Friday, October 27, 2006


Extropy/syntropy/negentropy are three terms that mean essentially the same thing: the opposite of entropy. Entropy is the running down of systems due to loss of heat and other energy. Spin a coin on a table top and watch how it goes slower and slower until it finally falls flat. Release a weight on a string tied to a fixed point, and watch as over time the pendulum motion ceases. Light a candle and wait until it has burned off all the wax and fizzles out. In all of these cases, energy is lost from the system and the system itself finally breaks down. A sad state of affairs, and one of those tendencies of matter and energy. The universe itself is supposedly not immune to this.

Fortunately for us, there are some spots of the universe where energy is being added into a system. When that coin is spinning on the table, see if you can't deftly give it a little push and make it stay up longer. Nudge that weight on the string and keep the oscillating motion going. Add more wax to the candle to keep it lit. The Earth as a system receives more energy than it emits. It is a little pocket of negentropy.

Syntropy and entropy are words we use to describe what happens. They do not change reality in any way. But the concepts themselves are very compelling. I have often wondered if there was some universal morality that would apply in almost all cases. Good and evil, heaven and hell, right or wrong don't amount to much in terms of dualities. They are subjective and artificial. Entropy and syntropy are not. They are real phenomenon with measureable effects. In a strange way, they can also function as morality.

When I was younger, I thought it was fun to break extra bricks and path stones we had lying around in the backyard. My father got mad at me and asked me "Why do you feel the need to destroy things?" It was then that I realized it is easier to destroy something than it is to create. That is, it would take far less energy to destroy something compared to what it took to make it. Destruction is easy. Creation is hard. We hate war and violence because it is destruction; we enjoy art because it is creation. We attach many positive connotations with building and growing and improving, and many negative connotations with decay and instability and fatigue. It seems there is something built into us that makes us see creation as beautiful and desireable, and destruction as being ugly and repulsive.

In our actions and deeds, entropy and syntropy can be moral compasses. An act which leads to death and destruction is to be avoided; a deed which leads to expansion and development is to be preferred. I realize these are broad concepts, and some of them can be counter to the premise, or contradictory to nature. Constructing a large parkinglot over what was once old growth forest is not necessarily a desired outcome (although, one could argue that more energy went into making those trees than into cutting them down and laying pavement, so this act was a net loss of energy). Also, if we did not engage in some sort of destruction of other organisms, we would starve and fizzle out much like that candle. This can be viewed differently: we need to survive at the expense of other systems, but the kind of systems we consume can mean the difference between net gain and net loss of energy (see: Vegetarianism). The point is that, in a broad sense, what we do can be judged by how much we contribute compared to how much we take. Give more than you take. If you don't like giving, take less until what you are giving is adding energy to the system.

Extropy has a slightly different meaning than the other two, more synonymous terms. It is defined as the extent of a living or organizational system's intelligence, functional order, vitality, energy, life, experience, and capacity and drive for improvement and growth. That last item in that definition offers us something that no other duality morality could ever provide: a goal. Right and good are certainly considered goals, but they are not defined, and we have no objective way to measure our progress. Heaven as a concept is almost entirely meaningless. With extropy we have a fixed star, a set point, a destination, a purpose - to increase extropy. We can measure it, we can see it unfolding before our eyes. We can apply to ourselves as individuals, or to society, or any other system.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Rose AvgMandelv1KECv1 (kec.cfm)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Centralized Versus Decentralized

Distributive systems can be either centralized or decentralized. I will list some examples:

1. Birds don't have lungs, they have hollow tubes running throughout their frames. Decentralized oxygen distribution.


Land-based creatures, mammals included, have lungs, which their bodies use to extract the oxygen needed, which is then distributed by the heart.

2. Mass transit moves many monkeys in one large metal box.


Personal metal boxes that move only a few monkeys.

3. Mating migrations bring many animals of a species together to trade genes.


Individual animals form pairs to trade genes.

4. One central main supercomputer processes information.


Several not-quite-so-powerful computers linked together process information. (distributive computing)

5. Monarchy, concentration of executive power in the hands of a single person.


Anarchy, power in the hands of a great many people.

What are the advantages and disadvantages to each in each example? That depends heavily on the system in question.

1. Birds need to be very light to fly; having hollow tubes satisfies this requirement and grants them oxygen where and when they need it. (Birds bob their heads when they walk so they can breathe.) But being hollow inside makes the birds fragile. Whereas with the land-based, lung-having critters, the need for robust bones far outweighs the benefit of having oxygen coursing throughout our bodies. Also, oxygen can be spread more effectively (though at greater energy cost) through capillaries.

2. Again, this one is a matter of energy usage and convenience. It is convenient to own a car and drive it to where you need to go. The costs involved for this convenience go beyond just what you pay. The roads have to be designed, built, and maintained. This will alter the shape of the city or landscape; will change how we move ourselves and the goods we need. Mass transit works best in close-knit pedestrian-friendly cities. We lose the convenience of deciding when and how we get to our destinations, but we expend far less energy per person doing so, and can keep the air and the city relatively clean and organized.

3. The migratory animals will obviously expend more energy getting to the central location, but they will have a wider selection upon arriving. This method is good for far-ranging species like sea or air creatures, where the chances of two of them meeting in the open is very small.

4. The supercomputer can be a powerhouse of a machine and crunch numbers faster than any of the others. It doesn't have to mess with networks and the latency such things entail. But there is hidden computing power in networks that, though it may not surpass the sheer processing power of the supercomputer, offers benefits unique to such an arrangement, like redundancy.

5. Monarchs can be intelligent, wise, benevolent, progressive, and peaceful. They can also be quite the opposite. They can be decisive and clever leaders or malicious, ineffective creeps. The advantages of a monarchy lies in the executive power. Dissenting opinions are ignored, thus speeding any operation (for better or worse). Of course, the obvious problem with a monarchy is that there are few checks on their power. Things can get out of hand with irresponsible leaders. Placing power in the hands of many people can bog down operations, even to a standstill. Endless committees and bureacratic red tape hinder even the simplest of endeavours. But the idea of democracy is at the very heart of our ideals. We each desire liberty and reject external control over our lives. Hair-pulling in its complexity.

It's clear from the examples and their analyses that there is no single answer that applies to all situations. Every situation is unique and requires a delicate balance of each. Also, suppose the parameters of certain situations change. Suppose automobiles use renewable, non-polluting energy, or that the mob of citizens consists of violent idiots. We would probably change our choices to reflect the new conditions.

There is this idea in economics that suggests that firms get larger and larger because larger firms are more efficient than smaller firms. This is true to extent, in that a larger firm has more backup capital to weather rocky economic fluctuations. A larger firm will command the labour of more people than a smaller firm, churns out a larger profit (usually), and just has more productive capacity. If we took this idea and applied it to this discussion, we could conclude that it is good to have a highly centralized economic system, perhaps whole product lines dominated by a few corporations. Paper Products Firm and Water Related Services and United Food Suppliers, or maybe even something like what supposedly happened in the USSR, state control of industry. So it may be that our desire for and love of democracy is undermined by our desire for efficient economic entities, a not-so-happy medium being the outcome.

My personal take on this, based on what I have seen at living and grocery coops, is that there is a limit to how large an institution can get and still maintain the ideals of democracy and remain efficient. I would surmise that the local foods I buy at the food coop saves a lot of energy in transportation and importation costs. Which suggests that some arrangements are possible where there is a healthy dose of decentralized power management and centralized capital to maintain efficiency and last any downturn in the economy.

I don't really know where I was going with all of this, it's just something I like to think about from time to time. I felt I had to organize my thoughts a bit more on this blog. It's fun to compare different systems using these criteria.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Pucker

You probably know someone who has it. They could be a relative or friend of yours. You feel sorry for them, and wish them well, but can't help but feel a little unnerved. It's like that gaping wound or disturbing deformity on someone that piques your curiosity, but you know it would be rude to ask.

Oh, those pursed lips! Like someone taking a drag on a damp cigarette. Face curled in bitterness and mistrust. You have to wonder what kind of life experiences would lead someone to give themselves such wrinkle lines. Maybe if they told you, you could understand and not hold it against them. Very rarely do they do this, though. It's part of the mistrust, see. If they told you, you would turn right around and use it against them. It's happened before.

Sometimes it's religious in nature. God-fearing people love to have the pucker. What a waste of time to suppose that all religions have equal merit. The hard truth of the matter is that there is only one God, he is on your side, all the others are wrong, and you are justified in any and all uses of violence to destroy the unbelievers. Turn on the AM radio and listen to the preacher tell it how it is. Watch the evangelical shows early in the morning to get your holy boost. God knows you're listening and heeding his words when your face is scrunched up like you just ate a bunch of lemons. Curl those lips, raise your head and wiggle it a little for that extra-righteous touch.

Other times it's the selfishness. When you were young, you had a few moments where you actually felt bad for the person you just shoved to the ground. To stifle the remorse and the regret at having hurt them and stolen their toy, you learn to pucker your lips so no other recognizable emotions show. What a disgusting thought you had when you were younger, thinking that you could get along with the other children. After so many years of hiding your (unnatural) concern for others, your face is permanently held in this sour configuration. You're bound to have lots of friends with a perpetual expression like that.

Can't forget the conservative pucker. This happy face is the result of swallowing the vile truth of the establishment. If it wasn't obvious to you before, it should be now: the point of existence is to be in competition with everything and everyone around you. You vs. the mailman, you vs. the trees, you vs. the sky, etc. The only way to win is to destroy the other and be the last one standing. Oh, that grim face of determination! That unpretentious pucker! The pucker of truth and resolve! It's the face of a man on a mission, and that mission is domination. You can't hope to win if you don't have the right face for it.

But why a pucker? Why not just an evil smile?

Because when we develop in the womb, our anus and mouth are one and the same sphincter. We grow like a donut, filling in the space between our input and output puckers with all the processing equipment. It is a common practice amongst humans to hide the output hole with clothing. The Pucker is a clever way to let everyone know what their assholes look like.

Did I mention they all have bugs up their asses?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The World Can't Wait... (to see me!)

If you haven't seen it yet, check out the 10 min video in the link below.

So I went to the protest in Austin. The rally was to begin on the capitol grounds and then march down the main street of downtown - Congress Ave.

The crowd started off small.

More and more people trickled in.

Soon the crowd began to thicken. The goons were out and about a little; there was one instance where they had a list and were scanning the crowd, but nothing serious went down. Patchouli is a very popular hippie scent. There were a lot of old people, 50+, that probably marched in the Vietnam protests.

The crowd chanted "One family, one heart, one spirit, one start!" It didn't catch on and I think people were ready for the politically-charged lyrics of the band "Funk Shui". The lyrics were pertinent and well-delivered. If only I had written them down...

The banner to be carried down the street:

Some signs (I hope you can read them):

And the path the march took (I left before the march):

There were some injured vets - one guy had a missing leg - a poignant reminder of the consequences of this illegal war.

I also grabbed some pics of the rest of the capitol. This caused a stir a while back:

I noticed that the woman on top of the capitol building is wielding a sword:

Only in Texas.

You have probably wondered what I look like. Well, here is a picture of me later that day working on an unrelated art project with a friend:

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Stag Hunt

A long time ago in the plains and forests of Africa, there was a group of hunter-gatherers preparing for an afternoon hunt. Four men were chosen to seek a mighty stag that would feed the entire group. Young-One, the small boy, would not be of much help. Wise-Man was too old and feeble to attend. Sha-ring, Iz, Ca-ring, and Jerk gathered their gear and set out on the plains in search of food.

Hours of walking led them to a grove of trees. Fresh tracks suggested a large stag was in the area. The four men split up and spread out around the trees, hoping to cover more ground. Jerk is carefully avoiding noisily breaking a branch when he notices a hare hidden in some tall grass. His foot is suspended over the ground, in mid-step, as he concludes in a heartbeat that he can catch this hare, sneak away, cook and eat it all before they were all to return to the rest of the group. Jerk does not actively wish anyone ill. He sees only that he can feed himself and thus goes after the hare. Iz, Ca-ring, and Sha-ring, without the aid of Jerk, were not able to kill the stag. They were to return to camp empty-handed (Jerk straggling in), in which case the delicious meal gathered and prepared by those remaining at camp would have to suffice for now.

Ca-ring, Iz, and Sha-ring asked Jerk where he was when they were chasing the stag. They were concerned for him, thinking he hurt himself or got lost. Jerk replied with hare on his breath that his bowstring broke and he had to spend time to repair it. The three realized that Jerk was lying - he was equipped with a spear, not a bow. And despite his best efforts to hide it, Jerk's spear was flecked with fresh blood.

Jerk killed and ate a hare because he could, but Young-One and Wise-Man could not. Ca-ring, Iz, Sha-ring and Jerk were to provide them with sustenance, as Wise-Man had once done for them, and how Young-One would do for them one day. Jerk could not comprehend this. He was incapable of understanding the wider ramifications of his choices.

The next week, the four men were to go hunting again. They really needed the help of Jerk, as Wise-Man had been invaded by evil spirits and needed a hearty meal to drive them out. Ca-ring and Sha-ring split off into a pair and sought an antelope. Jerk and Iz went out in search of herbs and medicine, although Iz' main task was to keep an eye on Jerk. Iz and Jerk walked separate ways around a hill that was covered in the herb they needed. Iz gathered several pouches-full of the leaves. Jerk, out of sight of Iz, gathered only enough for himself and no one else, lest he tire himself with the weight of a few more leaves. The four men returned home with an antelope that Ca-ring and Sha-ring managed to kill.

The days pass and Jerk and a few others catch the evil spirits that had once invaded Wise-Man. Wise-Man, in his clever wiliness, had banished the spirits with chants and potions. Ca-ring, Sha-ring and Iz went hunting and successfully killed a small stag. When they returned to camp, they divvied out the meat to the others in the group. Everyone in the group was grateful and showered the three with high praise. Wise-Man, sated, tended to those with evil spirits by chanting beside them and offering them special potions he prepared with the leaves Iz provided. The delicious, hearty food and careful treatment banished the evil spirits from those who had them.

Jerk, however, did not receive treatment or food. The others ignored him, their eyes passing over where he was, curled up on the ground. Jerk could not understand this. He never once acted acted in violence against his peers. He did not send curses or ill feelings towards others. He hardly ever thought of them at all. When he was hungry, he ate; when he was tired, he slept; when he needed medicine, he gathered it. His was a simple existence, centered only on his (and only his) immediate concerns. In a phlegm-ridden and sorrowful voice, Jerk leaned up weakly and asked, "Why did I not receive a share of the food and medicine?"

Wise-Man replied, "When you do not include others when considering the consequences of your actions, they tend to forget you when they consider the consequences of their actions."

Sunday, October 01, 2006

KPK Don Quixley

Informal Educators

I just read about Antonio Gramsci and a brief overview of his ideas. They have to do with how people comprehend the relationships between the rulers and the ruled:

"Overcoming popular consensus, however, is not easy. Ideological hegemony meant that the majority of the population accepted what was happening in society as ‘common sense’ or as ‘the only way of running society’. There may have been complaints about the way things were run and people looked for improvements or reforms but the basic beliefs and value system underpinning society were seen as either neutral or of general applicability in relation to the class structure of society. Marxists would have seen people constantly asking for a bigger slice of the cake when the real issue was ownership of the bakery."

The informal educator is someone who spreads the ideas and connotations of Marxism, creating a counter-hegemony to the current ruler-supporting ideological hegemony. The term "slave mentality" wasn't explicitly used, but it does come to mind when we see people happily defer control of their lives to someone else.

It is a short article, and worth a quick read.