World Transformation    
"Why not go out on the limb? That's where all the fruit is."
 Plants give up their secret of splitting water
From Ming the Mechanic: Via Sounding Circle, from Reuters, news of how researchers are beginning to understand how plants manage to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen.
"Results by other groups, including those obtained using lower resolution x-ray crystallography at 3.7 angstroms, have shown that the splitting of water occurs at a catalytic center that consists of four manganese atoms," said So Iwata of Imperial's Department of Biological Sciences.

"We've taken this further by showing that three of the manganese atoms, a calcium atom, and four oxygen atoms form a cubelike structure, which brings stability to the catalytic center," Iwata added in a statement. "Together this arrangement gives strong hints about the water-splitting chemistry."
Single cells found in plants or animals, or by themselves as bacteria have for billions of years mastered some clever nano-technology tricks which we'd obviously love to duplicate.
[ | 26 May 2004 @ 14:19 | PermaLink ]

 Scientific warning labels
From Ming the Mechanic: Via Jim McGee and others, a set of warning labels for physicists. Yeah, I've seen them before, and they're very funny. A couple of samples:
"Some Quantum Physics Theories Suggest That When the Consumer Is Not Directly Observing This Product, It May Cease to Exist or Will Exist Only in a Vague and Undetermined State."

"HANDLE WITH EXTREME CARE: This Product Contains Minute Electrically Charged Particles Moving at Velocities in Excess of Five Hundred Million Miles per Hour."

"The Entire Physical Universe, Including This Product, May One Day Collapse Back into an Infinitesimally Small Space. Should Another Universe Subsequently Reemerge, the Existence of This Product in That Universe Cannot Be Guaranteed."
What is most cool is actually that they're all correct.
[ | 24 May 2004 @ 16:58 | PermaLink ]

 Liberty
picture From Ming the Mechanic: Via Lisa Williams who's reading John Stuart Mill's essay "On Liberty", which is good stuff:
"The object of this Essay is to assert one very simple principle as entitled to govern absolutely the dealings of society with the individual in the way of compulsion and control, whether the means used be physical force in the form of legal penalties, or the moral coercion of public opinion. That principle is, that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can rightfully be exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant."
In brief, you should be free to live your life as you choose, as long as you don't harm others. And government has no right to use its power against you, other than to prevent you from doing harm to others.

Now, wouldn't that be nice. If it were impossible for greedy individuals to manipulate themselves into positions of power where they can force everybody else to adhere to their twisted morals and self-serving business interests. What if government were an agency to ensure such fundamental individual liberty, rather than a primary vehicle for subverting it.
[ | 23 May 2004 @ 15:07 | PermaLink ]

 The Decline and Fall of Empires
picture From Ming the Mechanic: Johan Galtung is a professor of peace studies and a very studied man. He's written many big picture papers with lots of historic analysis about peace and war and the decline and fall of empires. Of most current interest might be "On the Coming Decline and
Fall of the US Empire
". Or, for a more historical comparison, read "The Decline and Fall of Empires", written for the United Nations Research Institute on Development in 1996, where he analyses and compares the decline and fall of 9 past empires, and, again, the United States, the only current empire. They all fail sooner or later, but not all for the same reasons, even though there seems to be some common factors. For most empires their decline generally come about from a lack of balance, a foundation of endless expansion and exploitation, pissing off a lot of people in the periphery, who are the ones being exploited, and a certain laziness that develops in the materially nonproductive elite in the center, where it becomes easier to buy or steal things from somebody else somewhere else than to bother to produce it oneself. And a falling apart of infrastructure, because it wasn't designed to be sustainable, and because those who designed the parts that worked no longer cared, or no longer were around. Anyway, here's a bit of a moral and a somewhat positive twist in the form of a metaphor of rats and ships:
"These are ten stories of sinking ships, and ships usually harbor rats known to leave sinking ships. But who are the rats, and what do they do after leaving the sinking ship? They probably do not leave to drown, but possibly to find a new ship and a new life?

The immediate answer would be to find a new ship, although some rats may prefer dignified suicide to a life in the ruins of their own creation. There are exceptions like the captain of the sinking ship, the last one to leave even at the risk of joining the ship on its way down. Like ship captain, like captain of the state ship, the head of state. In principle. But in fact he often prefers escape and ends up as a monarch in exile, unable to find new ships. Better a life in faded splendor than death or suicide.

But we are thinking of more dynamic rats, not of aristoc-rats or bureauc-rats, but of creative clergy and intellectual ratss, and indeed entrepreneurial merchant rats. Each imperial decline creates its exodus and its diaspora. The question is, what kind of talent left, and where did they go? Regardless of the answer, this is clearly an illustration of Buddhist rebirth rather than Hindu reincarnation, let alone Christian eternal life.

The system does not reincarnate with many of its original features intact. By dying the system liberates creative energy, in the form of a diaspora which then starts working somewhere else. The obvious prognosis would be [1] given reasonable conditions they will probably succeed, [2] if or when there is no success they will probably leave the new sinking ship. Once a rat always a rat.

A major importer of rats leaving European sinking ships has been the USA. But the USA may also one day become a net exporter if the decline in mini-study 10 broadens and deepens further.

What people can do, countries may also do. Societies are to a large extent center-periphery systems with the center defining the problems and how to solve them, and the periphery doing the menial tasks of implementing the decisions. In the same vein, the World is to a large extent a Center-Periphery system, with the Center deciding what to do, giving minor roles to the Periphery countries, e.g., as defined by Ricardo's comparative advantages "theory", or ideology rather, of international trade.

But what happens if the center of society, or the Center of the world, declines? The social periphery may decide to leave, and vast caravans, trains of people, migrants in search of work and more promising conditions elsewhere will accompany the decline. The center minority may try to keep the migration within bonds, by sheer force or by the Toynbee formula, responding creatively to the crisis challenge by initiating new departures to convince the majority that they are still in command of the situation. Maybe they have three chances. After that, the periphery leaves, if not physically by migrating, then spiritually through lost allegiance.

Satellite client countries in the Periphery may do the same. They watch for the signs, and may decide to turn from a former Center to a new Center, like Eastern Europe from the Soviet Union to the EU and the USA. Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand, parts of the UK Center-Periphery system may look to Japan for new roles. Norway changed her allegiance from the USA (before that the UK, before that Sweden, before that Denmark) to the European Union. The latter seem better at practicing Toynbee. One Center elite may not be able to convince its Periphery, but by pooling together they may come up with a more attractive formula, like the Yaoundé-Lomé system for the African-Caribbean-Pacific countries.

Looking at the list of cases it is obvious that there are some genealogies at work. A major function of a dying system is to leave the scene, providing a niche of new economic opportunities to others. Brutal, but "such is life". "Decline and fall" is only one half of the story. The other half are the new ships, boarded or not by old, partly recycled, rats.

And thus it was that West Rome yielded to Franks and Gauls, and in the longer run to the Carolingians. Two centuries after the fall the Umayyad Arab empire of Damascus, defeated by the Abassids of Baghdad, changed the gap in Spain into the Caliphate of Córdoba (712). A dying Byzants had to yield to the triumphant Ottomans, and Spain to the Italian (and Low Countries) city-states and to the UK. The Ottomans had to yield to Russia, and to the Habsburgs and UK/France. And UK and Russia's successor, the Soviet Empire, had to yield to the USA. And to whom will ultimately the USA be yielding? To an expanded EU, to an East Asian Community, or both?

China has her own logic. The Ch'ing dynasty did not yield to any other country (except, for a short while to UK/France and some others), but to the Kuomintang dynasty, which in turn had to yield to the Communist dynasty; in both cases for much more than economic reasons narrowly defined. Precisely for this reason China has to be conceived of as a diachronic chain of dynasties rather than as a synchronic system of competitors, struggling over the same space.

This serves to relativize the concepts of decline and fall. A human being falls ill and dies, the family or somebody else fills the space. Societies also have families, inside their territory, or outside. None has a claim on eternal life. The death cause is interesting among other reasons to know whether euthanasia and midwifery would be the solution."
Or maybe you can freeze the old empire cryogenically and thaw it up and look at it once in a while. Anyway, a key point is that the creative, positive life forces move on. Nothing oppressive can last forever, because it usually doesn't work very well. If the oppressed get bored with the game and refuse to play along, the picture sometimes transforms really quickly. But most empires leave some kind of positive legacy behind, of culture and ideals that might survive for a long time, even if the reality might have been brutal and unsustainable.
[ | 22 May 2004 @ 08:48 | PermaLink ]

 DikDik Strategy
picture From Ming the Mechanic: I was watching this nature program on TV about small animals and their strategies for survival. What particularly stood out for me was the DikDik, which is a little dwarf antelope, and how it sometimes deals with lions. A female lion was standing around looking for some lunch when a dikdik walked by. It is pretty quick, but would be no match for the lion, and would be a nice piece of lunch. But what the dikdik did, instead of starting to run away, was that it walked sort of sideways, but directly up to the lion and started butting it in the side, like a lion cub that wanted milk. Its body language right away got the lion to change its idea of this being lunch, and instead its motherly instincts took over, and it started nuzzling the little antelope, dashing playfully at it once in a while, and otherwise patiently ignoring it while it is clambering all over you while you're attending to other business. Which of course meant it didn't get eaten.

The strategy is of course applicable in many other settings. Naturally when humans are dealing with dangerous animals. If you're in the water and you run into a big shark, you've better not look like a wounded seal. A scuba diver normally doesn't get attacked, because you don't look like food if you're moving around blowing bubbles. Likewise, a mountain lion or bear is much less likely to jump you if you stand up and wave your arms and yell at it, because that just isn't what you're supposed to do if you're a normal piece of prey.

Likewise in purely human affairs. A mugger only attacks you if you look like a victim. He doesn't usually do stick-ups with his pals or his family or police officers for example. So if you look like something else than a victim, you're off the hook. If the cops stop you for speeding, your best chance is to not look like a law breaker. Standing up and yelling would not help you there - you'd have to be more inventive.

Conversely, a lot of things are possible if you look and act the part that you're supposed to play. The bank will loan you money if you seem like a good and solid person to loan money to. People will vote for you if your body language and tone of voice sounds about right. Doesn't have to have much to do with whether you're actually qualified or not. Just like the lion's behavior isn't primarily motivated by whether you taste good or not. The surface behavior and body language is what is being read first.
[ | 21 May 2004 @ 13:39 | PermaLink ]

 Knowledge
picture From Ming the Mechanic: Via Judith Meskill, from Hymn of the Universe by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin:
...all abstract knowledge is only a faded reality: this is because to understand the world knowledge is not enough, you must see it, touch it, live in its presence and drink the vital heat of existence in the very heart of reality...

[ | 20 May 2004 @ 06:56 | PermaLink ]

 The value of endangered languages
picture From Ming the Mechanic: Via BoingBoing, an interesting interview with linguist Alexandra Aikhenvald, in New Scientist about the study of languages that are going extinct:
"If these so-called "exotic" languages die, we'll be left with just one world view. This won't be very interesting, and we'll have lost a vast amount of information about human nature and how people perceive the world. (...) [W]ithout their language and its structure, people are rootless. In recording it you are also getting down the stories and folklore. If those are lost a huge part of a people's history goes. These stories often have a common root that speaks of a real event, not just a myth. For example, every Amazonian society ever studied has a legend about a great flood.

"...In English I can tell my son: "Today I talked to Adrian", and he won't ask: "How do you know you talked to Adrian?" But in some languages, including Tariana, you always have to put a little suffix onto your verb saying how you know something - we call it "evidentiality". I would have to say: "I talked to Adrian, non-visual," if we had talked on the phone. And if my son told someone else, he would say: "She talked to Adrian, visual, reported." In that language, if you don't say how you know things, they think you are a liar. This is a very nice and useful tool. Imagine if, in the argument about weapons of mass destruction, people had had to say how they knew about whatever they said. That would have saved us quite a lot of breath..."
Yeah, I think government officials and all journalists and scientists should be ordered to speak that language. Or something like it.

Tariana is still spoken by some natives in the Amazon, and they now have a full dictionary thanks to Alexandra Aikhenvald. Other languages are not so lucky. About 60-70% of linguistic diversity in the north-western region of Brazil has gone in the last 100 years. On the Atlantic coast of Brazil it's about 99%. Around the world 60-70% have disappeared.
[ | 19 May 2004 @ 16:26 | PermaLink ]

 Mind Ecosystems
picture From Ming the Mechanic: Some words from Bala Pillai:
"Imagine a world where each of us can telepathically find and match with our complements instantly. Any moment we have a want or a have.

Call that point downstream, in the flowing river of our and our childrens' lives, "N". Work backwards, upstream, from N. What is N-1?, What is N-2? Let us say N-5= us being able to find and match our complements very quickly using the Internet and through minds that bridge the wired with the unwired. In short N-5 = Halls Without Walls, Metrics-Rich Automated Matchmaking & Human Bridges

What stands in the way of super-conductivity between minds for frictionless synchronization? What are the problems (for which there are rewards to those who solve them), that we have to address to reach N-5? Insentience? Readiness to reveal our complementaries? Knowing what it is that we really want and have? Hierarchy of values dissonance? Semantic dissonance? Cognition dissonance? Valuation (of our respective traits and talents) dissonance? Distrust? Commitment (Unconditional love) dissonance? Ethos dissonance? Interfacing our minds with the tools, protocols and processes that find, search and bridge us with our complements?

How do we swim with the current more, in finding the metrics for the answers, as we head towards N-5?

If we have put Man on the Moon, can't we make it to N-5?

Can we try Ecosystems Thinking? Can we try "reverse engineering" Nature for clues?"
His writing is dense, but very inspiring. And I often find myself thinking in similar paths.

A big reason the world isn't working better is that we're having a hard time matching needs with haves. We're bad at connecting resources up with where they would do the most good. It is hard for people to find out who they would accomplish the most by working with. Hard to find *complements*. And the problem is primarily informational. We don't really know. We don't have good information, so we go by crude and artificial constructs, like what is advertised for sale on TV, or who we run into at a party.

To imagine a world where we all had a high level of telepathy is an excellent starting point for a lot of revolutionary possibilities. Lies would no longer have any manipulative value if everybody could see right through them and know the truth without bias. You'd have to really do good things to be seen as doing something valuable. Duh. Same with hypocritical morals. You can't get away with applying different rules to others than what you live by. If you're a smuck, everybody will know it.

And then the point Bala is getting at. If you somehow could perceive directly and instantly what everybody in the world needed and wanted, and what resources were available, there'd of course be no reason to waste time and energy on all the stuff that doesn't fit and doesn't work. If you really KNEW, you'd of course do the things you most want to do, where they make the most difference, and with the people who're most suited and interested in doing it with you. No need to do useless activities in a job you don't like, for a company that produces some junk that people wouldn't really want if they knew what it was and what the alternatives were.

And you'd help others do what they want to do when it is easy for you to do so. If you happened to know your neighbor also needs a bag of sugar from the market and that he's currently busy, you can just bring it for him, instead of you both having to go. If you're done with that book you're reading, you can just toss it to a guy on the street who also want to read it, rather than taking it home and hide it in the garage.

And, yes, maybe we can work towards that kind of world, and maybe ways we can organize ourselves, technologies we might employ, and ways we might think about it can take us a great deal of the way. Even short of a global evolutionary leap that gives us all holographic telepathy and clairvoyance. And, yes, nature probably is one of our best teachers in that. After all, ecosystems quite masterfully manage to ensure that nothing really is wasted, even though it all can seem a bit chaotic. No used paperbacks and nuclear waste gets stacked up forever in nature's ecosystems. Whatever one sector needs might well be a waste product from another sector. Whatever you leave behind probably gets eaten up by something else. And telepathy probably has nothing to do with it, so we ought to easily be able learn from what trees and ants and bacteria are doing. And maybe find better ways of synchronizing our work with less friction.
[ | 15 May 2004 @ 09:14 | PermaLink ]

 Quantity and Quality
picture From Ming the Mechanic: From Chris Corrigan:
From Kevin Kelly's blog, comes a review of the book Art and Fear which includes this point:

"The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the "quantity" group: fifty pound of pots rated an "A", forty pounds a "B", and so on. Those being graded on "quality," however, needed to produce only one pot -albeit a perfect one - to get an "A". Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the "quantity" group was busily churning out piles of work - and learning from their mistakes - the "quality" group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay."

Blogging vs. writing books, among many other lessons.
Hm, interesting. And business and life in general, I guess. Doesn't pay off very well to be a perfectionist if one holds out for the perfect outcome. But if one puts out a lot of stuff without being too attached to the details AND one has some kind of sense of where it ought to be going, one might actually get somewhere.
[ | 14 May 2004 @ 14:36 | PermaLink ]

 Lust as a virtue
picture From Ming the Mechanic: A respected British philosopher and university professor is speaking up for the virtues of lust. From "Should Lust Really Be a Sin?":
Lust is one of the seven deadly sins first identified by Pope Gregory the Great in the 6th century. He nailed them all: Lust, anger, envy, gluttony, sloth, pride, and greed. It's a cornucopia of bad living.

But hold on! A leading philosopher at Britain's Cambridge University says lust has been wrongly branded as a vice and should be "reclaimed for humanity" as the life-affirming virtue that it is.

Professor Simon Blackburn told the London Sunday Times that lust has gotten a bad name from bad ideology that has hindered its "freedom of flow." His quest is to rescue lust, arguing it has been wrongly condemned for centuries. And he has a prestigious backer: The Oxford University Press, which will publish Blackburn's project on the modern relevance of the seven deadly sins, including lust.

Blackburn told the Times that he wants to save lust "from the denunciations of old men of the deserts, to deliver it from the pallid and envious confessor, and the stocks and pillories of the Puritans, to drag it from the category of sin to that of virtue."

How does he plan to do this? He defines lust as "the enthusiastic desire for sexual activity and its pleasures for its own sake." But if lust is reciprocated, that leads to pleasure and "best flourishes when unencumbered by bad philosophy and ideology...which prevent its freedom of flow."

Here is Blackburn's logic at work: Thirst is not considered sin, nor is it criticized. But thirst can lead to drunkenness. In the same way, lust should not be condemned just because it can go unchecked.

"The important thing is that generally anything that gives pleasure has a presumption in its favor," Blackburn explained to the Times. "The question is how we control it."
I agree with him. One of the most screwed up qualities the world is the prevalence of a perverted view of lust and sex and bodily pleasures. Perverted in the sense that what is perfectly natural, healthy and useful gets turned into something dirty, forbidden and ungodly. Really it is quite simple from nature's hand. The activities that further survival tend towards being pleasurable. If feels good to drink when you're thirsty. Good food tastes good. Poisoned food usually doesn't. It feels good to love somebody. It is good to get one's juices flowing. Sex is a good thing. That should be the baseline. Of course there are lots of things one can screw up about it, just like one can eat too much of the wrong thing. Doesn't mean that eating is basically bad. Same with lust. It makes things happen, motivates, makes life worth living.

More from Blackburn here, here and here.
[ | 11 May 2004 @ 16:11 | PermaLink ]

 The Power of Words
picture From Ming the Mechanic: An old, but very inspiring, article in Fast Company about Fernando Flores and his style of working company executives into thinking and acting their job differently. Fernando Flores was Chile's minister of finance -- and, later, a political prisoner. Now he teaches companies how to use assessments and commitments to transform the way they do business. The outcome: executives who speak and act with intention.
Fernando Flores is pissed off. He has had enough of the bullshit. The 55-year-old philosopher, former Chilean minister of finance, former political prisoner under Augusto Pinochet's rule, has flown halfway around the world, from California to Holland, to transform two executive teams -- 32 leaders in all -- of a global construction giant. These are people accustomed to building on a grand scale. But right now, building is their problem, not their business: Their world-class reputation for being brilliantly managed, it turns out, consists only of hollow words -- words that have little power and less value.

Flores knows about words and how they translate directly into deeds. He knows that talk is never cheap -- he often charges more than $1 million for his services, a fee that is linked directly to specific promises of increased revenues and savings. He also knows that talk is the source of these executives' failure. Their words work against them -- which is why they can't get anything to work for them.

Talk all you want to, Flores says, but if you want to act powerfully, you need to master "speech acts": language rituals that build trust between colleagues and customers, word practices that open your eyes to new possibilities. Speech acts are powerful because most of the actions that people engage in -- in business, in marriage, in parenting -- are carried out through conversation. But most people speak without intention; they simply say whatever comes to mind. Speak with intention, and your actions take on new purpose. Speak with power, and you act with power.
Well, read the whole thing. A lot of us could probably use some of his medicine, even if it is doled out a bit hard-handed. The Magic of Transformation as they describe it. Thanks to Bala Pillai for mentioning this one.
[ | 10 May 2004 @ 16:11 | PermaLink ]

 Aerogel
picture From Ming the Mechanic: Ha, this is cool. Aerogel is a weird and wonderful material that looks like solid smoke and is the lightest solid substance we know. Only a little heavier than air. 0.003 grams per cubic centimeter. 1000 times less dense than glass. And it is made of 99.8% air. But yet it is the most efficient insulator we know, 39 times more insulating than the best fiberglass insulation. And it is very strong, able to carry 2,000 times its own weight without damage. And non-toxic. It was invented in the 1930s, but was largely forgotten until somebody at JPL in the 1980s needed a material that could gather comet particles that might be moving three to six miles per second, without destroying either them or the collector. Now it is being used frequently in space probes, and you can get arctic clothing that uses it as insulation. Articles: NY Times, SpaceDaily, and JPL has information and some cool pictures. And here's a company selling it. It is still very expensive, though.
[ | 9 May 2004 @ 08:41 | PermaLink ]

 Social Entrepreneurs
From Ming the Mechanic:

Dina passes on some excellent stuff about social entrepreneurship and how it might relate to social software. Let me just post the whole thing here, that's easiest.

Judith, who has recently taken over writing at the Social Software Blog, has a neat summary of a wonderful paper - The Meaning of Social Entrepreneurship by J. Gregory Dees, for the Stanford Business School's Center for Social Innovation.  Its a paper written five years ago on 'business' and 'social' entrepreneurship.  

A valuable find and timely reflection when there is so much activity around social software and social networks.  It made me reflect on who really is a true Social (Software) Entrepreneur, and provided some clues into defining the very term.    

Quoting from Judith's post :

"In this paper Professor Dees gives a brief history of the evolving definition of 'entrepreneur':

early 19th century French Economist, Jean-Baptiste Say: "The entrepreneur shifts economic resources out of an area of lower and into an area of higher productivity and greater yield."

early 20th century economist Joseph Schumpeter: "the function of entrepreneurs is to reform or revolutionize the pattern of production." They can do this in many ways: "by exploiting an invention or, more generally, an untried technological possibility for producing a new commodity or producing an old one in a new way, by opening up a new source of supply of materials or a new outlet for products, by reorganizing an industry and so on."

Peter Drucker: "the entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity." Dees goes on to interpret Drucker's definition as: "Entrepreneurs have a mind-set that sees the possibilities rather than the problems created by change."

Howard H. Stevenson, a leading theorist of entrepreneurship at Harvard Business School, defines the heart of entrepreneurial management as "the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled."

Professor Dees - borrowing "the notions of value creation from Say, innovation and change agents from Schumpeter, pursuit of opportunity from Drucker, and resourcefulness from Stevenson" - asserts that 'social entrepreneurs' play the role of change agents by:

* Adopting a mission to create and sustain social value (not just private value),
* Recognizing and relentlessly pursuing new opportunities to serve that mission,
* Engaging in a process of continuous innovation, adaptation, and learning,
* Acting boldly without being limited by resources currently in hand, and
* Exhibiting a heightened sense of accountability to the constituencies served and for the outcomes created.

In conclusion Dees states:

"Social entrepreneurship describes a set of behaviors that are exceptional. These behaviors should be encouraged and rewarded in those who have the capabilities and temperament for this kind of work. We could use many more of them. Should everyone aspire to be a social entrepreneur? No. Not every social sector leader is well suited to being entrepreneurial. The same is true in business. Not every business leader is an entrepreneur in the sense that Say, Schumpeter, Drucker, and Stevenson had in mind. While we might wish for more entrepreneurial behavior in both sectors, society has a need for different leadership types and styles. Social entrepreneurs are one special breed of leader, and they should be recognized as such. This definition preserves their distinctive status and assures that social entrepreneurship is not treated lightly. We need social entrepreneurs to help us find new avenues toward social improvement as we enter the next century."

Judith ends by asking :

"Based on Professor Dees definitions, both borrowed and advanced, of 'Social Entrepreneurship' - Who do you think are the 'Social Entrepreneurs' of the 'Social Software' movement?"

One name from India that comes to mind is Rajesh Jain.  He's a true change agent, in his success at building sustainable collaborative systems and in his vision of 'socializing' India through technology. 

Help Judith build a list - who would you choose and why - do leave a comment here or at Judith's blog.

Super. I want to be a Social Entrepreneur too.


[ | 8 May 2004 @ 07:07 | PermaLink ]

 The Sixth Sense
From Sounding Circle: The Sixth Sense - More And More Science Supports It Gabriella 'Gaby'
Boehmer 4-3-4

A new study by HeartMath provides evidence that the heart responds to future events and indicates women may be naturally more attuned to their intuition

The phone rings and the person calling is an old high school friend who you were just thinking about the day before. You spontaneously decide to take a different route home and later find out that your usual route was closed due to a big rig accident. What a coincidence! Or is it? Were those happenings coincidences or were you, unknowingly, exercising intuition?

Intuition has often been thought of as a mysterious sixth sense. However, a new research study conducted by the Institute of HeartMath ([link]) helps to solve some of the mysteries that surround intuition, revealing the role the heart plays in processing and decoding intuitive information.

Weíve all heard of a mother who feels the need to check on her young son, only to find that he has left the yard and wandered into the street. Many of us have had our own intuitive experiences, yet there has been a longstanding dilemma in the scientific community over whether intuition is based on memory of a past experience, or whether it involves an actual perception of something that lies ahead.

Dr. Rollin McCraty, Director of Research for the Institute of HeartMath in Boulder Creek, California, directed a recent scientific study that examined physiological indicators of intuitive perception. The study sought to test whether we somehow receive information about a future event before it happens, and, if so, to determine where and when in the brain and body the intuitive information is processed.

HeartMathís new research is discussed in two parts in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. The first part (published 2/2004; paper posted at: [link] ) focuses on the surprising role of the heart in intuitive information processing. The second part, to be released in April 2004, focuses on where and when in the brain intuitive information is processed, and on how the heart and brain appear to interact in intuitive perception.

HeartMath researchers found that we can actually be aware of an event five to seven seconds before it happens. In the recent study, subjects were shown a series of images. Most of the images were peaceful and calming, such as landscapes, trees and cute animals. Other photos, randomly dispersed in the succession, included violent, disturbing and emotionally stimulating images such as car crash, a bloody knife or a snake about to strike. The subjects were monitored during the viewing for changes in respiration, skin conductance, EEG (brain waves), ECG (electrocardiogram) and heart rate variability. Participantsí physiological indicators registered an emotional response five to seven seconds before an emotionally disturbing image would appear on the viewing screen.

The main findings show that the heart receives and responds to intuitive information. Significant changes in heart rate variability occurred prior to disturbing and emotionally stimulating images appearing on the screen, compared to calm and serene images appearing. The fact that the heart is involved in the perception of future external events is an astounding result. The classical perspective assigns the brain an exclusive role in information processing. This study opens the door to new understandings about intuition and suggests that intuition is a system-wide process involving at least both the heart and the brain working together to decode intuitive information.

Another noteworthy finding of the study was the fact that there were significant gender differences. Women appeared to have a greater sensitivity to future emotional stimuli. Female participants demonstrated a significant heart rate variability pre-stimulus response, whereas the malesí pre-stimulus response was smaller. McCraty says, ìBased on our study and other research findings, we believe that the greater the emotional significance of a future event to the individual, the larger the intuitive response will be prior to the actual experience of that event.î

The heart has been regarded as a conduit for wisdom beyond our normal awareness by virtually all human cultures, ancient and modern. HeartMath believes the greatest significance of this study lies in the finding that the heart is directly involved in the processing of intuitive information.

McCraty says, ìTo our knowledge, this is the first study to measure the heartís connection with intuitive perception, and this implies that the brain does not act alone in this regard. This is an important finding that may open the door to larger scientific studies and greater understanding of the heartís role in human perception and behavior.î

Intuitive perception plays an important role in everyday decision-making in areas such as business, medical diagnosis, law enforcement, playing sports, choosing relationships, driving defensively, mothering a child and teaching students. If the heart is playing such an important role in intuitive perception, then learning to attune ourselves more to how we feel -- or acknowledging our heart promptings -- could help to increase our ability to draw on our intuitive awareness.

The Institute of HeartMath was founded by Doc Childre in 1991. For over a decade, the Institute of HeartMath has conducted leading-edge research on the relationship between the heart and brain and the ways in which this relationship affects physical, mental and emotional health and human performance.

Based on this research, the Institute of HeartMath has developed a system of scientifically validated tools and technology to help people reduce stress and improve health, learning, performance and quality of life. HeartMathís research has been published in numerous peer-reviewed journals and is regularly presented at psychological and biomedical research conferences both nationally and internationally.

To learn more about the Institute of HeartMathís research go to [link]
[ | 8 May 2004 @ 07:06 | PermaLink ]

 Free books sell better
From Ming the Mechanic: Doc Searls:
Eric Raymond: How webbing books doesn't hurt sales. Interesting stuff about "identity goods" among other relevant arcana.

Data: Cluetrain continues to sell at Amazon (listed at that link as #928) while the whole thing is online as well.
I hope the principles behind this become very public and widespread common sense. It not only doesn't hurt sales to give a book away on the net, it probably helps them. And the same applies to other media. Anyway, here's some of what Eric Raymond says:
"My four books do not a controlled experiment make, but the thirteen years of experience with simultaneous print and Web publication that I've had suggests that Web availability has boosted the sales of the print versions tremendously. And my publishers agree. Even in 1991 I didn't get resistance from MIT press, and Addison-Wesley was positively supportive of putting my most most recent one on the Web.

I'm one of a handful of technical-book writers who publishers treat like rock stars, because I have a large fan base and my name on a cover will sell a book in volumes that are exceptional for its category (for comparison my editor at AW mentions Bruce Eckel as another). I'm not certain my experience generalizes to authors who aren't rock stars. On the other hand, it's more than possible that I'm a rock star largely because I have been throwing my stuff on the Web since 1991. It's even likely — after all, I was next to an unknown when I edited The New Hacker's Dictionary."
Making your stuff easily and widely available is a great way of becoming known, and a great way of becoming somebody who's work sells well. It shouldn't even be any kind of surprise.
[ | 6 May 2004 @ 09:14 | PermaLink ]



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