I started updating this site at the end of March 2004. Here are changes I have made since then.
You can discover what is even newer on this site with my XML/RSS feed
10 October 2005:
Yet more added to Choice and Constraint. Indeed, I added `1' to the edition number because I added chapters and changed their order. Constraints tell us `what is'. Choices are what we `can do'. Choice and Constraint is intended as a description of `what is' ... not a `what is' of political scientists, but a `what is' that reflects the current world and of `what can be done'. It begins with the most basic constraints, including the political necessities for security and law as well as the civilized constraints of justice and the need for `graceful winners' and `graceful losers'. It goes from there. We live within systems that replicate themselves with error and error correction. Then I turn to forms of persuasion. Aristotle spoke more than two thousand years ago. Unfortunately, he is limited. I talk about modern methods of determination. And I consider what should be done?
(In addition to the HTML version cited above, there are
Texinfo, Info, DVI, PDF, and PostScript versions of the document in
30 September 2005:
A minor addition to Choice and Constraint that, however, I think is vital to our undertanding: that Aristotle did not define a "determinative" branch of oratory, only the three that focus on courts, legislatures, and public occasions.
7 June 2005:
Freedom and Obsolescence: Software, Documentation, and Law is the keynote speech I am giving at the 2005 Conference for Law School Computing on 10 June 2005.
(In addition to the HTML version cited above, there are
Texinfo, Info, DVI, PDF, and PostScript versions of the document in
My thrust is straightforward: because of technological advance, over the past few decades, old legal, technical, and social arrangements have become obsolete. But software developers pressed for new freedoms and a new obligation and created new technology.
The GNU General Public License, the GNU Free Documentation License, and the invariant licenses provide the legal solution.
The software to cooperate remotely and readily, to work with variations, and to write a single deep representation that is converted to several surface expressions provide the technical solution for documentation.
Over the past human generation, the advances have become more widely relevant.
The creation and reduplication of textbooks and casebooks faced three kinds of problem: technical, legal, and social.
The technical problems have been solved. We can and should improve them, but the critical work has been done. Similarly, the legal problems have also been solved. You can solve the social problems.
In addition, I have illustrated one way to create a single document that can be expressed in different ways by writing the GNU General Public License and Commentaries, which also tells why the GNU GPL is so strong and my understandings of it.
Finally, I have written an example of how to write a freely redistributable document. This is intended as a primer on the technical, legal, trust, and social issues associated with the creation and modification of freely redistributable documents, especially of legal textbooks and casebooks. Parts of Open Editing: Technique, Law, Trust, and Temperament are a repetition of what went before; some is new, especially my segments on writing, on creating a trust worthy organization, and on setting up a revision control system so people can cooperate remotely. This example is longer than the other essays. Others should add to it.
(In addition to the HTML version cited above, there are
Texinfo, Info, DVI, PDF, and PostScript versions of the document in
31 March 2005:
In One Way to Implement Trust, I discuss how a Web site makes it hard for frauds or well-intentioned but faulty people to destroy its quality. The site does this by randomly selecting people to serve as temporary judges. Such a judge must be a long time regular, willing to serve, and respected by other judges. Such a person receives a number of points that expire quickly. After they expire, the person stops being a judge.
29 March 2005:
A political remedy: in The Petals of Cooperation, I describe the blossom of a flower: the outer petals tell us the political, constitutional changes that enable a just and sustainable society to succeed: consent, freedom, and law. In the middle circle of petals, I ask how to evaluate political proposals? Do they protect, preserve, prepare, and provide? In the inner ring, I talk about how to investigate the five qualities of a social recipe: reason, rigor, reality, honesty, and responsibility. And then in the center, the details ...
5 February 2005
In Rentalists vrs Capitalists, I ask whether is it helpful to think of the contemporary United States as a rentalist economy rather than as a capitalist economy? (This uses the word rent in the economists' sense of a return from a differential advantage for production, not as a return from capital or labor invested.) Should we expect 21st century conflicts to occur between rentalists and capitalists, rather than between those who promote different paths towards Opportunity?
5 December 2004
Banks and insurance companies depend on trust. They offer promises of future delivery, not anything that can be checked in the here and now. Many do not think of Encyclopedias as Trust Based Institutions yet they are. After all, as a practical matter, no one is able to check their articles. To be useful, you need to trust that the unchecked articles are good enough.
22 October 2004:
After current Bush Administration policies fail, the U. S. Republican party will have to adapt. Responsibility, Frugality, Markets provide the base for slogans that can also define policies. Moreover, U. S. Democrats could live with the policies suggested and the political process within the U. S. improve.
27 September 2004:
An update to Single
Input -- Multiple Outputs. On computers, a single input can
produce multiple output formats. What might you see in an editor (or
`word processor') that provides two or more different surface
expressions at the same time as a deep representation? In addition,
the introduction of an occasionally useful third term, that of
(And I have been revising Choice and Constraint.)
22 September 2004:
I completed a read through
Choice and Constraint. This is starting to look like
a finished work. The result has 88 pages of text. (It goes without
saying that in addition to the HTML version cited above, there are new
Texinfo, Info, DVI, PDF, and PostScript versions of the document in
21 September 2004:
A topical issue: over the past few days of September 2004, people posting on the `Blogging of the President' Web site have argued that the US Democratic Party is failing. They will lose the coming US presidential election. The discussion is posed as a conflict between `modernism' and `post-modernism'. I argue this is wrong because neither offers a believable mechanism for determining a hint towards what is true.
19 September 2004:
Began rereading Choice and Constraint. Changed many wordings and corrected many spelling errors not found with the spell checker .... More to do ....
18 September 2004:
People mostly work with the `surface expressions' or `renderings' of a document; they listen to it or read it. Every document produced with a computer has at least three such renderings in addition to the deep representation in which it is stored electronically. Often systems have only one read-write format for their multiple read-only renderings (printing on paper being a rendering that is always read-only). When you have only one such read-write format, it is better as a deep representation. That way no one inadvertently comes to think that a computer is a single output device. Unfortunately, by default, some programs have you edit a high resolution format for typeset output instead.
16 September 2004:
Constructed the beginnings of an index for Choice and Constraint. I must read it again soon ....
Also, I read John Robb's Web log and saw that he asks what does the United States want in Iraq?. Robb notes that inconsistent and fuzzy goals plague the US. I think the two major US goals were clear, but never spoken by the US government; and one has since been abandoned.
14 September 2004:
I removed extraneous material from
Choice and Constraint and added new material.
The result has only 85 pages of text. (It goes without saying that in
addition to the HTML version cited above, there are new Texinfo, Info,
DVI, PDF, and PostScript versions of the document in the
13 September 2004:
More revision of Choice and Constraint. It is short, but still difficult for me to edit. For you it should be easy reading.
12 September 2004:
Yet more revision of Choice and Constraint. It grows better slowly.
The Texinfo, HTML, Info, DVI, PDF, and PostScript versions of
the document are in the
11 September 2004:
Worked on Choice and Constraint. I plan to keep working on it for more days, too.
9 September 2004:
More than ten years ago, David Perkins published a book that enables us to judge an educational system. His underlying notion is simple: that people learn much of which they have a reasonable opportunity and motivation to learn. This concept defines the simplest of conditions for good schooling, which are needed if we wish to avoid disastrous decisions.
8 September 2004:
In their book, The Innovator's Solution, Christensen and Raynor suggest ways for a company to avoid losing to a smaller, but faster moving competitor. The same reasoning explains why some United States companies are moving manufacturing to China. The analysis also suggests what American companies that remain in the US will do. It does not offer any hope for those who wish the overseas movement did not occur.
7 September 2004:
Energy and information are critical to contemporary states. In addition, legitimacy is necessary. Opportunity, along with compassion and justice, will provide legitimacy. In turn, this determines in part how a civilized state should work.
6 September 2004:
A topical and pessimistic issue: what if the current United States government deficit continues without the economic growth and security that enables it to borrow from abroad? Since the US can continue such a deficit for a generation or so, a deficit is economically rational for those who plan to take their money and abandon the country before the advent of the unemployment, higher prices, higher taxes, and other suffering that come from the end of such deficits.
1 September 2004:
Will China peacefully or otherwise take over the far eastern part of Russia in 20 or 40 years? I wrote this first yesterday, and have added a few comments.
31 August 2004:
A friend of mine suggests that contemporary mainland China is converting from an agrarian to an industrial and post-industrial economy. It needs more cities because of its huge population. It needs water and living space. Hence, her question, will the Chinese government invade Eastern Siberia in 20 Years?
30 August 2004:
Yesterday, I attempted to fly to Nantucket, an island off the south east coast of Massachusetts. I expected the hard part to be near the beginning of the flight; but it turned out the difficulty was at the end. We finally reached Nantucket today.
29 August 2004:
Earlier, I wrote about the method of business dispute resolution in China. My same friend who commented on China suggests that anthropologically speaking, business dispute resolution in India fits the `tort law' model better and is less expensive for a society as a whole. This suggests that India may eventually outgrow China, presuming that lower Chinese costs for labor, capital, land, energy, and government action do not overwhelm this one factor.
28 August 2004:
A topical issue: in contrast to an argument that Americans can to some extent predict that the United States should not expect any more attacks on its soil, because such an action would be a military mistake in the summer of 2004, a friend argues that we shall see the eventual implementation of old, low budget plans. Moreover, since the movement against the United States is based on ideas, a military `decapitation strategy' will fail.
27 August 2004:
Today I flew to a nice airport in the Adirondacks; the flight was fine, except that it was more difficult than I anticipated, because the weather forecast was wrong. Here is the story.
26 August 2004:
A topical issue: Frank Richter argues that the United States should not expect any more attacks on its soil. Moreover, Americans tend to think short term. What if American enemies, who may well figure they are winning at the moment, decide to wait a few years, and then attack outside the US? Will Americans even perceive the event? While I tend to expect an attack of some sort shortly, I wonder.
25 August 2004:
Currently, capitalist societies transfer income from one person to another according to four criteria: services or products rendered, ownership, government edict, and charity. What should societies do when such transfers mean much reduced returns to people who produce goods or when machines, not people, produce objects?
24 August 2004:
In 1993, Vernor Vinge wrote about a concept he called the `Singularity', arguing that within two generations,
Sadly, the notion looks like a millennial religious concept in modern garb.
23 August 2004:
In a dream last night, I found myself describing the United States invasion and occupation of Iraq in a business language: what post-sale followup service did the US fail to provide and what about repeat sales? Then I applied another business metaphor to war, that markets are conversations.
22 August 2004:
Mostly, I am optimistic, but today I decided to pull together a few pessimistic scenarios. The simplest and least dangerous scenario is of electronic mail that is formatted in HTML. From there I point to the possibility that we may never be able to generate cheap electricity from fusion and be unable to create a reasonably efficient alternative source. I end up with issues of governance and the causes for societies making disastrous decisions.
21 August 2004:
Over the past half century, the cost of destruction has dropped compared to the cost of building. It has always been less expensive to destroy than to build; but over the past few generations, the cost difference has widened. Assymetrical war is both more possible now than it was, and more available to those without the vast resources of the government of a great power.
20 August 2004:
A topical issue: the planet's vulnerability to energy supply interruption. This is made worse by a common response, which deals with demand rather than supply, and with clashes of interest. Moreover, attacks that reduce world oil supplies by a percent or two might occur three or five years apart. The people who govern rich countries fail to perceive a threat and fail to engage in an expensive, generation-long effort to change their sources. effort to change their sources of supply.
19 August 2004:
A topical issue: in the past, standard operating procedures for the United States Army often had little connection with the world. But new procedures provided a way for Colonel Dicker to analyze what the US has done in Iraq. It looks to me, in the reversal of an old saying, that the `phase 4' operations are an effort `to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory'.
18 August 2004:
Here are more quotations from Robert Paxton's book, The Anatomy of Fascism. A few weeks ago, I provided quotations from the beginning of the book. Here are the rest. I hope eventually to develop a thesis that connects with my notion of Opportunity, Compassion, and Justice.
17 August 2004:
In More Additions to `Choice and Constraint', I suggest more that could be included in Choice and Constraint.
These include: Disastrous Decisions, Conflict over the Goals of a Civilization, High Initial Cost/Low Incremental Production, Three Aids to Judgement, Law, Property, and Legitimacy, Business Dispute Resolution in China, and a Early High Death Rate.
Even though Calc Embedded mode does not fit, I include it because the tool is so useful
16 August 2004:
A friend suggests that in contemporary China, anthropologically speaking, people in business think that only their families are a part of the group with whom they should be honest. Business dispute resolution depends on `might' not `right'. This means that business transaction costs will be higher and that customers will perceive that markets are neither fair nor legitimate.
15 August 2004:
I updated Birds' and Bees' Color Vision with a table giving the wavelength and frequency for the peak sensitivities of human's three types of cone, cat's three types of cone, dog's two types of cone, and peak solar output. In addition, I linked to and quoted from other sites.
14 August 2004:
The word `computer' is wrong. In the old days, a computer was a person who computed, just as a baker was a person who baked and a typewriter was a person who wrote on a typewriting machine. However, in the past century and a half, the words `computer' and `typewriter' have shifted from referring to the person to referring to the machine. Moreover, we `program' a computer rather than write `recipes' for it.
13 August 2004:
The metaphor we use for electricity is so embedded in the language that we hardly notice: the metaphor is based on the notion of a flow of water and uses the word current. Yet the metaphor implies a flow through a solid metal, and what we measure, initially a weight, later the position of a needle, is not a measurement of the current itself, but of something else.
12 August 2004:
Birds' and Bees' Color Vision reminds us that birds see more colors than humans. Their perceptions must be different. Not only can birds see ultraviolet, they have at least four types of color sensitive cone cells. Humans have only three types of cone. (`Rods' are for dimmer, grey, night vision.) To birds, theirs plumages may be even more colorful than it is to humans, or colorful in different ways. Bees see into the ultraviolet, but have only three color receptors, so humans are more like them.
11 August 2004:
Unlike cats and dogs, which are predators, horses are prey animals. This makes horses different from cats and dogs. (Humans are both predators and prey.) I know little about horses; this is what friends have told me.
10 August 2004:
In Pre-industrial Kondratiev Cycles and `Generations' I describe how Michael Alexander combines his two generation theory of a pre-industrial Kondratiev cycle that lasts 50 60 years with the four generation, 100 120 year, theory that Strauss and Howe develop in their work on `Generations'.
9 August 2004:
A Kondratiev cycle is a change in prices that lasts 50 60 years. Michael Alexander provides a theory that I find intriguing why such a Kondratiev cycle occurred in Medieval Europe, which was a pre-industrial, agricultural society. He provides some evidence.
8 August 2004:
Writing in June of 2002, I asked whether the Bush Administration given up on the Israel-Palestine conflict? At that time, many commentators suggested that the `roadmap for peace' in the Israel-Palestinian conflict would fail because it `set the bar too high'. I offered several reasons why the Bush administration might perceive such failure as an advantage. Here is that I wrote then, followed by a brief August 2004 update.
7 August 2004:
In Disastrous Decisions, I summarize Jared Diamond's explanation why some societies make disastrous decisions? Diamond talked about four kinds of failure, each with its own several reasons: to fail to anticipate a problem, to fail to perceive it, to fail to try to solve it, and to fail to solve it after trying. For example, one reason to fail to anticipate is because of misleading metaphors, as happened in Iceland with the Vikings.
6 August 2004:
In Defeating Oneself, a topical question: will Moore's 9/11 movie help US President Bush win the forthcoming US election? The movie may convince strong Democrats that Bush is very bad indeed. Presidential candidate Kerry may fear that rather than go along with the kinds of compromises that would gain him additional votes, potential supporters will stay home. Hence no compromises and no extra votes.
5 August 2004:
Travel provides a metaphor for purpose. If you do not know your destination, you will never learn whether you got there. Indeed, you will not even be able to figure out which direction to go. Lack of United States government clarity makes a review of its actions in Iraq difficult. By presuming a straightforward goal, we can judge the success or failure of US actions.
4 August 2004:
Here are quotations from Robert Paxton's book, The Anatomy of Fascism. As I write this, I am about half way through the book. I hope to develop a thesis that connects with my notion of Opportunity, Compassion, and Justice.
3 August 2004:
When I was a child, I learned that `God moves in mysterious ways'. Today, I took the cats to the veterinarian for their rabies' shots and checkups, an action that to them was mysterious and unpleasant. What would be the metaphoric nature of God for a child, if the animal to which he or she related were a large horse or cow rather than a small cat (or sheep or goat, which children often tended)?
2 August 2004:
To stop HTML email dangers, we need a combination of alertness, law, and technical action. Some will be alert, but not everyone. Laws can be made more effective than in the past. We need to avoid reading HTML mail as HTML, we need good filters, we need other technical solutions, and we need to avoid companies and programs with a poor history.
1 August 2004:
Not only is the use of HTML in electronic mail contrary to convention and against the principle of "What You See Is What Your Correspondent Sent", for some it is dangerous. I recently received a message from a server located Nizhny Novgorod, Russia that claimed to be from eBay. I doubt it was (especially since I am not an `eBay member'); but I wonder how my late mother might have responded shortly before she died, when she was less alert than earlier in her life?
31 July 2004:
In Homer's Odyssey and Rappaport's anthropology I discuss a presentation by a new translator of the `Odyssey' in which suggested to me that Roy Rappaport had made sense when he pointed out a way to provide law when no laws can be enforced by governments. I wonder whether this was the case.
30 July 2004:
I am just starting a book by Robert Paxton called The Anatomy of Fascism. I already have strong ideas on the subject. We shall learn what I think.
29 July 2004:
A correspondent asked which of two small telescopes he should choose. For astronomy, because of light pollution and lack of contrast, the better is bigger. You also need to think about the mount, and the whole optical path.
28 July 2004:
From a military as well as civilian point of view, it makes sense for the United States to return to its old ideals. These are most likely to bring it victory in the `assymetrical' or `fourth generation' style of war it now suffers.
27 July 2004:
In New and Old Politics, I advance the hypothesis that over the next few generations political leaders will come decide fewer issues. Instead they will permit their political supporters to decide some of them. They will do this because otherwise, they will not gain supporters at all.
26 July 2004:
Suppose electricity-generating fusion continues to be a dream? What of the alternatives? Oil can synthesized from coal or tar. But if the carbon dioxide released by burning fossil fuels causes trouble sooner than anticipated, or if Senator James Inhofe is right, which means we must reduce fossil fuel use even more than mainstream scientists anticipate, we will have to turn to irregular and expensive alternatives.
25 July 2004:
In Metaphors, Taxes, and Health Payments, I note that the term `tax relief' uses the same word as that used by people who talk of a medicine to relieve an upset stomach. It is metaphor. Another metaphor compares taxes to country club dues, a payment for jointly used amenities. Given that people in the US and UK both pay roughly the same in taxes for health services (but not in overall health payments) and given the metaphor that you prefer, which governmental spending mechanism do you think is better?
24 July 2004:
As far as I can see, in 1700, school children could have learned aid for three aspects of judgement: certainty factors, frequency-based probability judgements, and estimates of of the likelihood of one-time-only events.
23 July 2004:
I slightly revised Choice and Constraint to incorporate one of Rappaport's insights and to make the segment on Darwin's Five Laws relevant to political and economic systems. I still have more to revise, but this is a step.
22 July 2004:
Many innovations occurred after their time. No one thought of them earlier. A hot air balloon, even a dirigible, could have been built four thousand years ago. Food could have been rapidity frozen and preserved in an ice house.
21 July 2004:
Here are five innovations that I figured would have a large impact when I wrote these predictions in 1980. All the predictions were wrong; at least, none have yet transpired. Yet even in retrospect, none appear impossible and all look profitable.
20 July 2004:
When you `think like the enemy', you realize that the kinds of weapon preferred by a dictator are different from the kinds preferred by a stateless soldier or terrorist. This is because the two have different goals and control mechanisms.
19 July 2004:
Even using the optimistic assumptions of a 3% per year growth rate for 500 years, interstellar trade will be expensive. Most `goods' will be more cheaply manufactured locally. Most `transport' will be via radio rather than by physically carrying an object.
18 July 2004:
In Plato's dialog, Timaeus provides a coherent model of the universe that derives in a large part from observation and only in a small part from cultural presumption. As a theory, it enjoyed a long run. It outlasted two civilizations, the Classical and the Medieval. Unfortunately, the observations were poor and the model wrong.
17 July 2004:
In Design Process and Multiples, I dwell on the unfortunate history that for the past several thousand years, most people have not only presumed that a `design' requires a `designer', but that only an entity can design, never a process. The English language favors this `folk belief' by making the usual term for `that which designs' be the word `designer'. This is a mistake. Moreover, for a unplanned design process to succeed, people must think in terms of populations, of multiple, rather than of exemplars or typical cases.
16 July 2004:
A high resolution computer display is more significant than I expected. Text and pictures look sharp. Movies look better. But even a contemporary high resolution display fails. We probably will not be satisfied until computer screens gain six or twelve times their current resolutions.
15 July 2004:
This morning I drove along the Massachusetts Turnpike from end to end. It is evident that trucking is both costly and fragile. Trucking has increasingly replaced rail over the past generation. How much more damage to the roads do these additional trucks cause than cars? Many years ago, a man from the state Dept. of Public Works told me a high number. Morover, trucks and cars depend on fossil fuels; they cannot run without them. Unfortunately, fossil fuel production is pretty well fixed; and the amount produced might suddenly fall.
14 July 2004:
Here is an update regarding the possible structure of Choice and Constraint. In my earlier effort, I left various problems hanging. (Several still hang; I hope to solve those soon.) In particular, I apply Rappaport's discussion of ritual to law, which deals with the point that `laws are made from unbreakable components' even though `laws are broken'.
13 July 2004:
In United States Failure and Challenger Success, I discuss a governmental problem Christensen and Raynor describe in terms of private companies: otherwise successful firms will fail because they are successful. It never mattered that the US Central Intelligence Agency failed to predict the collapse of the Soviet Union, or that it underestimated the number of Soviet nuclear weapons. For the 25 years after 1975, CIA failings did not lead to disaster. As a governmental organization, it thrived. But without major change, the US will fail and its challengers succeed.
12 July 2004:
In A Period of Crisis, I discuss how my sense of the present time has been influenced by a popular book that makes a claim about the sterotypes of generations. Perhaps its theory is right; perhaps not. We should gain an indication by 2008.
11 July 2004:
Years ago, by looking at a bunch of them, I induced the format for stories written by journalists working for my local newpaper. Articles were written so that an editor could delete paragraphs from the end. (This is a well known style, but I did not know about it then.)
10 July 2004:
As forecast, my old laptop died on me. So I took the opportunity to try out a new live CD, which worked fine, and to try a beta test version of the new Debian installer. The latter is installing as I write.
9 July 2004:
A fast Internet connection inspired me to update an old laptop today. The download was quick. The installation, which is going fine as I write this, is taking a long time because the machine is slow. Even though this is all commonplace, I find the process amazing.
8 July 2004:
Omission and Commission was inspired by a talk with a friend who pointed out that she can only affect what she herself does. She cannot guarantee any effect on others. Hence, what she herself does is what counts. In particular, she will not never support war, even to defend herself. I agree that zero-sum situations are bad and best avoided. Likewise, it is dangerous to allow those who have considerable power to define a situation as `black and white' since people like to think within a`container' metaphor. That mode is one of the four ways people tend to perceive and think. It is the most simple of the four. Nonetheless, others sometimes put us into such situation. I think we should endeavor to act against them, even when the circumstances are bad, and when the action is dubious, complex, and its outcome doubtful.
7 July 2004:
802.11b PCMCIA cards in computers, which marketers call `WiFi' cards, are radio tranceivers that enable people to connect to the Internet and other machines. Other people can readily receive these radio signals. While flying today with my nephew, I found many more `open' access points than I expected; people could transmit or receive over them. The practice is like leaving a door unlocked, except I do not think that many people quite realize this.
6 July 2004:
In Intrinsically Evil and Balance of Power, a discussion of a fundamental design principle for constitutions: to presume that people who will make up a government will be evil. This is a very bad presumption to make about neighbors, friends, or any stranger in general, but it helps in government. (In addition, constitutional designers must make arrangements so that losers leave and winners do not push the losers too far.)
5 July 2004:
In Calc Embedded mode, a short discussion about using Calc Embedded mode in your mail buffer in GNU Emacs to solve a complex equation for one of its variables.
4 July 2004:
The rebellion by thirteen of Britain's North American colonies succeeded. Here is a copy of the United States Declaration of Independence. To make it easier to read, I moved various clauses into separate paragraphs, and mark a few with bullets. This causes the document to look strange, but lends emphasis to its structure.
3 July 2004:
Here is a discussion of a possible structure for Choice and Constraint, and its justification. I have not revised the document to follow this outline. Perhaps I will not like it. And in any event, the structure has problems. I need to think more of this.
2 July 2004:
Choice and Constraint, moving various chapters and
sections from one place to another and rewriting bits. Two improperly
integrated sections are now included properly; and two timely section
have been moved into two chapters that are referred to as `topical
issues'. I still have not figured out what to do with my notes on Roy
Rappaport. Moreover, I must read the document again to fix
infelicities this reorganization and rewriting have introduced. The
new Texinfo, HTML, Info, DVI, PDF, and PostScript versions have been
copied to the
1 July 2004:
Today I tried to look at Choice and
Constraint overall, but failed since I am still too close
to it. So the only changes are that I removed some duplicated words
and corrected a few spelling errors. I have uploaded the new Texinfo,
HTML, Info, DVI, PDF, and PostScript versions of the document to the
30 June 2004:
Has the war between the US and Iraq ended? Or are we seeing an ongoing `assymetical war'? I think the latter, but find little public discussion of the issue in America. Moreover, several of Saddam Hussein's generals speak of the current period as the post-war.
29 June 2004:
In Morality, Ethics, Politics, I ask whether the United States faces a systemic political problem that cannot be solved by focusing on individuals? Stirling Newberry argues that it does. Since people do not want to watch their representatives, they end up rewarding those who can lie convincingly, even though they want honest politicians.
28 June 2004:
Two old and exemplar programs, VI and the editing portion of Emacs, employ fundamentally different user interfaces. Do people prefer one or other mode because of the detailed way they write or because of more general styles of thinking? In VI, an author writes a sentence or paragraph and then goes back to edit it. In Emacs, an author edits while writing, often changing a word in the middle.
27 June 2004:
In A Topical Issue: the United States and Iraq, I put together various of my short topical essays concerning the United States invasion and occupation of Iraq. (This effort has almost no overlap with Choice and Constraint, which I think is much more important.) This work should be shorter and easier to follow than the originals.
26 June 2004:
When you do not even know you do not know something, you face an `unknown unknown'. For most young children, this is the case with calculus. In Unknown unknowns and the Rest, I list the four alternatives, and then a fifth category.... the disease of experts.
25 June 2004:
According to a story, several of Saddam Hussein's generals spoke in June 2004. The story's author quotes them as saying,
Among other points, I note that their statements (which may be disinformation) fit with Reuven Brenner's classification of societies into `mobile' and `immobile', and suggest that the move towards a `mobile' society was only partial.
24 June 2004:
In `Mobile' and `Immobile' People and Societies, I described Reuven Brenner's categorization. of people and societies into `immobile' and `mobile'. For Americans, this language insults those who are `immobile' or come from `immobile' societies. Consequently, the terms partly hinder thought. But they also help.
In this essay, Further Thoughts on `Mobile' and `Immobile', I explore the notion in more detail: in Paleolithic times, people were `mobile'; the rise of agriculture saw an increase in `immobility'. The modern era brings with it `mobility', but its technology is fragile. Moreover, certain belief systems, which may be an advantage in the short run, hinder long term advance.
23 June 2004:
In `Mobile' and `Immobile' People and Societies, I describe Reuven Brenner's comparison of agrarian and resource-based societies with those from which wealth comes from activities that transcend geographic location, such as bottle making. In the former, leaders and their institutions perceive, correctly, that their situation is zero-sum. The latter see possibilities. This way of thinking fits my other thoughts. Moreover, Brenner suggests specific policies for the United states to follow in Iraq.
22 June 2004:
The second half of Choice and Constraint contains the sections on perception, thinking, and social structures, on making judgements, and on the characteristics of self-replicating systems. In addition, it contains several items that I have not fitted into the work, including quotations and paraphrases from Roy Rappaport's Ecology, Meaning & Religion. Today, I made changes to words and sentences, and one or two more substantial changes. This finished my first `walk through'. I am going to add index entries soon.
21 June 2004:
Today I edited the first half of Choice and Constraint, making a few changes to words and sentences. I stopped at the section on thinking about numeric types, measurement, truth, and social structures, the section on Guttman Scales.
Choice and Constraint is about how we think, how to use the notion of von Neumann machines to think about societies, the metaphors that give meaning to mathematics, computer ways to consider judgements, and how all this relates to good governance.
20 June 2004:
This weekend I visited a museum of Medieval armor and weapons. This reminded me that many Medieval soldiers lived in `honor based' societies. The men were sensitive to how they perceived others thought of them and would fight if they felt slighted. Modern civilization grew as these men were superseded by governments in which more peaceful people gained power.
19 June 2004:
In Political Proposals, I add a global proposal to the various local political proposals that I suggested earlier.
18 June 2004:
It is worth remembering that the long standing convention for HTML opposes that of electronic mail. One convention is "What You See Or Hear Is Formatted As You Decide" to hear or see; the other is "What You See Is What Your Correspondent Sent". The latter runs against reality, which is that some people are permanently blind and others are situationally blind, such as those who listen to their email while driving a car. So the convention cannot be followed exactly. Nonetheless, the convention has its value.
17 June 2004:
In Political Proposals, I put together various suggestions that come from ideas discussed in Choice and Constraint and elsewhere. This is a beginning. I hope to update this page.
16 June 2004:
The United States will lack safety unless it gains power, and it will lack power unless it can persuade foreigners of its legitimacy. In Persuasion, Legitimacy, and Power, I argue that the US must adopt a long term policy that ultimately favors `opportunity', `compassion', and `justice'. Nothing else will survive the coming century.
15 June 2004:
The `deep representation' or prime source for Choice and Constraint is now the Texinfo file. However, that link is to the HTML `surface expression' file generated from it. Also, I am putting the Texinfo, DVI, PostScript, PDF, and Info versions of the file on my site in the same directory. This is still a draft, but it has moved a step forward.
14 June 2004:
Today, I converted the HTML file for Choice and Constraint to Texinfo. This way you or I can convert this `deep representation" to a variety of `surface expressions' for listening and reading, both online and printed, including HTML, Info, DVI, PostScript, and XML. This makes it much easier to publish in the various ways people read or listen to a document.
13 June 2004:
An even more revised sequence. In "Choice and Constraint", I move the section on self-replicating systems from the beginning to the end. I also explained a bit more what each section is about. The new sequence is:
12 June 2004:
A revised sequence: I've changed the order of the sections in "Choice and Constraint" and introduced new major headers. Also, I moved several sections into an `other' group at the end that may be dropped. In addition, the `Economics' section seems to need the essay on high initial and low incremental cost production. I have got to think about this. This change is an experiment. I expect to move sections around again.
11 June 2004:
Yet again, I have reworked the first half of the text for "Choice and Constraint". I still have not figured out the sequence for each section, except that I personally like the sequence of the first half.
10 June 2004:
a short discussion of the claim that the US President may "render
specific conduct, otherwise criminal, not unlawful". This
claim is unconstitutional.
A US President may pardon a criminal who commits a crime, such as
torture, after he is sentenced by a court, but not before. Moreover,
courts must follow the US Constitution and law. Governance in the
United States is based on a balance of power.
9 June 2004:
I finished my first run through "Choice and Constraint". This revision asks what a government can do other than tax, borrow, or scrimp? It talks about needful government regulation, presents a fable on economics, a history of early book keeping, a discussion of why and under which conditions a market for pollutants is better than a ban, and section on future opportunity, compassion, and justice.
As I said earlier, this revision looks only at paragraphs; I do not yet have a sense of how it all fits together. That comes next and is very difficult.
8 June 2004:
This morning, I observed the latter part of the transit of Venus across the face of the sun. Once the sun and planet rose above the low level haze, Venus was much more obvious than I anticipated. I was able to see the planet touch the edge of the sun's disk at the beginning of its egress. This is the first transit of Venus since 1882.
7 June 2004:
More revision of "Choice and Constraint". I am up to the section that asks what a government can do besides tax, borrow, or scrimp? Where should I put the just edited sections? The first one talks about establishing belief and about law without government. Another talks about periods of unraveling. The last section describes a constitution for a government encompassing the United States and some other countries.
6 June 2004:
More revision of ""Choice and Constraint". I am up to the section on "Ecology, Meaning & Religion". As I said before, I have much more to do.
5 June 2004:
Yet more revision of ""Choice and Constraint". I have gone as far as the section on `A Floor Vacuuming Robot', which comes after a section on controversial contemporary politics. This revision looks only at paragraphs; I do not yet have a sense of how it all fits together. That will come when I finish this. As I said before, this is just a beginning. I have lots more to do.
4 June 2004:
I am slowly revising "Choice and Constraint". No doubt, I will revise the part I just edited yet again. Meanwhile, I have moved a little of the way through, up to the section which answers the age-old question, `which came first, the chicken or the egg?' As I said before, this is just a beginning. I have lots more to do.
3 June 2004:
Following the scheme in Pulling Notions Together - 2, I am beginning to put together my various notions into a larger work tentatively called "Choice and Constraint". This is just a beginning. I have lots more to do.
2 June 2004:
a switch in view: rather than think of `the' economy as national,
developed, and legal, think of it as
global, developing, and extralegal. Public servants and private
investors both have reason to make this switch.
1 June 2004:
an essay on von Neumann
machines as such rather than as metaphors for human societies and
economies or as
conceptual tools for thinking about evolution. A von Neumann
Machine is a robotic self-replicator. It has a minimum number of
parts, which humans can readily understand. In so far as copies are
inexact and circumstances change, new forms become commonplace.
31 May 2004:
a discussion of building with
unbreakable components. Unlike the wood of a sailing ship or the
metal of a car, a number is unbreakable. Computer programs are built
from such unbreakable objects. This enables developers to create
complex entities. In biology, atoms are also unbreakable. So are
sacred postulates and basic laws. Nonetheless programs, animals,
theologies, and law have all become as difficult to maintain as ships
and cars. Entities stop becoming more complex, stop becoming more
prey to rot, only when the complexity or rot kills enough of them.
30 May 2004:
a discussion of Hernando de
Soto's argument that capitalism succeeded in countries such as the
United States because strangers will lend. Without the ability to
borrow from strangers, he says that no one will be able to build a
firm that competes with existing, large `Western' companies. But
strangers will not lend unless they can seize the a defaulter's
assets. And without a reliable, quick, and honest legal system,
assets stand for nothing. So for success, `extralegal' assets, such
as houses, must be converted into legal assets. The only way to do
this successfully is to give the legal system legitimacy by adapting
to existing, actual social contracts.
29 May 2004:
Earlier, I laid out my first cut at pulling together some of my `notions' into a larger work. As I said, that was wrong. Here is my second effort. I am not satisfied, but it is a step in the right direction. Please give me advice!
28 May 2004:
a discussion of an inexpensive way to
replace land-line telephones, using a classic `disruptive
technology' with lower quality at a lower price. Also, the method
simultaneously spreads high speed Internet access. Clearly, one way
for susceptible companies to defend themselves is to stop progress by
influencing governments. But if progress continues, users can
27 May 2004:
a discussion of a a clash
within my civilization: what kind of noise to accept or protest?
An old friend sought a special permit to keep a rooster and chickens
behind her house. The protest is over the sound of a cock's crow. Do
you support our current technology or do you hope to supersede it? Do
you view farm animals as workers or as pets? What pollutes?
26 May 2004:
A difficulty: I hope to pull together various of my `notions' into a form that is more coherent. But I have not yet figured out which categories or themes to use. For example, I fitted some notions into a `Governance' theme, but then it turns out that at least two of those notions also fit into an `Economics' theme. Here is the first cut of my listing; it is wrong.
25 May 2004:
a topical issue: on 2004 May 24, US President Bush said that he would
continue his Administration's previous policy in Iraq. To me, this
means the Administration has
abandoned a long term goal of US victory, both in Iraq and within
the United States.
24 May 2004:
a topical question. For the United States in its war against
terrorism, the goal was victory.
That is to say, the goal was to enable Americans again to feel safe.
If Americans do not feel safer in October 2041 than they did in
October 2001, the war was lost. Since 2041 is so far from the
present, the immediate question becomes whether you judge US strategy
as reaching towards victory?
23 May 2004:
a topical issue: the US says it found a small amount of the
nerve gas sarin in a
shell in Iraq. Where did the shell come from? At the end of May
2003, the United States had not visited approximately 700 suspected
sites that it feared contained chemical, biological, nuclear, or
radiological weapons or the makings of such. As far as I can see,
troops in the US Army could at least have made cursory visits in the
time following the fall of Baghdad. That they did not indicates a
22 May 2004:
a topical issue: some argue that current climate change comes from
natural variability, not human
activity. If true, this means we must act immediately and
vigorously to restrict human-produced greenhouse gases. Otherwise, we
will suffer from damaging and costly natural changes. I hope this is
wrong and that the `anti-global warming' advocates are right, since
their advice gives us more time and requires less effort.
21 May 2004:
a comment on when to realize that
a species is not an organism and when not.
Often, I speak of a species or an ecology as a single organism. And sometimes it is useful to imagine such an entity as a single organism even though it is not. Moreover, since it is easier to think more clearly about an imaginary self-replicating, robotic factory than about your own society or your food supply, a Von Neumann machine is a good model.
20 May 2004:
a question: Why is some free
software still awkward? As far as I can see, several big companies
have not provided GNU/Linux with features that would have made those
companies more profit. They are not investing in `human factors'
studies to create a relatively inexpensive `complementary product'. I
do not understand.
19 May 2004:
a rather optimistic essay about people's fundamental political
desires. These are for
order, law, justice, and democracy in that sequence. Without
order, you cannot have law. Justice requires both law and order.
Democracy enables a society to change its government to adapt new laws
to new conditions and thereby preserve justice. Dictatorship, in a
monarchy for example, may succeed during periods of slow change, but
the governmental structure adapts poorly to new conditions. Unless
various governments stop change, or a catastrophe damages us enough,
over the next few generations, democracy will survive.
18 May 2004:
a topical issue: how to persuade
those not sure whether the United States or its enemies are right
in how to organize society in general. My contentions are both that
the current notions associated with war and those associated with
policing fail under modern conditions and that competence is
17 May 2004:
Yesterday evening, the sky was clear. Fred and I looked at galaxies, clusters, Jupiter, and Comet NEAT through his 6 inch (150 mm) refractor.
16 May 2004:
a question: How are
some Libertarians and some Left-wing Democrats similar? Many think
this question prefigures a joke, but I disagree. I see two
similarities, one favoring a rule by thugs, the other against a rule
by men who are like bronze age warriors.
15 May 2004:
My sister and her husband unexpectedly invited me to visit them yesterday, so I flew out. First I flew through haze, then around thunderstorms. Here is the story.
14 May 2004:
a fable. A database is a
basket. To defend your country, to make yourself secure, you must
prevent a government, a private company, or any other organization
from collecting your information in one place.
13 May 2004:
a discussion of the most robust form of
transcultural communication yet known,
It is a way of persuading a person that one judgement is better than
another. But instead of trying to persuade another by appealing to a
common cultural understanding or to a widely accepted authority, a
scientific communication strives to generate an internal experience.
This transcends cultural barriers.
12 May 2004:
Yesterday evening, I observed Comet NEAT (C/2001 Q4) faintly in the western sky above Procyon.
two pages, both focused on the European Middle Ages: the first is a
discussion of the three new ways of thinking that
One of the new ways, the metaphorical extension of the concept of
`balance', made it harder to see profit. (I am not an accountant:
this is based on a history I read years ago.) The other page is about
the two initial purposes of
double entry book keeping, reporting and control. One problem is
that as an information tool, such book keeping tracks only the
`internal costs' of a business. It does not record `external costs',
such as pollution. That requires
Needful Government Regulation.
11 May 2004:
a short polemic against the base 10 numerical system. I am furious
that in the Middle Ages, Christian Europe adopted the Indian/Arabic
base 10 numerical system rather than the better
base 12 system. Base 12 fits the
number of Christian Apostles. It fits the number of eggs in dozen.
You can easily see the patterns of halves, thirds, and quarters within
a dozen. You can count on one hand.
Sadly, it is easier to change what we build and use, our `hardware', than change the cultural conventions that are our `software'.
10 May 2004:
two new pages that I initially wrote as one. But I then realized the
topics are different: first, the concept of
additive and non-additive ideas. You can learn more since
learning is additive. But you cannot hold two contradictory opinions
at the same time. You cannot simultaneously be both a Christian and a
Moslem. As statements of truth, some pairs of ideas are rivalrous, to
use economists' jargon. They are similar to shirts and shoes. But as
learnable ideas, they are non-rivalrous, like software.
Second the idea of differing fitnesses in different ecologies. A plant, animal, human society, or product may reduplicate prolifically so long as its `niche' is unfilled. But it may not survive competition from its own kind. Virtues that help it in the first circumstance may be outweighed by faults in the second. Will Microsoft Windows die as its faults come to outweigh its virtues?
9 May 2004:
a topical issue: While I do not think that any of the arguments made publicly
in favor of the US invasion of Iraq persuaded the US government
as a whole or its military, I think that
two other arguments did: in the short run, to intimidate other
anti-US countries; and in the long run, to change Middle Eastern
countries' cultures enough to make them safe to the United States.
This essay talks about the second question.
8 May 2004:
a topical issue: Since democracy requires
graceful winners and graceful losers, United States occupation
forces in Iraq must protect its recent enemies, the Sunni, from the
desire of the majority for justice. It must prevent elections that
give too many rights to those who have been tortured and murdered.
7 May 2004:
an explanation of why
Darwinian evolution is elegant. It is true and cruel, but it is not
inelegant, inefficient, or wasteful because those judgement categories
are irrelevant. Of course, if you farm, then waste becomes relevant.
6 May 2004:
a discussion of
`situated software', Clay Shirky's term for software that is
`designed in and for a particular social situation or context.'
This software does not scale, a serious problem. But it is cheaper
and faster to create. Indeed my book on
programming introduces this kind of work. But I focused
individuals, while Shirky focuses on groups.
5 May 2004:
a way to categorize modern `alternative sources of energy' using the
traditional `elements', Earth, Air, Fire, and Water,
as well as Aristotle's fifth element, Quintessence.
4 May 2004:
a description of
societies as Von Neumann Machines.
Although the notion of a self-replicating entity is old,
John von Neumann first suggested a modern, robotic form.
Usually, we think of such entities as `machines',
but human societies reproduce themselves, too.
3 May 2004:
a discussion of why
a market for pollutants is more efficient
than a ban on them, but more difficult to administer.
Such a market fails when a government is corrupt.
2 May 2004:
a discussion of where the
the meaning of a mathematical expression comes from.
Benjamin Peirce famously spoke of a mathematical equation
`that is surely true ... and we don't know what it means.'
Meaning and proof are different.
1 May 2004 and before:
Just before dawn on 1 May 2004, I observed Comet Bradford faintly through binoculars.
Oops! It turns out I forgot to list my short book, Software Freedom: An Introduction. I thought I had... Now I have...
How could we create a larger country than we see now a union of existing countries, including the United States? As far as I can see, the distribution of power in a new government must appeal to each prospective member. We need a three chamber legislature, with the votes in each chamber determined differently.
What are possible long term changes in the legitimate goals of government? Will the next major political conflict be over the ways in which a government can provide opportunity? And if so, which way will be successful? What are the consequences of meritocracy?
It is still true that influence comes from Words, Money, and Guns, that is, from the ideas that influence people, from the ability of a government to fund those it supports, and from military power.
What must a country do to succeed economically? After all, competitive, free markets only succeed under certain conditions. Evidentially, government regulations are needed, but at the same time, regulators often act against the public interest. What to do?
In Opportunity and Estate Taxes, I ask whether large fortunes tend to maintain themselves, and if so, whether estate taxes are necessary if you value opportunity?
Through the literary device of a pretend science fiction story, I talk about competitive, free markets and large fortunes. You explore an island full of tentacled entities whose ecological rules just happen to match those of our business society.
What else a government can do besides Tax, Borrow, or Scrimp (with taxation being any forceful way of raising money, including the sale of property owned by the taxpayers)?
With technological progress, more industries have high initial costs of production and a low incremental costs than before. In this essay, I take drug development and production as an example. What form of governance best encourages the discovery, development, and safe use of drugs for medicine?
What Sudden, New Technologies might appear in the future? Which have appeared in the past century?
Historically, liberty is almost always associated with groups of people who have more resources than they might expect. This still applies to us: Liberty and Resources
People have few options when times are bad. It was worse in pre-agricultural times. Does a society's successful response to see-able catastrophe lead to more Xenophobia, Savy, and Xenophilia?
The United States is a strongly isolationist country, even though it is strongly involved in the world and now fighting abroad.
A topical question. Was the Administration's failure to forestall the attacks of 2001 September 11 incompetence, like the 1941 failure to forestall the Pearl Harbor attack, or was there no way that anyone could have foreseen the latter? In making this judgement we must bear in mind that in 2001 the Administration depended on intelligence still influenced by its predecessor. Consequently, to make a judgement one way or the other, we must look at other actions.
The current US `Use of Force Resolution' is wrong. Here is a call to revise it. In particular, the United States should create a new legal classification to handle its suspect enemies justly. This action is important politically, both for those who will otherwise suffer unjustly, and for Americans.
Periods of Unraveling occur after `period of awakening', like the 1960s in the US. The US has gone through such a period and is now in a `Period of Crisis'.
Many crooks `go straight' as they grow older they stop committing crimes. This has implications for inexpensive policing, as I discuss in Crime and Age.
This short essay on Governance for Software Development and Reproduction serves as an introduction to the notion of software freedom, and why governments ought to favor such freedom. If you find this interesting, you might look at my short book Software Freedom: An Introduction
A certainty factor can be used to express how accurate, truthful, or reliable you judge evidence. In an exercise using certainty factors, I go further and provide an example of how certainty factors might be used to understand at least a part of a controversial political situation. Then the nub, for which the example is selling robot vacuum cleaners.
Traditional logic is binary. If you follow traditional logic, your judgements must be either black or white. But we live in a world of gray or even more colors. Types of logic depend on what form of perception you employ, which Guttman Scale you use. Over the next generation I expect to see more computer programs use `gray' logics, and write about this in a page called Black, White, and Gray.
A correspondent asked whether computers already use certainty factors under the name of Bayesian analysis? No they do not. Bayesian analysis and certainty factors are different.
Darwin posed his theories nearly one and a half centuries ago. Now they have been proved in simulations, observations, and experiment. The result is law: Darwin's Five Laws of Evolution.
A friend asked me for advice on purchasing a computer for the home.. This is not about particular brands or makes since I do not know anything about them. Rather it is about capabilities.
Because of the different histories followed by different groups, the words window and frame have confusing meanings among computer users. I lived through the history and remember it. That history is extracted from my Introduction to Emacspeak. The latter is about one of the Four Types of User Interface, an audio desktop for the permanently or situationally blind.
Five authors have influenced me deeply. Interestingly, two authors are anthropologists, another is a cognitive linguist, and the final pair are pop historians.
In my page on five authors who have influenced how I think, I mention Roy Rappaport's work. But that is not enough. Here are notes and quotations I took more than 20 years ago.
In addition to non-fiction authors, I have enjoyed and been influenced by science fiction. Here is a a copy of notes that I wrote in 1981 about a science fiction novel by Joan D. Vinge, The Outcasts of Heaven Belt. Among other topics, the novel talks about two collapses of civilization, although the second is off-stage and incomplete.
In a review of my new writings in the
`Understanding Computational Environments' part of
I strongly suggest that a single input document should be formatted
several different output
formats. This is because computers have
four types of user interface and people use different ones in
different circumstances for example, audio for listening when
they drive, visual in an office (and, of course, paper for when that
In Voice Recognition and New User Environments, I talk about two new interfaces that we can foresee, in addition to the four that are commonplace right now.
Current US anti-ballistic missile deployments will enable it to, shoot down satellites and missiles. But the French have a long-term strategy and US will become weak.
Moreover, the mainland Chinese government could gain immediate military parity with the US, enabling them to occupy in their terms, `re-unite' with Taiwan, through a Chinese Project Orion.
However, Taiwan could deter a military threat from mainland China. I rather doubt Taiwan will do this, especially since China is plying portions of the Taiwanese population with non-military inducements to unite with it, but I think Taiwan has the motivation and the capabilities necessary.
Meanwhile there are two ways to gain inexpensive access to outer space, one good and one bad air augmented and nuclear thermal rockets.
In the page on
which has its own
Table of Contents,
I added new short commentaries on:
The Adapted Mind by Tooby, Barkow, and Cosmides, which is about the new discipline of evolutionary psychology. I have not as yet resolved the question whether the discipline is intrinsically weak or whether good work is possible.
Project Orion by George Dyson, which is about George's father's work in the late 1950s designing a heavy spaceship that could carry people to other planets. The spaceship would be driven by exploding nuclear bombs behind it
Golden Rule by Thomas Ferguson, which traces which groups gave money to political parties in the United States over the past two centuries.
Why We Get Sick: The New Science of Darwinian Medicine by Randolf M. Nesse, M.D. and George C. Williams, Ph.D., which discusses, among other examples, why humans still possess an appendix.
Generations by William Strauss and Neil Howe, which is about the stereotypical characteristics of American generations since the Puritans. I think of this as `pop psychology', but nonetheless,interesting.
The Complexity of Cooperation: Agent-based Models of Competition and Collaboration by Robert Axelrod, which is about the ways people conduct themselves in conflict and cooperation.
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond, which is about the ways geography and technology have spread and how they influence history.
World-Building by Stephen L. Gillett, which is about the creation of planets --- overtly this book is for science fiction writers; covertly, a way to learn about astronomy and geology.
Predictions by Theodore Modis, which is about logistic or `S' curves.
Germany, Hitler and World War II by Gerhard L. Weinberg, which discusses why Hitler wanted to declare war on the US, his long term goals as shown by his ship building projects, and other important, but seldom considered factors.
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