My current worldview is shifting around a lot and I wanted to share a bit of a pseudo-philosophical position since I am part of this community a good debate will help me sort through and strengthen a few of my accounts of things. Feel free to give this post a thorough reaming if you so feel appropriate.
My first proposition is a stance on the current state of public education – think of it as a diagnosis. I am highly critical of public education and I think that since the Nixon years (watch Noam Chomsky’s talks of the trilateral commission) it has only served to gear our minds to understand the mechanics of technical procedures that we will become so encumbered with that we can’t think straight. The technist view of the world limits our perspectives of interiority (see Donaldo Macedo Literacies of Power). As hindsight is always 20/20 in questions of ethics, current political actions are seemingly always 1 step beyond our immediate understanding for some reason. Why? The news and television started becoming an issue during the 70’s to the 90’s (Neil Postman, amusing ourselves to death) but now with the onslaught of the public internet and fake news, we are overloaded and inundated with information saturation. Combine this with the deep subconscious racist ideologies and senseless violence happening at home we realize that we have serious problems, but it is also reciprocally unclear on how to deal with them – public education falls short of preparing you for critically thinking about these problems. (Unless you study philosophy). Even the richest schools with the most prestigious background fail to prepare their students for problems of this caliber, as their interest is in grooming the next generation of wealth holders to hold their wealth.
Zooming in to education a little more, I found a very specific type of educational bias that has been built into the sciences which I think had been birthed in the Vienna school and Analytic philosophy. Logical positivism was put forth and the analytic philosophers came forth with reducing all philosophy to linguistic word games, empty of any intrinsic worth (Wittgenstein, who renounced this in later life). The idea of cleavage between subjective and objective modes of knowledge emerged in renaissance philosophy. The objective was valued higher than the subjective, which was ultimately ruled inept and the objective took central focus. This idea has gained considerable momentum through the sciences since the renaissance, and there is no talk of subjectivity in the mode of scientific experimentation or course work. Even when we write papers in college, the APA style discourages you from using the present tense of “I”. I can follow this statement up with a net positive since the goal in this is to reduce occurrences of bias. Yet when you look closely at the history of Science from Galileo onward, you see specific examples of how Scientists (even through their theories were flawed in some way) didn’t necessarily extract their creative ideas directly from previous objective scientific experiments of the past. We can see evidence of this from Newton all the way to Einstein. There’s a subjective creative action happening in the sciences. Further, we as thinking subjects start to feel, think and respond even when instruments seem to be normal. Expert scientists seem to just ‘know’ things about nuclear reactors even when instrument readings show no warnings. How can we completely rule out the subjective in science when so much discovery and knowledge comes from the subject? Michael Polanyi (who Kuhn plagiarized) put forth his post critical analysis of philosophy and responded to this with a theory of Tacit Knowledge – Namely that you have more knowledge in your mind than you can actually articulate at any time. In other words, that within your body and mind you have tools to create new connections to advance your knowledge forth in new and interesting ways.
This line of thought alone has opened my mind to the possibility of learning and mastery of any human subject, which as many of you already know I am trying to master Linux. Since I was trying to master this illusive subject, the next work that I picked up to bolster my ideas was Bandura’s Self Efficacy. Personally what I have come across in my daily job in the computer industry is a feeling of hopelessness. I keep running into political issues, or sometimes I feel incompetent. If I don’t learn how to gain influence to change things the way I want them to be to be easier for me to succeed then every single day I will feel stressed and then depressed at the end of the day. I’m sure many of you have felt this and just turn inwardly and let it rot inside your soul. What Bandura offers is the philosophical / theoretical background in human psychology of human agency. A motivational poster and a simple “how to succeed” book is not enough to motivate me. I need deep nuanced discussion of what factors contribute to humans rising up to overcome obstacles that look insurmountable. Bandura is my ray of hope to help me continue to put up with the level of stress and frustration I am dealing with trying to learn from day to day. Overall, I can cash out Bandura by realizing the potential I have of creating solid knowledge communities of support, and re-evaluating myself every time I have a situation in which I believe myself to be incompetent.
Now I turn to the subject of technology itself. In addition to a considerable amount of material on Unix / Linux system administration, I found increasing reasons to read books that talk about ethical issues that were sanitized from the “know how” literature. Should we build the weapons we are building? Should the AT&T be as powerful as they are? Are the new drugs they are coming out with helping us or making us addicts? The final thing that triggered me to start down the path of Linux mastery was simple; Windows 10. The ethical pitfalls of Windows 10 OS and data mining were just too much for me to participate anymore. My burden is now to know something more difficult so that I can regain control and sanity to my life. Donald Idhe is one of the strongest examples of philosophers of technology and speaks directly about this since the 1970’s. In his book Technology and the Lifeworld: From Garden to Earth he speaks about the Amish and how they have a formal review process to introduce a technology that would be a net benefit or a net burden on the community. A lot of people make fun of them for that but realistically; these people are just like the Linux users of our community. They are responsible; they evaluate the technologies being offered to them – THEY READ THE CODE. They do these things because they are ethically aware and responsible for their communities and they have gained my respect for that. The reason Stallman and his next iterations are so inspiring is because no matter how difficult his life becomes he stands up for what he believes in philosophically. In fact, I would go as far as to say I find any person that utilizes a technology in a responsible manner like this is deserving of my respect because it is not easy to do.
Some speak of technology as if it is simply applications of science, analytically cold and bereft of any subjective input. But in fact Idhe shows us that it’s anything but. Technology is always politically pointed; there very rarely is an instance where it isn’t. Idhe gives an example of the McCormick Reaper, a technology specifically developed to break up the farmer’s unions even though developing the technology was more expensive than leaving the unions in place. This brings me back to the first point – our technology and education have been pointed in a way to keep us isolated from one another so that we are reduced to mere distractions. There are football teams of lawyers and mathematicians working in financial firms on Wall Street gaming on us to sit back and just accept things the way they are, because predictable population spends money predictably. The more we work together, the stronger we become – this is bad for business and much more predictable models of economics. I have a ray of hope in all this, because I can enhance the way I use technology so I don’t have to sit back and let my community suffer by installing predatory operating systems.
So there you have it. All the readings weave into the fabric of my thinking because I connected them with my personal lense of experience and critical reading. Is it biased? Likely, but it makes you think. It’s not really my concern weather it’s all “True” or not, just that it helps me build a better life and understanding of things. In the end, it’s my philosophical choice to push myself to learn all these things and try to make a difference in my personal life – and I’m having one hell of a time doing it, even with the never ending roller coaster of emotions.