Archive of "Culture"

Archive for the "Culture" Category

On Selecting a Spouse

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I thought I should blog this while the discussion I recently had with Christopher Vollick about the matter.

First, a small disclaimer. I may use words like “spouse” and “marriage” in this post. These words are used for simplicity only and are not intended to indicate a particular legal or religious connotation. You could substitute “life-long helpmate” or “mate” or any word that fits your worldview.

There are a great deal of different models used in the pursuit of spousal selection. I cannot possibly deal with them all, and may not even know about them all, so I will deal here primarily with three idealized models taken from Western Culture.

Modern Common

This is what I choose to call the spousal selection model commonly portrayed in recent Hollywood movies. It is also, unsurprisingly, the most common model in common use in the Western world.

This model consists of selecting a potentially interested party, proposing that said party engage in some sort of social activity, after which the couple quickly becomes formally declared and usually exclusive (“boyfriend/girlfriend”). This process often happens so quickly that, if both parties are more or less interested from the outset, there may be no intervening social activity at all. In all cases the couple transitions very quickly from casual friends (or even total strangers) to a formal romantic relationship.

The couple then engage, at least for some time, in a significant amount of private or semi-private social activity as the primary avenue for relationship building and evaluation.

This model tends to result in people who go through a series of formal, semi-committed, but ultimately disastrous relationships. It also tends towards viewing the relationship as an avenue for two people to evaluate each other, instead of as an avenue for two groups of people (friends and family on both sides) to be slowly evaluated and integrated. This results in weddings where one side may meet close friends or relatives of the other very shortly before the event.

Modern Courting

This model may be unfamiliar to some as it is mostly common among the far right. It claims to be an incarnation of a much older model (discussed next), but is in fact something new and much closer to Modern Common.

This modal is far more formal and legalistic than Modern Common. Instead of having an optional period of socializing between “friend” and “girl/boy friend” this model chooses to force everything to be formally declared up front. Guardians are often consulted, goals set, and rules agreed to. Like much that comes out of the far right this model tends to pride itself on what it does not do. Modern Courting couples often spend little to no time alone, and limit their interactions to a plan.

Modern Courting does emphasize family evaluation more than Modern Common, but only in terms of the context in which it operates. The individuals themselves quite often still do not see this as a primary component of their relationship.

Austin/Dickens Era

This model is the obvious ancestor to Modern Common, but has some very distinct differences. The couple still engage in social activity together in order to evaluate compatibility. The relationship still eventually becomes formalised, and usually exclusive. The couple even, contrary to popular belief, may spend a significant amount of private or semi-private time in relationship building.

The primary differences, are transition and context.

In this model, the transition from casual friend to a formal romantic relationship takes at least as long as the normal transition from stranger to friend. Nothing formal has to happen until the couple is nearing the engagement stage. Before that, the couple is interacting as increasingly good friends in whatever context would be natural for good friends to interact, given their other cultural baggage. This means that, naturally, friends and family who are likely to become a major part of the couple’s future are interacted with and evaluated as part of the social group the relationship is using for context.

This model also gives significantly more wiggle room to pursuit, since a party has not overcommited before an evaluation has taken place, and can exit from the non-relationship gracefully without anyone else being aware of what said party was thinking. Of course, eventually each party’s intentions become easy to discern, but things are not dealt with formally from the outset.

On Arrangement Models

Decently-run “arranged marriage”-based models can work very well. Possibly better than anything else. They cannot, however, be mixed in a society with another prevalent model. If they are, those under the arrangement find the arrangement to be arbitrary as compared with the “freedom” of those around them.

Overregulation Weakens the Rule of Law

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Lawrence Lessig, “Free Culture

Wars of prohibition are nothing new in America. This one is just something more extreme than anything we’ve seen before. We experimented with alcohol prohibition, at a time when the per capita consumption of alcohol was 1.5 gallons per capita per year. The war against drinking initially reduced that consumption to just 30 percent of its preprohibition levels, but by the end of prohibition, consumption was up to 70 percent of the preprohibition level. Americans were drinking just about as much, but now, a vast number were criminals. We have launched a war on drugs aimed at reducing the consumption of regulated narcotics that 7 percent (or 16 million) Americans now use. That is a drop from the high (so to speak) in 1979 of 14 percent of the population. We regulate automobiles to the point where the vast majority of Americans violate the law every day. We run such a complex tax system that a majority of cash businesses regularly cheat. We pride ourselves on our “free society,” but an endless array of ordinary behavior is regulated within our society. And as a result, a huge proportion of Americans regularly violate at least some law.

This state of affairs is not without consequence. It is a particularly salient issue for teachers like me, whose job it is to teach law students about the importance of “ethics.” As my colleague Charlie Nesson told a class at Stanford, each year law schools admit thousands of students who have illegally downloaded music, illegally consumed alcohol and sometimes drugs, illegally worked without paying taxes, illegally driven cars. These are kids for whom behaving illegally is increasingly the norm. And then we, as law professors, are supposed to teach them how to behave ethically–how to say no to bribes, or keep client funds separate, or honor a demand to disclose a document that will mean that your case is over. Generations of Americans–more significantly in some parts of America than in others, but still, everywhere in America today–can’t live their lives both normally and legally, since “normally” entails a certain degree of illegality.

The response to this general illegality is either to enforce the law more severely or to change the law. We, as a society, have to learn how to make that choice more rationally. Whether a law makes sense depends, in part, at least, upon whether the costs of the law, both intended and collateral, outweigh the benefits. If the costs, intended and collateral, do outweigh the benefits, then the law ought to be changed. Alternatively, if the costs of the existing system are much greater than the costs of an alternative, then we have a good reason to consider the alternative.

BitTorrent Monitization Proposal

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There are lots of “monitize p2p” proposals floating around out there. Most of them look like a levy. The problem with this model is that, using existing p2p networks, there is no particularly good way to know what music is popular, and thus, who gets the money. Also, since some will download far more than others, and there’s no good way to measure how much anyone should pay.

The solution from the private sector so far looks like the Amazon MP3 store or Apple’s iTunes. Much less content, in fewer formats. The big argument from media is that online distribution is a hard problem one that will take research to solve. However, we know quite well that the p2p networks, and especially BitTorrent, have solved this problem.

My proposal? Marry the distribution power of BitTorrent with a sales model. Create a modified tracker that requires authentication. Seed high-quality versions of movies, music, books, and everything on this tracker. Set prices per download/sample and/or membership plans (10 ¤/mo for 3 movies/mo). People have to either have money on their account, a PayPal/credit card associated, or be on some kind of plan, otherwise the tracker refuses them service.

The big media from the big companies gets seeded, and people get it and pay for it. All the old media, small media, etc that becomes available through p2p still shows up as users connect to the network and start seeding stuff, but it too gets paid for, with the money routed to the right people.

Some will argue that there are those who will still pirate if such a system should exist. Of course there will. There will always be those who justify breaking the law. I’m talking about giving people a better option, which right now they don’t really have.

The Enemy

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I am not the enemy. I only tell it like it is.

Theives are not the enemy. They took your laptop, but who left the car unlocked?

The police are not the enemy. Nothing is done about crime; who breaks all the trivial laws that tie up enforcement?

You are the enemy.

Foreigners are not the enemy. Your father lost a job, but who bore the grudge?

Unions are not the enemy. Time and money are wasted; who does nothing about it?

You are the enemy.

Educators are not the enemy. They rot the minds of your young, but who is not training them properly?

Crackers are not the enemy. They break security systems; who leaves the back doors open?

You are the enemy.

I am not the enemy. I only tell it like it is.

Terrosism is not the enemy. Though people die and buildings burn, no one hears the message, no one hears the cry.
Revenge and retaliation is all that is sought.

You are the enemy.

The government is not the enemy. Though they take money and waste resources, no one stands up, no one draws the line.
Stability and ignorance is all that is sought.

You are the enemy.

Environmentalism and climate change keep many from considering issue that affect lives today. People call for change only when there is hype.
Hippies are not the enemy.

You are the enemy.

I am not the enemy. I only tell it like it is.

The corporations are not the enemy. Though they steal freedom and bend the system, they are allowed to get away with it.
Some complain, none take action.

You are the enemy.

Famine and war kill thousands by the hour. Millions of dollars are thrown at the problems and they will not go away.
Someone thinks money will solve hunger. Someone is pulling the trigger.

You are the enemy.

The media is not the enemy. Though they spread lies and manipulate society, still people believe them and are manipulated.
Few seek the truth.

You are the enemy.

I am not the enemy, I only tell it like it is.

The old are not the enemy, nor the young. Both rail for their own way, neither group listens to what the other has to say.
Old people die. Young people learn they were both wrong.

You are the enemy.

The economy is not the enemy. Though it may kill the livelyhood of many, it is those many who continue to use the system.
Money in, money out. Someone keeps the system going.

You are the enemy.

Religion is not the enemy. Wars and strife come in the name of many gods, but they also come in the name of progress and security.
Some people do not think for themselves.

You are the enemy.

I am not the enemy. I only tell it like it is.

You are the enemy.
We are the enemy.
I am the enemy.

Surviving the Luddite Rebellion

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The Luddite Rebellion is coming. It may not come literally, and we may yet stop it, but we will not stop it by sitting idly by.

What is the Luddite Rebellion? Well, a Luddite is someone who stands opposed to technology and freedom, not because they are against them per se, but because they are afraid. They may have good reason to be afraid: malware, spam, privacy invasions, stalking, and all manner of danger can come from allowing technology to be used freely.

Hackers are on the other side of this struggle. Hackers stand for tinkering that leads to innovation. This tinkering and innovation cannot happen without free access to technology. Not all hackers agree on what "free" means, but the restrictions the Luddites would like to see are certainly the opposite of freedom. Hackers tend to form communities, and staying connected to one or more hacker communities may just be key to surviving the Luddite Rebellion.

What will an unfulfilled Luddite Rebellion look like? It will look like the end of net neutrality. It will look like the limitation of general purpose computing platforms. It will look like widespread computing with no hackability. It will look like education that teaches security through ignorance and through a lack of access to powerful tools.

What would a fulfilled Luddite Rebellion look like? Well, first it would look like an unfulfilled one. Then it would move to a purposeful oppression of hackers and technologists in general. A general anti-technology sentiment ultimately culminating in a forceful out-putting of technologists and technology of all kinds, possibly violent.

I don’t know if the Luddite Rebellion will ever be completely fulfilled, but the roots are starting now. The balance of this article will talk about ways hackers, sympathizers, and our society can survive.

Keep an Active Passport

This may seem to be the most obvious. I do this anyway, just as a general good practise. Never let your passport expire, or you may find yourself stuck where you’re at.

Libre Software

Sometimes also called "free software", this body of work by the BSD projects, GNU projects, and others is dedicated to hackable software. Software that is published in hackable form. No matter what happens regarding lock-downs in the Luddite Rebellion, this hackable form (usually the "source code") will be taken by hackers and preserved, it will not be locked down. Even non-hackers will be able to get access to the freedom-supporting versions of this software. If you run libre software now, you are contributing to this body of work and preparing yourself for a future where it may be the only software that respects your rights.


Backup your data! Not just your offline data, but your online data as well. You never know when access to it may be taken away. Store it in simple, hackable formats. No matter how "open" a format may be, it’s ability to survive the Luddite Rebellion really relies on it being simple and hackable. Open Office documents may be very "open", but they are much less hackable than (X)HTML, plain text or WikiText, (La)TeX, or RTF.

Backup your communications especially! Email, IM logs, Microblogging content, bookmarks, and other forms of online communication can all be backed up to simple, text-based formats.

Backup other people’s data as well. Data that you may find useful in the future, especially to survive the Luddite Rebellion. All that educational and reference material you can "just link to and find later"? Download it to your personal archive.

Keep your archive in more than one place. If you only have it on your laptop, and you lose that laptop, what good is it to you?

Personal Brand

Keep a strong personal brand. This brand may be anonymous (hard to tie to the "meatspace" you) or real. Being easy to get in touch with is crucial in surviving the communication crackdowns that the Luddite Rebellion may bring.

Thing may enter your person brand on purpose, or by accident. The trick is recognising them and keeping them there.

My brand:


PGP is a technology that allows people to communicate securely, and to be sure of who they are communicating with.

  • Have a PGP key (if you need help getting set up, give me a shout).
  • Make sure your PGP key is well published (I have mine on key servers, a link from the mail page of my site, and a link in the headers of every email I send).
  • Sign all emails (so people know it’s you, and get used to verifying).
  • Memorize and publicize your key id and/or fingerprint as well. There are different mnemonic programs out there to help. My key id is: nerve perfume pogo (or 913D04EB).
  • Understand the PGP Web of Trust and build yourself a trust network.


These are just a few key ways that hackers, technologists, sympathizers and others can prepare themselves to survive, and maybe prevent the complete fulfilment of, the Luddite Rebellion.

Registered Commons page for this article.