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Monday, May 7th, 2007

From the 2002 SynEARTH Archives … This morning, I begin a series of articles on a new mechanism for the synergic containment of adversary events. This new tool from synergic science is premised on the understanding that all mistakes are caused by ignorance. We have previously discussed how that premise leads to new ways of dealing with mistakes, even when those mistakes hurt people.


Synergic Containment

Protecting Children

Timothy Wilken, MD

Today our world is a dangerous place, and growing ever more dangerous. Everyday, humans are hurting and killing other humans. Mothers and fathers are beating their children. Husbands are beating and killing their wives. Rouge men are abducting and killing children. Teenage and young adult men are killing each other over the color of their clothes or the brand of shoes they wear. Life threatening violence is erupting over any act of supposed DISrespect.

Children are strapping high explosives to their bodies and detonating them in public places in desperate acts of suicide-homicide. In April of this year, President George W. Bush said, “When an 18 year old Palestinian girl is induced to blow herself up, and in the process kills a 17 year old Israeli girl, the future, itself, is dying.”

And then of course there are the armed conflicts, Peter Wallensteen of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reports :

In 2001, there were 24 major armed conflicts in 22 locations. … Africa continued to be the region with the greatest number of conflicts. Worldwide, there were approximately equal numbers of contests for control of government and for territory.

In the 12-year post-cold war period 1990–2001 there were 57 different major armed conflicts in 45 different locations. … All but 3 of the major armed conflicts registered for 1990–2001 were internal—the issue concerned control over the government or territory of one state. The 3 interstate conflicts in this period were Iraq versus Kuwait, India versus Pakistan and Eritrea versus Ethiopia.

… The year 2001 was overshadowed in September by one new major conflict with qualitatively different, global characteristics which have so far proved difficult to categorize.(1)

And now we have the War on Terrorism, the War on Afghanistan, the impending War on Iraq, and then what? The War on Iran? The War on North Korea? The War on the Philippines? The War on China? Etc.? Etc.? 

Something is very wrong in our world.

Synergic Science

As a synergic scientist, I believe that we must learn to work together. This means we must become synergic humans. Synergy means working together—operating together as in Co-Operation— laboring together as in Co-Laboration—acting together as in Co-Action. The goal of synergic union is to accomplish a larger or more difficult task than can be accomplished by individuals working separately. We are committed to a world where I win, you win, community wins and the Earth wins. Win-Win-Win-Win.
 
Synergic science finds there are three types of humans in our present world. Which type you are depends on what you believe about how the world works.

Adversaries believe there is not enough for everyone and only the physically strong will survive. They believe humans are coercively dependent on others, and they best understand the language of force.

Neutralists believe there is enough for everyone, if only you work hard enough and take care of yourself. They believe humans are financially independent and should be self-sufficient unless they are too lazy or defective. They best understand the language of money.

And, finally a new type of human is still emerging. Synergists believe there is enough for everyone but only if we work together and act responsibly. They believe humans are interdependent and can only obtain sufficiency by working together as community. Synergists best understand the language of love.

But, to be successful in our present world, the synergist must understand all three languages and know when to use them. Synergists must sometimes use the language of force, and sometimes the language of money, it depends on whom they are talking to. However, when synergists are seeking allies—when synergists are seeking to build community—they must speak the language of love.

We believe that you should, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”What is it that most of us want others to do unto us? Synergic scientists answer this question as follows: Help and support others as you would wish them to help and support you.  Or, more simply, “Treat others the way they want to be treated.”

When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. And that’s my religion.” —Abraham Lincoln  

Synergists are trying to heal the wounds inflicted by those who don’t understand how the world could work. This then is the essential challenge to the synergists. Can we work together and act responsibly in time to save our ourselves on this planet? … Only by helping each other. If humanity were to achieve synergy, we would have a peaceful world, but how do we get there?

As a young father, I wanted to do the best job of parenting I could. With the birth of our first daughter in 1980, I began reading the then current literature on parenting. After a few months I settled on the parenting style proposed by Dr. Thomas Gordon in his book Parent Effectiveness Training. It was a win-win approach that did not support punishment or conflict. But Gordon realized that permissiveness, and letting children run wild would create its own set of problems. Parent enforced discipline was a win/lose game that the parent always won. Permissiveness was a win/lose game that the child always won. Neither method was good for children or families. Gordon explained how we could improve our communication with others at any age. How to work together for solutions where both parent and child could win.

What he did was provide parents with a specific set of communication and problem-solving skills, as well as a means for knowing when and how to use them (the Behavior Window). These skills (Active Listening, No-Lose Conflict Resolution, and the I-Message) changed the way many parents communicate with their children. The Gordon Method has proved just as valuable for improving communication in the workplace and in our schools. His books have been published in 28 languages and over 6 million copies have been sold worldwide.

However, there was one situation that Gordon did not address. Children through immaturity and ignorance sometimes engage in  dangerous  behavior. The danger may be to themselves or to others. Often this begins before they are able to understand the consequence of their behavior, or to be reasoned with. How do you stop them without resorting to adversity and punishment?

We have all seen parents slap a small child’s hand, when their child reaches for something hot or sharp. The child immediately cries and often runs away, but what has the child learned? Gordon would argue that physically striking the child sends only one message, “You are bad!” And, while the child will withdraw, it is not because they understand that they were in danger, but simply because they fear the parent will strike them again. Now parents often feel that striking the child was necessary to protect the child, but is this really true?

I remember one winter, a heavy storm knocked out the electrical power to our home for almost a week. I hurriedly purchased a portable kerosene heater for warmth and cooking. It was an amazing device, but it was also dangerously hot. My three year old daughter Reason had never seen such a thing in our modern all electrical home and watched with fascination as I set it up. As I watched the sparkle in her eye, I realized the damage she might sustain from touching the top or sides of the heater.

heater:

I asked by wife to hold her well within her arms while I set up the heater.Once it was lit, it soon became hot and began to glow. I told my daughter that it was very hot. I placed a small piece of paper on top which soon burst into flames. I poured a few drops of water on the surface that flashed into steam. All this time her mother advised her, that the heater was very hot and she should not touch it. She stood back and I watched her eyes growing large in amazement. Later her mother went to attend her baby sister Serene, and when I turned, Reason was approaching the heater.

I moved quickly squatted down and contained her loosely in my arms. Gently preventing her from getting closer than two feet. Then to my delight, she told me that the stove was HOT! And that I was NOT to touch it.

Later that evening, I would hear Reason carefully instructing her baby sister that the heater was very HOT, and that Serene should NOT touch it. This was quite unlikely since Serene was only nine months old. However, she seemed to listen carefully as she sucked her bottle. Over the next seven days, Reason never ventured closer than two feet to the heater, and watched it with great respect. Then, electrical power was restored and we put away the kerosene heater.

At this same time, I was studying human behavior. I was aware of the three ways we humans could relate to each other—adversarily, neutrally, or synergically—also called The Relationship Continuum.

Striking the hand of a child reaching for something hot or sharp was an example of adversary punishment. Later as I thought back on how I had protected my daughter, I decided to call this technique synergic containment. At this time, I was practicing Stress Medicine. I often worked with young parents and would always tell them about Gordon’s Parent Effectiveness Training. And, include a description of the mechanism of synergic containment. I thought of the technique as protective, and in some cases even a rescue from danger. I advised them to apply it with love and compassion. Certainly, my child had a very positive experience in learning about the danger of HOT!

Synergic Containment of an Aggressive Child

One of parents came to me with a concern about their large and unusually strong two year old. He was into the full fury of the terrible twos, and he had taken to occasionally hitting his baby sister. It seemed to happen when he got angry. His parents had physically spanked him several times, but the behavior continued. They were genuinely afraid for both the aggressive child and the baby.

I advised them to use the mechanism of synergic containment as follows: Ideally, when a potentially dangerous adversary event occurs both parents would be present. Then one of the parents could contain the aggressor, while the other one attends to the baby. But if there is only one parent present, then the most important thing is to contain the aggressor. The baby may cry, but she is safe once the aggressor is contained.

Whenever you see your two year old son striking the baby, pick him up immediately and remove him from striking distance of his sister, then sit down and hold him on your lap. Wrap your arms around his shoulders, but no tighter than necessary to physically restrain him. Do not raise your voice or berate the child in any way. Do not strike him or inflict pain in any way.

You must contain him. You must absolutely stop him from getting down off your lap. If he struggles, increase the physical restraint of your embrace. Your son may struggle and cry, but this should not win his release. You will have to hold him until he quiets down. This may take a while. Be patient. You cannot successfully talk with him until he is calm.

Your goal is to restrain the child, but not send the message, “You are bad!” You want him to understand that you are afraid for the baby. You want him to understand that hitting the baby is dangerous. Once he is calm, in simple language express your fear for the baby. If another parent or adult is there ask them to attend the baby with create concern. Once the baby is calm, have them pantomime, raising one hand into a position as if they might strike the baby, but then deliberately grabbing their raised hand with their other hand and pulling it down. Repeatedly stating in a calm voice. “I am afraid for the baby.” “Don’t hit the baby.”

This is not a technique to be used lightly. It is serious medicine. Children should be allowed to get angry. Containment is not to be used to control anger. Containment is not to be used to stop evenly matched boys from wrestling or rough housing. Containment is to stop DANGEROUS behavior. Containment of an aggressive child should only occur if the child himself or someone else is in danger.

KidsFight:  

When you use containment, you are limiting your child’s freedom of action. The child may process this as if they are being punished. They may misunderstand the act of containment as punishment. This is why it must be done with love and compassion. Certainly, the parents love their child. They just don’t like his dangerous behavior. The goal is to make that behavior less likely to occur in the future. Synergic containment must do more than stop the dangerous behavior, it must educate the aggressor.

Most adults can easily contain a two year old child. Once your son quiets down and becomes calm, and this might take 15 to 20 minutes. You would then try to communicate with him that hitting his baby sister is prohibited. His ability to understand of course would be limited by his age and level of maturity. The human mind develops during childhood. The ability to understand consequence does not develop until about age four. You don’t over explain or discuss your concerns, you just state them in the way that you feel your child will best understand. Simpler is always better. “I am afraid for the baby!” “Don’t hit the baby!” With very small children, use pantomime when possible.

At this point, you let the child down from your lap to return to his activities. You immediately attend the baby. Showing him your concern. You try to enlist his help in comforting the baby, and in demonstrating love and caring for his sister.You don’t insist that he help, but you let him see your concern.

Synergic containment only occurs to stop dangerous behavior. If the adversary act recurs, the synergic containment recurs.

Every episode of synergic containment is an opportunity to communicate with your child. As the child grows, his ability to reason and to understand consequence grows. Since all humans do not like being on the receiving end of adversary acts, they soon learn that adversity is an inappropriate behavior. Teach them that they need to work together and act responsibly to be successful within the family.

Allowing children of any age to profit from adversary behavior is a mistake. Ideally, the use of synergic containment begins early. A single parent can contain a small child. It may take two parents to contain a 10 year old. It may take three or four adults to contain a 14 year old. And, it may take a SWAT team to contain an armed 18 year old.

Front Page

Monday, April 30th, 2007

Reposted from the SynEARTH Archives.


Beyond Crime and Punishment

In our present world, it is widely believed that mistakes are the result of badness. So when mistakes occur, we investigate, blame and punish. This belief has resulted in a world where violence, hate and judgment are common.

Synergic science reveals that mistakes are in fact the result of ignorance. If we understand this, then when a mistake occurs, we would analyze, determine responsibility, and educate. This could soon lead to a world where public safety, love and compassion are common.


The Uncertainty of Human Knowing

Timothy Wilken, MD

We can never know all there is to know about anything — this is a fundamental ‘law’ of Nature. This is in fact is the only cause of mistakes.

Ignorance is the word that best describes the human condition. Alfred Korzybski explained this condition scientifically as the  Principle of Non-Allness. By this he meant that we humans make all of our decisions with incomplete and imperfect knowing. We make every choice without all the information. All humans live and act in state of ignorance. Korzybski felt that developing an awareness of this ‘law’ of Nature was so fundamentally important to all humans, that he developed a lesson especially for children. Korzybski would explain:

“Children, today we want to learn all about the apple.”

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He would place an apple in view of the children, “Do you children know about the apple?”

“I do!”, “I do!”, “Yes, I know about apples!”

“Good” Korzybski moved to the blackboard. , “Come, tell me about the apple?”

“The Apple is a fruit.”, “The apple is red.”, “The apple grows on a tree.”

Korzybski would begin to list the characteristics described by the children on the blackboard.

The children continued, “An apple a day keeps the Doctor away.”

Korzybski continued listing the children’s answers until they run out of ideas, then he would ask, “Is that all we can say about the apple?

When the children answered in the affirmative, Korzybski would remove his pocket-knife and cut the apple in half, passing the parts among the children.

“Now, children can we say more about the apple?

“The apple smells good.” “The juices are sweet.” “The apple has seeds.” “Its pulp is white.” “Mother makes apple pie.

Finally when the children had again run out of answers, Korzybski would ask, “Now, is that all-we can say about the apple?” When the children agreed that it was all that could be said, he would again go into his pocket only this time he removed a ten power magnifying lens and passed it to the children. The children would examine the apple, and again respond:

“The apple pulp has a pattern and a structure.” “The skin of the apple has pores.” “The leaves have fuzz on them.” “The seeds have coats.”

Thus Korzybski would teach the children the lesson of Non-ALLness.

Now we could continue to examine the apple—with a light microscope, x-ray crystallography, and eventually the electron microscope. We would continue to discover more to say about the apple. However, we can never know ALL there is to know about anything in Nature. We humans have the power to know about Nature, but not to know ALL.

Knowing is without limit, but knowing is not total. Universe is our human model of Nature. Our ‘knowing’ can grow evermore complete. It can grow closer and closer to the ‘Truth’, but it cannot equal the ‘Truth’. It must always be incomplete. We are not ‘GOD’. We cannot see and know ALL.

Jacob Bronowski speaking in 1976 his famous public television series the Ascent of Man said:

“One aim of the physical sciences has been to give an exact picture of the material world. One achievement of physics in the Twentieth Century has been to prove that that aim is unattainable. There is no absolute knowledge and those who claim it, whether they are scientists or dogmatists, open the door to tragedy. All information is imperfect. We have to treat it with humility. This is the human condition; and that is what Quantum Physics says. I mean that literally.

“Let us examine an object with the best tool we have today, the electron microscope, where the rays are so concentrated that we no longer know whether to call them waves or particles. Electrons are fired at an object, and they trace its outline like a knife-thrower at a fair. The smallest object that has ever been seen is a single atom of thorium. It is spectacular.

And yet the soft image confirms that, like the knives that graze the girl at the fair, even the hardest electrons do not give a hard outline. The perfect image is still as remote as the distant stars.

“We are here face to face with the crucial paradox of knowledge. Year by year we devise more precise instruments with which to observe nature with more fineness and when we look at the observations, we are discomfited to see that they are still fuzzy, and we feel that we are as uncertain as ever. 

“We seem to be running after a goal which lurches away from us to infinity every time we come within sight of it. 

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“The paradox of knowledge is not confined to the small, atomic scale; on the contrary, it is as cogent on the scale of man, and even of the stars.

“Let me put it in the context of an astronomical observatory. Karl Freidrich Gauss’ observatory at Gˆttingen was built about 1807. Throughout his life and ever since (the best part of 200 years) astronomical instruments have been improved.

“We look at the position of a star as it was determined then and now, and it seems to us that we are closer and closer to finding it precisely. But when we actually compare our individual observations today, we are astonished and chagrined to find them as scattered within themselves as ever.

“We had hoped that the human errors would disappear, and that we would ourselves have God’s view. But it turns out that the errors cannot be taken out of the observations. And that is true of stars, or atoms, or just looking at somebody’s picture, or hearing the report of somebody’s speech.”

Incomplete and imperfect knowing means that every human belief is an assumption. We can never know for sure. We can never know ALL.

As you sit in your chair reading these words, you assumed the chair would hold you. You did not check under the chair to see if it had broken since its last use. When you ate lunch at your favorite restaurant last week, you assumed the waitress had washed her hands. You assumed the cook did not have hepatitis. If you had assumed otherwise, you would not have walked into that restaurant. You would not have eaten your lunch. We humans assume. Herein lies our uncertainty — that’s all we humans can do. There is nothing wrong in our assuming, we are simply obeying a fundamental ‘law’ of Nature.

We humans have always believed that mistakes are bad. We have always believed that those who make mistakes are bad. They are stupid or careless — lazy or incompetent — just no damn good. If they were good, they wouldn’t make mistakes. Everyone knows that. Decent people don’t make mistakes. This is nearly a universal belief.

Mistakes = Badness

Korzybski coined the word space-binding to describe the world of the animal. In the world of the animal, cause and effect can not be distinguished from each other. They are the same — they equal each other — they are identical. If the effect of a mistake is bad, then the cause of a mistake is also bad. Human intelligence is build on animal intelligence. All humans have a space-mind. It is a powerful and often dominant part of our human intelligence. As children the space-mind is primary. The uniquely human mind creates what Korzybski called the world of Time-binding. The time-mind doesn’t even begin to become operational in children until they reach the age of four.

So our human belief that mistakes are ‘bad’ is legitimate. Most of us learn about mistakes as small children. If I stumble while running, I get hurt and that is bad. If an animal is running for its life and stumbles, it dies and that is bad. For space-binders, mistakes are a part of bad space.

In the world of space-binding, a mistake can cost not only the life of the individual space-binder, but also the lives of others in the group — pack, pride, herd, or troop. Therefore the result of a mistake was often bad, and not just for the individual, but for others in the group as well. Since 99.9% of all human history has been adversary — 99.9% of our history dominated by space-binding, it is no wonder that we humans have believed for countless centuries that mistakes are bad.

The belief in the badness of mistakes was further reinforced and given Divine sanction by our human religions. God is good. God is omniscience — ALL knowing. God makes no mistakes. He is perfect. We humans are admonished to be as God-like as possible. If making no mistakes is ‘good’, then obviously making mistakes is ‘bad’. Our religions institutionalized the adversary processing of mistakes — Sin, Hellfire, and Damnation.

Science has also added credence to the ‘badness’ of mistakes. The world view created by the ‘objective science’ of Galileo, Kepler, Hooke, and Newton was a ‘perfect’ Universe. Newton’s System of the Worlds described a precision clockwork perfection that controlled all in Universe. If the Universe is perfect, then humans too must evolve towards perfection.

Dealing with badness

Since mistakes are bad, when one occurs, we investigate to determine who is at fault. Who made the mistake? Once that is determined, we blame those responsible. Following blame, we are ready to punish. More pain and suffering has been inflicted on humankind for making mistakes than for any other cause. This should not surprise us.

Punishment is the proper way to deal with ‘badness’. And,if we are anything, we are fair. So when we are the one who made the mistake, we self-punish. Self-punishment is called “guilt”. Humans are the only class of living systems that feels guilty. The only class of living systems that teaches their pets to feel guilty. 

MISTAKES = Badness
INVESTIGATE
BLAME
PUNISH —> self punish
                         “Guilt”
 

Korzybski’s Error of Identity

When humans rely only on their spacial intelligence, they see cause as being identical to effect. They are in essence time-blind, and so they confuse cause with effect.

Korzybski explained that when humans see things as being identical that are not identical, they are making an identification that is false to facts. Korzybski called this the Error of Identity.

When we confuse cause with effect, we are making the error of identity. Today most humans make this error. We assume without analysis that cause and effect are the same — that they are equal — that they are identical. If the effect of a mistake is bad then the cause of that mistake must also be bad.

We don’t analyze the event for sequence. We don’t use our time-binding power to understand. And so,we act without hesitation, without doubt on our belief. We act in certainty. And, certainty as explained earlier by Korzybski, Heisenberg, Eddington and Bronowski is not possible, because knowing is uncertain.

Certainty

We humans always act without all the information. We humans are always assuming. If we are unaware that we are assuming, then we are ignorant of our ignorance. Certainty means that we don’t know that we don’t know. We cannot seek knowing when we believe our ignorance is knowing. Ignorance of ignorance is leveraged ignorance — ignorance masquerading as knowledge. Ignorance of ignorance is certainty.

When we are certain, we are surprised and disheartened by our mistakes. This attitude toward human error is the most damaging of human ignorances. We humans make mistakes because, we make all our decisions without ALL the information. This is a major point that all humans must understand. The only cause of mistakes is ignorance.

We humans must become aware of our ignorance. When we humans have knowledge of our ignorance, we can learn from our mistakes and protect ourselves in the future. When an individual knows he doesn’t know, he is wise. Wisdom is the opposite of certainty. The knowledge of our ignorance is wisdom.

To error is the human condition

This truth, whether we call it the Principle of Non-Allness, the Principle of Uncertainty, the Principle of Indeterminacy, or the Principle of Tolerance, leads us to the conclusion that to error is human, and there is no need too ask forgiveness. All mistakes are innocent.

Universe is not certain — it is not structured as we humans have believed for countless centuries. Religion and the objective scientists were wrong. The physics of relativity and quantum mechanics describe a Universe in which things are not and cannot be perfect. A Universe in which, we humans are constrained to make all our choices without ALL the information. Mistakes are simply holes or gaps in our knowing — lapses in our understanding.

I am often asked, “But, what if I knew better?” If I knew better and then make a mistake. Isn’t that the result of stupidity. If I knew better, but still made an error, then surely that is my fault and not the result of ignorance.

What if I knew better?

I recall a young women I once treated. She had opened her hotel room door to a man claiming to be a maintenance worker, who then attacked and raped her. The attacker has stolen a hotel uniform from a laundry hamper and so seemed legitimate. However, something about his appearance disturbed her, but on second thought, she assumed she was just being silly and so unlocked her door. When I saw her several months later she was still struggling with guilt.

“Doctor, it was my own fault. I was so stupid. I shouldn’t have opened the door. I knew something was wrong. I was so stupid. I knew better, but I opened the door anyway.”

I responded, “You weren’t stupid. You were only ignorant.”

She replied, “No, Dr. Wilken, I knew better, I should never have opened the door, I was just so stupid.”

“NO!”, I told her, “You weren’t stupid, you were only ignorant and I can prove it with one simple question. She looked deep into my eyes desperate to know what I meant.

I asked: “If you had known that the man behind the door intended to rape you, would you have opened it?”

“No, of course not.”

No of course not. None of us would make a mistake if we knew we were about to make a mistake. Even when we humans repeat our mistakes, it is because we assume the mistake will not happen this time. We are ignorant of what will happen this time. As I have stated, the only cause of human error — the only cause of human mistakes is ignorance.

Scientists as well as non-scientists who seek to know must therefore embrace humility when we stand before the totality of Nature.

The Principle of Non-Allness is a fundamental law of Nature. And the first corollary to the Principle of Non-Allness is what I call the Principle of Innocence.

Principle of Innocence

All actions occur in ignorance. All human actions and all human choices are made without all the information. We are always acting and choosing without ALL the information. What we don’t know we must ignore and what we ignore may hurt us. Therefore all errors and and all mistakes are made in innocence.

Good news

I don’t mean that mistakes are good things or that getting hurt is a good thing. I mean that since the cause of mistakes is ignorance and the proper response to ignorance is education, then we can learn from our mistakes.

We can acknowledge the mistakes of history and those that are occurring in our present world and work to correct them. This is good news. It will make it infinitely easier to build a better world.

When we understand the truth of “to error is human”, we can then begin to process our mistakes in a synergic manner. The human who understands that mistakes are a natural part of life does not investigate the mistakes like a detective, he analyzes the mistake as a scientist. He does not blame when a mistake occurs, he seeks to learn from the mistake and to learn he must accept responsibility and seek responsibility in others for their mistakes. Once he knows who is responsible for the mistake he educates.

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Education is the proper response to ignorance. Education and learning is the synergic alternative to adversary punishment and guilt. However there is something in guilt worth keeping. It is certainly not the badness, it is certainly not the blame, and of course it is not the punishment.

Guilt also contains regret and this is worth keeping. When a mistake happens there is always regret. In the adversary world where there is blame and punishment of course I might regret being blamed and punished. I also might regret being considered bad by those who are blaming and punishing me. But there is almost always another component of regret. When I make a mistake that hurts someone else, I regret that as well. This is the regret worth keeping.

And, this is often why we humans tend to hang onto our guilt feelings when we make a mistake. We regret injuring others. We can solve this dilemma by moving regret over into the synergic processing of mistakes, where it is called restitution. Restitution means to restore, to repair the damage caused by the ignorance of our behavior.

The synergist does not feel guilty when he makes a mistake, but he is sorry if his ignorance injured other. As a synergist, he will freely try to repair things. He will freely offer restitution.  

Adversary

Synergic

MISTAKES = Badness MISTAKES = Ignorance
INVESTIGATE ANALYZE
ACCUSE & BLAME DETERMINE RESPONSIBILITY

PUNISH

—> self-punish

EDUCATE

—> self-educate

“Guilt”   

  “Learn”   

regret->

RESTITUTION

We humans have a choice as to how to deal with mistakes. If we process our mistakes adversarily we get pain and no learning. If we process our mistakes synergically, we get learning and no pain.
In fact, you cannot learn when you adversarily process mistakes. We humans cannot tolerate the pain of blame, punishment, and guilt. We will deny that we make a mistake. We will project the blame for the mistake onto others. “I didn’t do it.” — “It wasn’t my fault.” — “And, if it isn’t my fault, why should I have to learn anything.”

In fact, if I am to learn from a mistake, I must first admit it was my fault. This is the real force behind what I call the “anti-learning barrier”. If I am to learn from my mistake I am trapped into accepting responsibility for my error. If I am adversarily processing the mistake, I cannot accept responsibility without feeling guilty. To avoid guilt I must deny responsibility. And if I wasn’t responsible then I have nothing to learn.

The “anti-learning barrier”

This barrier became evident to me by another one of my patients. I once had the occasion to treat a young woman in the early stages of her fifth pregnancy. She informed me she had had four abortions previously and was pregnant and planning to abort this pregnancy as well. I thought to myself, why can’t she learn to use birth control?

If we examine her situation in light of our new understanding, we see that for her to use birth control, she would have to admit that it is her responsibility to prevent unwanted pregnancies. That admission would lead her to the further conclusion that she was then also responsible for her previous unwanted pregnancies and their abortions.

This young woman was a Catholic and to admit responsibility for unwanted pregnancies and abortions were far too painful for her. She opted to deny any responsibility. “My boy friend got me drunk, and made me pregnant. It wasn’t my fault, so I don’t need to take birth control. Besides using birth control is a sin, I would never do that.”

The human brain is the most powerfully precise computer in the Universe. If we program it to believe mistakes are bad, it will function to prove it does not make mistakes. The human brain rebels at the idea that mistakes are bad. It will defend itself in any way possible, it will defend itself by lying. When I am accused of badness, I must lie to protect myself — to protect myself from blame and punishment — to protect myself from guilt. Confronted with an adversary reality that we live with today, it is rational to lie. Lying leads to distrust — “I assume you are my enemy”. Thus, the processing of mistakes as bad always leads to conflict and adversary behavior.

If on the other hand, I process my mistakes in a more scientific manner — as simply ignorant — choices made without all the information, then I must tell the truth to protect myself — to protect myself from repeating the mistake — to protect myself and others from further injury — to protect myself from paying unnecessary restitution.

Telling the truth leads to trust — “I assume you are my friend”. Processing mistakes as ignorance leads to co-Operation and synergic behavior.

Adversary

Synergic

MISTAKES = Badness MISTAKES = Ignorance
INVESTIGATE ANALYZE
ACCUSE & BLAME DETERMINE RESPONSIBILITY

PUNISH

—> self-punish

EDUCATE

—> self-educate

“Guilt”   

  “Learn”   

regret->

RESTITUTION

I must lie to protect myself.

I must tell the truth to protect myself.

I assume you are my enemy.

I assume you are my friend.

Distrust

Trust

Conflict

Co-Operation

Scientists and all humans who seek to know must embrace humility when they stand before the totality of Nature. The principle of Non-Allness is a fundamental law of nature.

The fact that all actions occur in ignorance is a fundamental ‘knowing’ derived from the Principle of Non-Allness.

And the first corollary of that principle — the Principle of Innocence is an even more important extension of our human ‘knowing’. If we understand that all errors are committed in innocence, then how we treat those who err will change forever.

What about Bin Laden ?

How could the attack on the World Trade Towers have resulted from ignorance. How could those behind the murder of 3000+ thousand innocents themselves be innocent?

What don’t they know?

They don’t know that “As you sow, so shall you reap”. They don’t know that:

Adversary action usually provokes adversary reaction ending in an adversary resultant or loss.

They don’t know how powerful the United States really is. They have forgotten the lessons learned by Japan and Germany by the end of World War II. They to have wakened the sleeping Giant. Their acts will not make the world better and safer for themselves or for those they claim to represent. They don’t know that the end never justifies the means. In fact, the means always end up becoming the ends.

They don’t know that there is no heaven for murderers. They don’t know that an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, ends up with no winners only losers in a modern world with high technology and knowledge.

They don’t know that:

Progress + Warfare = Human Extinction 

We humans are Time-binders, we have the power to create knowledge without limit. When knowledge is incorporated into matter-energy, it becomes a tool. As Andrew J. Galambos explained:

“Humans develop evermore powerful knowledge and therefore evermore powerful tools. When tools are used to harm other humans they are called weapons. Since human knowledge can grow without limit then tools themselves can be made without limit. And limitless tools can will produce limitless weapons.”

And, limitless weapons (progress) combined with leveraged adversity (warfare) must by all definitions and understanding of science produce human extinction.

All of today’s law enforcement agencies use adversary processing in an attempt to protect the public safety. Unfortunately, adversary processing results only in pain and no learning. The war on crime has been lost and always will be lost. Adversary behavior cannot be stopped with adversary behavior. The means always become the ends. The abolition of crime will require the abolition of punishment.

Only then can we move towards a world where, love, wisdom and compassion will replace hate, ignorance and judgment. Only then can we move beyond crime and punishment.


Read Timothy Wilken’s A Limit to Knowing.

Read Timothy Wilken’s Protecting Humanity.

Front Page

Monday, March 26th, 2007

Reposted from Mother Jones.


Back to the Future

Thomas Palley

Many Americans have rightly identified China, uncontrolled trade deficits, and Wal-Mart style competition as looming threats to the American economy. However, they remain hard-pressed countering the free market/free trade story of mainstream economists that these are all for America’s long run benefit.

In a previous piece I explained how mainstream economics has been captured by laissez-faire idealizations that are heavily peppered with smuggled political ideology. Now it is time to present an alternative real world economics. America’s economic problems can only be solved by good policy rooted in sound economic analysis. And to find that analysis, Americans must look to their own past.

The Great Depression of the 1930s was an era of tumultuous economic debate. Though now largely confined to history books, those debates have vital relevance for today’s challenge of globalization. The economy of that earlier era was marked by callousness, gross inequalities of wealth, and vicious boom – bust cycles. These problems were ultimately solved by a combination of New Deal institutional reforms and Keynesian economic stabilization policies. While some of the reforms of that period may have aged, the economic principles that motivated them remain intact. This is a cruel irony, since the thinking that can help address our present malaise has been forgotten by many who once championed such thinking.

The policies that emerged from the Depression provided the foundation of the prosperity that followed World War II. But familiarity and success tend to breed forgetfulness. As a result, the thinking forged on the anvil of those hard times has been gradually expunged, and replaced by revived pre-Depression era free market thinking. Carried by this intellectual tide, policymakers have created a modern variant of the Victorian economy under the rubric of globalization.

Today’s economic conditions hint of the 1920s, a period when America experienced a credit boom and a speculative bubble while the rest of the world experienced relative stagnation. Hopefully, enough post-Depression era policy thinking remains to avoid another great slump. But simply avoiding a slump is not sufficient. The challenge is to design policies that will once again engender the broadly shared prosperity that defined the early post-war decades. That, in turn, will require recovering economic thinking that has been relegated (by mainstream economics) to the history books.

One lasting contribution from the Depression came from the British economist John Maynard Keynes, who identified the importance of total demand for determining employment. Total demand is defined as the aggregate of household, business and public spending within the economy. Unemployment can result from reduced spending by business and households. At best, markets are painfully slow in dealing with such declines, and at worst they can get trapped with permanent high unemployment.

Keynes recognized that the market economy price system does not automatically ensure adequate total demand, and what works for an individual product market does not automatically work for the economy as a whole. In individual markets, lower prices make goods relatively cheaper, providing an incentive for households or businesses to switch expenditures away from other products. However, for the economy as a whole, this mechanism does not work since all prices (including wages) are falling so that there is no ability or incentive to increase spending. Worse than that, the mechanism may operate in reverse as falling prices increase the burden of debts and interest payments, which reduces demand and can also bankrupt the banking system.

Consequently, there is reason for policy to step in and stabilize demand to avoid such outcomes. This is classic Keynesian policy, sometimes referred to as counter-cyclical spending. The essence of the principle is that when household and business demand falls off, policymakers should step in and, through federal spending on infrastructure and lower interest rates, stop the downward spiral and prime the economy.

A second vital contribution, now forgotten, came from American “institutional” economists who emphasized the significance of the nature of competition. The most famous living proponent of this American school is John Kenneth Galbraith. Whereas Keynes’s analysis gave birth to the modern field of macroeconomics, American institutionalists focused on the microeconomic failings of the system. These failings were framed in terms of the “competitive menace,” a notion that echoes today’s concept of the race to the bottom — epitomized by Wal-Mart.

Institutionalists did not challenge the idea that self-interest and profit are major motives for economic action, but they did recognize that their pursuit could lead to sub-optimal outcomes. What appears to maximize well-being from an individual perspective can be sub-optimal once the competitive inter-play of actions is taken into account. Thus, when Wal-Mart refuses to pay health benefits, other retailers are forced to go in this direction to remain competitive and survive. Likewise, when Wal-Mart sources globally, so too must other retailers. The result is erosion of American manufacturing jobs and wages. Nor do wages rise in developing countries because Wal-Mart plays them off against China.

Such a perspective leads to the idea of “regimes of competition,” and policy should aim to create a competitive environment in which working families prosper. The challenge is to design regulatory institutions (regimes) that balance the Keynesian need for stable flows of demand and income with the capitalist need for economic incentives. Such market regulation prevents excessive price fluctuations, and also prevents the kinds of pre-Depression monopoly and exploitation that weakened America’s income and spending base.

The New Deal embodied much institutionalist policy in the form of laws establishing a minimum wage, the forty-hour week, the right to overtime, and the right to join unions. These labor laws complemented consumer product safety laws. The New Deal also introduced law regulating financial markets, which paired with earlier legislation establishing the Federal Reserve as regulator of the banking system. Together, these regulations established an economic regime that excluded destructive competition, ensured a “Henry Ford” distribution of income whereby workers could buy the things they produced, and prevented market tendencies to deflation.

Viewed in this light, American institutionalism provided a new microeconomic thinking that paired logically with Keynes’ macroeconomic analysis. Keynesian monetary and fiscal policies stabilized the business cycle, while institutionalist market regulation built the middle class, and together they underwrote the great prosperity of the post-World War II era.

However, even as these policies were being put into practice, they were being driven out of economics classrooms and textbooks. Whereas Keynesianism won mainstream standing, its microeconomic counterpart never did. One reason was institutionalism’s focus on capitalism’s crueler failings, which was politically unacceptable in the Cold War era of geo-political competition. This meant institutionalism was driven out of classrooms by the end of the 1950s, which meant it was driven out of policy shops and legislative chambers by the end of the 1970s.

Globalization has again raised the specter of destructive competition, calling for a resurgence of institutionalist thinking. However, such thinking is now barred and obliterated by post-Cold War, free-market triumphalism.

This has enormous practical and political consequences. Absent the one-two combination of Keynesianism and institutionalism, globalization will likely stumble badly. Similarly, well-intentioned progressive politicians in America and Europe, looking to tackle the problems of globalization, will find themselves lost as long as they adhere to the laissez-faire thinking that dominates universities.

This risks making progressives irrelevant for economic policy. In the 1930s, the economics of the day proved not up to the challenge of the Great Depression, forcing the development of new economic ideas. The same holds today for globalization.


Thomas Palley was formerly Chief Economist of the US–China Economic and Security Review Commission. He’s the author of Plenty of Nothing: The Downsizing of the American Dream and the Case for Structural Keynesianismand Post Keynesian Economics.

Front Page

Thursday, March 8th, 2007

This original essay serves as introduction to an important new book.


Building a Durable Future

Bill McKibben

I’ve spent the last twenty years of my adult life writing and thinking about global warming. I can tell you about hydrogen, hybrid cars, solar panels, wind turbines, green building, carbon offsets, carbon sequestration, carbon credits, and on and on and on and on.

And here’s what I think the outcome boils down to: hyperindividualism versus community. If we can build a society where a community farm, a community source of energy, a community radio station, a community bookstore make sense, then we have a fighting chance. I know this seems an unlikely solution, far less hard-headed than some technological prescription. But consider: the average Western European uses half as much energy as the average American. Not because they have some secret technology, and not because they’re leading degraded lives, but because they’ve built a society along subtly different lines. Half is a lot. They’ve built public transit systems, and cities that draw people in, not spin them centrifugally out. It’s no wonder, in fact, that Portland is the one American city whose carbon emissions are declining — more than anyplace else in the country, it’s begun to make European choices.

Food is a good example. If we eat locally, we use a lot less energy — back East, where I live, a calorie of that California lettuce takes 36 calories of fossil energy to grow and ship. That’s why it’s good news that farmers markets are the fastest growing part of our food system — in Oregon, the number of farms has doubled in the last decade, partly because Portland eats so much local food. If we could do the same thing with energy, and with timber, and with the other commodities of our lives, and if we could do it around the country, we’d be making great strides.

But can such solutions really spread fast enough? Or is the momentum of the Wal-Marts simply unstoppable? A few years ago I’d have answered gloomily, but working on my new book, Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future, has convinced me we’ve got at least an outside shot. And for an odd reason. Because people are finally starting to ask the most basic and most subversive question about our economic system: is it making me happy? In the past ten years, economists and sociologists and psychologists have begun to tackle this in a way they never have before. (The economists always used to say that “utility” was the answer — you could tell what made someone happy by what they bought.) Their data shows clearly that Americans are neither very happy by world standards, nor anywhere near as satisfied as they were 50 years ago, despite relentless economic growth. It’s as if we’ve run a controlled experiment, in fact, on whether money buys happiness, and the results are now in.

But why? The answer seems to be: we feel an incredible lack of community. And if you think about it, that makes sense. More money meant we could live in bigger houses further out in the suburbs — i.e., that we could be more isolated. It meant we could embrace technologies — the endless parade of screens — that keep us occupied by ourselves. As a result, Americans have far fewer close friends than they did a generation ago. We spend far less time with friends and neighbors and relatives.

Here’s the good news, though: the cure for this is the same as the cure for some of our environmental woes. Let’s say you go to the farmer’s market; on average, you use ten times less energy to feed yourself. But, as a team of sociologists discovered a few years ago, you also have ten times as many conversations as you would at the supermarket. An order of magnitude less energy, and an order of magnitude more community. Those are numbers that might start to add up.

The local bookstore, of course, is the paradigmatic example of what I’m talking about. It’s more than a place to buy books — it’s a hub, where ideas and plans and projects brew and hatch. And when it disappears, there’s a hole in town. We’ve seen too long a decline in local farms and bookstores and radio stations — we’ve seen the Cargills and the Clear Channels ruling too much of our economic life, with their relentless focus on treating us all as consumers, not as citizens. Certainly not as neighbors. One of my favorite bumper stickers comes from an eatery here in Vermont, a place called the Farmers Diner that serves only locally grown food: “Think Globally, Act Neighborly.”Indeed.

And if you still doubt whether all this can add up to enough, one final anecdote. In January, a few of us launched a website called stepitup07.org. We wanted to trigger the first national protests against global warming — to build a people’s movement to help shape a debate that’s been left to experts for too long. Instead of a march on Washington, we asked people to organize in their own hometowns, to go to the places that mattered to them on April 14 and hoist a banner. We thought, optimistically, that we might find a hundred, maybe two hundred, local organizers that might take on such a task.

We thought wrong. By mid-February, we were closing in on seven hundred actions. It’s clear we’re now organizing the biggest environmental protest in the country since Earth Day 1970 — and that our co-conspirators are living in retirement communities, and in sorority houses at the University of Texas. They’re in churches across the country, and on farms. Some are painting blue stripes in our coastal cities where the water will come if we let the sea level rise, and some are skiing in formation down the dwindling glaciers of Wyoming and Montana, and some are holding underwater demonstrations off endangered coral reefs.

They’re asking Congress for national action — cuts in carbon emissions of 80% by 2050. But they know that those reductions will play out close to home, changing the shape of everyday life. Changing it for the better, as we learn once more to rely on those around us. As we learn what a real, living, durable economy looks like.


Bill McKibben is the author of Deep Economy published this month. He is an American environmentalist and writer who frequently writes about global warming, alternative energy, and the risks associated with human genetic engineering. He grew up in suburban Lexington, Massachusetts. He was president of the Harvard Crimson newspaper in college. Immediately after college he joined the New Yorker magazine as a staff writer, and wrote much of the Talk of the Town column from 1982 to early 1987. He quit the magazine when its longtime editor William Shawn was forced out of his job, and soon moved to the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. His first book, The End of Nature, is regarded as the first book for a general audience about climate change, and has been printed in more than 20 languages.

Front Page

Tuesday, March 6th, 2007

Continuing from this year’s Edge Question. … What Are You Optimistic About? and Why?


Humanity’s Coming Enlightenment

Larry Sanger

I am optimistic about humanity’s coming enlightenment.

In particular, I am optimistic about humanity’s prospects for starting exemplary new collaboratively-developed knowledge resources. When we hit upon the correct models for collaborative knowledge-collection online, there will be a jaw-dropping, unprecedented, paradigm-shifting explosion in the availability of high-quality free knowledge.

Over the last few years I have received an increasing amount of mail from researchers who want to build dynamic, efficient, and enormous new knowledge resources that follow the wiki model. I believe researchers are drawn to the wiki model because they naturally love several ideas suggested by the model: working closely with large numbers of their colleagues spread over the world; updating shared knowledge on the fly and avoiding costly duplication of labor; presenting knowledge systematically and in all its glorious complexity; and providing clear and compelling free access to important knowledge of their fields to a world that, in many cases, desperately needs such access. These features make the wiki model exciting.

Researchers—scholars, scientists, professionals of all sorts, and indeed, all folks who love books—are, as I say, drawn to the wiki model of strong collaboration in growing numbers. It’s an accident of history that methods of strong collaboration online began among programmers and then spread into use by a completely egalitarian community, Wikipedia, and its many imitators. The next step in the evolution, which we are now witnessing on many fronts at once, is the adoption of wikis, and similarly dynamic and efficient “Web 2.0” methods of strong collaboration, by knowledge workers, or (as in the case of my new project, the Citizendium) huge open communities that are gently guided by experts.

I think the most fantastic knowledge resources of the near future will not be encyclopedias or textbooks. They will be brand new sorts of resources, never before possible because they require the participation of thousands, or even millions, of users. What—for example—can that quantity of people do with millions of free books at their fingertips?

Assuming as I do that expert-guided but public participatory free knowledge projects are feasible, and that—after becoming convinced of their tremendous value—millions of intellectuals from around the world will begin spending significant amounts of time developing them together, my considered view is that we are approaching a kind of intellectual revolution:

ï The time spent in library, reference, and literature research will be shortened by orders of magnitude, as increasingly detailed indexes and various kinds of maps of the literature are made available, as brilliant new search methods become available for the entire contents of enormous libraries, and as literature reviews (and similar resources) at all levels of specialization are constantly updated.

ï Indeed, due to these coming sea changes in the way the results of research are accessed, we might well see new and more efficient methods of presenting novel research to the world than the traditional peer-reviewed research paper. (I suggest nothing in particular here, but as a general point it seems not unlikely.)

ï In many fields, especially in the humanities and social sciences, what today appears to be “cutting edge” thinking will be placed into an easily-accessible historical context. It will appear as so much scholarship properly does appear: old ideas warmed-over. I think the embarrassing ease of access to historical precursors and related work will lead scholars in these fields to focus on hard study, consolidation, systematization, and maybe even teaching. Actually, I don’t think that. That would be too optimistic.

ï There will be—as is already becoming the case—a newly global research community that has a presence coextensive with the Internet itself. This, even more than the advent of the Internet itself, has the potential to bring scholars from developing nations around the globe into the world of research as nothing ever has before. A well-educated, well-plugged-in intelligentsia from every uncensored place on the map could have many remarkable effects.

ï Perhaps more important than any of the above, the ease with which information is accessed by teachers and students will require a complete and long overdue rethinking of the methods of education. What happens to education in a world in which not only *some questionable* information is available pretty quickly (as is now the case via Google and Wikipedia), but in which the most “officially” reliable information is available practically instantly to everyone? What would teachers do with their students if class were held every day in the middle of the largest library in the world?

Those are my expectations, and to have such expectations is of course to be very optimistic.

I should add that it seems the management of these information resources will have tremendous power, due to the tremendous value of their resources. So I hope that these managing bodies or persons will use their power according to the love of free speech, Western democratic republican principles of governance, and the rule of law.


LAWRENCE MARK “LARRY” SANGER has been an organizer of various online encyclopedia projects, most notably, organizing Wikipedia as a free, open, and collaborative online encyclopedia and developing many Wikipedia policies. … In May 2006, Sanger spearheaded a new collaborative project under the Digital Universe umbrella, called the Text Outline Project (textop.org), managed by a strong collaboration among a global group of scholars, with the aim of organizing the information contained in books, dictionaries, opinionated essays, and news articles — and perhaps other sources — into a single outline of human knowledge.


Front Page

Sunday, March 4th, 2007

Continuing from this year’s Edge Question. … What Are You Optimistic About? and Why?


Transparency is Inevitable

Daniel Goleman

Daniel GolemanI live in a bowl-shaped valley on the edge of the Berkshire hills in New England. The prevailing winds come from the southwest. As it happens, a coal-burning electric plant sits in the dip next to the Holyoke Range at the southern edge of the valley, perfectly placed to fill the air with its unsavory mix of particulates — the plant is a dinosaur, one that due to various regulatory loopholes has been able to dodge costly upgrades that would make its emissions less toxic.

Nobody seems to mind. True, the head of pulmonary medicine at the local medical center bemoans the toll of the plants’ particulates on the respiratory tracts of those who live in the valley, particularly its children. But those who operate the Mt. Tom power plant blithely buy carbon-pollution credits that let it avoid the expense of upgrading its scrubbers.

The indifference of those of us whose respiratory systems routinely become inflamed, I’m convinced, is due in large part to a failure in collective awareness. As we join the throngs in the waiting room of the local asthma specialist, we make no connection between our being there and that smokestack, nor between our own use of electricity and the rate at which that smokestack belches its toxins.

I’m optimistic that, one day, the people in my valley will make the connections between the source of our electric power and its role in the inflammations in our lungs — and more especially our children’s lungs. More generally, I believe that inexorably the world of commerce will surface the invisible toll our collective habits of consumption wreak on our environment and our health.

My optimism does not hinge on the promise of some new technological fix or scientific breakthrough. Rather my hope stems from the convergence of market forces with off-the-shelf possibilities from an oft-ignored field that has already reshaped our lives: information science.

“Ultimately, everybody will find out everything,” as a saying at the Googleplex has it – Google’s corporate headquarters harboring perhaps the world’s densest aggregate of specialists in data mining and other applications of information science. Information science, the systematic organization and meta-knowing of all we know, has been steadily increasing the sheer quantity of what each of us can find out.

One branch of this science, medical informatics, has transformed medicine by making available in an instant to the physician treating a patient a vast array of background data on his condition, history, prognosis and best treatment.

One of the more hopeful applications of information science would be something we might call “consumer informatics,” which would do something akin to what is being done for medicine, but for the marketplace: make visible the elusive links between what we buy and do and the impacts on our body and on nature of the processes that support these activities.

Take, for example, the hidden costs of a t-shirt. The book Stuff: The Secret Lives of Everday Things deconstructs ordinary products into the chemical impacts their manufacture has had. Chemical by-products of textile dyes include chlorine, chromium and formaldehyde; because cotton resists coloring, about a third of the dyes fail to adhere and so end up in wastewater.  There are correlations between high levels of dye run-off in groundwater and rates of leukemia in local children.

For that reason Bennett & Company, a supplier of clothes to companies like Victoria’s Secret and Polo.com, has formed a partnership with the dye works that supplies its plants in China. The partnership allows the clothes manufacturer to ensure that the wastewater from the dyes it uses will go through a series of cleansing pools before returning to the water supply, rather than simply being dumped.

Here’s the challenge for information science: quantify the environmental and health impacts of the standard processes used in manufacturing goods. Then tag a given product on a store shelf with the relative merits of the impacts it has had, so that consumers can weight its virtue into its value. Let us know which t-shirt has what consequences.

Some mechanics of that challenge may be less daunting than they seem at first glance.  For one, all large retailers now use an electronic tagging system for inventory control. This lets a store manager know the history of every item on its shelves, including the factory where it was made. One next step would be to document the manufacturing practices at that factory, and so to tag the item with its environmental/public health legacy. This, of course, would require the assist of industry insiders, failing cooperation from the company itself.

The global diamond industry offers a rough model via its Kimberly Process, which requires nations that export diamonds to document that the stones were not “blood diamonds,” mined in a war zone. Imperfect as that system may be in practice, it stands as a demonstration that an industry can tag a specific item from its source as better or worse on a criterion of virtue.

Here market forces may assist, encouraging companies to provide such information in the interests of competitive advantage. Some marketers have long touted product virtues in marketing. For example, Cascade toilet paper claims manufacturing methods that use 80% less water than the industry average and use no chlorine; some energy providers offer an option to purchase electricity from renewable sources like wind power. That’s a bare beginning, one which lets a company select the criterion for the virtue of a given product rather than having it be evaluated more objectively. If companies themselves do not take such steps, there are alternatives. Already anyone can go into a store and, using a Palm Pilot to scan the bar code, be whisked to a website that could reveal information about that product’s level of virtue, say in terms of toxic chemicals unleashed during its manufacture.

But for such a website to have both credibility and teeth demands a sustained collaboration between information science and engineers, chemists, physicists, environmental scientists, public health and other medical specialists — to name but a few disciplines — as well as manufacturers. The mass of data potentially would be immense; information science sorts out the signal from the noise, or re-organizes noise into signal.

That task may be daunting. But I feel optimistic that through a sustained effort in consumer informatics, we’re heading to the day we will be able to vote with our wallets every time we go shopping.


DANIEL GOLEMAN is the author of the international bestsellers, Emotional Intelligence, Working with Emotional Intelligence, and Social Intelligence and coauthor (with Ricihard Boyatzis and Annie McKee) of Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence. For twelve years he covered the behavioral and brain sciences for the New York Times, and has also taught at Harvard. His previous books include Vital Lies, Simple Truths; The Meditative Mind; and, as coauthor, The Creative Spirit.

Front Page

Monday, February 19th, 2007

Continuing from this year’s Edge Question. … What Are You Optimistic About? and Why?


The Climate Optimist

William Calvin

William CalvinMention global warming at a seasonal social gathering and see what happens, now that skepticism has turned into concern and sorrow. They will assume that you’re a pessimist about our prospects. “Not really,” I protest. That earns me a quizzical look.

“Wait a minute,” she says. “If you’re an optimist, why do you look so worried?”

“So you think it’s easy, being an optimist?”

Many scientists look worried these days. We’ve had a steady diet of bad news coming from climate scientists and biologists. To become even a guarded optimist, you have to think hard.

First, I reflected, the history of science and medicine shows that, once you mechanistically understand what’s what, you can approach all sorts of seemingly unsolvable problems. I’m optimistic that we will learn how to stabilize climate.

Unfortunately the window of opportunity is closing. Fifty years have now passed since the first unequivocal scientific warnings of an insulating blanket of CO2 forming around the planet. Politicians apparently decided to wait until something big went wrong.

It has. We have already entered the period of consequences. Climate scientists have long been worried about their children’s future. Now they are also worried about their own.

Our Faustian bargain over fossil fuels has come due. Dr. Faustus had 24 years of party-now, pay-later—and indeed, it’s exactly 24 years since Ronald Reagan axed the U.S. budget for exploring alternative fuels. This led to doubling our use of cheap coal, the worst of the fossil fuels. They’re planning, under business as usual, to re-double coal burning by 2030—even though we can now see the high cost of low price.

The devil’s helpers may not have come to take us away, but killer heat waves have started, along with some major complications from global warming. We’re already seeing droughts that just won’t quit. Deserts keep expanding. Oceans keep acidifying. Greenland keeps melting. Dwindling resources keep triggering genocidal wars with neighbors (think Darfur). Extreme weather keeps trashing the place.

All of them will get worse before they get better.

Worse, tipping points can lead to irreversible demolition derbies. Should another big El NiÒo occur and last twice as long as in 1983 or 1998, the profound drought could burn down the rain forests in Southeast Asia and the Amazon—and half of all species could go extinct, just within a year or two.

Time has become so short that we must turn around the CO2 situation within a decade to avoid saddling our children with the irreversible consequences of a runaway warming. That means not waiting for a better deal on some post-Kyoto treaty. It means immediately scaling up technologies that we know will work, not waiting for something better that could take decades to debug.

This isn’t optional. It is something that we simply have to do. The time for talk is past.

“I see why you’re worried,” she says. “But what’s your optimistic scenario for dealing with this fossil fuel fiasco?”

For starters, I think it likely that the leaders of the major religious groups will soon come to see climate change as a serious failure of stewardship. And once they see our present fossil fuel use as a deeply immoral imposition on other people and unborn generations, their arguments will trump the talk-endlessly-to-buy-time business objections— just as such moral arguments did when ending slavery in the 19th century.

Second, the developed nations are fully capable of kick-starting our response to global warming with present technology—enough to achieve, within ten years, a substantial reduction in their own fossil fuel uses. How?

Wind farmers will prosper as pastures grow modern windmills to keep the cows company.

Giant parking lots, already denuded of trees, are perfect places for acres of solar paneling. Drivers will love the shaded parking spaces they create.

The Carbon Tax will replace most of those deducted from paychecks and create a big wave of retrofitting homes and businesses.

Big brightly lit grocery stores with giant parking lots will compete poorly with warehouses that deliver web and phone orders within the hour, like pizza. Smaller neighborhood grocery stores will once again do a big walk-in business and they will compete with the warehouses by offering “green bicycle” delivery.

High-speed toll gates will become the norm on commuter highways. (Yes, I know, but remember that the paycheck was just enriched by eliminating withholding for income tax.)

Speed limits will be lowered to 50 mph (80 kmh) for fuel efficiency and, as in 1973, drivers will marvel at how smoothly the traffic flows. Double taxes will apply to vehicles with worse-than-average fossil fuel consumption, reducing the number of oversized vehicles with poor streamlining. Hybrids and all-electric cars will begin to dominate new car sales.

A firm, fast schedule will be established for retiring or retrofitting existing coal plants. My bet is that adding nuclear power plants—France gets 78% of its electricity that way, New Jersey 52%—will prove safer, cheaper, and faster than fixing coal.

On the quarter-century time scale, let us assume that the new rapid transit systems will reduce car commuting by half. The transition to electric and hydrogen vehicles will shift transportation’s energy demands to greener sources, including biofuels, geothermal, tidal, and wave generation.

The highly efficient binding energy extractors (BEEs, the fourth-generation nuclear power plants) will be running on the spent fuel of the earlier generations.

The low-loss DC transmission lines will allow, via cables under the Bering Strait, solar-generated electricity to flow from the bright side to the dark side of the earth.

And in this 25-year time frame, we ought to see some important new technology making a difference, not just improvements in what we already use. For example, we might encourage rapid adaptation of the whale’s favorite food, the tiny phytoplankton which provide half of the oxygen we breathe as they separate the C from the CO2.

Since the shell-forming plankton sink to the ocean bottom when they die, their carbon is taken out of circulation for millions of years. Forests can burn down, releasing their stored carbon in a week, but limestone is forever. If shell-forming plankton could thrive in warmer waters with some selective breeding or a genetic tweak, their numbers might double and start taking our excess CO2 out of circulation.

But even if we invent—and debug—such things tomorrow, it can take several decades before an invention makes a dent in our urgent problem. And all this assumes no bad surprises, such as the next supersized El NiÒo killing off the Amazon and, once we lack all those trees, increasing the rate of warming by half.

By mid-century, let us suppose that we have begun extracting more CO2 from the atmosphere than we add.

This will only happen if the technology of the developed world has become good enough to compensate for what’s still going on in the overstressed nations that are too disorganized to get their energy act together.

When CO2 levels fall enough to counter the delayed warming from past excesses, we will begin to see a reversal of droughts and violent weather— though the rise in sea level will likely continue, a reminder to future generations of our 20th-century Faustian bargain.

As Samuel Johnson said in 1777, “when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”

We need to turn on a dime—by which I mean, close to what we saw in the United States after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

From a standing start in late 1941, the automakers converted—in a matter of months, not years—more than 1,000 automobile plants across thirty-one states… In one year, General Motors developed, tooled, and completely built from scratch 1,000 Avenger and 1,000 Wildcat aircraft… GM also produced the amphibious ‘duck’—a watertight steel hull enclosing a GM six-wheel, 2.5 ton truck that was adaptable to land or water. GM’s duck `was designed, tested, built, and off the line in ninety days’… Ford turned out one B-24 [a bomber] every 63 minutes…. — Jack Doyle, Taken for a Ride, 2000


Now there’s a source of optimism: we did it before. Indeed, GM currently needs a new purpose in life (and I’d suggest repurposing the manned space program as well). All of that talent is badly needed.

With great challenges come great opportunities and I’m an optimist about our ability to respond with innovation. Countries that innovate early will have an economic edge over the laggards.

Our present civilization is like a magnificent cathedral, back before flying buttresses were retrofitted to stabilize the walls. Civilization now needs a retrofit for stabilizing its foundations. It will be a large undertaking, not unlike those that once went into building pyramids and cathedrals. I’m optimistic that the younger generation can create a better civilization during the major makeover—provided that those currently in the leadership can stop this runaway coal train, real fast.

Climate change is a challenge to the scientists but I suspect that the political leadership has the harder task, given how difficult it is to make people aware of what must be done and get them moving in time. It’s going to be like herding stray cats, and the political leaders who can do it will be remembered as the same kind of geniuses who pulled off the American Revolution.


WILLIAM H. CALVIN, Ph.D., is a neurobiologist at the University of Washington in Seattle. He is the author of a dozen books, mostly for general readers, about brains and evolution including The Throwing Madonna, The Cerebral Symphony, The River That Runs Uphill, The Cerebral Code, Conversations with Neil’s Brain (with George Ojemann), and How Brains Think. His book with Derek Bickerton, Lingua ex Machina: Reconciling Darwin and Chomsky with the Human Brainwith, is about syntax. The latest, A Brain for All Seasons:  Human Evolution and Abrupt Climate Change, about paleoanthropology, paleoclimate, and considerations from neurobiology and evolutionary biology. It won the 2002 Phi Beta Kappa book award for science. The latest is A Brief History of the Mind: From Apes to Intellect and Beyond about the mind’s big bang.

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Tuesday, February 6th, 2007

Continuing from this year’s Edge Question. … What Are You Optimistic About? Why?


New Prospects for Immortality

Marvin Minksy

Benjamin Franklin wrote in a letter to Jacques Dubourg in April of 1773:

“I wish it were possible… to invent a method of embalming drowned persons, in such a manner that they might be recalled to life at any period, however distant; for having a very ardent desire to see and observe the state of America a hundred years hence, I should prefer to an ordinary death, being immersed with a few friends in a cask of Madeira, until that time, then to be recalled to life by the solar warmth of my dear country! But… in all probability, we live in a century too little advanced, and too near the infancy of science, to see such an art brought in our time to its perfection.”

Marvin MinskyEternal life may come within our reach once we understand enough about how our knowledge and mental processes are embodied in our brains. For then we should be able to duplicate that information — and then into more robust machinery. This might be possible late in this century, in view of how much we are learning about how human brains work — and the growth of computer capacities.

However, this could have been possible long ago if the progress of science had not succumbed to the spread of monotheistic religions. For as early as 250 BCE, Archimedes was well on the way toward modern physics and calculus. So in an alternate version of history (in which the pursuit of science did not decline) just a few more centuries could have allowed the likes of Newton, Maxwell, Gauss, and Pasteur to anticipate our present state of knowledge about physics, mathematics, and biology. Thenperhaps by 300 AD we could have learned so much about the mechanics of minds that citizens could decide on the lengths of their lives.

I’m sure that not all scholars would agree that religion retarded the progress of science. However, the above scenario seems to suggest that Pascal was wrong when he concluded that only faith could offer salvation. For if science had not lost those millennia, we might be already be able to transfer our minds into our machines. If so, then you could rightly complain that religions have deprived you of the option of having an afterlife!

Do we really want to lengthen our lives?

Woody Allen: I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying.

In discussing this prospect with various groups, I was surprised to find that the idea of extending one’s lifetime to thousands of years was often seen as a dismal suggestion. The response to my several informal polls included such objections as these: “Why would anyone want to live for a thousand hundred years? What if you outlived all your friends? What would you do with all that time? Wouldn’t one’s life become terribly boring?”

What can one conclude from this? Perhaps some of those persons lived with a sense that they did not deserve to live so long. Perhaps others did not regard themselves as having worthy long term goals. In any case, I find it worrisome that so many of our citizens are resigned to die. A planetful of people who feel that they do not have much to lose: surely this could be dangerous. (I neglected to ask the religious ones why perpetual heaven would be less boring.)

However, my scientist friends showed few such concerns: “There are countless things that I want to find out, and so many problems I want to solve, that I could use many centuries.” I’ll grant that religious beliefs can bring mental relief and emotional peace—but I question whether these, alone, should be seen as commendable long-term goals.

The quality of extended lives

Anatole France: The average man, who does not know what to do with his life, wants another one which will last forever.

Certainly, immortality would seem unattractive if it meant endless infirmity, debility, and dependency upon others—but here we’ll assume a state of perfect health. A somewhat sounder concern might be that the old ones should die to make room for young ones with newer ideas. However, this leaves out the likelihood that are many important ideas that no human person could reach in, say, less than a few hundred well focused years. If so, then a limited lifespan might deprive us of great oceans of wisdom that no one can grasp.

In any case, such objections are shortsighted because, once we embody our minds in machines, we’ll find ways to expand their capacities. You’ll be able to edit your former mind, or merge it with parts of other minds — or develop completely new ways to think. Furthermore, our future technologies will no longer constrain us to think at the crawling pace of “real time.” The events in our computers already proceed a millions times faster than those in our brain. To such beings, a minute might seem as long as a human year.

How could we download a human mind?

Today we are only beginning to understand the machinery of our human brains, but we already have many different theories about how those organs embody the processes that we call our minds. We often hear arguments about which of those different theories are right — but those often are the wrong questions to ask, because we know that every brain has hundreds of different specialized regions that work in different ways. I have suggested a dozen different ways in which our brains might represent our skill and memories. It could be many years before we know which structures and functions we’ll need to reproduce.

(No such copies can yet be made today, so if you want immortality, your only present option is to have your brain preserved by a Cryonics company. However, improving this field still needs further research — but there is not enough funding for this today — although the same research is also needed for advancing the field of transplanting organs.)

Some writers have even suggested that, to make a working copy of a mind, one might have to include many small details about the connections among all the cells of a brain; if so, it would require an immense amount of machinery to simulate all those cells’ chemistry. However, I suspect we’ll need far less than that, because our nervous systems must have evolved to be insensitive to lower-level details; otherwise, our brains would rarely work.

Fortunately, we won’t need to solve all those problems at once. For long before we are able to make complete “backups” of our personalities, this field of research will produce a great flood of ideas for adding new features and accessories to our existing brains. Then this may lead, through smaller steps, to replacing all parts of our bodies and brains — and thus repairing all the defects and flaws that make presently our lives so brief. And the more we learn about how our brains work, the more ways we will find to provide them with new abilities that never evolved in biology.


MARVIN MINSKY is a mathematician and computer scientist; Toshiba Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and cofounder of MIT’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. He is the author of eight books, including The Society of Mind and, most recently, The Emotion Machine.

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Saturday, January 27th, 2007

John Brockman runs a very interesting website called The Edge. Each year he asks a provocative question to some of best thinkers on the planet, and then publishes their answers on the website. This years question: What Are You Optimistic About? and Why?

The 160 responses to this year’s Edge Question span topics such as string theory, intelligence, population growth, cancer, climate and much much more. … I will feature a few that caught my eye here at Future Positive. Enjoy. –TKW


We Have the Capacity to Understand One Another

Rebecca Goldstein

Rebecca GoldsteinSharp polarities between clashing points of view are wreaking all sorts of havoc in the world right now. Perhaps for many of us the divide that cuts closest to the quick is that between science, reason, and logic, on the one hand, and sectarianism, faith, and religion, on the other. My optimism is anchored to one aspect of human nature: We have the capacity to understand one another.  Evolution has bequeathed us a sketchy folk psychology, just as it has a sketchy folk physics. We come equipped with the understanding that we are engaged with others who manifest propositional attitudes—beliefs, desires, regrets, dreads, hopes: the whole gamut. We come equipped, too, with skills for discovering what those propositional attitudes of others might be.

Since at least the 1940s social psychologists have been studying our capacity to attribute mental states to others. In one early important experiment (Heider & Simmel 1944), almost every single subject, when shown a short movie consisting of geometrical shapes moving on a screen, attributed propositional attitudes to the shapes. Subsequent research has strengthened the view that our capacity for mental attribution is universal and nearly reflexive—in short, an aspect of human nature.

Our folk physics—involving ideas about space and time, about objects and forces—can be extended and deepened, refined and corrected by that sophisticated enterprise we call science. So, too, can our primitive folk psychology be expanded and refined. We can even come to understand those whose propositional attitudes diverge significantly from our own. We humans may never be able to know what it’s like to be a bat, but Daniel Dennett could, in principle, know what it’s like to be a believer, to hold that life has meaning only if it conforms to some larger-than-life purpose, say, or to be the victim of a dread of death so overwhelming that comfort is gained only from denying the reality of mortality altogether. And so, too, Pope Benedictus XVI could, in principle, understand the propositional attitudes of a proponent of naturalism, determined to trim his ontology to the entities required only by science because of a higher-order desire never to be duped into believing something which is false and, therefore, committed to the highest standards of empirical evidence. (Not all propositional-attitude bearers share this higher-order desire not to be duped, which can come as a shock to many in the scientific community.

Quite obviously, to understand the propositional attitudes of another is not to endorse them; it isn’t the same as wanting them for one’s own, although that can, of course, occur—as when, as occasionally happens, we learn from one another. Still, to come to know better the propositional attitudes of others, grasping what the world is like for them, can be intrinsically interesting. It can also be useful—in fact, often essential to survival and reproduction. (A seducer will get nowhere without at least a rudimentary grasp of the propositional attitudes of the seducee. ) It is also implicated in widening the circle of sympathy that promotes the outward dissemination of ethical attitudes.

And of course the most effective means for changing someone’s mind usually involves grasping the mind he already has.

Just as science improves on our primitive folk physics, we have an enterprise that extends the primitive skills of folk psychology, refining them into a means of arriving at a complex and shared knowledge of what it’s like to have propositional attitudes and representational structures quite different from one’s own. This enterprise is the narrative arts. What gives me any optimism at all in this dark season of dangerous divides is that there is a trend among contemporary novelists to turn their artistic attention to the divisive themes of the day. Given the nature of the literary enterprise—what it is that novels do—this effort to develop narrative techniques for taking the full human measure of such divides can only contribute to deepening our understanding of what lies behind what seem like irreconcilable differences—and which often are just that: irreconcilable. We are not, ever, going to become an attitudinally homogenous species. Someone who desires, above all, not to be duped into believing something false will not be turned into someone who, say, wants his beliefs, above all, to affirm his affinity with his community, nor vice versa. Still, it’s instructive for both to make their way into the other’s mind. There’s even a slight chance that someone’s mind might be changed in the process. But the deepening of understanding isn’t measured solely by changes of that sort.

So, at the end of the day, I am tethering my optimism to the work of our contemporary novelists—which is probably another way of saying that I’m pretty darned pessimistic.


Rebecca Goldstein is the author of five novels—The Mind-Body Problem, The Late-Summer Passion of a Woman of Mind, The Dark Sister, Mazel, and Properties of Light—and a collection of stories—Strange Attractors. Her nonfiction works include Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Gˆdel; and the recently published Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity.

Among her honors are two Whiting Foundation Awards (one in philosophy, one in writing), two National Jewish Book Awards, the Edward Lewis Wallant Award, and the Prairie Schooner Best Short Story Award. In 1996 she was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow.

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Monday, January 15th, 2007

From the SynEARTH Archives. … I graduated from high school in June of 1963. A month later the following speech was delivered on the steps at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.


I have a Dream

Martin Luther King, Jr

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity. But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free.

One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land.

So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition. In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.

This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.

So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God’s children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights.

The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges. But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. we must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” we can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.” I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor’s lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.” And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania! Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado! Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California! But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia! Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee! Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”


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