Hopes for the second decade of the 21st century: towards building a more open, joyful, and abundant society

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Paul D. Fernhout

Dec 28, 2009, 9:13:28 AM12/28/09
to vir...@googlegroups.com, OpenVirgle
Hope everyone here has a happy new decade. Hard to believe we are soon to be
in the second decade of the 21st century, and we still don't even have
Moonbase Alpha of Space:1999 going yet. :-) I saw that series in the
mid-1970s. I faced a big disappointment in that sense. I'm hopeful the next
couple of decades may realize that vision though, if we work together in an
open way as much as we can.

Anyway, some rambles related to that on my hopes for the second decade of
the 21st century.

=== Moonbase Alpha?

Well, at least we are slowly getting Space:1999 CommLocks, even if the
writers mostly ditched them in the du"mbed down second season:
"The CommLock (Portable Communication and Locking Device) is a hand-held,
multi-function sensor/computer/transceiver designed for use on Moonbase
Alpha and most extraterrestrial space centers. Carried on the belt, it
functions as a security key (restricting access to sensitive and command
areas), a transponder (instantly pinpointing the location of its carrier),
an audio/visual communications unit, and a programmable computer.[2][6] The
CommLock is one of the best known and most enduring designs for Space: 1999.
The original prop was designed around what then was "the world's smallest TV
screen" (the 1971 "Integrated Circuit" Panasonic TR-001, 1.5"/35mm across).
Current Cell Phones have many features anticipated in 1973, including
audio-only and audio/video call capability, computer network access plus
built-in infrared ports and short-range radio (Bluetooth) for communicating
with external devices."

=== The Law of Accelerating Returns

And we may also experience "The Law of Accelerating Returns":
"I emphasize this point because it is the most important failure that
would-be prognosticators make in considering future trends. Most technology
forecasts ignore altogether this "historical exponential view" of
technological progress. That is why people tend to overestimate what can be
achieved in the short term (because we tend to leave out necessary details),
but underestimate what can be achieved in the long term (because the
exponential growth is ignored)."

Although, apparently Kurzweil was not the first to say that. Roy Amara was?

Still, there is an issue of what values are driving those exponential
changes. Competition? Cooperation? Greed for self? Abundance for all?

=== Picking on academia

Why aren't we in space as a society ten years after 1999 (beyond a token
small International Space Station)? Well, there are all sorts of reasons
including Amara's law, but I'll pick on academia as an easy target. :-) And
I hope that academia will be much improved by the end of the next decade,
even if it may go through a lot of suffering because it won't admit its

Just a reminder, especially to Mike: :-)
"University Secrets: Your Guide to Surviving a College Education" by Robert
D Honigman

Related stuff with more links (my me):
"College Daze links "
"The Higher Educational Bubble Continues to Grow"
"Rebutting Communiqu� from an Absent Future (was Re: Information on student

Also, here are some ideas here on heterodox economic alternatives for going
forward beyond what many mainstream economists in academia might suggest
(mostly organized by me at the moment):
"Dealing with a jobless recovery presents global society with some difficult
choices about values and identity. A straightforward way to keep the current
scarcity-based economic system going in the face of the "threat" of
abundance (and limited demand) resulting in a related jobless recovery is to
use things like endless low-level war, perpetual schooling, expanded
prisons, increased competition, and excessive bureaucracy to provide any
amount of make-work jobs to soak up the abundance from high-technology (as
well as to take any amount of people off the streets in various ways). That
seems to be the main path that the USA and other countries have been going
down so far, perhaps unintentionally. Alternatively, there are a range of
other options to chose from, whether moving towards a gift economy, a
resource-based economy, a basic income economy, or strong local
communitarian economies, and to some extent, the USA and other countries
have also been pursuing these options as well, but in a less coherent way.
Ultimately, the approaches taken to move beyond a jobless recovery (either
by creating jobs or by learning to live happily without them) involves
political choices that will reflect national and global values, priorities,
identities, and aspirations."

=== the action has moved to open manufacturing and open societies

As a reminder for new members who continue to join Virgle and OpenVirgle in
ones and twos, most of any development activity here has shifted to the open
manufacturing list or other related places for now, with work towards open
infrastructure building first on Earth, but with an eye to space down the
road. Here is one related discussion group:

And related to open manufacturing, there are ongoing efforts towards
bringing more and more free and open source ideals to our economies.

Here is one:
"In Project Oekonux different people with different opinions and different
methods study the economic and political forms of Free Software. An
important question is, whether the principles of the development of Free
Software may be the foundation of a new economy which may be the base for a
new society."

Here is another:
"We study the impact of Peer to Peer technology and thought on society."

From that last, and why it is probably useless for me to complain about
compulsory schooling or many other things: :-) "You never change things by
fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that
makes the existing model obsolete (Buckminster Fuller)"

=== the central irony of the 21st century

A recent post there included this link:
"A Review Of The Best Robots of 2009"

My own list of videos:
"Robot videos and P2P implications (was Re: A thirty year future...)"

And why robots and computerization will continue to change our economy and
many future jobs won't be done mostly by humans:
"60 jobs that will rock the future... (not)"

We'll get back to interplanetary travel eventually, as long as we can figure
out how to use the emerging tools of abundance, like biotech, nuclear
energy, computer networks, bureaucracy, robotics, nanotech, and so on to
build abundance for all, instead of ironically instead using those tools of
abundance to create and fight over artificial scarcity.

What could be more ironic than a nuclear missile? With nuclear power,
rocketry, new materials, and organized engineers, we could create space
habitats on the Moon, on Mars, at the Asteroids, on the moons of Jupiter,
and beyond, to support quadrillions of human lives in the solar system and
their accompanying biospheres. Instead, people in our global society use
those advanced technologies to make threats related mostly to control of oil
and other resources (including labor) perceived to be scarce. What an irony
-- to fight over oil with nuclear power and related aerospace technologies
that could create global renewable energy like windmills and solar panels.

Likewise, what an irony to build military robots to enforce economic norms
of forced labor for humans to have a right to consume from the industrial
commons. So, we too often use the tools of abundance these days to create
artificial scarcity.

A Speculist Blogtalk radio panel, that I was on, about abundance; I was
encouraged to be there by Joseph Jackson who is working towards a journal on

=== Google as a post-scarcity institution?

Overcoming that core irony of using the tools of abundance according to a
scarcity ideology still prevalent in our present society is IMHO the most
important challenge of the 21st century. And it is an irony present even all
too often at Google itself.

My prediction (or hope?) for the second decade of the 21st century is that
some organization will wrestle with that irony and push it aside and thus
help our society move beyond that irony. That organization would then be
the one that eventually eclipses Google as a sort of de-facto meta-level
world government -- unless Google itself decides to move more in that
direction of addressing that irony in our society and in itself. :-) But,
ironically, Google's past success may stand in the way of it doing that,
because people tend to do more of what they have been rewarded for doing if
they are afraid of scarcity and think they need the money. And Google may
always have one foot in the 20th century and scarcity economics. From:
"Google was founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin while students at Stanford
University. It was first incorporated as a privately held company on
September 4, 1998."

By the way, here is a "future history" involving Google set in a dystopian
alternative universe:
(Making up an alternative past history written from the future. :-)
As a footnote in history of government-approved search engines, "Google" was
the name of a small company created more than twenty years ago, in 1998, as
the starry-eyed impracticable vision of two graduate students at Stanford
University. Using a computer built partially from LEGO bricks:
"Google Founders built Server Casing with LEGO Bricks"
and operating from a garage, these wild-eyed dreamers had a vision of
stealing all information on the planet and supplying free access to it.
While there was no real risk that such people could have succeeded, even
with US$100,000 worth of personal backing from someone at an established
computer company (a trivial amount of money in those days for a startup),
because of the vast computation and electrical demands of such an enterprise
(clearly impossible to meet within a garage if you just do a little math on
even just the electrical demand from several servers), clearly these
individuals involved did not understand free market processes and how all
information would need to be sold in order to promote the creation of more
information. On April 1, 1999, the garage that this small company in was
raided by the US FBI in conjunction with representatives of RIAA, the MPAA,
and the SPA, and the server was confiscated. This was also justified because
the FBI was able to perform successful search queries on explosives
manufacture, and such an information service could have been used for more
terrorists like Timothy McVeigh to learn enough to bomb Federal Office
Buildings. Google co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, are still
awaiting trial in Guantanamo Bay (as of this writing in 2019) for
un-American activities as enemy combatants as threats to the state order.
Through enhanced interrogation techniques, it was discovered that Page and
Brin also had plans to steal the world's books, and more fancifully, set up
an independent society on Mars. While it is laughable to think that such
people could have indexed all the world's proprietary information with a
server that has less power than one of today's highly secure "trusted
computing" cell phones, none-the-less the concern was that such people had
no respect for private intellectual property and the free market that
creates it, and so these two info-terrorists would no doubt have helped
physical terrorists like Timothy McVeigh or others to perform a variety of
anti-social acts. Likewise, such a system could potentially have made copies
of proprietary news articles and slightly harmed our vibrant mainstream
newspaper industry, or worse, created synthetic newspapers with biased views
compared to the unbiased reporting that professional journalists and
publishers are well celebrated for (like with the Pulitzer Prize). The US
government stopped the project and probably for this reason when the project
is periodically rediscovered it is often written about in a romantic tone as
a revolutionary "socialist search engine," decades ahead of its time that
was "destroyed" by the US government because it was "too egalitarian" or
because they didn't understand it. Hopefully this article will show why that
is foolishness.
This footnote in history is brought to you by Mickysearch, the search
engine that gives you the appropriate information you need, when you need
it, and is offering a discount this week, sign up for one year of searching
(maximum 10 queries per month, all with completely safe high-quality US
government approved results), and the cost is only US$1000 a month instead
of the usual US$1500 a month, a cost savings of more than US$50 per search.)

I wrote that inspired by some people putting down project Cybersyn, an early
1970s "socialist" computer network, blending top-down control and bottom-up
feedback based on cybernetic ideas, but which was destroyed just after the
1973 September 11th coup in Chile.

But, rather than that dystopian alternative history, this is what we now
have with Google a decade of exponential growth later: :-)
"Google Tries Not To Be a Black Hole of Brilliance"
Google says it's declined to pursue awesome job prospects to avoid an
over-concentration of brilliance at the search giant. Speaking at the
Supernova conference, Google VP Bradley Horowitz said the company
intentionally leaves some brainpower outside its walls: 'I recently had a
discussion with an engineer at Google and I pointed out a handful of people
that I thought were fruitful in the industry and I proposed that we should
hire these people,' said Horowitz. 'But [the engineer] stopped me and said:
"These people are actually important to have outside of Google. They're very
Google people that have the right philosophies around these things, and it's
important that we not hire these guys. It's better for the ecosystem to have
an honest industry, as opposed to aggregating all this talent at Google."'

One can always find reason to be thankful for what did not happen, and also,
find reason to be optimistic about what might still happen:
"The Optimism of Uncertainty" by Howard Zinn
In this awful world where the efforts of caring people often pale in
comparison to what is done by those who have power, how do I manage to stay
involved and seemingly happy? I am totally confident not that the world will
get better, but that we should not give up the game before all the cards
have been played. The metaphor is deliberate; life is a gamble. Not to play
is to foreclose any chance of winning.
To play, to act, is to create at least a possibility of changing the
world. There is a tendency to think that what we see in the present moment
will continue. We forget how often we have been astonished by the sudden
crumbling of institutions, by extraordinary changes in people's thoughts, by
unexpected eruptions of rebellion against tyrannies, by the quick collapse
of systems of power that seemed invincible. What leaps out from the history
of the past hundred years is its utter unpredictability. This confounds us,
because we are talking about exactly the period when human beings became so
ingenious technologically that they could plan and predict the exact time of
someone landing on the moon, or walk down the street talking to someone
halfway around the earth.

Some more writing on envisioning Google as a post-scarcity institution is
interwoven in here (originally posted to the Virgle list):
"A Rant On Financial Obesity and an Ironic Disclosure "

And here are three other related item by me, connected to financing a
post-scarcity society:

"Basic income from a millionaire's perspective?"

"Towards a Post-Scarcity New York State of Mind (through homeschooling) "

"How to Find the Financing for Achieving the Star Trek Society"

Or, as I wrote here:
A flow into foundations of $55 trillion is expected over the next 25 years:
"Is Open Source the Answer To Giving?"
And TV watching is consuming 2,000 Wikipedias per year [in just the USA]:
"Mining the Cognitive Surplus"
So no one should seriously suggest the absence of money or time for R&D and
deployment is the problem for making either Spaceship Earth or Spaceship
Mars (OpenVirgle) work for everyone, even at the same time. It comes down to
issues like ideology and imagination, not "resources".

=== Overcoming vitamin D deficiency (the sunlight vitamin)

I hope everyone out there is getting enough vitamin D. It's becoming more
widely recognized that most people in industrialized countries are now
vitamin D deficient from spending too much time inside at screens, from
following well meant dermatological advice to avoid the sun, from driving
instead of walking or bicycling, and from better window glass that blocks
UVB to prevent carpet fading (but produces faded people instead).

Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to cancer, depression, schizophrenia,
autism, heart disease, tooth decay, and even influenza. The US RDA was set
decades ago for healthy bones, not a healthy heart, a healthy brain, or a
healthy immunes system, and so the RDA is likely about 10 times too low (and
the toxicity limits were set too low, too, compounding the problem).

Treatment for vitamin D deficiency is simple and inexpensive (although a
blood test periodically is recommended, especially if you supplement); this
web side by Dr. John Cannell, MD, has advice on that:

Other related links on vitamin D:

I'd suggest, if Google wants a healthy staff given all the long hours they
put in indoors making wonderful products like Google Android, Google should
make vitamin D blood tests easily available to all employees, contractors,
and so on, as well as make it easy to get supplements and/or sunlight.
Nationally, remedying vitamin D deficiency might literally save hundreds of
billions of dollars a year in health care costs in the USA, and maybe
trillions globally.

=== On government openness and vitamin D

Looking back, vitamin D deficiency may well have been involved in the deaths
of people I cared about.

As I mentioned here, in a book I wrote inspired in part by the whole Virgle
joke and my related writings to the Virgle and OpenVirgle lists:
"Post-Scarcity Princeton, or, Reading between the lines of PAW for
prospective Princeton students, or, the Health Risks of Heart Disease "
Someone pointed out to me the University of Wisconsin has patents related to
Vitamin D.
So, were people perhaps denied Vitamin D as an example of a public
institution being funded by public dollars privatizing research results?
Something Princeton itself does and encourages. If people were somehow
getting less Vitamin D because of the societal consequences of patents
(including competitivenesses among researchers, but also making techniques
to costly to use or delaying their widespread adoption), it is possible the
the consequences of proprietary knowledge from just this one issue might
have cost our global society many trillions of dollars and untold personal
suffering. Enough money to fund endless researchers making more free
knowledge. Enough to fund endless chairs of Computer Science, instead of
just the one Phil [Goldman] endowed before he died [possibly of vitamin D
deficiency by working indoors too much and avoiding fats, driven in part by
competition and fear, not balance and wholeness]. Meanwhile, the University
of Wisconsin got a little bit bigger, and so did PU. Obviously, I'm all for
the Vitamin D researchers at the University Wisconsin as well as other
universities getting all the resources they need to do good work, even
Princeton. :-) But, there may be a huge problem here with public funding
strategies or research. The proprietary approach to research knowledge may
literally have been costing trillions of dollars a year (in current dollars)
for decades taken across the globe. For the past fifty years, at two
trillion a year in excess medical costs, this might add up to US$100
trillion in excess medical costs due to such medical knowledge being
proprietary and researchers not cooperating more. Of course, then the huge
public health bills are used to justify *increasing* the proprietary aspects
of medical knowledge to create more artificial scarcity -- which is a
tremendous and sad irony.
With all those trillions of dollars of wealth we could have had if
academics had cooperated and lived more balanced lives and shared their
information better, we might have even had Gerry O'Neill's space habitats by
now. (Did Gerry O'Neill's fatal cancer also come in part from vitamin D
deficiency from him working indoors so much?) But no, rather than space
habitats for everyone, [Princeton University] got one more CS chair that it
can boast about.

Here is some more on government openness, something I posted in this
location because it did not show up when I tried to post it at a government
blog on science and technology policy:
"Policy Forum on Public Access to Federally Funded Research: Implementation"
This will probably get modded down as off-topic because it is long and also
talks about the interrelation of research and education, which will be in
part fair and in part an example of the very problem it brings up. But I'll
try anyway to talk about the elephant in the living room here. :-) This blog
system is also not really set up for extensive replies on issues that are
interdisciplinary -- something to think about in redesigning better software
to facilitate public discussions science, technology, and public policy
someday; Slashdot, for example, handles long replies better.
Towards building a 21st-century society in the USA through open research
Summary: This topic of how government funds academic research is fairly
inseparable from related STEM education issues that touch on every aspect of
the USA as it becomes a 21st-century society heavily dependent on science
and technology while at the same time facing an employment crisis (in part
from automation and better design causing structural unemployment -- even
within academia and related research institutions). The essay explores
problems with the current research funding model (of which open publication
is just one part) with connections to all levels of the K-emeritus academic
enterprise. Then it points towards some solutions like a "basic income" to
help the USA transition to a full-fledged 21st century "post-scarcity"
society where giving information away under open licenses would be the
default in most situations.

=== Thanks to Google

It has been thanks to Google being able to connect me to the open
information that is out there that I have found sites like the above and
have been able to put together information like at the other above links. I
have indeed benefited from the "Google Health Plan" (both good and some bad
as outlined here):
"Comics: Dilbert to Provide Google Health Plan"

And I'm even working towards supporting my family now as an Android
Developer. :-) Sadly, though, the plan is to release a proprietary program,
something I'm not happy about doing (to make proprietary software again),
but at least it is a tool intended to help people have more self-created
music in their life. Two steps forward, one step back. :-( If I had been
paying more attention to Android sooner, it would have been nice to put in a
contest entry and then give the software away for free if it won. I'm still
not sure if this is the best name for a company to sell it under, even if it
is appropriate: :-)

In any case, thanks for all the fish, Google. :-) And here for you in
return, if you are paying attention, is maybe some vitamin D from fish oil
or other sources which may do many hard-working Google employees and their
families a world of good. :-) And then, in turn, that abundance may reflect
back and forth in helping the rest of the world and Google again to move
together to more abundance, joy, and openness. :-)

Happy New Decade (in a few days) to all.

--Paul Fernhout

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