Some Personal Comments
This will be a web page …
… but it was just text, at first. (If it still looks like plain text with no graphics at all, then I need help, please).
This page is for explanation. Reading over earlier versions of this website I see now that they held lots of apparent content but very little real explanation of the core material. I must remedy that.
I swing pendulum-like between two poles:
- technical, engineering, programming — when I find ordinary text on a page is just words and more words
- philosophical, intellectual, academic — when I think understanding and communicating ideas is everything.
These words are written in the latter phase. But there’s some leakage between phases, which may actually be my sole function in life. If I could just get the technical people to look at human society and the ideas flying about within it, I could stop worrying about all that myself. If I could just get the academics and intellectuals to grasp some of the big ideas current in the scientific and engineering communities, I could stop beating my head against that brick wall.
This week I’ve reading the book Europe: A History by Norman Davies. It was very gratifying to read:
Nothing in intellectual history is more powerful than Plato’s metaphor of the cave, which suggests that we can only perceive the world indirectly, seeing reality only by means of its firelit shadows on the wall.
— page 111 of the Pimlico paperback edition, London 1997, originally published by Oxford University Press, 1996
That’s quite a strong statement, isn’t it — “Nothing in intellectual history is more powerful …”. Wow! But I agree completely and have held the same view myself for a long time. For the sake of the computer programmers and other technical or scientific people who may have gotten through college without reading a word of Plato, I quote his description of projecting a higher-dimensional reality on a lower-dimensional subspace on another page .
Is this my anachronism? Was Plato really saying something so technical sounding? Absolutely. (So to speak). But yes, it does sound like an anachronism. I’ve sometimes wondered if it could be an interpolation by some much later author, but who before Descartes could have written it? Piero della Francesca, perhaps, or some other Italian renaissance artist from the days when geometric perspective was being invented? That would throw intellectual history on its head all right, but I don’t think so. Plato was big on math and I’m sure it was his, unless the words he put in the mouth of Socrates came from there in the first place.
Anyway, this idea from 2400 years ago has been unbelievably important, just as Norman Davies said, but I think we’ve only begun to look at its implications or applications. I sketch some of them on yet another page , but here I want to move up a level and describe Plato’s metaphor as just one example of a vast range of ideas that I seem to specialize in, at least in my intellectual phase. I truly hate to make this next step because it involves using words that scare people away. That could sound like a word of warning, “danger, winding road ahead”, so let me counter that with a few words of non-warning, “relax, smooth sailing ahead”, (to vary the metaphor a bit).
So, yes, please, do relax, the material that follows is easy to follow, easier than Plato, I think. (Certainly easier than his Parmenides or Theaetetus , anyway, if not as easy as the Apology ). Unless you happen to speak ancient Greek better than English you will be pleased to hear that nothing but plain English will be used. No other alphabets or syllabaries, no strange symbols. But I will not simplify out the actual content. I won’t need to. The ideas are deep, but not impenetrable. As yet more counter-warning, to keep you here for a while, I will adopt the following convention:
Anything mathematical will be assumed to be hidden inside computer programs no more difficult to understand or use than typical pieces of Mac or Windows software available online or at the local mall.
Does that help? Personally I think typical pieces of Mac and Windows software are much harder to understand and much harder to use than they need to be, and I sometimes think they were written by idiots, but in their defense I should mention the “legacy code” problem. Whatever new code the programmers write has to be compatible with old code written by the idiots who came before them. Everybody is dragged down by the accumulated weight of past design mistakes (made by people who now have vast amounts administrative power — and corporate stock).
Well, there, I did it, I used the word which serves as a continental-divide for readers, `mathematical’. Almost everybody on the arts-and-humanities side of the divide feels an uncomfortable urge to hit the back-button and look for another page to read as soon as that word is mentioned. While on the other side of the divide the scientific and engineering people are more likely to think “good, now maybe he’ll stop talking and we’ll get to see some real content”. As I said above, I tend to oscillate between these two poles, but on the average I’d say I like to see at least one diagram or table of numbers per page, or about one equation — more and I might look for another page too.
No equations here. For these pages I promise to keep equations on optional supplementary pages that everybody can ignore. Few tables, if any. Lots of diagrams (I hope), but none that require a mathematical background.
I think I should make a promise to the tech-people too, but I’ve broken it already by mentioning Plato with no introduction and Piero della Francesca with only a hint. They are both discussed in the excellent book by Norman Davies quoted above, but for people who haven’t read the book that is little help. I’d suggest they buy the book and read it, but like many books aimed at the other one of the Two Cultures it is not self-explanatory and would be a hard read for people who don’t know most of the players already. I’d love to see a book of similar depth and clarity that came with an extra two sentences per historical figure, book, painting, and institution saying just who or what they were — not to mention a glossary of hard words. I keep a good encyclopedia and unabridged dictionary a few inches from my elbow, but using them as often as I need to keeps me very busy and interrupts the flow of narrative something awful.
Copyright © 2009 Douglas Pardoe Wilson
Other relevant content:
Please see these web pages:
The main Social Technology page.
Find Compatibles , the key page, with the real solution to all other problems explained
Technological Fantasies , a page about future technology
Social Tech a page about Social Technology, technology for social purposes. I think I was the first person to use this phrase on the Internet, quite a long time ago.
Roughly corresponding to these web pages are the following blogs :
Social Technology the main blog, hosted on this site, with posts imported from the following blogger.com blogs, which still exist and are useable.
Find Compatibles devoted to matching people with friends, lovers, jobs, places to live and so on, but doing so in ways that will actually work, using good math, good algorithms, good analysis.
Technological Fantasies devoted to future stuff, new ideas, things that might be invented or might happen, such as what is listed above and below.
Sex-Politics-Religion is a blog about these important topics, which I have been told should never be mentioned in polite conversation. Alright that advice does seem a bit dated, but many people are still told not to bring up these subjects around the dinner table.
I believe I was the first person on the Internet to use the phrase Social Technology — years before the Web existed.
Those were the good old days, when the number of people using the net exceeed the amount of content on it, so that it was easy to start a discussion about such an upopular topic. Now things are different. There are so many web pages that the chances of anyone finding this page are low, even with good search engines like Google. Oh, well.
By Social Technology I mean the technology for organizing and maintaining human society. The example I had most firmly in mind is the subject of Find Compatibles , what I consider to be the key page, the one with the real solution to all other problems explained.
As I explained on my early mailing lists and later webpages, I find that social technology has hardly improved at all over the years. We still use representative democracy, exactly the same as it was used in the 18th century. By contrast, horse and buggy transporation has been replaced by automobiles and airplanes, enormous changes.
In the picture below you will see some 18th century technology, such as the ox-plow in the middle of the picture. How things have changed since then in agricultural technology. But we still use chance encounters, engagements and marriages to organize our home life and the raising of children.
I claim that great advances in social technology are not only possible but inevitable. I have written three novels about this, one preposterously long, 5000 pages, another merely very very long, 1500 pages. The third is short enough at 340 pages to be published some day. Maybe. The topic is still not interesting to most people. I will excerpt small parts of these novels on the web sometime, maybe even post the raw text for the larger two.
This site includes many pages dating from 1997 to 2008 which are quite out of date. They are included here partly to show the development of these ideas and partly to cover things the newer pages do not. There will be broken links where these pages referenced external sites. I’ve tried to fix up or maiintain all internal links, but some will probably have been missed. One may wish to look at an earlier version of this page , rather longer, and at an overview of most parts of what can be called a bigger project.
Type in this address to e-mail me. The image is interesting. See Status of Social Technology
Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009, Douglas Pardoe Wilson
I have used a series of e-mail address over the years, each of which eventually became out of date because of a change of Internet services or became almost useless because of spam. Eventually I stuck with a Yahoo address, but my inbox still fills up with spam and their spam filter still removes messages I wanted to see. So I have switched to a new e-mail service. Web spiders should not be able to find it, since it is hidden in a jpeg picture. I have also made it difficult to reach me. The picture is not a clickable link. To send me e-mail you must want to do so badly enough to type this address in. That is a nuisance, for which I do apologize, but I just don’t want a lot of mail from people who do not care about what I have to say.
Copyright © 2009 Douglas Pardoe Wilson