The goal of the Linux-Society (LS, dating back to the mid-90s as a professional club and tech-mentoring group) has been a purely-democratic Information Society; many of the articles are sociological in nature. The LS was merged with Perl/Unix of NY to form multi-layered group that included advocacy, project-oriented learning by talented high school students: textbook constructivism. Linux has severe limitations such that it is useless for any computer that will, say, print or scan. It is primarily used for webservers and embedded devices such as the Android. (Google is high-invested in it).

Technology is problematic. During the heyday of technology (1990s), it seemed it had the democratic direction Lewis Mumford said it should have in his seminal
Technics and Civilization.

Today, we are effectively stuck with Windows as Linux is poor on the desktop and has cultured a maladaptive following. Apple is prohibitive, and all other operating systems lack drivers, including Google's Android, an offshoot of linux.

In the late 90s there was hope for new kernels such as LibOS and ExoOS that would bare their hardware to programs, some of which would be virtual machines such as Java uses. Another important player was the L4 system that is a minor relation to the code underlying the Apple's systems. It was highly scientific but fell into the wrong hangs, apparently, and has suffered from having no progress on the desktop. There is a version, "SE" that is apparently running in many cell phones as specialized telecom chips, but is proprietary. SE's closed nature was only recently revealed, which is important because it is apparently built from publicly-owned code as it is not a "clean room" design it may violate public domain protections, and most certainly violates the widely-accepted social contract.

Recent attempts to enjoin into L4 development as an advocate for "the people" have been as frustrating (and demeaning) as previous attempts with the usual attacks to self-esteem by maladaptive "hacks" being reinforced by "leadership" (now mostly university professors).

In short, this leaves us with Windows, which is quite a reversal if you have read earlier posts here. But, upon Windows, we have free and open software development systems in the forms of GTK+ (the windows usually used on Linux) and the Minimal GNU Windows (MinGW and MSYS) systems. It is very likely this direction that development should go (that is, on Windows) such that s/w can then be ported to a currently-valid microkernel system that includes a driver system that can be adapted by hardware developers to reuse of their windows and apple drivers.

From a brief survey of L4, it appears that the last clean copy was the DROPS system of the early 2010s, was a German effort that used the Unix-like "OS kit" from an American University.

If we are going to be stuck on Windows, then it seems that a high level approach to free and open systems integration, such as creating fully transparent mouse communication between apps so that they can seamlessly work together as a single desktop (rather than deliberately conflicting). This would be very helpful for GIMP and Inkscape, both leading graphics programs that are strong in the special ways, but suffer from an inability to easily interrelate.

Another important issue is the nature, if you can call it that, of the "geek" or "hack." Technology is formed democratically but "harvested" authoritarian-ly --if I can coin a term that Mumford might use. Authority is plutarchy: a combination of aristocracy and oligarchy that is kept alive after all these millennia by using, or maligning, the information society as a part of the civilizing (or law-giving) process that embraces the dialectic as its method. Democratic restoration, that is to put humanity back on an evolutionary (and not de-evolutionary) track, I think, will require the exclusion of the "geek" from decision-making. As is, the free/open s/w culture attempts to give leadership to those who write the most lines of code --irrespective of their comprehension of the real world or relationship with normal users. We need normal people to somehow organize around common sense (rather than oligarchic rationalism) to bring to life useful and cohesive software and communications systems.

Interestingly, the most popular page on this site is about Carl Rogers' humanistic psychology, and has nothing to do with technology.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The (Negative) Flip-side of Knowledge Construction

I am finding that there are many collaborative projects springing up. This is not new, collaboration has been a staple of modern art since the 1930s. What is new is the support coming from the institutional and administrative sides.

I recently had an eerie experience when I visited some friends of mine form the 80s. Back in the 80s, I had befriended many people who I felt were cast of from society. I had lost touch with them during the 90s, as I was a financial technologist, but I have recently made contact with a few of them.

One of them, a man I had know for a long time (who is now in a psychiatric program) was helping me get a new car battery. While he and I, and another old acquaintance, were on our way to get the battery in his car, we picked up a hitchhiker, another old friend. Suddenly when we started again, the plans changed (possibly a typical behavior of crazy people); I wound up in a different place, miles from where I had started.

Effectively, my choices had been removed, and I felt like I was being railroaded--even kidnapped. When I complained, I was criticized for having "bad vibes" and for ruining the friendly atmosphere (there were a total of four of us in the car, all old acquaintances).

At that point, somebody suggested that everybody put their heads together to find a solution so I can get a car battery: developing community knowledge.

When I told them I wanted to go back to where I had started because I knew I was better off getting a battery on my own, I was accused of rejecting the community support that they offered. The idea that all my basic rights had been violated in every way did not occur to all these people; I was the bad person for not wanting to work with the newly offered community knowledge; this was the group consensus.

Herein lies the danger of community knowledge construction; there is no question in my mind, that at least some of these people (all in mental programs) have been exposed to social knowledge construction ideas, probably by one or more of their therapists.

Community knowledge is meant as an empowering strategy, yet, in this case, it was converted, into the removal of all my personal rights: a condemnation of my actions to be independent, and for not supporting that local community.

Granted, all these people have mental problems, but the experience was still chilling to me on a fundamental level. It was almost like science fiction; a future society gone completely wrong as a result of all the best intentions. Here, the best intentions of community construction were converted into into the worst nightmare possible: fascism.

In social intelligence, the idea is to accumulate individual ideas into community of knowledge to help create concepts beyond the sum of the individual contributions; community knowledge is also shared among the community, making the whole community more effective. But, as we well know, groups of people can go bad in a hurry, as happens in biased and hatred situations.

I am thinking that the solution to this obvious quandary is in the cyclic development of ideas , as I have often mentioned in my writing when talking about science projects and concept building for middle school students. We humans work in groups to develop projects (and to combat loneliness), and then return to individual work to access internal inspiration: self-actualization.

In the cyclic scenario, there will be times when controlling people will try to disrupt the cycle to insert themselves as the dominant individual creating the type of groups sociologists, such as Aaron Beck, warn about as being the most dangerous component of humanity. Here, there community itself becomes the disrupting force, removing individual rights, pushing our humanity back into darkness from which we continually try to emerge.

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