Thursday, March 31, 2005

Macro Differences

Any society preserves some records. Once the preservation was oral, now preservation comes in a range of media, including digital, including web archives. But the ideal of pk's Free Learning Exchange is still nowhere near being met.
George Bernard Shaw in Man and Superman imagined heaven as a state of being stripped of illusions: not a nice place at all. In hell things were as you wished them to be; in heaven things were as they were. Imagine Judgment Day as an event where man presents his version(s) of things: then God puts a chill on it by telling the truth.
In society we can read the Times's list of best sellers. We can buy, we can even read, the best sellers. Annually we can read the Times's announcement of the issuing of Nobel Prizes. We can read about Pulitzer Prizes. We can follow the Academy Awards. Much will be on TV. After the Awards we can anticipate reruns of some winners at local theaters.
Had pk's FLEX (Free Learning EXchange) been supported, had it been cloned into every community, had the communities cooperated in being coordinated, anyone, anywhere, anytime, could have also looked up books that didn't get a Pulitzer, movies that didn't win an Oscar ... Provided that the authors submitted them, you could have looked up digital transforms of manuscripts that didn't get published, scripts that never found a sponsor, patent applications that weren't granted ...
You can go to an old university and read theses going back centuries. At FLEX you could research those (if submitted) and (if submitted) papers that didn't earn a Ph.D., papers that were rejected. What about what the kid tried to say to the teacher but was prevented? Yes, if the kid writes it out and submits it.
What if the kid was lying? What if the kid writes it out badly? That's tough: raw data is the game.
What about God and his chilling voice of truth? Ah, with Flex anyone and everyone could try his own hand at judgment. 24/7.
Chaos? or revelation? That would depend on the judgments.I expect that some portion of visitors would know that Einstein's high school physics teacher went out of his way to sabotage Relativity, to prevent Einstein's paper from being published. How many also know that Suskind's paper first elucidating string theory was in fact rejected? Schwartz's was ridiculed. But even before that, Einstein himself delayed the publication of Kaluza's paper on dimensions for two years!
(If that's how scientists behave, what about the rest of us?)
Science depends on the recognition of peers. What if you have no peers?
Under institutional management, possible peers may be impossible to locate.

If he says, "No, I didn't," and she says, "Yes, you did," that's a difference. If we say, "Aren't we wonderful?" and God says, "Here's the truth!" that's a macro-difference. The difference is not only orthogonal, it changes the temperature, changes the season.
If the Nineteenth Century says, "Wordsworth and Byron are our best poets," and the Twentieth Century says "Shelley and Keats and Blake were just as good," the one age puts a chill on the judgment of the other age. If some other age says, "Wha'? Who cares?" that too is a macro-difference.
The macro-difference that pk imagines, and seems to imagine alone, prompts the question, How can people stand to have their information managed, packaged, edited?

Selection is fine: so long as it clearly bears the name of the selectors: These are Lefty's picks for Hialeah. This is Bob Costas's Short List of Great Sports Moments. This is Professor Moriarty's reading list for detective fiction. Here's who The NASCREEP wants you to vote for. FLEX would have made available all such submitted lists. NBC could submit a list of programs it wants you to watch tonight. FLEX, supported by NBC and by the public, would make the list available.

As FLEX coordinator, pk would say nothing. As a FLEX user, pk could say, "Ooo, I like Lefty's picks."

Monday, March 28, 2005

Institutional versus Individual Filters

Has there ever been a society that could levelly countenance any subject? I mean ANY subject? Has there ever been such an individual? Could any institution within any society ever possibly be even-handed or level-headed about any (x) or all (x-inclusive) challenges?
I don't think so.
And pk specializes in probing the margins.

Mythology is handy: it provides recognizable SYMBOLIC examples:
Could any group of Jews level-headedly consider whether or not a particular group of rabbis two millennia ago unfairly flushed away a prophet with candidacy for Messiah?
Could any group of Catholics level-headedly consider whether or not any particular heresy deserved the harsh treatment it in fact received from their ancestors' hands?
Could any group of Americans level-headedly consider whether or not any particular parcel of their most-prime real estate was legally acquired?

Ask any religion: How many messengers of truth have you homeostatically but wrongly tortured as a heretic?
How many will answer none? if they deign to answer at all?

Ask any state: How many would-be reformers have you homeostatically but wrongly censored, imprisoned, blackballed ... as a radical? a trouble-maker?
How many will answer none? if they deign to answer at all?

Ask any university: How many messengers of truth have you homeostatically but wrongly mis-identified and mis-labeled? And in how many cases did you abridge your own rules in order to dismiss them, not understand them, blackball them, give them no fair hearing?
How many will answer none? if they deign to answer at all?

just starting, more coming
the context being initiation of a conversation with a professor about pk's repressed Shakespeare thesis

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Teacher Speak

It was Sir James Frazer's The Golden Bough that lodged clearest in my mind the culture-politics component of sub-languages within a language. Frazer cited a tribe in Africa where the peers spoke the culture's language while the tribe's women were restricted to a women-speak of seriously reduced vocabulary, all the more taboos, and an imperative toward euphemism. In women-speak for example the dead could not be named: therefore the woman had to exercise considerable ingenuity to come up with a new euphemism each time a departed had to be referred to. A guy named Like-a-Lion, once dead, would have to be called, say, Fierce-One in one mention, Yellow-Mane in another ...
(Don't think for a moment that pk doesn't recognize a biological component to culture-politics, particularly as regards gender; but let's tip our hat to it, then leave it alone, at least for the moment: we don't know nearly well enough what we're talking about to get too fussy.)
In the movie Girlfight we meet the female students in the Michelle Rodriguez' character's school (Diana Guzman) more than the males. Taboos once thought to apply in our own culture, especially to females, are not strictly operative in the Girlfight world. Diana and her fat ugly friend walk down the street. They pass a slender girl who's clearly looked in the mirror while dressing. Diana mocks her and her ilk to the amusement of the fat girl: Oh, let me put my lipstick on just perfect before I give you a blow job: which is all I'm good for.
In the school hallway Diana hauls off and clobbers that mannequin (or a clone, who knows?)
"Fuckin' bitch," they scream.
Teachers arrive and separate them.
(I remember from my own highschool days the shortest of all possible male teachers plucking the football hero from a melee by the scruff of his neck. There's something to being thirty over being eighteen.)
Now here's my point. As suddenly as crossing into Florida from Georgia, or from Switzerland into France, or from Kansas into Oz, the diction changes. The teachers speak; but they say neither "fucking" nor "bitch." Neither does the principal once Diana is once again there: fighter, trouble-maker.
Soon we have a scene at Diana's home: Dad, Diana, brother. The diction is of the same base as we saw among the girls in the school hallway.
It's the teachers – and this part is utterly real – who speak teacher-speak.
And we can imagine them speaking teacher-speak in the teacher's lounge as well. What they speak once they're home though may well be the same as the general language.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Gresham's Law: Beyond Economics

pk makes little study of economics, but even pk had heard of Gresham's Law:
Bad money drives out good.

bk's recent interest has had some impact on pk's ignorance, especially with bk supplying the library, but pk's skepticism that economics could possibly be a real science has been inveterate. Nevertheless one point really hits home for me. I quote from Section 7 of Murray N. Rothbard's What Has Government Done to Our Money?: [In a common view]
... the free market cannot be trusted to serve the pubic in supplying good money. But this formulation rests on a misinterpretation of Gresham's famous law. The law really says that "money overvalued artificially by government will drive out of circulation artificially undervalued money." Suppose, for example, there are one-ounce gold coins in circulation. After a few years of wear and tear, let us say that some coins weigh only .9 ounces. Obviously, on the free market, the worn coins would circulate at only ninety percent of the value of the full-bodied coins, and the nominal face-value of the former would have to be repudiated. If anything, it will be the "bad" coins that will be driven from the market. But suppose the government decrees that everyone must treat the worn coins as equal to new, fresh coins, and must accept them equally in payment of debts. What has the government really done? It has imposed price controls by coercion on the "exchange rate" between the two types of coin. By insisting on the par-ratio when the worn coins should exchange at ten percent discount, it artificially overvalues the worn coins and undervalues new coins. Consequently, everyone will circulate the worn coins, and hoard or export the new. "Bad money drives out good money," then, not on the free-market, but as the direct result of governmental intervention in the market.
Government monopolizes more things than money. Government mints dollars by fiat, controls values artificially. Government mints lots of things by fiat, artificially controlling more and more values: a school system, a postal system, justice, medicine ... We have to accept dolt after schmuck by government label: as quality leeches from the society: exported or hoarded (or, just as likely, extinct).
I post this at the InfoAll blog (as I develop it) because the first area I want to extend it to is education: schooling.
2005 03 09 insert: I think I started this well enough, but just as I arrived at my real start, here, other things drained my momentum. So, it doesn't get well done all at once. Life can be like that.
More Trust Misplaced: Gresham's Law in Education
Scholars got together, put their personal libraries relating to their profession onto a common table. Thus was Yale founded. The scholars were of course self-appointed, but the market ratified them: more than one, more than two persons who wanted to learn went to Yale. They gained thereby access both to the scholars' books and to the scholars. Graduates prospered, more people went to Yale. That's as free a market as was possible in Eli Yale's time. Other scholars had already gathered around precious manuscripts at Cambridge, at the Sorbonne. The more books there are, the more disciplines, the more important universities became.
Those earliest and early universities were based on a natural kind of gold standard for learning: the good scholars know who they are, tend to know each other; the government doesn't know who they are, except second hand.
Once upon a time gold and money were (not quite) interchangeable. Once upon a time quality and universities had some mutual acquaintance. But then government got into the game of mining education: by fiat of course.
The good scholars didn't leave Yale when the University of Connecticut was founded. One or two might have been lured, but not the bulk. No: new scholars had to be printed. Lots and lots of them.
With the population increasing, with leisure on the upswing, naturally, the number of scholars would have waxed; but not at the rate that fiat scholars were hired.
Metal coins wear naturally. Metal coins can also be clipped. The minting of coins can also be fraudulent, whether private or municipal.
Those thoughts I shall develop further (especially I wish to iterate the theme of goods and qualities overvalued artificially by government), but for the moment I want another tack in mind as well: no university has ever gathered all the best scholars. The most free marketplace has never contained all goods. Homeostasis operates in scholarship as it operates in all complex systems. Astronomers ganged up on Galileo. Physicists ganged up on Einstein. Doctors ganged up on Walter Reed ... Then they were converted. When Jesus visited Jerusalem for Passover the priests of the Temple were highly learned men. As a group they did not take to Jesus' teaching, refused to be wowed by the stories that accompanied him. The best university may represent in general the best scholarship, but may reject the very best scholar: or some percentage of the very best. The list of geniuses that Harvard didn't hire, or hired only to bounce is staggering. (That list of course can never be up to date: we, as a group, will never know who today's VanGogh is.) (That's why VanGoghs, the Gospels ..., become so valuable once they are reassessed.)

Additional scrap: Any society influences its consituent families in the education of the young. Necessity must influence learning in a society: so does culture. This culture insists on the teaching of the Torah, that culture insistes on the Koran, the other culture insists on the New Testament. One culture might prescribe martial arts for all males, another for all youthful members. Churches have evolved to insist all the more strongly on some aspects of curriculum. Having colonized morality, one religion might further try to colonize say agricultural techniques. Institutions tend to spread. The Jews’ Sabbath limits business to six of seven days.
Modern states colonize the secular, but there’s no stopping.
Money emerged from the complexification of markets. Then governments took over the money. Private coinage predates government issue. Schools too are older than government, but government mints its own version.

See my related piece on Inflation [link will have to be restored]. This all needs further exposition, but there’s a start.