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Ming the Mechanic

An old rigid civilization is reluctantly dying. Something new, open, free and exciting is waking up.


Welcome to the 5th dimension

Sat, 8 Nov 2014 04:12:50 GMT

have for many years held on to a particular model of human conscious evolution that heard once. ead about it in my article here: he ingularity and the ifth imension. t lays out how humanity is in the process of moving from the 3rd to the 5th "dimension" and what that actually means. nd, note that, as mentioned, it doesn't have to be taken as some new age spiritual kind of thing, but can just as well be a model of technological progress. and the required evolution in consciousness to deal with it. riefly, 3 was where things got done by getting the inspiration for them, by thinking about it, by getting in the mood, and then working hard on doing what it takes. pirit -> hought -> motion -> ffort -> anifestation. he old-fashioned idea of: if you put your mind to it and work hard, you'll see some rewards in life, after quite a few years. oing big things required large investments of physical effort and time.4 speeded things up quite a bit. ou still need inspiration and thought, but things start happening already when you're really in the mood, and you get other people in the right mood. hink advertising and think nternet overnight dot-com successes. pirit -> hought -> motion -> anifestation. ow much work went into something is no longer such an important factor. acebook is worth more than twice as much as eneral otors, even though it was a much much smaller effort. t the same time, what is there can crumble very quickly, when suddenly people feel different about it. he rab pring. owerful centralized regimes can be toppled almost overnight.ote that 'm saying, more or less, that we already went into that phase. t is more or less the epoch of the nternet.ut what about the next step? n case you follow me in imagining that something like this actually is going on.5 is a further acceleration. hings happen when thought becomes coherent. t no longer matters so much what people really feel or what they actually are doing, or for that matter, what actually is there. he mere thought sends things off into a different direction. pirit->hought->anifestation.ou might have interpreted that as instant magic, as if stuff would materialize in thin air the moment you think about it, but there's no reason to take it quite as literally. ust like the 4 nternet ge indeed changed things, but not to the degree that your feelings made things appear out of thin air. t is not direct creation as much at it is attraction. t is an organizing principle, not godly superpowers. ith the arrival of the nternet, we started being attracted to what was exciting, or what was horrible, more than to what took lots of time and effort to build. ikewise, in the next phase, we organize ourselves based on something else, on clarity of thought, 'd say.o, 5, what might that actually look like? had provided some warnings about us totally not being ready for it, that we'd go crazy and/or blow ourselves up really quickly. nd in some ways we are, but not quite as dramatically as laid it out. roup insanity has become a lot more apparent. arge groups of people believe themselves to live in realities that to most others are stark raving lunacy. olitics provides plenty of illustration. his is quite different from different people simply having different beliefs. t is not just that some people prefer more spending on social programs and others prefer strengthening private initiatives. t is that the other guys seemingly are living in the world of ooney unes and are acting en masse as if it is totally real to them. nd they in turn imagine some outrageous things about the folks you hang out with, seeing you as totally unable to deal with things as they really are.t isn't just that some people go to church on undays and others on aturdays, and some people don't like pork. t is that groups emerge seemingly overnight that get a lot of people to believe that everybody who doesn't believe the same things as them should be beheaded. ote that the same people will be willing and able to argue logically for that belief. r think about the rather large group of people who believe that everyb[...]

The conversation of work

Sat, 1 Nov 2014 21:33:29 GMT

(image) eing a computer programmer has been one of my main sources of income for the past more than 30 years. ore than half of it freelance, doing projects for people. 've noticed an important difference between very successful projects and not so successful projects.

s there anybody to have the conversation with?

oftware development is a type of knowledge work. ey parts of the work is to get to understand the problems at hand and inventing solutions for them. ecause what needs to be done generally speaking isn't known in advance, it is being discovered along the way. odern approaches to development, such as the gile principles, take that into account by bringing all the stake holders together and engaging them in frequent conversation, and by progressing very incrementally.

ut many people still mistakenly think that software is something mechanical. ou just need to specify clearly what you want, and then the programmers need to just go and code it. hat was how it was generally perceived a few decades ago. nalysts would write the specs for what needed to be done, and then we just needed to apply enough programmer man-hours to implement it. t never worked well, because once the programmers came back with the work, 6 months or a year later, and it was shown to the people who asked for it, they usually would realize that it wasn't really want they wanted, and they'll ask for changes. nd the analysts would revise the specs and the programmers went off and did the work again, and came back some months later. hat used to be the idea, but it is ridiculously wasteful and ineffective, so the approach has mostly been abandoned. owever, that doesn't necessarily mean that it is easy to persuade clients that they need to be engaged in the process. ometimes it is a very hard sell.

he most successful software projects 've done have involved a continuous conversation with some other people, often daily. hat doesn't mean long meetings. owadays it means brief asynchronous instant messages, and occasional short face to face meetings. oesn't have to be with everybody, but it should certainly include somebody who has a sense of what is needed, i.e. somebody who represents the interests of the end users. nd, strangely, that's occasionally very hard to find, and it might make the project suffer greatly. eaning, it will take a lot longer, be more costly, and most likely not deliver what really is needed.

he problem is in part that complexity is hard to understand. omplexity is something dynamic and alive that can't be all understood in advance, but that has emerging properties, which might or might not be the desired ones. his is as compared to stuff that is merely complicated. f it is complicated it might well be possible to make a big assembly diagram and have somebody simply follow the instructions. hat works with many things, like kea furniture, but not with others, like software. r communication. ou can't just outsource an organization's social media relations and expect that it will work well. here needs to be somebody home who participates in a process of finding what works.

o, a note to myself: ace the issue up front. on't accept a development project that the client isn't themselves taking part in. f they just want to tell you what they want and hear from you how long time it will take, walk the other way.

Good products

Wed, 1 Oct 2014 03:43:22 GMT

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f we simply could keep track of which stuff is good and which is bad, things would be much easier. e aren't good at it, and for that matter, the manufacturers of stuff don't help us very much. n this video present a hristmas present, a wine bottle opener, which just happens to work really well. t is ergonomic, the motor is strong, the battery lasts for a long time, the foil cutter actually does the job. ut it is a no name brand hinese thing, so it is hard for me to even recommend it to anybody.

fter some search, and some help from a friend, figured out that my wine opener is from ongguan eneit ommodity o.. nfortunately they don't have that exact same model any longer. as it a fluke that they made a great product, or do they do it consistently? don't know.

You must be an expert by now

Sat, 27 Sep 2014 04:04:07 GMT

y wife and don't always see eye to eye on what it takes to learn something. will quite readily accept that it might take years of hard work to acquire a particular skill. he will tend to think that an activity better start paying off right away, or it isn't really worth it. e both have some kind of point. ers being in part that learning might as well be fun and rewarding from the beginning, and there's nothing noble about suffering through a process that won't provide a result before much later.earning is an important subject to me. 'd love to see better learning methods become available all around. 'm convinced that many things could be learned many times faster and much more thoroughly, if somebody would manage to understand how we learn, and would construct an approach that provided the required input and feedback. nstead, we're usually required to listen to somebody talking and look at some examples of the subject matter, and we're supposed to just learn from that. e do, but usually very slowly.ntil we have this learning robot that can plug into, which will provide me instant feedback and just the right amount of repetition and variation, and which teaches the core structure of the matter, not all the random blahblah around it, it will take time. eople who've mastered a skill or a subject will know very well what kind of very substantial effort it took to get there. ou're not playing classical violin in front of an audience unless you've practiced for years, hours and hours every day. ou wouldn't be a stage magician with your own show if you hadn't practiced for thousands of hours to manipulate cards or coins until you do it so well that people don't see what you actually do. ou won't be a h.. unless you've digested a mountain of research in your particular field and you know pretty much everything that anybody else has said about it. eople who aren't in the process of mastering anything, or who haven't already done so, would tend to be very unaware of what it takes, and might even be quite likely to ridicule the work. hich is why it often happens out of sight.y wife and take dancing classes and enjoy going out dancing. ut it is also an arena where our differences show up. n most partner dances, it is quite well known that the leaders and the followers have a quite different journey and different learning curve. he followers mostly focus on relaxing and not trying to anticipate what the leader will do. he leader on the other hand must know what to do, must know the sequence of steps and how to lead them and when to do them. hich obviously he can't do well from day one. hate the uncomfortable feeling of being a klutz who doesn't know what to do in a beginner class. articularly if it seems to be easier for other people. nd 'm really not fast at getting something new at first. y approach to keeping up will often be to put in an extra effort, study up on it in my own time, take the beginner class two or three times if can. had started this dance that my wife wasn't yet doing at the time, est oast wing. loved it right away, and decided to do what it took to learn it, even though it is considered quite difficult. o, put in some extra effort, went to weekend workshops in a addition to the regular classes, watched videos, etc. nd now, here's the thing, that wouldn't go on for more than a few months before my wife would start making remarks like "ou must be an expert by now, with all those classes you're taking". r, when 'm signing up for another weekend class next month: "o you really need to be an expert?". f wanted to be an expert and really master something, should be practicing it for some hours every day. ot some hours every second weekend.any well-meaning people will be very interested when a friend or family member starts to learn something new. "ou should give us a show!", "hen are you going to perform?" two weeks after somebody starts learning to dance or play the are surely activities that might be worth watching[...]


Fri, 26 Sep 2014 19:15:40 GMT

t some point, a few years ago, became good at saying wise stuff very concisely. t was sort of accidental. he challenge set myself was to say more things that were quotable. t is a oastmasters principle that one ought to always have some material ready, in case somebody unexpectedly asks you to get up and speak to a crowd. ome stories, some jokes, some unusual facts, some quotes. ne could simply collect some of those when one runs into them, put them on a list, and glance at them once in a while so that one is likely to remember them.nd thought -- quotes -- can't remember anything 've said that was quotable. nce in a while other people would quote me on something had written years ago, and usually was impressed. ut couldn't myself think of anything. o decided to write it down when said something that would make a good quote.ncidentally, witter or acebook are ideal for brief statements. n witter you simply can't write more than 140 characters, so if one has any hope of writing something memorable and meaningful, it would have to be within that limit. was quickly surprised to find that it was quite easy for me to say something quotable. had just meant to try to catch it when said something clever, but by doing that, started mainly writing things that were clever and quotable. hat maybe shouldn't be surprising, one typically gets what one puts one's attention on. nyway, the result became that more or less copied everything said on witter or acebook to my quote list right away. o, now, several years later there are hundreds and hundreds of entries on it.t is worth noting that even though my initial motivation was somewhat vain and self-serving, to collect clever things 've said in order to sound smart and quotable later, it was something else managed to tap, can't really come up with something clever on command. f try to deliberately construct a wise and profound statement, generally can't. 'd sweat over it and just come up with something mediocre and unoriginal. ecause it is not really about constructing something clever at all. t is more about discovering something.he way it works for me is that 'm busy with something else and suddenly, bing, an insight pops into my head, fully formed. hat has certainly happened for a long time. hat was new now was that words came along with it. could just write those words down, a sentence or two, and post them on witter or whatever. nd would probably pop right back to what was doing before, having just spent a minute or so noting down or posting that thought.he cool thing is that most of those little packets of wisdom could be unpacked to something much larger if necessary. f somebody has a question about it, 'd have a lot to say about it, and 'd have examples, etc. r any of them could be a whole discussion, or a lecture, or a book, if necessary, and if had time to write it. r they could just stay brief. hat is very useful about the brief form is that it is enough to remind me of exactly what it is about. o, even years later, could still unpack it into a speech or an explanation. here'd be nothing to forget, because the initial quote says it all, even if it maybe isn't clear to most other people. nd it almost always has a built-in integrity and coherence. obody ever catches me in having gotten it wrong. don't particularly mean that to brag. 'm after all only partially responsible. hose thoughts pop into my head from don't know where. didn't try to construct them, they don't represent something painstakingly have figured out. can explain them after the fact, though.he downside of saying many little things like that is that might not get around to the bigger and longer and more detailed explanations and articles. nd even though myself was quite happy with my mini version, and a bunch of people clicked ike on it, 'm quite aware that probably most people didn't quite get what meant. hey might have entirely misunderstood it, or have at least fil[...]

An evolving path

Thu, 3 May 2012 04:04:35 GMT

(image) 've spent the last couple of months doing quite different things from what normally have. 've been outside, digging in the garden, tinkering, using power tools. nd 've been studying a bunch of new things knew nothing about. quaponics, fish, plants, plumping, permaculture, forest gardens, and many sub-subjects of each. ow, this is really quite uncharacteristic. .e. 've never been interested in any of those things before. ut maybe it is not so uncharacteristic of me to dive deeply into a new subject.

nd, looking a couple of posts back, 2011 ccomplishments and 2012 ims, notice that this is actually exactly what said would do.

hat is new is that might be writing more about it. oing more physical things, building stuff, watching nature, surprise, that actually leads to lots of deep things to talk about. ut 'll also just talk about those practical things, without any need for them to be deep. esilient, local, distributed, empowering action has always been part of the subtext here. nd there's lots of practical stuff it might be a good idea to start paying attention to.

Intellectual Property

Tue, 24 Jan 2012 05:50:04 GMT

here's no such thing. ertainly it isn't something you can steal. uite the contrary, it is a license to steal. pecifically, it is a legal construct that gives an exclusive license to one party to stop all other parties from using certain words or certain pictures or certain designs or certain patterns of arranging things, simply because they were the first to claim that they invented those words or pictures, and that they own them. nd the purported owner can then extort money from all the other people, or simply stop them from doing anything that looks like what they did.t is a tired, tired old discussion, but intellectual property is not property. t is not in any way the same as when you own a physical object of some kind, and somebody can steal it. t is not even remotely that way, and you should be insulted if anybody suggests it. f you have a car, and somebody steals that car, by removing it from you and taking it into their possession, then obviously you don't have your car any longer, a car that took quite some resources to acquire, and which took raw materials to build. s opposed to that, with our modern technologies, ideas, words and pictures are extremely easily copied, for almost no cost, while leaving the original completely intact. our car is still there, even if somebody took a picture of it, just like your website is still there, even though somebody saved a copy of it. our car is also still there, even if somebody went to the trouble of building a copy of it. opying is not stealing. ot even close. f you claim so, you're running some kind of scam.he scam of ntellectual roperty is quite similar to how you meet a con artist on the street. hey seem friendly and they might ask you for a favor or invite you to play a little game. nd before you know it, you owe them 100 dollars, and it isn't quite clear how it's a lot of apparently friendly ntellectual roperty around. f you turn on the radio, there are dozens of channels playing music non-stop. hey actually broadcast songs over all civilized areas, from high powered emitters. pparently free for anybody to pick up, as long as they have the receiver, which is cheap and ubiquitous. owhere are you presented with any contract that says that you'll be punished for saving any of this music, or sharing it with a friend. urn on your and it is the same thing. ozens of channels broadcasting high quality content to you non-stop, for free. he same people broadcast much of this content for free on the nternet. ut if you ever get the idea that you can save some of it for replaying to yourself and your friends, you're suddenly a criminal, because you didn't then drive to a store to buy a or a with the music or film you wanted to keep.ntellectual property is like those apples one always hears about at alloween, where some wacko embedded razorblades in them. hey looked like a nice and friendly gift, but if you go off and actually try to eat them, you get hurt. r it is like a crack dealer distributing free samples. eems like a nice and friendly thing to do, but it is a gift you'll pay for are a lot of bogus cover stories you'll be presented with. t is to support the starving artists and musicians. hey need to be paid for their hard work. t is just that those people are rarely the actual people you're being asked to pay. ony is not an artist. either is arner rothers. hey are businesses trying to make a profit. f you look into the accounting that applies to the majority of artists or authors that have record deals or publishing contracts, you'll find that the vast majority of them make nothing whatsoever, or they even have to pay out of their own pocket to be published. he people who make money are the very few really big names. he adonnas and rad itts. ut much more so the media companies. he rest have been scammed as much as you have.f you think it is a problem now, it can get much, much worse. [...]

2011 Accomplishments and 2012 Aims

Mon, 2 Jan 2012 18:52:10 GMT

t can be stimulating and rewarding to once in a while take stock of what one has accomplished and what one aims at doing next. he new year is traditionally a good time for doing that. nd, 'm in part inspired by such a post from anessa iemis.o illustrate one good reason for writing it down, when at first think about what might have accomplished in 2011, draw a blank. idn't really do much, and hadn't really planned anything either. ut when one looks a bit closer, there's of course more there...2011n 2011 regained hope. ot that was particularly hopeless, but there was a certain cynicism that had crept in. "been there, done that, it didn't work" kind of attitude, hovering behind my habitual optimism. ow, suddenly, there are lots of reasons to be hopeful. he right people are starting to connect in the right ways. deas gain traction that previously didn't. onflicts that previously existed, no longer have much power. n the world scene, the centralized control system is crumbling fast. e have a unique opportunity to put something better in place. or the first time since the 1990s do feel really energized and hopeful about this being the time when it is possible.n 2011 found my philosophical voice in a new way. hat was actually a life hack. 'm a member of a local oastmasters club where people practice public speaking. t is a good piece of advice for a public speaker to collect material that will be ready for use whenever one is called upon to say something. tories, jokes, quotes, that kind of thing. o, made a document for recording good material when ran into it. made one of the categories y wn uotes, i.e. stuff 've said that can be quoted for, because wasn't able to come up with anything at the time. urprisingly, it turned out that suddenly started saying more things that were quotable, on witter, on acebook, etc. hich in turn, ironically, means have little use for my list, as it is more fun to make up something new.'ve met a lot of people. pecifically, now feel part of a global network of the "right" kind of people, which is really a mix of different kinds of people, but one that fits. nd it is not one thing. ather, notice overlapping groups coming together, sort of under the surface, without formal leaders. hings are more likely to happen in hidden acebook groups or private hangouts. ot that there's anything secret going on, but it seems more productive with self-selecting groups that invite new members personally, rather than very visible public groups and causes that people go and join for abstract reasons. he ext dge is one name for a loose group that is quite happening.n ctober was in ew ork for a week. articipating in ontacton, a etaurrency collabathon, and hanging out on iberty quare with ccupy allstreet. ll of it very inspiring. eeting a bunch of kindred souls otherwise knew only online. nd the ccupy movement added a very tangible and present focus, an incarnation of much that we're talking about, and a surprising inspiration that sends things in a new direction. t was enlightening to see how a small group of people sleeping under tarps in uccotti park could hold the world's attention. ery inspiring to experience the consensus process in a eneral ssembly. n 2011 began to see ialogue happening online. .e. it seems possible for small groups of people to share a space with each other in a mindful manner, without agenda, without posturing, without conflict, exploring the unknown together. have previously attempted that, and failed, so it is new. decided to move forward with some of what consider my own online projects, stuff haven't gotten around to for years, despite not really having time. ronically, since 'm busy being a paid programmer for other people's projects, am now experimenting with outsourcing some of my own programming projects to others. t is still unclear whether it will bear fruit, but it is nev[...]

New year wish

Sun, 1 Jan 2012 05:20:00 GMT


ere's to our 2012 being magical, synchronistic, surprising and resilient.
year where everything might change, but what's truly important is found to be indestructible.
year where dreams are no longer just dreams, where reality grows on trees, and people can do what they imagine.
time where you'll meet exactly those you need to meet.
space where those things connect that fit.
ay you feel at home in the fabric of life.

Are jobs becoming obsolete?

Thu, 1 Dec 2011 22:56:43 GMT

[his was one of my answers on uora a while back.]he idea that there's a paying job waiting for everybody is going away.t was a somewhat odd idea in the first place. efore jobs were invented, people mostly worked to house and feed their family. uite strikingly, they did this by actually building the house and by actually growing the food. owadays, that's close to being illegal, as you most likely would violate building codes and zoning laws if you tried to do that in a western country. hat happened in the meantime was that a very complicated system was invented, where one would go out and work for other people, then buy what one needs from others, before one can go back home and enjoy it. ne of the problems with the scheme is that there's no very good regulating mechanism for jobs. here's one for money, albeit a flawed one. f there is not enough money to pay for stuff, central banks have the job of putting more money into circulation. f there's too much money out there, it is their job to get rid of it, thus keeping the money supply fairly stable, corresponding roughly to what is there to pay for. gain, there are many problems with this, but at least there's a system to keep it's no system that automatically creates more jobs when there are some people who need them, or that retires some jobs if there's nobody to fill them. overnments try to do it, but unless they're centralized socialist governments, they don't have direct ways of doing it. direct way would be to hire more people if there are people without jobs. hat they do is indirect stuff, in the form of "stimulating" the economy in various ways. ometimes they do this in ideological ways that might not even work, or that might do the opposite. or example, there's the supply-side philosophy that is popular with neo-conservatives in the nited tates. he idea is that if you give more money to rich people, they're smart enough to do things with it that creates more business, and thus more jobs. hen again, they might just invest it in some other ways, or buy gold-plated swimming pools for it. r they might buy robotic factories, not creating very many jobs. upply-side is seen in contrast to demand-side economics, which would stimulate the economy by giving regular people more money, inspiring them to go and spend it, thus getting the wheels turning. here's no guarantee that this creates more jobs either, as the stuff people are buying might still be produced in robotic factories and in another country.ore things are being produced with less and less effort. roduction is becoming automated. ewer and fewer people can create more and more. his increased efficiency could potentially do many good things, but what it certainly doesn't do is produce more jobs. t naturally produces fewer jobs. nd the benefits of the increased efficiency are largely kept by the owners of the production machinery. es, people get cheaper stuff too, but they don't get the jobs that would pay them so they can afford to buy it.his system is going to break sooner or later, but that's a different discussion.n the meantime, jobs are being replaced, increasingly, with being in business by yourself. ou'll have noticed, even if you have a job, that you've had to compete to get it, to market yourself, to track down prospective employers, package yourself right, etc. here are rather few jobs just standing around waiting for you. obs aren't secure either, even if you have them. t is extremely unlikely to last your whole life, so you'll have to do it over and over. o, more people are going on to the next step, of being freelance and learning how to actually market their services, find customers, etc. ince you're becoming freelance anyway, you're also more likely to choose a line of activity that actually interests you, more than a regular job would.nother int[...]