Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Social Deviants are The Future?

I lifted the following from a Amazon commenter (Jeffrey Miller)'s book review.

Freedom of speech and protection of a counterculture are more than just abstract features of a Western liberal morality. Freedom of speech and protection of "deviants" comprise essential economic infrastructure in the twenty-first century. As we move into an Information Age, societies that offer strong protection of freedom of speech and individual expression will trump those Confucian societies that emphasize obedience and silent submission to authority. As unlikely a winner as oft-benighted India may seem to be, I would still put good money on India and the individualistic U.S., in collaboration with the European Union, as the future leaders of the non-local sphere of Information and Cyberspace, leaving the Confucian societies not yet visited by glasnost far behind. Freedom of information should be treated by Khanna as one of the most important traits of an economic superpower, far more important than good roads, canals, and oil rigs. Confucianism, as it exists today, is a mimicry engine producing only commodities; free societies such as India have the potential to become creativity engines, producing entirely new economic niches.
Economies open to harnessing the (positive) Black Swans, as Taleb would say.
Unless we are driven into a new Dark Age by war or resource disasters, the relentless Information Age will reward societies with strong creative classes (Richard Florida's term); reward societies with a protected counterculture and bohemia; and will punish societies ruled by conformity and fear of "deviance"; will punish societies without their equivalent of Mad Magazine; will punish societies that imprison dissidents. Until Chinese glasnost emerges, the United States, Europe and India will rule cyberspace, and hence the future.

Miller's points are compelling. Global access to a global pool of knowledge (and, so far, an unlimited amount of output able to be put in to it) -- the effects of this have yet to be really sifted out to their long term implications.


Related is this Nature article entitled "Conformists may kill civilizations."
"Whitehead and Richerson's models highlight the perils of cultural conformism in red-noise environments, particularly when populations are small, but also show how other styles of learning can mitigate the problems. For instance, 'prestige bias' means that people only copy successful role models, rather than simply imitating what everyone else is doing.
"Societies should promote individual learning and innovation over cultural conformity, and the models for social learning should be individuals who have demonstrated that they understand how to live with the current environmental trends," says Whitehead."

clik for bigger- source: Flickr

PS- Is "entitled" more pretentious than "titled"? hopefully


  1. Firefox won't let me comment on your posts so I lost my well-thought essay in reponse to yours. So here I am on IE, taking precautions.

    Very interesting stuff. You're entitled to be as pretentious as you like but I will be even more so and quote the Oxford English Dictionary to you:

    entitle: To furnish (a literary work, a chapter, etc.) with a heading or superscription ...

    In the matter of content discussed in your post, it's all a bit generalized and hyper-intellectual for my taste. But your celebration of the deviants and contrarians in society makes it all worth while. I wonder if you could be persuaded to list the kinds of deviant and contrarian that you have in mind?

    My kind of contrarian is to cherish an earlier age, about 1900, when we had typewriters, electric light, steam engines and telephone. That was enough. OK I will not cut off the bough I am currently sitting on (The Web) from approval. But I demand to be included in any analysis of 21st century man!

  2. I find one has to move from high specificity to generalizing, when you're walking from one 'oasis' of knowledge to an other. Inside that bubble be as specific as possible, but you have to generalize for the vast areas between subjects, when working to get from one to the other (or, moreso, just trying to catch a sight of the other, sniff out some sort'a tenuous connextion).

    As far as the contrarian ideal, less those who simply reject the accepted way of doing things (though acknowledging its place), more those who work to understand the system they're in, how it works, and from that become aware of its blind spots. Though, not sure if i would stand by the above, 110%.

  3. I like to live in the desert between one oasis of knowledge and the other, in uncharted spaces, where there is no generalization because there is no theory.

    Am I within a system? Is there a choice to be in a system or outside it? Who defines what the system is?

  4. We're all in some several sorts of systems - the primary of which is the system of existence with its bounds/rules/unknowns; how we develop and where we live (our environment) are other systems we live in.

    I think understanding a system includes understanding at least that there was something that prompted its development, if not trying to find the reason that its stayed around (for example, did this system of thought accumulate advancement in a field that might be worth attending to? What is its underlying structure? Many of these questions are unanswerable definitively)