Conversations in Cyberspace

I've been on Hubpages for a year now. Along the way, I've made a lot of friends, and one or two enemies. Okay, maybe not enemies, exactly. Maybe more like sparring partners. Only sometimes they are unwilling sparring partners, because I overstep the bounds and continue arguing past the point of no return. Friendly people along the way have given me helpful hints, and I'm trying to work hard to avoid unnecessary confrontations. However, there are times when I become really baffled by some of these exchanges.

In an attempt to understand what happened, I have decided to run some simulations of these unfortunate ecounters. The following clips are not real conversations. They are dramatizations of real exchanges. Sometimes, they never really happened. They're more like what I would have said, had I thought of it, or what the other person appears to be trying to say, although it's not what they actually said. These are, in short, conversations in cyberspace. Imaginary, but very nearly real.

Conversation #1The Giant Computer

It's obvious to me that the issue with a giant computer running the world is not cybernetics. When I wrote a hub called "Should the World be Run By a Giant Computer?" a lot of people took the question pretty seriously, discussing some of the technical issues involved with artificial intelligence and programming ethical directives into it. But I'm pretty sure that the people behind the Zeitgeist movement don't really have the technicalities of the giant computer scenario all worked out. What they want is to set up committees of like-minded people to make decisions about allocating resources. They use the scientific method as a kind of smoke screen behind which to hide their authoritarianism.

I have a little bit of experience with what committees of scientific experts do when they are given access to funding and control, and let me tell you, it is not pretty and it is not scientific! It's politics.

The public has some idea of what a scientist is, and we have a whole list of people we look up to and admire: Copernicus, Galileo, Marie Curie, Einstein. What do all these famous scientists have in common? They were pioneers in their fields. They stood up to other experts who disagreed with them -- or they risked life and limb in the pursuit of knowledge. Sometimes they even risked life and limb to state their view of the truth. And sometimes they stayed quiet and only published their findings posthumously, to avoid risking their lives and their public standing. Or they slaved away at the patent office, while other people got tenured positions at universities.

But not all scientist are pioneers. What's more, most scientists are not independent thinkers.

There is often not even a single pioneer on the average scientific committee. There are many different kinds of intelligence, and the vast majority of established scientists have receptive intelligence rather than creative intelligence. The people who get there may be very smart, but it's a different kind of smart. It's the kind of smart that gets you good grades, and helps you make a good impression and easily earns the acknowledgment of the establishment. It's the kind of smarts that for years eluded a man like Einstein.

This is not to say that there are no independent thinkers with responsible positions in current day universities. However, even when such a person is placed on an important committee with others, he has very little power . It is the nature of committees that they tend to operate at the level of the lowest common denominator.

That is why public funding of the scientific establishment is a very bad idea. Those funds are unlikely to ever reach scientific pioneers like the ones we all admire. Instead, independent pioneers will be taxed to support the unproductive research of their more politically astute colleagues.Of course, ordinary people who may not be interested in science at all will have their coffers pilfered as well. So the issue is not just about progress in science. It's about everybody's rights. And no, it is not true that every problem is a technical problem with a single, optimal technical solution. But even if it were true, a committee of experts in the field would not be able to find the optimal solution.

The Pioneering Spirit and How Different Hubbers View It

The pioneering spirit is something I admire very much, not just in science and technology, but in everyday life as well. True pioneers are self-reliant, and the ordinary business of life takes on heroic proportions when people are struggling against nature, instead of working to eke out a living by selling themselves to someone else.

One of my favorite writers on pioneer life is Laura Ingalls Wilder. I love The Little House books, and the true stories of courage and integrity that they tell.

It wasn't until I had been on Hubpages for several months.that I came across my first Little House denier. The clip below dramatizes this exciting encounter.

Conversation Number Two: Laura Ingalls Wilder: Fact or Fiction?

At the time, I didn't know what to think. If you took what the woman said at face value, she sounded insane. But somehow I knew that she wasn't, and eventually an explanation for her words surfaced. I read an article in The New Yorker that pretty much sums up the liberal intellectual policy concerning The Little House books.

Why would someone claim that something was a fantasy television show, when she knew it was a series of books based on a true life story of a historical figure? And when confronted with this information, why would she shrug it off, saying she had known that all along and didn't care to debate the matter any further?

It turns out that the disagreement is not about the facts. It's about how we should feel about the facts. It's about our sense of life: romantic or anti-romantic. It's about our values: heroic or anti-heroic. Laura Ingalls Wilder fans root for the Ingalls family as it struggles with hardship on the frontier. We try to imagine ourselves in a similar situation. We aspire to the courage and self-reliance of the pioneer family. But for liberal intellectuals peddling socialism, the Ingallses are not to be emulated. They are to be simultaneously pitied and mocked.

Judith Thurman, unlike my Hubpages sparring partner, doesn't deny in her New Yorker piece that Charles and Caroline, Mary, Laura, Carrie and Grace ever existed. She does not deny the basic facts of their lives. She doesn't deny that Almanzo helped save a town from starvation by buying the excess seeds off a rich farmer. She doesn't deny the courage and perseverance of Laura and Almanzo after their house burned down and Almanzo suffered a stroke following a bout of diptheria. What she denies is that there is anything good and decent and right in the examples they set. Because if the Ingallses and the Wilders could survive on the frontier on their own, maybe the rest of us don't need big brother, either!

Thurman points out that Laura and Almanzo did not really make it on their own without anybody's help. They had store boughten goods which they got from the local merchants. They had help from their families of origin, the Ingallses and the Wilders. In their old age, they had help from their daughter Rose.

But help from one's family and trade with merchants is something Laura Ingalls Wilder never denied. If anything, her books were about how families stick together and neighbors pitch in during hard times. Thurman hopes that the market for the Little House books will be reduced, but she mentions wistfully that in hard times there might be an upsurge of interest in survival stories.

I think we can count on that!

What about the land that was taken from the native Americans and given to the settlers? What about the railroads that used the power of eminent domain to plow through the West? Do I approve of that? No, I don't. But I don't hold Laura Ingalls Wilder personally responsible for it, either.

The heroism of the Ingalls family in their struggle with nature is not diminished by the fact that some bad things were done by others that created the historical pre-conditions for the era they lived in. But I do find it astonishing that proponents of socialism in the context of the auto industry should disparage the Ingallses and the Wilders. Do you think modern day Detroit could have been built if not for the rugged individuals who settled the Mid-West?

I think Little House deniers are really motivated by a distaste for hero worship. A heroic view of man is inimical to their world outlook. They often scoff at individuals who claim to have accomplished something on their own, citing the debt that is owed to their precursors.

 Yet it is through hero worship that we acknowledge what those who came before us contributed to our lives. One of my heroes is Galileo Galilei. Another is Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Hubpages and Comments

One of the benefits of interacting with people on Hubpages is learning about different viewpoints and how others react to arguments that we think are unobjectionable. My horizons have been widened by these interactions, and I am grateful for this.

Even questions of etiquette are up for discussion on Hubpages. Each Hubber controls his own hubs and each has a different attitude toward moderating comments. With time I learned which Hubbers welcomed discussion, and on which hubs one was expected to post only superficially positive comments.

Once you get to know a hubber, you know pretty much what to expect, and there is no problem with the different moderating styles. However, before you are acquainted with the rules imposed by each individual hubber in his or her own little domain, you might get a harsh reprimand for breaking rules you were not aware of. I was discussing this with a fellow Hubber in the Forums when I learned something new: some Hubbers are not even aware that their behavior is rule-governed!

Rule-based Behavior

All my life I've been getting in trouble for violating unwritten rules that I was not aware of. This discussion brought home to me the reality of those whose unwritten rules are hidden even from themselves.

We may not know why we behave the way we do, but anybody who wants to get along with us has to come up with a way to predict what will make us angry. The closer the algorithm they come up with is to the rules that govern our behavior, the more likely they are to avoid getting in trouble with us.

It must be really great to be one of those people whose unwritten rules are the ones accepted by the majority. For those people, introspection is not required. As for the rest of us, we spend most of our time learning and re-learning the rules!

Fans and Positive Comments

One of my greatest pleasures is to receive comments on my hubs. I don't care so much if the reader agrees or disagrees with me. What I particularly appreciate is a comment that lets me know the reader paid close attention to my arguments, even if he didn't agree. I enjoy a debate about the substance of my hub.

However, there is one kind of commentator that leaves me mystified: the person who agrees with me and also with someone else who holds the diametrically opposite view on the issue!

Reconciling Different Viewpoints

(c) 2009 Aya Katz

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Comments 29 comments

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 7 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

Nice software. Are we now going to stage our future discussions by proxy? And can it do Scottish accents? :)


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Paraglider, thanks for dropping by. I don't think they have a Scottish accent yet. But they might soon. I'd love to continue our discussions in any way that is not objectionable to either party! I'd be happy to do it on my hubs, your hubs and in the forums.


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 7 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

We've had some good ones. I'm sure there will be many more!


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Paraglider, I look forward to it!


dohn121 profile image

dohn121 7 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

I liked your arguments about computers perhaps running the world and the people behind the Zeitgeist Movement, Aya, but I don't see the correlation between conversations in cyberspace and Laura Ingalls Wilder and self-reliance, as you tend to stray. It would've made more sense if these were two separate hubs, maybe even three (on readers' comments), not one.

Just some constructive criticism. I hope you don't take offense :)


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Dohn121, no offense taken. I see your point, and to a certain extent, I agree. It does ramble a little. There are really at least two subjects being addressed: 1) Subtstantive disagreements with other hubbers about general topics (Zeitgeist Movement, self-reliance) and 2) how different Hubbers interact in the cyberspace environment.

I used the clip on the Giant Computer before in a hub dedicated to that issue. In this hub I was using it for something else: to demonstrate interactions between Hubbers.

I maybe went too far in discussing the substantive points of disagreement, but it was hard for me to stage interactions between Hubbers without substance!


maven101 profile image

maven101 7 years ago from Northern Arizona

The software is fascinating...I would like to see the application as a Socratic walk and talk...or a new perspective on poetry...

Interesting Hub, as usual...That's why I always check your Hubs when they appear here on HubPages...The diverse topics you offer with wit and intelligence, always catches my eye...Thanks, Larry


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Maven101, thanks! I've thought of the different applications of the Xtranormal software to Socratic dialogues and poetry, and I'm sure there are even more uses than those I've imagined so far. For poetry declamation, though, I think there's still a problem with some of the intonational contours of the TTS delivery. But perhaps all the kinks will be worked out soon!


maven101 profile image

maven101 7 years ago from Northern Arizona

Aya...I agree with the tonal challenges in poetry...However, I'm thinking the haiku form would work just fine, considering the " informative " content of haiku...Larry


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Maven101, you could be right. Haiku might work!


Teresa McGurk profile image

Teresa McGurk 7 years ago from The Other Bangor

. . .or dirty limericks might work well, too! I enjoy your multi-faceted approach to the nature of cyber-interactions, as much for the information being discussed in each case as for the nature of the debates themselves.


Tom Cornett profile image

Tom Cornett 7 years ago from Ohio

This was great.....thanks much! :)


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Teresa, thanks! Off-color limericks may or may not work. Will have to give it a try!


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Tom Cornett, thanks for your comment!


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 7 years ago from Sunny Spain

I always like to read the comments on a hub, especially on my own, but what I don't like is when the comments get personal and degenerate into name calling. I haven't had any disagreeable comments myself but then again I don’t write the kind that generate that kind of response, most of my hubs are personal and anecdotal. I don’t mind people disagreeing with me or pointing out where I have made mistakes or got things wrong it just gives me a chance to put things right and improve the hub. But I have witnessed on a few hubs where the comments turned into personal attacks and became abusive with really childish name calling going on and most times only involving one of the people. I have seen courteous responses responded to with really nasty name calling instead of addressing the point. By the way I always enjoy your hubs and as for the rules I am fairly new to this type of site so if I have broken any just let me know, I am a simple sort but I learn fast.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Maggs, thanks for dropping by. I always enjoy reading your comments and your hubs. If you have broken any rules, I'm not aware of it! But then there are a lot of rules I'm not aware of, too. ;->

I agree that name-calling is probably the worst way to respond to a hub or a comment. Ad hominem attacks are not just rude -- they are also contrary to the rules of logical argumentation.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Egiftcreations, thanks for your comment.


shibashake profile image

shibashake 7 years ago

Hello Aya, Your hubs are always so thought provoking. We don't always agree, but I always end up thinking a lot after reading your words.

I really like what you said about the scientific community. Having been in it for a fairly long slice of my life, I have had the same experience as your described. Sadly politics is the reigning force, as with most other communities. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed grad. school because I did meet many fellow students who are very creative, interesting, and a joy to hang out with. I do miss those days :) The publishing process - I did not enjoy as much.

I also really enjoy the Little House series.

In terms of people who agree with everyone - I think I prefer them to the people who disagree with everyone :) Being human, we are not wholly consistent, so I believe it is better to be agreeable in our inconsistencies than the alternative.

Great hub!


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Shibashake, always good to hear from you. I had a similar experience with grad school -- the other students made it all worthwhile!

You have a point: it's better to be universally agreeable than universally disagreeable. I never give someone a hard time for agreeing with me. I just wonder a little when they agree too easily!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

This is a great article. I love it! I admire the Ingalls Family and appreciated their stories very much.

I've had a few "entanglements" on my Hub Pages but mostly they go off and slam me in their own Hubs (usually not by name) or my ideas in the Forums. Which is fine. If we can't stand the heat we shouldn't come into the kitchen.

Thanks.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

James A. Watkins, thanks! I love the way you are so courteous in moderating your own hubs. I think that's an example for many of us to follow.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

Thank you. And you're welcome.


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 7 years ago from United States

I've enjoyed this hub so much that I savored every bit of it. Loved what you did with the videos. I think a very useful tool to reach some readers.

When I comment on a hub, I tend try to always be positive. I think this has more to do with my own personality in that I'm not by nature confrontational by a direct means. That could mean I'm passive-aggressive. LOL

I admire people like you, who stand their ground and love a debate. I have a lot of fun watching and listening to all of you.

Our household has enjoyed the Little House In The Prairie Series and the author's books too.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Thanks, Jerilee! I always enjoy your comments. While they do tend to be positive, they are never trite, and there's always a little extra something personal to the interaction.


Lgali profile image

Lgali 7 years ago

intersting article thanks


Lgali profile image

Lgali 7 years ago

intersting article thanks


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Thanks, Lgali!


Crazy888 profile image

Crazy888 7 years ago

i like this very much.....


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Crazy888, thanks! Glad you liked it.

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