era. Many great ideas people have been fighting for thousands of years finally can be realized. A lot of hard work still needs to be done. And we need to do it quickly before some stupid politicians bring out the third world war and destroy the whole planet. Yes, we can always keep progressing, unless we kill ourselves.

Notes: read of John Taylor Gatto’s books for more details on compulsory schooling. Most of what I wrote about compulsory schooling here is a summary of my reading of his online book The Underground History of American Education. http://johntaylorgatto.com

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Where I grew up–a tribute to Gatto (1)

Mr. Gatto reflected on his childhood days in the coal mining town Monongahela. Everyone has to belong to a place. To find back the lost self, you have to go back to where you grew up.

Belonging to a place is like adding another dimension to your life, which greatly enriches your spirit. It fills meaning into everything and automatically offsets negative things in your life.

Mr. Gatto did his. I am going to do mine. I am going to recall where I grew up.

Where I grew up is a very beautiful place. If you have a big enough tourist guide for China, you should be able to find it. But when I was a child, it was not developed yet, and thus was very quiet and provided a lot of fun for my childhood.

There is a very beautiful river just behind my home. It goes through several different personalities along its short 2000 meters route through that area.

In the upper section is a big reservoir. The water is very deep (about 3 meters) and quiet, with very high cliff along one side and beautiful mountains on the other side. It is kind of a challenge for kids to swim there.

As the river flow out of the reservoir, it rushes down stairs, roaring very loudly. We used to sit on the stairs, trying not to be taken away by the river and at the same time roaring together with the river.

Immediately after the reservoir, the river comes to a bed full of rocks (I guess the rocks are left from building the dam). The river is very shallow, just flowing slowly across those small rocks. There are big meadows in the river. There are usually cows herded on the meadow. Sometimes we can see one or two beautiful white horses.. This is a very good place for catching fishes. My big brother is very good at catching fishes with hands. He just walked slowly upstream, putting his hands shaped like a bowl in the river. When he slides his hands under the fish (because he walked upstream, he didn’t disturb the water. So the fish wasn’t even aware of being swimming in his hand.) He then quickly took the fish out of water. We then will have delicious fish soup which we cooked on the meadow, together with some crabs and vegetables. My younger brother and me never learned to catch the fish with bare hands. But we can get the crabs. Sometimes crabs can be hard to get when you go after them in a fissure along the bank of the river. The fissure is usually very narrow, about one finger wide. You have to put your fingers in and use them as a kind of bait. The crab will then claw your finger. Then you endure the pain, pull the crab out of the fissure a little, and put your other fingers on the back of the crab and get your suffering bait finger released.

As the river flows down, it comes to a very beautiful section. This is where we usually swim. There is sand beach on one side of the bank. On the other side of the river is a slope cliff, covered with branches. There is a big cave on top of that, and the cold water flow down the cave. Thus we have a beautiful waterfall. The water under the waterfall is very cold. We used to have contests to see who can stay in that colder water longer. There is also a very small (5 meters in diameter) island right in the middle of the river. It stands out like a stage. We used it as a jumping platform, from which we jumped into the river with different postures.

Sometimes, we laid down on a rubber wheel and flow down the river for about 1000 meters. Then we come to a section where people usually fish there. The water is flowing faster there, with a lot of rocks harboring home for fishes.

Then the river becomes very wide, with many big meadows in between. Flocks of cows are herded on the meadows. This is a focal point of that area. With a very big mountain called Belly Mountain looking over the whole area. On the other side is a big forest. An ancient temple sits in front of the forest along the river. We often run over to the bridge to do morning exercise, and watch the sunrise. The subset there is very beautiful. I never saw the same beautiful subset anywhere else after I grow up. I guess it is because our sky is very low (we are on high mountains) and it is often cloudy. At the subset, we see half the sky filled with different colors and shapes of clouds. We were always fascinated by that.

There is a big grass field. People used to play soccer there. When we were kids, we liked to catch grasshoppers and dragonflies. Dragonfly is my favorite insect. There are many different kinds of dragonflies. We usually just catch those fly low on the grass and usually like to stop a while on the grass leaves. The yellow and red dragonflies (we call yellow pepper and red pepper) fly very high in the sky and they are very fast. Thus it is very difficult to catch them. It will be a thrill if you ever caught a yellow or red dragonfly. Yellow dragonflies usually fly in large groups. Red dragonflies, however, fly individually.

Along the river, the dragonflies are different. There are those very big ones with very big green eyes. They are very beautiful. It is a big reward if you spotted and caught that kind of dragonfly. There also another kind of dragonfly along the river. They are very thin, small, in black and green. They usually fly very low and thus easy to catch. You might be able to catch them just in the air.

The spring time is our time to fly kites in the grass field. We usually buy a lot of threads and fly the kites very far away until it is just a very tiny point (smaller than the rice grain) in the distant sky. We can send telegraph to the sky (by putting a small piece of paper on the thread). We line up and lay down on the grass, watching our kites flying high in the sky with the white clouds. We can just lay down watching our kites for a long time. It is one of the most enjoyable things in my childhood. Even now I still have a habit of looking at the sky. I don’t know if it is because of that.

There are a lot of mountains in our area. We used to go hiking a lot in the summer. It is always a kind of adventure since we always choose places we haven’t been to and we usually took a full day and go very far. We once set out to look for the source of a small stream. Along the way, we went through many different places. Growing up in the mountains, in my later life I found the plain can be so boring since there is no change and no surprise. I think it is when I was 15 years old I decided to go hiking just by myself. I went very far into the high mountains. It is an experience of myself and challenging myself. As Mr. Gatto said, people need large dose of solitude to develop themselves. Of course, people also need a lot of interaction with other people to be a complete human being. You need both solitude and interaction to be complete. Life is indeed very interesting. After I came back from my adventure, people were surprised that I did that just by myself. Other kids were inspired and wanted to do that themselves.

It is a great experience to climb to the top of the mountains. I always enjoy the view from the top of a high mountain.

My parents work in a scientific institution. People there came from all parts of the country. We have our own school. So people in the school know each other very well. It is like a small community. Although there were still a lot of things that don’t make sense to me in the school, generally the teachers were caring and students are good friends. Our schoolwork is not ridiculous heavy as other parts of the country. Basically we can get the homework done in the afternoon. Then we play until 8pm or 9pm (in the summer) when it turns dark. When in primary school, we always had a lot of kids playing together. We played all kinds of games. We had a lot of fun together.

In the school, there are a lot of sports or arts activities. A lot of parents in the institution are very talented. Thus we had a chance to be exposed to different things. The institution had a very strong soccer team that my brothers and I benefited a lot from. My younger brother is especially very talented in soccer.

In the summer nights, adults always liked to gather under a tree, chatting or playing pokers. So although my parents generally don’t talk much of their stories, I still had the chance to listen to other adults’ stories. Of course, that was before TV taking control of most families’ night time.

(to be continued)

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300, what a movie

What can I say about this movie? Oh, I think the director is really funny. If you are looking for sex, violence, and patriot stupidity, this is the movie for you.

I like the old one, The 300 Spartans, better. There are a lot of strategies Spartans used in that movie. Not just pure bravery and killer machine.

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