How To Break Knowledge Monopolies

The internet is a manifestation of the great herd. It is not unlike any other big city.

What is popular predominates. Commercial self interest tends to dictate the nature of content. Without some sort of popular demand there is a good chance not one of countless millions of users have put it online.

Information exists on a wide range of subjects, but in dissociated fragments that may or may not be useful. The internet continues as a chaotic rumor mill.

Left to a state of nature, the internet has failed to decisively remove knowledge from its traditional enclaves.
Profession specific knowledge remains largely inaccessible.
Technical information remains indecipherable to all but a few practitioners.
Universities retain their monopoly as the one legitimate dispenser of knowledge.

Certainly, there are entities on the internet that attempt to organize the knowledge of humankind into a coherent whole.

Yet it would prove difficult to learn chemistry from wikipedia. It quickly becomes clear that wikipedia articles on chemistry are all written in a scientific manner largely indecipherable to someone without a substantial scientific background. Rather than serving as a learning resource for the public, chemistry articles on wikipedia instead serve as more of a desk reference for people who are already involved in the field.
I can look up nearly anything chemistry related on wikipedia, but wherever I might go, I am met with the same abstruse presentation typical of textbooks. For all the availability of the information it’s not particularly useful. I’d have to spend months learning the appropriate background information.

Pretty much all obtainable sources on chemistry fall into this same trap whether they’re on the internet or not. Chemistry remains accessible only to a handful of micro-specialists despite the vastness of available information.

After all, micro-specialists don’t want an excess of intruders on the precious patch of turf that provides their bread and butter. They have a vested interest in obscuring the information in their possession. It took them years to obtain the necessary qualifications to practice their discipline. If it ever became too easy for others to learn, it could mean disaster for them.

Each little faction keeps its profitable body of knowledge to itself. Assembling the knowledge of multiple disciplines into a greater whole remains as difficult as it’s ever been in this so-called ‘information age.’
Until there can be a true age of information, we will remain as helpless micro-specialists, doomed to create a pointless rat race of a civilization, a clutter of human jigsaw pieces just lying randomly about.
Until the average citizen has access to real knowledge, society will forever be stuck in the brutal cycles that have prevailed since the dawn of agricultural civilization.
The quality of life in a mass society is only as good as the ability of the average person to see the big picture.

Precisely because each micro-specialist perceives only a tiny segment, they fail to understand how a society might gain as a whole from assembling fields of expertise.

To realize the full potential of the internet as a public repository, a more deliberate approach is required.

Clearly, putting millions of pages of field specific information online or in books brings about very little change.
Information itself means very little.
The same set of statistics can be presented or mis-represented in countless ways.
Raw information is of little worth without coherent representation.
In our current system, obtaining new knowledge is the burden of the seeker.

To displace traditional knowledge enclaves, knowledge creators must reverse this entire ethic and go through a deliberate process of making knowledge as easy as possible to process for as many kinds of people as possible.
This means different learning styles and different levels of expertise.
Of greatest importance, of course is the introductory material for any discipline. Bridges are strategic chokepoints.
People must be able to shift between now isolated disciplines with the greatest possible ease and efficiency. This means the industrialization of knowledge acquisition.

Today, a simple mold can create a drinking cup more elaborate than even the best artisans of old could have created. Such a cup could only have graced the tables of rich people.

Today, only those with the right sort of minds and most favorable upbringings have any chance of accessing the knowledge of our society. Perhaps our master artisans of knowledge crafted through years of struggle might one day find themselves pitted against competitors who were manufactured with far less time and effort.

For a previous system to be replaced, the incentives must be right. The new model must have the potential to outcompete the old, just as factories inevitably outcompeted cottage industry.

Sites such as wikipedia imitate the written encyclopedias of the pre-internet age. Search engines clearly descend from file drawers and microfiches.

What the internet has yet to produce is a methodical means of distributing coherent bodies of information in multiple, highly usable forms.
Because the form information assumes is all-important, it is silly to suppose that information processing ends with increasingly sophisticated systems that merely crunch and catalogue large numbers of files.


Why Most People Hate Their Jobs

Builds Upon: The Illusion of Retirement

If you were an employer would you want to pay people for something fun, something that lots of people already want to do? Of course not.
If you are an employer you need helpers to do things you either can’t do or don’t want to do.

In short, the market selects for jobs that are unpleasant, difficult, or both at once. Pop wisdom often teaches us that we don’t have our dream job because we just haven’t had the guts to pursue it in earnest.
However, if someone else can’t or won’t do it, it’s probably for a reason. When anyone tries to sell a used car, it’s probably for a reason.

We are often made to feel under-accomplished and guilty for not finding our calling in life. In truth, it is naive to expect any sort of fulfillment from our work.

We do another’s work to make their dreams come true.

In return for sacrificing our own time in which we could be realizing our own dreams, we receive a certain quantity of capital.

It is silly to expect our dreams to coincide with those of an employer, especially when the employee’s principal and implicit role is to take care of everything difficult, nasty, stressful, and boring.

Our social values tell us that we are what we do. When in social situations, the person across from us asks us “What do you do?” and judges our human value accordingly. Our entire civilization is in a state of confusion concerning the source of fulfillment and identity.

Though some jobs happen to be better than others, it is improper to treat them as a source of identity or a calling.
For one with a proper understanding of social relationships, the capital gained in exchange for doing someone else’s dirty work is the means to realize one’s own identity and dreams.

To look for one’s own dreams within the dream of another is the height of folly.

We Are Allowed To Exist Only So Long As We Are Useful

Builds Upon: Human Husbandry

In 19th century Scotland there was a series of infamous events known as the Highland Clearances. To tell it very simply, sheep became a more valuable asset than people. The people had to go. No hard work or determination could have saved the peasantry. All the economic incentives pointed towards sheep.

Within a couple of generations, entire regions of the Highlands had been emptied of people. Many of these once populated regions are empty to this day, serving as hunting reserves for the rich.

In our own times, people are just not as useful as they used to be unless they can be considered ‘skilled’. Only a few people are skilled.

People clamor for employment in our times but they make the assumption that it is in the interest of decision makers to create employment.

We should never forget the frailty of our wellbeing. In the tally of a mass society, whether we consider ourselves great or small, we are but numbers in a ledger. If we collectively fail to yield sufficient profitability it’s just a matter of time before we too are cleared away and relegated to the history books. There is nothing sure about our future.

In a mass society that can care nothing for individuals and communities, devoid of higher purpose, driven only by capital gain, there is no reason to suppose that we are guaranteed continued existence let alone a decent existence.

The right incentives have only to come into alignment to spell the end of spontaneous human societies. It is but a matter of time before competing nobles allow only the most useful, pleasing, and/or loyal strains of human to breed. Thus humans would be steadily replaced with sheep. This time once and for all.

Living On A Keynesian Playground

Builds Upon: The System Gets What It Selects For

Once upon a time, there was a man named Keynes who believed that in the midst of a depression in which resources were underutilized, even building useless pyramids was preferable to letting poverty and stagnation progress and become entrenched.

Keynes intended such measures to endure for only as long as needed. But perhaps he did not sufficiently appreciate that it would be tempting for governments to prolong such emergency measures into a self-perpetuating way of life, that the useless pyramids could become the foundation stones of entire economies, that his philosophy for dealing with crises would be dragged down a slippery slope to logical absurdities.

Our own society is just such a Keynesian playground where Keynes’ original tenets have been driven beyond their extremes. We live in a society that is all about increasing consumption regardless of what is consumed, about increasing productivity with no thought as to whether it all results in genuine accomplishment or improvement of the overall quality of life. It hardly matters what is produced or why it is produced.

To transform a society into a Keynesian playground is to abolish all questions of purpose from the mass society. Such a society has the rationality of an ant mound. It cannot pretend to any higher drives, it only strives to expand and compete. It can care nothing for the ants under its power. It does not manage or plan for growth. It merely grows where growth is easiest today.

Eventually such a society has expanded so greatly through useless production that it is increasingly reliant on useless activity just to sustain itself. If ever consumption for the sake of consumption came undone, it would bring down the entire society.
Every time there is crisis, new increasingly useless forms of production must be invented. The mass society quickly becomes dependent on these new methods in turn and the process repeats…

Frequently heard is the sentiment that modern industrialized countries “have no culture.” In the literal sense, such a sentiment is obviously untrue and yet it resonates on a certain level.
What is meant, I think, is that our own lives become microcosms of the mass society’s lack of driving purpose, will, and values. In this sense, we have lost culture.
I would suppose ‘lack of culture’ also refers to the tendency of a Keynesian playground to turn most people into micro-specialists who consume a maximum of possible goods and services from one another.
In a society where even shared lore is handed top-down to the masses by disconnected micro-specialists, there is no real culture.

Ultimately, our entire society and way of life has become a useless pyramid.

In a society full of purposeless products, purpose becomes the scarcest commodity.