Thursday, 31 December 2009

The End of Money and the Future of Civilization


Tim Jenkin at has a review of Thomas Greco's The End of Money and the Future of Civilization. In Jenkin's words, Greco is saying that the financial problem we now face, "distilled to its essence... is the concentration of power by the financial elite through its monopolization of money. This has been achieved through a pact with government, which has given the money monopoly such power that today it is not inaccurate to say that governments are the junior partners in this alliance." Furthermore, "governments are fully tied into and dependent on this system, and are not the primary decision makers about what happens and how it works. Even if governments did have the will and the power to wrest control of the issuance of credit from the banking cartel.., the historical record suggests that where governments have come out on top their monopolization of credit has led to militarization, wars, expansion and a weakening of democratic processes." So, "the money problem will not be solved by shifting the issuing power, even if governments are able to do it debt free. What is required is the ending of the money monopoly. This means the decentralization and democratization of the exchange process. Again this can only be achieved through traders establishing their own mutual credit clearing circles and independent private and community currencies."

I don't think that this conclusion goes far enough: I side with the comment by MindScape, who says: " I do not agree with the conclusion that what we need is to do is to revert back to a kind of Dark Ages isolationism, where each micro-region has an entirely independent economy and government. Not only is this unrealistic because it runs against the grain of human history - ever increasing unity and cooperation is the foundation of human civilization, just look how we've gone from family, to tribe, to village, to city, to nation, etc - but also this eventuality would have extremely damaging consequences for our world, because it would promote short-sighted and regional considerations over long-sighted and global ones - what is to stop one village dumping its waste in to the river and polluting the water supply of a neighbouring, but independent/isolated village down stream? What we need is to continue the process of globalization, but just to change its direction away from greed towards peace and happiness.. How do we do this? We shift our global consciousness (which I feel is happening as we speak) and we trust in technology. The frontiers of quantum physics has presented man the opportunity finally to unite the spiritual with the scientific ... and technology is what can solve our current problems and establish a world where we don't even need any system of money at all - we have the resources, we just need the will."

As the old saying goes, "money is the root of all evil". A decentralization of money will not free us from the damage caused by basing our world view on ownership, scarcity, and competition. We have to create a new world based on sharing, co-operation, and abundance.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

open Goog?

Here are some extracts from the googleblog post, The meaning of open , which champion the openness of the internet:

Open systems allow innovation at all levels — from the operating system to the application layer — not just at the top. This means that one company doesn't have to depend on another's benevolence to ship a product. If the GNU C compiler that I'm using has a bug, I can fix it since the compiler is open source. I don't have to file a bug report and hope for a timely response.

So if you are trying to grow an entire industry as broadly as possible, open systems trump closed. And that is exactly what we are trying to do with the Internet. Our commitment to open systems is not altruistic. Rather it's good business, since an open Internet creates a steady stream of innovations that attracts users and usage and grows the entire industry.
An open Internet transforms lives globally. It has the potential to deliver the world's information to the palm of every person and to give everyone the power of freedom of expression... There are forces aligned against the open Internet — governments who control access, companies who fight in their own self-interests to preserve the status quo. They are powerful, and if they succeed we will find ourselves inhabiting an Internet of fragmentation, stagnation, higher prices, and less competition.

Our skills and our culture give us the opportunity and responsibility to prevent this from happening. We believe in the power of technology to deliver information. We believe in the power of information to do good. We believe that open is the only way for this to have the broadest impact for the most people. We are technology optimists who trust that the chaos of open benefits everyone. We will fight to promote it every chance we get.

Open will win. It will win on the Internet and will then cascade across many walks of life: The future of government is transparency. The future of commerce is information symmetry. The future of culture is freedom. The future of science and medicine is collaboration. The future of entertainment is participation. Each of these futures depends on an open Internet.

I cannot argue with most of this vision. However, the post also claims that the Goog will gain competitive advantage from embracing open. Yet surely the ultimate result of open collaboration and participation will be to eliminate the purpose of commercial competition. Control and competition become impossible and unnecessary in a truly open and collaborative world.

And of course The Goog has no intention of opening up its search or advertising algorithms, the two things it actually makes money from. They are happy to push others into being open and collaborative, while keeping their own commercial engine sealed in a black box. They want to grow the internet, not out of a spirit of benevolence, but so that their ad revenues increase. The Goog wants to continue having its massive cake and eating it.

The Goog will champion openness when they see something in it for them, and will stay closed when it suits them to. This selfish attitude is not in the true spirit of open source or open standards. It is inherently a paradox for a commercial organization to embrace openness.

Accordingly we should not place too much emphasis on the Goog's vision for a more open and collaborative and participative world. The Goog is reacting to the new paradigm of the internet, a force way beyond its (or anyone's) control. It is not creating that paradigm. It will keep making mistakes and misunderstanding what it is dealing with, due to its old paradigm commercial and competitive focus.

For an example, consider the recent reports that the Chrome OS will be aimed solely at devices that have no local storage.. the Goog wants to control and centralize our data, but the coming economic meltdown will ensure that internet connectivity will not be constant for many of us - we will need a distributed system which allows us to continue using our computers when we are offline. The Goog has the ability to provide this for us, but does it have the will? We shall see - the Goog might be hiding its true intentions. But it is in the nature of a commercial enterprise to seek to control. And true benevolence is anathema to such a creature. The above quotes even claim that "our commitment to open systems is not altruistic". Therefore it is not a true commitment.

The internet will not bend to the Goog's will, but will force it to change its ways, or perish in the longer run. But meanwhile the Goog will likely surf the internet wave (sic) better than other more reactionary goliaths, such as Apple, or (far far worse) Microsoft. At least, unlike its fellow goliaths, the Goog has ~some idea of where we are heading. It may play a useful role in slaying some of its fellow beasts, before it falls itself.

But the true benefits of openness will continue to be delivered by the radical hacker individuals and loose knit teams who created open source and open standards, and who continue to fuel the internet revolution. They are incognito and they are in tune with the times, and their legacy will last long after the commercial goliaths have turned to dust.

ps: great article on the likely rise and fall of the Google empire HERE

Monday, 7 December 2009


Just in case you think the old paradigm is alive and kicking, and that we are coming out of the woods now or anytime soon..... we have not even entered the woods yet! Here are some quotes from Doug Hornig's article "If You Thought the Housing Meltdown Was Bad" at
...wait until you see what’s in the cards for commercial real estate... the next train wreck will be in commercial real estate. Couldn’t be worse than last year’s residential market crash? That remains to be seen. But it’s coming soon, probably as early as the second quarter of next year, and there’s nothing that can prevent it... make no mistake about it, that train is going off the tracks no matter what. Every part of the sector – from multifamily apartment buildings to retail shopping centers, suburban office buildings, industrial facilities, and hotels – has accumulated a huge amount of defaulted or nonperforming paper. It’s an impossible, swaying structure that cannot long stand.
As the overall commercial real estate crisis escalates, the banks will do the same thing they did last year: run to the government, palms outstretched.
Rock, meet hard place. Let all the troubled banks fail, and the consequences will range from some excruciating but short-term pain, to a plunge into full-bore depression. Prop them up with yet more newly printed fiat money, and anything from high to hyperinflation will inevitably result, along with the possibility of extending the problem well into the next decade.

Both are frightening prospects. We don’t want either, but realistically, we’re going to get one or the other. Let’s be clear, it won’t be the end of the world. However, it will be the end of the world as we know it. That makes it imperative to prepare for the new one that’s coming.

Spot on Doug - and this is not just a US problem, it is global - Dubai is just the canary in the coal mine (how I love to mix my metaphors, but then coal was once trees...). Never mind about the old decaying giants that are about to collapse around our ears...(timberrrr....) It is inevitable that the banks will, very soon, choke on their own vomit, bringing down the governments that have bought into them too. It is all too huge and too imminent for any of us to be able to fix it, and so we must get busy planning for the replacement.

Goodbye to the old economic and political structures. Make way for new growth!

Friday, 4 December 2009


Spirituality has a different meaning to each of us, it seems. A standard definition would be: "A sense of meaning and purpose; a sense of self and of a relationship with 'that which is greater than self".

Currently, Religion and Mysticism seem to have the monopoly on Spirituality. Theistic religion often regards a 'relationship with god' or divine creator, as a spiritual relationship, while Mystics will often find a relationship to a 'supernatural' force or power. The bottom line is that, almost universally, spirituality has to do with a 'relationship' on one level or another. In most perspectives, it is associated with a person's 'place' or 'meaning' in life... whatever that may be.

In the modern age, we have the ability to look far in our past and examine what our ancestors used to consider 'real', and then compare those ideas to what we understand today. Many "spiritual practices" which have existed in the past, no longer exist due the understandings that have come about in regard to natural phenomenon. As a base example, early religions often 'sacrificed' animals for certain purposes... this rarely happens today, as the relevance of such an act has proven pointless in its desired effect. Likewise, rarely do people perform 'raindances' in order to influence the weather... today we understand how weather patterns are created, and ritual practices have no provable effect.

Similarly, the idea of 'praying' to a god for a particular request, has also statistically proven to have little effect on an outcome, not to mention the evidence to support a personified creator doesn't exist in any scientific way...rather it is often derived from ancient historical literary speculation and tradition.

Establishment Religion, in many ways, seems to be rooted in a perceptual misunderstanding about life's processes. For instance, it presents a worldview which often puts the human on a different level than other elements of nature. This 'spiritual ego' has led to dramatic conflicts for generations, not only between human beings, but inadvertently between us and the environment itself.

However, as time has moved forward, Science has shown how human beings are subject to the exact same forces of nature as everything else. We have learned that we all share the same atomic substructure as trees, birds and all other forms of life. We have learned that we cannot live without nature's elements... we need clean air to breathe, food to eat, energy from the sun, etc. When we understand this Symbiotic relationship of life, we begin to see that as far as 'relationships' are concerned, our relationship to the planet is the most profound and important. The medium by which this is expressed, is Science, for the Scientific Method has allowed us insight into these natural processes, so we can better understand how we 'fit' into this life system as a whole.

This could be called a 'spiritual' awakening.

This realization, which has been proven by science, is that humans are no different from any other form of nature, while our integrity is only as good as the integrity of our environment, to which we are a part. This understanding presents an entirely different 'spiritual' worldview, for it forces the idea of interdependence and connection, at its core.

The interconnection of the whole of life is undeniable in the most basic sense, and it is this perpetual 'relationship' of total interconnectivity that is not fully realized by society overall. Thus, our modes of conduct and perception are largely out of line with nature itself... and hence destructive.

Nature itself is our teacher, and our social institutions and philosophies should be derived from this foundational and, invariably, 'spiritual' understanding.

The faster this spiritual awakening spreads, the more sane, peaceful and productive society will become.
(taken verbatim from "Understandings: Spirituality" as published at

Friday, 13 November 2009

a world without money

Imagine a future world where money doesn't exist, where there is no concept of private property, where food and other resources are abundant and shared freely, and where such a benevolent living environment brings out the best in human nature so that no legal or justice system is required....

Such is the vision of Jacque Fresco, founder of The Venus Project. He promotes a technology driven future where science is used for the benefit of all of mankind, and not just to enrich a few.

In his essay THE FUTURE AND BEYOND, he sets out some of his thoughts on how such a new paradigm human society could be realised. I have extracted extensively from the essay here, to give a full flavor of his new paradigm vision - but his essay is well worth reading in full:

We believe it is now possible to achieve a society where people would be able to live longer, healthier, and more meaningful productive lives. In such a society, the measure of success would be based upon the fulfillment of one’s individual pursuits rather than the acquisition of wealth, property, and power. Although many of the concepts presented here may appear as unattainable goals, all of the ideas are based upon known scientific principles.
The social direction being proposed here has no parallel in history with any other previous political ideology or economic strategy. Establishing the parameters of this new civilization will require transcending many of the traditions, values, and methods of the past. The future will evolve its own new paradigms, appropriate to each successive phase of human and technological development.
Today we have developed the necessary technology to surpass the fondest hopes and dreams of any social innovators of the past. The fact that previous attempts at social change have failed is no justification for us to stop trying. The real danger lies in complacence. The only limitations to the future of humankind are those that we impose upon ourselves. It is now possible to relieve humanity of many of its unresolved problems through the humane application of technology.
The prime conditions that would really effect social change will come about when conditions have deteriorated to such an extent that governments, politicians, and social institutions no longer have the support and confidence of the people. What once worked is acknowledged to be no longer relevant. If the public were better informed, only then would it be possible to introduce a new and improved social arrangement.
The solutions to our problems will not come about through the application of reason or logic. Unfortunately, at present we do not live in a reasonable or logical world. There appears to be no historical record of any established society’s leader who deliberately and comprehensively redesigned a culture to fit the changing times. While there is no question that political leaders, to a limited extent, modify some modes of behavior, the real factors responsible for social change are brought about by bio-social pressures, which are inherent in all social systems. Change is brought about by natural or economic occurrences that adversely affect the immediate circumstances of large numbers of people.

Some bio-social pressures responsible for social change are limited resources, war, overpopulation, epidemics, natural disasters, economic recession, downsizing on a mass scale, technological displacement of people by machines, and the failure of elected officials to overcome such problems. The introduction of the medium of money to the exchange process brought about a significant change in society, as did the introduction of mechanized agriculture and the Industrial Revolution.

Unfortunately, the world’s outmoded social, political, and international order is no longer appropriate to these times. These obsolete social institutions are unable to grasp the significance of innovative technology to achieve the greatest good for all people, and to overcome the inequities forced upon so many. Competition and scarcity have caused an atmosphere of jealousy and mistrust to develop between individuals and nations. The concepts of proprietary rights, intellectual property, copyrights, and patents manifested in corporate entities and in the sovereignty of nations, preclude the free exchange of information that is necessary to meet global challenges.
The ultimate survival of the human species depends upon planning on a global scale and to cooperatively seek out new alternatives with a relative orientation for improved social arrangements. If humankind is to achieve mutual prosperity, universal access to resources is essential.
If these ends are to be achieved, the monetary system must eventually be surpassed by a world resource-based economy. In order to effectively and economically utilize resources, the necessary cybernated and computerized technology could eventually be applied to ensure a higher standard of living for everyone. With the intelligent and humane application of science and technology, the nations of the world could guide and shape the future for the preservation of the environment and humankind.
All the limitations imposed upon us by our present-day monetary system could be surpassed by adopting a global consensus for a worldwide resource-based economy, in which all the planetary resources are viewed and treated as the common heritage of all the earth's inhabitants. In this manner, the earth and our technological procedures could provide us with a limitless supply of material goods and services without the creation of debt or taxation whatsoever.
In a monetary-based system, the major concerns of industry are profit, maintaining a competitive edge, and watching the bottom line, rather than the wellbeing of humanity. The social problems that arise from mass unemployment of people, who are rendered obsolete by the infusion of automation, are considered irrelevant, if they are considered at all. Any need that may be met is secondary to acquiring a profit for the business. If the profit is insufficient, the service will be withdrawn. What industry seeks to do is improve the competitive edge to increase the profit margin for their shareholders. It does not serve the interest of a monetary based society to engage in the production of goods and services to enhance the lives of people as a goal.
Until the last few decades, the monetary system functioned to a degree. The global population of three billion was not over consuming world resources and energy, global warming was not evident, and air and water pollution were only recognized by a relative few. The start of the 21st century however finds global population at an exponentially rising six billion, with resources and energy supplies dwindling, global warming a reality, and pollution evident worldwide. Planet earth is in crises and the majority of world population cannot meet their basic needs because people do not have the means to purchase increasingly expensive resources. Money is now the determinant of people’s standard of living rather than the availability of resources.
In today's culture of profit, we do not produce goods based on human need. We do not build houses based on population needs. We do not grow food to feed people. Industry's major motivation is profit.

The monetary system is now an impediment to survival rather than a means of facilitating individual existence and growth. This imaginary tool has outlived its usefulness. The limitations on earth’s population now caused by the monetary construct can be phased out. It is not money that people need but the access to goods and services. Since humanity requires resources to exist, the replacement system should provide those resources directly to people without the impediment of financial and political interest for their private gain at the expense of the lives and livelihood of the populous. The replacement system is therefore logically a resource-based economy. This global resource based economy would be gradually phased in while the monetary system is phased out.

All of the world's economic systems - socialism, communism, fascism, and even the vaunted free enterprise capitalist system - perpetuate social stratification, elitism, nationalism and racism, primarily based on economic disparity. As long as a social system uses money or barter, people and nations will seek to maintain positions of differential advantage. If they cannot do so by means of commerce they will resort to military intervention.

War represents the supreme failure of nations to resolve their differences. From a strictly pragmatic standpoint it is the most inefficient waste of lives and resources ever conceived by any creature on the planet. This crude and violent way of attempting to resolve international differences has taken on even more ominous overtones with the advent of elaborate computerized thermonuclear delivery systems, deadly diseases and gases, and the threat of sabotage of a nation's computer networks. Despite the desire of nations to achieve peace, they usually lack the knowledge of how to arrive at peaceful solutions.

War is not the only form of violence in the developed and underdeveloped countries that is superimposed upon the populace by inadequate social arrangements. There is also hunger, poverty, and scarcity. As long as there is the use of money, the creation of debt, and economic insecurity these conditions will perpetuate crime, lawlessness, and resentment. Paper proclamations and treaties do not alter conditions of scarcity and insecurity. And nationalism only tends to help propagate the separation of nations and the world's people.
The Earth is still abundant with resources. Today our practice of rationing resources through monetary methods is irrelevant and counter-productive to the well-being of people. Today’s society has access to highly advanced technologies and can easily provide more than enough for a very high standard of living for all the earth’s people. This is possible through the implementation of a resource-based economy.

Simply stated, a resource-based economy utilizes existing resources rather than money, and provides an equitable method of distribution in the most humane and efficient manner for the entire population. It is a system in which all natural, man-made, machine-made, and synthetic resources would be available without the use of money, credits, barter, or any other form of symbolic exchange. A resource-based economy would utilize existing resources from the land and sea, and the means of production, such as physical equipment and industrial plants, to enhance the lives of the total population. In an economy based on resources rather than money, we could easily produce all of the necessities of life and provide a high standard of living for all.
In a resource-based economy all of the world's resources would be held as the common heritage of all of the earth’s people, thus eventually outgrowing the need for the artificial boundaries that separate people – this is the unifying imperative.

We must emphasize here that this approach to global governance has nothing whatever in common with the present aims of a corporate elite to form a world government with themselves and large corporations in control, and the vast majority of the world's population subservient to them. Globalization in a resource-based economy empowers each and every person on the planet to be the very best they can be, not to live in abject subjugation to a corporate governing body.
The real wealth of any nation lies in its developed and potential resources and the people who are working toward the elimination of scarcity and the development of a more humane way of life. A resource-based economy would use technology to overcome scarce resources by utilizing renewable sources of energy; computerizing and automating manufacturing, inventory and distribution; designing safe, energy-efficient cities; providing universal health care and relevant education; and most of all, by generating a new incentive system based on human and environmental concern.
In a resource-based economy, the human aspect would be of prime concern, and technology would be subordinate to this. This would result in a considerable increase in leisure time. In an economy in which production is accomplished primarily by machines, and products and services are available to all, the concepts of "work" and "earning a living" would become irrelevant.
The utilization of today’s high speed and large capacity computer systems, otherwise known as the "Information Superhighway" or Internet, could assist us in defining the variables and parameters required for the operation of a resource-based economy that conforms to environmental needs. Over-exploitation of resources would be unnecessary and surpassed.

Many people believe that there is too much technology in the world today, and that technology is the major cause of our environmental pollution. This is not the case. Rather, it is the abuse and misuse of technology that should be our major concern. In very simple terms, a hammer can be used to construct a building, or to kill another person. It is not the hammer that is the issue, but how it is used.

Cybernation, or the application of computers and automation to the social system, could be regarded as an emancipation proclamation for humankind if used humanely and intelligently. Its thorough application could eventually enable people to have the highest conceivable standard of living with practically no labor. It could free people for the first time in human history from a highly structured and outwardly imposed routine of repetitive and mundane activity. It could enable one to return to the Greek concept of leisure, where slaves did most of the work and men had time to cultivate their minds. The essential difference is that in the future, each of us will command more than a million slaves - but they will be mechanical and electrical slaves, not fellow human beings. This will end forever the degrading exploitation of any human being by another so that he or she lives an abundant, productive, and less stressful life. Perhaps the greatest aid in enhancing the survival of the human race is the introduction of cybernation, the electronic computer, and artificial intelligence, which may very well save the human race from its own inadequacies.

A resource-based economy calls for the redesign of our cities, transportation systems, and industrial plants so that they are energy efficient, clean, and conveniently provide the needs of all people both materially and spiritually.
To better understand the meaning of a resource-based economy consider this: If all the money in the world were to suddenly disappear, as long as topsoil, factories, and other resources were left intact, we could build anything we chose to build and fulfill any human need. It is not money that people need, but rather it is freedom of access to most of their necessities without ever having to appeal to a government bureaucracy or any other agency. In a resource-based economy money would become irrelevant. All that would be required are the resources, manufacturing, and distribution of the products.
All industrial devices would be designed for recycling. However, the life span of products would be significantly increased through intelligent and efficient design, thereby reducing waste. There would be no "planned obsolescence," where products are deliberately designed to wear out or break down. In a resource-based economy technology intelligently and efficiently applied will conserve energy, reduce waste, and provide more leisure time.
Most packaging systems would be standardized, requiring less storage space and facilitating easy handling.. most paperwork would no longer be required, i.e. advertising, money, mail, newspaper, phonebook.

As we outgrow the need for professions that are based on the monetary system, such as lawyers, accountants, bankers, insurance companies, advertising, sales personnel, and stockbrokers, a considerable amount of waste and non productive personnel could be eliminated. Enormous amounts of time and energy would also be saved by eliminating the duplication of competing products. Instead of having hundreds of different manufacturing plants and all the paperwork and personnel that are required to turn out similar products, only very few of the highest quality would be needed to serve the entire population. In a resource-base economy planned obsolescence would not exist.
It is claimed that the so-called free-enterprise system creates incentive. This may be true, but it also perpetuates greed, embezzlement, corruption, crime, stress, economic hardship, and insecurity. In addition, the argument that the monetary system and competition generate incentive does not always hold true. Most of our major developments in science and technology have been the result of the efforts of very few individuals working independently and often against great opposition. Such contributors as Goddard, Galileo, Darwin, Tesla, Edison, and Einstein were individuals who were genuinely concerned with solving problems and improving processes rather than with mere financial gain.
Some may question that if the basic necessities are accessible to all people, what will motivate them? This is tantamount to saying that children reared in affluent environments, in which their parents provide all the necessary food, clothing, shelter, nutrition, and extensive education, will demonstrate a lack of incentive or initiative. There is no evidence to support this fallacious assumption. There is overwhelming evidence to support the facts that malnutrition, lack of employment, low wages, poor health, lack of direction, lack of education, homelessness, little or no reinforcement for one's efforts, poor role models, poverty, and a bleak prospect for the future do create monumental individual and social problems, and significantly reduce an individual’s drive to achieve. The aim of a resource based economy is to encourage and develop a new incentive system, one no longer directed toward the shallow and self-centered goals of wealth, property, and power. These new incentives would encourage people to pursue different goals, such as self-fulfillment and creativity, the elimination of scarcity, the protection of the environment, and the alleviation of suffering in their fellow human beings.

People, provided with good nutrition in a highly productive and humane society, will evolve a new incentive system unattainable in a monetary system. There would be such a wealth of new wonders to experience, explore, and invent that the notion of boredom and apathy would be absurd. Incentive is often squelched in our present culture, where a person dare not dream of a future that seems unattainable to him or her. The vision of the future that too many see today consists of endless days of mindless toil, and a wasted life, squandered for the sake of merely earning enough money to survive from one day to the next.
Throughout history, there have been many innovators and inventors who have been ruthlessly exploited, ridiculed, and abused while receiving very little financial reward. Yet, they endured such hardship because they were motivated to learn and to discover new ways of doing things. While creative individuals like Leonardo de Vinci, Michelangelo, and Beethoven received the generous sponsorship of wealthy patrons, this did not diminish their incentive in the least. On the contrary, it empowered them to reach new heights of creativity, perseverance and individual accomplishments.
In this new social arrangement of a resource-based economy, motivation and incentive will be encouraged through recognition of, and concern for, the needs of the individual. This means providing the necessary environment, educational facilities, nutrition, health care, compassion, love, and security that all people need.
With the enhanced level of sociability that would naturally come from not having to compete for access to goods and services, we would see a tendency toward extension of the family unit into the community. As may already be observed in other cultures, the rearing and development of children would become the responsibility of both the family and the community at large.

With the elimination of debt, the fear of losing one's job will no longer be a threat; this assurance, combined with education on how to relate to one another in a much more meaningful way, could considerably reduce conflict and stress both mentally and physically. When education and resources are available to all without a price tag, there would be no limit to the human potential.
With a better understanding, people could possess a flexibility of outlook unknown in previous times, free of bigotry and prejudice. In addition, the people of this innovative society would have concern for their fellow human beings, and for the protection, maintenance, and stewardship of the Earth’s natural environment. Additionally, everyone, regardless of race, color, or creed would have equal access to all of the amenities that this highly productive culture could supply.

In more advanced and humane systems of education people would acquire this new type of value system. They would also realize the many advantages of cooperation rather than competition. In a society without vested interest it would be impossible to harness the talents of scientists and technicians to engage in weapons research or any other socially hostile endeavor. We call this approach "functional morality." This newer, more humane, and more productive approach would advocate finding non-military solutions to international differences. This calls for a global view, which would be a considerable improvement over narrow national and self-interests.
A resource-based economy by definition includes the participation of all people in its benefits. In a monetary system there is an inherent reason for corruption and that is to gain a competitive advantage over someone else. Without vested interests or the use of money, there is no benefit to squelching one’s opinion or falsifying information or taking advantage of anyone. There would be no need for any underlying rigid social barriers that would limit the participation of anyone or restrain the introduction of new ideas. The main objective is the access of information and the availability of goods and services to all people. This would enable people to be prepared to participate in the exciting challenges of this new society A resource-based economy could create an environment that would encourage the widest range of individuality, creativity, constructive endeavor, and cooperation without any kind of elitism, technical or otherwise. Most significantly, a resource-based economy would generate a far different incentive system, one based on human and environmental concern. This would not be a uniform culture but one that is designed to be in a constant process of growth and improvement.

As we enhance the lives of others, protect our environment, and work toward abundance, all our lives can become richer and more secure. If these values were put into practice it would enable all of us to achieve a much higher standard of living within a relatively short period of time--one that would be continuously improved. At a time when commercial institutions no longer exist, the necessity for prisons, lawyers, advertisements, banks and the stock exchange will serve no useful purpose. In the society of the future, in which the monetary system of scarcity has been surpassed by a resource based economy and most physical and creative needs are met, private ownership as we know it would cease to be a necessity to protect one’s access to goods and services. The concept of ownership would be of no advantage whatsoever in a society of abundance. Although this is difficult for many to imagine, even the wealthiest person today would be immensely better off in the highly productive resource-based society. Today in developed countries the middle class live far better than kings and the wealthy of times past. In a resource based economy everyone would live richer lives than the powerful and wealthy of today, not only materially but spiritually as well.

It is not necessary to accept every detail of Jaque's vision, but I applaud the main precepts: I sign up right now for a world without money, politics, lawyers, accountants, businessmen, laws, prisons, or wars. Bring it on! Lets create a new paradigm system based on benevolence and sharing, where our all of our children can blossom and grow into happy and caring adults. Such enlightened thinking gives us all hope for a better future on planet Earth.

taken from Spiritual Sun

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

value what we have

We can improve our levels of well-being by valuing what we have instead of what we would like to have.

Modern Western culture is harmful to our individual and social well-being - it encourages us to attach too much value to materialism and individualism and consumerism. There is enormous cultural pressure on us all to consume, both in the name of economic growth and contemporary ideals about what constitutes 'the good life'. During the 20th century, most Western nations have experienced dramatic social changes, and lost some sources of meaning and social values, such as traditional forms of occupation, or community and the family, or the Church. A sense of self, and a purpose in life, are no longer "given", so their development becomes a key task for all of us, and one of the ways we do this is through consumption.

In the past, standards of morality required individuals to practice self-restraint and moderation, together with a sense of social obligation and responsibility. Today we are encouraged to practice self-indulgence and gratification. This "virtuous consumption" is linked to the goal of economic growth - our economy demands that we all pursue a fast-paced, high-pressure, hyper-consumer lifestyle. The end result is self-centered lives that lack depth and resilience, and which come at a cost to others and in environmental damage.

Does this sound familiar?

We should focus on what we have, and appreciate that - be grateful, be thankful. As already stated in more for less :
Fulfillment comes through our social interactions, through doing productive and useful work that benefits ourselves and our communities directly, through living in harmony with nature, through the robust health that comes from eating a healthy and natural diet, and so on. By rearranging the way we live and work, we can be much happier with much less.

taken from Spiritual Sun

Tuesday, 10 November 2009


James Kunstler paints a believable picture in his blog post "Dreams DIe Hard"

In The Long Emergency (2005, Atlantic Monthly Press), I said that we ought to expect the federal government to become increasingly impotent and ineffectual - that this would be a hallmark of the times. In fact, I said that any enterprise organized at the colossal scale would function poorly in years ahead, whether it was a government, a state university, a national chain retail company, or a giant midwestern farm. It is characteristic of the compressive contraction our society faces that giant hypercomplex systems will wobble and fail. We should expect this.


the President and his White House advisors along with his cabinet appointments, are pretending that the historical forces of compressive contraction are not underway. They're flat-out lying about the employment figures issued in the government's name. They're willfully ignoring the comprehensive bankruptcy gripping government at all levels. They refuse to bring the law to bear against "the malefactors of great wealth." They appear to not understand the epochal energy scarcity problem the whole world faces, or its implications for industrial economies. Most of all, they persist in promoting the lie that this economy can return to the prior state of reckless debt accumulation (a.k.a "consumerism") that has made us so ridiculous and unhealthy.


American life will just wind down, no matter what we believe. It won't wind down to a complete stop. Its near-term destination is to lower levels of complexity and scale than what we've been used to for a long time. People will be able to drive fewer cars fewer miles. The roads will get worse. They'll be worse in some places than others. There will be fewer jobs to go to and fewer things sold. People who live in communities scaled to the energy and capital realities of the years ahead are liable to be more comfortable. We're surely going to have trouble with money. Households will drown in debt and lose all their savings. Money could be scarce or worthless. Credit will be scarcer.

Bigness, and the complexity that comes with it, is out of tune with the times. Bigness is an old dinosaur in a new age where dinosaur food is increasingly short in supply.

Meanwhile our "leaders" (read: bankers) persist with their own agenda to hoover up whatever material wealth remains on our devastated planet. They work by their own laws, relying on bribery and undue influence (and increasingly on fear and blackmail as in "too big to fail") to scare our craven and imbecilic politicians into following their commands. Those of the middle classes who have any material wealth left at this time will soon see that disappear in escalating taxation, and imploding pensions and savings, not to mention soaring energy and food costs. Material life has already lost much of the fake sheen it gained in the 80's and 90''s, and our cities are looking increasingly shabby and dilapidated. And the real depression has not even started yet....

It is increasingly clear that the old paradigm power mongers who operate the controls of modern humanity see the rest of us as livestock, to be abused and milked and consumed. They show no sign of compassion, no sign of morality, no virtues, no redeeming features whatsoever.

It is no longer reasonable to mock the conspiracy theorists who claim that these power mongers are not human, but reptilian aliens - there is a cold emotionless quality to their behaviour and there is no sign of humanity... there does indeed seem to be an agenda to microchip and drug us all for maximum control, and to homogenize the world under one world government and one world currency.

The lunatics have taken over the asylum. Luckily for us they are finding that the controls no longer function as expected. Their huge complex infernal machine is out of control and has started destroying itself.

The heydays of control have passed. We have entered a new paradigm of communion - of sharing and cooperation. Those who seek to compete, control, and manipulate for selfish gain will find their grand plans disintegrating into dust. The very ordinary people who have retained human qualities and virtues - who have resisted the ever-more-devilish propaganda, and have thus remained something more than selfish, greedy, consumers - these ordinary people will prosper amid the disintegration of our old paradigm world.

The meek shall inherit the Earth.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

the future of Gaia

I have been dipping into the dark world of James Lovelock - here are some quotes, where he explains his vision of our future:

From his 2008 interview in The Guardian, The Science of Climate Change :
There have been seven disasters since humans came on the earth, very similar to the one that's just about to happen. I think these events keep separating the wheat from the chaff. And eventually we'll have a human on the planet that really does understand it and can live with it properly.

From :
Life regulates the Earth’s atmosphere and climate to keep it habitable. It is as simple as that.
The catastrophe threatened by global heating is far worse than any war, famine,
or plague in living memory; worse even than global nuclear war. Much of the lush and comfortable Earth we now enjoy is about to become a hot and barren desert.
The intolerably hot world soon to come can support only a remnant of today’s burgeoning humanity, and the survivors will be driven to the cooler regions of the Arctic and to a few continental oases and islands
Green concepts of sustainable development and renewable energy are far too late to have any value
we are at the end of our tether and the rope, whose weave defines our fate, is about to break.

From :
My Gaia theory sees the Earth behaving as if it were alive, and clearly anything alive can enjoy good health, or suffer disease. Gaia has made me a planetary physician and I take my profession seriously, and now I, too, have to bring bad news.

The climate centres around the world .. have reported the Earth's physical condition, and the climate specialists see it as seriously ill, and soon to pass into a morbid fever that may last as long as 100,000 years. I have to tell you, as members of the Earth's family and an intimate part of it, that you and especially civilisation are in grave danger.

Our planet has kept itself healthy and fit for life, just like an animal does, for most of the more than three billion years of its existence. It was ill luck that we started polluting at a time when the sun is too hot for comfort. We have given Gaia a fever and soon her condition will worsen to a state like a coma. She has been there before and recovered, but it took more than 100,000 years. We are responsible and will suffer the consequences: as the century progresses, the temperature will rise 8 degrees centigrade in temperate regions and 5 degrees in the tropics.

Much of the tropical land mass will become scrub and desert, and will no longer serve for regulation; this adds to the 40 percent of the Earth's surface we have depleted to feed ourselves.

Curiously, aerosol pollution of the northern hemisphere reduces global warming by reflecting sunlight back to space. This 'global dimming' is transient and could disappear in a few days like the smoke that it is, leaving us fully exposed to the heat of the global greenhouse. We are in a fool's climate, accidentally kept cool by smoke, and before this century is over billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable.

By failing to see that the Earth regulates its climate and composition, we have blundered into trying to do it ourselves, acting as if we were in charge. By doing this, we condemn ourselves to the worst form of slavery. If we chose to be the stewards of the Earth, then we are responsible for keeping the atmosphere, the ocean and the land surface right for life. A task we would soon find impossible - and something before we treated Gaia so badly, she had freely done for us.

To understand how impossible it is, think about how you would regulate your own temperature or the composition of your blood. Those with failing kidneys know the never-ending daily difficulty of adjusting water, salt and protein intake. The technological fix of dialysis helps, but is no replacement for living healthy kidneys.

.. We cannot pollute the air or use the Earth's skin - its forest and ocean ecosystems - as a mere source of products to feed ourselves and furnish our homes... Those ecosystems must be left untouched because they (are) part of the living Earth.

So what should we do? First, we have to keep in mind the awesome pace of change and realise how little time is left to act; and then each community and nation must find the best use of the resources they have to sustain civilisation for as long as they can. Civilisation is energy-intensive and we cannot turn it off without crashing, so we need the security of a powered descent... We could grow enough to feed ourselves on the diet of the Second World War, but the notion that there is land to spare to grow biofuels, or be the site of wind farms, is ludicrous. We will do our best to survive, but sadly I cannot see the United States or the emerging economies of China and India cutting back in time, and they are the main source of emissions. The worst will happen and survivors will have to adapt to a hell of a climate.

Perhaps the saddest thing is that Gaia will lose as much or more than we do. Not only will wildlife and whole ecosystems go extinct, but in human civilisation the planet has a precious resource. We are not merely a disease; we are, through our intelligence and communication, the nervous system of the planet. Through us, Gaia has seen herself from space, and begins to know her place in the universe.

We should be the heart and mind of the Earth, not its malady. So let us be brave and cease thinking of human needs and rights alone, and see that we have harmed the living Earth and need to make our peace with Gaia. We must do it while we are still strong enough to negotiate, and not a broken rabble led by brutal war lords. Most of all, we should remember that we are a part of it, and it is indeed our home.

Lovelock is a scientist, and has focussed on global warming and on the damaging effect our "civilization" is having on the planet. He is not an economist and so his vision does not factor in the global economic collapse that is now under way, which will usefully restrain our raping of the planet, and cull our population to a more sustainable level. Likewise he is not a mystic, and so his vision does not include perception of the subtle rising tide of spirituality that is now counter-balancing the retreating gross tide of materialism, giving hope for us indeed becoming "the heart and mind of the Earth". Accordingly his vision is more dark and terminal than mine. Thank heaven for global economic and political collapse! The actions and behaviour of humanity are part of the natural systems of Gaia, and we will ourselves, unwittingly, bring about the changes that are required to renew our planetary home. There will be many breakages along the way, but "you can't make an omelet without breaking eggs".

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

more for less

Thanks to Sharon Astyk for pointing out that Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, is seeing things much as we are . Scott writes:
Cheapatopia is a hypothetical city, designed from scratch to be an absurdly cheap place to live with a ridiculously high quality of life... the era of ridiculous consumption is over ... If we want universal healthcare, and a decent standard of living for the exploding population of seniors, the average household will have to learn how to make do with less. But in doing so, there is no reason we can't be happier at the same time, so long as we do it right... Cheapatopia puts a big emphasis on entertainment and social interaction. If you have that, plus health, safety, and financial security, you might be willing to give up the over-consumption and needless complexity of your old life... I believe the next big change in society will involve simplifying our lives, getting rid of the waste and inconvenience that we drifted into, and finding meaning through more social involvement... Cheapatopians work at home or within the city, so commuting is minimal.
This brings to mind the refrains of James Howard Kunstler about the death of suburbia: he foresees the "end of happy motoring" whereby every aspect of our lives that is predicated on private motoring will fail, as oil becomes unaffordable for increasingly impoverished western populations. He sees city centres regenerating into places where people live and shop and walk to work. Anywhere urban that does not have public transport within walking distance will become a ghetto. Where there is not efficient rail transport, we will be left with only rural villages, based around smaller scale farming, and compact urban centres, where people can transport themselves by foot. These are the living environments that provide the highest quality of life: frequent social interaction with neighbors and fellow citizens, a palpable community spirit, and no tedious commuting. Suburbia will become ghost-towns and ghettos.

Dmitri Orlov sees water transport becoming more important, and home grown food. Having witnessed the breakup of the Soviet Union first hand he knows what happens when a political and economic system collapses: people become dependent on what they can do for themselves and for each other on a local level. This means growing our own food, even in city apartments, on balconies, window ledges, indoors. When the system collapsed in Cuba, they started growing food on road verges and anywhere they could: Cuba now leads the way in organic agriculture, and this happened through necessity, as they couldn't afford chemicals.

Sharon Astyk herself concentrates mainly on food and family: how to make do and mend, growing and storing our own food, organizing our lives so we are not dependent on the electric grid or on supermarkets, making the most of what we have through reuse and ingenuity.

All these writers emphasize that the quality of our lives is not dependent on money, income, or consumer goods. Fulfillment comes through our social interactions, through doing productive and useful work that benefits ourselves and our communities directly, through living in harmony with nature, through the robust health that comes from eating a healthy and natural diet, and so on. By rearranging the way we live and work, we can be much happier with much less.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Terra Madre

I just saw an excellent film last night: "Terra Madre" by Italian director Ermanno Olmi. Terra Madre (Mother Earth) is a biennial multi-language conference hosted in Torino by the Slow Food Organization - a network of food communities, each committed to producing quality food in a responsible, sustainable way. They aim to foster discussion and innovation in the related fields of gastronomy and ecology and global economics.

This film starts out like a documentary of the 2008 Terra Madre conference in Torino, presenting stimulating views on the importance of bio-diversity, and working in harmony with nature. Ermanno Olmi builds masterfully on his theme, confronting the fate of the planet.. The film then gloriously metamorphoses into a beautiful and poetic slow experience of food cultivation in harmony with nature.

An unforgettable and thought provoking experience: this film seems to move beyond the normal boundaries of the documentary format. I, for one, will not forget its message, nor its beautiful imagery.

It is heartening to be reminded that there are dedicated people out there working for Planet Earth and against the evil forces of Monsanto and their global capitalist cronies. The central messages of simplicity, back to the earth, less is more, and of growing our food in harmony with nature, should inspire all of us.

damn the desktop

Desktops are for WIMPs. I don't like WIMPs. I never did, and I never will. Windows, icons, mice, pointers, desktops.... yuk.

Windows are for letting the light into a building, and for letting the occupants observe the world outside. And they can be opened to let air in. They have no place in a computer screen. There is only one natural window on a computer, and that is the screen itself: it has a frame and sometimes even a glass. What is this telling us? There is no need to subdivide this window into smaller windows. And if you just can't help yourself, then at least tile the windows, as with old-fashioned window panes - split the window into a number of smaller panes. But the slippery, sliding, overlapping "windows" which have become the norm in computer interfaces, are nausea inducing - they certainly make ME sick. If graphic designers can't live without them, then let their graphic applications create and maintain their own hideous mess of overlapping views. For the rest of us, this abstraction just steals lots of our screen estate, fills it with unnecessary clutter, and converts much of our time into frustration as we try to find the "window" we were trying to get some work done in. So, go FULL-SCREEN (or for Apple geeks: "mega-zoom"), and get back to basic simplicity. I want full screen when I am watching video. I want full screen when I am looking at pictures. I want full screen when I am reading. I want full screen when I am writing. I want full screen when I am programming. I want full screen. I want full screen. I want full screen. Wahhhh.

Icons are for religious devotees. Images may seem like a good idea for representing menu options, as they are language independent. But in practice most icons are incomprehensible to most people. Words, on the other hand, we all understand, so long as they are in our language. These days computers have no problem handling different languages. So we don't need icons. An icon of a printer just causes the majority of naive computer users to say "how do I print this?". Most of them would already have the printed sheet in their hands if there had simply been a button saying "print". Even if they think the icon looks like a printer, they are scared to press it in case it actually means something else, such as "wipe my hard disk clean".

Mice are for entertaining cats. If your real desktop had a real mouse on it you would be calling for your cat, or else you would be running out to buy a mousetrap or some rat poison. Or, in the case of certain traditional women, you would simply shriek "eeeeeeeeeekkkk" and jump on a chair and dance around in a frenzy. This is what mice are for. They are not for helping you navigate around a computer screen. Even our WIMPy friends, the graphic artists, (and the CADs and their ilk) all prefer (even demand) tablets and pens. Nobody wants a plastic mouse. Even cats find them dull and boring. The point and click interface of the browser is very intuitive and useful, but no that we have touch screens that actually work, there is no longer any justification for plastic mice.

Pointers. The creator gave us several: One index finger on each hand, and a bunch of backups in case our primary pointers are eaten or cut off in some unfortunate accident. From very early childhood we naturally point at what we want. We don't need a "pointer" image on the screen to do it for us. Just a touch screen and a finger or two. Lets lose those middlemen, the pointer image and the pointer device. They just get in the way - the pointer devices specialize in malfunctioning, and the pointer images specialize in getting lost, and/or becoming invisible. Lets consign them all to the dustbin of history (along with the QUERTY keyboard, but that is another post..). When we need to remember where we were on the screen, we have good old-fashioned cursors - just like pointers but without the pointiness. I like cursors, just so long as they are big and flashy, so I can find them....

Desktops... WTF?!??@#$%^&*! I have a desktop. It is made of wood, and on it there is a hideous clutter of keyboard, mouse, headset, glasses, glass of water, empty coffee cup, random piles of paper documents, DVDs, memory sticks, USB cables, pens, you name it. A man's desktop is like a woman's handbag. One desktop is more than enough for me to deal with in my life. Why anyone imagined I would want a computer representation of a desktop is beyond me. And then they implemented it so badly that I can't even use it in a useful way, without a degree in computer science. What is this nonsense? A picture - fine, I like pictures, and I get to choose my own - but I don't want icons all over it! Maybe in place of the screen saver (screen savers!.. don't get me started..), I would like to have my favorite picture or pictures display full screen.. in fact that is exactly how I have set up my mac. So I have my picture. Who ever put a real picture on a real desktop? It is futile because it gets covered in junk, which spoils the picture. OK.. all those icons on the "desktop" - what are the for? If I want a representation of a bunch of files and folders and application shortcuts, then I have my home folder in my file manager. I can view that as words, if I like, or I can view it as if I want to introduce more serendipity into my day. So why do I need the separate "desktop" to do the same thing in a different (and generally dysfunctional) way? Short and simple answer - I don't. Computer desktops are truly superfluous.

So - give me a full screen browser and some decent web apps, along with a full screen file manager (and in my sad geeky case, a full screen terminal with a copy of mc), and I have everything I want and need from a computer interface. No windows. No icons, No rodents. No damned desktop. If only life were that simple.....

Friday, 19 June 2009

silent servers and the Goog

I earn my living from designing and developing computer systems, and I do believe that there is a lot we can learn about the nature of the New Paradigm from the computer world. For example, the moves from hierarchical control-based structures to free-form distributed relationships, and from selfish greed-motivated commercial activity towards altruistic giving and creation for the love of it, are illustrated very well in the growth and success of the open source movement. The original MIT hackers were pioneers of the New Paradigm, and the free software and open source movements, that grew out of their activities, provide clear signals as to the way ahead in other walks of life.

However, these days we all bask free in the Jupiter-sized benevolence of the Great God Google. The Goog keeps all of our data in its cloud, and provides us with all of the computer services we need, foree of charge, through our web connections and browsers... Don't get me wrong - I think Google IS great. They are on a glorious mission to free us from the evil empire of Micros&*t and I am an ardent user of their services: gmail handles all my emailing, and has done for 3 years or so now. Google docs has freed me from the horrors of MS Office, and from interminable waiting for Open Office to waken up... I get my daily RSS feeds fix via Google Reader. My web portal is iGoogle. I often go to Google News for news. I always go first to Google maps for online mapping. I love Google Earth. I blog on Blogger. I even use Google for searching (no - really!) and generally only go elsewhere when their servers break down (in which case takes the silver medal)... but there we have the rub: even the Great Google sometimes breaks. So far I have not lost any data, but I have found myself with fully functional broadband, but no email facility (for days at a time in the early days of gmail, admittedly downtime has been much more rare in recent times). With alarming frequency I have had to resort to inferior services when the GGG homepage takes a nap. The downtime is small compared to the uptime, and given the size and technical strength of the Google behemoth you might think that it is churlish, even paranoid, to be concerned about Google unavailability, but I am looking at a bigger picture...

Other people worry about what the Goog might do (or be doing) with their private data - and this is a legitimate concern as we are dealing with a commercial organization here, and these days the track record of commercial organizations when it comes to ethics and honesty is not good (as an understatement...). When bankers cannot be trusted then why should we trust financially motivated geeks? But I don't really care about this issue - I feel I have nothing to hide and so they can do what they like with my data: so long as they don't lose it, I am happy. I am not giving them vital passwords or bank account access codes. The risks from misuse of my data seem small to me compared to the advantages of free (as in beer) access to that data from any web-connected computer, along with the peace of mind that comes from not having to safeguard my data from loss. I grew up using tapes and floppy disks and then hard drives to store all my data, and all of these formats offered the feature of regular catastrophic loss of data. Accordingly, much time was spent on making multiple backups of everything, and much of my hair turned white through the stress of trying to keep some organisation and method to all of the backups, to ensure that my vital data survived the regular melt downs of media and equipment.

What concerns me about Google is not that they might lose my data, nor even that their servers may be down on occasion, but that I might lose my connection to Google for sustained periods of time. I am currently typing this on in my new home in rural Italy, where I am at the mercy of Telecom Italia for the provision of the phone line and broadband (or even dial-up) connection that I require to pursue my profession with any degree of professionalism... forget about mobile connections, as my cellphone struggles to even deliver usable voice telephony thanks to dramatic mountains and solid medieval buildings that barricade out the loutish advances of the cellular networks. I may wait many weeks before I can connect again (and upload a splurge of blogging..), but I am actually enjoying the break from emails and emailing and RSS feeds and blogging and global news trawling that had become the core of my daily existence - I am forced to go for walks in the leafy mountain lanes, rediscovering the wonders of nature.. I am having to idle away many hours basking in the mediterranean sun, instead of burning my eyes out on my monitor.... this actually counts as a major improvement in the quality of my life. My work consists of system design and programming, and my productivity in these activities (the ones that pay the rent) has gone through the roof, due to my being denied the time-sucking pleasures of online communication, internet TV, youtube, and the rest. But if I had relied on the Goog to store all of my data, instead of just my emails and RSS feeds, then I would be unable to work at all, until Telecom Italia run out of excuses for failing to turn up on appointed days and times and connecting a phone line for me... With the joys of USB sticks I can shuffle my work once or twice a week to other computers that are more connected, and thereby upload it to servers, and life goes on sweetly and quietly and increasingly chilled out....

But all of this has set me thinking:what happens when the server farms start to die? What happens when the connections start to drop? Don't be fooled by the apparent reliability of the internet and its service providers in recent years: we are now plummeting into an abyss of global economic meltdown on a scale unprecedented in the history of mankind. Organisations will die suddenly and catastrophically, en masse, in an unpredictable fashion. Our financial systems, our political systems, our cultures even, are all crumbling to dust. The oil supplies are dwindling - we have passed peak oil. We have failed time and again to moderate our squandering of the Earth's resources, and instead have ramped up our consumption in an exponential fashion. Now it starts to crash down around our ears. The old certainties mean nothing. We are entering armageddon.

The internet was designed from the start to cope with nuclear holocaust - it is armageddon-ready. But we must expect huge losses of servers and connections, and a general breakdown in reliability. Once the USA sticks the finger up at China and defaults on its debt, forcing China to nuke the USA in order to safeguard the all-important oriental honour, much of Google may disappear in smoke. Even if we still have sporadic access to the web, we cannot rely on the continuing existence of centralized data stores. The paradigm of client server is past its sell-by date. Google wants to store all of our data in its centralized storage facilities - yes they have built in redundancy and distribution of data within their server farm architectures, but the whole lot may be pulverized to dust. Even if it is not, we cannot expect to keep having 24/7 access to it. The monolithic model is approaching extinction. Google is old-paradigm and we should be very wary of getting fully on their cloud.

The internet (i.e. the network) is bomb-proof (and, it seems, anything-else-proof too!) because of its new paradigm design: it is distributed, and it assumes that data will be lost en-route. If you have two working computers and a wire (or wireless) between them, the internet can still exist. Take out, at random, 99.999999% of the computers on the internet, and the internet can still exist and can still function. It is the primary wonder of the modern world. But our storage of data has to be done according to the same paradigm: we must assume that data stores will be lost, and that data will be lost in transit, and yet still provide a reliable persistence of whatever data is deemed to be important. Distributed technologies like bit-torrent and skype show the way forward: they utilize any machines they can, and coordinate these machines in a flexible way to provide data transmission and telecommunications that are every bit as armageddon-proof as the internet infrastructure itself. These systems operate in a viral fashion, and they are not susceptible to manipulation by saboteurs, censors or other rogues.

Every machine on the internet must be seen as a node: just as the internet itself sees each machine as an IP address, the data storage and data transmission systems of the future must see every machine as a homogenous cell. Each cell must be essentially identical in capability: they must be able to store and catalog whatever data comes their way that is deemed important - to the limits of their storage capacity (which will obviously vary enormously), and they must be able and willing to pass on their contents to other cells when connected to them and asked to do so. Data that is deemed important by many people will then be duplicated in many locations, while data that is deemed unimportant will be stored sparsely, if at all. Such a system will continue to provide utility, for as long as the internet itself does so. Monolithic data stores will die. Bye bye Google. Bye bye Wikipedia (may your glorious content be cached many times).

In this context the recent hyped announcement of Google Wave shows a failure by those in positions of influence and power to understand the way the world is going. Google Wave ( ) is a very interesting development: it creates a new document format, the 'wave' which wraps around (or replaces) many old types of document, such as email, instant messaging, wiki pages, text files, spreadsheets, image files, video files, etc. etc. Each 'wave' is stored centrally by Goog, or another 'server engine' provider. Instead of sending emails to each other, whereby I keep a copy of the email and you receive another copy, in the Google Wave paradigm, there is one central copy which we both can see online. I can then change my message to you after I first send it (indeed the whole concept of sending is essentially eliminated by Google Wave - we can watch our correspondents in the act of writing their messages, character by character. The process can scale up to multi-user collaboration (wiki style with instant messaging overtones) on one wave. All document types other than text messages are simply dragged and dropped on the wave, and thus become part of it. Clever stuff for sure, and on first encounter it can seem beguiling. Bye bye email, bye bye wiki, bye bye Google Docs? Hello Waves :)

Yes - just what I always wanted to do with my increasingly scarce time (once I have a web connection that is, and my current idyll is destroyed): watch my friends and colleagues, and a host of spammers also, as they laboriously type out, misspell and correct, delete and rewrite their messages... even more of an idle waste of time than Twittering... and yes, just what I always wanted, for those messages sent to me by my friends and colleagues to be changing in front of my eyes, hours, days, months, years, after I thought they were finished - for comments to be added here there and everywhere, at any time, in a totally non-linear and chaotic fashion - to be able to replay the evolution of these monstrous waves step by step ad nauseam.... the prospect is enough to drive me to permanently hitting the power off button and taking up farming full time. I have no doubt that a host of ardent believers will embrace Google Wave enthusiastically, and will become addicted to its gameplay, while losing sight of any real meaning in the content. More and more noise in our lives. Less and less value. I do not think I will be waving with the rest of the surfer dudes: I am just too old and crusty and cranky for such flash without substance. I want to craft and hone my prose before publishing it for others to read - I consider the time of my readers to be valuable and worthy of my effort. Less is more (OK OK I am not applying that maxim very well to this particular post....). The process of creativity is itself seldom an edifying sight: it makes a poor spectator sport. Google Wave will have its uses in brainstorming sessions and the like, and there is an admirable commitment to open source and to fostering collaboration, but while the centralized design (no duplication of data) obeys traditional database design ideology, it will not work during the apocalypse - the chances of the wave server being up, and of you having a working connection to it, at the time you wish to compose your opus, are slim. I am sure that the Goog will provide an offline mode so you can compose a message without being connected, but then all the bells and whistles that everyone is getting so excited about will vanish, and we are back to traditional messaging, without the benefit of multiple copies being distributed across multiple machines, and without the benefit of being stable and unchanging once posted.

No - Google Wave is not the golden technology of the new age, for us all to surf in blissed-out harmony. Something more appropriate must be put together before the sands of internet stability run out. I am going to search the web for a distributed messaging system that is suitable for the times we are entering. It should be very simple and very viral. If you know of such a system then please let me know. If such a tool does not exist then I may even build it myself. Watch this space :)

Friday, 8 May 2009

Slow down

As we sell the planet and ourselves down the river, we run in ever faster circles "chasing our tails". Here are some extracts from "The link between Mind and Social / Environmental-Issues" by Sushil Yadav:
The fast-paced, consumerist lifestyle of Industrial Society is causing exponential rise in psychological problems besides destroying the environment. All issues are interlinked. Our Minds cannot be peaceful when attention-spans are down to nanoseconds, microseconds and milliseconds. Our Minds cannot be peaceful if we destroy Nature.
Emotion is what we experience during gaps in our thinking.

If there are no gaps there is no emotion.

Today people are thinking all the time and are mistaking thought (words/ language) for emotion.
When society switches-over from physical work (agriculture) to mental work (scientific/ industrial/ financial/ fast visuals/ fast words ) the speed of thinking keeps on accelerating and the gaps between thinking go on decreasing.

There comes a time when there are almost no gaps.

People become incapable of experiencing/ tolerating gaps.

Emotion ends.

Man becomes machine.
In ancient times verbal processing was “live” in nature—ie it happened when people actually spoke.
Today there is non-stop verbal processing inside the mind through print and electronic media ( newspapers, books, magazines, radio, television, computer etc…) as a result of which the verbal content & speed has increased thousands of times.

The speed of visuals ( and words ) has increased so much during the last
one hundred years that today the human brain has become incapable of
focussing on slow visuals /words through perception, memory, imagery.

If we cannot focus on slow visuals / words we cannot experience emotions associated with slow visuals /words.

In a fast society slow emotions become extinct. In a thinking ( scientific / industrial ) society emotion itself becomes extinct.
In small(slow)agriculture-based societies the mind used to experience a state of emotion all the time because of physical work and slow visual/verbal processing . People who do physical work experience the same good subjective-feeling which is experienced by people who do physical excercise. People who do physical work also sleep much better than people who do mental work - the quality of sleep is much better. If we read one thousand-year-old literature we will not come across the term "boredom" - the concept of boredom did not exist in slow societies. There were long gaps between different visuals and between words/ sentences - and people had the ability to experience/ tolerate the gaps - it was normal for them.
There are easy emotions and difficult emotions. Easy emotions are evoked within nanoseconds, microseconds and milliseconds - anger, lust, fear, pleasure, entertainment and excitement are some examples. These emotions are associated with fast breathing and heart-rate. These emotions don't require gaps between thinking to evoke, intensify and sustain. These are the emotions that can be found everywhere in today's fast society.

Then there are difficult emotions - which require ability and years of effort to develop - emotions associated with pain, compassion and peaceful states of mind are some examples. These emotions are associated with slow breathing and heart-rate. These emotions require freezing of thought - freezing of visuals and words - huge amounts of gaps between thinking - to evoke, intensify and sustain.
Our present lifestyle is destroying our Minds and Environment - the evidence is everywhere - left, right and center.

It is Science and Technology that created the consumerist Industrial Society which has led to the destruction of Mind and Nature/ Environment.

In the absence of Science, Technology, Industrialization/ Industrial Revolution the two problems of overpopulation and overconsumerism would not exist.
A thinking species destroys the planet. Animals lived on earth for billions of years (in very large numbers) without destroying nature.
This planet is on the verge of total destruction.

The cause of destruction is – overactivity.

The cause of overactivity is – Intelligence.

Intelligence is a curse - a disease - a disability - an abnormality.
People work because they cannot stop working.

It does not matter what kind of work we do - whether it is physical work or any kind of mental work. As soon as we stop working we suffer from restlessness, anxiety, uneasiness and discomfort.
For most people the choice is between physical and mental work.
The switch-over from physical work to mental work is disastrous for the planet.

Man can do the same physical work every day. Man cannot do the same mental work every day.
When we make consumer goods we kill Animals/ Trees, Air/ Water and Land - directly or indirectly.

Industrial Society destroys ecosystems - all Industrial Societies destroy ecosystems.
Most of the people living in cities are engaged in unnecessary work - making things, buying things and selling things. The switch-over from Physical work to Mental work/ Desk job has led to an endless cycle of unnecessary and destructive work.

When society switches over from physical work to mental work it starts making thousands of consumer goods. People start calling them necessities. They are not necessities at all - 90% of consumer goods that we see today did not exist 50 years ago

Food, Water, Air, Little clothing, Little Shelter - these are necessities.
There is too much discussion in modern society. Discussion is not solving our problems – discussion itself has become a problem – a gigantic problem.
There is very little discussion / debate / argument in societies that do physical work - ie, agriculture-based societies - And this is the reason why they are millions of times saner than industrial societies.
Industrial Society has collectively killed billions of Animals and Trees.
Industrial Society has flooded the ecosystems with toxic chemicals. Most of the Farm Land has been poisoned with pesticides due to Industrial Agriculture. The Land - The Air - The Water - the entire food chain is contaminated with thousands of man-made toxic chemicals which did not exist before industrialiation.
Make things
Buy things
Sell things

This is not the purpose of life.
Material things don't bring peace and happiness. Today billions of people have got things which even Kings did not have in the past. Car, computer, television, fridge, telephone - no King ever had these things. But people are still restless and unhappy.
Consumerist-Lifestyle is just not sustainable. If we do not immediately return to living a very simple and frugal life then very soon there will be no human life on earth. We would need several planet Earths to sustain the present lifestyle.
We cannot save the environment by doing something.

We can only save it by doing less of what we have been doing - much less of what we have been doing.

If we want to save the environment we will have to reduce human activity (overactivity) by 99%.
It is the human species which is the greatest threat to humans and all other life on this planet - In fact the human species is the only species which is a threat to all life on Earth.

Man has decimated all Animal and Plant species – polluted the Sky and Oceans - and poisioned every square inch of earth.

In a mere 200 - 300 years Industrial Society has destroyed all that Nature laboriously created over a period of millions of years.

Sushil seems to suggest we have to go backwards, undoing evolution. Actually we have to move forwards, evolving further, towards being balanced spiritual beings. Over a long time we evolved from instinctive creatures, to emotional creatures, and now to mental creatures. The next stage in our evolution is to become spiritual creatures - balancing our "being" with our "human". This does involve, to a large extent, switching our rational minds off. To get there we need to learn to meditate, to slow down, to stop our excessive thinking, and stop rushing around. We need to embrace nature instead of destroying it. We need to live in harmony with all other beings. We need to find once again the balance that we have lost. None of this can ever come from our suicidal old paradigm ways.

The "slow emotions" that Sushil describes (other than pain) are not emotions at all but feelings - they are spiritual in nature: love, compassion, benevolence, peacefulness, serenity, joy, bliss. We can only reach such elevated feelings by slowing down. We need to chill out, drop out of the old paradigm industrial/consumer society, and learn to smell the flowers, once again.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

wake up

The decline of our civilization is happening on an unprecedented scale and with unprecedented speed. We have to look into the mists of time, to the legend of a decadent Atlantis sinking beneath the waves, to find anything that parallels what we are now witnessing.

The seeds of the spectacular end game were sown with the rise of Darwinism and scientific rationalism in the 1800s. We became full of our own cleverness, and lost respect for spirituality and for nature. We started seeing ourselves as masters of the Universe. The agricultural revolution mechanized and centralized agriculture, as we turned nature's gardens into chemically enhanced food factories. Hot on the heels of this abomination came the industrial revolution, whereby our modern industrialized economies grew rapidly, like a cancer on Mother Earth, creating ever more powerful machines and methods to rape Mother Earth and to feed our own vanity and conceit.

The USA emerged from the ashes of the European empires, as the epitome of the modern way - the American Dream was sold across the entire planet, and gradually was embraced by all, as the modern idea of paradise on Earth: a big car, a spacious house, electrical appliances to serve our every whim, and toys galore to play with.

The USA grew fat and powerful, taking the lions share of the spoils of two world wars, and leading the world in adopting ever-more artificial lifestyles, based on conspicuous consumption of manufactured goods. The eminence of manufacturing in the west was gradually eclipsed by the rise of services, primarily financial services: as the US and western Europe grew fat, the more hungry India, Japan, and China started beating western manufacturing at its own game.

Having already lost much of its manufacturing capacity to Japan in the 1980s and China in the 1990s, the USA continued growing fatter by equipping the Chinese with all of the machine tools and technology they required to become a mega industrial engine for the World. Meanwhile India's burgeoning workforce, being much better educated than that of the US, and prepared to work for a fraction of the money, began sucking up the service jobs that the post-industrial west had been relying on for economic health.

Meanwhile, entering this new millennium, the apparent wealth and living standards of the west continued to grow, apparently defying gravity. Where was the money coming from? Now we know. We borrowed it from the Chinese. They lent us the money to buy their goods, and we maintained an appearance of credit worthiness by inflating our asset values - first it was a technology stocks bubble, and then, fatally, the biggest financial bubble ever seen in the history of mankind, our fabulous multi-national housing bubble.

The trickery and deception, greed, and downright dishonesty of the financial sector, which fueled this bubble, through fantasy economic modeling and false accounting on an unprecedented scale, was a marvel to behold: the last grand hurrah of the old paradigm. They created a gigantic pyramid of fake money, and consumed the entire inside of the pyramid in commissions, salaries, fees, bonuses, and dividends. Now only the hollowed out shell remains, with new burnt out holes appearing day upon day - there is still the appearance of a financial sector, functioning national economies, and functioning currencies, but anyone who looks closely can now see what a fragile sham it all is. There is no question as to whether it will all collapse: it is simply a question of when - and it cannot last for very long.

Meanwhile the banking titans are now staggering about in a panic, sucking up government money as fast as the printing presses can run. And our corrupt political leaders, taking advice from these same banking titans, and from our staggeringly incompetent mainstream economists, seem more than willing to keep shoveling money into the furnaces with complete abandon. There is no sign anywhere of any regard for our future, let alone the future of our children and grandchildren. Bluntly, there is no future for any of us, under this fatally damaged and rapidly collapsing system.

It is utterly futile to try to fix any of this. It is broken irreparably. It is a dead loss. The process of entropy is reducing order to chaos, and simplicity to complexity. We must not waste our time trying to fix our broken economic and political systems. It is too late for that. We have had a farewell party of exceptional extravagance and decadence, and soon we will be surveying the wreckage in the aftermath, but meanwhile we cannot see the mess for the seething masses of drunken partygoers continuing on their self-destructive binges. Soon they will all have fallen over, comatose, and very sick. I suspect that the clean-up operation will be well beyond our capacity - we will have to rely on Mother Nature to clean up the devastation we have caused to planet Earth.

So what will be left for those of us that survive this coming apocalypse? I don't think any of us can know for sure - we are entering a new paradigm, much of which is still beyond our comprehension. We cannot understand the new by using the mindset of the old. We must start again, by dispensing with scientific rationalism, and embracing our inner nature. We must move from left-brain dominance to a balance between left and right: from cold rationalism, to warm and intuitive empathy for our fellow beings. We may have big brains but we remain mammals, dependent on Mother Nature to survive. If we keep poisoning our food, and feeding ourselves with chemicals, we will keep getting sicker. If we keep torturing and murdering the animals, and then consuming their corpses, we will keep increasing our own inner torment.

Children of my generation grew their hair long, and wore beads, and flowers in their hair. Children of today stick needles in their bodies and cover themselves with tatoos. Is this progress? Or is it a collapse from love and hope into forlorn self-hate? This is just a symptom of the sickness of our society. We are now living in Hell. And we have created it ourselves. And it is only going to get worse, unless we waken up to the madness of what we are doing with the planet, and vow resolutely to change our ways. I do not envisage most of mankind taking this vow. Instead there will just be complaining and blaming, from the vast majority. And the complaints will escalate into abject fear and panic when there is no fuel available for our cars, and no food in our supermarkets, and the Army is patrolling the city streets and shooting at their own people. And billions will be starving, and billions will be sick. This is the new world we are now accelerating towards.

And yet, we do have an option, a much better option. Only a few of us can even see it. We can turn our back on our industrial and artificial existence. We can stop buying things we don't need. We can stop being consumers, and start being people again. We can stop vandalizing our homelands, and start nurturing them. We can free ourselves from the yokes imposed on us by our political and corporate overlords - they have already lost control of their infernal systems, and they are powerless now to stop us from turning our backs on them. We can stop feeding them with our labour and our earnings. We can stop giving them any attention whatsoever. Let them rot. We can focus our attention on our families, friends, and neighbors. We can grow our own food, and keep ourselves healthy by living outdoor lives and eating what nature provides. This lifestyle is good enough for the animal kingdom, and it will be better for us than our current wage slavery. We will be happier without telephones and televisions. We will not need make-up or fashion accessories, other than to play games. Life can go on, without our economic and political infrastructures, and such a life can be much more fulfilling than our current stress crazed confusion.

This is what lies ahead, for those of us that survive the meltdown. A simpler life. A life closer to nature. A life based around local communities, and real human interaction with our neighbors. A life based on giving and sharing, and enjoying what we have. A life lived now, in the moment, and not in the endless seeking of imaginary future pleasure. A life filled with joy and laughter. The more we give to each other, the more we receive ourselves - this is a natural law, and we should start paying attention to it. Some of us are already living such a life: they are the blessed and happy ones, who will be least affected by the coming changes. The rest of us must start mending our ways, or we are going to receive some very unpleasant shocks.

Our "leaders" cannot help us any longer, even if they wanted to (and believe me, they don't). We have to help ourselves. We have to move from complex ways to simple ways, from decadence and dissolution, to purity and honesty. We have to change our focus from global to local, and from machines to beings. Waken up people, waken up. We do not have much time left to ready ourselves for the big shift that is coming.