Saturday, May 21, 2016


I joined Mensa a few months ago.  I found a place where members can enter a bio, so here's what I put:

I have always wanted to be a teacher.  I went to UCSD's Teach Education Program (TEP) for one year and decided that there was too much red tape.  Years later, I read John Taylor Gatto's Underground History of American Education, and then a few years after that, listened to his Ultimate History Lesson.  The knowledge I gained that way vindicated my abandonment of the TEP.
I ended up being a teacher anyway, though not in any official capacity.  I learn software (or write software) and then teach others how it works and how it fails.  I learned about bitcoin and now I explain it to anyone who is interested.  I buy bitcoin from those who need to sell it and sell it to those who need to buy it.

Jeff Schmidt wrote a book called "Disciplined Minds" in which he points out that most people who go through a higher education curriculum to get a degree, doctorate, or other credential start out with a view to doing the world some good, but the system through which they get that piece of paper degrades that view, slowly (though he doesn't say so, not inexorably) replacing that view with the brass ring of monetary gain, peer approval, and public stature.  I was lucky that I chose the humble path of becoming a teacher, wherein this trend is more obvious.  Had I pursued math, physics, chemistry, or something as complex (and continued living off my parents and inheritance, and perhaps even putting myself in debt), I imagine it would have taken me longer to feel this change.

As a software engineer after the dotcom bust, my ideals were intact and I started looking for tools that would leverage the Internet in the advancement of mankind.  The increasing density of communication provided by the Internet seemed to offer an excellent opportunity for individuals with great ideas to have their voices heard.  I researched the idea of what is now known as "crowdsourcing" the search for quality writing.  A friend of mine suggested taking a look at slashdot, since it allowed members to register their opinion of comments on news stories in a way the machine could use to identify what the group liked best.  On that site, I learned about Condorcet Voting, so I looked for a site that was using it and didn't find any.

I then started  With my writing site, I slowly learned something which is now, finally, gaining traction: There is rarely a single "best" choice for a large group, whether we're talking about candidates, pieces of writing, or things to do.  The ideal way to handle it is to allow the large group to break into smaller groups of people who share the same sensitivities.  That means politics is no good.

My friend Brian Gladish challenged me on using the Condorcet Method to elect public officials, pointing out that any political election involves forcing the minority to submit to decisions made by someone they don't agree with.  It's a lesson running Litmocracy for five years drove home for me.  During that time, I followed Brian's libertarian thinking to its natural conclusion, which is voluntaryism.  Now I am the volunteer webmaster for a site that existed for many years before I ever heard of it, called

School was designed, as Gatto's work shows conclusively, to remove the unique features of children that make them difficult to control, but excellent and conscientious adults.  It's the same thing Schmidt was talking about: normalize and regulate the individual so that all the individuals going in come out roughly the same, prepared to do whatever an authority figure tells them to do.  Stanley Milgram studied that too, and found that it's a horrible scourge to the human race, but subtle enough that most people let it go.  Lord Acton put it this way: "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."  J.R.R. Tolkien turned it into a long saga in which two basically innocent people let it ultimately drag them into a pit of lava.

Tolkien's tale offers us hope.  The reason they both fell into that lava was because one of them knew that's where the ring belonged.  So who am I?  What am I?  I am, to most people, a meat suit, kind, intelligent, hopeful, cynical about authority, but optimistic about normal human beings.  To myself, I am the spirit of disclosure, an old soul working on a problem "The One" created for itself, which is this: How quickly can consciousness make an otherwise mechanistic universe identify and then maximize and realize the potential for joy?  I shine light in dark places, and encourage others to follow suit.

No comments: