On Introducing Readability Finiteness to Social Community

The Web has open nature from its birth to encourage academicians to share their documents that can be pointed by URIs. It can be said using a word “infiniteness.” We, however, now often “impoverish” such an openness to use Web for a wider purpose than expected at the birth.

In this post, we discuss several methods to make the Web “finite” to allow us to feel free to express ourselves on it.

Why Finiteness Matters?

As said above, openness is an important concept for the Web. However, the more widely the Web is adopted for communicating, the riskier unveiling our thought becomes; especially after social networking service era, flamings have troubled those who attempt to be open on the Web.

Some have still continued to discussing issues publicly exposing themselves to risks, others have withdrawn into fully private space. It’s clearly not sound for the Web. Therefore, we need some kind of finiteness for social community to enable liberal discussion, subduing the risk to be flamed up and not spoiling the openness of the Web.

Access Control

Facebook has a feature that allows us to control who can see a post sensitively. We can set the privacy for each post. The privacy level can be from the perfectly private that is visible only to the author of the post to partly exclusiveness to some chosen people.

It seems to cover all the patterns that we can think. On the other hand, the capability can confuse us; we are not wise enough to memorize which posts are visible to arbitrarily taken ones. Such perfectness can disturb us from achieving sound community.

Recognizing such a limitation, we adopt a partly finite style: a semi-closed community that allows only those who are approved as community members to post articles and comments. It’s an implementation of the architecture proposed in “ネット炎上の研究” (A Study of Flaming on The Internet).

Control by Languages

We attempt to design another architecture to realize finite social community: limitation by languages.

At least in Japan, we can regard those who freely understand a certain volume of English article are relatively rare. Additionally, those who can understand other languages are rarer. Therefore, we Japanese can adopt some other languages to discuss issues that can be controversial.

Historically, some people used dialects for a military reason to keep things secret to foreign people while they had adopted a common language to communicate with foreigners. On the other hand, elites use such a common language to veil their activities from people. Latin actually functioned in such a way in medieval Europe.

However, technical progress has made such limitations ineffective. Even though we are not good at English, we can easily read English article using Google Translate that has been surprisingly improved being powered by deep learning.

Nowadays, we have to use multiple languages to control availability to our posts, which confuses translation systems and enables us to keep readability finiteness.

Implication for Literature

I have wondered why authors of literature don’t use multiple languages at the same time in their works. For instance, while Vladimir Nabokov was able to fluently use multiple languages such as Russian, English, French, etc., he even didn’t write his novels in equally-used multiple languages

Using many languages in one article or novel can be worth trying for us in terms of literary reason. It can enrich literature, I think.

Mining the Connections

“All the people have already connected each other” is a notable phrase said in “Serial Experiments Lain,” one of the representative Japanese animations in the 1990s. It showed a futuristic vision of the cyber world. We are able to, even now, take many ideas from it.

Not same as what the IoT brings, we now have a feeling, “all the things have already connected each other.” As I wrote before, future cyber-archeologists will mine the connections from digital garbage piled up on the cyberspace. Things are also connected with each other like people are so.

In an impressive speech, Steve Jobs once adviced we “connect the dots.” I have to admit he is right. Nevertheless, I would rather say now we should do “mining the connections” instead. It is because, from the viewpoint of the cyber-archeologists, the “dots” have been already connected each other as I mentioned above.

Now a word “pratitya-samutpada (engi in Japanese)” comes to my mind. Kumagusu Minakata, a great Japanese naturalist, once said with the word all the things are related each other through a network that is not just a causal relationship.

Western science, as Minakata explains, relies on linear cause-and-effect relationships to illuminate the workings of nature, but such relationships reveal only one narrow facet of reality. The Buddhist doctrine of pratitya-samutpada—known as engi in Japanese—teaches that all phenomena arise together in an interdependent web of causality. Minakata felt that such a worldview opened the way for a far more complex, expansive, and multidimensional approach to science.

(source: Minakata Kumagusu: The Meiji Polymath Who Broke the Mold)

According to my understanding, the concept simply means nothing exists without being connected. Everything has been connected each other from the start. If we stand at the position of the future cyber-archeologists and look backward at now, at a sight, we are able to grasp “engi” from which things emerge. I call it “future-age-historian perspective.”

I say again “all the things have already connected each other.” That is, what indeed we have to do is not “connecting the dots,” but “mining the connections” because things are connected already and we have not fully recognized them. Connections are around and we are veiled with ignorance. The world is full of such connections, waiting for us to mine.

From Anthropocene To Cyberocene

The concept “Anthropocene”, initially coined by Paul J. Crutzen, has been increasing its importance among not only science world but also philosophy and art world. In the former, the word is referred along with speculative realism. In the latter, it is often referred as a next-generation concept to strategically confuse the boundary between human beings and other things.

The concept is intriguing not just because it brings a new way of thinking on how human beings have affected the Earth in terms of geology, but because it implies the world after human beings. If human beings could impact the nature geologically or aerologically, things are also able to do so instead of us. That is, for instance, AI can be an alternative to us in the next era.

We can imagine some intelligence in the world after billions of years would find remainders of ours in cyber garbages. Which would be digital sequences encoded into immediately-unreadable form. The future intelligence, however, would soon extract successions of meanings from them. The sequence would consist of Web pages, just being created as you see, tweets, and digital tokens backed by some blockchain.

Geological layer in this era is not limited only to physical one. We can regard vast amounts of information encoded into digital data around the Web as a kind of material that “erodes” the shape of “geological” environment same as human activities to the Earth in the current Anthropocene era. Future cyber-archeologists will excavate proofs that indicate the existence of human beings. We are now toward such an era, Cyberocene.

Preference to Logical and Abstract Thoughts

I guess sometimes I could be happier if I had some hobby to have cameras, cars, or something that belong to masculine culture. It is formed by materials. Preference to collect such physical things features in men’s taste. I don’t have any interest in it, however, it could make me satisfied, though.

At the beginning, I don’t like to have materials. I rarely buy things. Furniture, clothes, shoes, home appliances, etc. discourage me to buy them, not because they are expensive, but I don’t need them. Thinking of when I will move from the room I’m at now doesn’t urge me to do so. I just don’t want to have materials.

A few kind of things I buy usually are books and potteries. Books are necessary to my life because I have many topics to think about. If not, I would never buy them. I don’t have any bibliophilic taste. Like it, I just buy potteries because I imagine I use them practically. If not, I wouldn’t buy them.

You might think that I am an extremely stingy person. I don’t think so. I don’t hesitate to use the money to eat and drink, especially when I have a chance to have delicious food and sake. It’s no exaggeration to say that I spend almost all of my income to have a fun time at dinner.

At the same time, I’m really intrigued by logical and abstract thought. Such kind of thoughts cover a wider range than empirical and concrete thoughts. Stimulating thoughts seem to anyway enchant me. It’s because I have spent much money to buy books through all my life for tens of years.

The preference of mine helps me behave as a manager. Management is an art based on highly logical and abstract thoughts. When you see managers do something, you think they work on concrete issues with empirical knowledge. However, what makes managers great is the ability to think logically and abstractly to cover a wider range of the world, I’m convinced.If not, we can’t progress toward the future with firm belief.

Learning Languages to Achieve Our Own Goals

People often argue that speaking is the most important for learning languages, blaming traditional education for it has an excessive tendency to grammar that is not useful for “practical” usage of languages. I partly agree with them, that is, not completely.

I’d like to discuss the issue from another point of view. At the first place, since we are old enough, we must decide the way to learn by ourselves. Thus, whatever people say, the goal of learning must come from our need, not from others’.

I’m wondering if they say the same when they started learning Latin. We can speak in Latin, however, it rarely gives us an opportunity to talk with others in it. Which results in that learning Latin is useless? No way. It depends on what you want to achieve.

For instance, learning English only to read classic English literature can make sense. I’m convinced that THEY don’t make sense if they insist only speaking matters. Aims of learning can be various. Cultivating ourselves is an issue based on our every context.

Well, we’ll see the other point. When people something is “useful” or “practical”, what do they implicate with the words? I guess they don’t understand others’ sense of usefulness or practicalness in reading old books without speaking. In an opposite manner, such others may argue that they don’t care “usefulness” or “practicalness”.

Both of the sides discourage me. Their thought on “usefulness” or “practicalness” is too narrow-minded for me to imbibe. I think their purposes all can be useful or practical in their own context. We must widen the concepts as far as possible. One-sided thinking is useless and non-practical, I’m convinced.

Whicheverness: Beyond Dichotomy

Things pressure us to choose at least one of them. We are hardly able to leave them free without determining which is more preferable. If we hesitate to make up our mind to pick one up, we can’t avoid being regarded as indecisive. Those who tend to postpone determination can’t progress things. However, does choosing something always desirable?

Richard Rorty, one of the representative philosophers in the late Twenty Century, expressed his “split-up” between publicness and privateness in an impressive essay, “Trotsky and the Wild Orchids.” He concluded as below:

The actually existing approximations to such a fully democratic, fully secular community now seem to be the greatest achievements of our species. In comparison, even Hegel’s and Proust’s books seem optional, orchidaceous extras.

In this quote, “Trotsky” refers to “the greatest achievements of our species,” and “wild orchid” to “Hegel’s and Proust’s books.”

While Rorty really loved “wild orchids,” he chose the achievement we human being did. He deeply understands the value of philosophy, and, at the same time, he deterministically threw away it to admire the value of democracy. I really sympathize with him. However, something is itching me, I feel.

Akira Asada, a Japanese critique who has been active and kept his influence for over 30 years, says that he preferred, in his youth, “piecemeal social engineering” coined by Karl Popper to childish idealism of new-lefts. However, he chose the value of art, literature, and contemporary thoughts in comparison to such a social engineering. That is, he adopted cultural value.

The tendency to adopting social engineering to make democracy more effective will have been important for a while. AI, nowadays, represents such technocratic methods of ruling and governing people. I don’t only sympathize with the trend, but also work as a tech person who is in charge of a tech company to progress it, even though we can contribute to it a few.

On the other hand, I can’t live without any culture that has intrigued me for a long time. Having a time with books, cinemas, or something like them makes me truly happy. Not limited to personal preference, we can’t fully leave our thought and feeling independent of our body, a material substitute, even though social engineering treat us as if we can. Akira Asada said such an extreme way of thinking is kind of a romanticism that is far from coolness.

I’m wondering if we can leave the necessity of “split-up” to be hung in midair or not. I’d like to realize, at the same time, both of the two sides to achieve our goal to be good in the world which can be both beautiful and harsh. It is definitely certain a choice, too. However, I think the choice I’ve made here is better than one that forces us to choose which side, usefulness or beauty.