Category Archives: Open Project

How to take back our democracy

Below is a response to a post on one city blog.

I believe in the importance of ground level political involvement. Mike Gravel said that democracy in America is broken. If you cannot fix the ground level politics, there is no hope to fix the politics at the top.

Mike Gravel said the power of politics is the power to make laws. So maybe the ground level political involvement can focus on how ordinary people can be more involved in making local laws.

If the local politicians put the boundary on what we can do politically, I think there are a lot more local affairs that are beyond the scope of traditional politics. For example, just in your neighborhood, what you can do to make this neighborhood better? For example, make different demographic people more communicating with each other? Hold joint festivals? Or create art projects within the neighborhood? Or have block parties? Make the neighborhood more like a community. There are a lot of things people can get involved to make their neighborhood better. You can just take the initiatives and get people involved.

The web already allows people to organize in an open and transparent way. For example, you can try using openplans.org for your projects. As long as the process is open and transparent, people would love to be involved in your project. They will recognize your authority and leadership, provided you keep doing a fairly good job.

We are in a different time now. The scarce resource is people’s attention. We all need to compete for people’s attention. The traditional politics already failed in drawing people’s attention. The open transparent ground-up self-organizing projects will be the places that people will choose to go. It is like the open source projects. Whether you can get people involved with your project totally depends on whether your project is deemed sufficiently useful and whether the process of the project is open and fair.

Actually just look at IDP. It is an example of how people can organize on the ground level. Although its scope is a little bigger (people of all NYC), it is building something interesting and meaningful, and if well-built can be an infrastructure of this big community of NYC.

In a summary, what people can do and organize together to improve our social lives, are way beyond the scope of the traditional politics. Initiate and participate in various community projects in our social domain is the way to take back our democracy. Maybe when we can do well and have very mature experiences and models in all these self-organizing projects, it will be time for us to take back politics. I mean it will be time for people to be involved to make laws that are currently monopolized by a few minorities.

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Filed under Grassroots, Open Project

Why I choose New York

When I graduated from school, I was faced with a decision: whether to go to Scillicon Valley or go to New York. Since this is time of Web2.0 Expo at New York, I would like to write a little about why I chose New York.

First of all, I love Silicon Valley. I have been there and really liked it. For start-ups, it might be better to go there. But I think New York is a culture center, and I always software is a bridge between social science and physical science. Software is not just about computers. It is to give human consciousness a concrete form. Software, especially social software, is to solve problems and meet the challenges in the complex and highly human related domains. There are more artists communities and professionals communities in New York. To me, the future of software is to support these artists and professionals communities.  So this is the biggest reason why I have chosen New York.

I might be wrong in my choice. Especially in the short term, it seems it would have been easier if I go to Silicon Valley. In the long term, it is still hard to say that New York will win out.

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Filed under About Software, Open Project, Social Software

Open response to Tim O’reilly

Open response to Tim O’reilly’s keynote speech at Web2.0 Expo New York.

The keynote speaking today given by Tim O’reilly is very inspiring. Thank him for giving that kind of speech. In response to him, I want to talk about my thinking on these issues. I don’t have all the answers. I have some, which hopefully can get us to the next step.

I’ve been thinking about these since my childhood. So even I am still young, I have a lot of experiences of this. I can think about those since my childhood because I had a very wonderful childhood and I think life is precious. Thus I think everyone should have the opportunity to best pursue his life. Seeing many adults around me not able to do that promoted me to think about it.

Since then I have tried all my life to expand my knowledge and improve my understanding of the world. I have tried to learn many different things. They open myself up to various worlds of knowledge and help me understand the world we are living in.

O’reilly talked about all the one line slogans of MS and google. Those are what they are fighting for. What is my one line slogan? Two things. Bring out the true face of learning. Build a better playground.

Clay Shirky talked about a very good story of a student getting into trouble after starting a study group on the facebook. But in this story, I want to ask why people have to be forced to learn. Should they just participate in learning what they want to learn? What are all these energy wasted in trying to take a free ride and steal the answers. Obviously something is very worng with our education system.

Below is an assembly of links to my essays that you can read to get to know more of what I mean by “Bring out the true face of learning. Build a better playground.


Against Compulsory Schooling: from mass production to empowering individual professionals

https://freestone.wordpress.com/2007/03/25/against-compulsory-schooling/

Peace: what is peace and how to build peace in our world

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

Build a better playground

https://freestone.wordpress.com/2008/03/20/build-a-better-playground/

Featured Essays:
https://freestone.wordpress.com/category/featured-essays/

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Filed under Elearning, Grassroots, Natural Learning, Open Project, unschooling

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.

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

Peace: What is peace? How do we build peace in our world?

We human beings, like everything else, are just like simple objects, which have both inside and outside. Deep inside of us is an inner core. On our outside, we have an outer layer that is in touch with the outside world. Various forces are acting upon us through the outside layer and are transformed into various signals and passed through to the inner core. The matter of the outer layer, according to my personal experience, is like fluid. It flows naturally and responds to the outside like a mirror in a very spontaneous way. The inner core, however, seems to be of a matter that when overworked becomes very sticky and it sticks itself to whatever it touches. When you see a table, the concept of table will arise in your mind, which traps you and drags your mind preventing it from following the flow of the outside world.

The inner core is shaped by the signals and forces passed through the outer layer. Though the inner core carries out certain functions based on the signals from the outside world and is important to us as human being, the inner core by itself is never able to figure out the truth. Many problems of our world can be attributed to people’s tendency to acknowledge the inner core unconditionally, and attempting to figure out the truth by the inner core itself. Every concept has two sides. So they will start fighting with each other. One concept leads to another concept. They begin fighting among themselves. This drives the person crazy. He becomes mad. That is why we have wars. Cultures that are obsessed with this inner core, acknowledging it unconditionally, have caused conflicts and great harms around the world.

Understanding this root of violence, we should realize that violence can never be overcome by the force of violence. Only the force of peace can dissolve force of violence.

Thus it is important to go back to the nature, realizing we are part of the nature, that is where we come from, and that is our source. By fully in touch with the outside world with all our senses (which compose our outside layer), we can get out of the grip of the inner core, and our mind can start flowing and reflecting like a mirror again. Realizing the inner core, which we often culturally mistake as our identified self, is by every means connected and shaped by the outside world, is the base of love. Without love, we probably cannot live even for one single day. The fact that we are still living in this world means that we are in love with this world.

The whole universe never changes and never moves.  Just as in our sitting meditation, we are able to feel the absolute stillness. As the world goes faster, it has to split into small parts. There are greater forces applied to those small parts, and it relies on the response of those small parts to follow the flow. When those small parts can follow the move of the whole, there is no time and there is peace. For  example, when playing sports, you need to put greater emphasis on the parts of the body that are involved in that sports, such as legs in soccer. As the game becomes faster, you need to make your legs stronger and more skillful in its following and interacting with the space.  When you can follow the flow, you feel of no time. When activity is very slow, you can feel total harmony with the bigger environment, and the consciousness can reach very far. When the activity gets faster, because of our limitedness, we have to focus on the specific parts that are involved, and thus we are not able to pay attention to things far away. For example, in martial arts, if it gets faster and more people attack you, you will have greater difficulty to focus on things far away, and dodging the arrows that enemy shoot at you. 🙂  Thus playing and fun are essential for us to be able to follow the flow of the moving world.

Our world manifests both absolute and relative. Absolute is the absolute stillness. It is the thing that never changes. Relative is the relative dynamic evolving process. This process is the activity of living. Thus this is what life is about. It is the thing that never fixates and is always evolving. To obtain the peace in our world, it is not enough to just understand the absolute. It is also important to understand the changing and evolving aspect of our world. I guess this is a lesson the east can learn from the west.

To understand the relative evolving process, we need to understand the peaceful forces that cause the evolving process. To understand this is the same as to understand what life is about. These forces are the same forces that acted upon our outer layer and shaped the inner beauty of our core.

So what are the outside forces that shape our inner core? I would say briefly that they are beauty, fun, and love.

We are often awed by the beauty of the outside world, and we strive hard to create beauty in our lives and in our minds. The beauty of the nature is such a powerful force that drive people for their whole life. We perceive the beauty of the outside world through various senses in our outer layer. The emptiness manifests itself as various senses of beauties that we can perceive with our senses. It is beautiful because it contains both absolute and relative within itself. It has the absolute stillness which never changes. It has the dynamic flow, which never fixates and is always evolving. Through our ears, we perceive the emptiness and beauty of sound. Through our eyes, we perceive the emptiness and beauty of light. All these senses of beauties shape how our inner core perceives as beauty of emptiness. And it shapes how the inner core considers as beauty in the human world. The inner core manifests its understanding of beauty through literature, music, arts, and so on. That is the beauty of the human world.

Fun is our body being able to interact with the outside space, and being together with the outside world. By being able to follow outside world, we can have peace. To be able to follow the outside world, the related part of the body has to truly enjoy its interaction with the space. Having a very good sense of humor is a manifestation of understanding of emptiness. Thus to have a good sense of humor requires a deep understanding of emptiness. That is why humor can dissolve anything and connect people together, making them realize their common humanity even if they had been on ill terms in the past.

Love is realizing the inner core, which we often identify as our self, is actually shaped by the outside world, and thus we are one with the outside world. Manifesting this oneness with outside world, with other people is interpreted as love in every culture. Thus as we are interacting with the outside world every day, we are receiving love every day.

Thus to build the peace in our world, we need to build a society in which every individual can do what s/he likes to do, e.g. pursue her/his art of life. Everyone is unique. Everyone must have something in the world that s/he is the best at. Diversity is the relative thing. It is the nature of life. Equality is the absolute. Equality manifests itself as diversity in the relative thing of life. To achieve equality, we have to encourage our individuals to greatly develop themselves, which is itself the activity of life. The activity of life, is to perceive the force of beauty, to play with this beauty of emptiness and interact with the outside space, and thus to receive love and manifest love. Thus life is to pursue art. Life activities are to learn/grow, to play, and to create.

To create is to grow as life demands enriching itself and creating new lives.

This essay is a general description of what is peace and how to build peace. As to more specifically what we can do to build peace, for me it is my efforts in changing the way people learn and the way how people organize and cooperate with each other. But I will not cover these in this essay.

One extra note on the function of our inner core. One important function of the inner core of our human being is memory. Because of memory, we are able to hold the past and the future together. As life is an dynamic evolving process, we need to grow and figure out the relative of things, which is to tell the difference. To tell the difference is also one important function of our inner core. This is the importance of learning. So learning is an essential part of life. Thus in this relative dynamic evolving living process, we will have confusion. But we need to remember in the absolute there is neither the past nor the future. There is only the present. The necessity of knowing the relative of the past and future is to enable us to be able to better follow the flow. Since we are in a living process, we have no choice but to follow the flow. To follow the flow we need to understand the relative of the dynamic evolving process, which in the human world translates to understanding our history, our current conditioning in our current society and culture, and how we go to the future. If we can be at now, our mind can follow our body instead of being somewhere else. Then you can have peace. In peace, the power of inner core will allow us to follow and creatively engage in the flow of the world.

So the function of the inner core for the purpose of learning is legitimate, and is an essential part of living as a human being. But as said above, when the brain is overworked, it becomes very sticky and attaches itself to whatever it is in touch with, and thus slows you down, exhausts you or drives you crazy. We also need to keep in mind that the relative, no matter how rich it is, is very limited compared to the absolute. Thus it is always important to have access to the unlimited absolute and have it as the source. That will be your base of peace. Indeed, the relative is just the manifestation of the absolute.

I feel the eastern cultures traditionally have played down this relative part of reality. It might because they fear of losing clarity of the understanding of the absolute. As the east meets the west, it is time for us to learn how to sort out the relative of life and build the richness of life, at the same time not to forget the absoluteness of our still and never changing source. Indeed, the absolute and the relative are inextricably bound to each other and they should serve each other.

Now let me bring this a little into our current context of war and peace. It is my understanding and a shared understanding with many people in other countries that the greatest strength of America lies in the relative lack of wars in the continent of America. The long time peace that Americans have enjoyed have built up a strong force of peace within people’s hearts. Even people here may not realize this themselves, it is easy to tell if you compare people here to people in other countries. There are many subtle differences. The few wars that did happen in this continent or wars that America was involved actually did have a traumatic effect on American psychology, as you can find that in the literature and films. The two wars (Civil War and WWII) actually transformed America from scattered, more individual states centered country to a country that has a stronger national identity, from which the corporate and the capitalists are able to have a tighter control of the nation, and thus America loses its essence to the war. 911 further drags America away from who she is. No matter what rhetorics people have for going to war and no matter what noble causes they are trying to serve, they didn’t have the deep experience of the forces of peace. It is because of realizing this power of peace, MLK came to the understanding that non-violence includes not using violence in self-defense. Violence can never be overcome by the force of violence. Only the force of peace can dissolve force of violence.

Whatever people say of the big success and transformation of China, to me that success mostly can be attributed to the peace that we are lucky enough to enjoy for the past 30 years. As I grew up in China, I could feel the functioning of peaceful forces in people’s hearts which gradually settle down the social order from chaos and make people’s hearts warm to each other again. So for me I feel the most important thing for my country (and thus for the world) is to enlarge those peaceful forces, making them functioning more smoothly. One way to do that is to open up more, and engage with the diversity of the outside world. That is the peaceful force that will cause the greater diversity in China (the greatest diversity is that each individual can pursue her/his art of life according to her/his uniqueness.)  and enrich life. That is why I think the culture communication among people at the bottom level is the most important thing among people of different countries.

A little commercial for myself. This essay is just one way I can use to present my understanding of peace. There are many aspects of peace that will be too big to be covered in one essay. You will  have to read my other articles to get to know more the complete picture of how I understand what is peace and how to build peace. 🙂

Note: this essay is more about the big picture of peace. For fine tuned techniques to deal with peace in various situations on a daily basis, I will cover them in other posts.

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Filed under Chan/Zen, Creativity, Cross Culture Communication, Essay, Featured Essays, Grassroots, Natural Learning, Open Project, What is Learning

Comments on the Success Of Open Source

Just finished the book the Success Of Open Source by Steven Weber.

I am glad that people start to summarize our experiences in open source and try to understand its general implication for human society. It is about time. And this book tapped into the open source stories and tried to provide some understanding of it. In my opinion, in many ways this book does point out the direction we are heading. So I would highly recommend this book for reading, as it is very informative and give you an idea where we are going.

I am not going to list all the specifics of why this book is good. I am just going to tell what I wish this book has and what I think will provide a better understanding of open source and its implication for mankind.

The book is still based on the conventional capitalism assumption that people are basically bad. And based on that assumption, it tries to explain how the basically bad people will come together to produce something so wonderful like open source. Thus this book runs into a lot of difficulty because of its assumption. Actually people are basically good. Only a few people try to control, restrict other people and block the majority of the people from access to the playground. And if it is easy for them to do so, they will do it. But with Internet, it becomes more open. And people are empowered. Thus we see the basic goodness of human nature is able to be manifested in this new age. With this assumption, it is very easy to understand open source and the direction we are heading now. This assumption (that people are basically good), is actually not very much an assumption. It is deeply based on experience and insight into human nature.

The assumption of capitalism is needed because at that time abuse of power is hard to be visible and thus given a chance it will definitely happen and will happen on a large scale. And the minority already in power will come up with all kinds of schemes such as compulsory schooling and corporate controlled press to dump people down so they don’t easily see the abuse of power. So the assumption that people is basically bad is practical at that time. But in our time, openness makes abuse of power difficult. Thus the real power (based on professional merits) is more at functioning. So at our time, we should be happy that the basic goodness of human nature can finally emerge and be dominant.

You may think I am too optimistic. But I am optimistic only because I know people are driven by love, fun and beauty and I know what kind potential an individual can have and believe individuals can be trusted to pursue the wellbeing of their own or others if given enough space.

Nonviolence movement could work because of the basic goodness of people. Otherwise, it won’t work.

The book mentioned collective action and tried to understand open source through collective action. Yes, collective action is the key to understand the direction of human history. Economics alone doesn’t explain human history. Unfortunately, in the past, people tend to use economics alone to explain the human society. We have to look at the major forces of history.

So let me do a little analysis of the collective action here. In the past, a minority of people is able to dictate the majority of people with the raw force because people are not connected. Software, especially web, as an extension of human consciousness, by connecting people’s consciousness together, empower individuals to accomplish themselves. And thus collectively, a larger percentage of people are able to break the barrier and make themselves. When survival is not the dominant struggle anymore, to have fun and have a fulfilling life become more important to individuals. Thus money doesn’t have a strong grip on people’s ability and creativity any more. And a larger percentage of people are willing to play and create despite probably not making much money. This is the basic goodness of people. We are here to live, after all. And to live, is to grow, have fun, and create. This is the living force that is emerging in our time. This is why this a totally new beginning for mankind.

The book could have used Nature of Order as the base of his thinking. All the problems the book is trying to address can be better understood in that framework. For example, the center of life and forming of patterns of life.

What is also lacking is understanding of the essence of software. Software is an extension of human consciousness. It is a tool to work with human consciousness. As a digitalized form of human consciousness, it allows human consciousness to finally be connected and be programmed!

I wish this book could have offered more knowledge of human organization (a historic overview of all kinds of human organizations in history will be very helpful) and how the way people organize will undergo fundamental changes in the near future.

We are ushering a brand new page in human history. A better understanding of where we are headed and less confusion will help make sure we can get there.

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Open cooperation within an organization

Each employee can set up his profile, with information about expertises, past projects (possibly a portfolio),  what kinds of services he can provide, contact (email, messenger, phone, with one of them as preferred), available time slot (for online or off line assistance).

If the person has projects that need people to join, he can also post the new project, and specify ways people can participate (open bidding, for example).

This is the thought I have so far. I was experimenting with it recently. It can be within an organization. It can also open up for different kinds of professionals to cooperate online. I think eventually there should be some profile tools that people can use to create their profiles (probably can be different types of profiles geared towards targets). As they join a project or a service (such as providing tech support within an organization or for public), they can be pooled together (such as a pool of techies) (to provide the service). Of course, the process of pooling them together might consist of them filling out some info for that service. But people can always click on their personal profile to get to know more about them.

I guess technically there is nothing very new here, except now it is very easy to do all these things than before.  But the idea of practicing open cooperation within an organization is interesting, and is a challenge to the conventional ways of management.  When this happens beyond an organization to a larger scale, it would be more interesting.

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