Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Wanderers 2013.5.21

We packed two deep, including a bicycle (different meeting), one deep on the other, to attend to John A. Dougherty regarding the Matthew Effect, something newly named in sociology, but basically an ascending / descending spiral, the fact that change is often exponential and not linear, because self-reinforcing.

The questions had to do with living standards and whether the "tails" were spiraling out of control and maybe breaking up the middle.  Or was "middle" something of an illusion to begin with and on what scales?  Much of the discussion had to do with both the power and powerlessness of being "monied" i.e. wealthy in terms of that scoreboard.  People attend to various scoreboards and ostentatious consumption is certainly not a prime criterion of taste, even among many reputedly wealthy.

I harped on what I call "institutional wealth" (someone else made the link to Star Trek) thinking of living on an aircraft carrier at sea.  You don't go to a bank window to cash a check to live on board, but rather bunk and wifi come with the job, as does flying the plane, firing the torpedoes, landing the helicopter or whatever -- those playing with these toyz do not fork out for the privilege nor do they own the toyz.  Uncle Sam owns the Tomahawks.  Some call it socialism (see Critical Path).  Uncle Sam is a lot like Bob Dobbs, Alfred E. Newman, or Betty Crocker, in terms of serving as an iconic person.

When priests wake up in the morning, it may be to a campus, a bevy of buildings, a set of walk ways and facilities.  Their relationship to this shared wealth is again not one of having title (entitlement) or even a share (as in some entitlement to a divvy of the profits).  The relationship is developed through church documents and literature.  In some eras, church management services have permeated the countryside.  Copernicus was one of these church fathers, tasked with everyday administrative tasks such as divvying land amongst family members in the wake of a death, like a lawyer would.  Which is not to say these jobs had no income.  They came with a stipend.

Anyway, I digress.  The point is the wealth of new understanding brought on by the Copernican revolution is incalculable in monetary terms.  The exponential vortexes people create may change the invisible landscape wherein investments happen.

I like how the narrator (see trailer below) disabuses us of the notion that "money powers film" in his opening to a fifteen hour documentary on film history.  The powers we most value are not what money can buy.  You have to put in the investment in other dimensions.  The sewing and reaping is in banks we don't see, "in heaven" if you want to sound naive about it.

John is performing valuable service with the Thirsters these days, helping the group and set of conversations continue performing a switchboard function.  Adding fluoride to the water went down to defeat again in Portland.  One may sway votes and influence outcomes without actually casting a vote oneself, and not even be hypocritical in my view.  Negligent?  Maybe.  It's also a statement of position, although in the case of Oregon, I think vote-by-mail is a proved technology that should spread to the less enlightened states.  That being said, holding secure, highly reviewable (replayable) elections in Cyberia remains of core interest.  I hope to make the next meeting of DemocracyLab in that regard, in the same venue as Thirsters most likely.

In the tradition of Thirsters, John's formal talk was only about 10 minutes, like a Lightning Talk in some ways, and designed to catalyze discussion.  True to form, the ensuing chatter was indeed quite free ranging, with people piping up from many points of view.  This is what Wanderers is good for, so I think we all got our money's worth (the coffee fund is all we keep, Jon Bunce in charge, and he made two pots last night, even though I represented we could stop at one -- glad he ignored me).