Tuesday, January 16, 2018

What is Socialism?

Socialist Symbol

The short answer is: I have no idea. My fancy Princeton education only served to sensitize my ear to the "meaning as use" paradigm, meaning I need to study a given language game rather extensively before I have a sense of its meanings, should I ever develop an ear for said language.

Any randomly chosen pair of people, asked to talk about "socialism" will likely talk past one another, and neither may realize it.

Consider a sibling question: what is capitalism? I have a wildly divergent meaning up my sleeve, a use in contrast with nationalism.  Nationalists see the world in terms of various nations, vying for world domination.  Capitalists see capitals instead, city-states, like Tokyo and Madrid.  Capitalism is the world game of world capitals, some of them sister cities.  No one but me has that meaning for that word.

I'll define socialism like this:  I work for the public half the year, and for myself the other half.  People talk that way about taxes:  given the government took X% of my total gross, I worked for the government Y% of the fiscal year.  Fine, let's say it that way.

What makes this system "progressive" is that we all chip in for the common good only 50% of the time.  Whether you're a neurosurgeon or bartender or stand-up comic, you get half your life to do whatever you like whereas the rest of the time you're engaged in community service.

Now I'll get theological on ya and suggest that God is a socialist.  Ideally, you're acting in accordance with God's will half the time, whereas the other half you're given over to tempting alternatives, working in ways that might prove purely selfish, but from your point of view were worth a try.

Working for God feels a tad totalitarian, a little bit Big Brotherish. Subduing your own will to serve the all-powerful is like that.  Exercising your own ego feels rebellious in contrast.  You're going out on some limb, by choice.  Half the time.

Standard theology says God has forgiven us our Free Will in that without it, we couldn't choose to obey, so our coupling our will to God's would be an empty gesture. Thanks to our ability to stray from God's path, we partake of the divinity of Angels.

This must be a kind of Religious Socialism, not necessarily Christian but neither anti-Christian either.  That's fortuitous as one way people like to attack socialism is by calling it godless, meaning they consider it to have no ethical compass.  Somehow capitalism is supposed to have one.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Network Theories

Jeff Presents

Sorry for the dry title folks.  I tire of the journalistic headline, today known as click bait. Lets keep it low key, yet warm to the topic, as network theories (lots of math) are both interesting in themselves, and have real world applications.

Jeff Goddard shared with Wanderers about his work for LittleBird, at one time a free-standing company, but with a tool that makes sense more as one in a suite, if you're a big company seeking to maximize the potential of social media.

The Twitter API has many powerful and unique attributes and is a great place to start.  We might think of LittleBird as living at the headwaters.

Suppose I want to find the top most influential people around the topic of Climate Change.  Jeff ran that search for us, also Beer, Python, and a few others.  Terry Bristol, author of Give Space My Love, wondered how these search tools might help with book sales.  Jeff had some suggestions.

@DekeBridges was there, asking good questions.  He's also the man behind @LeadersBest.  Deke is our most influential Wanderer by far, from the standpoint of Twitterverse.

So what is LittleBird? Jeff has poured in the hours, using Clojure and ClojureScript, to implement those network theories, or shall we say algorithms, to query Twitter through its API in high volume (more than a single developer account would afford, times ten thousand).

The information one obtains through the API is the same info tweeters agree to share by virtue of establishing a Twitter account.  

It's not like those using this "back door" have any special access to otherwise hidden data.  Rather, they have the ability to aggregate the data more successively (at higher volume), as a "front door" individual user, using human eyeballs, is like a 300 baud modem compared to a T1, relatively speaking, and using tech terms most will have forgotten by now.

LittleBird was acquired by Sprinklr, adding to the tools brought to bear on behalf of clients seeking to manage their cyber-presence and/or media campaigns through this company. 

We did a test run using "Python" as our topic and, sure enough, the tweeters percolating to the top were mostly people I recognized.  I showed up as influential regarding Python when we ran @thekirbster individually, but that doesn't mean I'd make it to the top thousand. 

P1040084

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Jane (movie review)

Jane is showing only on weekends at 4:10 at this neighborhood theater.  Several families with young girls were in the line ahead of us.  The theater serves alcohol after 5:30, so there's not much of a window for a kid-friendly movie.

I say "kid friendly" but then it's a classic nature film in many ways, following the career of Jane Goodall, piecing together footage lovingly taken by her former husband and co-worker, one of the great nature photographers.  That means lots of death and sickness, as well as birth and cute creatures.

The best way to show how humans and other animals have much in common is to intertwine their stories.  Jane learns about motherhood from observing the chimps, then becomes a mother herself. We watch her boy grow through the same lens.

Jane herself anchors the narrative with her retrospective accounts, responding to an off-camera interviewer.  We also spend time in the Serengeti, away from the chimps in Tanzania.

A sense of destiny pervades, in that Jane always dreamed of working with animals in the heart of Africa, and never let go of this driving fantasy.  Her dreams literally came true.  The animals needed her as their advocate among the humans.  She devoted herself to public speaking on their behalf.

Music by Philip Glass and an ongoing montage of exotic insects reminds us of our alien planet and our special responsibility, as aware humans, for the creatures it harbors.

Jane came to Portland a couple times, as a part of the ISEPP lectures.  She's made a difference in many lives, mine included.