Turn on the brain

This post is the result of melting two or three drafts I wrote in the past ten days.

All is related to the existence of this blog: why did I start writing it? Let’s start from a technological point of view.

In 1964 Paul Baran wrote the memorandum On Distributed Communications for RAND Corporation. This is one of the most important papers about a key concept in computer science: single point of failure is bad, distributed work is better.

Think about your telephone: in the old times there were women operating a switchboard to connect people, now computers do the same when you call a friend or a plumber. If the switchboard (or computer) fails, every customer served by that node can’t communicate. If a node fails in, say, Canberra, telephones still works in Berlin. If we had a single switchboard and the operator died due to heart failure, the only way to talk with someone is hoping he can hear you shouting.

Now jump to another matter: social and political activism.

On the 10th of October, Thomas L. Friedman wrote a column in the New York Times about what he calls “Generation Q”. The famous columnist wrote about young people, in universities and 20-something of age, not being activists and not asking their candidates about climate changes and social politics. He also states that too many of them are involved in the virtual world, where petitions and things like that don’t affect the real world. Q as in Quiet. This point of view was reported here in Italy on major newspapers (i.e. Corriere della Sera).

Many activists in Italy use the Internet to share information and organize themselves using new technologies. Not so many of them use parades or get space in media, due to an established practice demonstrations exists only if politicians agree with them. Due to the number of political parties and the fact that a 2-3% party can keep the government alive, we can do many demonstrations. Almost useless: the supporting political party already got people in the parliament or ministers, there’s no need to change things.

(If you are thinking about not voting for them in the next elections, you must know that here eligibles are predetermined by parties: party X choose Mr. X, party Y Mr. Y, no Nader-like are allowed nor you can choose Mr. Z from party X)

On September, one of the hottest news was a mass rally set up by comedian Beppe Grillo. His main merit is to maintain one of the most popular blogs in Italy and to gather proposal and complaints by various activists (he also talks about his own agenda).

Don’t leave now, I’m reaching the point.

In this week-end the most important Italian news in the web was a draft for a law about registration for editors of publications, including online text, blogs and personal websites not excluded. (i.e. see Punto Informatico article commenting the original news from civile.it in italian, or a comment in English from Synaptic Sugar)

Mainstream media, like newspapers (Corriere della Sera, La Repubblica) and television newscast, reported only after Grillo’s blog post about it. Some politicians and ministers apologized after that.

Many years ago Italian Internet users made a petition and paraded against a law (the so-called “Decreto Urbani”) while the parliament was voting it, but no media told that and Grillo was away from the Internet (I’m biting my fingers to avoid them to type a gratuitous caustic remark about the latter part). The law was approved.

And now, the ending (at last). Why did I start writing this blog? (reprise)

In Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” the only way to keep knowledge was to memorize it by self. Government and media were distributing only what they thought safe and good for people. Web 2.0 is our opportunity to avoid such a future, sharing information is our way to maintain our culture.

You must always ask and keep you informed and share knowledge. I read comments around the web by people who read the “registration law” on Grillo’s blog. This is good, but relying on a single source of information is like relying only on 1 newspaper or 1 TV network. (I’m working on a set of posts about a matter related to the reason why some websites are more popular than others)

The most important thing is inquisitiveness. Not only about laws and politics, but also about our environment, our Universe. You don’t know when something you learned years ago may become useful for you.

Act as Guy Montag: learn. And do something more, ask and seek knowledge you may find useful even if no one is caring about it.

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One comment on “Turn on the brain

  1. […] Limit Decaying Omega minus particles « Turn on the brain Turn on the brain (update) October 26th, 2007 As stated in my previous post, the hot news […]

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