May 30th, 2004

To read.

Naming and Synchronization in a Decentralized Computer System, David P. Reed's thesis, the foundation for the synchronization system behind Croquet, Alan Kay's peer-to-peer shared virtual reality project.

End-to-End Arguments in System Design, Saltzer, Reed, and Clark. This is a famous paper and i've read it before, but i think i should read it again because i'm not convinced it's right. It also has a successor, Active Networking and End-to-End Arguments.

Extending the REST Architectural Style for Decentralized Systems, Rohit Khare's Ph. D. thesis.

Time, Clocks, and the Ordering of Events in a Distributed System, Leslie Lamport.

The Future of Peace, Scott Hunt.

Image and Brain: The Resolution of the Imagery Debate, Stephen Kosslyn.

The Problem of the Media: U. S. Communication Politics in the 21st Century, Robert W. McChesney of Free Press.

The Exception to the Rulers, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now.

Goals and ambitions.

In a recent long conversation with an old friend, i mentioned that i was thinking about directing my thesis work at the political process. My target has always been the general area of using computers to help people understand and debate complicated or controversial issues. A few years ago when i became motivated to do this, i had been thinking of issues in a technical context, like programming language design or computer security (the intricate capability-versus-ACL debate, for instance). More recently, i've been thinking that government really needs a better way to handle complex issues, not just to help politicians understand the issues, but also to make the debate more transparent to the public and open to participation by the citizens.

My friend's reaction surprised me. "I'm really sorry to hear that," he said.

He was unhappy to see me drawn into politics. His argument was that it would be a waste of time because there were already so many people pulling on the levers that it would be impossible for me to move them. He lamented the vast expenditure of effort by so many people with little or no positive effect. I looked back at my experience with the Dean campaign and thought about it. The Dean campaign did have some effect — but was that effect commensurate with the tremendous expense of effort, time, and money that everyone poured into it?

Better to work on something that isn't already saturated with crowds of polarized, well-meaning activists, my friend said. Better to make a difference in something like nanotechnology policy, computer security, or distributed systems, where a focused effort can yield a pervasive effect.

I don't know. I think he has a point, but it's also true that the right Internet tools and processes can have a pervasive effect on the political process. MoveOn is a stellar example. But how many such projects must start and fail for one to succeed? It's hard to estimate the true expected leverage.
  • Current Mood
    contemplative contemplative

Who are you?

I've been wondering for a while who drops by here. Hello. If we haven't met, i'm glad to make your acquaintance.

If you are reading this, please post a comment now. It will only take a minute. Please?

(Even if i already know you, answer anyway. That way you can all get to know each other.)
  1. What's your name?
  2. What's your passion?
  3. How did you come across my journal?
  4. How often do you read it?
  5. Why do you read it?
  6. Do you have an online journal somewhere?
(Feel free to use these questions on your own journal.)
  • Current Mood
    curious curious