Saturday, October 27, 2012

Statement about my availability during "infrastructure disruptions"; the morality of "lifting up"


One of the major focus areas of my writing is the question:  what are the responsibilities (and and only then rights) of those who are “different”? Yes, I see life through the metaphor of chess middle game positions.  Usually, isolated pawns are a source of weakness, but they can be strong. In an asymmetric, global, technological "Atlas", one person makes a difference. 

I do plan to “announce” some plans soon as to how I will get some materials into professional submission.  To complete this phase of work, I do need a stable environment with everything working, and where any needed repairs have been made or at least scheduled with contractors.  So major storms, especially bizarre events without previous precedent, can be serious distractions. 

I do everything I can to remain connected and able to respond to any questions about my content. 

Sometimes this can be a challenge.  So far, I’ve been able to log on to most of my material from most locations on all car, train and air trips.  One has to be very careful with a number of possible issues when traveling or facing other possible interruptions, including storms and other things like medical treatment or hospitalizations.

I have not seen service providers issue policies regarding the ability to reach content publishers or customers, as long as they have paid (other than the idea that users can be held responsible for misuse of their account by others, including hackers).  ICANN insists that domain owners verify information once a year.  But it is logical to me that, given all the various issues that come from user generated content, service providers are likely to develop more rules in the future and might even require backup contacts.  Further developments in the Section 230 area could require such changes. 

Given the approaching storm ("Sandy"), let me say that I will do everything to stay connected.  I do have a generator, and have the ability to use an iPad as a hot spot if the cable is out.  This usually works (although it was spotty the day after the June derecho).  It is possible to consider temporarily renting a room in a modern high-rise hotel with stable underground utilities if necessary, as long as these facilities have reasonable service within a sensible distance.   But if you find I am hard to reach during this period, the reason will be not only damage to infrastructure right at home but throughout the area. 

I think that this kind of scenario poses serious questions about user content generators who work alone.

 Worse events, like major solar geomagnetic storms, could be imagined, where for some areas of the country continuing to work would become impossible and even some cloud backups could be destroyed.
A good question is, why do I insist on working solo?  I think I’ve covered that.  I don’t like to be beholden to any one specific interest.  Yet, I realize that “solidarity” concerns  (even when somewhat partisan) have some legitimate moral basis: they usually indicate that people have some responsibilities for dependent others (families or others) and have taken risks for others. 

The next question, which this whole discussion curiously motivates (because it suggests that one needs to be responsible for others before speaking out or maybe, in the future, even voting) is why don’t I have a “relationship”?  I can put this in more general terms given modern ideas about sexual orientation.  But when I was younger, I did not feel physically competitive, and found attempts to follow society’s expectations regarding courtship and attempted marriage and lineage to actually be shameful.  I do not like to “play the game” or “compete” when at an obvious disadvantage (with a metaphor of the 1950s baseball Washington Senators).  So I tended to develop a process of “upward affiliation”.  At the same time, I refused relationships with others who had issues comparable to mine.  This kind of discussion can quickly turn unpleasant.

I just got the book “A Free People’s Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future” by O.S. Guiness.  I’ll be reviewing this in full on the books blog, probably in early November (after the storm).   Like other socially conservative writers (George Gilder, Mero, Santorum, and even the libertarian Charles Murray) Guiness the weakening of social capital and organizational ties, which he relates to a willingness to have a permanent reciprocal-love relationship with one person (marriage, in the modern debate), and less interest in raising children or even taking care of other generations.  This is certainly a moral discussion that torques the now old “libertarian” idea that morality is merely about taking responsibility for your own autonomous choices (like causing pregnancy).  Guiness says that freedom requires “belonging” and that this is not just the inverse of ownership, although I don’t necessarily agree with his metaphor (yet).

The crux idea is that a “western democracy” is supposed to place very preferred value on human life, just because it is human.  A logical implication is that it is immoral or unethical to use “freedom” or “autonomy” in a way to isolate those who are less able or less fortunate.  If someone took care of “you” and “you” are different because of some mild disability (along maybe with some intellectual talent but weak social skills), then you owe offering that to someone else (following Josh Groban’s song “You raise me up”).  If this is not expected, society can gradually adopt potentially Fascist ideas on how do deal with the less capable (partly to protect people from having wanted feelings demanded of them by others).  So the moral arguments against “standing alone” have some weight, even though they also relate to debates about sustainability and asymmetry which weren’t around in previous generations (which instead were concerned mainly with national enemies).  Sometimes someone in my situation senses being asked to make a "sacrifice" of personal purpose for the common good not expected of people whose psychological makeup and capacities are more conventional. 

Social isolation, the kind I have (maybe Asperger-like) can create life threatening risks in periods of major disasters or infrastructure collapse.  It can make the isolated nerd look like a fool.   Ideas, principles and personal responsibility all matter.  But an individual only develops meaning in some kind of interaction with others.  Doing it in a chain letter of media (like in “Cloud Atlas”) may not always suffice. 

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