[p2p-research] Edge: The Age of the Informavore (not to be missed...)

Paul D. Fernhout pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com
Sun Nov 15 18:31:10 CET 2009

Ryan Lanham wrote:
> http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/schirrmacher09/schirrmacher09_index.html

Some comments on this article on Informavores. The second half is mostly 
about alternative education and homeschooling, as it relates to Germany and 
the rise of the internet. There is also some discussion at the end in 
relation to recent vandalism at a school in Germany, in part perhaps over 
access to toilet paper, seeing it as a representative example of the ongoing 
cultural discussion of whether "School makes you free" or instead whether 
"Education and the internet makes you free".


I liked in the summary:
In May of 2000, he published a manifesto in FAZ, a call-to arms,entitled 
"Wake-Up Call for Europe Tech", in which he called for Europe to adopt the 
ideas of the third culture. His goal: to change the culture of the newspaper 
and to begin a process of change in Germany and Europe. "Europe should be 
more than just a source for the software of ego crisis, loss of identity, 
despair, and Western melancholy," he wrote. We should be helping write the 
code for tomorrow."

I did not like in the summary:
... and Darwinism (search algorithm and information foraging). "The 
Darwinian perspective is the most interesting," he says. "Information being 
an advantage for the informarvores and software that codes it with cues from 
foraging habits of the prehistoric man".

There's truth to that, but it still fundamentally misunderstands 
evolutionary processes which are ultimately about survival (or other changes 
in the context of survival).

One of my suppositions on the evolution of intelligence (like from my 
undergrad work in the 1980s) was that there may be a law of diminishing 
returns in resources invested in "intelligence" vs. survival. And probably, 
for any particular niche, the returns no greater intelligence may become 

Still, I agree with the main point that online systems are changing how we 
think. I know I'm "smarter" in some sense with access to Google.

And as I read more past the summary, it seems like the darwinian aspect 
focused on there is about the evolution through selection of ideas 
themselves -- not as much the brains that process them?

So far, what seems to be happening is that we have a growing infosphere that 
humans are a key part of. What that role will be as the rest of the system 
gets "smarter" is hard to say. Will humans always have a key role? Will they 
just have a slowly diminishing role? Or will the system flash-over at some 
point, like a room with temperature rising from a fire elsewhere, where at 
some point everything flammable catches on fire -- so, either everything 
becomes intelligent (nanotech?) or some superintelligence emerges that does 
not require humans to be part of it and which has its own goals? And where 
would that leave people? And even another path is that what it means to be 
human changes, as people genetically engineer themselves or merge with 
computers somehow. I really don't know for sure which of these it will be. 
One big issue is, are we just going to let something happen to us, or are we 
going to try to direct this somehow?

Another good point from the article:
Of course, everybody knows we have a revolution, but we are now really 
entering the cognitive revolution of it all. In Europe, and in America too — 
and it's not by chance — we have a crisis of all the systems that somehow 
are linked to either thinking or to knowledge. It's the publishing 
companies, it's the newspapers, it's the media, it's TV. But it's as well 
the university, and the whole school system, where it is not a normal crisis 
of too few teachers, too many pupils, or whatever; too small universities; 
too big universities.
   Now, it's totally different. When you follow the discussions, there's the 
question of what to teach, what to learn, and how to learn. Even for 
universities and schools, suddenly they are confronted with the question how 
can we teach? What is the brain actually taking? Or the problems which we 
have with attention deficit and all that, which are reflections and, of 
course, results, in a way, of the technical revolution?

Something I half-agree with comes next:
The European point of view, with our history of thought, and all our 
idealistic tendencies, is that now you can see — because they didn't know 
that the Internet would be coming, in the fifties or sixties or seventies — 
that the whole idea of the Internet somehow was built in the brains, years 
and decades before it actually was there, in all the different sciences. And 
when you see how the computer — Gigerenzer wrote a great essay about that — 
how the computer at first was somehow isolated, it was in the military, in 
big laboratories, and so on. And then the moment the computer, in the 
seventies and then of course in the eighties, was spread around, and every 
doctor, every household had a computer, suddenly the metaphors that were 
built in the fifties, sixties, seventies, then had their triumph. And so 
people had to use the computer. As they say, the computer is the last 
metaphor for the human brain; we don't need any more. It succeeded because 
the tool shaped the thought when it was there, but all the thinking, like in 
brain sciences and all the others, had already happened, in the sixties, 
seventies, fifties even.
   But the interesting question is, of course, the Internet — I don't know 
if they really expected the Internet to evolve the way it did — I read books 
from the nineties, where they still don't really know that it would be as 
huge as it is. And, of course, nobody predicted Google at that time. And 
nobody predicted the Web.

The web was predicted a century ago:

Memex in the 1940s was related to it.

Isaac Asimov predicted a Google-like Multivac in the 1950s or so.

Sci-fi author Theodore Sturgeron ("the skills of xanadu" and "to marry 
medusa") got a lot of this in the 1950s.

Xanadu and Augment in the 1960s were related.

James P. Hogan has aspects of the web is his 1979 book "The Two Faces of 
Tomorrow" as well as the subsequent "Voyage from Yesteryear".

Something I read yesterday, seeing yet another reference to it and realizing 
I had never read the whole thing:
"Military-Industrial Complex Speech, Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961 "
(Mentioned here: http://www.counterpunch.org/fleischman11022009.html)

I was suprised to see this in President Eisenhower's speech: "In this 
revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, 
complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at 
the direction of, the Federal government. Today, the solitary inventor, 
tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in 
laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, 
historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has 
experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the 
huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute 
for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds 
of new electronic computers.  The prospect of domination of the nation's 
scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money 
is ever present and is gravely to be regarded. "

One thing that has changed with computers getting cheap, both to use for 
research and to use for communications and data storage, is the rise again 
of the "Professional Amateur" and P2P. So, Eisenhower was right for the 
time, and for decades after, but something fundamental has changed about 
that with computers getting cheaper.

Where it says:
The tool is not only a tool, it shapes the human who uses it. We always have 
the concept, first you have the theory, then you build the tool, and then 
you use the tool. But the tool itself is powerful enough to change the human 
being. God as the clockmaker, I think you said. Then in the Darwinian times, 
God was an engineer. And now He, of course, is the computer scientist and a 
programmer. What is interesting, of course, is that the moment 
neuroscientists and others used the computer, the tool of the computer, to 
analyze human thinking, something new started.
   The idea that thinking itself can be conceived in technical terms is 
quite new. Even in the thirties, of course, you had all these metaphors for 
the human body, even for the brain; but, for thinking itself, this was very, 
very late. Even in the sixties, it was very hard to say that thinking is 
like a computer.

Doug Engelbart talks about the co-evolution of the tools and the community. 
So, I think this misses that both affect each other.

Also, I wrote a term paper in college in the 1980s for a cognitive science 
course (got a low grade I think :-) about how, building on Julian Jaynes' 
suggestion about metaphors and psychology (he was the second reader on my 
undegrad thesis, by the way),
where he talked about mind as thought of in succession as layered like 
geology, a steam engine of pressures, that a telegraph, and so on,
with maybe my including the mind as ecology (Gregory Bateson), that the next 
metaphor after the mind as computer would be the mind as an organ of 
cybernetic homeostasis (based on looking at systems that manage space 
habitats. :-)

Anyway, I have not thought on Julian Jaynes for a long time. I'm sad to see 
he died a while back. Sadly, one by one, the professors I knew age and die; 
I'm in my forties and many of them are in their sixties (young ones then) 
through nineties if they are still around. Probably most of the influential 
professors in my life at this point are dead or have some form of dementia, 
sadly. There remain a few exceptions, though. :-) Sometimes I look at the 
thousands of books I have and see them as some sort of ghosts, as most of 
the authors have died, some centuries ago. Are we nothing but the ideas of 
ghosts? :-) Well, maybe we add our own little bits to that before we are 
ghosts in turn. :-)

But there is some relevance here to Jaynes' work, in that what we are 
talking about is, in essence, and emergence of a new form of collective 
"consciousness" on the old substrate, mediated through the internet. If 
there is any truth to modern human consciousness emerging from "The 
Breakdown of the Bicamereal Mind", will we see an emergence of web 
consciousness from some other breakdown? A break down of copyright? Or even 
just a breakdown of incompatible free licenses or the breakdown of the lack 
of a machine readable licensing standard? A breakdown of big media 
domination? A breakdown of expensive computing into cheap computing? A 
breakdown of the capitalist system into socialism and a basic income? A 
breakdown of incompatible standards into a unified social semantic desktop? 
Or a similar such thing. :-) Is Wikipedia the breakdown of the old 
encyclopedia model? Is Debian the breakdown of the old way of writing 
operating systems and their ecosystem of software packages? Anyway, to what 
extent do Wikipedia and its community, or Debian GNU/Linux and its 
community, or any sort of large peer production represent some sort of new 
emerging consciousness?  Maybe even one we, as individuals, somehow are not 
even directly aware of, even as we participate in it? Or even if we can hear 
some of its chatter with itself? Or even originate some of the chatter? :-)

The article has stuff about "free will". But "consciousness" is perhaps a 
more interesting question. :-)

A relevant section: "But now, when you have a generation — in the next 
evolutionary stages, the child of today — which are adapted to systems such 
as the iTunes "Genius", which not only know which book or which music file 
they like, and which goes farther and farther in predictive certain things, 
like predicting whether the concert I am watching tonight is good or bad. 
Google will know it beforehand, because they know how people talk about it."

But, as I said elsewhere:
are we all not unpaid employees of Google, essentially? Is not, to some 
extent, Google the emergent collective consciousness of us all?

This paragraph from the article implies India and China and other places may 
be the real future of the web (another reason the OLPC project or ones like 
it are important): "Germany still has a very strong anti-technology 
movement, which is quite interesting insofar as you can't really say it's 
left-wing or right-wing. As you know, very right-wing people, in German 
history especially, were very anti-technology. But it changed a lot. And why 
it took so long, I would say, has demographic reasons. As we are in an aging 
society, and the generation which is now 40 or 50, in Germany, had their 
children very late. The whole evolutionary change, through the new 
generation — first, they are fewer, and then they came later. It's not like 
in the sixties, seventies, with Warhol. And the fifties. These were young 
societies. It happened very fast. We took over all these interesting 
influences from America, very, very fast, because we were a young society. 
Now, somehow it really took a longer time, but now that is for sure we are 
entering, for demographic reasons, the situation where a new generation 
which is — as you see with The Pirates as a party — they're a new 
generation, which grew up with modern systems, with modern technology. They 
are now taking the stage and changing society."

But I think his suggestion "Not many German thinkers have adopted this kind 
of computational perspective." is overly broad. Many good GNU/Linux stuff 
comes out of Germany. And stuff regarding Squeak/Smalltalk. It's just not 
always so obvious because it is more at the edges. Example:
Martin Beck is currently working on his MSc thesis in the HPI Software 
Architecture Group. His work is dedicated to implementing NXTalk, a 
Smalltalk virtual machine for the Lego Mindstorms NXT platform. Development 
of NXTalk application takes place in a Squeak image, and assembled NXTalk 
images are transferred to the NXT for execution by the dedicated NXTalk VM. 
In the current state, simple images can be assembled and run: Martin 
demonstrated a program that can be used to steer a simple NXT bestowed with 
two motors.
   The popular introduction to the Seaside web application framework that 
was produced at HPI was briefly presented by David Tibbe, one of its co-authors.
   Robert Krahn had another appearance presenting the collection of games 
for the XO laptop developed by HPI students. All of the games are available 
for download as project or SAR files. [HPI is: http://www.hpi.uni-potsdam.de/ ]

I find this intriguing from the article: "What did Shakespeare, and Kafka, 
and all these great writers — what actually did they do? They translated 
society into literature. And of course, at that stage, society was something 
very real, something which you could see. And they translated modernization 
into literature. Now we have to find people who translate what happens on 
the level of software. At least for newspapers, we should have sections that 
review software in a different way, at least the structures of software. We 
are just beginning to look at this in Germany. And we are looking for people 
— it's not very many people — who have the ability to translate that."

Well, the Japanese wanted nutty US Americans in the 1980s, and it did not 
work out too badly for them in some ways. Maybe Germany wants some nutty US 
Americans today? :-)

Of course, I'd be a criminal in Germany because we homeschool. :-(
"German Homeschooling Parents Sentenced to Three Months in Prison"
Homeschooling is illegal in Germany under a law dating back to the Hitler 
era. Homeschooling families in the country have faced increasing persecution 
in recent years, with police in several cases physically transporting 
children to school and even removing one teenager from her parent's care.
   A spokesperson for the German homeschool advocacy group, 
Netzwork-Bildungsfreiheit, commented on the mandatory public school 
attendance laws, which deem homeschooling families to be in breach of the 
state's criminal code.
   "It is embarrassing the German officials put parents into jail whose 
children are well educated and where the family is in good order," wrote 
Joerg Grosseleumern. "We personally know the Dudeks as such a family." ...
   In a blog, Wolfgang Drautz, consul general for the Federal Republic of 
Germany, attempted to defend these new developments, saying the government 
"has a legitimate interest in countering the rise of parallel societies that 
are based on religion." ...

See also:

So, it's easy to run afoul of cultural and national differences.

And what is "religion"? Is is sometimes form of state-controlled consciousness?
   "State Controlled Consciousness" by John Taylor Gatto
Schooling is a form of adoption. You give your kid up in his or her most 
plastic years to a group of strangers. You accept a promise, sometimes 
stated and more often implied that the state through its agents knows better 
how to raise your children and educate them than you, your neighbors, your 
grandparents, your local traditions do. And that your kid will be better off 
so adopted. But by the time the child returns to the family, or has the 
option of doing that, very few want to. Their parents are some form of 
friendly stranger too and why not? In the key hours of growing up, strangers 
have reared the kid. ...
   A lot of the constraints on us, a lot of the ah, ah - strings that hold 
us like puppets are really inventions of our own mind. I'm not saying that 
there aren't armies and police and various ways to punish deviants. But 
there isn't any way to punish a LARGE NUMBER of deviants. There isn't any 
way to do that. It's too expensive to even try to do that, unless you can 
colonize the minds of children growing up so they become their own police. 
And they will report other children who are deviating.

So, someday, there will be another wall coming down in Berlin. Either the 
schools will dissolve as institutions, or they will become more like public 
libraries for everyone. That is my prediction. :-) But when, I don't know. 
Ten years? Twenty? And this fits in very much with what is happening as 
people get more information from the internet, and is an the Edge article, 
the discussion of the mythology of German schooling breaking down.

Although it's also true Germany has better schools often in some ways that 
the USA. Even some "democratic" ones:
So, even within Germany there are some legal options that are not as bad as 

Still, if I stretched, I'd say my mother's house was firebombed in Rotterdam 
because of Prussian schools.
The most important immediate reaction to Jena was an immortal speech, the 
"Address to the German Nation" by the philosopher Fichte—one of the 
influential documents of modern history leading directly to the first 
workable compulsion schools in the West. Other times, other lands talked 
about schooling, but all failed to deliver. Simple forced training for brief 
intervals and for narrow purposes was the best that had ever been managed. 
This time would be different.
   In no uncertain terms Fichte told Prussia the party was over. Children 
would have to be disciplined through a new form of universal conditioning. 
They could no longer be trusted to their parents. Look what Napoleon had 
done by banishing sentiment in the interests of nationalism. Through forced 
schooling, everyone would learn that "work makes free," and working for the 
State, even laying down one’s life to its commands, was the greatest freedom 
of all. Here in the genius of semantic redefinition1 lay the power to cloud 
men’s minds, a power later packaged and sold by public relations pioneers 
Edward Bernays and Ivy Lee in the seedtime of American forced schooling.

Like the USA (so this is not intended to be one-way criticism), Germany will 
never be completely transformed beyond the roots of WWII IMHO as long as 
compulsory schools exist in it that are built on the Prussian model. Even 
now, the "state controlled consciousness" continues to fight back against 
"parallel societies" as if there could not be one diverse society where 
education happened in lots of different ways that by forcing young children 
to do paperwork, essentially, at gunpoint, same as in the USA for most families.

So, back to reading through this. It says: "Who are the big thinkers here? 
In Germany, for me at least, for my work, there are a couple of key figures."

Well, maybe the Dudeks are big thinkers in Germany? :-) An in prison for it, 
like Nelson Mandela was for a time?

More from the article: "Wild thinkers. Europeans, at this very moment, love 
wild thinkers."

Well, evidently, this statement seems at odds with the legal reality of 
homeschooling in Germany.

It may seem like a minor point, but I think it is all connected. Prussian 
schooling is the official way children are supposed to get most of their 
information, in a mostly state-directed way. The internet is a new way of 
participating in an information economy, where people can get their 
information in a learner-directed way. Will we see a balance of these two 
things somehow? Or will one way win out entirely (or almost entirely) in the 

I'll say this as a homeschooling parent. If any state had a website, with a 
checklist of thinks to learn, and related funny free instructional videos, 
sure, I would pay attention to it. I might no agree with it all, or I might 
point out to may child what I thought were falsehoods, or omissions, but the 
state would have a chance to get its say. Does the state really need more 
than that to accomplish healthy purposes in relation to 99% of families?

Their primary assertion was that the bonds and emotional development made at 
home with parents during these years produced critical long term results 
that were cut short by enrollment in schools, and could neither be replaced 
nor afterward corrected in an institutional setting.[9] Recognizing a 
necessity for early out-of-home care for some children – particularly 
special needs and starkly impoverished children, and children from 
exceptionally inferior homes– they maintained that the vast majority of 
children are far better situated at home, even with mediocre parents, than 
with the most gifted and motivated teachers in a school setting (assuming 
that the child has a gifted and motivated teacher). They described the 
difference as follows: "This is like saying, if you can help a child by 
taking him off the cold street and housing him in a warm tent, then warm 
tents should be provided for all children – when obviously most children 
already have even more secure housing."[10]

So, if kids are "informavores" much more than anyone else, most are 
intellectually starved amidst plenty these days in restricted dumbed-down 
environments called "schools". As above, they are also emotionally starved 
in order so their parents can "work" at jobs that, for the most part, are no 
longer needed (as the jobs are mostly about guarding or other tasks related 
to scarcity assumptions, as Bob Black outlined in "The Abolition of Work").

  Something has got to give... Either schooling and work or the internet and 
our increasingly abundant technology. :-)

Linked for the picture (I usually link to a different version with less typos):
   "The Abolition of Work" by Bob Black

The picture has the slogan: "Arbeit Macht Frei" :-(

Perhaps it should also be: "Schule Macht Frei"? :-(

I see from a Google search to check my noun endings for Schul:
that last phrase is already getting around in German:
"vandalism attack on the Alexander von Humboldt Gymnasium [a school]"
"October 2009 culminated in the criticism of the school's principal, 
presumably by students page, in two posters with the inscription "In 1940 we 
took advantage of the school" or "school macht frei" (possibly an allusion 
to the phrase Arbeit macht frei), and the distribution of nocturnal a "large 
number" of leaflets, ..."

Though, it is not for sure the students themselves did that.

I'm most definitely not advocating property damage here; this is just to 
illustrate that some German students may be beginning to see the connection...

Still, that is really the promise of school, that "Schule Macht Frei". You 
give up more than ten years of your youth, and in exchange, you get the 
promise (usually unstated, as Gatto says) that those lost years will give 
you freedom when you are older. And that promise, if it ever was true, seems 
less and less true with rising structural unemployment.
"Why limited demand means joblessness (and what to do about it)"

Well, I do think learning can help give you freedom. And, learning can be 
enjoyable for its own sake. But what sorts of learning, and in what sorts of 
ways? And how should any of that be connected to "school"? Which is the 
questions that Frank Schirrmacher says people in Germany are starting to 
ask, in part thanks to the internet. I'm glad to read that. Maybe "play" 
will be part of the rethinking?

To requote that part from the Edge article for emphasis:
Of course, everybody knows we have a revolution, but we are now really 
entering the cognitive revolution of it all. In Europe, and in America too — 
and it's not by chance — we have a crisis of all the systems that somehow 
are linked to either thinking or to knowledge. It's the publishing 
companies, it's the newspapers, it's the media, it's TV. But it's as well 
the university, and the whole school system, where it is not a normal crisis 
of too few teachers, too many pupils, or whatever; too small universities; 
too big universities.
   Now, it's totally different. When you follow the discussions, there's the 
question of what to teach, what to learn, and how to learn. Even for 
universities and schools, suddenly they are confronted with the question how 
can we teach? What is the brain actually taking? Or the problems which we 
have with attention deficit and all that, which are reflections and, of 
course, results, in a way, of the technical revolution?

So, for Germany, this is the continuation of a long journey after WWII, yet 
something like having reached a new place, but then thinking about traveling 
further. It's a journey that even many people and institutions in the USA 
have yet to start on. Compare with this theme from my own writing:
Wikipedia. GNU/Linux. WordNet. Google. These things were not on the visible 
horizon to most of us even as little as twenty years ago. Now they have 
remade huge aspects of how we live. Are these free-to-the-user informational 
products and services all there is to be on the internet or are they the tip 
of a metaphorical iceberg of free stuff and free services that is heading 
our way? Or even, via projects like the RepRap 3D printer under development, 
are free physical objects someday heading into our homes? If a 
"post-scarcity" iceberg is coming, are our older scarcity-oriented social 
institutions prepared to survive it? Or like the Titanic, will these social 
institutions sink once the full force of the iceberg contacts them? And will 
they start taking on water even if just dinged by little chunks of sea ice 
like the cheap $100 laptops that are ahead of the main iceberg?

My prediction: schools as we know them will not exist in Germany in twenty 
years. :-) There may be places called "schools", and children may go there 
because they want to (or their parents want them to), and there may be 
people called "teachers" and so on who take a special interest in some 
children, but none of it will feel the same as it does now. It will all feel 
a lot better. :-) Or, maybe I should say that is more hope than prediction? 
I guess it all could get a lot worse, more vandalism, social disintegration, 
and so on, like at  Alexander von Humboldt Gymnasium, rather than finding a 
healthy balance of meshwork and hierarchy.

By the way, what John Taylor Gatto says about "Alexander von Humboldt" and I 
wonder if those school kids know this:
Prussia was prepared to use bayonets on its own people as readily as it 
wielded them against others, so it’s not all that surprising the human race 
got its first effective secular compulsion schooling out of Prussia in 1819, 
the same year Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, set in the darkness of far-off 
Germany, was published in England. Schule came after more than a decade of 
deliberations, commissions, testimony, and debate. For a brief, hopeful 
moment, Humboldt’s brilliant arguments for a high-level no-holds-barred, 
free-swinging, universal, intellectual course of study for all, full of 
variety, free debate, rich experience, and personalized curricula almost won 
the day. What a different world we would have today if Humboldt had won the 
Prussian debate, but the forces backing Baron vom Stein won instead. And 
that has made all the difference.

So, the fact is, whatever the name of their school, it probably really 
should be called: "Baron vom Stein Gymnasium". :-(

Still, I know nothing about that school. It may be precisely because it is 
"Alexander von Humboldt Gymnasium" that students are so well educated by 
themselves via debate and rich experience that they have made their 
complaints. That's the problem with commenting on events in another land I 
know little about. Still, reading the rest of it, it seems to be one of the 
grievances was monitoring on how much toilet paper was used? So, that seems 
to indicate a scarcity mentality, or maybe a problematical sewerage system? 
Or maybe something else?

More on that:

I'm still fighting WWII, I guess, in terms of what I focus on. :-)
   "Military: Is the Pentagon Preparing for the Last War? "
The U.S. is unlikely over the next 25-30 years to face an adversary 
challenging its military in a symmetrical fashion. This is important, given 
that the American military devotes the great majority of its resources to 
preparing for a symmetrical fight, retaining an establishment that seeks to 
fight the "Third World War" but along fundamentally World War II or Cold War 
   It is not enough simply to be told that the threats of the future are not 
the threats of the past: an institution expected to undertake a cultural, 
organizational, and doctrinal transformation must at least see the outlines 
of its style of warfare for the future. The military will need strong 
civilian leadership and a geostrategic rationale for its transformation. It 
must see the outlines of its style of warfare for the future. 
Characteristics are emerging of a new style of warfare that we call Decisive 
Action, which draws upon lessons learned in past ways of American warfare. 
Decisive Action is not merely an amalgamation of the best characteristics of 
past doctrines, it is a way of warfare for the future.

Of course, what if your goal is to transcend war entirely, thinking war 
today is unwinnable?

As I see it, compulsory school (including limited access to toilet paper) is 
at the heart of modern war. It needs to change if we are to have much hope 
of surviving modern weapons, produced by the same technologies that could 
bring us abundance.

By the way, even the need for lots of toilet paper may be related to an 
unhealthy diet related to capitalism. And there are technological solutions 
to reducing toilet paper useage: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bidet

It may seem silly to talk about things like toilets and schools, but the 
control of when or how someone can go to the bathroom is one basic principle 
of controlling someone's life in a cult-like way. From a review of "Cults in 
Our Midst":
"Some cults control *all* aspects of their members' lives, including where 
members work and live, members' social companions, members' sexual 
companions (if any), and even when members can use the bathroom. Cults 
achieve complete control through a program of deliberate isolation plus 
psychological reward and punishment. Cult members mechanically serve the 
cult leadership's goals and fantasies, often accumulating money, wealth and 
power for the cult leadership."

Compare with:
   "Review of Jeff Schmidt's Disciplined Minds: A Critical Look at Salaried 
Professionals and the Soul-Battering System that Shapes their Lives"
Where the book most obviously goes beyond usual critical analyses of 
professions is in the final part, "Resistance." Schmidt begins by drawing an 
analogy between professional training and ideological indoctrination in 
cults. He recognizes that students have many more opportunities to organize 
and resist than typical cult members. Nevertheless, he argues that "life in 
graduate or professional school can be very much like life in a cult - and 
that for students who aren’t careful, it will be." (p. 218). He then looks 
at the characteristic features of totalistic organizations, such as big 
promises, control of the milieu, no questioning of authority, and shaming. 
He gives examples from professional training reflecting each of these features.

So there are many levels to the issues this Edge article brings up.

Some of them are going to be more controversial than others. Together, the 
mean a vast social transformation as our mythology of material and 
informational scarcity interacts with a technology capable of producing vast 
material and informational abundance.

And, so, we see ironies like people complaining about access to toilet paper 
in a school that just won a big "Innovation Award". Assuming that claim was 
true; the headmistress of the school says, as far as she knows from personal 
experience, the charge of too little toilet paper being provided is false.

Part of one comment from the translated article on the school vandalism:
... The positive image of the school in public, as represented by the 
recently won Innovation Award, usually do not correspond to reality. Only 
through a farce isi managed to win the competition.
   The comparisons with the Nazi regime, I can not support, however, and I 
think it is also clearly grasped too far, but it does not change the fact 
that something amiss in this school ...
   I hope that this action is used to trigger a discussion, even if it only 
should be, or will be resolved primarily within the school.

And that's what the internet supplies as a forum for wide-ranging p2p 
discussions on such issues. That is something which in practice, never 
happened before outside some local area and face-to-face discussions or 
local newspapers, or very restricted dialog in national newspapers. So, one 
can now have these examples to talk about a bigger picture, how this issue 
is not so much about one school called (appropriately or not) "Alexander von 
Humboldt Gymnasium" but about all schools, which all face similar issues, 
even when staffed by people of good will and with adequate funds for toilet 
paper. :-)

Freedom is a slippery and many-layered subject. Good thing we have so many 
"Informavores" processing material and thinking about it these days. :-)

--Paul Fernhout

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