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As humans our superpower is the ability to work cooperatively with others of our species. But these seemingly simple ideas of cooperation and coordination turn out to be devilishly complex in practice, especially in large undertakings. In an organization of any appreciable size, all of the following patterns of cooperation can be found.
Blog Post | 2020 Mar 27
When I was in school, history was one of my least favorite subjects: It just seemed like a bunch of arbitrary names and dates and events that I had to memorize. In hindsight, I realize now, the problem I had with the subject was that it had been “storified.”
Blog Post | 2020 Mar 24
What is Markdown, and why should you care? Let's just start by saying that Markdown is a deceptively simple tool for writers.
Blog Post | 2020 Feb 25
As we move into the 2020 election season in the US, I thought it might be useful to point out some things that Donald Trump gets right. If you're concerned about electability, then please pay attention to how your candidates navigate their ways through these seven minefields.
Blog Post | 2020 Feb 11
This is my assessment of the Democratic candidates for the US presidency, following the debates on the evening of 14 Jan 2020.
Blog Post | 2020 Jan 15
The problem is that we've had something valuable stolen from us along the way. And the whole modern notion of UX design is one of the thieves that has robbed us.
Blog Post | 2019 Dec 27
As 2019 winds to a close, and we pause briefly to compose ourselves before finding out what 2020 has in store, I want to take a moment to offer up a prayer – not to God, but to all of us – for a more integral sense of who we are in the new year.
Blog Post | 2019 Dec 17
The problem here is that this conflict between the personal and the institutional is a false dichotomy. While we are right to believe that the ultimate goal of human society is the welfare of the individual persons within that society, it is folly to believe that these ends can be met without participation in and reliance on human institutions.
Blog Post | 2019 Nov 01
We need to realize that the current system is, in fact, not broken. Instead, in truth, it is doing exactly what it was designed to do.
Blog Post | 2019 Sep 25
When it comes to religion, the main question for most people is whether to keep the one we were raised with or to lose it altogether. But now I'm starting to wonder whether, instead of losing my religion, it might not be better just to rejigger it a bit?
Blog Post | 2019 Aug 13
No matter what your age or orientation, it's hard to gainsay the significance of humankind's first trip through space to set foot on a celestial body other than our birth planet. Of course fictional space flight has become so common that sitting down for two hours to watch a documentary about a real trip that took place half a century ago might seem like a somewhat pedestrian enterprise. Ah, but there's where you'd be wrong.
Blog Post | 2019 Jul 20
By now I'm sure you've heard of Trump's recent attacks on four Democratic congressional representatives, all women of color, urging them to “go back … to the crime-infested places from which they came.” How should Democrats respond? Here are the sorts of positions I'd like to hear them articulate.
Blog Post | 2019 Jul 16
I'm not quite as old as Biden, and I've never served in public office, but I can still share his nostalgia for seemingly simpler times when our political leaders displayed some sort of respect for each other, even when they disagreed over issues of state. However it's one thing to reveal a preference for certain elements of those bygone days, but quite another to base your presidential run on wishful thinking that those lost elements can somehow be restored in the third decade of the 21st century.
Blog Post | 2019 Jun 25
No wonder zombie movies have been popular of late: so many of us feel like increasingly isolated survivors having to fight off forces that we thought were previously vanquished and long buried, forces that seem to be arising all around us, springing at us from all sides.
Blog Post | 2019 Jun 10
We all sort of know the problems, right? Monopolies. Lock-in. Stream addiction. Reality bubbles. Billionaires seeking market dominance. All other values taking a back seat to growth. I don't think I need to elaborate. If you're reading this, then you're probably well aware of all these concerns. But what do we do about them? Here are a couple of ideas. Radical but practical. And very doable.
Blog Post | 2019 May 22
Right now Democrats are focused primarily on two things happening in 2020: 1. Beating Trump; 2. Regaining control of the Senate. These would both be great accomplishments for the party, and for the winning candidates. But for the country, not so much.
Blog Post | 2019 Apr 25
If you react in any of these typical ways, then I will argue today that you're missing the bigger picture, and overlooking the most devastating consequences of our country's loss of our middle class.
Blog Post | 2019 Apr 15
I wrote recently to express my skepticism about the chances of a centrist candidate becoming our next U.S. president. I write today to share my belief that a balanced candidate might well win.
Blog Post | 2019 Mar 25
While many of us are waiting for our 2020 presidential candidates to hit the road and give us a chance to to get to know them better, I decided to stop waiting and let them know what I'm looking for in a new president. I mean after all, it doesn't seem fair to make them guess.
Blog Post | 2019 Mar 24
I've often considered Citizen Kane and It's A Wonderful Life to be complementary works, much like cinematic twins separated at birth.
Blog Post | 2019 Mar 11
We all run into challenges from time to time, whether at work, at home, or in our communities. In general, I would suggest, we have three different approaches available to us when we try to respond to such situations.
Blog Post | 2019 Mar 05
As the US political scene transitions from the Democratic successes in the midterms to the beginnings of the 2020 presidential contest, one of the most pressing questions to emerge is whether there is any meaningful middle ground remaining along the political spectrum stretching from left to right.
Blog Post | 2019 Feb 18
I find it fascinating to compare the original Star Trek television series with the first Star Wars movie. And I think this comparison can reveal a lot about the current state of our culture.
Blog Post | 2019 Feb 11
In short, this was a period of our history during which class distinctions seemed to be fading. Sure, some people had more money than others. My mother drove a Ford Falcon, my father drove a Mustang, and my Uncle drove a Thunderbird. But they all drove Fords, everyone drove cars built in Detroit, and the similarities between the cars they were driving were more significant than the differences.
Blog Post | 2019 Jan 27
As I write this, those of us in the U.S. are on day 30 of a partial federal government shutdown whose effects are increasingly rippling through our society. How did we get here, we might ask ourselves? And how might we avoid such lunacy in the future? Here are six things we might want to watch out for.
Blog Post | 2019 Jan 21
No matter which way you lean politically, you probably have strong feelings about capitalism. It seems to me that there are a lot of odd ideas on this topic running around out there in today's world. Let me offer some thoughts about what seems true to me.
Blog Post | 2019 Jan 07
What happened between 1990 and 2018? Who stuck the playing card between the spokes of the bicycle for my mind, turning a mental enabler into an annoying distraction?
Blog Post | 2018 Dec 17
Looking back over the history of the United States, it's easy to see in hindsight a series of events and actions that have either united or divided us.
Blog Post | 2018 Dec 03
Let me take you on a little journey of thought exploring some hitherto unconsidered aspects of our common cultural evolution.
Blog Post | 2018 Nov 19
Today I'd like to change my focus and offer some advice for what people can and should do to improve their own personal lots in modern life. I have only a few recommendations, and they're rather brief and straightforward, although I won't claim they're easy.
Blog Post | 2018 Oct 31
In this brief respite between primary season and the general US midterm elections in November, I thought it might be fitting to offer up a few suggestions to those of us who will be participating, whether as candidates or as voters.
Blog Post | 2018 Oct 04
I was thinking recently about my own upbringing in Annapolis, Maryland, back in the sixties, and it occurred to me that there were several aspects of my experience there and then that I took for granted, but that are no longer very common today.
Blog Post | 2018 Sep 26
I suffered a crisis of faith a few years ago: a crisis of faith in my atheism.
Blog Post | 2018 Sep 15
A few years ago, when I was teaching software development, I often invoked the image of a three-legged stool, with each leg representing one of the essential leadership roles: leave out any one of them, you see, and your project is liable to fall over. The human mind is pretty good at understanding these sorts of visual analogies, and is also pretty good at working with short lists of important things. This limited numeric range is, perhaps, unfortunate, because, as far as I can discern, there are no fewer than twenty-six essentials that modern humans must keep their eyes on in order for us to keep civilization as we know it moving forward on a reasonably even keel. Ignore or devalue any one of them, I maintain, and it is human society that starts to fall over.
Blog Post | 2018 Aug 04
Has business gotten too big? Rather than trying to answer this question directly, let's start by reviewing the fundamental architecture of all modern societies.
Blog Post | 2018 Jul 02
The first Practopian core principle states that “We are humanistic: we are focused on human concerns and human potential.” The primary intent behind this statement is to signal that we don't claim to represent any authority other than our own very human selves, and that we focus on the interests of ourselves and our fellow humans. However, there are a whole host of Humanist organizations already in existence around the globe, representing a Humanist movement of sorts, and so it may be helpful to comment on how I see the Society for Practical Utopians in relationship to these other brands of humanism.
Blog Post | 2018 Jun 22
I sometimes think that at least half of the confusion we currently experience in our civil discourse stems from our inability to speak openly and honestly about the nature of hierarchy.
Blog Post | 2018 Apr 13
I've recently read The Common Good by Robert B. Reich, and can recommend it heartily. It's a lovely little book that can help remind us all that we have obligations to the societies in which we live and work, and that contributing to the common good should be a daily calling for all of us. Still though, I can't help but feel that Reich's description of the unraveling of the common good in the USA is incomplete, and so I'd like to offer something of an addendum with the words that follow.
Blog Post | 2018 Apr 10
Facebook has been in the news lately due to renewed privacy concerns, and many observers have called for various solutions, including pledges from CEO Mark Zuckerberg to do better, as well as increased government regulation. But there seems to be an obvious and somewhat traditional remedy that is not getting much consideration: good old fashioned competition.
Blog Post | 2018 Apr 05
The recent Florida school shooting has again propelled issues surrounding gun violence into the forefront of our national dialogue. The Core Practopian beliefs may seem very broad and general, but I'd like to illustrate how they can be usefully employed in a specific debate such as this one.
Blog Post | 2018 Feb 27
I came across a couple of things recently that got me thinking about the value of technology education, and what that training should look like. The first item that caught my attention was Kirk McElhearn's blog post about “The Tech Industry's Tunnel Vision about Coding and Language.”
Blog Post | 2018 Jan 22
I've noticed that Big Thinkers – people like Ken Wilber and Yuval Noah Harari – tend to get confused about art and why it matters. Unable to find a neat place for it in their developmental models of civilization, they end up citing that old chestnut of “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and leaving it at that, as an entirely subjective experience. Everyone's idea of beauty can be different, they say, and they're all equally valid. Of course, I've never run across an actual artist who sees things this way.
Blog Post | 2017 Nov 15
Many pundits today are predicting a future of robots equipped with artificial intelligence so powerful that they will essentially render great swaths of humanity obsolete. Let me just make a few points concerning such imaginings.
Blog Post | 2017 Aug 23
Like many of my fellow citizens, I've been struggling in recent months to understand exactly what it means to be American these days – to identify the central elements of our collective identity that still bind us together as some kind of unified whole.
Blog Post | 2017 Jul 13
When I founded The Society for Practical Utopians, I based it on a fundamental set of beliefs, divided up into principles and values. And the very first value, the one given preeminent position, is balance.
Blog Post | 2017 Jun 12
It often seems that there is little in this modern world that any two of us can agree on.
Blog Post | 2017 Mar 26
I was recently puzzling over the still surprising victory of Donald Trump in the recent US Presidential elections, when it occurred to me that there is another way to think about this whole chain of events. What follows is going to require some understanding of evolving developmental levels for people and our societies, so let me start with a summary of my understanding of these.
Blog Post | 2016 Dec 29
Here we are at the end of another year, well into what many of us call the Holiday Season. As I've remarked elsewhere, when it comes to religion, I'm a bit of a mongrel, so my approach to the holidays, while imbued with many of the traditional practices and stories associated with a good Methodist upbringing, does not hew closely to any particular set of Christian dictates. But that's perhaps as it should be, for Christmas, it seems to me, has always been too big a thing to be narrowly claimed by any particular religious organization.
Blog Post | 2016 Dec 08
Trying hard to make sense of what happened last night. Here are my thoughts. 1. Our country is almost equally divided into two camps.
Blog Post | 2016 Nov 09
It may be too early to know who will win on Tuesday, but it's not too early to assess the major issues roiling the electorate and offer a few thoughts about what needs to happen after the voting is over – no matter who comes out on top.
Blog Post | 2016 Nov 03
As human society has evolved over the centuries, we have developed different types of social structures. None of the later structures replace earlier ones, yet each new structure has been devised in order to confer some new sort of evolutionary advantage to our species – in other words, to help us survive and thrive more effectively.
Blog Post | 2016 Jan 10
Religion can be thought of as a collection of shared cultural artifacts that provide a sense of meaning about human existence.
Blog Post | 2014 Nov 27
What does it mean to be human? This must certainly be a foundational question for all of us, when contemplating almost any aspect of our existence. And while any brief answer to this question must admittedly be no more than a starting point for further discussion, I think it perhaps worthwhile to provide such a beginning. And so, here they are: the primary traits we share that I think make us uniquely human.
Blog Post | 2013 Dec 15
I first came across Ken Wilber's work late in the last century when a friend handed me a copy of A Brief History of Everything as a birthday present. Wilber has described four quadrants of human knowledge, each representing a different and valid perspective on the same reality.
Blog Post | 2012 Oct 26
When it comes to religion, I have to confess to being a bit of a mongrel. My mother was a Methodist. My father was a nudist. And I once called myself an immortalist. These days I choose not to align myself with any particular religious group.
Blog Post | 2012 Aug 04
Human records indicate that some sort of belief in a God or collection of gods is a feature of almost all human culture. No matter what the continent or age, a belief in powerful, supernatural beings that somehow influence human existence is a near-constant. At the same time, though, many skeptics have persistently questioned the existence of such a being, and beliefs about the attributes of God have exhibited wide variation, with such variations often being so deeply held that wars have been fought to advance one sort of belief over another. Rather than approach the question of God's existence directly, it seems wiser to ask ourselves how we can best explain the facts above – the combination of a nearly universal human belief in God, combined with so far irreconcilable differences in what sort of God we believe in.
Blog Post | 2012 Mar 10
We often seem to assume that people say things, and come to believe them, because they are true. It seems to me, though, that people take up beliefs for a whole host of reasons, and the likely truth or falsehood of these statements is often the least of the motivating factors at work. Here then, are the multifarious reasons why people may choose to believe something.
Blog Post | 2012 Feb 21
We tend to divide up human history into relatively neat periods, and give them names like “The Agrarian Era,” “The Age of Industrialization” and “The Information Age.” When I look at what's going on around me today and try to make sense of it, I am forced to draw the conclusion that we are deep into an as yet unnamed age that I would call “The Systemic Era.” What I mean by this is that we are now at a point where the human condition is much more influenced by vast social and economic systems of our own collective making than by any natural forces or conditions, or any individual actions we might take, or even any individual intentions we might have.
Blog Post | 2011 Aug 15
A number of authors and systems of thought espouse one or another series of developmental levels, in fields of study as diverse as psychology, sociology, economics and organizational development.
Blog Post | 2009 Oct 22