Category Archives: Grassroots

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.

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A better way to understand web2.0

Note: there are various definitions of web2.0, with the most quoted one (http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/oreilly/tim/news/2005/09/30/what-is-web-20.html) being provided by Tim O’Reilly. But I feel all those definitions fall short of hitting the true nature of web2.0. I have articulated my understanding of web2.0 in various posts of this blog. Here I want to briefly summarize it and give the reason of why I think it is better to understand web2.0 in this way.

A better way to understand web2.0: web2.0 is a better way to program social software, which is highly human software.

Why is this understanding better? Because it is more tied with the big picture.

With this understanding, it is easier to understand our position in human history. It is based on the understanding of software’s position in human history. It is based on the understanding of history of science in human civilization. In that understanding, software is a bridge between physical science and human science. Social software is to program in the social domain, which has intensive life features, such as the need to change/adapt often, being collective from many people, highly interactive….  (Regarding the set of features of these highly human oriented software, I can have a separate post to summarize their features.)  Web2.0 is the set of solutions programmers come up in how to program in the social domain. It summarized the efforts programmers have made in solving the common challenges that we were faced during the recent years. (In the software world, we are increasingly dealing with domains that are increasingly human.) So with this understanding of web2.0, we also recognizes the nature of the problems that we are dealing with in our age: how to program in the social domain, e.g. how to bridge the social domain and the physical domain.

All these tie into the big picture: the new kind of science, which combines our best knowledge of human nature with our knowledge of the physical world.

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Community vs. Networking Part 2

In China, the media is very much controlled (in a different way the media in US is controlled), so it is hard to get to know what is going on at the national level. You read the reports in the news. You doubt what really happened. You read in the news that there is food poisoning happening somewhere in the country. You don’t look at the number of how many people died. You just take the fact that food poisoning happened. That is enough. Things happened far away are hard to know, unless you have friends living in that place and they can tell you what really happened.

But it doesn’t mean there is no truth in your life. Everything around you is truth. They are happening everyday. People’s suffering, people’s happiness, they are there for you to see.

This topic of this essay is Community vs. Network Part 2. It is continued thinking after part 1 here. It is based on the concepts as defined by John Taylor Gatto in his speech Less School.

You cannot get truth from network. Here we take newspaper, TV, internet, social networking and so on as network. You cannot get the truth from them. You can only get the truth from the community, e.g. the local living sphere around you, from people you have to spend a lot of time with. They are the places you can really belong to. You can only get truth from there. When you see the truth, it can destroy any lies told by the system.

Network is only of a couple of dimensions. But community (or we can call village) is of limitless dimensions. Thus community is the truth. Network is only an abstract in one dimension. It is used to achieve a certain purpose.

Community is limited in the sense you can only hold limited number of people in a community. Thus the local culture in that community are influenced by people in the community. A bigger and more diverse community is healthier as it offers individuals more chances to fully develop themselves. So it is important to use network to expand the community. How big a community you can belong to is a personal challenge.

The religious communities in US all have their own local cultures that bound individuals. They make the individuals living inside feel safe and satisfied, without realizing how much conditioned they are and that they are kept away from their true nature and their own potentials. The traditional villages in China have their own local traditional rules, which bound individuals to the old tradition, even that tradition has a long history of smearing off individuals’ individuality and causing tremendous suffering. The working units in socialism China bound people to one single working place for life. It doesn’t matter you like your job or not. It doesn’t matter if the local leaders are repressive of you or not. You have no choice. You have to accept it and live with it. Some people think this as a profound culture. Some people call for change.

US is surely a very different world. Especially with the flourish of Internet, networking is greatly expanded. There are so many choices there that people are constantly thinking of escaping their existing communities.

If used well, however, networking can be used to enrich and expand the community. We all belong to this big community which you can call country or culture. How do you really belong to a country? Many people talk about loving their country without realizing it is actually a huge challenge to love one’s country. How can you feel your country the same way as you can feel of your community? Without that concrete feel, your love for your country is only superficial and exists more as a manifestation of your own ego.

It is easy for our senses to perceive the difference. When you are constantly networking, you see all the differences. But it takes more of knowing the other person for you to perceive the sameness or the equality. When you perceive the equality, you go beyond your six senses and your eighth sense is in touch with the deeper truth. People losing their communities lose everything.

Building a community is to build a village that you cannot escape. Everyone else’s problems are your problems.

Community or sanga is the place for your practice. You practice how you function in a community. You are totally useless unless you can make other people’s lives better. In Brad Warner’s words, your brain is just “big fat hairy deal” (Sit Down and Shut Up, Chapter 6: the Colors of Mind). Only by doing so, can you practice manifesting your true self.

Network is not the place for you to escape the community. If you do so, you will be like a ghost wondering around without a soul. You cannot escape the community. You cannot escape your parents. You cannot escape your siblings. You cannot escape your relatives. You cannot escape your family. You cannot escape your friends. You cannot escape your society. You cannot escape your culture. You have to embrace them unconditionally. Networking, at the best, is only the info you get to help you better understand your community.

Compulsory schooling allienate people by taking them away from the community. How can you unschool those conditionings?

In the age of community, it is time to talk about community. Let’s start the practice.

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Filed under Chan/Zen, Cross Culture Communication, Culture, Grassroots

If you didn’t taste all the chilies, you should not vote

If you didn’t taste all the chilies, you should not vote. Otherwise, it is not fair.

Today there was a chili cook off at my workplace. So we went to taste all different chilies and vote for the best one. My coworker’s stomach was too full, so he couldn’t try all the chillies. When I asked him to vote for the best chili, he refused. He said he didn’t taste all the chili, he should not vote. Otherwise it is not fair.

I applaud him for having this common sense. However, people voting for the president of US have no such common sense. People don’t even know the name of the Green Party candidate. They cannot even pronounce Mike Gravel’s last name. I think it should be mandatory that voters be handed an instruction of the election with the list of all the candidates and their policies (do they do that?), and the voters have to check off that they have read the instruction before they can vote. Without that, the election is a joke. No wonder America went to war with Iraq.

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Lessig on OneWebDay

http://www.lessig.org/blog/2008/09/onewebday.html

Basically Lessig is comparing our time to the time of American revolution. The weapon we have now is not guns, but the Internet. And we need to use it well. The task is very urgent. So we need to fight hard. But we fight in the peaceful way, in a way that embraces everyone’s humanity.

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John Locke has a second thought on private property

I was reading John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government. I haven’t finished it yet and I read fast. Here is just my impression. Correct me if I am wrong.

John Locke’s advocate of private property is based on the reasoning that no one can scale up the production big enough to exhaust the natural resources, and thus the private ownership of natural things because of the labor you applied allows a lot more values to be added to nature because of the incentive of private ownership. John Locke repeated again and again that the whole foundation of private ownership is because there is no danger of anyone scaling up the production to a level that will exclude other people from accessing the natural resources.

Well, that foundation has totally changed in our time, hasn’t it? I guess if John Locke is at our time now, he would have a second thought on private property, and with his rationale, he should be totally against private property. What do you think?

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Two different philosophies of life and society

In the east, the philosophy is how individuals can best utilize the resource of their own limited body. So it emphasizes how you can reach your best potential through training of your body and mind. It emphasizes the maximum use of the resource available and not to waste any. Thus even in a society of turmoil, you would be able to survive.

The western philosophy, however, tends to focus more on creating external resource outside of your body. Western cultures are obsessed with creating material wealth. So the west is more reliant on external resources and even there are a lot of waste, for them it is ok . For example, the invention of credit card is an financial resource you can fall back on. It gives you the security that when you run out of money you can borrow first and pay back later. This can be convenient in some life-saving situations. The west relies more on the law and enforcement of law as the external mechanism that can prevent the flaws of man from harming individuals, while the east more relies on the virtuousness of the people.

It is hard to say which one is better. But it would be nice if the two can be combined to remedy each other.

This is a random thought.

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