I am going to try to trim this drastically and refactor it in another
Another issue is that competence in science (as it is classically
practiced in academia, as a certain type of inquiry based intellectual
pursuit within a single domain) does not translate to competence in
human affairs. The two are not necessarily exclusive -- just different
[Garold L. Johnson] Fully agree. A common error is the belief that expertise
in one area qualifies one as an expert in other areas.
> If there is a promise for the future, IMO, it lies in the fact that
continuing growth in computing capability makes it
> possible for small teams to tackle and accomplish feats which only a few
years ago were possible only to major
> corporations or governments.
I think this is the crux of why what we are doing might make sense. You
put it very succinctly here. And as Margaret Mead said something like
"Don't underestimate the power of small groups of committed individuals
to change the world, in fact, that is the only thing that ever has."
[Garold L. Johnson] This is part of where the issue of scale comes in. More
on this later.
> [Garold L. Johnson] Unfortunately, we can start that debate and expend all
of our energy on it and get nothing
You have another good point. I won't say I completely agree with it, but
it would be good to see how we could turn what might otherwise be an
energy absorbing thing into something productive. Perhaps creating the
infrastructure to have such discussions?
[Garold L. Johnson] My suggestion precisely. More on this later.
However, my purpose in writing the original email was to prod again on a
topic I brought up before (basically "bootstrapping for what") because I
think it important for individuals to keep this in mind even without a
joint statement of purpose.
I'm sure one can find similar statements in various other religious
traditions which are statements of core value apart from specific dogma.
My point is that when we ask "bootstrapping for what?" we should at
least have a nebulous positive answer involving the worth of the human
experience, rather than "just to make things go faster".
Perhaps too big a can of worms to open...
[Garold L. Johnson] Agree. More later.
Well, I agree with the sentiment, but information on organic agriculture
(and the problems with pesticides) has been available for a long, long
time. Rodale press goes back to the 1940s.
In the 1930s biocontrols were becoming widely used (before being
replaced by petrochemicals). What perhaps is newer is to see additional
drawbacks to conventional agriculture (which never had the burden of
proof of safety) such as breakdown components as estrogen mimics leading
to developmental problems. [I was program administrator about ten years
ago for the NOFA-NJ organic farm certification program.] However, if
what you mean is widely of interest, then yes, interest in organic
farming does seem to be following an exponential growth curve and
interest is now becoming noticeable.
[Garold L. Johnson] My point here was 1) organic agriculture is growing as
it becomes profitable, 2) all knowledge of how to make it popular
contributes to its adoption.
My point is simply that meeting core human needs are often cited as a
reason for increasing (bootstrapping) the rate of technological
progress, so a clearly delineating the two seems important.
[Garold L. Johnson] Agreed.
> We need the ability to manage knowledge in much greater volume much faster
than we can today before we can
> even think meaningfully about why it is that the conditions we decry exist
and what can be done about them in
> human terms.
Well, I think this point is subject to some debate, given the above. If
we have created an ever more complex set of processes, twisted supply
chains, and so forth, justified by claims that this is to meet core
human needs, perhaps part of the solution is to find a way to simplify
all this so core human needs can be met. I'm not saying that is
necessarily possible without further innovation in organizing
manufacturing technology (say, providing each village with a flexible
machining center, or a $5 self-replicating food box).
I think the point you raise here is interesting, and gets at the core of
justifications for "bootstrapping" as the Bootstrap Institute defines
it. Still, one may question which problems are the ones requiring that
level of knowledge management. For addressing the issue of people
starving in Africa (or the US) I think such a technology would be nice
but it not required. For addressing the issue of dealing with
self-replicating machine intelligence, perhaps such tools are required.
[Garold L. Johnson] This scale is not required for the technical solution.
It may well be required for the socio-technical solution.
Hopefully, one of the areas to be addressed is to make the problems more
manageable. For me, this at a start comes down to asking, how self
reliant can a group of 10000 people be, for example. I think this issue
is worth addressing not because people ideally may want to live like
that, but because the problem is more tractable than solving "world
[Garold L. Johnson] One benefit of studying the question of “what is the
minimum size of a self-sustaining groups under different circumstances” is
to enable small groups of people to support themselves while doing research
that doesn’t have other financial support.
> [Garold L. Johnson] That is consistent with what I have been saying, but I
> that the issues for this forum are of the nature of “what factors involved
> problems of the scale of human social and political interactions impact
> requirements and design of the knowledge tools that we propose to build to
> assist in solving these problems?” That brings the effort into one of
> requirements elicitation in order to build an information management
> of sufficient power and scope to allow it to be used to address such
Fascinatingly complex sentence starting with "what factors...". I agree
with the sentiment, although as above, I may question just how large
scale the systems modeled have to be (or what simplifying assumption can
be made regarding things outside the system...)
OK. Although, I'd go beyond this. It has been said "never attribute to
malice what stupidity or incompetence can explain". That seems close to
you point. But still, we must accept that decisions are made based on
values. If the decision makers have values (i.e. staying in office)
different than those of the people decisions are made for, then the
results may not be desirable even if they are made intelligently. This
is the flaw of "cost/benefit" analysis because the issue is who pays the
costs and who gets the benefits.
[Garold L. Johnson] It took me quite a while to come to grips with that.
> [Garold L. Johnson] How can we seriously expect governments to provide the
solution when they are the major
> source of the problem?
Actually, I think many corporations may become less and less relevant.
Most of them are involved with producing goods and services which
someday (soon) might be unneeded or might come from a "replicator". Not
to be too Star Trek, but if nanotechnology or similar larger scale
processes are capable of flexibly making on the spot most items from
basic raw materials, the need for a supply chain of organizations goes
away. Yet, most corporations exist to make certain goods (or related
services) that fit into this supply chain.
[Garold L. Johnson] Bureaucracies are marvelously flexible in surviving.
They will change the entire nature and scope of the problems they claim to
address in order to stay in place. I see corporations moving form the
creation of hard goods to creation of software, KM tools, and information
products of various sorts. The activities that they currently engage in will
wither away, but I fear that they will simply adapt.
One must distinguish between "social planning" and "dictatorship" and
"how things are produced". If things are mainly produced locally
(replicators, supplied with little more effort than indoor plumbing for
water) then social planning will be done on a very different landscape.
[Garold L. Johnson] Buckminster Fuller used the term “ephemerization” –
doing more and more with less and less. We produce more food in the U.S.
with 3% of the population and shrinking than we used to with 97% of the
population involved in agriculture. A similar shift is happening in
manufacturing as we move toward an information economy. I expect the same
shift away from information to whatever comes next.
There is not (not much) market for air. The market for tap water is
fairly specialized. The market for love is unusual. The point -- there
are essential things not managed by conventional markets. We must ask
ourselves specifically what markets are now getting us, as opposed to
say local on-demand production from raw materials.
[Garold L. Johnson] There are no markets in the things you mention since
they are not created by human organizations. Markets adjust the allocation
of resources to competing purposes. One of the major problems in any market
mechanism is that the ability of the individuals that make it up to predict
demand tends and to connect results to time-distant causes is so poor.
We don't live in a pure capitalistic society in the U.S. That's one
reason we pay taxes -- for the public good. Trillions of dollars of
taxes each year. They should be spent efficiently for the public good.
[Garold L. Johnson] I am opposed to taxation as a mechanism for this. So
long as it is being done, the energy should be used efficiently and
effectively. Unfortunately there is more motivation in keeping the problem
in place to keep funding coming that there is to solve the problem. What you
reward you get more of. So long as we arrange it so that organizations
survive by working on problems rather than by solving them, we will continue
to have organizations that don’t solve the problems that they address.
>It seems that you are advocating
> dropping everything and solving these basic human needs.
Not quite. I am advocating distinguishing between meeting basic needs
and dealing with exponential growth of technology -- really to an extent
two separate things, even though the first is often used to justify the
[Garold L. Johnson] Agreed.
Still, we need to be very careful for specific problems of not saying
"because the political problem is so hard, I will hide my head in the
technical sand". However, obviously there are situations where a
political problem can be resolved by a technical innovation (need
examples here -- anyone got one?)
Most humans have circuitry in their brains that helps them function as
social organisms. It has been selected over many tens of thousands of
years for some basic level of cooperation and values. Most corporations
have few such built-in limits, except to the extent humans are in them,
and in that case, we are talking about human group behavior, which is
different from human individual behavior.
[Garold L. Johnson] I think of this somewhat differently as “because the
technical problem is so hard, we must plan for a system that can scale to
Garold (Gary) L. Johnson
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Wed Dec 20 2000 - 10:14:52 PST