Blog

Ursula Le Guin: the fears predominate these days

7 May 2019

Actually, I don’t exactly have expectations. I have hopes, and fears. Mostly the fears predominate these days. When my kids were young I could still hope we might not totally screw up the environment for them, but now that we’ve done so, and are more deeply sold out than ever to profiteering industrialism with its future-horizon of a few months, any hope I have that coming generations may have ease and peace in life has become very tenuous, and has to reach far, far forward into the dark.

The Primacy of Collective Being, or Culture Beats Institutions - the Example of Italy

21 April 2019

Italy provides a perfect natural experiment regarding “being” (aka culture) vs structure (aka institutions). We have the same institutions be that at Risorgimento in 1871 or new regionalism in the 1970s, but very different cultures – crudely the “North” and the “South”. And culture absolutely dominated: The new institutions of the unified nation-state, far from homogenizing traditional patterns of politics, were themselves pulled ineluctably into conformity with those contrasting traditions, just as the regional governments after 1970 would be remolded by these same social and cultural contexts: [Putnam p.

False Consciousness and What We Really Want

18 April 2019

Was listening to Thich Nhat Hanh talk on technology yesterday. He tells story of being at Google talking about how to develop technology to be weller and more mindful. He suggests the specific example of having a mindful bell every 15m. A smart young engineer objects that isn’t this telling people what they need? Don’t people themselves know best what they need? Immediately TNH responds: ah, but there are real needs and false needs (TODO: check his phrasing).

Fairness and Freedom by David Hackett Fischer

14 April 2019

Another wonderful book by Fischer that builds on the extraordinary Albion’s Seed. Basic point is that whilst US and NZ are similar in both being “open” societies, created by voluntary settlement of English-speaking and largely British emigrants, they are profoundly different. This difference is related to their culture and, Fischer, contends to a major difference in their core politico-social value: liberty/freedom for the US versus fairness for NZ. This cultural difference shows up in a myriad of ways in their political, social and economic organization and outcomes.

Children Playing with Sharp Knives - Humanity and the Digital Age

8 April 2019

This was originally drafted as the epilogue of my book The Open Revolution. It is natural to assume I am something of a digital enthusiast, even a digital “techno” utopian, confident that digital technology will lead us to nirvana. There’s elements of this. I couldn’t have written this book (the Open Revolution) if I wasn’t excited – even passionate – about the possibilities of this digital information age. At the same time, as someone recently said to me about our online digital world: “everything that excites me, scares me”.