A rant on financial obesity and Project Virgle & an ironic disclosure :-)

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Paul D. Fernhout

Apr 21, 2008, 11:54:37 PM4/21/08
to vir...@googlegroups.com
For busy executives, the summary from the end: :-)

So what am I really saying?

That we as a society are not going to happily get to Mars or the Asteroids
or other star systems, or even just fix up Space Ship Earth, until we come
to see the love of money as the problem, not the solution.

Or as made clear by Iain M. Banks:
"Money is a sign of poverty, meaning that money only has a function in a
scarcity economy, and therefore its existence betrays a pre-abundant (poor)

And so financial obesity is part of the problem, not the solution.

Do with that insight what you can, even if only in jest next April 1st. :-)

--Paul Fernhout


A rant on financial obesity and Project Virgle & an ironic disclosure :-)

Now, (April 21st) for those few out there still paying attention, is where
IMHO the original April 1st joke really starts to get weird. Or should I say
"Wired"? :-)

First, please make sure you are sitting comfortably and have no beverages in
your mouth you could choke on in case of either laughter or outrage. :-)

In the interests of up-front disclosure, sooner or later someone savvy in
social networks will figure out an indirect link between my family and, say,
a project like this:
"Son of TIA: Pentagon Surveillance System Is Reborn in Asia"
"Un-wired" (a defense of that system and rebuttal of the article)
"Welcome to RAHS: Risk Assessment & Horizon Scanning"
"Video overview"

I know that disclosure may look bad to some. :-(

Or the height of sublime ironic humor to others. :-)

I did warn you to have no beverages in your mouth you could choke on. :-)

BTW, if you hadn't already figured out that link, maybe you need better
social network analysis software? :-) And no, don't ask me, I'm too busy on
OpenVirgle/OSCOMAK, and I don't write that kind of stuff anyway. :-)

And to think Byte rejected a write up of a simulation of self-replicating
robots I wrote in the 1980s on a Symbolics despite saying it was the most
interesting and fascinating thing they had seen in a long time but wasn't
PC-oriented and business-oriented enough for their new (downward :-)
direction. (I think Marshall Brain may have been at a talk I gave on that
simulation at NCSU. :-)
And now the irony to see this other image actually in print in a comparable
magazine discussed in a highly critical tone :-( That image was done, by the
way, using this free and open source unrelated third-party non-infringing
OpenGL-compatible Java graphics library:
"jGL 3D Graphics Library for Java"
Used already in OpenVirgle here: :-)

If it helps restore a little trust, I can say that my wife and I sincerely
believe that bureaucrats learning to see things from multiple perspectives
will ultimately be a good thing. A system like that might even have helped
US intelligence analysts communicate better to the appointed
commander-in-chief and so avoid wasting trillions of dollars and tens of
thousands of lives for a "preventive" war of choice in Iraq (or soon perhaps
Iran :-( ). And the parts we had anything to do with are also now used to do
things like help provide better care to cancer patients and to better manage
forests. And the larger general ideas there in that video could also be
applied to designing aspects of space settlements as well (substitute
"designer" for "analyst" in that video. :-)

One new word I learned at IBM Research: "co-opetition". :-)

But, is that also another word for dirty hands or hard ethical choices? :-(

Also, in partial defense, we did try NASA first a decade ago (like with the
original idea for OSCOMAK).
But they were too busy running a shuttle to nowhere. :-(
On a tiny budget (relatively speaking). :-(
And I'm not a very good salesperson. :-(

Everybody did get fair warning though, see: :-)
"Har Har! I've never been called a "space pirate" before, but Isaac Asimov
did once call me a "rotten kid". :-)"

Just remember this when I refuse to confirm or deny anything: :-)
"We go back a long way, Lando and me."
"Can you trust him?"
"No. But he has no love for the Empire, I can tell you that."
-- Han Solo and Leia Organa

Prussian-derived "Empire" starved and gassed relatives to death in Holland,
and made my mother as a teenager suffer other horrors that some might feel
worse than death, in part from her ancestry. :-( I think *she* perhaps did
feel that way about those horrors, and so moved to the USA after WWII to try
to escape that horrendous past. But as my well traveled (Merchant Marine)
father said, "Wherever you go, you take yourself along." In the abundant
USA. my mother spent decades hording food and becoming obese (she had an old
relative literally die of starvation in her household, although he was very
sick and weak already when he arrived at her home I heard).

The result of living through extreme scarcity is often hording and obesity.
I don't want to see that happen again on Mars -- or on Earth. :-(

Why should I love Empire and killing and starving people for a cause whether
it is called "Deutschland", "America", "Profit", "Babylon", "Virgle",
"Capitalism", or even "Zion"? :-(
Though I certainly have no love for terrorists either, who are mostly just
the flip side of the same coin with "empire" on the other face IMHO. :-(
Same with killing and destroying for any "ism":
And as my mother told me, for every German soldier killed in Rotterdam, ten
townspeople would be grabbed at random and lined up and shot as collective
So killing doesn't work anyhow (at least, when you are not Emperor). German
culture has progressed far beyond that now, I am glad to see. Maybe the USA
could learn something from them now, or from others:
People change and systems change all the time, often with unexpected quickness:
"The Optimism of Uncertainty"
Still, when all you have is a military, every problem looks like a war:
Alternative (at least as a first step):
So will we soon see the "War on getting to Mars"? :-(

BTW, Singapore is an interesting place to learn about if you think about
that city-state as a prototype of the world's first space settlement. :-)
Although one can also imagine many alternative future forms of space
settlement governance than "Disneyland with the Death Penalty": :-(

There, now, including my previous posts, I probably have everyone across the
political spectrum pissed at me. :-) And a few laughing, I hope, though
hopefully not to the point of pissing in their pants over the irony. :-)
Who have I not touched on in my monologues? Google-ites. Foundation
managers. "Terrorists". The imperial/government/school/military/corporation
complex that spawns them all. :-( Both Zionists and Neo-Nazis. Even the
*real* sea pirates in the Straits. :-( As well as likely those other
alienated youth caught in the middle of all that worldwide mess who feel
betrayed looking for easy answers or simple characters:
“The reason our [British] children’s lives are the worst among economically
advanced countries is because we are a poor version of the USA,” he said.
“So the USA comes second from bottom and we follow behind. The age of
neo-liberalism, even with the human face that New Labour has given it,
cannot stem the tide of the social recession capitalism creates.”

Rhetorically, I wonder what *they* all have in common? :-)

Hint: Empire (and profit) or its blowback. :-)

And Empire is, IMHO, a big part of the reason we can't seem to find the
either for a decent civilian space program or cleaning up Spaceship Earth
which we are all already on board (and then making the world game play out
well for all the passengers).

And it seems if you oppose *both* Empire and the terrorists it spawns:
"Obama Identifies Iraqi 'Blowback'"
that doesn't leave many friendly faces, or does it? :-)
"Wright's "Blowback""
"It seems the Rev. Wright is being asked to head to the back of some
Straight-Talking Express bus. Quiet, boy, only distinguished white
professors are permitted, with impunity, to gussy up the patently obvious in
books that the great unwashed will never read, nor should they. That might
crimp our imperial style."

It would be such a farce if people on all sides weren't dying. :-(
Or becoming physical and emotional and genetic casualties:
Or becoming refugees:
"Iraqi refugees throughout the region have become increasingly desperate.
Despite a decline in violence in the second half of 2007, only a small
number have gone home, often because their resources are exhausted. Of those
who returned to Iraq, many found their property occupied and suffered
secondary displacement. UNHCR estimates more than 4.7 million Iraqis have
left their homes, many in dire need of humanitarian care. Of these, more
than 2.7 million Iraqis are displaced internally, while more than 2 million
have fled to neighbouring states, particularly Syria and Jordan. Many were
displaced prior to 2003, but the largest number has fled since. In 2006,
Iraqis became the leading nationality seeking asylum in Europe."

Essentially, by focusing on "profit" (and so Empire to defend that profit
and related "ownership" and "equity") this is the kind of deadly farce of
the bubble of Empire that Google and Virgin are (in jest) proposing bringing
to Mars. It's just the "unsaid" part of the prayer/joke:
"The War Prayer" by Mark Twain
Paraphrased: "... You heard the words 'Grant us the [profits on Mars], O
Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is
compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you
have prayed for [profits on Mars] you have prayed for many unmentioned
results which follow [profits on Mars] -- must follow it, cannot help but
follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God fell also the unspoken part of
the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen! ... [Help] us to
turn [those who cannot pay their air fees or water fees or patent fees or
copyright fees] out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended
in the wastes of [Mars] in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun
flames in summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with
travail, imploring thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it -- For our
sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract
their bitter pilgrimmage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their
tears, stain the white [CO2] snow with the blood of their wounded feet [so
that others will see that suffering and so work harder for profits on Mars
to avoid the same for their families]! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of
Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and
friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite
hearts. Amen. ..."

But Google-ites apparently can't see beyond profit even in jest. Or can
they? I can hope this jest was just a nervous laugh by Google at itself. But
with the Virgin involvement, somehow I doubt that. :-( I'll be glad to be
proven wrong. And I also thought that way myself years ago:
So people can change. Even me. :-)

"There is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success,
nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things.
For the reformer has enemies in all who profit by the old order.
This luke-warmness arises partly from fear of their adversaries,
who have the law in their favor; and partly from the incredulity of mankind,
who do not truly believe in anything new until they have had actual
experience of it." -- Machiavelli "The Prince"

Caught in the middle of all this mess, you can hopefully see why I keep
requoting Manuel De Landa as my conceptual shield. :-( Or perhaps security
blanket? :-)
"To make things worse, the solution to this is not simply to begin adding
meshwork components to the mix. Indeed, one must resist the temptation to
make hierarchies into villains and meshworks into heroes, not only because,
as I said, they are constantly turning into one another, but because in real
life we find only mixtures and hybrids, and the properties of these cannot
be established through theory alone but demand concrete experimentation.
Certain standardizations, say, of electric outlet designs or of
data-structures traveling through the Internet, may actually turn out to
promote heterogenization at another level, in terms of the appliances that
may be designed around the standard outlet, or of the services that a common
data-structure may make possible. On the other hand, the mere presence of
increased heterogeneity is no guarantee that a better state for society has
been achieved. After all, the territory occupied by former Yugoslavia is
more heterogeneous now than it was ten years ago, but the lack of uniformity
at one level simply hides an increase of homogeneity at the level of the
warring ethnic communities. But even if we managed to promote not only
heterogeneity, but diversity articulated into a meshwork, that still would
not be a perfect solution. After all, meshworks grow by drift and they may
drift to places where we do not want to go. The goal-directedness of
hierarchies is the kind of property that we may desire to keep at least for
certain institutions. Hence, demonizing centralization and glorifying
decentralization as the solution to all our problems would be wrong. An open
and experimental attitude towards the question of different hybrids and
mixtures is what the complexity of reality itself seems to call for. To
paraphrase Deleuze and Guattari, never believe that a meshwork will suffice
to save us."

Although DMCA is also a bit of a safe harbor for service providers, like for
OSCOMAK-like systems: :-)

Or as I wrote elsewhere in my own words:
"... I agree with the sentiment of the Einstein quote [That we should
approach the universe with compassion], but
that sentiment itself is only part of a larger difficult-to-easily-resolve
situation. It become more the Yin/Yang or Meshwork/Hierarchy situation I
see when I look out my home office window into a forest. On the surface it
is a lovely scene of trees as part of a forest. Still, I try to see *both*
the peaceful majesty of the trees and how these large trees are brutally
shading out of existence saplings which are would-be competitors (even
shading out their own children). Yet, even as big trees shade out some of
their own children, they also put massive resources into creating a next
generation, one of which will indeed likely someday replace them when they
fall. I try to remember there is both an unseen silent chemical war going
on out there where plants produce defense compounds they secrete in the
soil to inhibit the growth of other plant species (or insects or fungi) as
a vile act of territoriality and often expansionism, and yet also the
result is a good spacing of biomass to near optimally convert sunlight to
living matter and resist and recover from wind and ice damage. I try to
recall that there is the most brutal of competition between species of
plants and animals and fungi and so on over water, nutrients (including
from eating other creatures), sunlight, and space, while at the same time
each bacterial colony or multicellular organism (like a large Pine tree)
is a marvel of cooperation towards some implicitly shared purpose. I see
the awesome result of both simplicity and complexity in the organizational
structure of all these organisms and their DNA, RNA, and so on, adapted so
well in most cases to the current state of such a complex web of being.
Yet I can only guess the tiniest fraction of what suffering that selective
shaping through variation and selection must have entailed for untold
numbers of creatures over billions of years. To be truthful, I can
actually *really* see none of that right now as it is dark outside this
early near Winter Solstice time (and an icy rain is falling) beyond
perhaps a silhouette outline, so I must remember and imagine it,
perhaps as Einstein suggests as an "optical delusion of [my]
consciousness". :-) "

So much for "world peace" when even the tranquil seeming forests have so
much Yin-Yang complexity going on within and around the trees. :-) The best
I feel we can hope for is balance (like Ursula K. Le Guin's writings):
or maybe, transcendence to some form of universe certainly way beyond our
present understanding; example, with its own flaws:
But still, no matter what examples the universes sets before us, or in what
proportion, as *ethical* and *spiritual* beings, we humans can choose a
different way, and at least approximate world peace among ourselves as best
we can. Something I learned from an old and wise biologist (Larry Slobodkin)
who studied both philosophy and nature.

What a dangerous game life is, especially living in "interesting times". :-(
The good news is, no one will get out of this infinite game alive anyway, so
we might as well have some fun with it 'till then. :-)

See why the USA has to spend about $600 billion a year on K-12 and college
education (instead of, say, the space program):
to keep the US American people "disciplined" and not playful:
and then "busy" afterwards (including with a military budget 50X NASA's):
"Let's pretend for a moment that work doesn't turn people into stultified
submissives. Let's pretend, in defiance of any plausible psychology and the
ideology of its boosters, that it has no effect on the formation of
character. And let's pretend that work isn't as boring and tiring and
humiliating as we all know it really is. Even then, work would still make a
mockery of all humanistic and democratic aspirations, just because it usurps
so much of our time. Socrates said that manual [or intellectual :-)]
laborers make bad friends and bad citizens because they have no time to
fulfill the responsibilities of friendship and citizenship. He was right.
Because of work, no matter what we do, we keep looking at our watches."

That $600 billion a year is spent essentially from fear of the human
potential. From fear of "OpenVirgle". From *fear* the kids might actually
figure out how to go to Mars instead of being profligate consumers and
obedient cannon fodder soldiers. :-( That fear is still the fundamental
basis of the two biggest institutions almost all of us spend almost all of
our time (school and work). And so *fear* is what keeps more people from
doing space settlement given how interesting it is and how much prosperity
our mostly automated productive systems can pump out -- whether those free
people work on OpenVirgle or choose another approach or another related good
cause (Earthly sustainability).
And it is likely fear that holds Google back from becoming a post-scarcity
organization despite the continuing rush of exponential growth in
technological capacity its planners surely must be predicting:

Now some fears are good to have. But some are not.

And one of the few antidotes to fear is ... humor. :-)
And I'm glad to see Google-ites still have some, even given the insanely
long hours at Google (which frankly are illegal in other parts of the world. :-)

But is humor enough? From:
"Ordinary people send their children to school to get smart, but what modern
schooling teaches is dumbness. It’s a religious idea gone out of control.
You don’t have to accept that, though, to realize this kind of economy would
be jeopardized by too many smart people who understand too much. I won’t ask
you to take that on faith. Be patient. I’ll let a famous American publisher
explain to you the secret of our global financial success in just a little
while. ..."

But maybe things are different for middle- and upper-middle-class kids? Or
in private schools?

Again from Gatto:
Jacques Ellul, whose book Propaganda is a reflection on the phenomenon,
warned us that prosperous children are more susceptible than others to the
effects of schooling because they are promised more lifelong comfort and
security for yielding wholly: "Critical judgment disappears altogether, for
in no way can there ever be collective critical judgment....The individual
can no longer judge for himself because he inescapably relates his thoughts
to the entire complex of values and prejudices established by propaganda.
With regard to political situations, he is given ready-made value judgments
invested with the power of the truth by...the word of experts." The new
dumbness is particularly deadly to middle- and upper-middle-class kids
already made shallow by multiple pressures to conform imposed by the outside
world on their usually lightly rooted parents. When they come of age, they
are certain they must know something because their degrees and licenses say
they do. They remain so convinced until an unexpectedly brutal divorce, a
corporate downsizing in midlife, or panic attacks of meaninglessness upset
the precarious balance of their incomplete humanity, their stillborn adult
lives. Alan Bullock, the English historian, said Evil was a state of
incompetence. If true, our school adventure has filled the twentieth century
with evil. Ellul puts it this way: "The individual has no chance to exercise
his judgment either on principal questions or on their implication; this
leads to the atrophy of a faculty not comfortably exercised under [the best
of] conditions...Once personal judgment and critical faculties have
disappeared or have atrophied, they will not simply reappear when propaganda
is suppressed...years of intellectual and spiritual education would be
needed to restore such faculties. The propagandee, if deprived of one
propaganda, will immediately adopt another, this will spare him the agony of
finding himself vis a vis some event without a ready-made opinion."

So, the few in the world with money generally are so *seriously* :-) caught
up in keeping it all or becoming even *more* pathologically financially
obese, that they can't help the world transition to a post-scarcity (and
humorous :-) economy either.

Look at Project Virgle and "An Open Source Planet":
Even just in jest some of the most financially obese people on the planet
(who have built their company with thousands of servers all running
GNU/Linux free software) apparently could not see any other possibility but
seriously becoming even more financially obese off the free work of others
on another planet (as well as saddling others with financial obesity too
:-). And that jest came almost half a *century* after the "Triple
Revolution" letter of 1964 about the growing disconnect between effort and
productivity (or work and financial fitness):
Even not having completed their PhDs, the top Google-ites may well take many
more *decades* to shake off that ideological discipline. I know it took me
decades (and I am still only part way there. :-) As with my mother, no doubt
Googlers have lived through periods of scarcity of money relative to their
needs to survive or be independent scholars or effective agents of change.
Is it any wonder they probably think being financially obese is a *good*
thing, not an indication of either personal or societal pathology? :-(

Think of what even just a million independent minds could do for the world
if, like Rachel Corrie, they all had her courage and if they were also not
too worried about future employment (my advantage as a stay-at-home Dad. :-)

And, yes, like Rachel, sadly, some of them will die for their beliefs.
"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of
patriots and tyrants." -- Thomas Jefferson

But again, like Rachel, even if sadly some might *die* for their beliefs,
hopefully none would ever *kill* for their beliefs. There is a huge
difference. Imagine, if. say, a million unarmed average US Americans had
walked into Afghanistan or Iraq or Saudi Arabia (where most of the hijackers
were from) after 9/11 bearing gifts and helpful skills for the average
people of those places *instead* of a million armed soldiers bringing shock
and awe. And kept giving even if 10% of them were brutally killed. What that
would have *proved* about the wrongness of terrorism and 9/11 and the
deepness of the generous US American character which helped end the "hunger
winter" and earned the Dutch people's gratitude. So maybe this sounds
impossible. But at least it is the kind of thing we can think about -- what
if it was possible? Say, for North Korea? What if?

The fact is, there are far more than six *million* millionaire families in
the USA who would never have to "work" another day in their lives if they
were frugal (and so could work full time on space settlement or other
worthwhile charitable free ends).
There must just be a failure of imagination that keeps them from it. Or an
excess of a certain capitalist religion shown on a libertarian-leaning
college mailing list I am on (and usually disagreeing :-). Or a failure to
be able to define "enough" and move beyond a fear of becoming poor. And the
millionaires I've known or heard of who became suddenly wealthy generally
are suddenly adrift in a life that has not prepared them for thinking about
deep questions like what their values and priorities really are and why --
and working through that takes time which they often don't have as money
runs away from them spent on trivialities of "their stillborn adult lives".
And the stable millionaires who have slowly earned their wealth are often so
enmeshed in the current order of things to make it hard to see beyond it (a
current order which they may well have genuinely and sincerely tried to make
better, like at Google, and even succeeded at doing so to an extent, within
the bounds of Empire.)

And no, I am not a millionaire. I'm just a somewhat frugal guy
with a little imagination and a hard working spouse (who is probably much
smarter and more imaginative than me in many ways. :-)
That's one reason we are stuck with so many hard choices day-to-day, like
whether to purchase health insurance or not, or develop intelligence systems
or not. :-(

Fortunately we don't have the worse choices of many US Americans these days
of whether to starve or freeze. :-(
"Feeds more than 25 million hungry Americans each year"
"“It is tragic and alarming that more and more people are relying on
emergency food assistance in the United States, where we produce enough food
to feed every hungry person in the world,” said Robert Forney, President and
CEO of the America's Second Harvest Network."

And the final solution for that still seems a ways off, giving us a short
time still to act and play with better scenarios than this:
"Ultimately, you would expect that there would be riots across America. But
the people could not riot. The terrorist scares at the beginning of the
century had caused a number of important changes. By 2030, there were video
security cameras and microphones covering and recording nearly every square
inch of public space in America. There were taps on all phone conversations
and Internet messages sniffing for terrorist clues. If anyone thought about
starting a protest rally or a riot, or discussed any form of civil
disobedience with anyone else, he was branded a terrorist and preemptively
put in jail. Combine that with robotic security forces, and riots are
impossible. ... Because no one had a window, they could really pack people
into these buildings. Each terrafoam dorm building had a four-acre foot
print. It was a perfect 417 foot by 417 foot by 417 foot solid brown cube.
Each cube originally held exactly 76,800 people. Doubling this to 153,600
people in each building was unthinkable, but they were doing it anyway. On
the other hand, you had to marvel at the efficiency. At that density, they
could house every welfare recipient in the entire country in less than 1,500
of these buildings. By spacing the buildings 100 feet apart, they could
house 200,000,000 people in a space of less than 20 square miles if they had
wanted to. At that density, they could put everyone in the country without a
job into a space less than five miles square in size, put a fence around it
and forget about us. If they accidentally dropped a nuclear bomb or two on
us, we would all be gone and they wouldn't have to worry about us anymore."

Also, more important than implementations I or others may do (or fail to do
from lack of focus or time) are the *ideas* behind them. And the *ethics*
behind them. And the April 1st Project Virgle announcement has made it
possible for me to get these ideas out there as one more voice in the
chorus, by giving me a drop more of creative energy. :-) Even if, as with
Lando Calrissian, the ethical decisions of living in the middle of
Empire-enforced scarcity (25 million hungry Americans?) can often be quite
complex. :-( Like we just sent a check to the US Empire for enough money to
have paid someone to work on Project Virgle full time for a year (well,
maybe in India :-), when I know much of it will instead pay for the US
Military (and bullets and cluster bombs and land mines) instead.
To be clear, I'd happily pay more in taxes if like in much of Europe
everyone else did and the money was well spent.

See also: :-)
"Spock gets an idea and decides to dump and ignite all the remaining fuel
from the [shuttlecraft's] engines [rather than maintain orbit as long as
possible which would result in sure doom to follow for everyone in his care
in an hour]. This produces a giant flare that is easily spotted by the
Enterprise sensors. Once again, Kirk turns the ship around and transports
the survivors out just moments before the shuttle is destroyed on re-entry."

Maybe the millionaires and billionaires and trillionaires (governments) out
there should think on Spock's choice as capitalistic and militaristic
irrational exuberance starts reentering the stratosphere (wars over food,
water, arms, climate, and oil profits, and yes, blowback from terrorism).
And actually do something besides compete and make jokes:
"No Contest, which has been stirring up controversy since its publication in
1986, stands as the definitive critique of competition. Drawing from
hundreds of studies, Alfie Kohn eloquently argues that our struggle to
defeat each other -- at work, at school, at play, and at home -- turns all
of us into losers."

But given what Gatto and Ellul say, that action may be a long time coming
because the wealthy get so much emotional reward out of believing the
propaganda of elites deserving abundance amidst scarcity for the many and
spreading that propaganda further (even via Virgle).
"The Mythology of Wealth"
"The cheap-labor conservative “minimalist government” social Darwinian world
view is just plain bullshit. It builds a new class structure, which just
like the ancient class structures, is based on a set of mythological
concepts. In fact, those mythological concepts like “property rights”,
“contract rights”, “corporations”, “stocks”, “bonds”, and even “money”
itself are socially created to regulate distribution and access to
resources. The “market place” is a human creation. The details of how it
operates are determined by the particulars of the institutions on which it
is built. It is “instituted among men”, and if its workings become
destructive of the lives, liberty and pursuit of happiness of people subject
to it, it may be “altered or abolished”."

For example, Google contractors get no Segways and massages?
Or second class badges?
"I used to work at Google as a Contractor. Let me tell you, it wasn't the
greatest place for a contractor. First, you have red badges, so anyone with
a Google badge looks down on you. Already you feel left out, and you don't
feel like enjoying all the benefits Googler's have. ... I don't miss working
there. The people arn't really all that friendly, people have arrogance and
MBA, PHD attitudes."

And ultimately, aren't even the people in sweatshops in, say, China who
build component used in Google servers in some sense Google contractors?
Definitely no Segways or massages for them. :-(
"Well over 150 million migrant workers from rural areas have crowded into
the cities over the past decade in search of economic survival. They may
regularly not get paid for months at a time. Public healthcare across the
economy is declining to the point where many millions of working families
cannot afford to seek medical care or risk huge debt if they do. Migrant
workers are at especial risk. Large numbers of workers in the toy industry
have now lost their jobs directly as a result of the Mattel recall, and its
fallout continues. They are the direct victims of their local bosses' abuses
and the lack of safety control. But of course they and their stories and
suffering, literally inscribed in the toys they make, remain invisible."

So what is Google Headquarters in Mountain View, California but a little
temporary space habitat bubble of happiness for regular employees, but
floating on a sea of relative misery for everyone else planetwide who
supports it? Can't we as a society or Google/Virgle as an aspiration do
better that that? And even within that bubble are emerging issues. How long
can a company expect to run on twenty-somethings without kids?

Google-ites and other financially obese people IMHO need to take a good look
at the junk food capitalist propaganda they are eating and serving up to
others, as in saying (even in jest):
"we should profit from others' use of our innovations, and we should buy or
lease others' intellectual property whenever it advances our own goals"
-- even while running one of the biggest post-scarcity enterprises on Earth
based on free-as-in-freedom software. :-(

Until then, it is up to us other
"semi-evil ... quasi-evil ... not evil enough" hobbyists with smaller
budgets to save the Asteroids and the Planets (including Earth)
from financially obese people and their unexamined evil plans to spread
profit-driven scarcity-creating Empire throughout every nook-and-cranny of
the universe. :-(
"The Emperor: Young fool... Only now, at the end, do you understand... [the
power of love of money :-(]"

Actually, in Google's defense, as far as most newly wealthy, key Google
people have done far, far better than most by tithing 10% of the Google IPO
to charitable causes:
But they remain financially obese. Michael Phillips in _The Seven Laws of
Money_ suggests
that from his experience on the board of the Point Foundation that it was
almost impossible to give money away effectively. And I'd certainly agree
the world may well be better served with the current leadership at Google
(who are at least trying not to be "evil", even if that is impossible 100%
in our society or in life in general) instead of if they sold out to another
new Google leadership that might be 100% evil, especially given Google is
rapidly becoming a de-facto world government in some ways.
"Cory Doctorow's Fiction About An Evil Google"
So, their situation is not an easy one. And I may poke fun at them (as they
poked fun at all of us on April 1st), but I would not bother if I did not in
some sense also respect their accomplishments and their potential.

So what am I really saying?

That we as a society are not going to happily get to Mars or the Asteroids
or other star systems, or even just fix up Space Ship Earth, until we come
to see the love of money as the problem, not the solution.

Or as made clear by Iain M. Banks:
"Money is a sign of poverty, meaning that money only has a function in a
scarcity economy, and therefore its existence betrays a pre-abundant (poor)

And so financial obesity is part of the problem, not the solution.

Do with that insight what you can, even if only in jest next April 1st. :-)

I'll say this about my mom: obese and chainsmoker that she was later in
life, she was a real trooper to the end. I can respect her for that. And she
had to live with far worse than three rich guys making fun at her dreams.
Anyway, I'm getting bored and talked out with making political and social
comments here (I can hear the cheers and applause :-), so on to more
programming etc. on OpenVirgle and OSCOMAK.

--Paul Fernhout
Putting Ki-Aikido into practice throughout the Universe? :-)

[Note: on physical obesity: I'm overweight and working on it. :-)
copyright (c) 2008 Paul D. Fernhout
Verbatim copying and redistribution of this entire document are permitted
provided this notice is preserved.


Apr 22, 2008, 1:49:40 AM4/22/08
to Project Virgle
I agree with everything but one point, a minor use of diction, I would
replace "rant" in the title with "the most insightful, applicable, and
hopefully influential, essay written in history."

I also feel the need to brag for noticing the aasimov hint, though I
didn't look into it much.

Luckily, as an existentialist with a streak of accepted and embraced
nihilism in the back of my mind, I am one laughing at the irony.

I fully intend to e-mail and text message a link to this essay to
multiple people, as it provides a clear summary of what many of the
other points you have made and seems to lend itself to that end.

On Apr 21, 9:54 pm, "Paul D. Fernhout" <pdfernh...@kurtz-fernhout.com>
> betrayed looking for easy answers or simple characters:http://www.adbusters.org/the_magazine/71/Generation_Fcked_How_Britain...
> “The reason our [British] children’s lives are the worst among economically
> advanced countries is because we are a poor version of the USA,” he said.
> “So the USA comes second from bottom and we follow behind. The age of
> neo-liberalism, even with the human face that New Labour has given it,
> cannot stem the tide of the social recession capitalism creates.”
> Rhetorically, I wonder what *they* all have in common? :-)
> Hint: Empire (and profit) or its blowback. :-)
> And Empire is, IMHO, a big part of the reason we can't seem to find the
> resources
>    http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/spending.htm
> either for a decent civilian space program or cleaning up Spaceship Earth
>  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spaceship_Earth
> which we are all already on board (and then making the world game play out
> well for all the passengers).
>  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Game
> And it seems if you oppose *both* Empire and the terrorists it spawns:
>   "Obama Identifies Iraqi 'Blowback'"http://thegate.nationaljournal.com/2007/07/obama_identifies_iraqi_blo...
>  http://www.educationanddemocracy.org/FSCfiles/C_CC2a_TripleRevolution...
>   "The Mythology of Wealth"http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&...
> Putting Ki-Aikido into practice throughout the Universe? :-)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shin_Shin_Toitsu_Aikido
> [Note: on physical obesity: I'm overweight and working on it. :-)http://www.webmd.com/diet/news/20070702/stress-unlocks-fat-cells-ups-...http://www.engadget.com/2005/06/08/the-treadmill-workstation/

Paul D. Fernhout

Apr 22, 2008, 10:54:05 AM4/22/08
to vir...@googlegroups.com
One of the most interesting things about over-the-top flattery is that it
works best on people who think they are too smart to fall for it. :-)

"Experience as a moderator of the media equation: the impact of flattery and
"This study extends previous media equation research, which showed that the
effects of flattery from a computer can produce the same general effects as
flattery from humans. Specifically, the study explored the potential
moderating effect of experience on the impact of flattery from a computer.
One hundred and fifty-eight students from the University of Queensland
voluntarily participated in the study. Participants interacted with a
computer and were exposed to one of three kinds of feedback: praise (sincere
praise), flattery (insincere praise), or control (generic feedback).
Questionnaire measures assessing participants' affective state, attitudes
and opinions were taken. Participants of high experience, but not low
experience, displayed a media equation pattern of results, reacting to
flattery from a computer in a manner congruent with peoples' reactions to
flattery from other humans. High experience participants tended to believe
that the computer spoke the truth, experienced more positive affect as a
result of flattery, and judged the computer's performance more favourably.
These findings are interpreted in light of previous research and the
implications for software design in fields such as entertainment and
education are considered."

"Is Anthropomorphic Design a Viable Way of Enhancing Interface Usability?"
A study exploring the use of humour in task-oriented interactions (Morkes,
Kernal & Nass 1998) found that participants who had received jokes: “rated
the ‘person’ or computer they had worked with as more likeable and
competent, reported greater cooperation, joked back…….and smiled and laughed
more”. The study noted that computer programmers tend to dismiss humour
because of a fear of ‘process losses’ (i.e. distractions from the task at
hand). They contend that the computer is a tool and as such should be
designed to minimise diversions from the goal of completing a task. This
does not take into account the fact that some users actually welcome an
occasional distraction as some computer-based tasks can be exceedingly
mundane. The authors observe that people commonly use humour when they
interact at work and that they frequently respond to computers in the same
way that they might respond to their colleagues. They suggest that humour is
powerful and can have many positive effects. As with the previous studies,
artificial intelligence was not deemed necessary to produce the desired
outcome and text-based ‘canned humour’ proved to be sufficient.

Similarly, an experiment which examined the ‘effects of computers that
flatter’ (Fogg & Nass, 1997), revealed that “praise has multiple beneficial
effects on user perceptions and that flattery from computers generates the
same effects as sincere praise…..Humans are susceptible to flattery from
computers in the same way that they are susceptible to flattery from other
humans.” The authors (ibid.) suggest that this could be seen as an
opportunity to enhance the user experience by using flattery to lift the
mood of users and improve their perceptions of the machine. Current
applications tend to be heavily geared towards critical messages, if sincere
praise or flattery were added to, for example, a tutorial application, it is
proposed that it may well increase user enjoyment, task persistence and
self-efficacy, which are vital conditions in a learning environment.

But thanks for the kind words anyway -- you've certainly convinced *me*! :-)

And maybe we should add humor and flattery into the OpenVirgle & OSCOMAK
design requirements, too? :-)

--Paul Fernhout


Apr 22, 2008, 9:32:29 PM4/22/08
to Project Virgle
One thought though, its somewhat implied that work and school are
meant to keep us slaves to our own greed, which they do. The word I
object to is "meant," call me naive but I think we are prisoners
completely of our own device (see Hotel California, which upon further
inspection is more relevent than a coincidence of lyrics) and that no
one is really "trying" to keep us in our place, thats just how it
worked out as we emerged from scarcity. Just wanted to expound that
point a bit, I'm unsure whether I'm arguing or agreeing with you, I'm
sure its hidden in some subtle syntax that I don't care to pour over
to find.

On Apr 22, 8:54 am, "Paul D. Fernhout" <pdfernh...@kurtz-fernhout.com>
> >> --Paul Fernhout- Hide quoted text -
> - Show quoted text -


Apr 22, 2008, 9:43:24 PM4/22/08
to Project Virgle
On second thought it's worth posting what wikipedia has to say about
the Eagles:

"Hotel California touched on many themes, including ... the end
results of manifest destiny, and the "American Dream."

Members of Eagles have described the album as a metaphor for the
perceived decline of America into materialism and decadence. In an
interview with Dutch magazine ZigZag shortly before the album's
release, Don Henley said:

' This is a concept album, there's no way to hide it, but it's not set
in the old West, the cowboy thing, you know. It's more urban this time
(. . . ) It's our bicentennial year, you know, the country is 200
years old, so we figured since we are the Eagles and the Eagle is our
national symbol, that we were obliged to make some kind of a little
bicentennial statement using California as a microcosm of the whole
United States, or the whole world, if you will, and to try to wake
people up and say 'We've been okay so far, for 200 years, but we're
gonna have to change if we're gonna continue to be around.' ”

The album's final track, the epic "The Last Resort", was about the
demise of society. Glenn Frey on the Hotel California episode of In
the Studio with Redbeard explained about the track:

It was the first time that Don took it upon himself to write an epic
story and we were already starting to worry about the
environment...we're constantly screwing up paradise and that was the
point of the song and that at some point there is going to be no more
new frontiers. I mean we're putting junk, er, garbage into space now.
> > - Show quoted text -- Hide quoted text -

Paul D. Fernhout

Apr 23, 2008, 12:53:47 AM4/23/08
to vir...@googlegroups.com
To agree with your point "thats just how it worked out as we emerged from
EW: What do you mean when you say that the current system of educating
students is a "conspiracy against ourselves"?

Gatto: We need to understand the degree of our own complicity in this school
trap and the hidden payoffs that allow it to happen so effortlessly. For
instance, we are promised we needn't trouble ourselves with thinking about
what having an "education" would mean; we are promised freedom from the
weighty responsibility of rearing our own children; we are promised freedom
from the responsibility of making ourselves really useful to others in our
youthful years so that we can earn a living later being useful. (Instead,
the promise says, "Get good grades by being obedient in school and jobs or
professional licenses will be reserved for you later on.") When we accept
these promises, we enter the conspiracy and conspire against our own best

For most people the bribes listed above, and others, are lies. ... When the
result is lifelong dependence on newspapers, radio, TV, or computer programs
for direction, bad families whose members are indifferent or disloyal to one
another, and workplace instability and lifelong scrambling to hold on to a
rung of the overcrowded job ladder, we must pronounce ourselves "losers" in
the great race -- as most of us eventually conclude.

The trick is to see that all overorganized systems, whatever their surface
justifications, steal our possibilities to become whole people, and by
leaving us permanently incomplete, as functions in the system, rob us of our

"Our economy has no adequate outlet of expression for its artists, dancers,
poets, painters, farmers, filmmakers, wildcat business people, handcraft
workers, whiskey makers, intellectuals, or a thousand other useful human
enterprises -- no outlet except corporate work or fringe slots on the
periphery of things. Unless you do “creative” work the company way, you run
afoul of a host of laws and regulations put on the books to control the
dangerous products of imagination which can never be safely tolerated by a
centralized command system."

"A Conspiracy Against Ourselves
Spare yourself the anxiety of thinking of this school thing as a conspiracy,
even though the project is indeed riddled with petty conspirators. It was
and is a fully rational transaction in which all of us play a part. We trade
the liberty of our kids and our free will for a secure social order and a
very prosperous economy. It’s a bargain in which most of us agree to become
as children ourselves, under the same tutelage which holds the young, in
exchange for food, entertainment, and safety. The difficulty is that the
contract fixes the goal of human life so low that students go mad trying to
escape it."


Even the mainstream is getting this now that schooling is terribly broken:
"To fix US schools, panel says, start over"
as our economy requires more and more creativity.
"What if the solution to American students' stagnant performance levels and
the wide achievement gap between white and minority students [and the
failure to implement Project Virgle for real :-)] wasn't more money, smaller
schools, or any of the reforms proposed in recent years, but rather a new
education system altogether? That's the conclusion of a bipartisan group of
scholars and business leaders, school chancellors and education
commissioners, and former cabinet secretaries and governors. They declare
that America's public education system, designed to meet the needs of 100
years ago when the workplace revolved around an assembly line, is unsuited
to today's global marketplace. Already, they warn, many Americans are in
danger of falling behind and seeing their standard of living plummet."

But the solutions proposed are business and military oriented :-( not
learner and community and family oriented :-) where those business and
military institutions want creative individuals who only use their
creativity in narrowly defined ways (and which are often crazy making and
self-defeating.) So. for example, they propose schooling kids even earlier
("universal preschool") instead of later.
"Education in Sweden is mandatory for all children aged 7-16"
Or they propose 16 year olds can go earlier to college (as I did with 1980s
laws) but not go onto self-employment or apprenticeship instead.
And of course, more money for "curriculums" which literally means


A good article on real solutions:
"Sustainable Education" By Jerry Mintz
Nevertheless, there is an education revolution going on, and it is long
overdue. It is moving in the diametrically opposite direction of the
"testing" push. The latter comes from the bureaucrats from within that dying
system, who do know there is something wrong. But since they can't think
"out of the box," the only remedy they can come up with is longer hours,
more homework, and "teaching to the test," in other words, more of the same.
The education revolution is coming from people who have created alternative
schools and programs, thousands of them, and from others who have checked
"none of the above" and have decided to home educate. There are now nearly
two million people home educating. The first charter school was started in
1991. Now there are 2500 of them! And there are over 7500 additional
alternatives in our database and many thousands more we have yet to
discover. All of these fall in the general category of "learner-centered"
approaches. We list many of them in our book, The Almanac of Education
Choices. These people are steadfastly OPPOSED to the governmental thrust for
more "standardization" and testing. So a battle is looming. The testers will
ultimately lose. It has happened before, most recently in the 80's with the
"Back to Basics" movement. The question is only how long it will take, and
how much destructiveness will happen in the interim. [Including keeping us
from Mars etc. :-) ]


Of course, with the US economy and culture and house prices and college
prices geared toward two income families
"The Two-Income Trap"
homeschooling is a huge conceptual and lifestyle shift where it is possible
at all due to the loss of the second income. That's why schools know
homeschooling is not a serious threat to their *business*.

But "free schooling" *is* a serious threat to their business,
where a school becomes more like a public library for skills learning "on
demand" by interest and need (not "just in case" through compulsion). Free
schooling is a threat because it still offers the free babysitting service
parents have come to rely on, as well as the clout of the construction lobby
:-) but without fitting kids to Procrustes' (intellectual) bed:
An example:
"The Albany Free School"
Note: even if free schools could take over the public school buildings, most
teachers would be completely disqualified to teach in them until they spent
probably *years* learning how to trust children to learn.

Related book:
"Homeschooling Our Children Unschooling Ourselves" by Alison McKee
"The most convincing evangelist is a reformed sinner, and Alison McKee,
herself a practicing teacher, comes across as a most credible proponent of
homeschooling in this consistently insightful book. No vapid cheerleading
here. Like many another anxious parent, McKee and her husband suffer from
uncertainties while seeking that elusive balance between structure and free
exploration as their two children progress through the elementary and high
school years." ... "This is the book that verbalizes what so many of us do
but have a hard time explaining to questioning relatives, friends, and just
the people in the world that wonder why our four children are out and about
town in the middle of the school day. As a former teacher for 7 years in
public and private schools, I can relate to the agonizing experiences of
having to encourage frustrated students to struggle through concepts for
testing, while having to limit time children spend on activities that are
meaningful to them. [Like planning expeditions to Mars. :-) ] I have
facilitated an unschooling environment for 5 years now at home. This is the
first written material I have read that successfully enlightens
nonhomeschooling families as to what life learning can be."

See also: "Why Educational Technology Has Failed Schools"

One good thing about the enormous challenge of settling space is it can make
us think about what things on Earth are really holding us back from taking
on and succeeding at all the great challenges (world peace, sustainability,
ending poverty and hunger, universal global health care, giving every person
access to all world knowledge, reforestation, returning to the moon and
building Moon bases, asteroid mining. Mars tourism, visiting other star
systems etc.)

So are we held back by old bargains that no longer make sense?
Gatto would say yes about schooling now being the problem.
And in other spheres, Richard Stallman might say the same thing about, say,
excessively broad copyright (including recently making it a criminal (jail)
instead of a civil (lawsuit) matter:
"And copyright used to be, arguably, an advantageous trade for the public to
make because the public was trading away freedoms it couldn't exercise.
Well, now it can exercise these freedoms. What do you do if you have been
producing a byproduct which was of no use to you and you were in the habit
of trading it away and then, all of a sudden, you discover a use for it? You
can actually consume it, use it. What do you do? You don't trade at all; you
keep some. And that's what the public would naturally want to do. That's
what the public does whenever it's given a chance to voice its preference;
it keeps some of this freedom and exercises it. Napster is a big example of
that, the public deciding to exercise the freedom to copy instead of giving
it up. So the natural thing for us to do to make copyright law fit today's
circumstances is to reduce the amount of copyright power that copyright
owners get, to reduce the amount of restriction that they place on the
public and to increase the freedom that the public retains."

So a parallel issue. In both the schooling case and the copyright case, the
institutions and laws that once *may* arguably have served many well are
getting further and further away from our new exponentially emerging
technological capacity and, like rusty old cars, may be ready for recycling
no matter how emotionally attached to them many of us may have become.

Personally, I doubt schooling ever served most people well though:
"Gatto And Goldberg Saved My Sanity"
"No Limit To Pain For Those Who Allow It"

--Paul Fernhout

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