[FoRK] Alan Kay Interview

Stephen Williams sdw at lig.net
Sun Nov 18 13:16:04 PST 2012

On 11/18/12 11:09 AM, Ken Ganshirt @ Yahoo wrote:
> --- On Sun, 11/18/12, Stephen Williams <sdw at lig.net> wrote:
>> On 11/17/12 9:53 AM, Bill Kearney wrote:
>> gs>> but even some of those get tainted by mindless notions of
>> gs>> "competition."
>> bk> Please, let's be real.  *EVERYTHING* is a
>> bk> competition.  From the smallest of microorganisms on up.
>> bk> Having a civil society hangs on the balancing of
>> bk> tempering the levels of competition in ways that try to
>> bk> avoid going over the brink.
> sdw> Of course.  But perhaps some people have baggage or
> sdw> bias attached to the term "competition" ...
> sdw> "Competition", in the most common usage, implies agency,
> sdw> some entity striving for something, often for perceived
> sdw> personal benefit.
> sdw> Perhaps failure to see this as an optimization problem ...
> sdw> [resulting in competing] ... while adhering to a code
> sdw> that avoids most negative affects is the problem here.
> Yes.  The intent of my original comment was not to take potshots at competition but rather to indicate my confusion over the apparent inconsistency in the final exchange in the article.  Nothing more.
> Having followed Kay for a very long time I have to believe that his initial comment was simply exasperation that we do not, in our present global situation, have a sufficient balance between cooperation and competition; that competition is overriding cooperation.
> I happen to believe that, anyway.  I think that is true in both our government and economic situations.  Not that competition is "bad" but that particular forms of competition now hold sway over cooperation in so many areas where cooperation needs to be present.
> Two current examples would be the American federal government's "gridlock" that has the rest of us a little worried about whether they're going to sort out their present fiscal mess (we have a similarly vitriolic competitive situation with our Canadian politics but due to virtually dictatorial powers vested in our Prime Minister's Office there is no opportunity for gridlock because there is no opposition to stonewall things) and the ascendance of laissez-faire capitalism world-wide (I'm not against Capitalism; I just don't think it should be left unfettered).
> We seem to be missing the code "that avoids most negative affects"; or at least it has eroded rather badly.

Definitely.  While it often emerges in healthy, rational markets, it can fail to appear or it can be injured by rude, ignorant, 
overly self-serving players.  Private capital taking over, leveraging too much debt, and draining companies of resources until 
they dry up and fail (Bain Capital et al) is an apparent example of the latter. Becoming the main buyer for a computer store in 
1983/84, dealing with local clients and many remote suppliers, I quickly learned to establish fair business relationships, to 
haggle in a respectful way, and to detect those who weren't operating in a fair (gentlemanly?) fashion.  This has been 
reinforced ever since.  To some extent, what banks seem to have used to be are arbiters of trust, getting to know those they are 
doing business with so that they could make judgments about who was trustworthy.  Now that the banks have often become 
untrustworthy, this is somewhat broken.  It is tempting to think that this was mostly caused by poor training of MBAs and 
finance people, in some combination of schools and key companies failing to instill a proper culture and code of conduct. 
Instead, they seem to have been taught by "winners" of a certain period how to take advantage of others regardless of the spirit 
and meaning of the system.

It is too bad that we are relying mostly on regulators to fix this. There are some bright ideas getting a little traction, but 
hard to see much success.

Politicians have definitely gone far overboard in trying to gain advantage at all costs.  By the nature of the system and the 
sheeple persuaded by it, both sides necessarily have to get involved in whatever methods work to be relevant.  It is the truthy 
equivalent of resorting to violence to make sure you aren't relegated to the sidelines where you truly can do no good.  Still, 
there is definitely a disparity, both between the parties and between those in the parties at various levels.

Luckily, all of this tends to get better with more exposure, openness, understanding, education, and champions of doing the 
right thing.  Often we have to fully explore a local minima before we summon the energy to climb out, but we generally fill in 
that territory so that we don't revisit it.  Sometimes regression is necessary for progress, or the price to pay for precocious 

>           ...ken...

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