[FoRK] WTF?

Jeff Bone <jbone at place.org> on Thu May 24 07:53:03 PDT 2007

On May 24, 2007, at 1:31 AM, J. Andrew Rogers wrote:

> This seems easy enough.  Study the "money problem" and solve it;  
> there is nothing hard about money, but most people are too  
> distracted by other things (myself included) to actually address  
> that problem in a fruitful manner.

Without being critical, James...  the assertion that "there is  
nothing hard about money" and its corollary that getting past the  
money problem and focusing significant resources on deep-rooted  
problems is not hindered by the money problem would be more  
compelling if presented by someone that had clearly solved the first  
and was actively, publicly engaged in the second.  ("I could solve  
the money problem if I tried, but I'm working on other, more  
important and interesting stuff" may very well be true in your case,  
but it's a dead hand debate-wise.  In my case, I've solved the money  
problem and then unsolved it and then mostly solved it again ---  
keeping it solved is a second-order and harder problem still ;-)   
Besides which real "money problem" I'm talking about is actually the  
higher-order money problem, not making the mortgage.)  You and I have  
had discussions off-list about some fairly deep and interesting  
problem spaces, and I tend to agree with you on many points, and  
there's some similarity in the agenda you are pursuing and my own.   
But let's not make the mistake of thinking that's the entire big  
picture...

Let me reframe the goal-state, though, as perhaps there's some  
confusion about what I meant.  Look around at some of the folks doing  
really interesting and potentially important stuff:  the swarm of  
post-dot-com billionaires that are variously attacking the  
commercial / low-price-to-orbit problem;  the various prizes being  
offered to solve various computational Hard Problems (tm), sometimes  
being funded by wealthy dilletantes;  Shuttleworth's work in various  
areas, which frankly I find *extremely* valuable;  etc. etc.

If you've got a billion or so to play with, you can throw real  
resources at some longer-term problems.  But (a) how can we attack  
longer-term larger-scale problems short of having a few billion to  
play with, if at all, or (b) how can you bootstrap into solutions to  
some of those types of problems, or (c) are there leveraged smaller  
problems that can, in  coordination, help with (b) above?

There are some problems that the bazaar isn't well-suited to solving,  
for various deep-seated "structural" reasons, and yet that the  
cathedral is incapable of or uninterested in tackling.  Yet some of  
those same problems don't typically attract the kind of commercial  
investment that they need, due to shortsightedness of capital, lack  
of clear primary returns, etc.  That doesn't invalidate those  
problems or lessen their importance;  but it does make effort hard to  
apply in those areas.

It doesn't take billions to solve big problems, necessarily;  but  
enough financial stability to allow those who would and could focus  
on the problem might allow more progress in more interesting areas,  
more quickly.  In particular I think there are certain highly  
leveraged problems that could be attacked by small groups without  
much or any funding --- that consequently become very large enablers.

I'm not contemplating something as potentially ineffective and time- 
wasting as a "geeks future-oriented PAC" or anything.  Give me more  
credit than that, please...  I'm thinking both bigger (in impact) and  
smaller (in scope and thus complexity) than that.  I'm thinking meta- 
business models, not petition drives or "activism" in any recognized  
sense of that term.  I'm sick to death of politics.  There's no good  
solution in that space other than to simply "whatever it is, I'm  
against it."

The thesis, then, fundamentally, is this:  the cathedral vs. the  
bazaar is an artificial and invalid dichotomy, and many sorts of  
worthwhile efforts suffer because of that simplistic means of  
organizing effort.


jb


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