Twofish's Blog

July 20, 2006

The stakes are high, but so are the rewards

Filed under: massachusetts institute of technology, wikipedia — twofish @ 10:09 pm

The reason this all is important to wikipedia is that what I’m trying to do is to communicate, and communication is amazingly subtle and difficult.  I’m trying to learn how to communicate a subtle and complex feeling.  A difficult idea and concept.  All of the hardware is there, but for there to be any important to come out, there must be a community, and communities are based on transmitting feelings and emotions and very complex information.

The problem with the way things are communicated now is that the only thing that gets across are simple ideas.  “Sound bites.”   “Political ads.”  “Jerry Springer.”  “Sex.”  The reason it is very simple to transmit sex over the internet, and hard to transmit love is that sex is simple.  It is a simple feeling.  It is a simple act.  Love is complex.  It has many shades and colors.  No two types of love are exactly the same, and transmitting all of the very subtle and differing variations.  Every human being has a father and mother.  No human being has exactly the same relationship with their parents.

The relevance to distance education and wikipedia is that education involves transmitting some very, very complex and subtle ideas, and communicating ideas takes time.  If I could describe what I felt about my father or mother, or wife, or kids in one sentence.  I would.  I can’t.  In order to communicate that I need to describe some very complex thoughts and ideas.

And the stakes of getting it wrong are enormous….

I am very careful about what I am saying and what I say because if I say the wrong thing, the consequences could be enormous.  I could wreck my relationships.  I could wreck someone else’s relationships.  People could hate me.  People could be angry at me.  I could hurt some one, and by hurt I don’t mean “rejection letter” pseudo-hurt.  I mean hurt that would drive some to die.
Most people react by not saying anything but that is bad because  it means that the internet gets dominated by bullies and meaningless statements, and there is not the ability to transmit really complex subtle sensitive information that define communities.

And this gets to the bargain I made with God.

When something bad happens, you start negotiating with God.  Certain things become impossible, but certain things are still possible.  I can’t bring my parents back to life, but I can still be something resembling an astrophysics professor.

Death and the past are absolutes, they cannot be changed.  Human institutions are malleable.  No matter how solid, unmoving, powerful, or inflexible a human institution appears, they can be altered.  God says my parents are dead.  I can’t change that.  An interview board rejects my application for a post-doc.  I have options.  I can force them to change, create an alternative power structure, go around, through, and under them.

And to get where I want to go, I have to create some alternative academic institutions and communities, and that means figuring how to transmit complex information, such as love.

It’s amazing how little reality there is in the world.  You take your reality television show


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