Late Night Philosophizing: Communities Magazine, 1983 : LUSENET : Millennium Salons : One Thread

From Communities Magazine, 1983 "Computer Networking", by Peter & Trudy Johnson-Lenz

"...The communications and networking applications of computers are part of the foundation of the emerging electronic nervous system of society. Yet these applications are largely unknown and at best poorly understood. The form and functions of the electronic networks will be determined by their designers' beliefs about human nature. Do people need to be managed, monitored, and controlled, or are they trustworthy and capable of individual initiative and judgement? While there is great potential for good in electronic networks, their development will be governed by economic and political forces, many of which reflect a fundamental belief that people cannot be trusted to manage their own lives."

Key questions arise for me here:

How, as software and system replacements are sought and implemented, will the decision makers avoid the cynicism and distrust engendered by the y2k problem and, in the name of greater control over the processes their companies or institutions engage in, reject choosing onerously repressive system solutions that strip people of the self-empowerment that comes from decentralized action?

How will we come to grips with the fact that we were all complicit, either by negligence, or ignorance, or ignoring, in the process that brought us to this pass?

How will we find the courage to leave the systems open enough so that this could happen again? (yes, I said "could")

How will we keep faith with, and in, ourselves?


Cynthia Beal

-- cynthia (, October 11, 1998


Hi there,

Interestingly (fittingly) the first thing that sprang to my mind (reading your latest entry into the forum that the software just sent me) is one of the big things at heart of my "broken recordism" concerning this forum software: Although it's a subtle point that not many people realize (like maybe three on the planet - simply because they haven't stared at it and worked with it for months on end), this forum software is powerful enough to be a web site unto itself. A web site created, expanded, given a life of its own, by the _users of it. Like I say, it's a subtle point, but when it comes to people having control of what the content of web sites is, this forum software (or software like it) could virtually eliminate the "web master" from the process, thereby creating a _completely open system (save the administrator's editing powers). Web masters, of course (or the people who employ them), are the ones who "control" what it is the users of the Internet are exposed to. Anyone with a smattering of HTML ability and an equally minimal understanding of how this forum software works (inserting links) has all the power of whatever benefit the Internet provides in their own hands. Although folks don't comprehend it, there's nothing to prevent this very forum or any forum like it from becoming a "user defined," perpetually expanding web site without rules (within reason?) or boundaries (beyond something like the 3 gigabyte limit of text stored in the database behind it).

Just a small, side observation in the middle of being on my way to making a web page out of your contingency planning note which is floating in RAM right now between a quick session in Word and the HTML editor (your response to CPR - "foggiest idea???" - on September 15th).


P.S. That excellent piece on your (Cynthia's) experience with contingency planning (and it's actual implementation in a small business +) is now on the web @ cpbeal1098.html

-- Bill (, October 11, 1998.

Cynthia - Bill Gates just gave a speech in which he outlined software in development which will allow the computer to learn, respond, grow, etc., ie become like a human being. And yet again the news is talking of an implanted chip by which humans can control computers. There has been an article, and threads, which outline abuses and potential abuses by those controlling entities of the purchase databases generated by our pieces of plastic. Lastly, the National DNA Database is going online. But not to worry, your privacy is secure. They said so!

Is there going to be any BIG software that ultimately doesn't run over human beings. Is there going to be any BIG system comprised of many pieces of hard and software interacting which will not be vulnerable to a stick in the eye?

One of the aspects that defines us as human is our complex interrelations with other humans. This is one of those things which computers, because of human's need to be in control, facilitate destruction.

We are forced to wear our Private personae on the outside, because of the general distruction of what used to be termed the Public personae.

Just because human's can do such and such, doesn't mean that it is the best for us to do those. It is time to take note of those things in life which make life balanced and good and livable and happy, notice I didn't include cushey. The list must be brutally honest, how else can we keep faith in, and of, ourselves.

I was following a food thread out this morning. One woman was lamenting about her child being the definitive "picky eater". So her prep was going to include food stuffs which catered to the child, yet were fairly obvious, rather superflous items.

So what software should we "keep"? Assuming we have a choice?

The software which keeps faux electronic currency in circulation, and as a primary effect allows infinite inflation, all of which is to be paid back at some point in time by the state's ability to coerse us to pay taxes? What about the software which allows the massive mining of minerals and oil? We all like to drive fast, we like plastics. Or better, we like to have any kind of food we want whenever we want it. Yet what about the massive scarring of the planet, the leeching of heavy metals into our drinking water, the air pollution, the changes in sunlight level brought about by jet contrails? Transporation? These huge tanker and container ships relying upon huge ports which in turn rely upon rail and hiway systems. Food Production? Big population growth, yet the byproduct is an overabundance of bound nitrogen, ammonia. Stripping of the planet of the top soil. Monoculture agriculture destroys biodiversity and is open to pests. Health Care? Big population growth. More spookey, a basic gene pool degradation, ie those who would have died naturally are now reaching breeding age, which in light of the National DNA database who can tell where that one will end up in terms of humans controling humans? I'd rather let Nature take its course than one of my fellow humans decide if I'm to breed or not.

Point being in all this is when exactly is one to become honest with oneself and say, yes, these industrial processes have done something great for humankind, yet there is a dark side?

Is mankind mature enough to control its will to control "other" for its own ends?

Comes down to the individual and the individual's integrity and vision. Can you live with yourself? Are you doing what it takes to make yourself a balanced human being living on a complexly interrelated biosphere? Couldn't y2k be considered as a metaphore of our planetary crises?

What actions, software, industrial processes, lifestyles must we discard, once we set vanity aside, in order that the whole has a chance to re-balance? Be very honest. Think past your own lifetime and don't kneejerk saying technology will take care of it.

Ciao, mitch

-- Mitchell Barnes (, October 15, 1998.

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