February 2009

The mandate of reality

by Limbic on February 25, 2009

Regular readers will know that I have a new policy of waiting a while before I comment on current affairs. I have been tracking the economic stimulus debate since the summer of 2008 and now, on the day the latest gargantuan jolt is signed into law, I think I might as well take a position.

I do not think it will work, well not long term anyway.

I think the system is fundamentally broken. Growth as we have know it for most of the last 80 years is unsustainable. We need a radical rethink on how we as a planet operate and organise ourselves economically.

I am not a Collapsarian, but I have believed this for quite some time:

“Venturing out each day into this land of strip malls, freeways, office parks, and McHousing pods, one can’t help but be impressed at how America looks the same as it did a few years ago, while seemingly overnight we have become another country. All the old mechanisms that enabled our way of life are broken, especially endless revolving credit, at every level, from household to business to the banks to the US Treasury.

Peak energy has combined with the diminishing returns of over-investments in complexity to pull the “kill switch” on our vaunted “way of life” — the set of arrangements that we won’t apologize for or negotiate. So, the big question before the nation is: do we try to re-start the whole smoking, creaking hopeless, futureless machine? Or do we start behaving differently?

The attempted re-start of revolving debt consumerism is an exercise in futility. We’ve reached the limit of being able to create additional debt at any level without causing further damage, additional distortions, and new perversities of economy (and of society, too). We can’t raise credit card ceilings for people with no ability make monthly payments. We can’t promote more mortgages for people with no income. We can’t crank up a home-building industry with our massive inventory of unsold, and over-priced houses built in the wrong places. We can’t ramp back up the blue light special shopping fiesta. We can’t return to the heyday of Happy Motoring, no matter how many bridges we fix or how many additional ring highways we build around our already-overblown and over-sprawled metroplexes. Mostly, we can’t return to the now-complete “growth” cycle of “economic expansion.” We’re done with all that. History is done with our doing that, for now.

So far — after two weeks in office — the Obama team seems bent on a campaign to sustain the unsustainable at all costs, to attempt to do all the impossible things listed above. Mr. Obama is not the only one, of course, who is invoking the quest for renewed “growth.” This is a tragic error in collective thinking. What we really face is a comprehensive contraction in our activities, especially the scale of our activities, and the pressing need to readjust the systems of everyday life to a level of decreased complexity.

From Clusterfuck Nation by Jim Kunstler : Poverty of Imagination.

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It would appear that the UK’s Metropolitan Police service is now formally investingating the conspiracy theory that the Serbian secret service killed Jill Dando in 1999.

I suspect is is more to do with the police having something to say as the 10th anniversary approaches rarther than a seriouse effort to solve the crime via what can be described as tenous evidence (at best).

Jill Dando murder: Police investigate Serbian hitman theory | UK news | guardian.co.uk

See also a previous post on this at Limbicnutrition.


How Social Networks Network Best

by Limbic on February 23, 2009

“One of the most important group decisions made by a bee colony is where to locate the hive. Bees use a kind of “idea market” to guide their discovery: The colony sends out a small number of scouts to survey the environment. Returning scouts that have found promising sites signal their discoveries with a vigorous dance, thus recruiting more scouts to the better sites. The cycle of exploration and signalling continues until so many scouts are signaling in favor of the best site that a tipping point is reached.

The bees’ decision making highlights both information discovery and information integration, two processes that are crucial to every organization but that have different requirements. A centralized structure works well for discovery, because the individual’s role is to find information and report it back. In contrast, a richly connected network works best for integration and decision making, because it allows the individual to hear everyone else’s opinion about the expected return from each of the alternatives. The bees’ process suggests that organizations that alternate as needed between the centralized structure and the richly connected network can shape information fl ow to optimize both discovery and integration.”

From: The HBR List 2009 – How Social Networks Network Best


Keyes on Obama: An abomination

by Limbic on February 23, 2009

I was fascinated by this eloquent tirade from Conservative campaigner Alan Keyes:


Visual thinking reaches a tipping point

by Limbic on February 22, 2009

I have noticed a massive upsurge in interest in Visual Thinking and Information Design.

Whilst Edward Tufte is no doubt the prime mover in this field, I think Dan Roam’s 2008 bestseller “The Back of the Napkin” (website) has given a huge boost to the field by popularising Visual Thinking and giving people simple tools to apply it to the problems in their lives.

Here are some good links on Visual Design and Information Design

Visual Design



http://darmano.typepad.com/logic_emotion/ ( see and use this guy’s brilliant work via Flickr)

http://www.thebackofthenapkin.com/ ( book on Amazon)

Information Design





Beautiful Visual Thinking collection

by Limbic on February 22, 2009

David Armano,VP of Experience Design at Critical Mass, has shared his beautiful personal collection of Visual thinking examples for anyone to use (with attribution).

Below is an example from the collection.

Read on at Logic+Emotion: Visual Thinking + Synthesis.

The colelction is on Flickr here.

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Australopithecus Afarensis Replica Skull

by Limbic on February 21, 2009

“Who in their right mind doesn’t want an Australopithecus Afarensis replica skull?”

Dinosaurs and Robots: Australopithecus Afarensis Replica Skull.


The Crisis of Credit Visualized

by Limbic on February 21, 2009

The Crisis of Credit Visualized from Jonathan Jarvis on Vimeo.


Privatization milestone looms for Telekom Srbija

by Limbic on February 20, 2009


The privatisation of Telekom Srbija is of massive importance to the economy of Serbia for two reason: Many investors are put off when the state has a Telekom monopoly and the sale could inject hundreds of millions of hard foreign currency into the state coffers.

According to reports in Vibilia Novosti on the 12th February 2009, the tender is due for September 2009.

Here is a recent interview with Branko Radujko, Director of Telekom Srbija, that was published in Vreme.

[click to continue…]


Many Species, One Mind

by Limbic on February 19, 2009

The ever superb Kevin Kelly look at George Dyson’s networked minds and the 4 possible futures of humanity:


One species, many minds: The official future. We interbreed among our genetic improvements and keep our individuality distinct, and our species identity intact.

One species, one mind: Through electronic mediation, we join together to create a superorganism. A suprahuman. I originally called this the Borg but was reminded that the Borg is many species assimilated.

Many species, many minds: Star Wars World. Ultimate diversity. Humans fork in their evolution to create new breeds. Some may even join machines in cyborgian partnerships.

Many species, one mind: We fork in biology but unite in the noosphere. Millions of species share the same mind. The scariest and hardest scenario to contemplate. The dark version of this is the Star Trek nemesis, the Borg. I don’t know if there is a welcoming version in science fiction. 


It is a wonderful post, so I strongly recommend a full read through.