Open humanity

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In the essay "open humanity", one "ixnaum" invites us to imagine open-source ideals applied to every aspect of human existence. I indeed have, and have referred to it as pub wan.

Ixnaum's suggested case study is an on line book store, to be made into an open business. This designation would require open books, at least to the extent of verifiability of expenses and revenues. The idea is to turn society (or at least a "critical mass" of the business community) into the informational equivalent of a nudist beach.

This is actually a more radical proposal than pubwan, which simply invites individuals (and I suppose businesses and other nonhuman entities) to volunteer information, to the extent that they want to.

The open humanity schema proposes to endeavor to provide answers to questions such as what economic inputs have gone into a product such as a printed book... trees, child labor, recycled material, etc. This is reminiscent of, which, last time I checked, was a dead wiki.

In terms of pubwan-style informational activism, this seems to me a tall order. Ixnaum seems to be proposing the informational equivalent of vertical integration. In other words, that the subset of business that happens to be participating in Open Humanity happens to include intact supply chains. Nevertheless, it emphasizes the informational power of "information sharing," and envisions a more benign use for it than in service to the Military Intelligence Complex. The pubwan concept relies heavily on cross-referencing of databases from diverse sources. Pubwan as envisioned in this read only wiki starts with assumptions that the sources of data are those already in the public domain, and that those who volunteer information will do so outside the auspices of the entities "studied" by the pubwan community. Nevertheless, a business literally founded on open source principles would certainly be consistent with pubwan principles...the big question is of feasability.

Ixnaum theorizes a "critical mass" beyond which a growing open humanity movement would obsolete disinformation and similar devious tactics: "Would you care that someone can read your mind if you could read everyone else's mind also?" I myself would consider such a scenario a substantial improvement over the status quo. This is why I suggest that the act of volunteering information might not always be disempowering, if you're volunteering it to an open system.

Some consider this level of transparency inevitable, while some consider it impossible. As is my habit, I am agnostic on the issue.

The discussion following the Open Humanity piece at halfbakery considers the questions of whether unilateral/omnilateral informational disarmament is compatible with the iron laws of economics, humyn nature etc.

HChrist Jesus H. Christ states that

Critical mass

           will only come about when everybody is given access. Google is a 
           step towards open access, but there are lots of things that are 
           still in the way. Most of the things are behind most of the people 
           who communicate online, rather than out in front of us, meaning they 
           are things we assume everyone knows, like how to turn a computer on, 
           how to open a browser, how to sign up for an email address without 
           getting so frustrated that you throw your computer away. If you can 
           make participating in the online world as easy as talking on the 
           telephone or hanging out on the porch then you will be halfway 


This is undoubtedly true, and presents some challenges that have plagued my own conceptualization of pubwan. For my own (somewhat computer literate) purposes, a telnet to an SQL prompt would seem a more effective tool for the type of open content data mining intrinsic in pubwan or Open Humanity. But this would entail an even steeper learning curve than a web site. The problem with scripted web sites is their tendency (the technical term is "webstacle") to nickel and dime the flow of data from the database tables to the end user, who is thus rendered a passive consumer of information. I hope it is possible to come up with an information retrieval method more beginner friendly than the web and at least as flexible (and "power user friendly") as SQL.

A handful of comments down, Ixnaum brings up the following:

Does anyone

           else have ideas for good starting points? Areas where groups - want 
           - to prove that they have nothing to hide? Programmers and their 
           source were the first to step up - who could be next?

Data entry operators could be next. I used to be one, back when such opportunities actually existed in this country. Data entry is one of the most portable (outsourceable) forms of labor (still?) in existence. It is also fast becoming one of the most automatable. This means that people with data entry skills have little or nothing to lose by choosing donation of their efforts over a desperate attempt to sell them. The end product of this could be a large amount of open-content machine-readable data to "mine" with your open-source My SQL interpreter.

The devil's advocate in the discussion of Open Humanity has been theircompetitor, whose contributions dominate the second half of the annotation stream with a snarky ongoing hammering in of the fact that humyn nature is selfish, life is competitive, I've got mine, etc.

The Open Humanity piece is definitely worth a visit to halfbakery by any pubwan participant. Somewhat ironically, the conversation on halfbakery is taking place between participants who are completely anonymous.

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