Great post over at Tantek's Thoughts - by Tantek Celik, one of the speakers at The Future of Web Apps conference. (I couldn't find a way to trackback to this post... DAMN! If someone can give me the TB URL, let me know so I can update this)
We are not at war.
Ideas are at war. We are merely their pawns and canonfodder.
Fighting a war by fighting people is merely attacking symptoms rather than causes.
In the long run, fighting a war by fighting people is only as effective as fighting a disease by fighting the people that have contracted it rather than fighting the disease itself.
But there is no equivalent to antibiotics for ideas. You cannot kill an idea.
Several approaches have been attempted to fight ideas.
Which approach do you think is the most effective?
- Deprive them of hosts and transmission vectors, by quarantining people that have contracted them, e.g. as McCarthyism attempted. Or worse, what Stalin did with purges etc.
- Refute them openly, logically, rationally. This tends to work in science, mathematics, and philosophy. It also works to dispell children of simple mythological constructs such as Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. More complex mythological constructs have for the most part evolved immunity to reason and logic. This doesn't mean you should stop trying (hat tip: Mike Linksvayer).
- Replace them by developing better idea(s) which outpropagate, overwhelm, and ideally displace the idea(s) you are fighting. This is how science could defeat widespread superstition. How freedom has a chance at defeating fascism. How hope can defeat fear. How love can defeat suicidal hate.
There is a fourth approach which AFAIK has never been attempted by design though instances have clearly evolved in the wild.
Whatever method(s) you choose, the larger choice is clear. Will you stand up to fight the bad ideas? Or will you waste your time fighting the people?
This reminds me of an article I read in Strategy + Business: "Karen Stephenson’s Quantum Theory of Trust" (free registration required)
Professor Stephenson’s concept, which she calls the “quantum theory of trust,” explains not just how to recognize the collective cognitive capability of organizations, but how to cultivate and increase it. At age 50, Professor Stephenson is the most visible member (particularly in business circles) of a small but growing academic field called social network analysis. Originally derived from the complex math used to explain subatomic physics, it is being used to understand and manage the ineffable forces of human interaction within an organization’s walls — particularly those forces that can’t be captured in formal structures, such as pay scales and reporting relationships, but that implicitly govern the fate of every enterprise.
“The organization chart basically shows you the formal rules. But the ropes of the organization, how it actually works, is the human network,” says futurist Thornton May, one of Professor Stephenson’s former colleagues at the John E. Anderson Graduate School of Management at the University of California at Los Angeles, where she taught for most of the 1990s. “Karen, more than anyone else, knows how to make it visible.”
Since the events of September 11, 2001, she has also become a military researcher. Under the auspices of a new government contracting firm, she is helping the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Information Awareness Office (the counterterrorism branch of the same government research agency that created the original design of the Internet) draw inferences about the weak links in Al Qaeda’s network.
This is very interesting stuff to me - and is further evidence that violence is not the only weapon against hate.
What do you think? Is war the only answer? How do you fight ideas? What would you do if you were in charge?