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My Commonplace book

These are annotations and highlights from the things I've read. Right now they're pulled solely from my Kobo, but I hope to integrate web highlights, and maybe even video/audio snippets soon.

The Mind Illuminated: A Complete Meditation Guide Integrating Buddhist Wisdom and Brain Science

Stage Two: Interrupted Attention and Overcoming Mind-Wandering

You may feel like you’re trying to tame a wild animal, or even that meditation is making your mind more agitated. In reality, you’re just becoming aware of what’s always been going on in the mind. Recognizing this is an important first step.
You can’t scold the mind into changing, especially when dealing with entrenched mental patterns like forgetting and mind-wandering. Even worse, the negative feedback will get associated with the most recent event: the spontaneous arising of introspective awareness, and you’ll end up discouraging the very process that stops mind-wandering.
Ultimately, meditation means training a complex, multi-part system (the mind) to work cooperatively, coherently, and consistently through a shared consensus toward common goals.

First Interlude: Conscious Experience and the Objectives of Meditation

Now, sustaining attention is trickier than directing attention. Why? It’s possible to voluntarily direct attention. However, the part of the mind that sustains attention for more than a few moments works entirely unconsciously. We can’t use our will to control how long we remain focused on one thing. Instead, an unconscious process weighs the importance of what we’re focusing on against other possible objects of attention.
by mindfulness, I specifically mean the optimal interaction between attention and peripheral awareness, which requires increasing the overall conscious power of the mind.

Stage One: Establishing A Practice

A meditation object is something you intentionally choose to be the focus of your attention during meditation. Although you can choose just about anything, the breath is ideal for cultivating attention and mindfulness. First, the breath is always with you. Second, it allows you to be a completely passive observer.

The Death and Life of Great American Cities


We are all very near despair. The sheathing that floats us over its waves is compounded of hope, faith in the unexplainable worth and sure issue of effort, and the deep, sub-conscious content which comes from the exercise of our powers

1: Introduction

This ubiquitous principle is the need of cities for a most intricate and close-grained diversity of uses that give each other constant mutual support, both economically and socially.
There is a quality even meaner than outright ugliness or disorder, and this meaner quality is the dishonest mask of pretended order, achieved by ignoring or suppressing the real order that is struggling to exist and to be served

3: The uses of sidewalks: contact

The all-essential line between public service and privacy would be transgressed by insti­tutio­naliz­ati

Social key recovery vs key management services

the people of the place must enlarge their private lives if they are to have anything approaching equivalent contact with their neighbors.

Like when the only way to have a social life on the internet is to be an influencer

Lowly, unpurposeful and random as they may appear, sidewalk contacts are the small change from which a city’s wealth of public life may grow.

4: The uses of sidewalks: assimilating children

Nor are sidewalks apt to be safe, even with eyes upon them, if they are bordered by a population which is constantly and rapidly turning over in residence

This is I think the biggest departure the present (and future) bring. Transent communities seem more andmore prevalent, or even desireable.

The people of cities who have other jobs and duties, and who lack, too, the training needed, cannot volunteer as teachers or registered nurses or librarians or museum guards or social workers. But at least they can, and on lively diversified sidewalks they do, supervise the incidental play of children and assimilate the children into city society. They do it in the course of carrying on their other pursuits.
In real life, only from the ordinary adults of the city sidewalks do children learn—if they learn it at all—the first fundamental of successful city life: People must take a modicum of public responsibility for each other even if they have no ties to each other.
Few sidewalks of this luxurious width can be found

Is there a risk to too large sidewalks?

6: The uses of city neighborhoods

As a sentimental concept, “neighborhood” is harmful to city planning. It leads to attempts at warping city life into imitations of town or suburban life. Sentimentality plays with sweet intentions in place of good sense.
The chief function of a successful district is to mediate between the indispensable, but inherently politically powerless, street neighborhoods, and the inherently powerful city as a whole.
To accomplish these functions, an effective district has to be large enough to count as a force in the life of the city as a whole. The “ideal” neighborhood of planning theory is useless for such a role. A district has to be big and powerful enough to fight city hall. Nothing less is to any purpose.
There are only two ultimate public powers in shaping and running American cities: votes and control of the money. To sound nicer, we may call these “public opinion” and “disbursement of funds,” but they are still votes and money.
The constructive factor that has been operating here meanwhile is time. Time, in cities, is the substitute for self-containment. Time, in cities, is indispensable.
Statistical people are a fiction for many reasons, one of which is that they are treated as if infinitely interchangeable.*6 Real people are unique, they invest years of their lives in significant relationships with other unique people, and are not interchangeable in the least. Severed from their relationships, they are destroyed as effective social beings—sometimes for a little while, sometimes forever.

This is a useful phrase

7: The generators of diversity

The overall pictures such methods yield are about as useful as the picture assembled by the blind men who felt the elephant and pooled their findings. The elephant lumbered on, oblivious to the notion that he was a leaf, a snake, a wall, tree trunks and a rope all somehow stuck together. Cities, being our own artifacts, enjoy less defense against solemn nonsense.
Moreover, big cities are the natural economic homes of immense numbers and ranges of small enterprises

Is this true anymore? Amazon vs bodegas, etc

1. The district, and indeed as many of its internal parts as possible, must serve more than one primary function; preferably more than two. These must insure the presence of people who go outdoors on different schedules and are in the place for different purposes, but who are able to use many facilities in common. 2. Most blocks must be short; that is, streets and opportunities to turn corners must be frequent. 3. The district must mingle buildings that vary in age and condition, including a good proportion of old ones so that they vary in the economic yield they must produce. This mingling must be fairly close-grained. 4. There must be a sufficiently dense concentration of people, for whatever purposes they may be there. This includes dense concentration in the case of people who are there because of residence.

8: The need for primary mixed uses

Probably everyone is aware of certain general dependencies by a city on its heart. When a city heart stagnates or disintegrates, a city as a social neighborhood of the whole begins to suffer: People who ought to get together, by means of central activities that are failing, fail to get together. Ideas and money that ought to meet, and do so often only by happenstance in a place of central
All primary uses, whether offices, dwellings or concert halls, are a city’s chessmen. Those that move differently from one another must be employed in concert to accomplish much. And as in chess, a pawn can be converted to a queen. But city building has this difference from chess: The number of pieces is not fixed by the rules. If well deployed, the pieces multiply.

9: The need for small blocks

Long blocks also thwart the principle that if city mixtures of use are to be more than a fiction on maps, they must result in different people, bent on different purposes, appearing at different times, but using the same streets.

10: The need for aged buildings

Old ideas can sometimes use new buildings. New ideas must use old buildings.
The economic value of new buildings is replaceable in cities. It is replaceable by the spending of more construction money. But the economic value of old buildings is irreplaceable at will. It is created by time. This economic requisite for diversity is a requisite that vital city neighborhoods can only inherit, and then sustain over the years.

11: The need for concentration

It is hardly possible to expect that many really different types of dwellings or their buildings can be added at any one time. To think they can be is wishful thinking. There are fashions in building. Behind the fashions lie economic and technological reasons, and these fashions exclude all but a few genuinely different possibilities in city dwelling construction at any one time.

13: The self-destruction of diversity

Unless they are handsomely financed to start with, or instantly successful (which is seldom the case), new ideas tumble into second-best locations; thereby second-best becomes first-rate, flourishes for a time, and eventually it too is destroyed by the duplication of its own greatest successes.
I doubt that we can provide for cities anything equivalent to a true feedback system, working automatically and with perfection. But I think we can accomplish much with imperfect substitutes.
In killing successful diversity combinations with money, we are employing perhaps our nearest equivalent to killing with kindness.

15: Unslumming and slumming

The foundation for unslumming is a slum lively enough to be able to enjoy city public life and sidewalk safety. The worst foundation is the dull kind of place that makes slums, instead of unmaking them.
The processes that occur in unslumming depend on the fact that a metropolitan economy, if it is working well, is constantly transforming many poor people into middle-class people, many illiterates into skilled (or even educated) people, many greenhorns into competent citizens.

16: Gradual money and cataclysmic money

So well do these three different kinds of money prepare the way for each other’s cataclysms that one would be impelled to admire the process, as a highly developed form of order in its own right, were it not so destructive to every other form of city order. It does not represent a “conspiracy.” It is a logical outcome of logical men guided by nonsensical but conventional city planning beliefs.
Endless suburban sprawl was made practical (and for many families was made actually mandatory) through the creation of something the United States lacked until the mid-1930’s: a national mortgage market specifically calculated to encourage suburban home building.
A few years previously, Herbert Hoover had opened the first White House Conference on Housing with a polemic against the moral inferiority of cities and a panegyric on the moral virtues of simple cottages, small towns and grass. At an opposite political pole, Rexford G. Tugwell, the federal administrator responsible for the New Deal’s Green Belt demonstration suburbs, explained, “My idea is to go just outside centers of population, pick up cheap land, build a whole community and entice people into it. Then go back into the cities and tear down whole slums and make parks of them.”

17: Subsidizing dwellings

Even if the Utopians had had schemes that made sense socially in cities, it is wrong to set one part of the population, segregated by income, apart in its own neighborhoods with its own different scheme of community. Separate but equal makes nothing but trouble in a society where people are not taught that caste is a part of the divine order. Separate but better is an innate contradiction wherever the separateness is enforced by one form of inferiority.

18: Erosion of cities or attrition of automobiles

What if we fail to stop the erosion of cities by automobiles? What if we are prevented from catalyzing workable and vital cities because the practical steps needed to do so are in conflict with the practical steps demanded by erosion? There is a silver lining to everything. In that case we Americans will hardly need to ponder a mystery that has troubled men for millennia: What is the purpose of life? For us, the answer will be clear, established and for all practical purposes indisputable: The purpose of life is to produce and consume automobiles.

19: Visual order: its limitations and possibilities

When city designers and planners try to find a design device that will express, in clear and easy fashion, the “skeleton” of city structure (expressways and promenades are current favorites for this purpose), they are on fundamentally the wrong track. A city is not put together like a mammal or a steel frame building—or even like a honeycomb or a coral. A city’s very structure consists of mixture of uses, and we get closest to its structural secrets when we deal with the conditions that generate diversity.

Substitute program for city

In terms of all human experience, these two announcements, one telling of great intensity, the other telling of endlessness, are hard to combine into a sensible whole.

21: Governing and planning districts

Routine, ruthless, wasteful, oversimplified solutions for all manner of city physical needs (let alone social and economic needs) have to be devised by administrative systems which have lost the power to comprehend, to handle and to value an infinity of vital, unique, intricate and interlocked details.

22: The kind of problem a city is

Which avenues of thinking are apt to be useful and to help yield the truth depends not on how we might prefer to think about a subject, but rather on the inherent nature of the subject itself.
A splendid summary and interpretation of this history is included in an essay on science and complexity in the 1958 Annual Report of the Rockefeller Foundation
Thus, for instance, almost nothing useful can be understood or can be done about improving city dwellings if these are considered in the abstract as “housing.” City dwellings—either existing or potential—are specific and particularized buildings always involved in differing, specific processes such as unslumming, slumming, generation of diversity, self-destruction of diversity.
It is neither love for nature nor respect for nature that leads to this schizophrenic attitude. Instead, it is a sentimental desire to toy, rather patronizingly, with some insipid, standardized, suburbanized shadow of nature—apparently in sheer disbelief that we and our cities, just by virtue of being, are a legitimate part of nature too, and involved with it in much deeper and more inescapable ways than grass trimming, sunbathing, and contemplative uplift.

Collected Fictions

Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius

(On one particular Islamic night, which is called the Night of Nights, the secret portals of the heavens open wide and the water in the water jars is sweeter than on other nights; if those gates had opened as I sat there, I would not have felt what I was feeling that evening.)
For the people of Tlön, the world is not an amalgam of objects in space; it is a heterogeneous series of independent acts —the world is successive, temporal, but not spatia


It is a laborious madness and an impoverishing one, the madness of composing vast books—setting out in five hundred pages an idea that can be perfectly related orally in five minutes. The better way to go about it is to pretend that those books already exist, and offer a summary, a commentary on them.

Preface to the First Edition

Reading, meanwhile, is an activity subsequent to writing—more resigned, more civil, more intellectual.

The Shape of the Sword

Aside from the occasional business letter or pamphlet, he got no mail.

This strikm as such a neat detail

He couldn't have been more than twenty. He was thin yet slack-muscled, all at once—he gave the uncomfortable impression of being an invertebrate. He had studied, ardently and with some vanity, virtually every page of one of those Communist manuals; he would haul out his dialectical materialism to cut off any argument. There are infinite reasons a man may have for hating or loving another man; Moon reduced the history of the world to one sordid economic conflict.
it is /who am

Death and the Compass

To that tower (which is notorious for uniting in itself the abhorrent whiteness of a sanatorium, the numbered divisibility of a prison, and the general appearance of a house of ill repute)

The Secret Miracle

That delay (whose importance the reader will soon discover) was caused by the administrative desire to work impersonally and deliberately, as vegetables do, or planets.

Governing the Commons

Chapter 1. Reflections on the Commons

Institutions are rarely either private or public – “the market” or “the state.” Many successful CPR institutions are rich mixtures of “private-like” and “public-like” institutions defying classification in a sterile dichotomy.
Instead of there being a single solution to a single problem, I argue that many solutions exist to cope with many different problems. Instead of presuming that optimal institutional solutions can be designed easily and imposed at low cost by external authorities, I argue that “getting the institutions right” is a difficult, time-consuming, conflict-invoking process.
Whether or not any equilibria are possible and whether or not an equilibrium would be an improvement for the individuals involved (or for others who are in turn affected by these individuals) will depend on the particular structures of the institutions.
Empirically validated theories of human organization will be essential ingredients of a policy science that can inform decisions about the likely consequences of a multitude of ways of organizing human activities. Theoretical

I wonder if/where this has come to pass

Instead of presuming that some individuals are incompetent, evil, or irrational, and others are omniscient, I presume that individuals have very similar limited capabilities to reason and figure out the structure of complex environments. It is my responsibility as a scientist to ascertain what problems individuals are trying to solve and what factors help or hinder them in these efforts. When the problems that I observe involve lack of predictability, information, and trust, as well as high levels of complexity and transactional difficulties, then my efforts to explain must take these problems overtly into account rather than assuming them away.

Chapter 2. An Institutional Approach to the Study of Self-Organization and Self-Governance in CPR Situations

propositions derived from a theory of public goods that are based on the nonsubtractive attributes of those goods are not applicable to an analysis of appropriation and use of subtractable resource units.
In both the theory of the firm and the theory of the state, the burden of organizing collective action is undertaken by one individual, whose returns are directly related to the surplus generated.

Is that true about Coase's original theory of the firm? It seems shortsighted to view firms and states as undertaken by one individual

1) the problem of supplying a new set of institutions, (2) the problem of making credible commitments, and (3) the problem of mutual monitoring.
Individuals who have self-organizing capabilities switch back and forth between operational-, collective-, and constitutional-choice arenas, just as managers of production firms switch back and forth between producing products within a set technology, introducing a new technology, and investing resources in technology development.
Common knowledge implies that every participant knows the rules, and knows that others know the rules, and knows that they also know that the participant knows the rules.

lol but that is very robust definition of common knowledge! I wonder if theres a similar one for common sense.

The basic strategy is to identify those aspects of the physical, cultural, and institutional setting that are likely to affect the determination of who is to be involved in a situation, the actions they can take and the costs of those actions, the outcomes that can be achieved, how actions are linked to outcomes, what information is to be available, how much control individuals can exercise, and what payoffs are to be assigned to particular combinations of actions and outcomes. Once one has all the needed information, one can then abstract from the richness of the empirical situation to devise a playable game that will capture the essence of the problems individuals are facing.

The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage (Book of Dust, Volume 1)

He could still do simple, everyday things, then. He hadn’t lost the power to live from second to second and to take pleasure, even, in the warm yellow light that filled the canoe.


The exchange of thoughts is a condition necessary for all love, all friendship and all real dialogue.

Daemon Voices

I’m not aware of any mythology that says the universe was created by human beings; we always turn up afterwards, and the relation we have with the place we find ourselves in is part of what gives the system its emotional tone—determines whether it’s tragic, or optimistic, or dramatic, or whatever

That's a fun writing prompt!

William James, in The Varieties of Religious Experience, has a name for people who have never doubted the assumptions they live by: he calls them once-born. And once you’ve doubted, once you’ve seen the arbitrary and contingent and contradictory nature of the system you didn’t think was a system at all, you become as it were twice-born.
I love the audacity of this opening—the sheer nerve of Milton’s declaring that he’s going to pursue “Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme,” to “justify the ways of God to men.” How could anyone fail to thrill to a story that begins like this? How could any reader not warm to a poet who dares to say it?

Nothing I've read has ever sold me harder on this poem

What freed me from it was remembering the well-known lines from plate 10 of Jerusalem: I must Create a System, or be enslav’d by another Mans I will not Reason & Compare: my business is to Create. Those are the words of Los—Blake’s fallen angel, the divine aspect of imagination: “in fury & strength.”
“Of amplitude almost immense, with stars / Numerous, and every star perhaps a world / Of destined habitation.”
So reading one sort of stuff will damage; reading another sort of stuff will improve. And we shall decide which is which.

The Writing of Stories: Making It Up and Writing It Down 

We have to leave the unself-conscious grace of childhood behind and go in search of another quality altogether, the quality of wisdom. And that involves engaging with every kind of human experience, making compromises, getting our hands dirty, suffering, toiling, learning.
As the whole story does, indeed—it’s a movement away from fantasy and towards realism, which is why Lyra goes to school at the end of the book: a cruel disappointment to some critics, academics and teachers themselves, actually, who seem to have lost any sense of the nobility, the moral value, the sheer passionate excitement of education

Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future

4. The Ideology of Competition

All Rhodes Scholars had a great future in their past.


7. Follow the Money

Our schools teach the opposite: institutionalized education traffics in a kind of homogenized, generic knowledge. Everybody who passes through the American school system learns not to think in power law terms.

8. Secrets

The best entrepreneurs know this: every great business is built around a secret that’s hidden from the outside. A great company is a conspiracy to change the world; when you share your secret, the recipient becomes a fellow conspirator.

9. Foundations

Another constitutional convention is unlikely; today we debate only smaller questions.
Cash is attractive. It offers pure optionality: once you get your paycheck, you can do anything you want with it. However, high cash compensation teaches workers to claim value from the company as it already exists instead of investing their time to create new value in the future.
Since it’s impossible to achieve perfect fairness when distributing ownership, founders would do well to keep the details secret. Sending out a company-wide email that lists everyone’s ownership stake would be like dropping a nuclear bomb on your office

13. Seeing Green

And even if your system really is 20% better on net for the customer who buys it, people are so used to exaggerated claims that you’ll be met with skepticism when you try to sell it. Only when your product is 10x better can you offer the customer transparent superiority.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

have dreamed of that song, of the strange words to that simple rhyme-song, and on several occasions I have understood what she was saying, in my dreams. In those dreams I spoke that language too, the first language, and I had dominion over the nature of all that was real. In my dream, it was the tongue of what is, and anything spoken in it becomes real, because nothing said in that language can be a lie. It is the most basic building brick of everything. In my dreams I have used that language to heal the sick and to fly; once I dreamed I kept a perfect little bed-and-breakfast by the seaside, and to everyone who came to stay with me I would say, in that tongue, “Be whole,” and they would become whole, not be broken people, not any longer, because I had spoken the language of shaping.
wondered, as I wondered so often when I was that age, who I was, and what exactly was looking at the face in the mirror. If the face I was looking at wasn’t me, and I knew it wasn’t, because I would still be me whatever happened to my face, then what was me? And what was watching?
was a normal child. Which is to say, I was selfish and I was not entirely convinced of the existence of things that were not me, and I was certain, rock-solid unshakably certain, that I was the most important thing in creation. There was nothing that was more important to me than I was.

How to Do Nothing

Chapter 1: The Case for Nothing

Currently, I see a similar battle playing out for our time, a colonization of the self by capitalist ideas of productivity and efficiency. One might say the parks and libraries of the self are always about to be turned into condos.
Donna J. Haraway reminds us that relatives in British English meant “logical relations” until the seventeenth century, when they became “family members.” Haraway is less interested in individuals and genealogical families than in symbiotic configurations of different kinds of beings maintained through the practice of care—asking us to “make kin, not babies!”

Chapter 2: The Impossibility of Retreat

To stand apart is to take the view of the outsider without leaving, always oriented toward what it is you would have left. It means not fleeing your enemy, but knowing your enemy, which turns out not to be the world—contemptus mundi—but the channels through which you encounter it day to day.

Chapter 4: Exercises in Attention

that sense, the creek is a reminder that we do not live in a simulation—a streamlined world of products, results, experiences, reviews—but rather on a giant rock whose other life-forms operate according to an ancient, oozing, almost chthonic logic. Snaking through the midst of the banal everyday is a deep weirdness, a world of flowerings, decompositions, and seepages, of a million crawling things, of spores and lacy fungal filaments, of minerals reacting and things being eaten away—all just on the other side of the chain-link fence.

Conclusion: Manifest Dismantling

One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds.

Emergent Strategy


Octavia Butler, one of the cornerstones of my awareness of emergent strategy, spoke of the fatal human flaw as a combination of hierarchy and intelligence.6 We are brilliant at survival, but brutal at it. We tend to slip out of togetherness the way we slip out of the womb, bloody and messy and surprised to be alone. And clever—able to learn with our whole bodies the ways of this world.
I would call our work to change the world “science fictional behavior”—being concerned with the way our actions and beliefs now, today, will shape the future, tomorrow, the next generations

There was often a general sense of dissatisfaction and collective shrugging into this unity that was not invigorating. Authentic, exciting unity takes time, and lots of experimenting.

Educational Visions: Lessons from 40 years of innovation

3 Teaching and Learning at Scale: Futures

Learning through conversation relates to the theory of how learning takes place that was developed by Pask (1976). Pask provided a scientific account of how interactions enable a process of coming to know by reaching mutual agreements. This is more than an exchange of knowledge – it is a process in which participants share and negotiate differences in understanding with the aim of constructing new knowledge and reaching agreements.

Empress of Forever

Chapter 1

She faked a limp to mess with gait analysis, and by the time she reached the used car lot her hip hurt like hell.

Shoe rocks!

Chapter 12

Some once wore flesh, or silicon, or something like either, and some did not. Many, most, build themselves pleasure palaces, or dungeons to scourge them, and shelter there. They cannot help themselves. If you do not train your mind while it is subject to physical constraint, once liberated from the flesh it seeks pleasure by reflex, and so binds itself in unbreakable chains. Trillions drown in joy-loops, unable to rise above the desire to satisfy desire. Even those who escape that fate rarely ponder the world below. Rather, they seek higher knowledge. But some minds reach down. Those so bound to this space that they seek power here become gods.

Schild’s Ladder

Chapter 5

Transcendence was a content-free word left over from religion, but in some moribund planetary cultures it had come to refer to a mythical process of mental restructuring that would result in vastly greater intelligence and a boundless cornucopia of hazy superpowers – if only the details could be perfected, preferably by someone else. It was probably an appealing notion if you were so lazy that you’d never actually learned anything about the universe you inhabited, and couldn’t quite conceive of putting in the effort to do so: this magical cargo of transmogrification was sure to come along eventually, and render the need superfluous.
Tchicaya said, “I already possess general intelligence, thanks. I don’t need anything more.” It was a rigorous result in information theory that once you could learn in a sufficiently flexible manner – something humanity had achieved in the Bronze Age – the only limits you faced were speed and storage; any other structural changes were just a matter of style.

Chapter 10

You can obfuscate, can’t you? Physicists have been taking simple mathematical ideas and obfuscating them for centuries. It must have been part of your training, surely?”

Democracy and Education: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education

Chapter One: Education as a Necessity of Life

Men live in a community in virtue of the things which they have in common; and communication is the way in which they come to possess things in common.
A book or a letter may institute a more intimate association between human beings separated thousands of miles from each other than exists between dwellers under the same roof.
all genuine social life) is educative.
While it may be said, without exaggeration, that the measure of the worth of any social institution, economic, domestic, political, legal, religious, is its effect in enlarging and improving experience;
Hence one of the weightiest problems with which the philosophy of education has to cope is the method of keeping a proper balance between the informal and the formal, the incidental and the intentional, modes of education.

Chapter Two: Education as a Social Function

Given the impossibility of direct contagion or literal inculcation, our problem is to discover the method by which the young assimilate the point of view of the old, or the older bring the young into like-mindedness with themselves. The answer, in general formulation, is: By means of the action of the environment in calling out certain responses. The required beliefs cannot be hammered in; the needed attitudes cannot be plastered on. But the particular medium in which an individual exists leads him to see and feel one thing rather than another; it leads him to have certain plans in order that he may act successfully with others; it strengthens some beliefs and weakens others as a condition of winning the approval of others
Just as the senses require sensible objects to stimulate them, so our powers of observation, recollection, and imagination do not work spontaneously, but are set in motion by the demands set up by current social occupations.
The first office of the social organ we call the school is to provide a simplified environment. It selects the features which are fairly fundamental and capable of being responded to by the young. Then it establishes a progressive order, using the factors first acquired as means of gaining insight into what is more complicated.
Every society gets encumbered with what is trivial, with dead wood from the past, and with what is positively perverse. The school has the duty of omitting such things from the environment which it supplies, and thereby doing what it can to counteract their influence in the ordinary social environment.

Chapter Seven: The Democratic Conception in Education

Particularly is it true that a society which not only changes but-which has the ideal of such change as will improve it, will have different standards and methods of education from one which aims simply at the perpetuation of its own customs.
From these two traits we derive our standard. How numerous and varied are the interests which are consciously shared? How full and free is the interplay with other forms of association?
We cannot set up, out of our heads, something we regard as an ideal society. We must base our conception upon societies which actually exist, in order to have any assurance that our ideal is a practicable one. But, as we have just seen, the ideal cannot simply repeat the traits which are actually found. The problem is to extract the desirable traits of forms of community life which actually exist, and employ them to criticize undesirable features and suggest improvement.
A society which is mobile, which is full of channels for the distribution of a change occurring anywhere, must see to it that its members are educated to personal initiative and adaptability. Otherwise, they will be overwhelmed by the changes in which they are caught and whose significance or connections they do not perceive. The result will be a confusion in which a few will appropriate to themselves the results of the blind and externally directed activities of others.
Correct education could not come into existence until an ideal state existed, and after that education would be devoted simply to its conservation. For the existence of this state he was obliged to trust to some happy accident by which philosophic wisdom should happen to coincide with possession of ruling power in the state.

Under platos view

The “complete and harmonious development of all powers,” having as its social counterpart an enlightened and progressive humanity, required definite organization for its realization. Private individuals here and there could proclaim the gospel; they could not execute the work.
But in less than two decades after this time, Kant’s philosophic successors, Fichte and Hegel, elaborated the idea that the chief function of the state is educational;
One of the fundamental problems of education in and for a democratic society is set by the conflict of a nationalistic and a wider social aim
Is it possible for an educational system to be conducted by a national state and yet the full social ends of the educative process not be restricted, constrained, and corrupted?

Chapter Eight: Aims in Education

The wind blows about the sands of the desert; the position of the grains is changed. Here is a result, an effect, but not an end. For there is nothing in the outcome which completes or fulfills what went before it. There is mere spatial redistribution. One state of affairs is just as good as any other. Consequently there is no basis upon which to select an earlier state of affairs as a beginning, a later as an end, and to consider what intervenes as a process of transformation and realization.


The aim, in short, is experimental, and hence constantly growing as it is tested in action.
Consciousness is nothing which we have which gazes idly on the scene around one or which has impressions made upon it by physical things; it is a name for the purposeful quality of an activity, for the fact that it is directed by an aim. Put the other way about, to have an aim is to act with meaning, not like an automatic machine; it is to mean to do something and to perceive the meaning of things in the light of that intent.

How does this mesh with more modern theories of mind? Everything is a physical sensation which impresses on us. Seemingly concious decisions are outputs of past experiences.

Educators have to be on their guard against ends that are alleged to be general and ultimate. Every activity, however specific, is, of course, general in its ramified connections, for it leads out indefinitely into other things. So far as a general idea makes us more alive to these connections, it cannot be too general. But “general” also means “abstract,” or detached from all specific context. And such abstractness means remoteness, and throws us back, once more, upon teaching and learning as mere means of getting ready for an end disconnected from the means.
The fuller one’s conception of possible future achievements, the less his present activity is tied down to a small number of alternatives. If one knew enough, one could start almost anywhere and sustain his activities continuously and fruitfully.
One cannot climb a number of different mountains simultaneously, but the views had when different mountains are ascended supplement one another: they do not set up incompatible, competing worlds

Chapter Nine: Natural Development and Social Efficiency as Aims

It is, then, DO paradox requiring

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The History of the Peloponnesian War


Without commerce, without freedom of communication either by land or sea, cultivating no more of their territory than the exigencies of life required, destitute of capital, never planting their land (for they could not tell when an invader might not come and take it all away, and when he did come they had no walls to stop him), thinking that the necessities of daily sustenance could be supplied at one place as well as another, they cared little for shifting their habitation, and consequently neither built large cities nor attained to any other form of greatness.
if it be judged useful by those inquirers who desire an exact knowledge of the past as an aid to the interpretation of the future, which in the course of human things must resemble if it does not reflect it, I shall be content. In fine, I have written my work, not as an essay which is to win the applause of the moment, but as a possession for all time.
Old stories of occurrences handed down by tradition, but scantily confirmed by experience, suddenly ceased to be incredible; there were earthquakes of unparalleled extent and violence; eclipses of the sun occurred with a frequency unrecorded in previous history; there were great droughts in sundry places and consequent famines, and that most calamitous and awfully fatal visitation, the plague.

The Revolt of The Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium


in an earlier time the public had shown a muscular independence. The public of the eighteenth century had been composed of networks of persons with knowledge of science and the arts, connected virtually, by correspondence. They called themselves, informally, the Republic of Letters, and their labors proved almost indecently fruitful: they helped popularize the scientific revolution, articulated the principles of liberal democracy, and inspired political revolutions in America and France.


Pure negation is nothing and leads nowhere. Neither-nor resembles a curse in a fairy-tale because it’s open-ended. Under its spell, a revolutionary can never declare victory, or even glimpse the promised land from a high place. He can only batter away at the established order, until every trace of history has been erased from social life. Then he too, as a child of history, will disappear.


The crisis of authority hollowing out existing institutions didn’t arise because these institutions prostituted themselves to power or money. That was an explanation after the fact—one that happened to be believed by much of the public and many experts. The fact that needed to be explained, however, was failure: the painfully visible gap between the institutions’ claims of competence and their actual performance. The gap, I maintain, was a function of the limits of human knowledge. It had always been there. What changed was the public’s awareness of it.
The Risk Commission experts were convicted because they had been unwilling to admit, in public, to the degree of uncertainty which science imposed on them
If change does arrive—if the speed and freedom of networking can somehow be wedded to the mass and stability of hierarchy—it will represent a transformation in human relations as radical as any in history. Until that apocalyptic moment, I imagine that the savage churning of corporate births and deaths will continue to accelerate.
The hard reality in the Middle East is that Islamist groups have prospered wherever secular Arab authoritarians have wobbled. In the US, the more demanding faiths—evangelists, Mormons, Hasidics—have grown at the expense of older institutions which too much resemble the earth-bound hierarchies of the Center. The spread of Christianity in China is among today’s best-kept secrets.


That faith has died. I won’t dwell on the cause of death, but will only state an incontrovertible fact: there are no serious political actors today who believe in the reality, much less the desirability, of revolution. In consequence, radical and democratic politics, which shared the same utopian end-point, have lost their directional coherence. The word “progress” itself has become impolite, an embarrassment. Nobody has a clue which way that lies.
Every great institution is justified by a story. That story connects the institution to higher political ideals and ultimately to the moral order of the world. It persuades ordinary people—you and me—that, if we wish to do the right thing, we should act as the institution requires of us. The story bestows the authorizing magic I have called legitimacy.


I hasten to add, however, that seizing the choice before us doesn’t require some sort of Pauline conversion. You may keep your old political faith and still break new ground: but you may not treat reality like an enemy, and you may not compound failure with dishonesty.

The Rise of Universities

    I   The Earliest Universities

A professor of history once said that the greatest difficulty of historical teaching lay in convincing pupils that the events of the past did not all happen in the moon. The Middle Ages are very far away, farther from us in some respects than is classical antiquity, and it is very hard to realize that men and women, then and now, are after all much the same human beings. We need constantly to be reminded that the fundamental factors in man’s development remain much the same from age to age and must so remain as long as human nature and physical environment continue what they have been
Throughout the period of its origins the mediaeval university had no libraries, laboratories, or museums, no endowment or buildings of its own; it could not possibly have met the requirements of the Carnegie Foundation!
Historically, the word university has no connection with the universe or the universality of learning; it denotes only the totality of a group, whether of barbers, carpenters, or students did not matter.
But of course the ultimate home of the college was Oxford and Cambridge, where it came to be the most characteristic feature of university life, arrogating to itself practically all teaching as well as direction of social life, until the university became merely an examining and degree-conferring body.
is, then, in institutions that the university tradition is most direct. First, the very name university, as an association of masters and scholars leading the common life of learning. Characteristic of the Middle Ages as such a corporation is, the individualistic modem world has found nothing to take its place. Next, the notion of a curriculum of study, definitely laid down as regards time and subjects, tested by an examination and leading to a degree, as well as many of the degrees themselves—bachelor, as a stage toward the mastership, master, doctor, in arts, law, medicine, and theology. Then the faculties, four or more, with their deans, and the higher officers such as chancellors and rectors, not to mention the college, wherever the residential college still survives. The essentials of university organization are clear and unmistakable, and they have been handed down in unbroken continuity. They have lasted more than seven hundred years—what form of government has lasted so long?
The glory of the mediaeval university, says Rashdall,9 was “the consecration of Learning,” and the glory and the vision have not yet perished from the earth. “The mediaeval university,” it has been said, “was the school of the modern spirit.”

  II   The Mediaeval Professor

Regular instruction in the composition of letters and official acts was given in the schools and chanceries, and numerous professors, called dictatores, went about from place to place teaching this valuable art—“often and exceeding necessary for the clergy, for monks suitable, and for laymen honorable,” as one rhetorician tells us.
Thus one professor at Bologna derides the study of Cicero, whom he cannot recall having read, and promises to train his students in writing every sort of letter and official document which was demanded of the notaries and secretaries of his day. Since, as we shall see in the next lecture, such teachers specialized in the composition of student letters, chiefly skilful appeals to the parental purse, their practical utility was at once apparent.
Of the text-books needed in all these subjects the university undertook to secure a supply at once sufficient, correct, and cheap, for the regulation of the book trade was one of the earliest and most valued of university privileges. As books were costly they were commonly rented, at a fixed price per quire, rather than owned; indeed the sale of books was hedged in by close restrictions designed to curb monopoly prices and to prevent their removal from town.
Next year I expect to give ordinary lectures well and lawfully as I always have, but no extraordinary lectures, for students are not good payers, wishing to learn but not to pay, as the saying is: All desire to know but none to pay the price. I have nothing more to say to you beyond dismissing you with God’s blessing and begging you to attend the mass

III   The Mediaeval Student

Poetry of this sort is so contrary to conventional conceptions of the Middle Ages that some writers have denied its mediaeval character. “It is,” says one, “mediaeval only in the chronological sense,” while others find in it close affinities with the spirit of the Renaissance or of the Reformation. It would be more consonant with the spirit of history to enlarge our ideas of the Middle Ages so as to correspond to the facts of mediaeval life
If we consider the body of student literature as a whole, its most striking, and its most disappointing, characteristic is its lack of individuality. The Manuale Scholarium is written for the use of all scholars who propose to attend universitities of students. The letters are made as general as possible in order to fit the need of any student who wants money, clothes, or books. Even the poems, where we have some right to expect personal expression of feeling, have the generic character of most mediaeval poetry; they are for the most part the voice of a class, not of individuals.
A professor of history once said that the greatest difficulty of historical teaching lay in convincing pupils that the events of the past did not all happen in the moon. The Middle Ages are very far away, farther from us in some respects than is classical antiquity, and it is very hard to realize that men and women, then and now, are after all much the same human beings. We need constantly to be reminded that the fundamental factors in man’s development remain much the same from age to age and must so remain as long as human nature and physical environment continue what they have been

Hydrogen Sonata

Five: (S -22)

One of the things that has always made the Gzilt feel so special, so marked out, has been the fact that their holy book, pretty much alone amongst holy books, turned out to be verifiable. At every stage of their development— ∞ —It predicted the future,
This power structure lay alongside the Gzilt’s universal militia, a-rank-for-all military structure without apparent discord. Commentators and analysts, especially in the Culture, seemed to find this mystifying but pleasing; the consensus was that the ubiquitous military had no problem always conceding to civilian command because in a sense there were no civilians. It seemed perverse to some, but for all their apparent militarism the Gzilt had remained peaceful over many millennia; it was the avowedly peaceful Culture that had, within living memory, taken part in an all-out galactic war against another civilisation.

Seven: (S -20)

Words were still coming haltingly to him. His mind was struggling to adapt to speaking again after decades of slow singing and the transmission of thoughts and feelings by singular, though complex, sonic images. Every now and again he would throw his head back and open his mouth as far as it would go, as though yawning, silently. This action would continue for a few days, the medics had told him; the deep, primitive levels of his being were distressed at what they were interpreting as a sort of blindness, and were trying to send out a pulse of underwater sound, to illuminate his surroundings. The action was, as he’d pointed out, itself an echo.


The theatre in front of him, in tiny increments, became a wonderful thing, moment by moment. As long as he did not question himself it was easy. The whole confection came together as if by some natural law that he had never known before, something that governed such objects. By paying attention to this law he could be assured that what he was producing was right, even if there was no Bellows to tell him that it was or it wasn’t. It was as if the thing itself had rules, the activity of doing it. He felt, for the first time, as if this was something that he could give himself over to, something he could devote himself to: the following of these rules, inchoate and unwritten though they were, except in the generation of the thing itself. It was as if, in the recognition and following of these rules, he gained some authority over the world, knew something about it that others did not, felt attuned at last with something. This something was suddenly the most important thing there was – the only thing, and he wondered how, for all his life, he had lived without it.

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas

I: A Runaway Reef

No naturalist, neither Cuvier nor Lacépède, neither Professor Dumeril nor Professor de Quatrefages, would have accepted the existence of such a monster sight unseen—specifically, unseen by their own scientific eyes.

VIII: Mobilis in Mobili

When this stranger focused his gaze on an object, his eyebrow lines gathered into a frown, his heavy eyelids closed around his pupils to contract his huge field of vision, and he looked! What a look—as if he could magnify objects shrinking into the distance; as if he could probe your very soul; as if he could pierce those sheets of water so opaque to our eyes and scan the deepest seas … 

XIII: Some Figures

And if it’s true that the engineer has more confidence in a craft than the builder, and the builder more than the captain himself, you can understand the utter abandon with which I place my trust in this Nautilus, since I’m its captain, builder, and engineer all in one!”

XVIII: Four Thousand Leagues Under the Pacific

There,” he added, “out there lies true existence! And I can imagine the founding of nautical towns, clusters of underwater households that, like the Nautilus, would return to the surface of the sea to breathe each morning, free towns if ever there were, independent cities! Then again, who knows whether some tyrant …”

XX: The Torres Strait

Now then, I’ll be quite astonished if that good-natured satellite doesn’t sufficiently raise these masses of water and do me a favor for which I’ll be forever grateful.”

XXII: The Lightning Bolts of Captain Nemo

Conseil had just made a cast of the dragnet, and his gear had come back up loaded with a variety of fairly ordinary seashells, when suddenly he saw me plunge my arms swiftly into the net, pull out a shelled animal, and give a conchological yell, in other words, the most piercing yell a human throat can produce.

XXIV: The Coral Realm

No! My mind was reeling as never before! Never had ideas of such impact raced through my brain! I didn’t want to see what my eyes saw!

Designing Games

One. Engines of Experience

There is no game that could not have been made better with the same resources.

1. Engines of Experience

For example, as you sit and read this book, you may think you’re not feeling anything. But you’re actually experiencing a barrage of tiny pulses of emotion. Anything can cause them—a stray thought of lost love, a goofy word on a page (snartlebarf!), or a scowl on the face of a stranger walking by. These feelings only last a moment, and they’re usually below the level of conscious awareness. But they’re always there, rising and falling in response to every stimulus and thought.
In terms of emotional impact, there is little difference between learning a fact and a fact becoming true, because the implications and opportunities are the same. It is the emotional difference between losing a thousand dollars on a die roll and realizing you’ve lost a thousand dollars when the dealer turns over the last card. The die roll was an event, the card flip was a reveal, but the human value shift and the resulting emotions are the same.
The upside is: we must question off-the-cuff emotional reasoning. When someone says he disliked a game because of the visuals, or the story, or the controls, don’t take him at face value. Don’t expect to understand how a game is affecting players just by looking at it.
But even with these evidence-based methods, we can never fully understand a game because we can never watch the internal workings of a human mind—even our own
At its core, Diablo III is about the feeling of getting rich.
Ironically, players will try their hardest to solve a game, but they will hate the designer if they ever succeed. Players cherish the experience of breaking through skill barriers, of being able to do today what they couldn’t do yesterday. A solved game is worthless to players because it provides nothing to learn, no uncertainty, no victory, no defeat
To create an experience that mirrors that of a character, we construct it out of three parts. First, we create flow to strip the real world out of the player’s mind. Second, we create an arousal state using threats and challenges in the game mechanics. Finally, we use the fiction layer to label the player’s arousal to match the character’s feelings

2. Elegance

If Magic’s designer Richard Garfield had decided to measure player life out of 1,000, made creature toughness range from 25 to 50, and let players have no more than 3 land cards at a time, these relationships would be broken. Conversions between numbers would require tedious math and messy rounding, and the elegance of Magic would be shattered.

3. Skill

Ironically, players will try their hardest to solve a game, but they will hate the designer if they ever succeed. Players cherish the experience of breaking through skill barriers, of being able to do today what they couldn’t do yesterday. A solved game is worthless to players because it provides nothing to learn, no uncertainty, no victory, no defeat