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April 07, 2007

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Anti Meme

Child, how can you see with all that light?

you think, therefore you blog.

Phil

Speaking of shared perceptions, common sense, and the need for rallying points, you might find this theoretical work interesting, Albert. I keep it by my desk and think of it often. Now available online.

http://www.chwe.net/michael/r.pdf

Sally Wilde

I'm pink therefore I'm Spam.

Thanks for sharing the link, Phil. It's an interesting set of problems Chwe addresses, and they're certainly relevant to our current discussions. Have you had a chance to read his book?

We have a small, bearded band of bloggers who've just landed on the Playa las Coloradas and are debarking from the Granma, ducking Batista's bullets as they do. Should we all surprise the despot's men by foolishly running for the Sierra Maestra, or should we do the sensible thing and give ourselves up?

P.S. Chwe's cases remind me of work that others (e.g., Searle) have done on speech acts and pragmatics in language. You make an utterance. In some cases, I understand that utterance because I'm able to develop a (true) hypothesis not just of what you believe, but of what you believe I believe. There are cases, as I recall, in which my correctly interpreting your utterance depends on my constructing a correct theory of what you believe I believe you believe. (I think it's theoretically possible to construct even more complicated cases.)

Phil

The best game theoretical version of this is a real story, from Heinrich Boll. He grew up in Germany during the rise of the Nazis. His neighborhood tipping point came when the Nazis had lost an election, with something like 30% of the vote. Yet the brownshirts roved uncontested. An activist in Boll's school stood against them. The brownshirts beheaded the activist in a public square visible from the windows of the apartment houses. All could see that no one did anything. From there on, the Nazis rose fast and uncontested. Each had learned that it was hopeless to resist. Yet, had each acted, it would not have been hard to turn the tide.

That is a coordination problem. Spectacles are staged to help us see what is necessary, what is hopeless. That becomes our common sense, our conventions, our shared understanding. But it the trigger moment is staged.

Now that we all see in our blogs that the others see, what will be the defining moment, the defining event?

How can that even be staged?

Sally Wilde

Nazis. I don’t know. When I think of the current state of philanthropy, I don’t think Nazis. I’m reminded much more of these lines from Zarathustra (I know I'm going to get hell from J. Alva for this):

Not your sin – your modesty cries out to high heaven, your stinginess even in sinning cries out to high heaven!

Where is the lightning that would lick you with its tongue? Where is the madness with which you should be inoculated?

If I were to be “coordinated” toward anything, it would be the need for philanthropy to take far greater risks, to be substantially less modest in its efforts to make a better world for all.

What do we have or represent as bloggers? Several things: (1) a network of networks, of the kind you frequently mention; (2) diverse constituents speaking a little more freely than they might in the bell jar of an officially sanctioned conference; (3) anonymous contributors who speak their minds freely; (4) a rich, ongoing exchange of ideas that's rare in the field (where else does this happen in philanthropy?); (5) numbers (WCT’s are not significant, but yours are, I believe); and (6) some ability to marshal resources (time, capital, attention).

What kind of soup would you make with these ingredients?

Does the community of bloggers, or a large enough subset of it, generally agree about anything? The need for deeper, more democratic deliberation on issues that affect the field perhaps?

Phil

I feel it is not my soup. I am just a small ingredient, or maybe guy with a spoon who stirs and stirs. "Social capital" - where else would I have met a real life Countess than here among your friends, Salley, at WCT?

Sally Wilde

I'll grab a spoon. Pass the oyster crackers, please.

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