Douglas R. Hofstadter “analogy as the lifeblood, so to speak, of human thinking”

Douglas R. Hofstadter: Analogy as the Core of Cognition:

My point is simple: we are prepared to see, and we see easily, things for which our language and culture hand us ready-made labels. When those labels are lacking, even though the phenomena may be all around us, we may quite easily fail to see them at all. The perceptual attractors that we each possess (some coming from without, some coming from within, some on the scale of mere words, some on a much grander scale) are the filters through which we scan and sort reality, and thereby they determine what we perceive on high and low levels.

Two from the Boston Globe on the Need for Better Filters

Boston Globe: Joe Keohane: Imaginary fiends: In 2009, crime went down. In fact it’s been going down for a decade. But more and more Americans believe it’s getting worse. Why do we refuse to believe the good news?

Boston Globe: Easy = True: How ‘cognitive fluency’ shapes what we believe, how we invest, and who will become a supermodel

Shirky confirms Shenk

Clay Shirky, in a recent talk at Web 2.0 Expo New York, challenged us to stop talking about information overload as an excuse, recognize it as a fact (one that’s existed for a long time and will not diminish in the future), and to work on building better filters.

Watch Clay Shirky on information overload versus filter failure:

Titles like the Boing Boing one are kinda unfortunate because they frame Shirky’s view to be one that would be in opposition to lets say, David Shenk’s from his book “Data Smog”.

Far from it.

David Shenk attempted to identify the information landscape we are living in now way back in 1997. In a 2007 piece in Slate he took a critical look back.

As with any look forward, the book wildly missed the mark with some of its more grim predictions, but in many ways still has much to offer and think about.

In particular, towards the end of the book Shenk proposed a personal call to action for building better filters (learning to be our own for example) and to be better information producing citizens (being our own editors). Big foreshadowing of Shirky’s talk there.

Most reviews of the book focussed on Shenk’s definition of the problem and pooh-poohed his suggestions. So here we are, many years down the line, and most of the focus is *still* grousing about ‘information overload’.

Clay Shirky’s point is its high time to stop doing that and get busy building the tools, protocols, customs and businesses that will help us not only deal with it, but thrive from it.

Was the call to Conan’s defense against Leno a Gen-X and Gen-Y cry against Baby Boomer entrenchment?

When you get older, these kinds of reflections start to seem all the more uncomfortable don’t they? That makes them all the better to consider and think about. “It just hit me: Leno vs. Conan perfectly embodies the struggle in America between the greedy, selfish Baby Boomers who refuse to go away, and its youth”

In the comments someone posted a monologue from Craig Ferguson that was worth a listen:

Well this explains why ‘Top 10’ stories are so popular

Spiegel: SPIEGEL Interview with Umberto Eco: ‘We Like Lists Because We Don’t Want to Die’:

The list is the origin of culture. It’s part of the history of art and literature. What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible. It also wants to create order — not always, but often. And how, as a human being, does one face infinity? How does one attempt to grasp the incomprehensible? Through lists, through catalogs, through collections in museums and through encyclopedias and dictionaries. There is an allure to enumerating how many women Don Giovanni slept with: It was 2,063, at least according to Mozart’s librettist, Lorenzo da Ponte. We also have completely practical lists — the shopping list, the will, the menu — that are also cultural achievements in their own right.

Links related to the changing economy for November 24th, 2009

Douglas Ruskoff: Video Radical Abundance: How We Get Past “Free” and Learn to Exchange Value Again.: We are at a crossroads. Right now we have the ability to optimize our systems, our technologies, and our currency to humans, rather than optimizing humans to them.

Metafilter discussion of previous: “The Plague of Free.”

Awful Marketing: St. Louis Newspaper Has Web Commenter Fired: In this new information age, newspapers are having a hard time hanging on to their old business models, and are struggling to hold on to readership and monetize their on-line content. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has obviously not run into this issue, or they wouldn’t be shooting themselves in the foot by getting people fired when they post to the paper’s online comment boards. The Digital Economy’s Coming Subprime Crisis: Uh oh: it’s the economic equivalent of the subprime crisis. The parallels, to me, are too striking to ignore.

Anil Dash: The Web in Danger: We cannot say we were not warned. We will not be able to say “nobody saw this coming”.

Susan Ohanian: It’s the Poverty, Stupid, Not Pre-K Skills: If our corporate-politicos would look at the November 2009 issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, they would see that half of American children receive food stamps, which means they live in food insecure homes, and studies show that Adults who grew up in poverty are more likely to have impaired physical and mental growth, lower academic achievement, and to remain impoverished.

Joe Bageant: Shoot the fat guys, hang the smokers: At heart, it’s a predatory society. So damned mean we no longer even notice its inherent cruelty. A strongman’s democracy in which bodily appearance has become political, and the only allowable vice is self-righteousness. USDA: Hunger rises in U.S.: Referring to the increasing numbers of children who suffered the most from hunger, Philadelphia hunger expert Mariana Chilton, a Drexel University public-health professor, said: “This is a catastrophe. This is not a blip. This recession will be in the bodies of our children.”

Time: The ’00s: Goodbye (at Last) to the Decade From Hell

Newsweek: Partying Like It’s 1999: Think the U.S. economy has come a long way? Think again.

Clay Shirky lays out the issues confronting the future of news journalism

Read the whole thing. Nieman Journalism Lab: Clay Shirky at the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy:

…in the nightmare scenario that I’ve kind of been spinning at for the last couple years has been: Every town in this country of 500,000 or less just sinks into casual, endemic, civic corruption — that without somebody going down to the city council again today, just in case, that those places will simply revert to self-dealing. Not of epic, catastrophic sorts, but the sort that just takes five percent off the top. Newspapers have been our principal bulwark for that, and as they’re shrinking, that I think is where the threat is.

…So we don’t need another different kind of institution that does 85 percent of accountability journalism. We need a class of institutions or models, whether they’re endowments or crowdsourced or what have you — we need a model that produces five percent of accountability journalism. And we need to get that right 17 times in a row. That’s the issue before us. There will not be anything that replaces newspapers, because if you could write the list of stuff you needed and organizational characteristics and it looked like newspapers, newspapers would be able to fill that role, right?

It is really a shift from one class of institutions to the ecosystem as a whole where I think we have to situate the need of our society for accountability. I also want to distance myself — and I’ll end shortly. But I want to distance myself, with that observation I also want to distance myself from the utopians in my tribe, the web tribe, and even to some degree the optimists.

I think a bad thing is going to happen, right? And it’s amazing to me how much, in a conversation conducted by adults, the possibility that maybe things are just going to get a lot worse for a while does not seem to be something people are taking seriously. But I think this falling into relative corruption of moderate-sized cities and towns — I think that’s baked into the current environment. I don’t think there’s any way we can get out of that kind of thing. So I think we are headed into a long trough of decline in accountability journalism, because the old models are breaking faster than the new models can be put into place.

Again read the whole thing.

People tend to pick apart Shirky’s writings to find what supports their arguments. Which, I partially just did in fact, so don’t do that – absorb the nuance because the opportunities and problems at hand are far more complicated than the either naysayers or utopians would lead us believe.

“the Internet is counterproductive to peace”

Hey it’s not me, it’s John Perry Barlow saying that in a recent interview. He precedes this by saying, “There are a million virtual streetcorners with a million lonely pamphleteers on them, all of them decrying the war and not actually coming together in any organized fashion to oppose it. It strikes me that existing political institutions — whether it’s the administration or Congress or large corporations — only respond to other institutions. I don’t care how many individuals you have marching in the streets, they’re not going to pay attention until there’s a leader for those individuals who can come forward and say I represent the organization of those individuals and we’re going to amass the necessary money and votes to kick you the hell out of office. Then they pay attention. But not until. And so right at the moment it would strike me that the Internet is counterproductive to peace.”

Wow! Great quote!

John Perry Barlow, if you are not familiar with him, is co-founder of the Internet-legendary Electronic Frontier Foundation and a former songwriter for the Grateful Dead.

The interviewer says he’s shocked that Barlow would say this. He should read David Shenk’s 1998 classic, “Data Smog”. Time to read Bowling Alone. I’ve been putting it off for a little too long.

Update: Some Slashdotters take it personal while at MetaFilter they argue themselves into a circle.

Will there be a mass movement to utilize tools like or will the prevailing me-too trend continue where individuals refuse to come together and decide to create their own competing efforts? Everyone shouting the same things – but seperate from each other. Barlow says there needs to be a leader to represent an institution. What I think he fails to see is that we’ve been taught not to trust leaders, even from amoungst us. Leaders fail and leaders fall. So do institutions. So we go our own way and trust in only ourselves. You can’t attribute that to the Internet. It’s the way our generation thinks. Decentralized. Individualized. The Internet is an expression of that. A multitude of choice and the freedom to us it.

The demographic trends do not favor one-size-fits-all news products,” said Peter Francese, founder of American Demographics magazine, which tracks population changes. “There isn’t one community to serve. It’s gone. … It’s now a matter of serving niches rather than trying to be all things to all people,” he said.

That’s from an article about 18-34 year olds rejecting traditional media and switching to the Internet for their news. The same trend has taken place in TV and Music. More choices. Smaller audiences. Less and less shared experience and information. It’s all out there – but it’s up to you to find it or the martketers to find you and lead you to it.