World Transformation - Category: Articles
 One laptop per child
picture BoingBoing, One Laptop for every Child in the Developing World:
Nicholas Negroponte and other MIT luminaries have been working on a project to build a sub-$100, hand-cranked WiFi laptop, with the objective of supplying one apiece to every child in the developing world. They've done lots of cool stuff along the way -- for example, they've remained committed to providing entirely free and open operating systems for the machines, so that their owners can tinker with them, improve on them, and publish their improvements (they turned down an offer from Apple to supply OS X with every machine because it fails this test -- parts of Apple's OS are proprietary and can't lawfully be modified by users).

Now they've actually demoed a working prototype for the Secretary General of the UN, which cost just a hair more than the final price: $110. Wired News has a short interview with Negroponte on the milestone:

WN: Is the goal literally to make computers available to every child that wants one in the world?

Negroponte: It's every child in the world whether they want one or not. They may not know they want one.

WN: Do you have any thoughts on what the long-term impact of giving all these kids a programming environment and an open-source ethic might be?

Negroponte: Those are two different questions. Giving the kids a programming environment of any sort, whether it's a tool like Squeak or Scratch or Logo to write programs in a childish way -- and I mean that in the most generous sense of the word, that is, playing with and building things -- is one of the best ways to learn. Particularly to learn about thinking and algorithms and problem solving and so forth.

And providing the tools for some people -- it's going to be a very limited subset (who will use them) -- to develop software that will be redistributed and versioned and so forth out into the world is also important. It's part of the whole open-source movement.

[ | 19 Nov 2005 @ 15:27 | PermaLink ]

 Eight year old child genius enters university
picture Korea Herald:
Song Yoo-geun, 8, wants to build flying cars, defying Newton's law of gravity, and the physics genius which has made him Korea's youngest university student may very well drive him to that dream.

Amid scholastic achievements that have confounded experts, the public spotlight is squarely on the child prodigy and his parents, both 46 and both former teachers. What has made Yoo-geun - born late November 1997 and actually just shy of 8 years old - so special?

His parents differ from the vast majority of Korean parents who show a passion approaching zeal for their children's education.

"No fixed daily routines for our boy," said Yoo-geun's parents. "Yoo-geun has a monthly schedule only. Rather than being confined by a rigid timetable, Yoo-geun has the freedom to explore every field he wants to."

While other children his age are first graders at elementary school, he is a freshman at the Physics Department of Inha University in Incheon, west of Seoul.

[ | 6 Nov 2005 @ 13:31 | PermaLink ]

 Famous Atheist turns Deist

A British philosophy professor who has been a leading champion of atheism for more than a half-century has changed his mind. He now believes in God more or less based on scientific evidence, and says so on a video released Thursday.

At age 81, after decades of insisting belief is a mistake, Antony Flew has concluded that some sort of intelligence or first cause must have created the universe. A super-intelligence is the only good explanation for the origin of life and the complexity of nature, Flew said in a telephone interview from England.

Flew said he's best labeled a deist like Thomas Jefferson, whose God was not actively involved in people's lives.

"I'm thinking of a God very different from the God of the Christian and far and away from the God of Islam, because both are depicted as omnipotent Oriental despots, cosmic Saddam Husseins," he said. "It could be a person in the sense of a being that has intelligence and a purpose, I suppose."
[ | 10 Dec 2004 @ 02:12 | PermaLink ]

 Imaginary Friends
picture Via BoingBoing, this article.

Sixty-five percent of children say that by age seven, they've played with an imaginary companion. Children interviewed for a study by psychologists at the University of Washington and University of Oregon were considered to have an imaginary companion if they were able to discuss its psychological traits, "such as 'She is nice to me.'"

The study also showed that:

• While preschool girls were more likely to have an imaginary companion, by age 7 boys were just as likely as girls to have one.
• 27 percent of the children described an imaginary friend that their parents did not know about.
• 57 percent of the imaginary companions of school-age youngsters were humans and 41 percent were animals. One companion was a human capable of transforming herself into any animal the child wanted.
• Not all imaginary companions are friendly. A number were quite uncontrollable and some were a nuisance.

[ | 8 Dec 2004 @ 15:38 | PermaLink ]

 Extreme Ballooning
picture Here's a new trend in ballooning. This guy regularly flies around tied to a cluster of helium filled balloons. He seems to know what he's doing. As opposed to that more famous amateur balloonist, Larry Walters, who in 1982 tied a bunch of balloons to his lawn chair and accidentally shot up to 16,000 feet and interfered with the flights around the L.A. airport.
[ | 8 Dec 2004 @ 15:33 | PermaLink ]

 The Self as Metaprogrammer
From Future Hi: Chris Arkenberg (LVX23) April 2004 The human brain is not a static computing device merely receiving and processing information acquired by its sensoria but, rather, it is a dynamic and plastic network of neural centers, each specialized to handle specific tasks, coordinated with each other through a continuously changing...
[ | 16 Jun 2004 @ 15:02 | PermaLink ]

 Wealthy Beyond our Dreams
picture From Synergic Earth News: Timothy Wilken, MD writes: If we humans synergically reorganized our world, we would all be wealthy beyond our wildest dreams. Today in 2002, if we were to reclaim the gift of all the land and natural resources presently held on planet Earth as individual property. And if we were to further reclaim the gift of Progress from those few who control it today, and then divided these two gifts equally among the 6 billions of us living on the planet, we would discover to our surprise and amazement that every man, woman, and child is wealthy beyond their dreams. With synergic organization, and careful utilization of the planet’s total wealth for the benefit of all humanity, the carrying capacity of the Earth could be maximized to solve all our human problems and meet our all our needs. And this is without any need to damage the Earth, or degrade our environment. There would never be any need for humans to earn their livings again. Our livings have already been earned by all those humans who lived and died to give us the great gift of progess. Then all humans would be free to spend their time making their lives meaningful by creating more wealth to be gifted to living and future humanity. To better understand my proposal for a synergic future, it is important to understand what I mean by wealth. ... In a synergic culture wealth is defined as that which supports life for self and others. It is mutually life affirming. This by definition excludes adversary wealth — physical force that hurts other human beings, and neutral wealth — money that ignores other human beings. Synergic humans recognize that interdependence is the human condition. They recognize that all humans need help unless they wish to live at the level of animal subsistence. They know that adversarial humans make people help them. This is help obtained with coercion — force or fraud. Those providing the help are losing. When you force others to help you, they do the least they possibly can. Because the helper is hurt, adversary help produces the lowest quality help. They know that neutral humans purchase help through the open market place. This is help purchased from others. This is the way most of us living in the free world get help today. We hire it or we buy it in the market place. When I go to McDonald's, I pay them five dollars to help feed me. The focus in the market place is on a fair price. Because the helper is ignored, neutral help is of average quality. They understand that synergic humans attract help by helping others. This is help attracted by helping others — when another individual understands that by helping you, they will also be helped, they will automatically help you. When others understand that when you win, they win, they will support and celebrate your success. This is the power of the win-win relationship. Show those who can help you, how they will win by doing so. Show them how they will be helped by helping you. Because the helper is helped, synergic help is of highest quality.  (03/22/04)
[ | 16 Jun 2004 @ 15:02 | PermaLink ]

 Synocracy & Sociocracy
picture From Synergic Earth News: Timothy Wilken, MD writes: All members of a synergic heterarchy are required to veto any plan where they or anyone else would lose. This is not an arbitrary veto. This is a veto to prevent loss. The heterarchy is seeking to win together. Plans causing loss need to modified to plans that insure winning. Therefore all vetoes are immediately followed by renegotiation to modify the plan of action so that loss can be eliminated. Synergic consensus is unanimous consensus. Unanimous consensus is protected by the judicious use of the synergic veto. Synergic relationship requires that when any party within a group is losing, the action causing the loss must stop. But again all vetoes are immediately followed by renegotiation to modify the plan of action so that loss can be eliminated, and action can continue. Thus synergic consensus is a two step process. 1) consensus--to find mutual agreement, and 2) consent--to find specific disagreements and eliminate those through modification and re-negotiation of proposed plans. This second step is initiated by use of the synergic veto. After I designed Ortegrity, which uses the process of synergic consensus and synergic veto, I learned about Sociocracy. It is from Sociocracy that I have borrowed the term consent for the second phase of synergic consensus. ... Any group of humans organized as an Ortegrity are using synocracy. If a nation of people chose to organize as an ortegrity they would have a synocracy. If all of humanity were organized as an Ortegrity, we would have world wide synocracy. ... Today, mind and brain scientists have made enormous progress in understanding how the human brain works. There has been many surprises in these recent advances. But the biggest shocker is that the brain doesn’t decide what to do. Decision making is not controlled centrally in the brain. The mind-brain appears to act as a coordination and consensus system for meeting all the needs of the cells, tissues, and organs of the body. The brain doesn’t decide to eat. The cells of the body decide to eat, the brain coordinates their activity and carries out the consensus will. Our human brain stores the gathered information from the body’s sensing of its environment, the brain presents opportunities for action reflective of both the sensing of environment and the needs and goals of the 40,000,000,000 cells it serves. The brain is not the leader of the body, it is the follower of the body. It is a system that matches needs of the body with its sensing of opportunities to meet these needs by action within the environment. The brain is a ‘synergic government’ that truly serves its constituents—the cells, tissues, and organs that make up the human body. The body is governed by a unanimous rule democracy that has survived millions of years. The apparent ‘I’ is not real. It is really a ‘we’. We humans have mistaken the self-organization of synergic consensus for the directed organization of an ego decider. If the human body can using unanimous rule democracy and synergic consensus can organize and coordinate the actions of 40,000,000,000 cells so totally that we identify the whole organism as a single individual, then we humans should be able to use these same mechanisms to organize our species and solve our human problems. (03/17/04)
[ | 15 Jun 2004 @ 15:39 | PermaLink ]

 Consensus & Consent
picture From Synergic Earth News: Timothy Wilken, MD writes: How will we make decisions in a synergic future? In today’s world 2004, it is assumed without question that majority rule democracy is the best way to organize humanity. But what if there were something better? ... Unanimous Rule Democracy or Synocracy is a much more powerful mechanism of decision making than the majority rule of present day democracy. Synocracy is a synergic decision making system. Synergy means working together—operating together as in Co-Operation—laboring together as in Co-Laboration—acting together as in Co-Action.  However Synocracy, which gives us humans the opportunity to accomplish more together than we can accomplish separately, also requires more from us. It requires synergic consensus. For any group of humans, synergic consensus can provide a much more powerful mechanism of decision making than even the best majority rule democracy carefully following Roberts Rules of Order. Synergic consensus occurs when a group of humans sit as equals and negotiate to reach a decision in which they all win and in which no one loses. In synergic science this is called heterarchy. That means all members of the deciding group sit on the same level as “equals”. All decisions within a truly synergic group are made within decision heterarchy”. A decision heterarchy is made up of a group of humans with common purpose. The minimum number is 2 the maximum number is presently unknown. I believe the ideal size may be ~six or seven individuals. The group is organized horizontally with all individuals sharing equal authority and equal responsibility. Synergic consensus occurs when a group of humans sitting in heterarchy negotiate and reach a decision in which they all win and in which no one loses. In a synergic heterarchy, all members sit on the same level as “equals”. No one has more authority than anyone else. Every one has equal responsibility and equal authority within the heterarchy. The assignment for the heterarchy is to find a plan of action so that all members win. It is the collective responsibility of the entire heterarchy to find this “best” solution. Anyone can propose a plan to accomplish the needs of the group. All problems related to accomplishing the needs would be discussed at length in the heterarchy. The proposed plan of action for solving a problem is examined by all members of the heterarchy. Anyone can suggest a modification, or even an alternative action to solve the problem. All members of the heterarchy serve as information sources for each other. The heterarchy continues in discussion until a plan of action is found that will work for everyone. When all are in agreement and only then can the plan be implemented. The plan insures that all members of the synergic heterarchy win. ... Originated in the Netherlands in 1945 by Kees Boeke, a Dutch educator and pacifist, Sociocracy was a way to adapt Quaker egalitarian principles to secular organizations. It uses the decision-making process of consent which is different than most systems of  'consensus'. Consent looks for disagreement and uses the reasons for disagreeing to come up with an amended proposal that is within everyone's limits. Consensus looks for agreement. If a group wants to paint an outbuilding, consensus would require everyone agreeing on a color. Consent would require everyone defining their limits and then allowing the choice to be made within those limits. The painter might end up with three colors that are acceptable to everyone and then choose from those. (03/15/04)
[ | 14 Jun 2004 @ 17:07 | PermaLink ]

 Why Good Things Happen to Bad People
From Synergic Earth News: John Brand writes: Let me define my terms. By "good things" I do not mean ideals valued among the noblest of human principles. Included among such majestic goals would be the dispensation of justice based on equity, the rightful distribution of goods, the pursuit of philosophy, the arts, and the profoundly spiritual. By "good things," in this column, I imply what our materialistic society values most highly: conspicuous consumption, tax evasion by the super rich, awarding non-competitive government contracts, golden parachutes, obscene stock options, off-shore companies, accounting finesses, and sundry other such exploitive gambits. In short, by "good things" I mean the advantage the favorite few exercise over the masses. By "bad people" I do not mean those caught "in flagrante delicto" in extracurricular, sexual adventures. Heavens to Betsy, even a larger number of priests, ministers, rabbis, and imams than we are wont to admit would have to be called bad by that standard. "Bad people," in this column, are folks who pontificate about petty, moralistic issues but are quite willing to eliminate the protection of the "Bill of Rights" for all those with whom they have serious disagreements. Bad people are those who crow about democracy but disregard and even undermine the constitutional balance of powers. "Bad people" manipulate the system to satiate their rapacious appetites. They are folks amassing large bank accounts by devious means. They hold powerful, judicial positions based on passing a litmus test. They exert tremendous political influence flaunting any sense of social responsibility. How does it happen that the above listed good things accrue to such bad folks? To put it briefly, the spin masters have been able to make three lies sound virtuous and cause the virtuous to sound evil. (03/08/04)
[ | 12 Jun 2004 @ 18:36 | PermaLink ]

 Scientific Adventure
picture From Synergic Earth News: The New Scientist Interview -- To geologist Simon Lamb, mountains are much more than lumps of rock. He has spent much of the past decade in Bolivia trying to find out how they evolve. What does it feel like to spend all that time in the mountains? It is extreme. The altitude is a problem. You have half as much oxygen as at sea level and that is stressful because you never feel completely well. It is hard work to move around, you have to force yourself. The other problem is that there is little infrastructure there. If your vehicle breaks down or somebody gets ill you quickly go from a situation where everything is fine to one that is life-threatening. You might have your breakfast and plan to do something, then by lunchtime you are fighting for your life. It takes a while to recover from that. Eventually, it takes it out of you psychologically. You become more reluctant to take risks - that becomes the biggest problem. When I first went to Bolivia we were adventurous, because we didn't know what could go wrong. We did an awful lot of things that later on in the project I wouldn't have dreamed of doing. What sort of things go wrong? There was one time when we wanted desperately to get to the summit of a volcano to sample some gases, but we couldn't see a way to get there. Then a miner said he knew how to take a party of people up the volcano. In fact he was humouring us: he didn't know the way at all. First he took us up the wrong volcano, so we ended up having to climb two volcanoes instead of one. After all this effort we were determined to get the gas sample. It got dark, the guide panicked. He knew he was in trouble and he more or less abandoned us. We were floundering around in the dark trying to feel our way down. We were at our limit. I was pig in the middle between the guide far in the distance and the other two people in our team behind. I was using a flashlight to signal to them where I was, while keeping an eye on the guide and shouting to him. It was a close thing. When you are in the mountains, does anything distract you from your geology? Definitely. You suddenly step back and say this is an incredible place to be. We have seen herds of vicuna, and foxes. You can be driving through Bolivia's Alto Plano, come over a hill and see a huge lake covered in flamingos, and they all suddenly rise up. There can be moments of immense beauty, especially late in the day when you get this wonderful low evening light - a rich light, it has a lot of orange in it - and the landscape becomes almost like a painting. It's fantastically beautiful. You do fantasise that you want to get back to civilisation, you want a hot shower, a meal at a restaurant, you want to pamper yourself. But when you get to the city it comes as quite a shock. You immediately regret being back, and straight away you are looking forward to going away again. That's the great thing about these long field trips: you always have the thought that you'll be off again in a week and a new adventure will start. I feel privileged to have experienced all that. (03/08/05)
[ | 11 Jun 2004 @ 15:18 | PermaLink ]

 Why Time Flies When You Are Having Fun
picture From Synergic Earth News: BBC Science -- Scans have shown that patterns of activity in the brain change depending on how we focus on a task. Concentrating on time passing, as we do when bored, will trigger brain activity which will make it seem as though the clock is ticking more slowly. The research, by the French Laboratory of Neurobiology and Cognition, is published in the magazine Science. In the study, 12 volunteers watched an image while researchers monitored their brain activity using MRI scans. Volunteers were given a variety of tasks. In one they were told to concentrate simply on the duration of an image, in another they were asked to focus on the colour, and in a third they were asked to concentrate on both duration and colour. ... It is thought that if the brain is busy focusing on many aspects of a task, then it has to spread its resources thinly, and pays less heed to time passing. Therefore, time passes without us really noticing it, and seems to go quickly. However, if the brain is not stimulated in this way, it concentrates its full energies on monitoring the passing of time. This may make time seem to drag, but in fact it is probably a more accurate perception of reality. Indeed, the researchers found that the more volunteers concentrated on the duration of the images, the more accurate were their estimates of its duration. Lead researcher Dr Jennifer Coull told BBC News Online that many of the areas of the brain involved in estimating time were the same that played a key role in controlling movement, and preparing for action. She said this overlap suggests that the brain may make sense of time as intervals between movements, in much the same way as a musician marks time with his foot, or an athlete anticipates the sound of a starter's pistol. (03/08/05)
[ | 10 Jun 2004 @ 23:59 | PermaLink ]

From Ming the Mechanic: Via Creative Generalist, check out Freecycle. Don't just throw unneeded stuff away and buy new. Put it up to be picked up for free by people in your local area. And you can be at the receiving end too, of course.
One rule: everything posted must be free. Whether it's a chair, a fax machine, piano, or an old door to be given away, it can be posted on the network. Or, maybe you're looking to acquire something yourself? Respond to the posting directly and you just might get it. After that it is up to the giver to set up a pickup time for passing on the treasure.
Seems to happen successfully in several hundred cities. And simply through e-mails in yahoo groups.
[ | 10 Jun 2004 @ 23:59 | PermaLink ]

 Being, Consciousness and Everything
From Future Hi: John Richardson covers the entire spectrum of philosophical and scientific thought, especially quantum mechanics and comes up with his own interesting conclusions about the nature of being and consciousness. One of his conclusions - consciousness is primary. Being, Consciousness and Everything Courtesy of Ben Goertzel and his Dynamical Psychology site....
[ | 10 Jun 2004 @ 23:59 | PermaLink ]

 Utopia or Oblivion
picture From Synergic Earth News: Robley E. George writes: It has been suggested, one way or another by literally billions, that humanity desperately needs a new, future-oriented political economy capable of rapidly reducing or resolving an increasing number of serious, interrelated societal problems plaguing the planet -- caused in large measure, many assert, by presently existing political economies. It has further been emphatically suggested, again by billions, that every society on the planet needs and must soon realize a significantly deepened and more meaningful democracy -- an inclusive democracy manifesting in the socioeconomic realm. Politicosocioeconomic system design, practiced one way or another for thousands of years, can be made public, explicit, transparent and, perhaps most importantly, democratic. ... This article outlines the essential features and properties of Socioeconomic Democracy, which is a model socioeconomic subsystem in which there is some form of Universal Guaranteed Personal Income as well as some form of Maximum Allowable Personal Wealth, with both the lower bound on personal material poverty and the upper bound on personal material wealth set and adjusted democratically by all society. It begins by individually examining each of these two bounds, ie, Universal Guaranteed Income and Maximum Allowalble Wealth. Following is a rapid review of both qualitative and quantitative democracy. Here, we note the elemental public choice theory result that allows society to democratically decide the amount of these two bounds (median value of participants' preference distribution). The many possible theoretical variations of Socioeconomic Democracy are next indicated. Anthropological, philosophical, psychological, religious and human rights justifications for some form of Socioeconomic Democracy are then sketched. ... The article then considers economic incentive and self-interest in, and practical political approximations to, such a democratic system. System feasibility and implementation are next examined. Finally, some of the myriad simultaneously beneficial ramifications of the theoretical system are outlined. (03/05/04)
[ | 9 Jun 2004 @ 03:11 | PermaLink ]

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