Category: fundaments

Kevin Kelly – The Nine Laws of God

I’m re-posting this from The Whole Earth Catalog archives because I think it’s an excellent summary of the core principles needed to evaluate natural systems. This also speaks to the foundation of much of my own thought about human social, cultural, and technological evolution.

The Nine Laws of God
By Kevin Kelly * Whole Earth Catalog * Spring 1994

Distribute being. The spirit of a beehive, the behavior of an economy, the thinking of a supercomputer, and the life in me are distributed over a multitude of smaller units (which themselves may be distributed). When the sum of the parts can add up to more than the parts, then that extra being (that something from nothing) is distributed among the parts. Whenever we find something from nothing, we find it arising from a field of many interatting smaller pieces. All the mysteries we find most interesting – life, intelligence, evolution – are found in the soil of large distributed systems.

Control from the bottom up. When everything is connected to everything in a distributed network, everything happens at once. When everything happens at once, wide and fast-moving problems simply route around any central authority. Therefore, overall governance must arise from the most humble interdependent acts done locally in parallel, and not from a central command. A mob can steer itself, and in the territory of rapid, massive, and heterogeneous change, only a mob can steer. To get something from nothing, control must rest at the bottom within simplicity.

Sow increasing returns. Each time you use an idea, a language, or a skill, you strengthen it, reinforce it, and make it more likely to be used again.

Grow by chunking. The only way to make a complex system that works is to begin with a simple system that works. Attempts to instantly install highly complex organization – such as intelligence, or a market economy – without growing it, inevitably lead to failure.

Maximize the fringes. In heterogeneity is creation of the world. A uniform entity must adapt to the world by occasional monumental revolutions, one of which is sure to kill it. A diverse heterogeneous entity, on the other hand, can adapt to the world in a thousand daily mini-revolutions, staying in a state of permanent, but never fatal, churning.

Honor your errors. A trick will only work for a while, until everyone else is doing it. To advance from the ordinary requires a new game, or a new territory. But the process of going outside the conventional method, game, or territory is indistinguishable from error. Even the most brilliant act of human genius, in the final analysis, is an act of trial and error.

Pursue no optima, but multiple goals. Simple machines can be efficient, but complex adaptive machinery cannot be. A complicated structure has many masters and none of them can be served exclusively. Rather than striving for optimization of any function, a large system can only survive by “satisficing” (making “good enough”) a multitude of functions.

Seek persistent disequilibrium. Neither constancy nor relentless change will support a creation. A good creation, like good jazz, must balance the stable formula with frequent offbeat, out-of-kilter notes. Equilibrium is death. Yet unless a system stabilizes to an equilibrium point, it is no better than an explosion, and just as soon dead. A Nothing, then, is both equilibrium and disequilibrium.

Change changes itself. Change can be structured. This is what large complex systems do: they coordinate change. When extremely large systems are built up out of complicated systems, then each system begins to influence and ultimately change the organizations of other systems. That is, if the rules of the game are composed from the bottom up, then it is likely that interacting forces at the bottom level will alter the rules of the game as it progresses. Over time, the rules for change get changed themselves.

Evolution – as used in everyday speech – is about how an entity is changed over time. Deeper evolution – as it might be formally defined – is about how the rules for changing entities over time changes over time. To get the most out of nothing, you need to have self-changing rules.

These nine principles underpin the awesome workings of prairies, flamingoes, and cedar forests, eyeballs, natural selection in geological time, and the unfolding of a baby elephant from a tiny seed of elephant sperm and egg.

These same principles of bio-logic are now being implanted in computer chips, electronic communication networks, robot modules, pharmaceutical searches, software design, and corporate management, in order that these artificial systems may overcome their own complexity.

When the tecfinos is enlivened by bios, we get artifacts that can adapt, learn, and evolve. When our technology adapts, learns, and evolves, then we will have a neobiological civilization.

Julian Bleeker – Design Fiction: A Short Talk on Design, Science, Fact, and Fiction. [Etech09 Notes]

My raw notes from Julian Bleeker’s talk at E-Tech 2009 – Design Fiction: A Short Talk on Design, Science, Fact, and Fiction. [This is a topic near & dear to my heart. Compelling narrative writes the future.]

“To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete” Bucky Fuller. “Future is here it’s just not evenly distributed” W. Gibson. Near Future Lab and Nokia. Convergence between design, science, fact & fiction. Ways to meaningfully shape the future. Science, fact & fiction are all knotted up. Eg moments from films, eg Minority Report. How did minority report as a film become a meme around advanced speculative interface? Google search on “Minority Report” returns a muddling between the film and real experiments.

Imaginary worlds become instantiated in the real world. Becomes an index that helps cohere imagination around a desire to realize the speculative fiction. Expectations of what realized tech should do typically reference the prevailing fictional representation. Eg GSpeak – company looking at gestural interfaces, started by the guy that informed tech of Minority Report. Moved from fictional authority to real authority.

Stories Matter More Than Features, Specs & Engineering. The framing of a new idea helps transmit it and engage people to act on it or bring it to realization. Compelling fiction makes the effect of the tech transparent and easily understood. Eg don’t need to spend any time talking about the gestural interface in Minority Report – it explains itself. Eg Jurassic Park leading to Time cover about Dinosaurs. Conflating fact and fiction to look forward. Diegetic Prototype, “diegesis” the moment of the narrative – David A. Kirby. “Diegetic prototypes have a major rhetorical advantage over true prototypes”. Stories matter when designing the future.

Science Fiction Can Do Things Science Fact Cannot. A hybrid of the two can do more than either alone. Science fiction is much better at circulating scientific knowledge than real science. The narrative is compelling, the delivery is humanized. Expands the realm of possible futures. eg Star Trek, How William Shatner Changed the World; Star Fleet Technical Manual. Eg Death Star over San Francisco. Eg Dark Knight.

Entanglements between fact & fiction. Finding productive ways to allow the crossover. Highlighting the concern over ubicomp & surveillance. Eg Listening Post (Hansen & Rubin) displays conversations on the network. EG 2001 Filming the Future. Kubrik & Arthur C. Clark worked with scientists and ET researchers to better inform the narrative presentation. Conflict of what is imagined and what comes to pass. Possible challenges, pitfalls, and failures.

Why Muddle Design, Science, Fact, & Fiction? It’s valuable to explain, to imagine, to materialize ideas, and speculate about different kinds of worlds. How might the world transform itself and address the challenges that face us today? Using narrative to inform what might come to pass. Think of PKDick as a System Administrator. There are insights to be had when reading Bruce Sterling as Software Documentation.

Helps to Think of Science Fiction Props as Conclusion to Today’s Engineering Prototypes. What is the world like, what are their daily routines, and how are these things affected by the speculative tech? (failure is important so dystopias are valuable to show us what not to do, rethink and reflect on the proposition).

Becker, Muller: End of Obsolescence: Engineering the Post-Consumer Economy [E-Tech 2009 Notes]

Here are my rough notes from the ETech 09 talk by Lane Becker and Thor Muller of Get Satisfaction.

The End of Obsolescence: Engineering the Post-Consumer Economy
System of Consumerism: Economists think recessionary patterns (eg cobblers, repair) are transient and spending/consumption will return. Disposable culture. Planned obsolescence, lock-in, bigger is better –> The Ownership Society. No such thing as an infinite loop (eg pop dynamics). Rise & fall of growth and recessions is taken as a given of a natural cycle. Landscape amnesia. People forget what it used to be like. Our situation looks much more like a sharp asymptotic curve leading to a much sharper crash. Consumerism, growth curve is crashing quickly. Speed kills but it can force us to change in real time.

The Great Compression. A squeezing out perceived value to leave only real value in our economy. We have under-estimated the costs and over-estimated the value. Value destruction at work (slide shows sectors of economy with huge chunks that make things of no value or move value around, esp wholesale trade, manufacturing, financial investment – these are being selected against). NYT: Job losses hint at vast remaking of US Economy. Collapse – social, environmental, financial. Environment being wrapped up as the gooey center of the larger collapse. All of our systems are under pressure to remove false value and select for intrinsic value.

Design Patterns for Post-Consumerism: weak signals, indicators that suggest possible directions. What could replace consumerism? Two types of patterns: 1) Go back to basics. Not likely. Service economy represents giant heatsinks of human activity. Free time, cognitive potential. Other heatsinks are terrorism and civil unrest. How can we effectively use people’s free time. 2) Progressive future. Eg The Diamond Age; Universal copy machine. Physics & culture at the heart of the problem. Bits don’t move – they are copied. What can’t be copied? What is important? Culture becomes all-encompassing. World breaks out of nation-states into tribes. Culture is defined by what people make. OpenSource as example of removing economics of production. We still make & participate & contribute & collaborate.

Design Pattern 1: FREE. What economic & cultural value can be created outside of capital? What if everything was free? We assume economic trade must be the primary framing of value in our lives. Capitalism is shrinking. It must compressed because a lot of economics is perceived value, not actual value. This encourages alternatives that build real value. Design

Pattern 2: Repair Culture. Old school. When something is built to last, you want to see it last. We need objects that tell us to take care of them. Inverse of culture of obsolescence. The curse of innovation. Always improving products… how to avoid obsolescence? Eg DIY & Maker culture. Now there are customer communities & repair cultures for everything. Emergent business ecosystem that rises from repair communities. Eg Twitter community of teachers, services.

Design Pattern 3: Reputation Scaled. Reputation is the fertile ground from which civilization arises. Keeps us honest. Internet has transformed the village into the global village. This has transformed reputation (nobody can hide). Eg microlending. Collective reputation. Rewired the system to fund people without credit. Lent to groups of people who know each other – individual reputations are tied to group reputation. Innovation from the bottom-up. Eg Tidy Towns. Engage people in rural Irish towns to get passionate about clean cities. Town, community, individual. Tying individual reputation to larger group reputation.

Design Pattern 4: The Loanership Society. Lending stuff we can spare or don’t use. Eg why does everybody have a power drill? Why not share across groups? Eg Eco-neighbuzz. “I need a drill. Can anyone lend me one?” Make it a utility. Eg utility of the Zipcar. Notion of ownership over solid media versus subscription models. Subscription models for everything. Eg Comcast bundles subscriptions. People want a la carte. Hence more people are going to the web for content on their own terms. Pride of ownership vs. pride of stewardship. Eg John Muir. Not “I own this thing”, but “we collectively have a guardianship”. What are the environments where stewardship is more appropriate than ownership?

Design Pattern 5: Virtual Production. Eg device containers that stuff gets made and sold for. Not solid product but digital goods. Breaking cycles of production & consumption. Eg iPhone & apps. Eg. Air Level, iCandle. Se amount of economic activity that involves creating new stuff is being retargeted to virtual goods. Such goods get better over time rather than decaying. Eg Creating micro-economic climates. New metrics.

How can we move the culture towards these trends. Amplify the patterns. We have the opportunity, the tech, and the will. Benefit ourselves and our culture, our futures and our children.

@tempo @monstro

E-Tech 2009 Twitter Round-up

Here’s a selection of my tweets from the O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference this past week. These are the ones I think grab the juicy nuggets from the speaker’s presentations. [In temporal order with the earliest (ie Monday eve) listed first.]

Tim O’Reilly: “We have greatness but have wasted it on so much. ”
We have an unprecedented opportunity to build a digital commonwealth. #etech
Work on something that matters to you more than money. This is a robust strategy. #etech
Niall Kennedy: Energy Star rating for web apps? Thinking of clouds & programming like tuning a car for better gas mileage. #etech
Cloud computing: no reasonable expectation of privacy when data is not in your hands. Not protected by 4th amendment. #etech
Alex Steffen: Problems with water supply are based in part on our lack of beavers. #etech
Social media for human rights. #etech
Gavin Starks – Your Energy Identity & Why You Should Care. see #etech
Maureen Mclugh – Consider that technology may be evolving in ways that are not particularly interested in us. #etech
Becker, Muller: We have under-estimated the costs and over-estimated the value of our economy. #etech
Becker, Muller: We assume economic trade must be the primary framing of value in our lives. Why? #etech
Design Patterns for PostConsumerism: Free; Repair Culture; Reputation Scaled; Loanership Society; Virtual Production. #etech
NYT: emerging platforms, text reflow, multitouch, flexy displays, smart content, sms story updates, sensors, GPS localized content. #etech
Jeremy Faludi: Buildings & transport have the largest impact on climate change. Biggest bang for the buck in re-design. #etech
Jeremy Faludi – Biggest contributor to species extinction & habitat loss is encroachment & byproducts from agriculture. #etech
Jeremy Faludi – Best strategies to vastly reduce overpopulation: access to birth control & family planning, empowerment of women. #etech
Tom Raftery: Grid 1.0 can’t manage excess power from renewables. Solution: electric cars as distributed storage. #etech
Considering the impact of pluging AMEE (@agentGav) data in ERP systems for feedback to biz about supply chain impacts. BI meets NRG ID.
Mike Mathieu: Data becoming more important than code. Civic data is plentiful and largely untapped. Make civic apps! #etech
Mike Mathieu: Take 10 minutes today and pick your crisis. Figure out how to create software to help. #etech
What is #SantaCruz doing to make civic data available to service builders? We want to help SC be healthier & more productive.
Mark Fraunfelder: “I haven’t heard of anybody having great success with automatic chicken doors.” #etech [re-emerging technology]
Realities of energy efficiency: 1gallon of gasoline = ~1000hrs of human labor. #etech
Kevin Lynch: Adobe is saving over $1M annually just by managing energy. #etech
Designing backwards: Think about the destiny of the item before thinking about he initial use. (via Brian Dougherty) #etech
RealTimeCity: physical & digital space merges, people incorporate intelligent systems, cities react in accord w/needs of pub welfare. #etech
Oh my we’re being LIDAR’d while Zoe Keating plays live cello n loops. ZOMG!!!
zoe keating & live lidar is blowing my mind at #etech 1.3M points per sec!
Julian Bleeker cites David A. Kirby: “Diegetic prototypes have a major rhetorical advantage over true prototypes” #etech
Julian Bleeker: Stories matter when designing the future, eg. Minority Report. #etech
Julian Bleeker: “Think of Philip K. Dick as a System Administrator. #etech
Rebecca MacKinnon: Which side are we helping, River Crabs or Grass Mud Horses? #etech
Kati London: How can we use games to game The System and how can they be used to solve civic problems? #etech
Nathan Wolfe: Trying to fight pandemics only at the viral human level ignores deep socioeconomic causes of animal-human transmission. #etech
Nathan Wolfe, re: viral jump from animal to human populations: “What happens in central Africa doesn’t stay in central Africa.”
Nathan Wolfe: need to work with % of population w/ hi freq of direct contact with animals for early detection of viral transmission.
Nathan Wolfe: Vast majority of biosphere is microscopic, mostly bacterial & viral. Humans: very small piece of life on Earth. #etech

Wiring the Global Heart

“I hear a very gentle sound… With your ear down to the ground…”

Talk of the global mind tends to look primarily at intellectual and cultural endeavors, digitized and uploaded to the cloud. In this conception the hyperconnectivity of humanity provides instant access to all the data we’ve thus far gathered and to all the content we’ve thus far generated. As culture digitizes our individual selves grow closer to one another, unbound by the restraints of locality and empowered by the technologies of connectivity, integrating towards some hypothetical merger or emergence of a global mind.

But this conception neglects the emotional body of humanity, arguably far stronger and more willful than our ideations. Beneath much of the mind lies a torrent of emotional content often deeply informing (or barely restrained by) the words released to share those nameless currents. While scientific method offers perhaps the apotheosis of restraint most of what we as humans engage in and communicate is driven by psychology, not intellect.

Witness the very foundation of modern civilization: the global economy. Our economics are radically mathematic and rigorously intellectualized. Most of us have only a basic understanding of how such an enormous interconnected system of numbers actually works, let alone the few capable of articulating the obscene calculus of it’s proactive management. Our markets of commerce are left to the banking and finance wizards whose trust must be infallible to secure their credibility in such an occulted domain upon which our very lives rest.

Yet it’s clear from current events that no one has more than a tenuous grasp of what this enormous nonlinear system is doing at the moment. It’s completely out of our hands and the world’s governing bodies are scrambling to make sense of it all in time to reel it back from the precipice of total catastrophe. They try bail-outs and capital injections and various other methods only to watch the markets plunge in a downward spiral of fear and panic. The machine of global commerce is gripped in depression, tossed in the great and swelling tides of human emotion.

By nature of their abstraction and the collective faith required to sustain them, the markets are more a construct of psychology than finance. Panic and fear become self-fulfilling as investors bail-out as fast as possible when the economic indicators falter. Fight-or-flight takes over and the human animal, who so abstracted the biological imperatives of food and shelter into hedge funds and credit-deferred swaps, is seized by adrenalin and sent running in fear. The sound of chambered bullets grows across the land, hunkering down for a long struggle.

These days I can feel it without even looking at the markets. The Fear grips my gut on mornings of great decline. We’re wiring up very quickly, so engaged by the miracle of communication and content, externalizing our minds for all to witness. We get lost in the news cycle and the blogosphere, and in all the deep and meaningless experiences stuffed into increasingly ineffective syntax. We’re wired to invention and distraction, dimly aware of the currents working their way through our evolution.

Underneath the global mind is the global heart, tremulous and open, more intent on externalizing the Soul than the Mind. We’re sharing our emotional bodies far more than we realize and it’s at times like these that the herd feels it. Danger is on the air. A great predator is rustling through the brush. The vibe is harshed and global. The very foundations of human behavior are shifting and rewriting themselves. This is no market correction. It is a civilization correction. The Great Work of our Age is underway, unifying Heart and Mind and all opposites, comfort and commodity be damned. If we can’t evolve willfully, then the system will evolve for us.

Hear the words of the Rastaman say:
“Babylon throne gone down, gone down.”

Brief Notes on the Collective Mind and the Death of Truth

There is a fundamental element of social construction and adaptive behavior emerging here at the dawn of the 3rd millenium CE. The theory isn’t new, but the larger-than-life spectacle of the 2008 US election cycle and the attending catastrophic meltdown of global capital is reinforcing it’s pragmatic application. Amidst these crises the competitive mechanisms of control and persuasion are grabbing as much airtime as possible to capitalize on the power vacuum opened with the shattering of the old paradigm. Everyone is rushing in to assert their agenda and make one last valiant stand at defending their personal dogma.

The Cartesian universe established the illusion of truth and rationality. Rennaissance thinkers submitted that reason was the best path. Yet it’s clear that humans are highly emotional creatures often far less motivated by logic than biology. Even our physics has betrayed rationalism, now merely a thin veneer of structure over an inherently non-dual soup. Dualism is no longer an effective metaphor to represent the complexities of the world we witness. We are at once possessed of great convictions, yet whimsically dizzied by the myriad of possible realities before us. We are children waking to adulthood, both strong and vulnerable.

Biology compels us to adapt our behaviors. Or die trying. The energy and food crunch reminds us that, even after so many long and determined aeons of civilized life, we’re still essentially a balkanized mess of tribal apes competing for resources. All mechanisms of power basically roll up to this core mandate of the human operating system. The last 50 years or so have radically altered the stage of our evolution, establishing a massive abstraction layer spanning almost all human endeavor: the Noosphere of Teilhard de Jardin. The modern competitive environment, while rooted in the flesh, is increasingly a domain of the mind. Those who understand this and act to influence the construct have demonstrated a competitive advantage, though often more in the service of biological imperative than any noble commitment to the collective.

The ability to manage social narratives has become an adaptive differentiator in an increasingly mediated world. It is not just the recognition that a narrative exists around all things that occur on the public stage, but that this narrative must be deliberately crafted and managed in order to successfully compete and advance in the game of life. This is a defining element of the modern stage and one that has only become possible within the vast infrastructure of global communication heaved up across the planet over the last hundred years.

By nature of our participation in this shared abstraction, much of our lives now exist in a consensual representation. We’re all so connected that the apprehension, interface, and understanding of life itself is increasingly a collective experience. So much content of humanity is abstracted, uploaded, shared and discussed, buzzing in frenetic cycles that get shorter and shorter every day. We are a hive becoming aware of itself but the thing we behold is not a Platonic truth. It is a consensual creation.

What truth exists is the validity of the moment. The weight of the news cycle. Which prevailing current has the greatest mindshare? Who has the most eyes? As Heisenberg predicted, the truth lies in the observation and the collapsing of the eigenstate. It is only a momentary concrescence quickly enfolded back into a sea of possibility. The Simulacrum is moving so fast now and is so rich with compelling content flickering across the full polemic spectrum, that Truth has ceded to attention. Attention is the foundation of influence. What undergoes the formality of becoming is a matter of debate, not destiny. Indeed, the unfolding of history itself is becoming a product of the human marketplace of ideas. Memes with the most persuasion are writing the future. Our collective world is crafted in large part by those who seize the narrative. Karl Rove, Frank Luntz, and Roger Ailes are perhaps the greatest masters of this emerging social adaptation.

If reality tv has taught us anything, it’s that integrity and community will always be challenged by amoralistic, self-interested actors; and that some people will inevitably sacrifice humanity for success. We are being trained to look past any moral failings and honor the mechanical skill in effectively manipulating the game to one’s advantage. Whether by muscle or cleverness, victors arise on the backs of those they out-compete. Yet more and more the battleground lies in the minds of the people and that strange interstitial space of mediated discourse.

Now, amidst financial and constitutional meltdown the very machine of civilization is called into question, the minds of the masses are left awed and exposed, eyes wide in the headlights of seeming doom, mouth agape pleading silently for context and leadership, ready for the next distraction, misdirection, scapegoat or salvation, preserved only by mad poets, fevered musicians, relentless philosophers and the like more inclined to loving than fighting, though perhaps just as drunk on the powers of Life. Opportunists are racing to grab center stage and push the story in their preferred direction, hoping the narrative is stronger than the needs and expressions of the human social animal.

The battle is on and the territory has shifted – “the hearts and minds of America” are at stake. This is deeper than it appears on the surface. We are on the edge of a knife. Progressives, leftists, and peacenicks of all stripes must engage the social construct and actively manage the narrative. It’s not enough to offer the most logical solution. Indeed, the opposition will seize on this as another example of “liberal intellectualism”. The rules of the game have evolved and we must play it or perish. If Truth is dead and history is written by the victors, then the ideals of life, liberty, happiness, and peace need the best marketing team on Earth.

But dig: though the annals of Respect implore us to hate the Game not the Player, beware of such moral relativism and it’s erosive impact on integrity. Do not absolve the player of responsibility. Do not cast your votes merely on who plays the game most effectively. The rules themselves are a fluid property of narrative and we would all do well to keep in mind the social ideals of community and cooperation. Check yourself, lest you wreck yourself.

Black Holes May Conserve Info

“Information only appears to be lost because we have been looking at a restricted part of the true quantum mechanical space-time. Once you consider quantum gravity, then space-time becomes much larger and there is room for information to reappear in the distant future on the other side of what was first thought to be the end of space-time.”

Professor Madhavan Varadarajan

Social Nets Agree: It’s All About Obama

The great century ahead of us will be dominated by the digital democratization of the individual. For the first time in history it’s possible – even simple – to collate vast amounts of data extracted through the API’s of social networks. Digg, Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace. All of these sites track and record the data communicated by millions and millions (billions?) of users. Instead of crufty old Gallup polls that attempt to extrapolate the zeitgeist of a nation based on a minuscule sample of a few thousand sources, social nets across the web yield precise and voluminous data about large populations of the global citizenry.

Twitter is a great example. Spend a few minutes on Twittervision and you get a feel for the amount of data traveling across the Twitternet. It’s pretty much a constant stream of tweets, each and evry one being logged and recorded. Now head over to Politweets and you can see the power of the Twitter API in action. Politweets grabs the Twitter stream, searches it for candidate names (eg Obama, McCain) and then posts the matching tweets to it’s output stream. On the left column you have the Blue tweets and on the right you have the Red. Of note, the Blue tweets are mostly positive notes on Obama, while the Red column is mostly negative tweets about McCain. And as of 6pm PST 3.20 Twitter is breaking the Obama passport scandal with the media scrambling to catch up.

All of the social networks mentioned above have deputized their users to generate the content and participate in a ranking selection that naturally brings the important bits to the top. Items of great interest stay on the radar longer while the fringe drifts off the chart. But everything stays in the database. Every post, comment, chat, tweet, vote, etc… It’s all there in beautiful, incorruptible binary ready for any savvy programmer to break open the public API and build a new tool to pull out trends and patterns. Obviously, this is a radical evolution of the community of conversation. What was once personal is now overtly and proudly public.

Social, cultural, and political trends can all be extracted from these vast living datastructures. Mike Elgen wrote about this yesterday in a post called Has Digg Already Picked the President? He talks about how the major social sites end up endorsing candidates just by the measure of their post demographics. For example:

…every link with significant popularity on Digg about John McCain that has an “opinion” is negative, every one about Hillary Clinton is also negative, and every one about Barack Obama is positive. The preference by the Digg community for Obama is very clear.

On MySpace, you can gauge candidate support by searching Google for mentions and counting them, as most mentions tend to be expressions of support. Searches for “John McCain” gets 56,800 Google links; “Hillary Clinton” 120,000; and “Barack Obama” 161,000.

You can see a similar trend in the wildly popular user billboards for Obama and Clinton. Hillary is almost always negative while Barack is everyone’s best friend.

Elgen goes on to wonder how well these sites reflect the actual democracy of our country. Is there parity? Are they more accurate than the mainstream media? Is the online world inherently skewed in some fashion? Then, in the most suggestive and compelling inevitability of the modern digital age, he offers:

After all, the very definition of a Web 2.0 site is one that derives its value from the actions of users. Users are voters, and if these user-voters choose a candidate, shouldn’t that candidate win democratic elections?

And this is the final crux; the salvation of our wavering and beleagured democracy. The digital paths increasingly worn by all of us as we move deeper and deeper into the datasphere are totally traceable. Transparency is growing and it won’t be long before all of the actions that a candidate engages in – the record of their public lives, their opinions, voting history, political and fiscal affiliations, campaign promises and campaign donations – will all be a matter of public record.

New media and digital democracy is empowering everyone and simultaneously laying our lives open for all eyes. We’ve never seen anything like it.

Building a Bright Green Future (Alex Steffan) – ETech08

Alex Steffen – CEO WorldChanging
Not using the planet well but the situation is pretty clear now in the public. We risk losing sight of the larger crisis if we only look at climate change (pollution, collapsing ecosystems, deforestation). Solving climate change is necessary but insufficient on its own.

Best measure of impact is our ecological footprint. We are using more than the earth can regenerate year over year. We are using more as individuals and there are more individuals. Must bring our use back under the planet’s biocapacity by 2050 or we will not recover from the crash. Global Somalia (Jared Diamond).

Most impact comes from US & Europe. Developing world is climbing out of poverty and modeling their ambitions on us. How can we push forward a new model of living? Low impact, high prosperity.

Empowering women: educated women have fewer children. We could see peak population in our lifetimes.

Geeks are very important. Application of intelligence to difficult & complex systems. Can’t just swap dirty energy for clean energy. Consumption curve is too sharp. We simply use too much energy. Need systemic solutions. Driving/inventing better cars is not a solution for impact of current transport models. Need to reduce the time people spend in them. Density, info, good urban design. Growing Cooler study. Building livable compact communities.

Sustainable companies: Nau, CityCargo, BioPAK, Bicing. Huge ecological savings.

Info & place. Proximity. Junk-tagging. Knowing where things are & who has them. Car sharing. Producer take-back of products after use. Use & re-use. Feedback of usage changes behavior. Ex: energy meters in home, car mpg meters. Wired together, green elements can create sustainable infrastructures. Ultimately need to confront our relationship to stuff. Pursue the type of prosperity that enables true happiness. Need an activism of the imagination to create a realizable prosperity.