Five Questions

BirdBandingI‘ll be out of town and offline for a couple of days, so I thought I’d take a day to think about where to go next with How to Save the World. Therefore please consider this as a kind of ‘open thread’ and tell me what you’d like to see here next. And to provoke your thinking here are four more questions to ponder:

  1. Without getting into the ethics of the case, and without blaming the media, please explain why so many people care so much about that one singular right-to-die case in Florida?
  2. What’s a better name for ‘the environment’ that is less separate in connotation from human civilization?
  3. Why does it break our heart to throw out teddy bears and other stuffed animals, even if they’re not childhood toys with memories attached to them?
  4. How could we effectively teach online the critical skills that take a lot of practice and one-on-one coaching? I’m referring to skills like effective listening, collaboration, and even meditation. It seems to me our inability to do this well is the greatest limitation today of the Internet as an agent of change.
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20 Responses to Five Questions

  1. David says:

    How fortunate to be white and living in a battleground state.

  2. says:

    1. We care about all people, but feel small and helpless in a big ocean. If we see suffering on TV we want to stop the suffering. Will the cause of stopping suffering be better served by letting the woman go, or by keeping the tube in? Slow dehydration death is an artifact of other head-up-the-ass right-wing euthanasia laws.2. biosphere3. Media and the status quo have pandered to our bourgeois instincts, and have made stupid sentimentality normal or OK to serve the protection of their own power. 4. Computers and the internet offer only a tiny fraction of the computing power of the assembled human brains involved. As java programming pushes the processing our to the client computer, we need to push more of the sum total of network interaction out to the human brains on the other side of the keyboards. We need a programming language that is mediated by the internet, but that programs the human brains to work together on a set of instructions. We need a massive Beowulf parallel human thinking system for our own existing unlimited quantum computers. Push the program out to the human processor with skills like effective listening, collaboration, and even meditation. In scale, the network isn’t everything. It isn’t hardly anything.

  3. Jordan says:

    1. It’s a states rights issue thinly vieled as a moral cause. A way for federal conservatives to gain a bit of legal power over the bio-med industry.3. Cuteness counts – regardless of how stridently intellectual your viewpoint is. We’re biological predestined to go, awwwwww, at little babies and want one ourselves. Teddy bears play on the same cuteness quotient.4. Well, the hope of the online generation is that we can get our work done faster and more effectively so then we can spend our time as we wish. More free time allows us to pursue higher pursuits like learning for the sake of learning and meditation. The biggest culprit, in my mind, is the workaholic attitudes corporate America encourages: stare at a computer screen for 10 hours, go home so strung out and tired that all you can do is sleep.

  4. Mike says:

    1. They feel a cloying, annoying guilt about ratifying murder and torture on a mass scale (not to mention having destroyed the U.S.); 2. the outdoors; 3. The stuffed animals function as ‘poison boxes’, i.e. child surrogates, yet with permanent smiles made of felt, they exhibit a stoicness and cheerfulness that continually reminds of the damage most parents inflict on their real children; 4. The Theraputic state, e.g. Greg Bears _Queen of Angels_, or worse, making drug avoidance illegal ( _THX 1138_), or even worse, the ‘focus’ of the Emergents in Vinge’s _A Deepness in the Sky_, though all these are only bad in the sense that we slash off what we used to be…

  5. Yan says:

    Number 2. Since the term “homeland” seems to be quite effective in mobilizing public opinion, I would suggest something like “homeworld” or “homeplanet”. It might prove to be effective, especially with people from the world’s biggest polluter country…

  6. Chris OByrne says:

    In response to #4, re: effectively teaching online… we still have not figure out how to effectively teach in person! I taught middle and high school science for six years and was constantly researching and trying out what I hoped would be more effective techniques. I slowly learned how to be more effective, but there was and is so much room for growth in this area. The key to effective online learning, as in person, is engagement. I feel that one method is through stories. We all love stories, whether it be fiction or a documentary or even just the news. Stories that engage us and then make us question and seek answers are very effective. One example of this is the book Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. While I may or may not have agreed with all of the points, the story made me question many beliefs I held and then seek answers while I reconstructed ideas.

  7. Noah Fields says:

    Suggestion for blog:I’d like to see one specific idea be thorougly examined over the course of at least a week. Most of your ideas are good, but they never seem to mature. Perhaps you take them farther by yourself, but I don’t see how you could. There are too many. The image of “How to Save the World” I have in my head is a big happy mush of ideas and thought, but nothing practical and applicable. That’s probably the biggest problem with the blogosphere: too many good ideas, not enough thorough thought and application thereof.

  8. Wendy says:

    1)After pretty much avoiding the story until a few days ago, the reason it finally hit a note with me was because it’s so easy to think a) that could be me, or b) that could be my partner, or c) that could be my child …. and in the latter two instances, how would I react? And, once the question is asked, it becomes more interesting to follow the debate. 2) How about ‘mother earth’? It probably needs to be a name that has a human element in it, to connect us with the outside. ‘Nature’ isn’t bad. 3) Stuffed animals always remind me of the incredible excess in the life I live, where my child has dozens – many unused – while I imagine other kids would treasure these neglected toys. I wish that drop-offs for used toys were as easy to find as drop-offs for used clothes. On a slightly different note, the difficulty in throwing away stuffed animals is also similar to the feeling of throwing away dolls and throwing away photos – it always feels like these inanimate representations may have a little bit of the spirit of the things they represent. Finally, going back to the first question about things we’d like to see – I agree with Noah’s comment that it would be nice to follow a single theme over a few days. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on which known corporations, business leaders, politicians, or other public figures, are doing things ‘right’ and why. Who are the people, or what are the trends in pop culture or mainstream media that can be a positive influence in raising awareness of the need to change how we are living today?

  9. brad says:

    I like your #4 – How could we effectively teach online the critical skills that take a lot of practice and one-on-one coaching? Excellent thought!How to get an expert in your house, complete with say, conversations designed to teach listening skills. One might download an MP3 or video file, examine it and take an adaptive-type test. But then it could become a question of student integrity. So on a higher plane, how best to raise one’s desire to learn for the sake of an increased skill. It’s an interesting concept, hard to implement in real life, let alone digitally. I’d love to hear some comments on ‘how to’.

  10. Noumenon says:

    Most of your ideas are good, but they never seem to mature.Dude, what are you asking for, the post before this one was nine pages long! I bet the average blog entry is two paragraphs. This is like the New Yorker of blogs. Develop the ideas yourself.

  11. Steve says:

    “the New Yorker of blogs” – perfect.

  12. Steve says:

    1. because it is a clear illustration of this question – Shall we have a government of laws or a government of God?

  13. Justin Kitzes says:

    #2 – I’d throw out “our environment” rather than “the environment” as a small but important change. Issues of ownership would arise in this case, but at least we’d be a part of it (maybe) rather than it being some sterile object that we can choose not to relate to.

  14. Brett says:

    1. The Republicans have done a fine job of merging church and state and this fuels their fire.2. the environment v our environment?3. Stuffed toys scare me.4. Meditation (or ralaxation) is being greatly enhanced with biofeedback loops. In practice, midwives are using biofeedback devices very successfully to train expectant mothers in relaxation to aid the birth process.

  15. Dave Pollard says:

    Thanks — some brilliant (and humbling) ideas here. If this is a foreshadowing of the kind of thinking we might accomplish in blog-hosted conversations, we’re on to something big.

  16. says:

    Well,I’ll take Number 1, Dave.Because they think the future doesn’t want them. And they’re probably right. Because, sadly, some people of faith are not driven by their beliefs as much as they are driven by defending their beliefs. For many, a beseiged mentality is a visceral reaction against a mundane and anonymous existence. Existential peace escapes them; spiritual practice leaves them largely un-beatified. (i.e.: still Imperfect) and somebody must pay. Christian consulting firms like The Barna Group, polling evangelicals and self-declared people of faith, find that many are poor at practicing what they preach. In effect, they are human and succumb to temptations just like regular folks, and in many cases, more so. (Massachusetts libs divorce at rates equal to or slightly less than born-agains.) Given this reality one has two choices: 1. Adhere to Jesus’ admonishment that your relationship with him is personal, not to be worn on your sleeve, and so, blame self and try to do better. 2. Make your faith public, and its quality outside your control like that of the biblical “Hypocrites” and so, blame others and find an all-purpose excuse, security blanket *and* rallying cry. Cake, and no calories!Number two has appeal for all kinds of reasons that governments, corporations and tribes of all stripes are familiar with: It cements the bonds of the group, albeit at the expense of greater American community. It changes the subject from personal imperfection and failure, and relegates practical everyday accountability to the back burner because, well, because “we have bigger fish to fry–there are barbarians at the gate!” Terry Schiavo, rest her soul, will be their Che, t-shirts and all, for years to come. And like today’s che-wearing skateboarder, CYO kids 20 years hence will have their Terri in a beret fashions and have no clue of her significance or the facts of her case. She will be part of the uniform–a prop.

  17. AF says:

    1. I love the word biosphere, although I imagine people who don’t own dictionaries can distance themselves from that word as well. 2. I think the Terry Schiavo case has been so prominent because it’s such a soap opera. Who needs Jerry Springer when you have dueling family members, death threats (how can people support Terry’s right to live, while threatening Michael’s???), court battles, and totally erroneous Presidential intervention. 3. Maybe I’m old school, but I don’t see how the Internet can effectively teach skills such as effective listening and collaboration. I think we need people to teach people skills. And that’s okay.

  18. AF says:

    Oops. Got my numbers mixed up (above). So much for my critical thinking skills.

  19. Derek says:

    To make people care about something, they have to feel attached to it. So for #2, how about: “Our Home Planet”.

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