14.0644 e-bouncer vs e-dictator; a two-edged sword conjecture

From: by way of Willard McCarty (willard@lists.village.Virginia.EDU)
Date: Mon Feb 05 2001 - 15:25:55 EST

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 644.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

       [1] From: Alan Sondheim <sondheim@panix.com> (18)
             Subject: Re: 14.0641 e-bouncer vs e-dictator

       [2] From: "Osher Doctorow" <osher@ix.netcom.com> (55)
             Subject: Civilization as a Two Edged Sword Conjecture -

             Date: Mon, 05 Feb 2001 20:17:26 +0000
             From: Alan Sondheim <sondheim@panix.com>
             Subject: Re: 14.0641 e-bouncer vs e-dictator

    Rather than Dibbell's article, his book My Tiny Life indicates the com-
    plexities of online behavior and politics. But I think the reason that
    flames and so forth have lowered in intensity is based largely on demo-
    graphics and applications.

    The demographics of the Net have changed radically in the last few years;
    it's no longer dominated by young males on college computers. And chat
    applications for example are more protected than open IRC; it's harder to
    span/easer to ban on them.

    Flaming still goes on wildly on IRC and some lists such as 7-11 which is
    organized around net.artists.

    I moderate a number of lists and it's not really a question of filtering
    (although Pine at least in the past two builds has had that) or delete;
    it's the changing quality of life on the screen.


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             Date: Mon, 05 Feb 2001 20:19:21 +0000
             From: "Osher Doctorow" <osher@ix.netcom.com>
             Subject: Civilization as a Two Edged Sword Conjecture - Doctorow

    From: Osher Doctorow, Ph.D. osher@ix.netcom.com, Fri. Feb. 2, 2001, 5:34PM

    I am more in favor of the British and Dutch monarchies than of British and
    Dutch civilization in general, and yet I consider the Cambridge, Oxford, and
    London are the world's three best universities for mathematics and physics
    and that British civilization is often far better than U.S.A. civilization.
    What may explain this is a Two-Edged Sword Conjecture on Civilization, which
    in its current form says that what is noble and ethical and creative and
    inventive about civilization could not occur as easily outside civilization
    (with some exceptions), but that it occurs more as a rebellion against
    civilization from within civilization than as a triumph of civilization or a
    triumph of barbarism against civilization. As evidence, I cite Beethoven
    above all, but also Mozart, Chopin, Nobel laureates Paul Dirac and Steven
    Weinberg, Socrates, Shakespeare, etc. I also cite the enormous plagues and
    syphilis devastations of the middle Ages and Renaissance Europe, the role of
    the Catholic Church in facilitating the Renaissance against the brutality of
    political/social leaders and the stupidity of the "civilized" public, the
    British and French ages of chivalry, etc.

    As for the USA and Germanic civilizations, people like Weinberg and Dirac
    found greater receptivity in remoter universities than in Harvard/MIT and
    the other "Great Names" (this is not to minimize the contributions of
    Eastern USA universities, which are incomparable greater than Far Western
    USA universities usually), while Germanic civilization except for Kepler
    (who was as often outside Germany as inside) came to its
    mathematical/physics maturity far later than Italy, France, Great Britain,
    Netherlands/Holland, etc. Their musical maturity, which was earlier in
    classical and baroque music, was in my opinion and based on a fair amount of
    evidence more of a rebellion against Germanic civilization than a triumph of
    that civilization. Even in Einstein's theory, his Chairman Minkowski
    (Polish) played as important a role as Einstein in facilitating and creating
    the theory, not to mention his borrowing from the British (Fitzgerald), the
    Italians (Levi-Civita and Ricci), the Dutch, etc., who did the mathematical
    pioneering almost to the last step. Except for Erwin Schroedinger, Germanic
    civilization was and has been too narrow-focused and detail oriented and
    precision-oriented rather than global-oriented and big-picture oriented. It
    is something like not seeing the forest for the trees. It is great for
    making big cars and ovens and V2 rockets, but as Hitler's Chief Scientist
    Werner Heisenberg (who did NOT discover quantum theory - Schroedinger and
    Einstein and Max Planck did) found out, in the long run big pictures and
    global orientation especially in logic and reality often win.

    This does not mean that the older the civilization, the worse it is. If all
    else were constant, then the older the university, the better it is - and
    this is why British universities are so far superior to eastern USA
    universities and the latter are so far superior to far western USA
    universities many of which were founded in the 20th century. But
    civilization takes ape-like creatures from the Planet of the Apes and
    transfers them to a Shakespear-like stage where they are constrained from
    jumping on each other by more rules and roles and education and training,
    but where most of them still resemble apes in their behavior. A few
    Creative Geniuses rebel against this, but they are far more common than one
    in a million - I think that every person has the potential to touch the
    receiving end of the sword and survive, to be burned in fire and be nailed
    to the cross or star or crescent and rise again. I hope that humanist and
    scientist computing will provide us with the opportunity to feel more than
    to be felt, to see more than be seen, to search more than to be sought, and
    to beat our swords into plowshares.

    Osher Doctorow

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