Complex Interactive Systems Information & Intellectural PropertyCultural Interactions

Our world is to be understood by the nature of our interactions in it — interactions undertaken with respect both to other individuals and to the social culture which we inhabit. Information, then, is not a collection of static, objective properties of the world, but instead emerges from those interactions.

Complex Interactive Systems

There is something fundamental about complex systems that our culture has yet to appreciate. Do they have uniquely emergent properties? Some pointers:

The Physical Environment:
 
Environmental Degradation: "Global Warming's Terrifying New Math" (Bill McKibben); Realclimate; Global Warming Web site at the American Institute of Physics; the Clathrate Gun Hypothesis (explosive release of massive amounts of trapped methane gas, triggered by global warming); "Large Methane Release Could Cause Abrupt Climate Change As Happened 635 Million Years Ago" (see also the article in Nature);
Solar Energy: Hello Sunshine; New energy storage mechanism for solar power;
Nuclear Energy: 5 Issues Concerning Nuclear Power for New Zealand; Let's Kick Nuclear Power out of the Climate Change Debate; Dangers of Nuclear Energy promotion in US: 1, 2;
Energy Conservation: The Food Miles Mistake:
Take action: we can solve the energy crisis (Al Gore's Energy Challenge -- to make US electrical power production 100% clean and carbon free within 10 years.); 350.org; Widespread adoption of a vegetarian diet can save the environment -- "Are you taking global warming personally?" (see the Vegetarianism section below.)
The Socioeconomic Environment:
Dangers of the Trans Pacific Partnership - a threat to both economic autonomy and inclusiveness
James K. Galbraith, "The Predator State", "What Kind of Economy?";
An Inclusive Society?: Tony Judt - "Ill Fares the Land";
Inequality: Joseph Stiglitz - "The 1 Percent's Problem";
Information Control (a component of "Predatory Capitalism"): There are links between the spread of IP (c.f. the Intellectual Property section, below), the loss of privacy, and the new globalized corporate warlord economics. See Naomi Klein's "Disaster Capitalism", "The Age of Disaster Capitlaism", State of Extortion, for more. See also Chalmers Johnson on the ourtsourcing of military intelligence to private corporations.
Situated Cognition -- a separate subject in its own right. Key references include Varela's The Embodied Mind, Hutchins's Cognition in the Wild, Agre's Computation and Human Experience, Clark's Mindware and Being There, Clancey's Situated Cognition, Salomon's collection, Distributed Cognitions, Kirshner and Whitson's collection, Situated Cognition, Suchman's Plans and Situated Actions, Coyne's Designing Information Technology in the Postmodern Age and Technoromanticism, Dourish's Where the Action Is, Lakoff's Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things, Lakoff & Johnson's Metaphors We Live By and Philosophy in the Flesh, Heelan's "Carnap and Heidegger: Parting of the Ways in the Philosophy of Science", and Crease's The Play of Nature.
Narrative Understanding (see also the Film and Narrative section, below):
Narrative Intelligence is an aspect of Situated Cognition, and some references include H Porter Abbot's The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative, Gerard Genette's Narrative Discourse, Paul Ricoeur's The Rule of Metaphor, Time and Narrative, and From Text to Action; Phoebe Sengers, Kerstin Dautenhahn, Roger Schank's Tell Me a Story, and a 1999 NI workshop. Klaas-Jan Winkel's thesis discusses the use of narrative with intelligent agents.
However, the idea that all knowledge is fundamentally narrative and that all narratives have equal validity has been taken to unjustified extremes by many postmodernist thinkers. This has been brilliantly exposed in Alan Sokol's and Jean Bricmont's Intellectual Impostures (aka Fashionable Nonsense).
The Fall of Modernity — Michael Vlahos's meditation on the demise of the American narrative.
"Big Data" (and why it can mean trouble):
Evgeny Morozov: "The The Rise of Data and the Death of Politics"
Networks and the Web:
Clay Shirky, Henry Jenkins,
Cosmic Variance -- a joint blog run by some philosophically-oriented physicists. See also Cosma Shalizi, one of the better sites on the Web. (Maybe this entry should go in the culture section, below.).
Complex Dynamic Systems:
Peter Wegner's, "Why Interaction is More Powerful than Algorithms" discusses distributed interactive systems. See also works of Lynn Stein and Dina Goldin.
Laughlin and Pines have exposed the inadequacies of a "theory of everything". See their article and an overview from the NY Times.
Hypercomputation -- computing beyond the Turing limit, but includes subjects like quantum computing, too.
Out of Control, by Kevin Kelly, is a fascinating and insightful survey of distributed, linked systems that have self-organising characteristics. Related books worth reading are Albert-Laszlo Barabasi's Linked, Steven Johnson's Emergence, Howard Bloom's The Global Brain.
Emergence is a quarterly journal concerned with the management of complex systems.
People: Ilya Prigogine won a Nobel Prize for ideas about 'far from equilibrium' systems; Peter Kugel; Selmer Bringsjord
Complex Mechanisms: The Recursive Universe, by William Poundstone (1984, now back in print) is the most complete popular coverage of the idea of cellular automata. Other useful material can be found in the writings of Martin Gardner, the speculations of Ed Fredkin, and in Winning Ways for Your Mathematical Plays (by Berlekamp, Conway, and Guy). Stephen Wolfram's, A New Kind of Science, appears to be a landmark publication in this field. Gregoray Chaitin's Meta Math! : The Quest for Omega discusses his digital philosophy perspective.
Scientific Rigor, Junk Science, & Pseudoscience: For an expose of some junk science in nutritional epidemiology, see The China Study; Junk science in criminology: see "Trial by Fire";
Information & Intellectual Property
Future generations will marvel at the way our supposedly enlightened society tries to control ideas and ignores the harmful effects that this control has on the general welfare. Here are some recent news items and dicussions concerning this general theme:
Privacy:
Bruce Scheier. Check out his book, Data and Goliath (2015), on the increasing level of surveillance in modern society..
US NSA and other government activities:
  - The Intercept: "Ed Snowden Taught Me To Smuggle Secrets Past Incredible Danger. Now I Teach You"
  -

New Zealand's GCSB (Government Communications Securitiy Bureau) participation in NSA's "Five Eyes" surveillance programme:

  - Anatomy of the (US) Deep State
 

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SIGINT: Guardian: US and UK Spy Agencies Defeat Privacy and Security on the Internet; NY Times: NSA Foils Much Internet Encryption;
  - PRISM & Boundless Informant: Overview from Der Spiegel; Edward Snowden coverage from The Guardian; Foreign Policy: The NSA's Data Haul is Bigger Than You can Possibly Imagine;
  - US NSA aims to capture every mouse click, Web site visit, and message for secret data mining centers (10^24 bytes stored by 2015). -- "Who's in Big Brother's Database"; US Gov. wants to Track Everything That Moves; US Information Awareness Office; US FBI wants to restructure Internet architecture to allow wiretapping; Opposition to US national ID cards; Secretive US NSA Echelon Program spies on world-wide telecommunications; NZ Green Party calls for suspension of US NSA Echelon outpost at Waihopai, New Zealand; NZ Ploughshares group penetrates US Echelon Waihopai base; "Hiding From REAL ID";
NZ and Australia:
- New York Times: "Civil Liberties in Peril Down Under"
Tom Engelhardt: The Making of a Global Security State; How to Be a Rogue Superpower; Data Mining You; Mistaking Omniscience for Omnipotence; The Fourth Branch;
Surveillance Society: "Does Surveillance Really Make Us Feel Safer?"; Is Your Printer Spying on You?; Microsoft seeks patent for "Big Brother-type" spy software; The support of "Big Brother" surveillance in Iran by Nokia-Siemens Networks; Repression 2.0: Authoritarianism vs. the Internet (deputy director of Freedom House calls for US Govt. to promote Internet freedom of expression);
The Wall Street Journal's: "What They Know" series on privacy.
Clandestine, Tagging, Tracking, and Locating (CTTL): 1; 2; 3; 4; 5;
The Eternal Value of Privacy; Privacy news from Wired; Paul Duguid's review of Daniel Solove's Understanding Privacy; David Swanson on Obama's defence of the NSA;
Privacy Organisations:

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Privacy International has conducted campaigns and research throughout the world on issues ranging from wiretapping and national security, to ID cards, video surveillance, data matching, medical privacy, and freedom of information and expression.
- The Digital Due Process Coalition seeks to modernize US privacy legislation in order to preserve traditional Constitutional privacy guarantees and freeddom from invasive surveillance.
- Privacy.org offers daily news and informationtion on emerging civil liberties issues concerning privacy, and the (U.S. Constitution) First Amendment.
- Privacilla.org takes the view that the best policy is to limit the role of government to robust and equal protection of individual rights under the law.
- Big Brother Watch produces regular investigative research papers on the erosion of civil liberties in the UK. See there manifesto.
- NO2ID is focussed on the threat to liberty and privacy posed by the rapid growth of the database state, of which "ID cards" are the most visible part.
Patents and copyrights are harmful and should be abolished.
Boldrin & Levine - "The Case Against Patents" (journal version here)
Reason for Germany's 19th century industrial expansion: no copyrights.
Open Academic Publishing: "Academic publishers have become the enemies of science"
Other articles of interest: Kinsella's "Against Intellectual Property", Cole's "Patents and Copyrights: Do the Benefits Exceed the Costs?", Mazzoleni and Nelson's "Economic theories about the benefits and costs of patents" and "Economic Theories About the Costs and Benefits of Patents", Weber's "A Critique of Intellecutal Property Rights", Brian Martin's "Against Intellectual Property" (chapter 3 of Information Liberation). "The Case for Abolishing Patents (Yes, All of Them)". See also Ilana Mercer's work and Long's informal essay.
ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) - a round of clandestine talks aimed at establishing rigid "international property rights" enforcement worldwide. ACTA is a threat to privacy, free trade, and free software.
The Free Software Foundation's Speak Out Against ACTA
Commentators: Michael Geist, Aaron Shaw
PublicACTA -- an event held in Wellington, NZ on 10 April 2010, prior to the next round of secret ACTA talks in Wellington (12-16 April 2010), to enable the public to critique the known and likely content of ACTA. See also ACTA.net.nz and the "Fundamentals of ACTA".
Software and IP:
Open Source software. Free software, as defined by Richard Stallman and the people at GNU (Free Software Foundation). A FSF discussion of different types of software licenses. Stallman assesses Bill Gates's harmful impact on the free use of your own information. See also Julian Stallabrass's review of a book about Stallman.
Darknet -- Web site for the book and an interesting clearinghouse on IP issues. See also Freenet, which is a peer-to-peer technical framework that seems able to withstand any efforts to stamp out freedom of expression.
The Internet: End of the Open Internet?; Congress giving away the Internet: 1, 2;
Vote Against Software Patents! "Thanks Poland" ceremony in support of the Polish stand against software patents in the EU. James Gleick's "Patently Absurd". My submission to the NZ Parliament opposing software patents.
IEEE-USA Intellectual Property Committee, ACM's work on intellectural property
Anti-snooping operating system, M-o-o-t, is planned; look here for updated information.

The Pharmaceutical Indusry:

Drug patents: "Unhealthy Profits"; Clinton challenges US control over Aids drug patents; Fixing Health Care: Not Government vs. Market;

"Patents system has had its day", extract: "Dean Baker provides the most realistic answer: the government should directly perform the R&D as a public good and let firms produce medicines, as a private good, at competitive free-market prices. Spending $100bn (to replace the $65bn of state-subsidised private R&D) annually on a newly revamped NIH has potent benefits: affordable medicines, a reduction in corruption of clinical trials and journals, the elimination of distorted advertising and marketing, an increase in the openness of information, and a decrease in the number of deaths and those who suffer.

This system fulfils both conservative and progressive ideals simultaneously: it allows markets a greater role, eliminates government-granted monopoly patents, is anti-inflationary, information becomes more unbiased and rational, while promoting far better public health outcomes and eliminating this destructive form of corporate socialism. If US consumers and taxpayers can fork out $300bn-plus annually, they can surely spend $100bn on R&D and another $34bn on generic medicines.

It is unbelievable that economists have not attempted to analyse the ever-growing costs and distortions of intellectual property rights when it forms a colossal foundation of our modern economies. These problems aren't just limited to the pharmaceutical industry: the software, journal, textbook, book, game, comic, film and fashion industries also have tremendous distortions present. Intellectual property rights should be at the forefront of economic debate, not languishing on the sidelines."

Dean Baker's "Financing Drug Research: What Are the Issues?"
The way Big Pharma peddles influence: "The Secret Lives of Big Pharma's 'Thought Leaders'"
The Pharmaceutical Industry -- To Whom Is It Accountable?: ". . .the pharmaceutical industry enjoys extraordinary government protections and subsidies. Much of the early basic research that may lead to drug development is funded by the National Institutes of Health. It is usually only later, when the research shows practical promise, that the drug companies become involved. The industry also enjoys great tax advantages. Not only are its research and development costs deductible, but so are its massive marketing expenses. The average tax rate of major U.S. industries from 1993 to 1996 was 27.3 percent of revenues. During the same period the pharmaceutical industry was reportedly taxed at a rate of only 16.2 percent. Most important, the drug companies enjoy 17-year government-granted monopolies on their new drugs — that is, patent protection. Once a drug is patented, no one else may sell it, and the drug company is free to charge whatever the traffic will bear."
Expert commentators:
Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine (authors of Against Intellectual Monopoly).
Lawrence Lessig (author of Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, The Future of Ideas, and Free Culture; see also 1).
Michael Geist, a Canadian law professor concerned with intellectual property.
Pamela Samuelson, and Jessica Litman (author of Digital Copyright) are academics who have campaigned for a rationalisation of intellectual property laws; Dan Gillmor;
Current IP Issues: "Can the World be Copyrighted?";"The Tyranny of Copyright?";Who Owns the Words?; Sony's malicious XCP copy-restriction software; "Intellectual Property Run Amok"; US Smithsonian Institution's exclusive deal with Showtime locks out public access; Harvard Professor Harry Lewis on Censorship and the Internet; US Court of Appeals overturns "Business Method" patents;
Organisations Supporting the Liberalisation of IP:
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is a donor-supported organisation devoted to the protection of digital civil liberties (see also their Campain for Audiovisual Free Expression and John Perry Barlow: 1, 2).
La Quadrature du Net is a French advocacy group that promotes the digital rights and freedoms of citizens to circulate knowledge.
Chilling Effects aims to support lawful online activity against the chill of unwarranted legal threats by informing recipients of threatening "cease and desist" letters of their legal rights.
DigitalConsumer is an organisation dedicated to achieving a balance in the area of copyright protection and has proposed a Consumer Technology Bill of Rights.
  The Internet Archive is building a free digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts.
NoSoftwarePatents.com supports the idea that computer programs are a combination of mathematical and verbal expression and therefore deserve the freedom of speech.
The Creative Freedom Foundation advocates on behalf of artists whose creative freedom is affected by major Governmental decisions made in their name, and in the name of protecting creativity. The Foundation represents the views of artists who don't want injustices in Copyright law done in their name, and who want to find better ways to work.
Creative Commons, which has a New Zealand branch, is a non-profit organization that helps people who prefer to share their creative works (and the power to copy, modify, and distribute their works) instead of exercising all of the restrictions of copyright law.
Free speech:
The Global Network Initiative
Google:
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Google vs. govts. concerning privacy and free expression;

- Government requests directed to Google and YouTube;
Free speech at the Center for Democracy & Technology; Bill of Rights Defense Committee, American Civil Liberties Union, Moyers: Journalism Under Fire;
Plagiarism: Since the notion of IP is nonsense, plagiarism should be seen in a different light -- see Jonathan Lethem's "The Ecstasy of Influence";

IP policies at universities:

Check out (1) Intellectual Property Policy at the Washington University in St. Louis and (2) an explanation of the intellectual property policy at the University of Texas.

Universities' "wrong-headed" attempt to cash-in by patenting their research
Copyright and Fair Use at Stanford provides lots of information about the Fair Use Doctrine and copyright law.
Cultural Interactions
Film and Narrative:
  Film narrative: The Film Sufi;
  Films to watch:
- The Presence - a short dramatic film
- The Search for Electromagnetic Induction - a documentary film about the 19th Century search for and discovery of electromagnetic induction
  Film theory: David Bordwell, Seymour Chatman, Edward Branigan;
  Reviews: Strictly Film School; David Denby's The New Disorder; Michael Grost's Classic Film and Television; Senses of Cinema: Bright Lights Film Journal; FilmFanatic.org; Dave Kehr;

Political Narrative. Some essays of topical interest are listed here:

 

 

Liberal Interventionism:
-
- Mamdani's "The New Humanitarian Order" describes how "humanitarian principles" are being invoked to reestablish a colonial bifurcation of the world.
  War:
 
- War stories: The US 'Tiger Force' Massacre in Viet Nam, Tip of the Iceberg, Scalping Party; Wartime Lies; Massacres Go With War;
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War Justification: Just and Unjust War; "Are We in World War IV?"; Antiwar.com; VotersForPeace; Chalmers Johnson on US Military Spending; War remains the option of first resort - not last; Number of deaths in various wars: 1 2, 3; The Disease of Permanent War;

- WWII: How good was the Good War?, The destruction of Dresden and Hiroshima; 55 million deaths in WWII;
 
- Torture: The Truth About Torture; Robert Fisk: Our complicity in torture; Torture fatigue; see also: Human Rights Watch; Amnesty International; Washington Post editorial: Vice President for Torture; Michael Kinsley: Torture for Dummies;
- Nuclear weapons: Ward Wilson on Nuclear Deterrence: 1, 2; John Hersey's account of Hiroshima: 1; Remembering Hiroshima & Nagasaki; Ten Myths about Nuclear Weapons; Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists; The Myths of Hiroshima; Robert S. McNamara: Apocalypse Soon; CONPLAN 8022: 1, 2; Nuclear Threat Initiative: The Greatest Terrorist Threat,
- Germ Warfare: Japanese bio-attacks killed hundreds of thousands of Chinese;
- The threat/likelihood of US military operations in the Middle East: William R. Clark on Petrodollar Warfare and the Iranian Oil Bourse; Petrov on the Iranian Oil Bourse and Empire; Seymour Hersh on US military intentions and operations: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.
- David Swanson: War is a Lie; WAR NO MORE: The Case for Abolition;
- Robert Scheer: The Real Menace;
- Howard Zinn: America's Blinders;
- TomEngelhardt: (1) Empire of Stupidity (2) The Obama Contradiction; (3) The Pentagon as a Global NRA
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Andrew Bacevitch: on the American militaristic shibboleth: "isolationism"; New American Militarism; "Policy 'Intellectuals' Are Enabling Our Never-Ending State of War"

  US Christian religiosity (and its descent towards magic): God, Satan, and the Media, In the Realms of the Unreal; Bill Moyers: the Sport of God and A Time for Heresy (see more of Moyers below); Jimmy Carter: US Christians' cult of death and hatred; The Family -- a Jesus-based theocratic conspiracy; Hillary Clinton's connection with The Family; Killing the Buddha; 46% of Americans Believe in Creationism;
  Islam and the West:
- Islam versus European Modernism. Postmodernists and multiculuralists criticise the uncompromising perspective of "Enlightenment fundamentalists" (see Timothy Garton Ash's Islam in Europe); while defenders of the Enlightenment stand firm on their belief in universal principles of human rights (see Pascal Bruckner's response to Ash and the multiculturalists and Paul Cliteur's Falling Prey to Relativism). Further debate from both sides is included here.
- Philosopher of Islamic Terror, Jonathan Raban on the Greatest Gulf, and Ian Buruma's Revolution from Above, and Origins of Occidentalism
  India and the East:
- Fears for Democracy in India;
- Dilip D'Souza writes about Indian culture and society: 1, 2. See also his blog, "Death Ends Fun".
  The Death Penalty: "Trial by Fire";
 

Education: The mismanagement of universities threatens their future (Thomas Frank);

  Commentators:
- Juan Cole's Informed Comment: covers events in Iraq and the Middle East. See also the War in Context.
- Tom Engelhardt's progressive counterpoint to the mainstream media. See his "Exporting Ruins" in Iraq.
- Bill Moyers on Progressives, Freedom of the Press, Battlefield Earth, The Mugging of the American Dream, Sport of God, and A Time for Heresy.
- Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States. See also 1
- Noam Chomsky, the ultimate, incorruptible political dissident (Noam Chomsky Archive); see his "War Crimes in Iraq", "Why it's over for America", and "Who Owns the World?"
- Jim Spivack (You Heard It First, Next Laugh) - commentary on the foibles of all of us by a man who could always knock down the jump shot from the corner.
  The political drift towards authoritarianism:
- Top Secret America - a Washington Post investigation
- 3 Myths of the Bush-Cheney Administration;
- Conservatives and Neoconservatives;
- NeoCons: Intellectual Foundations;
- Bacevich on 2nd generation neocons;
- McCain and Lieberman's "Enemy Belligerent" Act Could Set U.S. on Path to Military Dictatorship
- Jimmy Carter's This Isn't the Real America;
 

Electronic voting and voter disempowerment: Profesor Steve Freeman's research on the 2004 election; Black Box Voting; Robert F. Kennedy, Jr: Was the 2004 Election Stolen?, Plans to Steal the 2008 Election; The GOP's Cyber Election Hit Squad; Election 2004: The Urban Legend;

Vegetarianism:
  Advantages:
- Physical well-being: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Vegetarians less likely to develop cancer, and read the book, The China Study (see also here) -- this is essential reading.
- Ethical well-being (animals do not deserve to be killed): 1, 2;
- Environmental well-being: 1, 2, 3, 4, UN Report: "FAO estimated that livestock are responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, a bigger share than that of transport. It accounts for nine percent of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions, most of it due to expansion of pastures and arable land for feed crops. It generates even bigger shares of emissions of other gases with greater potential to warm the atmosphere: as much as 37 percent of anthropogenic methane, mostly from enteric fermentation by ruminants, and 65 percent of anthropogenic nitrous oxide, mostly from manure.", also see The Physical Environment section , above;.
- Spiritual well-being: 1, 2, 3,
  Events, Issues & Information:
- Vegetarian restaurants around the world; Belgian city of Ghent goes vegetarian on Thursdays;
- Watch the video: "Meet Your Meat"; other videos: 1, 2, 3, 4,
- Organisations: Compassion Over Killing; People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals; Viva! USA ; Viva! UK;
- "Hard to Swallow" -- B. R. Myers skewers the intellectual and moral hypocrisy of The Omnivore's Dilemma.
- Well-known vegetarians; It takes 2000 gallons of water to make a 1 pound steak;
Philosophy & Religion:
  Philosophy: An Online Resource Guide
  Meta-Encyclopedia of Philosophy; Support the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  Center for Advanced Research in Phenomenology
  Martin Heidegger: Ereignis (has many links);