Category Archives: Essay

My work in the past three years and seeking future collaborators

Here is my work in the past three years: http://www.opensourcelearning.org/

It is a self-learning tool. It can be used by individuals to help them learn by themselves. It can also be used in school for teacher-led courses. You can also use it for peer learning in a learning group.

For example, in the case of teacher-led courses, the teacher can outline the knowledge in the subject area. Sample phenomenons or experiences in this area, and how students can practice in their daily lives to experience various aspects of it. The students can also view the teachers’ personal learning notes to get an idea of this learning area. The teacher can also show the kind of tags students can use to make notes of their learning experiences. And then students should try various things on their own in their daily lives to gain experiences in various aspects of the area. In the course sessions, the teacher can have the students show and tell what they have explored. The simplest form of that is to go through each experience s/he has collected and explains it. More complex forms can be making knowledge frames from the notes made. The teacher should help the students analyze their experiences and teach them how to synthesize them. So basically learners are still playing the major role of learning, and they do self-learning. The teacher only leads them to explore the field.

So the teachers should be those who really have learning experiences in the field, and have a complete map of the knowledge. S/he should be able to describe the knowledge or the things to be learned in the area, and s/he should be able to break it into several small modules that students can practice in and accumulate related experiences. The students can try whatever resources out there to learn by themselves. But their learning experiences and collected learning material can be reflected in this twitter-like snippet knowledge system. By promoting the students to form a habit of self-reflection and consciously exploring knowledge and gaining the skills, students learn the important skills of how to learn.

So with this twitter-like snippet system, the way of teaching in school will be dramatically different from the past. The twitter-like snippet knowledge system makes it easy to carry out the kind of teaching where the students are at the center of learning and exploring by themselves and the teacher can guide the students in combining their experiences from practice together with construction of the knowledge system in the area. We hope that more people can try this and together we can come up with more standard and systemic ways of doing this kind of teaching.

Of course, such usage in school is mainly for people who haven’t learned how to learn, which currently includes quite a lot of people. For those who are very strong learners and know how to learn by themselves, they can form learning groups and learn topics together through peer learning. This twitter-like snippet system will also have features to support and facilitate that kind of learning.

The ultimate goal is for people to be able to learn in real life. People can be engaged in whatever they want to do in their lives. They only need to spend a very small portion of their time to contemplate on what they experienced daily or weekly, and be conscious of the knowledge system they are in. Teacher and students will be more equal. The teacher is merely an early learner who has more learning experiences, probably has gained the full picture of the knowledge and is able to tell where the student is. Learning is never separated from life.

I have two master degrees in Biomedical Engineering and Computer Science from US schools. Neural system and brain have been my most favorite parts in my study of life science. I have been doing work on elearning and education for more than 10 years. I am also a long time Buddhism practitioner. I am looking for future collaborators to work on this research together. So if you are interested, please contact me.

I am glad to see that the development of contemplative science and study are helping the fields of learning and mental health, and help us understand more of the material basis of human consciousness (even some of my old classmates are now professors doing great research in this area). But none of these contemplative science and study utilize the power of software as a tool or vehicle to make breakthroughs. And my approach is more about solving the problem. Even I tried to have a whole understanding of learning and teaching on the theoretical basis, it is still for the purpose of solving the problem. To me, contemplative or feeling of the space, is not just helping learning, actually it is the center of learning and that is the original face of learning.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Essay, Learning

PyCon speech text version: Real life learning and design of Knowledge Engine

We have been calling for the coming of Knowledge Based Economy for years. But in my view, Knowledge Based Economy hasn’t really come yet. Among many reasons, one key reason is that we need a technology breakthrough here. The current way knowledge is represented, such as books, blogs, wikis, or other knowledge management systems, are all fundamentally document-based. With document-based representation of knowledge, it is hard to achieve continuous learning and knowledge management.

In the industrialization age, we invented engine to transform energy from gas into mechanical power, thus we can build airplanes, boats, cars or other products of the industrial age. In the Knowledge Based Economy age, we also need an engine, which I call Knowledge Engine, to transform people’s daily experiences and gathered important infos into well-structured knowledge, so we can build various products in the Knowledge Based Economy age, to help us better learn or do project management.

Talking about learning, the current mainstream learning is school learning. School learning is isolated from real life. One isolation is its learning “content”. The textbook in school is too outdated and cannot meet the rich needs of real life, which is in various aspects and on various levels. With Knowledge Engine, however, everyone becomes a knowledge explorer, and knowledge can be shared more timely. We will have more varieties of knowledge to be shared and they will be shared on a much more massive scale. Sharing by book publishing, blogs and so on is still too slow for knowledge propagation. Knowledge Engine will greatly lower the threshold of knowledge sharing. Through learning in a domain, the learner can accumulate his experiences in various aspects of this domain, important infos or facts, together with rich learning materials. He can work on his collections, form a good structure of knowledge and share with others while he is making progress in his learning. Actually, this is what we do in our real life learning. When we ask someone for his learning experiences in a domain, usually the knowledge sharer will list 1,2,3,4,5… key points quickly and give a brief explanation for each. In Knowledge Engine, we want to make that summarizing work happening on the go and can be done very quickly.

The second isolation of school learning from real life is that people who teach in the school have no learning experiences and thus true knowledge of the domain that they are teaching. With Knowledge Engine, however, learners collect and form a good structure of knowledge while they are learning and doing knowledge exploration. When the accumulation of knowledge is rich, complete and mature enough, the learner can try teaching it as a subject. So this way, excellent professionals in all walks can start teaching in their spare time, and become a high quality of resource of teachers. This will change the profession of teaching. Furthermore, students’ learning states can be well reflected by the Knowledge Engine, so the teachers can offer very effective instructions to the students. The teachers can build knowledge frames very timely according to the students’ learning needs.

The school learning mostly fills students with dry knowledge. People staying in school for more than 10 or 20 years still haven’t learned how to learn. With Knowledge Engine, however, the future learning will be chiefly learning by oneself. The teachers (or the early learners) have built up knowledge with good structure and accumulated rich learning material(books, blogs, videos, examples, projects, questions, and so on) through their own learning. So the students (or the future learners) can use these as their rich learning resources. With a good overview of all the knowledge to learn and with rich learning resources, the learner can decide for himself how to learn in the fastest and best way, as Knowledge Engine also helps the learner knows clearly his current knowledge structure. The essence of learning is self-learning. In the future, learners will learn mostly by themselves or through peer learning. The teacher only gives guidance to help learners learn, besides providing a good knowledge structure and learning materials.

Because of school, people have very misled concepts of learning and knowledge. But through Knowledge Engine, people will get to know quickly what is learning and what is knowledge. Only by editing operations and through some predefined workflows, the learners can learn quickly how to learn effectively. I think this is where the power of software is.

Last but not the least, students’ knowledge is visible in their exploration of knowledge. Also when they build up open space knowledge with their teachers together, they are participating in very meaningful social works, and their contribution is visible to the public. These will be an important part of their portfolios. (Just like what happened in open source software) Future employers will use these to pick competent candidates instead of relying too much on test scores, which can not really evaluate how much the person really understand the knowledge. Furthermore, through Knowledge Engine, the learner’s capability to learn and to explore knowledge can be demonstrated. Especially if the learner is able to open a course and teach others what he has learned, it certainly reflects that he has mastered the knowledge pretty well.

So the real life learning is not very difficult. We don’t need to be locked away from real life for more than 10 or 20 years to learn. Life is the primary. Learning is only secondary. Learning is to make out life better, instead of replacing it. Otherwise, there would be no learning, just like our current schools.

I hope the work of Knowledge Engine, can help make real life learning the mainstream learning of the future, and really start the Knowledge Based Economy.

This is a conference of Python. Starting from 2002, Python has been my favorite programming language. But I only got chances to write Python scrips for years. Finally in my job, my boss allowed me to prototype in Python, but required me to translating into Java after each iteration. That was a very painful experience. Finally in the research work on Knowledge Engine, I am able to do this exploratory work with Python. When Guido was designing Python, there was a clear goal in his mind: to make everyone being able to program, to express their ideas through programming and to do exploratory works. I cannot imagine how I can do the mast work on Knowledge Engine without Python. It would be hard to imagine with Java. So this is the first huge contribution that Python makes to this project.

The second comes from the idea of Pythonic. For me, it can be simplified as Principle of Playing. The design of Python has greatly inspired me in software design and my understanding of learning. This is the second huge contribution of Python to this project.

This experimental work of Knowledge Engine has passed two stages of experimentation. The first stage is me using the software to help myself learn, to see if it can be really helpful for my own learning. It turns out an incredible tool for my daily learning, and I need to use it daily for my learning. The second stage of experiment is to have a few other people use it to see if it can help other people as well. The result of this has been quite satisfactory to me. People who have no skills of reflection earlier can learn how to reflect quickly and thus open up the space of real life learning. The result proved my hypothesis when starting this project, and made me more confident on this project. Now I want to expand the experiment to a broader group of people, but still focus on people who already are strong self-learners, and are already using various internet tools for their learning. I hope to explore and find a mature practice of learning with this Knowledge Engine. Thus we can demonstrate to the world the possibilities and the power of real life learning.

For projects similar to this internationally, I found the following: wisdomclouds. The founder of wisdomclouds shares similar or exactly the same understanding of this kind of things. He didn’t use the word Knowledge Engine. But he used this phrase “All problems, one solution”. His software is used for project management only.

Trello, Joel claims that it will be able to manage all human consciousness. This means he already sees the potential of this kind of things. Trello is also used for project management currently.

Bagtheweb, is mainly for content curation.

This is a quite new field. I hope more people can join the work.

Leave a comment

Filed under Elearning, Essay, Featured Essays, John Taylor Gatto, Learning, Natural Learning, unschooling

Social consciousness, software, and our future society

Note: a newer version is available.

Note: Based on my review of 2008 posts, I added more posts, and some introduction for the parts and chapters. I am thinking of publishing this as a book. I haven’t thought a good name yet. “Social consciousness, software, and our future society” is a temporary name for now. To be honest, it is very exciting to be with Americans. Americans are very ambitious. They dare to predict and plan the future. So here is my piece.

The outline of the book:

Part 0: The revolution/evolution in America

Part 1: Individual Consciousness:
Individuals are the natural centers of human society. Everything starts from the right understand of our individual self. Buddhism teaches that we know our individual self directly. They are not like the physical world, which is external to us and we have to rely on science to explore. Through meditation, activity and reflection, we can know the self. So let’s study our individual consciousness.
ch 1: brain, mind, consciousness, growth of consciousness, and how they are tangled with community
How is consciousness formed? Where is it coming from? What is its material basis in the brain? What is the material basis of the self? How is the distance created? What is its relation to language? What is the health of the brain?
ch 2: memory, expectation/imagination vs. dwelling in the past and fascination about the future (both are thinking)
When there is no self, there are only two types of “legitimate” brain activities: accessing the past (stored as memory in the brain), and jump to the future moment (the expectation or the imagination). What is driving the brain to do these two activities is the present moment or your encountering with the environment at the present moment. When you have a self, however, accessing the past becomes dwelling in the past (e.g. you are lost in the memory). Jumping to the future becomes fascination with the future (I am referring to illusionary fascination of the self). Both are thinking.
ch 3: learning, playing
ch 4: feeling, love

When you feel without thinking, you are experiencing love and interacting with love. That is playing. What is love?
ch 5: knowledge, brain, knowing, learning, not-knowing
What is knowledge and what is the wisdom that is beyond knowledge.
ch 6: peaceful forces
The peaceful forces in human history.
ch7: how to get to know your individual consciousness
Silence, sitting meditation, self-reflection, going back to the nature, going back to your childhood,  walking carefully in your life and doing no harm.

Part 2: Collective Consciousness:
After we know the self, how millions or billions of people can live and play together can be a challenge. The collective of consciousness can be a quite new topic on top of individual consciousness. The history of human being is a history of how people organize together.
ch 1: collectively
ch 2: society and community as external memory, space
ch 3: forces in history, peaceful forces, barriers
ch 4: social space, unlimited resource
ch 5: enriching each other, playing together (has nothing to do with money?)

ch 6: how to explore collective consciousness with software


Part 3: Life Science:
Computer Science is a science about life. Software is a bridge between the human science and the physical science.
ch 1: science, and the historical perspective, subjectivity/objectivity, the evolution of math and physics (just more transformation of plus and minus)
Traditionally, science has excluded subjectivity from its study. Christopher Alexander advocates bringing subjectivity back to science because subjectivity is objective. After all, we know ourselves directly. I argue that software is the tool to bring subjectivity back to objectivity. Software is a brand new way to explore social science and is a very effective tool.
ch 2: software and the principle of playing
We expand the concept of software to the social programming. With principle of playing, we can refactor the society and build a better playground.
ch 3: degree of life
Christopher Alexander says everything has life. They have different degrees of life. How do we understand life? How do we measure the degree of life?
ch 4: what is computer science
ch 5: diversity and equality, limitation and perfection, life

The phenomena of life: equality is manifested as diversity, perfection is manifested as limitation, absolute is manifested as relative.
ch 6: space
Everything is about space.

Part 4: Global Peace
ch 1: cultural communication
How the two great things of human civilization can meet and melt into each other? How the west and east can communicate the values of individual and collective?
ch 2: how to bring out democracy
The explosion of the self-organized production of social product is going to transform the society and change the social structure.  By engaging in these self-organizing activities of producing social product, we are enriching our lives and pursuing our happiness.
ch 3: we need pioneers to open up each individual field
Each individual field is going to be opened up one by one by the individual professionals in the field. They are going to use open source software and open organizations to empower themselves. Each professional field is going to be transformed. Individuals can pursue their interests in these fields freely and  independently. Ways of cooperating and organizing are going
to be brought to a more granular and ad hoc level.
ch 4: build a better playground
With every progress of society, we have a better playground. That is how I look at history.
ch 5: the future of learning: how to engage with the space, true teachers…
How this individual field is going to be opened up? How learning/education is going to be transformed?


Part 5: Global Humanity
ch 1: the east, the tread of Chinese culture and how it is going to evolve
ch 2: the west,  the tread of western culture and how it is going to evolve

—————————————————————————————————————————

Outline with blog posts associated with each chapter

Part 0: The revolution/evolution in America
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2009/07/04/the-revolution-in-america/

Part 1: Individual Consciousness:
Individuals are the natural centers of human society. Everything starts from the right understand of our individual self. Buddhism teaches that we know our individual self directly. They are not like the physical world, which is external to us and we have to rely on science to explore. Through meditation, activity and reflection, we can know the self. So let’s study our individual consciousness.

ch 1: brain, mind, consciousness, growth of consciousness, and how they are tangled with community, language and culture:
How is consciousness formed? Where is it coming from? What is its material basis in the brain? What is the material basis of the self? How is the distance created? What is its relation to language? What is the health of the brain?
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/01/05/language-culture-human-brain-and-consciousness/
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/02/17/exercise-your-consciousness/
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/02/27/on-self-help-books-and-regrowing-consciousness/
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/08/16/see-with-your-whole-body/
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/12/14/consciousnessexperiences-cannot-be-transfered/

ch 2: memory, expectation/imagination vs. dwelling in the past and fascination (both are thinking):
When there is no self, there are only two types of “legitimate” brain activities: accessing the past (stored as memory in the brain), and jump to the future moment (the expectation or the imagination). What is driving the brain to do these two activities is the present moment or your encountering with the environment at the present moment. When you have a self, however, the accessing the past becomes dwelling in the past (e.g. you are lost in the memory). The jumping to the future becomes fascination with the future (I am referring to illusionary fascination of the self). Both are thinking.

ch 3: learning, playing
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/09/18/play/
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2007/02/25/do-you-believe-that-you-are-complete-and-have-the-potential-to-fully-develop-yourself/
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2006/12/08/a-summary-of-learning/
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/01/30/comments-on-the-summary-of-learning/
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/04/06/no-chinese-food-anymore-continuous-exploration-of-space/
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/02/14/thinking-feeling-and-playing/
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2007/06/01/doing-things-learning-and-playing/
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2007/06/12/reflect-on-my-schooling/
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2007/05/08/the-art-of-my-life/

ch 4: feeling, love
When you feel without thinking, you are experiencing love and interacting with love. That is playing.

ch 5: knowledge, brain, knowing, learning, not-knowing:
what is knowledge and what is the wisdom that is beyond.
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/09/30/knowing-and-thinking/
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/10/22/no-self-no-problem/
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/12/08/when-you-walk/

ch 6: peaceful forces
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/09/16/peace-what-is-peace-and-how-to-build-peace/

Part 2: Collective Consciousness:

ch 1: collectively:
After we know the self, how millions or billions of people can live and play together can be a challenge. The collective of consciousness can be a quite new topic on top of individual consciousness. The history of human being is a history of how people organize together.
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/09/23/managing-common-property-is-a-challenge/
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/08/21/collective-vs-individual/
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/09/14/my-standard-to-evaluate-a-societyculture/
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/09/16/my-fundamental-belief-and-why-i-am-doing-what-i-am-doing/
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2007/10/11/buddhism-and-social-consciousness/
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/09/23/desire-and-future-society/

ch 2: society and community as external memory, space
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/11/09/community-vs-networking-part-2/
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/12/08/material-culture-as-an-extension-of-human-cognition/

ch 3: forces in history, peaceful forces, barriers

ch 4: social space, unlimited resource
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/10/01/john-locke-has-a-second-thought-on-private-property/
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/10/18/software-programming-for-everybody/
ch 5: enriching each other, playing together (has nothing to do with money?)

Part 3: life science:
Computer Science is a science about life. Software is a bridge between the human science and the physical science.
ch 1: science, and the historical perspective, subjectivity/objectivity, the evolution of math and physics (just more transformation of plus and minus)
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/10/14/the-subject-and-object/
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/10/18/the-subject-and-object-part-2/

ch 2: software and principle of playing
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2009/01/14/a-better-way-to-understand-web20/
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2007/08/17/software-like-buildings/
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2007/01/03/web-brain/

ch 3: degree of life
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/11/30/one-billion-times-more/
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/09/05/where-is-life-coming-from/
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2006/11/23/only-losers-complain-about-too-many-choices/

ch 4: what is computer science
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/12/19/computer-science-is-life-science/

ch 5: diversity and equality, limitation and perfection, life
The phenomena of life: equality is manifested as diversity, perfection is manifested as limitation, absolute is manifested as relative.

ch 6: space
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/08/16/it-is-all-about-space/

Part 4: global peace
ch 1: cultural communication
How the two great things of human civilization can meet and melt into each other? How the west and east can communicate the values of individual and collective?
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/10/18/two-great-things-of-human-civilization/
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/09/23/two-different-philosophies-of-life-and-society/
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/07/23/news-of-china/
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/08/06/inside-biosphere-2/
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/08/09/the-myth-of-chinese-population/
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/08/21/collective-vs-individual/

ch 2: how to bring out democracy
The explosion of the self-organized production of social product is going to transform the society and change the social structure. By engaging in these self-organizing activities of producing social product, we are enriching our lives and pursuing our happiness.
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/09/22/how-to-take-back-our-democracy-part-2-democracy-money-social-products-local-services-the-power-of-consciousness/
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/09/20/how-to-take-back-our-democracy/

ch 3: we need pioneers to open up each individual field
Individual professionals are going to cooperate in new forms of organizations.

ch 4: build a better playground
We are going to build up a better playground in the social transformation.
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/03/20/build-a-better-playground/
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/05/18/open-organizations/
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/05/20/open-cooperation-within-an-organization/
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/07/30/national-initiative-and-law-20/
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/08/21/grassroots-web/
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/10/18/software-programming-for-everybody/

ch 5: the future of learning: how to engage with the space, true teachers…
The true face of learning will be brought out.

Part 5: global humanity
ch 1: the east, the tread of Chinese culture and how it is going to evolve
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/08/06/a-brief-rundown-of-chinese-recent-history/
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/08/06/development-and-environment/
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/05/13/china-capitalism-communism/
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/05/18/china-and-environment/
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/08/06/olympics-and-china/
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/08/10/watching-olympics-opening/
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/08/21/the-chinese-renaissance/
https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/08/21/two-ways-to-help-china/

ch 2: the west,  the tread of western culture and how it is going to evolve

2 Comments

Filed under About Software, Chan/Zen, Computer Software, Essay, Featured Essays, Learning, life, Python, Social Software

The revolution in America

In America, a revolution is happening now. Actually it is better to be called Evolution. It is not very much recognized by the public so far since it is has been going mostly peacefully. The impact of this evolution to human society is going to far exceed that of American revolution 200 years ago.

The evolution, is essentially to transform from a mass production society to a society of empowering individuals. And this transformation is achieved through the change from the mass production of physical product to the bottom up peer production of social product.

The old American system is to serve the mass production. The mass production requires that the workers work like part of the machine on the assembly line. Mass production demands a single national market. All these requires people to be dumbed down. Thus Scientific Management was invented. According to SM, we don’t need many people doing management in mass production. So we only need 10% of the population to be smart and work as the brain. The other 90% should be dumbed down and work as hands and legs and managed by the brains. Compulsory schooling is the mechanism to dumb people down.

But America is going through a historical transformation. The percentage of manufacturing is going down significantly for a long time. And the production of social product is exploding. The so called physical products are stuff like food and clothing. Social product is stuff like music or social needs. There are many levels of social needs, and thus we need many different social products to meet those needs. In the mass production of physical products, only product that is demanded on a massive scale will be produced. As web reduces the cost of transaction and connects people together, the production of social product is exploding in the scale of billions of times. Understanding of all kinds of innovation in web2.0 should be put under this context.

The production model of social product is very different from that of physical product. The mass production of physical product requires making 90% of the population dumb, and let the capitalists coordinate all elements of production. The capital is in the dictating position. But in the production of social product, individual creativity must be the center. It needs individuals capable of independent thinking and innovation. Money is reduced to a supporting role. In the production of social product, the musicians are no longer money-making tools of the capitalists. Because of web, the musicians can face their audience directly, and produce their own music.

Below I am going to describe some characteristics of the production model of social product. (The purpose of this article is to convey a message. So I am not going to do complex analysis. I will be very brief in describing these characteristics.)

In the mass production of the physical product, the physical product is a scarce resource. In the production of social product, however, people’s attention is the scarce resource. Social products are competing for people’s attention. People’s attention is limited. So the best solution wins.

There are many levels of social needs, thus there are many ways of organization to meet those needs. For example, these organizations can be made in-time, and exists temporally. Its birth and death depend on the needs of the society. The scope of the organizations can also be very different. It can be global. Or it can be very local, serving the local communities. (Hints: this is very much like computer programming.)

The production of social product is going to increase massively by billions of times, and the ways of organizations will also increase similarly. All these are the enrichment of the social sphere. They go way beyond what the government can govern and what the copy-right can take control. The production of social product must be a bottom up, self-organizing way of production, relying heavily on individuals creativity in meeting the social needs.

In the era of social product, individuals’ hobbies become the most important thing. People don’t have to work for survival. Most people are going to choose work that they really like to do. In the past, it can be very difficult to be an independent artist. But in the age of social product, independent artists are not going to be choice of a few, but mainstream way of life. The social idealism of many generations is going to be realized in our hands. Play, pursuit of love and beauty, are the peaceful forces of human society. In our time, these peaceful forces are going to be the dominate forces that drive the history.

In America, the corporates are getting stronger and stronger. They control the fabric of American life. The national identity of America is greatly strengthened. And the capitalists are using the state machine to exploit the people, such as huge national defense budget, sales of weapons, and stir up wars around the world. America is losing what is America. America is losing the independence and freedom of its early era. In the new era, the old system that was built for the mass production of physical product is no longer suited for the new production of social product. The tension is building up. In this crisis, Americans are reflecting on their system from many angles. The victory of Obama reflected people’s strong desire for change. However, the election of Obama can only make the crisis continue getting worse, since Obama doesn’t really represent the interest of people. Obama’s victory is the victory of the big corporates. Fortunately, the power of the grassroots is getting stronger with the help of the web. So I feel that this revolution in America, if there is no any accident, should keep going peacefully. This is going to be the first peaceful revolution of mankind.

2 Comments

Filed under Essay, Grassroots

Computer Science is Life Science

Computer Science (CS) is not a science of computers. CS is a science of life. It is a bridge to connect the physical science with human science.

Here I take the word life as what is meant by C.A. (Christopher Alexander) in his book The Nature of Order. And I use his concept Degree of Life as the measure of life.

So what is CS studying? The essential part of CS is software programming, which is about how to create life. It is commonly known that OOP (Object Oriented Programming) is about agents and interfaces (e.g. the contracts between agents) (so is economy). Here we can summarize it with the Principle of Play (as in the post about Python).

Briefly, the Principle of Play is about how other life entities (I will start using this word throughout this essay to describe anything that we consider having a degree of life, probably a degree of life that is higher enough to interact with other entities) can easily interact/play with.

So for a life entity, if we want to measure its degree of life, we can look at the following aspects: how many different entities are able to interact with this entity in different ways; how much time those entities need to learn to figure out how to use this one.

For a system, on average, how much degree of life within a system of many life entities? We can look at these from the following:
how generative the system is, how the system is able to come up with new ways to deal with new problems (kind of like human body);
how adaptive the system is to the outside;
how adaptive the system is to its own growth/evolution, whether the system is able to carry out the evolution in a more peaceful way;
how much time the life entities in the system spend in figuring out how to work with each other;

A better system is more able to be life-generating. It is more efficient at converting energy from lower forms to higher forms, such as converting energy into life entities. Take music for example. When a musician create the music, he consume a lot of energy (he has to eat a lot of food and use the energy that is from the food) in creating that music and put that music down in some kind of physical format (for example, a mp3 file on a computer). When that mp3 file is listened to by another person, the music causes some life-generating events in that person. If we say it causes some new material being generated in that person’s brain or causes restructuring of his brain, then the energy is transformed into the material (new life entity) in that person’s brain. So good music, just by being played over and over again for different people, simply consume some physical energy (electricity, for example) and push a higher energy being generated and stored. (The real situation, of course, can be way more complicated. Here we just simplify it temporally for the convenience of introducing the idea.)

So a system with more life means that more energy are taken from the physical world and stored at a higher level.

So what kind of brain has more life? Possible answers below:
A brain that has real knowledge, the brain structure is shaped very well that it can recall knowledge and engage with the world in a very efficient and creative way;
A brain having a higher degree of life is better at creating life.

More questions for our consideration:
Why human being is a higher form of life? (Is the language giving us the potential to have more life?)
Why creatures have more life than furniture?
Which society is more able to adapt to change? For example, with the new frontier in the info age, which country is more able to adapt and imagine a new future?
What kind of life creating process is it in human body? How does DNA create life for human? How does human being take physical energy from outside and convert that to its own energy?

There are definitely endless fields that we can go into to examine how the life generating process is carried out there.

So when we go to the macro level, we look at the whole human society, we want to see if our society as a whole has a higher degree of life than societies 2000 years ago, which means if our society is more able to adapt to change, more responsive to outside, more able to carry out the evolution in a peaceful way.

To give an example of how we can measure the degree of life, maybe we can try to see how we measure the degree of life of different programming languages (for example, Java VS. Python). I am thinking the method can be as below: we look at how people in different professions or different age groups are able to pick up the programming language quickly and how diverse are the software/apps that are built by this programming language, how the language itself is more able to adapt to change… Surely, sometimes whether a programming language is used more often has a lot to do with marketing. That is why we need a better playground so the better ones can be played by more people.

Every life center (entity) has billions of plus and billions of minus. Thus it is math on a higher level. (Any math is just an extended transformation of plus and minus). So what is this form of transformation of plus and minus in life centers (entities)? One clue is that this is computation of plus and minus on the scales of billions (http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/magazine/16-07/pb_theory). Another clue is as  CA has pointed out in his book Nature of Order, it is expressed through geometry forms. Certainly any geometry forms (if not a dot) contain billions of plus and minus. Thus visualization of huge amount of data might be part of the big picture of solutions.

Google’s search engine is a way to compute the billions of plus and minus, if we treat a link as a vote (a form of plus and minus). In words of O’Reilly, Google “built real-time information systems to capture and respond to that vote”.

Above are just some early hypothesis. Any new science starts with great hypothesis, then countless proving and figuring out the details. I hope these hypothesis can be a good start.

The ideas here are still very rough. I put it out early for the purpose of getting some early feedback. So if you know someone doing similar work on this, please let me know.

4 Comments

Filed under About Software, Chan/Zen, Computer Software, Essay, Featured Essays, Programming, Python, Social Software

How to take back our democracy Part 2: Democracy, Money, Social Products, Local Services, the Power of Consciousness

This is to follow up with the part 1

The power of politics is the power to make laws to govern. The law should be minimum. Otherwise it becomes a tool to restrict people’s freedom instead of facilitating it. So by nature, what we can do should be much larger than what should be governed. Thus participation in democracy has two parts. One part is to take on what we can already do in the communities, organize together to work on what we value as important. The other part is to participate in the area of law making, making sure of a fair playground. The first part is often ignored and not recognized as  part of participation in democracy, while most attention when it comes to participation in democracy is given to the second part. However, the first part should by nature the essence and the goal of democracy. And in our time of social transformation powered by the web, we should especially pay a lot more attention to the first part, because our current efforts are to increase the range of social services that are used to meet people’s spiritual needs to probably about 1 billion times of what we have now. Imagine what a different world it will be.

As I mentioned in previous essay, there is physical products and social/spiritual products. The latter belongs to the realm of consciousness. In our time, because people’s consciousness is connected and people can engage with each other through various software,  we are seeing the explosion of the social products. We human beings have a large range of social or spiritual needs that weren’t sufficiently met previously. The transformation of our time is to provide services/products to meet the full spectrum of people’s social needs.

Money is the currency for exchange of labor. It is the universal currency, so it is easy to scale it up and a lot of transactions can be built on top of it, such as the stock market. This currency is useful for exchanges of physical goods in a large scale across a large geographic area. But when we come to the social services, especially when we come to a large range of social needs of a local community, the exchange of labor probably should not be expressed in term of money. In the affluent society as  in America, people get to have more time to be engaged in various types of activities that don’t necessarily make money, but are treated as valuable (valuable as they matter to their happiness). When people voluntarily work for each other to meet each other’s needs, it is also a kind of exchange of labor. They also make friends in this process, which is better. (We know a lot of people are very willing to lose money to just make some friends.)

To make this discussion more concrete, here is one example. For example, on facebook (Not that I endorse facebook here. Their application probably should be more open. But as a self-claimed utility company, they do have potentially an important role in this.), just by knowing people living in the same neighborhood, a lot of things can happen. For example, I feel we should take care of a community garden, I can post the request to get people together to work on it. Or I need people to do some logo design for my websites, I can also post this to the local community. This kind of exchange of labor doesn’t have to be very strict that I have to get the same amount of labor in return for what I have done for others. This is a very different scenario than the money based market system, where profit driven is the key to measuring things and moving things around. In the local social services, it is more about friendship and community-building than profits. So the scenario should be very different.

There are a lot of social services we need to provide to enrich our local communities. This is a large space we are going to see an explosion of activities in the next few years.

By self-organizing in producing these social products/services, people are exercising their power. This is the power of consciousness. When people learn how to exercise the power of their consciousness and build up the infrastructure of it, we are going to see this power overcomes the power of capital in the political domain. Indeed, this power of consciousness has to be much bigger than the power of capital.

So this is what I feel. I feel people should pay more attention to community building and enriching our social life, building various infrastructure (soft ones, not necessarily hard ones) of society. All these can be summarized as Building a Better Playground.

I think it might be helpful to make this more specific in term of what each of us can start taking actions personally. What should we put our efforts in exactly? I think we should figure out what is the thing that each of us consider as his/her art, the thing that s/he really enjoys and wants to be good at. How s/he can utilize the resources provided by our society to best pursue her/his arts? How we can help each other to bring out the true values in our arts? By pursuing all these hard, we might come to a point that we can touch the walls of our society. Then that might be the point of political significance, e.g. how we can change the way our society is structured thus people have more freedom to pursue their arts.

More generally, we should focus on things that we deem valuable in our lives. For example, making friends. By focusing on these we might come to see the barriers that are set up to block people communicating with each other, or to alienate people from their true natures.

Using the line from the Grapes of Wrath, “We are the people”. We are the majority.  Let’s take back the power that is hijacked by a few minorities.

2 Comments

Filed under About Software, Essay, Grassroots, Social Software

Play

Play

When the world is still, the whole world is just one. When it starts moving, forces are applied to its body and split out many small parts.  Under the forces, the small part has to make itself stronger correspondingly in order to follow the flow of the whole. Thus there is more life. This is the same in the human world. Each individual is a separation out of the whole. Each individual is under the forces caused by the movement of the whole. Under the (social) forces, each individual has to make himself/herself stronger so the whole can move together. Thus we have more life. So under the force of the movement of the whole, separation happened. Each separated individual has to absorb that force and make himself/herself stronger and connect back to the whole so the whole can move together. (This understanding of life is the same as how life is interpreted in the book Nature of Order.) When the world moves faster and faster, greater and greater forces are generated and smaller and smaller parts are split out, and they have to be stronger in order to follow the movement of the whole. Take sports for example, when the game becomes faster, you rely on components of your body that are the primary organs of that sport to be stronger and more skillful in order to follow the flow. So when you really enjoy the sports, or we can go more specific, for example in the sport of soccer, if your legs really enjoy the ball, you can play better and be better at following the flow. Thus play and enjoying fun are the essential part of life. Life is about playing.

So play is space interacting with the space. On the individual level, it is the individual’s inner space interacting with the outer space. On the level of society, it is how individuals interact with each other, or on a larger scale how organizations of individuals interact with each other. So we can see in the future sophisticated and ever-changing society, we rely on the individuals to be stronger players.

To play with other players, you need to make yourself easy to understand and other people know how to play with you. So play is space communicating to space.

As the universe becomes faster and has more life, we can say the universe is playing.

When I was a kid, I heard adults saying that when you get older you are not afraid of death anymore. As a kid, I reflected on it. I had a lot of fun in my childhood. I thought the adults were not afraid of death probably because there were nothing fun in their lives anymore. As I was looking at many adults’ lives, it was certainly true. Then I figured that they forgot to play because they could not keep growing their knowledge and ability as their bodies grew. So naturally after you have played with dragonfly for so many times, you will get bored. So what I saw was that adults got bored with life, or overwhelmed by responsibilities or little things of life, and thus forgot how to play. So I thought it was a challenge to be able to keep improving yourself as you grow up, and I swore to myself that I would keep improving myself and expanding my world so I can keep playing with the same kind of fun I was playing in my childhood.

In the recent years, I realized that one thing that contributed to those adults forgetting how to play is the compulsory schooling system. When children become teenagers, they need to naturally expand their world in the human world. However, the compulsory schooling system occupied all their time, and they have no time to continuously expand their space, and later become very passive in this new space of human world. When they are kids, it is easy for them to get excited when they first see the snow, or play with the insects. Everything is new, and it is easy to learn of new things. So we see kids always have a lot of curiosity. Kids are not interested in the adult world, however. To them, the adult world is too complex and they cannot understand. So they prefer watching the more simplistic version of it, the cartoon. Cartoon is very simplified, and the kids enjoy the stories in it. But as the kids grow older and become teenagers, they will get bored with what they have been playing before. At this stage, it is natural for them to be curious of the adult world. They want to know how the professionals work. They are interested in knowing about society. It is an adventure for them. But since the kids have to go to school, and in the middle school, the schoolwork becomes more intensive. Even when kids go back home, they have to work on “homework”. Together with TV, the compulsory schooling occupied the teenagers’ time. For the teenagers to understand the adult world and society, they need big blocks of time to try things out in the real world, read a lot of literatures, novels, and history. Not being able to expand into that space for many years (more than 10 years), they become passive about that space. They have been living in that space of adult world for many years without being able to understand it, they don’t seek to understand it anymore. They become very passive. The doors to many worlds closed down on them. They cannot comprehend their world anymore. They become powerless. They will just be satisfied if they can find a job after school that can pay them well. They forget how to play. You can imagine what kind of problem you will have if a civilization forget how to play.

Thus to solve the problems we have today we need to restore the fun of playing, which certainly cannot do without dismantling the compulsory schooling system and return the true learning to the hands of the individuals.

Since playing is space interacting with space, it will certainly lead to appreciating the beauty of the emptiness of the space. Thus playing in its highest form is to pursue art. Because everyone of us is unique and the life of this world relies on our diversity, every individual needs to identify and pursue his/her art of life. Thus every profession is art. To encourage individuals pursuing their art of life is to empower individual professionals to  bring out the true value of their professions. Yes, we need to empower the individual professionals.

The problem of our world is that individual professionals are dictated by the capitalists, and thus they cannot pursue their arts. Musicians cannot be true musicians and journalists cannot be true journalists. To address this problem, we need to build a better playground, which provides equal access to every individual. The web and social software, by connecting people’s consciousness together, makes it much more difficult for a group of minorities in power to set up barriers to deny the majority of the people the access to the playground. The web and social software themselves build up the infrastructure of the playground in the human world.

So this is why I dedicated myself to bringing out the true face of learning and ways for individual professionals to cooperate with each other through various forms of organizations.

Thus I said, don’t tell me any big ideas, as long as what you say is fun, it is the biggest idea.

1 Comment

Filed under Chan/Zen, Essay, Featured Essays, Grassroots, Natural Learning, Open Project, unschooling