Thought Overflow…Golda’s BlogIf memes are like genes, then having a conversation in which you share ideas and come up with new ones is like…?


Archive for February, 2011

0 How do we help?

Golda to RandomWrites  

On a more serious note, what should us comfortable Western folks do to support democracy protesters risking their lives to eliminate dangerous dictators? I don’t really know. Its their revolution, not ours, but it seems like we should somehow offer non-directing friendship or support.

We can ‘friend’ their sites on Facebook and make links to their pages, and attend virtual protests. We can sign the page on Access now asking Facebook to hide protesters’ identities to protect their lives. Find a way to get funds to Abdul (no last name) to get medical aid to injured protesters. More ideas here.

But long term, democracy means building up a whole new culture. For a while I’ve thought that sending books is a very simple and powerful thing. Books are deeper than fragments of text on the web, and many accounts of individuals breaking away from controlling mentalities start with books (Infidel, for one). I would like to see a site that facilitates individuals sending books to other individuals, without going thru a central organization.

Did Wikileaks trigger events in Tunisia? Not to devalue the efforts of the Tunisian opposition, street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi’s sacrifice or in any way minimize the real problems with the government; just the opposite. But it could be that Wikileaks publishing a ‘truth that everyone knows’, was just the consciousness-raising event that needed to happen to get to critical mass.

I think that Vaclav Havel wrote about this, that publishing something that everyone knows, does change things. It makes it so everyone knows that everyone knows.

There is even a mathematical proof that such an event can trigger a chain reaction. Its a silly old sexist problem, but this is how I was taught it: on an island, there is a tribe where everyone is married, everyone cheats, and no one has ever been is caught; but if anyone is caught the wife will be tied to the Hoorah tree in the middle of the island for the night. One day, the visiting minister, who was the only unmarried person on the island, announces “there is cheating going on” and leaves. Now, since everyone is cheating, everyone already knew this. Yet on an island of N couples, you can prove by induction that N days after the minister leaves every cheater will be caught. (ok, ok, just the could change the story to make it fairer if you like).

Start with the case of two couples, and only one cheating. The man who is not cheating thinks, “well, its not me, so it must be my wife with him”, and right away calls her out. Now if this does not happen that night, the next day both men think – “hm, if he wasn’t cheating, he would have known I was. So he must be cheating too.” So in the case of both couples cheating, both are caught on the second day, and so on.

How much of our behaviour is determined by what we think everyone else is thinking?

Back to reality – here’s hoping we get real democracy in Egypt and across the middle east!

“Citizenship isn’t just the possession of rights and responsibilities; it’s a state of mind.” –Jess Zimbabwe, speaking at the 2010 Open Cities conference.

It’s your city. Have at it.

The Open Cities movement wants citizens to be more engaged with their city government, planning and development. Open information and modern technology promises to make city services more efficient and responsive, while giving city dwellers new avenues to provide feedback and guidance to decision makers. As a grassroots movement no single organization is ‘in charge’, but Code for America has put together some bright folks to tackle urban issues. Andrew Greenhill, chief of staff for mayor Walkup, is on the board of Code for America and had been wanting to do some projects here in Tucson, to open up city data and make it more accessible.
read more…how to fix a pothole!