[unrev-II] Dichotomy hiding amidst the Paradigms?

From: johnwerneken@netzero.net
Date: Wed Jan 19 2000 - 21:37:58 PST

From: johnwerneken@netzero.net

I worry about the potential for wasted targeting of efforts like this. My expertise is merely 30+ years of managing small human systems, with computers playing some role all along - no technological expertise - so I can't judge the validity of my worry. Perhaps you can.

I think I understand a concept of Bootstrapping in practice: I can visualize how the Online Educational Objects sharing library might qualitatively jump-start efforts to improve education through curriculum-specific software modules. It seems an example of improving improvement. So far, the only example I have grasped here.

That example is a feedback-oriented sort of thing: start it, try it, make it available, let people evolve it. An open-source model, if you will.

But so much discussion about a mega-problem like world fossil fuel reserves (with or without environmental feedback considered, that's a huge thing).

I see Newton -at least as described in prior posts here - as another sort of example: closed, let's perfect it and then push it on them sort of thing. Proprietary, if you will. And at least as far as mass adoption is concerned, a failure.

My fear is that by focusing on UN-style issues, efforts may focus on top-down, proprietary type solutions. I don't think that approach will work.

Look at Xanadu. If I understand the description, it is magic. But it is not done. Tim Berniers-Lee invented a hypertext tool that actually got used, grew, achieved critical mass, and -whatever its shortcomings - is getting to be everywhere.

This is most of what I see in the discussion so far: aiming at changing big decisions and big decision methods for big or even universal groups of humans: a gigantic Xanadu, a project with no limits at all on the design criteria. Maybe this theoretical seeming approach is a necessary ground-clearing.

My fear though is that the practical things that an IC or a bunch of ICs in a NIC might do could lose the emphasis I feel they deserve. And that the 'big picture" statement of the goals may divert energies from creating the seeds which like Tim's web could grow to change the whole ecology of improvement and of decision.

So I worry about this dichotomy hiding amidst the paradigms: I hear a cosmic goal of human improvement, akin to salvation; the factual examples given to me suggest a fine-grained open-source bottom-up model; but so much of the discussion appears to center on top-down universal decision-changing, towards getting people in general to adopt the speakerís policy preferences.

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