Sunday Open Thread – April 29, 2007

green logoWhat I’m planning on writing about soon:

  • Are We Violent By Nature?: Are we more like chimps or bonobos? [My research on this is taking longer than expected; I’d also like to thank the readers who have sent me articles and links on this subject]
  • We Are Not Who We Think: Our ability to Get Things Done (and not procrastinate), to control our temper, to become ‘better’, more responsible individuals — these things are all at the mercy of our bodies and what they choose to do (and to a lesser extent what our culture brainwashes us to do). We actually have little choice in the matter, and should be a little easier on ourselves, and a little more aware of what our bodies are telling us to do, and to be, and why. Just over a year ago, in my review of the book Figments of Reality, I wrote:
Living species, including humans, are emergent properties of (what Daniel Dennett has labeled) the ‘pandemonium’ of the body’s semi-autonomous processes — We are a complicity of the separately-evolved creatures in our bodies organized for their mutual benefit i.e. we are an organism. And our brains, our intelligence, awareness, consciousness and free-will, are nothing more than an evolved, shared, feature-detection system jointly developed to advise these creatures’ actions for their mutual benefit. Our brains, and our minds (the processes that our neurons, senses and motility organs carry out collectively) are their information-processing system, not ‘ours’.
  • Good Working Models of Social Networking: The other day I prescribed a methodology for introducing Web 2.0 social networking applications into your organization. But what’s missing are good working models, ‘templates’ that we can use to sell the concept and to illustrate to the unfamiliar what is possible with these tools and methods. So, for example, is there a way to ‘pre-structure’ a wiki for a particular purpose (say, to enable virtual collaboration on an intractable organizational problem) so that it will be more likely to succeed in that purpose? Is there an ideal layout or template for a group blog for a particular purpose (say, to integrate and leverage the work of a disparate community of practice) so that it will be more likely to succeed in that purpose?
  • Telling the Politicians What’s Possible: Much of the rancorous debate on environmental issues is directed at appealing to ideological audiences — getting elected (or re-elected) rather than getting anything done. What we need are groups outside of the political process to produce policies and laws that offer a practical alternative to what we have (and don’t have) today. Example: Big Oil and US conservatives recently provided the ultra-conservative Canadian minority government of Stephen ‘mini-Bush’ Harper with a blueprint for appearing concerned about the environment while actually doing nothing. Not surprisingly, the opposition parties, and Canadian environmentalists (David Suzuki) and US environmentalists (Al Gore) have all denounced it. But now the debate is all about what is wrong with this (non-)policy, when it should be about what policy, programs, and immediate actions to take instead. What we need is for non-politicians like Suzuki and Gore to actually draft a national policy with specific, year-by-year targets, laws and penalties that would enable Canada (and then, perhaps, the US) to surpass our Kyoto targets, and meet the more stringent, urgently needed targets set out in George Monbiot’s Heat. In other words we need to reframe the debate about what’s possible, rather than what the corrupt, inept, out-of-touch politicians indebted to corporatist funders table as party policy. Then we can get people talking openly about real actions instead of obfuscations, and challenge the political parties to adopt these scientifically-based (not politically-based) policies as is, without compromise or back-room deals. And then instead of Tweedledum or Tweedledee, on election day we can choose between parties that have the courage to commit to specific actions, and parties that don’t. And if no party shows that courage, we can start creating new parties that will.
  • Honest Dialogue: In response to the excellent discussion in last Saturday’s comments thread, I said (and want to elaborate on) this:
I think it is necessary to strike a balance between closing yourself off to contrary points of view too early (which I think we are by nature predisposed to do) and getting so ‘rapt up’ in the debate that it becomes an end in itself and an excuse for permanently deferring action. I also think many debaters, and listeners to debates, are dishonest — the debaters too often are really seeking to reassure themselves, and the listeners too often selective in their listening to only hear what agrees with their preconceptions. And to me a dishonest debate is a waste of time and worse than no debate at all. And finally, debate can only put what we think we know and believe intellectually up to scrutiny — much of what we know and believe is emotional or sensory or intuitive, and our languages are just inadequate to debate these, and so debates tend to belittle non-intellectual knowledge, which biases us against this important knowledge and renders much debate merely academic. [PS: there’s a fascinating story in today’s NYT about the “curious” debate – “more like a dialogue” between French leftist candidate for President SÈgolËne Royal and the third-place finisher in the first round FranÁoisBayrou]

Lots to think about here. I’d welcome your thoughts on these, or anything else that’s on your mind.

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2 Responses to Sunday Open Thread – April 29, 2007

  1. Ria Baeck says:

    It is interesting to find out what are the original roots of the words: debate, conversation, discussion… I’m not sure anymore about it, but I think discussion comes from the Latin word ‘discutere’, which means ‘to chop into pieces’. The root of conversation is ‘to converse’, meaning: to turn to one another. I forgot about debate…You might find some inspiration in the four levels of listening and conversation of Otto Scharmer.With love,Ria

  2. Jon Husband says:

    .. and dia logos … (creating) a flow of meaning

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