The Sermon on the Internet

Schneier on Security

We no longer have things with computers embedded in them. We have computers with things attached to them.

The Internet is no longer a web that we connect to. Instead, it’s a computerized, networked, and interconnected world that we live in. This is the future, and what we’re calling the Internet of Things.

You can think of the sensors as the eyes and ears of the Internet. You can think of the actuators as the hands and feet of the Internet. And you can think of the stuff in the middle as the brain. We are building an Internet that senses, thinks, and acts.

This is the classic definition of a robot. We’re building a world-size robot, and we don’t even realize it

This guy lays it on the line. He only misses one thing – no one is listening to him – or only a few are. What he is saying is complicated – compared to the Sermon on the Mount, that was so simple, anyone could understand it.

I want to understand the Computer – and spend time everyday on this task. I have only learned one thing for sure – Computers are complicated.

Asking our stone-age minds to understand them is asking for a lot – but I have such a mind, as do Software Developers. All of us have to shift into another world – yet another one! And I know we can do it.

I have put this on the top of my reading list – and I am going to read it if it kills me!

America and the Americans

This distinction appeared early in the 19th Century, when America become urban and industrialized. Before, there had been only one type of American – farmer, although, in the South there were slave-owning Planters that produced tobacco for, and bought manufactured goods from, an overseas market – mainly English.

This distinction was personified by Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. George Washington tried to moderate between them – but eventually presided over the American Constitutional Convention that made the United States happen.

Thomas Jefferson, who was in France at the time – came back, became involved in American politics – thereby making himself powerful, and fathered children by one of his slaves, at the same time.

The new kind of American was typified by Andrew Jackson, very much a self-made man – who, without knowing it – made possible the formation of many new kinds of Americans. He made them respectable by his own example.

And this new respectability was celebrated by Walt Whitman. Who made the Common Man not only respectable – but almost divine.

This was a new idea – but one Americans (all kinds of Americans) took as their own. I might as well state it here:

No matter how incompetent you are, you are basically perfect!

To this day, Americans believe this – and believe this completely. When I was working in Silicon Valley, in the Nineties – I saw all kinds of destructive craziness going on. But everyone was saying “Nothing bad is going on!”

Nothing bad could happen, because they were so good!

Longfellow Compared to Whitman

Poetry Foundation – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

As you know, I have been reading Walt Whitman’s America: A Cultural Biography. And I have been surprised to discover that these two lived and wrote at the same time.

Whitman is now considered (along with Dickinson) as one of the founders of American poetry. Why?

Because, I think – Whitman was more American.

Longfellow was from New England, but more was happening, in Antebellum America, further South, centered in New York City. Whitman was part of that scene. He didn’t like it, especially – but he could not resist it.

This scene was dirty – to speak plainly – and Whitman covered himself in this mud. First, as a journalist – and then as a poet.

He thought he refined it in his writing – and perhaps he did. But Americans loved sensational writing – and he was full of it.

The Appeal of Destructive Behavior

The appeal of destructive behavior is built into the Human species – and manifests itself most readily in war.

Usually, this behavior is referred to, in the abstract – as violence.But I prefer the more general word – destructive. We can see this most readily during times in the past, when groups of people destroyed each other – and themselves. They were possessed by a destructive frenzy.

We have to ask ourselves “What precipitates this destructive frenzy?” In our times, it seems to be – unconscious dissatisfaction with the present situation, coupled with the inability to understand it.

People become unhappy with the way their world is treating them – but are not allowed to consciously experience this – so it gets shoved into their unconscious. Where it festers, until it explodes.

Our first learning experience is as small children – most of what we learn, we learn in the first three years of our lives – and probably even before we are born. The fetus knows very well, the attitude of its mother to it.

If a small child is treated badly, what can he (or she) do about it? This is a huge decision, and everything depends on it. He will try to adopt other people’s solutions.- which usually, is to deny the problem exists – and, as part of this solution, move it into their unconscious. The rest of his life, he will live with this time-bomb buried in his mind.

If we are rejected, we adopt different personalities, that will be accepted – but we never feel satisfied with them – and social instability builds up.

The only solution is a complete restructuring of society – which is going on right now, with a move towards a Software economy. Whether this will save us, or not – remains to be seen.

Antebellum America

This was America in the decades leading up to the Civil War. A period we can no longer remember – but one that had a decisive effect on the future of America.

We can no longer remember it, because it was so complicated. And because it illustrated so well the social incompetence of America – an incompetence it shared with every other nation of the period – and which continues to this day.

I continue to read Walt Whitman’s America – that describes this period very well. And its effect on his Leaves of Grass – that Americans are still fond of, although few have read it.

America was transitioning from an Agricultural economy to an Industrial economy – and doing a poor job of it.

This transition was still happening a century later – and Americans were still unaware of it.

How Mormonism Developed

This is my own analysis – and reaches conclusions most Mormons will disagree with.

I might as well state how I view Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism – that should be called JosephSmithism. He was, in my opinion, a religious scoundrel.

As a young man, he was a diviner of buried treasure. People believed treasure was buried in their property. How widely this belief extended, I do not know, but it was common in parts of lower New York State.

They knew this buried treasure existed – but didn’t know where it was. They employed the services of young Joseph to find this treasure. He used a Seer Stone, to see where the treasure was buried. He put the Stone in his hat, and placed the hat over his head and eyes, With his eyes in the dark, his Stone revealed the location of the treasure. That was never found.

He had special abilities. These special abilities would occur again and again, in different contexts – in the story that follows.

However, his skills became illegal in some counties, and an inquest was held to see if he should be tried in a legal Court. It was determined that he was a Juggler, and should be tried. He quickly moved to other counties. I got this information from the book The Making of a Prophet – although I may have gotten some of the details wrong.

Young Joseph had to find new sources of income. And he decided to write a book, similar to another book, about how some of the tribes of Israel came to the New World. He acquired some Golden Plates, on which this history had been inscribed. His wife, Emma, kept them, covered with a cloth, so no one actually saw them, on the their living room table.

The room was divided with a blanket, into two parts – with Joseph, interpreting the writing on the Plates, and dictating what he saw – and a person on the other side, writing down what he said. This person was his wife, at first, but other people were also employed at this task went along. What eventually happened to the Golden Plates is not known.

Eventually, after some mishaps that will not be described here – a manuscript was taken to a printer – and the Book of Mormon resulted. Joseph considered this a business venture, and tried to sell it. He had attracted followers (he always did) and he received a revelation that a buyer would be found in Canada – and he sent his followers off to find him. But they returned empty-handed.

Meanwhile, missionaries had gone to England, carrying the Book with them. People there were very impressed with it, and thought it had a divine origin. How anyone could be impressed by it, I cannot imagine – but they were. They thought Joseph was a Prophet of God!

This was a new idea to Joseph, but he soon felt it fit him very well. And he organized his own church – the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints – LDS, for short – in 1830.

The LDS Church moved frequently. First to Kirtland, Ohio, then to Independence, Missouri. Where Joseph led a military uprising against some Missouri forces, failed, and was jailed.

He was allowed to escape from jail, and formed a new town in Nauvoo, Illinois – that quickly grew to be the largest city in Illinois. Many converts were coming all the way from England, and then up the Mississippi River.

He was a contemporary of Abraham Lincoln, also from Illinois – but the two never met.

In 1844, he was killed by a mob.

From Competition to Cooperation

We are living in a world undergoing great change – including this change in the way we work together.

The Industrial economy assumed that competition in the marketplace would produce the greatest good overall. And it did produce wealthy countries, including the USA. But this economy had huge problems. It was subject to financial panics – later called depressions, because this sounded better. And it produced the very rich and the very poor. And it even produced the Holocaust.

Something was wrong, but no one knew how to fix it – without wrecking everything, as the Soviet Union tried to do.

A new way of doing things, came from the strangest place – the Computer and its Software. To produce good Software, people have to cooperate. Software companies know this – but they are still prone to the old ways of doing business – fighting everyone else to get a bigger share of the pie. Instead of making the whole pie bigger – something that can be done.

Now, we have two ways of doing things, (1) going to war to get more – or (2) cooperating to help everyone. The first alternative, right now, is the most popular- even though it means wrecking everything. War has always been popular.

If we go back to the Fifties, we can see how we went wrong. Companies found it more profitable to move their manufacturing to China – and the Federal Govemment did nothing to stop them. The Industrial Midwest (including Detroit) became a Rust Belt.

No one realized that our economy included all Americans – the Workers, the Consumers, and the Capitalists. We all had to work together.

I included the Consumer in this mix. Software people have renamed them the User – and emphasize that they have to be part of the Development Cycle. Companies have to produce products and services that the User wants.

The User has to be included in the process of developing a new product – using an iterative process. Develop a prototype, and see if the User likes it.- if not, try a new idea, that often as not – he suggests.