Welcome to DarwinianInterlude.org

“Three billion years ago, life was then a community of cells of various kinds, sharing their genetic information so that clever chemical tricks and catalytic processes invented by one creature could be inherited by all of them.

Evolution was a communal affair.

But then, one evil day, a cell resembling a primitive bacterium happened to find itself one jump ahead of its neighbors in efficiency. That cell separated itself from the community and refused to share.

The Darwinian interlude had begun.

Now, after three billion years,

the Darwinian interlude is over.

— Freeman Dyson

We Need to See What They Think They Have On Us

Premise

The intersection of innovations in data collection, tracking, and online advertising has created a novel situation in which the public is vulnerable to manipulation by unscrupulous advertisers and hostile foreign actors. In order for we as citizens to understand and take appropriate action, we need to start with an understanding of what information is being collected about us and how it is being used. From there it will be possible to tell what, if any, further regulation might be necessary. I, personally, think that this step should be all that’s needed.

We need a regulation paralleling the Fair Credit Reporting Act that allows us to discover 1) what data has been compiled on us and 2) who is using it and when.

This is particularly true for political advertising.

The companies that sell access to us including Facebook and Twitter, but, also, the Agencies that track our browsing history via cookies or feeds from our (now unregulated) Internet Providers need to make available information on what they are tracking about us and how it is being used.

My Sample Letter

Greetings,

As you are undoubtedly aware, there has been significant Russian influence on United States politics via social media.

We can currently see our what credit companies have on us, whether accurate or not, and when that information is used.

It has become no less vital that we can see what data points the companies selling advertising have collected about us and how that is being used! This is particularly the case for political ads. An understanding of what is being collected, how, and why is the essential first step.

California would be the ideal state to pioneer this legislation requiring this due to it’s role in the tech economy and the resources available to us.

EU countries have had data protection laws in place since the late 90’s and their experience would be a good starting point. See Wikipedia here and here for an intro.

Here’s a few excellent articles that deal with the full extent of the problem and predate the recent ‘discoveries’. It’s much bigger that a few Facebook ads.

Sincerely,
Al Tabor

PS, I’d appreciate a response and would be happy to work on the issue. Here’s something I wrote on Medium to explore the full range of the problem.

Access to State Legislators

  •  California
    • Finding your representatives: http://findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov and plug in your zip code.
    • That will give you access to a 2000 character contact form. Not all that satisfying. Here’s my State Senator, Scott Weiner:  http://sd11.senate.ca.gov/contact
    • A better alternative might be going to the Legislature’s home page, e.g. here for Scott, and then looking at their Legislative staff.
    • I’ll try that and report how it works.

Considering Science as Truth using Climate Change as an Example

We rely daily on science and it’s models to guide everything from what we eat, to the medicines we take, to the construction of the machines we use to get to work and back.

But are the models 100% certain?  Are they True with a capital T?

That question misunderstands how science works.

  • There are all sorts of stories about how the world works.
  • If your story is going to be science you need to be able to use it to generate bets.
  • The bets need to be bets you can settle using something observable.
  • The outcome has to be defined clearly enough that all parties agree it settles the bet and are willing to pay up. Even folks that do not like your story have to admit you won the bet.
  • If your story productively generates enough bets and then wins those bets,  your story is considered a ‘robust’ explanation of how things work.
  • Scientific Theories are the stories. They need to be able to generate Testable Hypothesis: the bets. Experiments test the hypothesis and declare the winner. Some theories win a lot.
  • We call the robust big winners ‘true’…but it’s more complicated.

Newton’s theories were incredibly robust until they got reframed by Einstein. Now they’re consider ‘true within limits.’ Big components, eg gravity itself, mean something very different to Einstein than to Newton.

Einstein’s Theories of Relativity are considered incredibly robust. And, along with most of physics (the most precise science we’ve got) there’s evidence that they’ll be reframed again within the next decade or three.

Net net, Newtonian mechanics aren’t ‘100% certain’…just true within the limits of our current understanding…but you bet your life on them every time you get in a car.

Science: being 25 years past my pre-science life expectancy, I’m a big fan!

The theory that we’re seeing potentially catastrophic human-caused climate change is, unfortunately, extremely robust at this point.

The models, also, point to ways we can mitigate that if we act in time.

Theories about climate change are contained in big models with precise mathematical relationships between the working parts. Globally there are 26 different research groups building competing climate models.

The models are in broad agreement on the big picture and are battling the fine points.  On that front, they’re duking it out in peer reviewed journals for glory and funding. Yes, scientists do want glory and need funding.  They are competing for attention and get glory and funding by winning bets, ie making accurate predictions. There’s an argument that this is harmful to the overall progress of science but, for now, winners win and losers lose.

It’s easier to shrug off the scientific evidence for climate change if you don’t dig into the modeling. This article from Bloomsberg Business Week, “What’s Really Warming the World?”, shows the detail and complexity being modeled better than anything else I’ve read. I think it makes the evidence much more compelling.

A final observation: if you do not have a model that’s winning bets against the others then you haven’t made table stakes. I don’t care if you’re some yahoo on talk radio or Freeman Dyson, one of my heroes.

 

 

 

Infant Tyrone Medium Article – The Editorial

Here’s the Editorial – hidden away

I’ve been trying in this essay to stay carefully neutral on the Right / Left thing although I’ll cheerfully admit to being on the Left.

One has to ask why Russia supports alt-right movements not just in the US but across a broad range of Western democracies?

Russia, which views open societies and functioning democracies as a threat.

A point of interest is the easy alignment between Russian oligarchs and Republican operatives. (Although, I’m not sure both sides have the same level of insight into what it is they’re doing.)

Quite frankly, when the Soviet Union went away and Bush the First declared a peace dividend, I figured Republican Party would dissolve and that most Democrats and Republican’s would peel off into some center right party leaving me and those of like mind happily occupying the fringe Left.  Having to be moderate is really not much fun.

I underestimated the Republican big wigs.

If the core mission of your party is making the rich richer, you need tricks to get elected. Fear and sowing division are the most effective tricks. I watched in amazement as the Republicans, post Soviet Union, pulled boogie after boogie out of their hat starting with gay guys in San Francisco and ending now apparently with an UN/US secret agreement to round up patriots and take their AK-47s.

Well, the GOP should be happy. The Rooskies are back, big time…but they seem to be on the side of the Republicans. Life is weird.

PS, not all Republicans are big wigs, of course, particularly in South Dakota where I grew up.

30 years ago I considered the Republicans the party of choice for folks I enjoyed arguing with about the appropriate role and size of public sector.

At this point, given their more or less complete capture by the oil industry, the GOP has morphed into an existential threat to the human species. I’m hoping my friends on the right are noticing that.

 

Infant Tyrone Medium Article – Footnotes and References

Footnotes:

1) Paranoia

Rules for Paranoids and a Paranoiac Poetry

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Gravity’s Rainbow — Rules for Paranoids. Some useful tips:

  • The innocence of the creature is in inverse proportion to the immorality of the Master.
  • If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.

From Crying of Lot 49’s (line breaks added for emphasis)

The Saint whose water can light lamps,
the clairvoyant whose lapse in recall is the breath of God,
the true paranoid for whom all is organized in spheres joyful or threatening about the central pulse of himself,
the dreamer whose puns probe ancient fetid shafts and tunnels of truth
all act in the same special relevance to the word, or whatever it is the word is there, buffering, to protect us from.
The act of metaphor then was a thrust at truth and a lie, depending where you were:
inside, safe

or outside, lost.

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2) Data Point: Microtargeting

Micro-targeting

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Inside the Trump Bunker, With Days to Go:

Why the Trump Machine Is Built to Last Beyond the Election
On Oct. 19, as the third and final presidential debate gets going in Las Vegas, Donald Trump’s Facebook and Twitter…www.bloomberg.com
Trump’s Data Team Saw a Different America-and They Were Right
Nobody saw it coming. Not the media. Certainly not Hillary Clinton. Not even Donald Trump’s team of data scientists…www.bloomberg.com

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3) Data Point: The Bots

Folks disagreeing with McElrath’s conclusion. I don’t find these convincing but here you go:

Shareblue Is Now Saying That ‘Bernie Bros’ Were Actually Russian Bots. Hold Me Back.
The David Brock propaganda mill Shareblue has published an article titled “Watching the hearings, I learned my ‘Bernie…medium.com
To State the Obvious: “Bernie Bros” aren’t Russian Bots (UPDATE)
There’s a bogus article up at ShareBlue that’s been making the rounds on what appears to be a complete misreading of…medium.com

4) Data Point: Manipulating the Emotional Environment

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Text and images below from The Agency, Adrian Chen, New York Times Magazine.

On 9/11/2014, the Columbian Chemical plant near Centerville, LA, appeared to have exploded.

  • Locals received text messages: “Toxic fume hazard warning in this area until 1:30 PM. Take Shelter. Check Local Media and columbiachemical.com.”
  • Hundreds of Twitter accounts were documenting a disaster right down the road. “A powerful explosion heard from miles away happened at a chemical plant in Centerville, Louisiana #ColumbianChemicals,” a man named Jon Merritt tweeted.
  • The #ColumbianChemicals hashtag was full of eyewitness accounts of the horror in Centerville. @AnnRussela shared an image of flames engulfing the plant. @Ksarah12 posted a video of surveillance footage from a local gas station, capturing the flash of the explosion. Others shared a video in which thick black smoke rose in the distance.
  • Dozens of journalists, media outlets and politicians, from Louisiana to New York City, found their Twitter accounts inundated with messages about the disaster.
  • Some included screenshots of CNN’s home page, showing that the story had already made national news.
  • ISIS had claimed credit for the attack, according to one YouTube video; in it, a man showed his TV screen, tuned to an Arabic news channel, on which masked ISIS fighters delivered a speech next to looping footage of an explosion.

In December of 2014 the same accounts touted a fake Ebola disaster at the Atlanta, GA, airport. Simultaneously, a different set of accounts began spreading a rumor that an unarmed black woman had been killed by police again in Atlanta.

Again, the attention to detail was remarkable, suggesting a tremendous amount of effort. A YouTube video showed a team of hazmat-suited medical workers transporting a victim from the airport. Beyoncé’s recent single “7/11” played in the background, an apparent attempt to establish the video’s contemporaneity. A truck in the parking lot sported the logo of the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

And, again:

On the same day as the Ebola hoax, a totally different group of accounts began spreading a rumor that an unarmed black woman had been shot to death by police. They all used the hashtag #shockingmurderinatlanta. Here again, the hoax seemed designed to piggyback on real public anxiety; that summer and fall were marked by protests over the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.

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5) Social Cohesion defined and some insight into it’s dynamics.

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A great place to start is Peter Turchin’s War and Peace and War, particularly Chapter 8: “The Bowling Alley in History: Measuring the Decline in Social Capital”. He considers various definitions of social cohesion, what he terms asabiya, and an provides as an example an eye-opening look at the quite different societies of northern vs southern Italy.

What is being discussed is the degree to which all members of a society assume common purpose.

What are measures of disaffection? What’s the assumed social contract and how widely is it shared? What happens to societies when common purpose dissolves or is destroyed?

Another extended look at the drivers of social decohesion and it’s impact is Thomas Piketty’s instant classic, Captial in the Twenty First Century.

Amazon’s paragraph book summary does a decent job: “The main driver of inequality—returns on capital that exceed the rate of economic growth—is again threatening to generate extreme discontent and undermine democratic values.”

Quoted in the New Yorker, “Piketty notes, the level of inequality in the United States is ‘probably higher than in any other society at any time in the past, anywhere in the world.’

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6) = (The Long Playing Version of 12) —
The Counterforce: Where They Attack, We Defend

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A longer list of Counterforce possibilities

Political:

A Legislative First Step

To get a grasp on this we need some immediate transparency.

We currently have the right to see our credit data and when it is used. It is no less vital to know when some enterprise is selling our stats to advertisers. We need the ability to find out ‘what they have on us’ and how they’re using it …particularly since it seems pretty easy for anyone, no matter how fucked up their purpose, to purchase ad space embedded in our social stream.

Making this information available to each of us individually would be the most effective engine of change. We could see how and why we were targeted and by whom. It would have the advantage letting us take subsequent steps from an informed position.

There’s Legislation in Europe that does this but not in the US.

California, Massachusetts, or New York would be great places to start. Let’s race!

Here’s a sample letter and some resources.

Remember: where they attack, we defend.

Assume that the enemy’s key attack point is where they see or most significant vulnerability. They’re primarily attacking solidarity, looking to create hopelessness, and dissolve the type of social cohesion that leads us to seek broad solutions. The Russian operations are teaching us that these are key points to defend.

Cultural/Collective:

Strengthen the Tribe; Build Bridges

Since the enemy’s key attack point is where they see our most significant vulnerability and they’re primarily attacking solidarity…trying to dissolve the type of social cohesion that leads us to seek broad collective solutions…that is where we defend.

First we can take the easy step of defending by strengthening the tribe to buffer it against future fractures. Take the time to cultivate your real world connection with friends and family. We’re a tribal species. This part is essential to our cultural, collective, and individual health and it is the antidote to letting ourselves be driven into isolated hopelessness and become ineffective cultural and political actors.

Then comes the hard part: building bridges. This requires us to assume common ground with folks where that assumption can seem a stretch. Yet there are folks of decent intent on all sides of most issues and, important to note, while the most extreme examples of a position are the most visible, they’re not the most numerous.

70% of the folks on any particular ‘side’ have a nuanced and rational position that is open to dialog, and an instinct to meet folks halfway. The concept of ‘sides’ is in itself non-helpful. Most folks likely agree with you on other significant political and cultural issues even if they go another route on some. (We might want to save putting effort into the other 30% until a bit down the road:-).

Let’s make a pact to assume we’re all good guys until we’ve figured out a way to frustrate the enemy. They want us at each other throats. Once we’ve got that out of the way we can go back to being amazed at how misguided everyone else is.

Here’s an inspiring example of dialog under adverse conditions and a pointer to a context wider than our differences.

Individual:

Check Your Reactions

The social media post or news item that disgusts, outrages, or depresses you might be designed to do precisely that. In fact, it probably is, whether the intent is your demoralization or simply getting clicks. Awareness of that can help. It is likely going forward that the more effective you are, the more you’ll be a target.

Here and in the point below, disrupt your initial reaction. Disconnect, take a walk, sit zazen, wait 24 hours before hitting send…then act.

Refuse Outrage.

Everyone loves outrage. Heck, I love outrage. The Right uses it as motor. The Left likes a good wallow. Without getting into ego, politics, and contaminated emotion, I think we need to give it up. It’s been eaten by the Grey Goo! It hurts us as it pretends to provide value. We are more manipulable but not more politically effective. It dissolves opportunities for common ground and erodes dialog.

Seek Unmediated Experience

It can be a beautiful thing to dance all night in an evil time.
– Micheal Ventura, Shadow Dancing in the USA

If the information flow is manipulating you, get out of the flow. This is part signal jamming and part reset. Look for the things that give us back to ourselves: nature, dance, art, ‘non-ordinary’ experiences that take us out and then return us more complete, communal cooking, nature, friends / connections…to each their own. Anything done with a tribe gets bonus points.

The articles in section 2 above give pointers. Here’s another resource:

 

Tools:

Science

It’s easy to see how someone might distrust science. Look at diet guidelines over the last 50 years. Who can tell what’s good for you amidst all that science.

Yet science is the best engine we have for separating the wheat from the chaff. Being 25 years past what would be my likely pre-science expiration date, I’m a big fan of science.

The key is a better understanding of how science works as a grand long-term project, i.e. go with skepticism but avoid ignorance. I’ve got a more extended look at that here. Hint, a deeper look at how science works and the models behind climate science make it pretty clear that ‘climate skepticism’ is mostly ignorance and not honest informed skepticism.

Big Boat Religion

In a world of Us vs Them there are clear religious mandates for broad inclusiveness…at least in the religions I know enough about to offer comment. Christianity’s core is (should be) love God and love your neighbor…with a clear Big Boat definition of neighbor. (I consider the use of Christianity as a tool of division to be blasphemy.) Mahayana Buddhism is almost literally Big Boat religion and seeks the enlightenment of all sentient beings. More recent religious geniuses such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King tell us that no one is free until all are free.

Considering our survival now depends on our finding broad common cause with all sentient beings, they might just have had a point.

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Table of Contents – Donald Trump and the Working Class

Lately I’ve taken to writing on Medium.com as well. Here’s the Table of Contents to Donald Drumpf the Working Class— Sources and Comments hosted there.

  1. Pain – “Half a million people are dead who should not be dead.”
  2. Economics – “Rural America has taken a real shot to the gut in the past couple decades. What once was the pride of American industry and economy has since dwindled to its nadir.”
  3. Let’s Get Personal 
  4. Left Behind, Disrespected
    Desired: Work…
    Agency
    Respect
    and a Fair Shake.
    The Sandbar
    Rage and Resentment
  5. Aside: Trump’s Convenient Pathologies
  6. Analysis
    Racism
    Why would women vote for Drumpf
    Democrats, WTF
  7. Conclusion
    1) First, I need to rethink how I think about political strategy.
    2) I am struck by the paradox at the core of the WWC’s economic situation.
    3) There’s a massive amount of misinformation that provides the context for most decisions in America politics.

One final article: This Is How Steve Bannon Sees The Entire World.

Open Source Software and ‘Indie Biz’

[Also available on Medium.]

Thesis

  1. The Open Source movement freed large scale software development projects from a set of narrow constraints imposed by the capital infrastructure needed to finance big projects.
  2. Current developments including B-Corps, crowdfunding projects (e.g. Kickstarter) and, in particular, crowdfunding equity under the JOBS Act III (e.g. Wefunder) are allowing a parallel development in the capital infrastructure needed to finance Independent Businesses.

Definitions

Biz — an enterprise that needs to return concrete value to key stakeholders, i.e. customers, investors, and employees.

Indie Biz — an enterprise funded bottom-up from customers, fans, supporters and small investors rather than top-down by VCs or large lenders.

Let’s start with a Manifesto. I like Manifestos; this will degrade into an essay all too soon.

Indie Biz Manifesto

  • An Indie Biz should grow out of community: businesses should be the outgrowth of communities of interest; capitalization should scale with community growth.
  • An Indie Biz should retain its connection to its community in as many ways as possible. Constant communication is the key.
  • An Indie Biz should provide a clear vision but allow a variety of interests. At the founding of Mountain Hardwear, our fearless leader, Jack Gilbert’s, provided this initial vision statement: “Where others have gone off in other directions, we are going to build the really good stuff.” Simple. Clear. Works for all shareholders…with the possible exception of financers.
  • An Indie Biz’s financial structure should keep interests aligned. For example, if offering stock to small investors, that stock should provide the same rewards and value as any founder’s stock. Proceeds should be parceled out relative to contributions. (My favorite model for that: Slicing Pie)
    It’s not exactly anarcho-syndicalism but it’s a start.

Restating That By Example

The food biz can provide a great example. First, communication with one’s community is not generally a problem. You’re feeding people. You can tell if they’re liking it. There’s an engagement path (dinners for friends->catering->food cart->pop up->restaurant) where reputation can grow an expanding clientele. A clear vision (great food) can be pursued from a variety of motivations (making it, being creative with it, enjoying it alone and with friends, being proud to produce and serve it, etc.) Finally, with new regulations, a food biz could scale up based on financing from its community at various points along that path and returning value to its investors in a mix of cash payouts and discounts on dining.

Note: this provides a path for people with vision and talent but limited financial resources!

Discussion

On rare occasion, I get a distinct whiff of the future arriving. Here was one:

20+ years ago at the height of Microsoft’s empire, Ruth (a little old lady)*1 and Jay Cheroske (a Ruckus Society activist and coder) separately explained Open Source Software to me.

Ruth gave me a description of the emerging ecosystem and breadth of projects. Jay gave me the emotional hook:

“There are two approaches,” he said.

“You can build proprietary software and make money by squatting on it like a big ugly spider.
“Or you can join in and build open source tools. You don’t make money by charging tolls and rents. You make money building and using tools to practice the craft you love.”

The core: you’re not in it to score and get out. You’re in it because it’s where you want to be…and you need to put together the revenue stream to stay at it.

Here’s a great recent statementwith a shout out to Medium author, Nadia Eghbal

I’m here because I want to make it easier for other people to build, do, and express themselves however they want. To me, that’s the heart and soul of tech. Technology is about making tools for us to express our humanity. To make our creative expression frictionless.

The Problem

Expressing yourself creatively “frictionlessly” is a bit more difficult if your expression is a physical product…say gear we make for mountaineers, climbers, backpacking and wilderness explorers out in all sorts of weather and locations.

I’m a backpacking biz lifer. I don’t design gear, but I’ve been using it and loving it as long as I can remember. My job for most of my working life has been the application of information to the design and sourcing chain that brings that gear to you over the web or through REI or your local specialty shop.

For example, I was one of the founders of Mountain Hardwear in charge of IT, Forecasting, and Operations. My great love has always been systems and what we call hardware: tents, packs, bags. I’ve been lucky enough to combine them. I built my first forecasting systems in Dbase and Quatro Pro on a Kaypro II a couple of thousand years ago.

This biz is a capital intensive one. We often use boutique fabrics with long lead times using fabrication techniques being hacked together along with materials. As an example, Mountain Hardwear used a special Italian fleece laminated by Gore in Germany and sewn in Oakland,CA, into one of the original softshell jackets. We would have to commit 8 months in advance before a shop saw the product. We’d need to buy a second season before we could see most of the results of first season. Forecasting was a bit tricky.

In capital terms that means: spend season #1, spend season #2, start seeing money for #1, spend #3. That’s worst case. Some short lead products leaven it out but the capital demands are bruising. It’s basically a motherfucker.

Once gear visionaries emerge from the (often literal) garage, they hit against this hard. So, they generally have to make a deal with the money people. I could get into details of how it goes south from there but the net result is most typically a classic example of what Tim O’Reilly terms the ‘clothes line paradox.’ Value is created; value is harvested. But not by the same people. The brand, with diluted vision, totters on to a slow death or crashes and burns.

Occasionally the brand is strong enough to survive pirates, thieves and MBAs (witness The North Face), but it is not an accident that Patagonia and Osprey are privately held and essentially bootstrapped companies.

Indie Biz

On rare occasion, I get a distinct whiff of the future arriving. That is happening now.

It is my belief that we’re on the cutting edge of a change comparable to the emergence of Open Source Software that is grounded in the way outdoor brands and other “passion driven businesses”can be funded.*2

(The parallels are probably best communicated in nested bullet points shown in the supplement post.)

When the capital required to fund an enterprise is significant…and the forced path to obtaining the capital is top down from professional investors or big banks…then it is easy for two sets of interests to collide in a way that is detrimental to the sustained creation of genuine value.

This is particularly acute for businesses that are, at essence, “affairs of the heart”…food, beer, outdoor gear, bikes, small label music, that sort of thing. These enterprises don’t often start with a business plan; they start with someone making something great and the community responding.

As they grow, they need funds. This typically sets up a collision course between the need for steady and unending growth, quarterly progress, and an exit strategy on the one hand versus looking for sustainable (and perhaps steady-state) business, a reasonable return for key stakeholders, and a consistent delivery of value and innovation in a more natural “punctuated equilibrium” pattern on the other.

This malign dynamic is being upset!

How ?

  • Kickstarter and such where initial products can be tested and developed in dialog with the community. This might be all that’s needed. Peak Designhas leveraged a series of Kickstarters into a vital business. Typically more is needed to provide enough capital for the business.
  • Wefunder and such where the JOBS Act TIII allows a business with a track record and a little seasoning to then appeal to their community for working capital. (I’m involved in that now with a gear company, SlingFin.)
  • The maturing of the B-Corp is worth mentioning: a wider mission can now be baked in to an enterprise making it substantially more durable.

This will have (is having!) a number of positive effects.

  1. Founders will in be a stronger position when they have to deal with the money people if they end up needing them at all.
  2. Surviving businesses will exhibit a greater diversity of motivations (more Patagonias.)Like Open Source, the gatekeeper is now gone and a significant choke point for surviving enterprises has been removed.
  3. More value will be harvested by the core value creators: designers, visionaries, and enthusiasts who support and sustain them.
  4. This will result in a more vital ecosystem. There will be more great gear and experiences. This will help us better share our love affair with the amazing world we all inhabit!

Point 2) is, I think, the key. Rather than all value eroding over time to a monetary bottom line, more of the heart and vision of startup businesses will survive. Granted, “money is a necessary evil” and stakeholders need be rewarded, but those stakeholders will define their interests in less narrow terms. This will I think be to everyone’s benefit including the money folks. I’ve seen great long-term value trashed at a whole series of outdoor companies afflicted by a monetary focus that is too short-sited.

Do what you love reprise

One point that shouldn’t be overlooked is that the process outlined above will lower the barrier to entry and soften the barrier to success. Great outdoor gear has generally constellated out of the community. The return of the 10th Mountain Division from WWII, the 60’s backpacking craze, and the thru-hiker surge (AT, PCT, John Muir Trail, etc) all pushed innovation created precisely by the folks actually doing it. There has always been a permeable barrier between enthusiast and pro and a strong DIY ethic in our ‘industry.’

Most of us are in the biz to stay connected to our passion. We seek to make a living doing that. We feel that our work should be a vehicle for our contribution to wider society…while running an honest business. Now we have a whole new tool set to accomplish that.

PS, If you read this before 11 pm on 12/19/2016, come check us out at the SlingFin page on Wefunder…particularly if you love outdoor activities from the extreme to simple backpacking or bike camping. If not (pity you<g>) check out Wefunder anyway. You’ll find lots of essentials from coffee to beer to environmentally friendly tampons to glow in the dark shrubbery and smart guitars.

DISCLOSURE: Obviously, I have an interest in Slingfin. I’ve, also, invested small amounts via the Wefunder platform in a number of companies including Wefunder itself. You can see all that on my Wefunder profile. (Hmmm, just checked the link and it only shows things that have fully closed. I’ve committed to a half dozen others in amounts from $100 to $1500.)

*1 Ruth is now 93. From the perspective of my current age, I’d say she was barely passed middle age when she described Open Source to me in the mid-1990s.

*2 Outdoor businesses are generally what Kristin Carpenter-Ogden calls ‘passion driven businesses.’ She’s exploring this space in her great podcast, The Intrepid Entrepreneur.

Open Source and Indie Biz – Parallels

This is a supplement to an article published on Medium as well as on DarwianInterlude.  This page is under continual revision. It’s where I make note as they occur to me.

  • Parallels
    • The Makers
      • Like open source – Motivation is to do what we love in a way that expand possibilities for both ourselves and the wider community.
      • Like open source – Work is a source of meaning and a vehicle for our contribution to the wider society.
      • Like open source – Businesses start dedicated to our customers and vision and not to pumping something up and exiting.
      • Like open source – You should be capable of a stable release before getting too full of yourself.
    • The Community
      • Like open source – projects often begin as a natural outgrowth of the efforts of a community of interest.
      • Like open source – Makers are supported emotionally and financially to various degrees by the wider community.
      • Like open source – There’s a diversity of motivation around some common visions. Not all squashed down into a monetization or growth strategy. Unique visions of high quality endeavors.
      • In my biz gear constellates out of community. 60s backpacking. Appalachin Trail. The barrier between fan and pro is permeable. We want to stay connected to our passion and make a living.
      • Like open source – The product can scaffold up through this direct connection to community.
  • The Change
    • Kickstarter
      • Projects and premiums – Peak Designs and all those damn hammocks as eg.
    • Wefunder.
      • Premiums remain but can also offer equity/debt/profit-sharing. Synergy of premiums.
    • Facilitates further evolution in a direction that supports both the Makers and the wider Community.
    • Part of a recognition of the wider range of motivations for economic activity.  Another parallel = selfish gene, classical economics vs Sober & Wilson, Sante Fe Institute, Behavioral Economics. This has resulted in B-Corps, community capital programs, etc.
    • Removes the barrier to entry. Minimize risk to individual investors. Premiums as part of ROI and smaller amounts. (Up to 500 now, raising that is key.)
      Lower cost of allows a greater range of motivations. 50k 5k .5k
    • Intensify the community/maker connection. Extends companies as natural outgrowth of community.
    • Removes choke point where diversity of interests are squashed down to a narrow stock market / exit strategy.
    • Currently funding suffers from mono-culture in models.
  • Alignment of interest.
    • Should go both ways – value returned from equity. To align interests there should be significant equity position in same class of stock by founders. Common interest in a method to get value from the efforts of founders and the cash of investors. (SlingFin as example.)
    • Challenge – as in all small and/or privately held enterprises: liquidity when needed
      • Process has to acquire, absorb, transform and then secrete capital
        Implications of wider range of investment motivations?
      • Owning what you do vs exit = transfer of interest vs diffusion into uninterested capital. There are some promising experiments.

Wisdom

Wisdom is a fuzzy term generally contrasted with ‘mere knowledge’ with the implication that one can apply knowledge unwisely. The old are said to be wise. Being old, I feel I should come up with a operational definition in case I’m called into account.

My theory:

1. Wisdom is pattern recognition across relatively long spans of time…decades rather than years.

2. If the old are wise, then it is simply because they have lived long enough to see longer cycle patterns. There’s no other way to do it.

I remember the first time a decade long plan actually worked out…before that, I didn’t really believe, deep down, that you could monitor something across decades.  

Pyrrhic victories teach wisdom. Being right but losing the fight teaches wisdom. So does being sure and finding out over a long expanse of time that you were flat out raggedy ass wrong….so becoming wise requires a fair amount of self-directed honesty.

3. Evolutionarily, since people and only a very few other species (elephants, killer whales) live beyond menopause, it is likely that we get to be old people precisely because we might become wise!

The contribution to the gene pool by individuals past reproductive age in big brained social species is almost certainly because they offer something to the tribe that isn’t obvious in a short term or immediate perspective.

4. There is a large tactical component to wisdom. Recognizing and pointing to long-term patterns is of value to the listener depending on the tact and precision of the story-teller. Observing how good advice goes wrong or gets ignore and learning to compensate for that is the heart of wisdom, he said sagely.

5. There is a contextual component to wisdom. The past must be enough like the present and projected future to make generalization possible. It’s easier to be wise about human nature than about progress in material culture.

Related, note, please, that simply pointing out that things are “not what they used to be” does not qualify as wisdom.

 

 

 

Free Will: A Thought Experiment in Three Lunches – Part 1: Intro

I frequently come across asides on Free Will in articles, scientific or philosophical, that strike me as religious statements in the scientific drag.

Their core argument:

  • human behavior is composed of material mechanisms
  • material mechanisms can be modeled scientifically and predicted
  • therefore human behavior is determined
  • and, hence, Free Will is an illusion.

The author then generally goes on to explicitly clue us in on our delusion: the activity we engage in that feels to us like the exercise of Free Will is not…and the illusion’s time is almost up!

I disagree. I think Free Will is what it is.

I can explain the divergence using a little historical background. Descartes split the human experience into two components– the body and the mind– connected, if I remember correctly, by the pineal gland. Some phenomena attached to the material body and others…thought, belief and doubt, choice…are of the mind and immaterial. Our ‘higher’ nature is the classic ghost in the machine.

This is essentially a religious perspective with a separate severable soul.

As science claimed all phenomena as a single set of unified physical systems, the immaterial had to either be delegated to the illusory (the ghost isn’t real so how can its attributes be) or had to be reframed as a material process. Many things made the transition but folks tend to choke when trying to bring Free Will across.

My contention is that this is misguided and we need to follow the other fork in the road. Perhaps it’s the terminology that has tripped us up with free having a variety of meanings including, prominently, ‘unconstrained’ At any rate, I contend that ‘free’ will is exactly what it appears to be…the ability to make meaningful conscious choices.

Defining Free Will.

To restate, I contend that Free Will is a meaningful process that works exactly as it presents itself to us.

The basic unit, the monad of Free Will as it were, is the consideration of at least two options and a meaningful, i.e. non-illusory, conscious choice.

Free Will will be treated here as an emergent property of matter related to other mental phenomena such as intention, planning depth and prediction. (In most places where I use the term, I have capitalized Free Will to emphasize that I am working with this particular definition.)

This definition views Free Will as being composed of material entities interacting in chains of causality. And that means it is in some sense determined. The choices we consider, the motivation for choosing, the limits on our ability to work through options are all determined in the way that material process must be.

What I am contending is that, without that ‘Free Will’ component of our mental processes, we would not take the same actions. Snipping it out would radically change the process. Free Will as we experience it is precisely the physical process by which some action is guided.

To insist that Free Will has to be an unconstrained non-material process to be meaningful is residual religious thinking.

Part 2 is here.

My 2 cents on the compatibility of Science and Religion are here.