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3. Dezember 2016

I Want an Internet of Humans

I'm going through some difficult times right now, for various reasons I'm not going into here. It's harder than usual to hold onto my hopes and dreams and the optimism for what's to come that fuels my life and powers me with energy. Unfortunately, there's also not a lot of support for those things in the world around me right now. Be it projects that I shared a vision with being shut down, be it hateful statements coming from and being thrown at a president elect in the US, politicians in many other countries, including e.g. the presidential candidates right here in Austria, or even organizations and members of communities I'm part of. It looks like the world is going through difficult times, and having an issue with holding on to hopes, dreams, and optimism. And it feels like even those that usually are beacons of light and preach hope are falling into the trap of preaching the fear of darkness - and as soon as fear enters our minds, it's starting a vicious cycle.

Some awesome person or group of people wrote a great dialog into Star Wars Episode I, peaking in Yoda's "Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering." - And so true this is. Think about it.

People fear about securing their well-being, about being able to live the life they find worth living (including their jobs(, and about knowing what to expect of today and tomorrow. When this fear is nurtured, it grows, leads to anger about anything that seems to threaten it. They react hatefully to anyone just seeming to support those perceived threats. And those targeted by that hate hurt and suffer, start to fear the "haters", and go through the cycle from the other side. And and in that climate, the basic human uneasy feeling of "life for me is mostly OK, so any change and anything different is something to fear" falls onto fertile ground and grows into massive metathesiophobia (fear of change) and things like racism, homophobia, xenophobia, hate of other religions, and all kinds of other demons rise up.

Those are all deeply rooted in sincere, common human emotions (maybe even instincts) that we can live with, overcome and even turn around into e.g. embracing infinite diversity in infinite combinations like e.g. Star Trek, or we can go and shove them away into a corner of our existence, not decomposing them at their basic stage, and letting them grow until they are large enough that they drive our thinking, our personality - and make us easy to influence by people talking to them. And that works well both for the fears that e.g. some politicians spread and play with and the same for the fears of their opponents. Even the fear of hate and fear taking over is not excluded from this - on the contrary, it can fire up otherwise loving humans into going fully against what the actually want to be.

That said, when a human stands across another human and looks in his or her face, looks into their eyes, as long as we still realize there is a feeling, caring other person on the receiving end of whatever we communicate, it's often harder to start into this circle - if we are already deep into the fear and hate, and in some other circumstances this may not be always true, but in a lot of cases it is.

On the Internet, not so much. We interact with and through a machine, see an "account" on the other end, remove all the context of what was said before and after, of the tone of voice and body language, of what surroundings others are in, we reduce to a few words that are convenient to type or what the communication system limits us to - and we go for whatever gives us the most attention. Because we don't actually feel like we interact with other real humans, it's mostly about what we get out of it. A lot of likes, reshares, replies, interactions. It helps that the services we use maximize whatever their KPI are and not optimize for what people actually want - after all, they want to earn money and that means having a lot of activity, and making people happy is not an actual goal, at best a wishful side effect.

We need to change that. We need to make social media actually social again (this talk by Chris Heilmann is really worth watching). We need to spread love ("make Trek, not Wars" in a tounge-in-cheek kind of way, no meaning negativity towards any franchise, but thinking about meanings and how we can make things better for our neighbors, our community, our world), not even hate the fear or fear the hate (which leads back into the circle), but analyze it, take it seriously and break it down. If we understand it, know how to deal with it, but not let it overcome us, fear can even be healthy - as another great screenwriter put it "Fear only exists for one purpose: To be conquered". That is where we need to get ourselves, and need to help those other humans end up that spread hate and unreflected fear - or act out of that. Not by hating them back, but by trying to understand and help them.

We need to see the people, the humans, behind what we read on the Internet (I deeply recommend for you to watch this very recent talk by Erika Baker as well). I don't see it as a "Crusade against Internet hate" as mentioned in the end of that talk, but more as a "Rally for Internet love" (unfortunately, some people would ridicule that wording but I see it as the love of humanity, the love for the human being inside each and everyone of us). I'm always finding it mind-blowing that every single person I see around me, that reads this, that uses some software I helped with, and every single other person on this planet (or in its orbit, there are none out further at this time as far as I know), is a fully, thinking, feeling, caring human being. Every one of those is different, every one of those has their own thoughts and fears that need to be addressed and that we need to address. And every one of those wants to be loved. And they should be. No matter who they voted for. No matter if they are a president elect or a losing candidate. We don't need to agree with everything they are saying. But their fears should be addressed and conquered. And yes, they should be loved. Their differences should be celebrated and their commonalities embraced at the same time. Yes, that's possible, think about it. Again, see the philosophy of infinite diversity in infinite combinations.

I want an Internet that connects those humans, brings them closer together, makes them understand each other more, makes them love each other's humanity. I don't care how many "things" we connect to the Internet, I care that the needs and feelings of humans and their individual and shared lives improve. I care that their devices and gadgets are their own, help their individuality, and help them embrace other humans (not treat them as accounts and heaps to data to be analyzed and sold stuff to). I want everyone to see that everyone else is (just) human, and spread love to or at least embrace them as humans. Then the world, the humans in it, and myself, can make it out of the difficult times and live long and prosper in the future.

I want an Internet of humans.
We all, me, you can start creating that in how we interact with each other on social networks and other places on the web and even in the real world, and we can build it into whatever work we are doing.

I want an Internet of humans.
Can, will, you help?

Von KaiRo, um 04:13 | Tags: fear, hate, humanity, IDIC, Internet, love, Mozilla | 1 Kommentar | TrackBack: 0

8. September 2016

IDIC: Embrace Differences

The philosophy of IDIC or Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations has kept my mind going around quite much recently.

Well, if we want to go by the book, IDIC is actually seen as the basis of a philosophy, specifically that of Star Trek's Vulcan species, it's "native language" name is Kol-Ut-Shan, and it's symbolized by that really nice-looking jewel that has a triangle/pyramid with a marked point/ball on top and a circle around it (see image). That said, it ends up culminating Gene Roddenberry's philosophy behind a lot of what Star Trek depicts, and the philosophy that even 50 years (to this exact day) after the show first aired is still largely shared by the fans of the franchise (including myself).

What IDIC centers around is to increase and heavily embrace diversity in all things - and that can be applied to and give thought inspiration to many things.
Everything of course starts with Gene's vision of a lead crew as diverse as the mid-1960s would allow it, a United Federation of Planets that is a utopian in-between of UN and US in a galactic dimension, to other figures than white mean being in leadership positions in various incarnations of the franchise, and preserving diversity of life forms beyond the two-legged variety in various stories as well (if you like deeply digging into messages and philosophy of Star Trek episodes, the Mission Log Podcast may be something for you).
I like looking beyond Star Trek when it comes to this philosophy though. Take for example the genomes of life forms we know (in reality, on this planet) - no two life forms have the exact same genes, not even twins. Nature shows that "infinite" diversity (created from seemingly infinite combinations of very few elements) not because it's fun, or because our design sucks, or it's Vulcan, of course. It gives life an ingenious robustness by making it hard for attacks to affect large amounts of different individuals and species, it makes life forms complement each other to cover different environments, and adaptive to react to different circumstances.
And from all I hear from studies and see in practice, when we put together diverse groups of people, they usually excel in creativity and putting up different ideas, they are harder to control by a single bad influence, they develop more respect for other humans, higher sensitivity towards the needs of other people, deeper understanding of and respect for different persons - at least in comparison to many groups of people very similar to each other. Fun fact on the side, the crowd I see at Star Trek conventions is probably one of the most diverse group of "geeks" you can find (across gender, race, age, profession, and other criteria) - thanks to the role models and the philosophy put front and center in that franchise. That kind of diversity is something I want to see in many more areas of my life and around me. The more we get different people to sit down or stand together, the more we create and show role models of diversity enriching life, the more we get people to respect other people, no matter who they are, and the more we create a better world - and universe.

Now, what about things other than life forms? What for example about computer systems? About software?
There's a lot of people advocating for hardware, operating systems, software packages that are exactly the same for everyone, so it's easy to verify that they haven't been modified unduly, and that software updates are easier to apply. And that surely has merit in a number of dimensions, and reproducible builds, Flatpak and Snap, even reducing "fingerprintability" on the Web and quite a few other mechanisms exist to reduce differences between our systems.
But then, we as users of those computers and that software are all different. We want our systems to be personalized and therefore to be different from anyone else's system. We install different add-ons into our Firefox, different apps or applications on our computers and smartphones, log into different accounts on different websites, we want our system to be uniquely ours, or at least feel like it is that. So at some level, we as users want "infinite" diversity of computers. Different people may even want different screen numbers and sizes, have different focus on what is important for them that their computer does, desire different set-ups of the hardware on their home and/or work desks. And there are security reasons to put randomization (like ASLR and other RoP defense mechanisms) into our computer (runtime) setups in some cases. Would a higher degree of diversity on software make it harder for attacks to break a large amount of systems? Maybe, I don't know which benefits outweigh the others there.

It's clear that's a principle which works pretty decently in nature at a low level, and for groups of people at a high level, and we definitely should embrace it there. At which layers of our software and hardware it's useful or detrimental is not always entirely clear, but it has to work in personalizing our computer systems to our requirements, desires and wishes as we are all different and that diversity needs to end up being reflected so we can use its strength to work together and improve this world.

Thanks to Gene Roddenberry and Star Trek in general for giving me something interesting to think about - and Happy 50th Birthday Star Trek!

Von KaiRo, um 23:52 | Tags: IDIC, Mozilla, Star Trek | keine Kommentare | TrackBack: 0

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