Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Sweet Dreams From 1995

Dreamers can assume that their dreams will be fulfilled because humans share a common body of knowledge and values. Although possibly a worthy goal, this assumption is by necessity - nonsense.

From the talk "Hypertext and Our Collective Destiny" given by Tim Berners-Lee, on 12 October 1995 -
"Perhaps I should explain where I'm coming from. I had (and still have) a dream that the web could be less of a television channel and more of an interactive sea of shared knowledge. I imagine it immersing us as a warm, friendly environment made of the things we and our friends have seen, heard, believe or have figured out. I would like it to bring our friends and colleagues closer, in that by working on this knowledge together we can come to better understandings. If misunderstandings are the cause of many of the world's woes, then can we not work them out in cyberspace. And, having worked them out, we leave for those who follow a trail of our reasoning and assumptions for them to adopt, or correct."

The abstract of the talk states -
"Bush considered the plight of a researcher deluged with inaccessible information. He proposed the MEMEX, a machine to rapidly access, and allow random links between, pieces of information. Networks and computers have since allowed us to exceed even that far-sighted vision in terms of speed and convenience. However, we have not seen dramatic advances in our ability to solve political problems, to manage large organizations, or to magnify our group intuition. We must do more than empower the individual. We must allow people and machines interacting together to behave in new ways as a mass. Now that we can make trails though our information, we must create a substrate in which these trails will grow into an increasingly meaningful whole, rather than a tangled mass. We and our documents are capable of operating together as a large machine but not as a large mind. Groups of all sizes must acquire gifts of intuition, correlation and invention which we associate normally with people rather than machines, before we can rise to Bush's challenge to mankind to "grow in the wisdom of race experience", rather than "perish in conflict"."
I've been interested in machines since I was a little boy and like most little boys I love machines. As I grew up I came to understand that machines are made useful or harmful by the humans who design and use them.


Humans are not genetically programmed to consider future effects of current actions. We know this to be true considering the current pandemic, the climate crisis, and a myriad of other examples both individually and as a society.

The good news is that no matter how dire current events may be, any person becomes the person they want to be.

This is not to say that you can become a great athlete, businessman, painter, inventor, musician or scholar. What you can choose to "be" is happy, sad, mad, curious, helpful, selfish, honorable, dishonorable, honest, dishonest...etc. etc. etc.

In other words you have complete control over how you will respond to the external world. You can choose to be happy, friendly, helpful or you can choose to be angry, mean and selfish. We all have set-points for these characteristics but humans are extremely malleable and you can train yourself to be whatever you want to be.

Some events in the external world call for anger, fear, sadness or grief but if we live with those feelings for too long we end up hurting ourselves physically through increased stress hormones and mentally by giving up our ability for quiet reflection and increasing wisdom. 

To be is to exist as a human on this rock. It is who you are irrespective of your job, how much money you have, how much education you have, where you live, how you dress, what you eat...and so on.

You can choose to exist as a happy, helpful, honest, and kind person in this world. Like all good things this is hard and takes work every day. I fail at this every day but taking a clue from Sisyphus start over and over while enjoying the effort of trying. None of us have time on this earth to complete this project but it's a worthwhile endeavor for a life well lived.