Duck! and Gather

Archive for January 2007

Here’s an author’s comment I just posted on Personality and the Brain:

    Well, as you can see, last September I begged for comments on the book. Today, commenter krytyk submitted no less than 17 (!) excellent comments on the book. Well, it soon became clear that this hokey little blog commenting stop-gap system needs to graduate into a formal discussion board. Worse case scenario, krytyk and I keep up an endless 2-person discussion. But here’s hoping that more of you all will join in and give us your two cents. Thanks! Peter
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Wikipedia.org is a paradigm example of the “wisdom of the crowds” phenomenon. For example, consider the hypothesis presented in my book Personality and the Brain. A little over a year ago, the only people who were aware of this hypothesis were myself and the handful of people who proof-read it for me (and among them, there may have been only one such person who actually comprehended the thing).

But then I uploaded the book to this site, and posted the following paragraph on the “Research issues” section of Wikipedia’s page for “Enneagram”:

[A] partially finished book entitled “Personality and the Brain” was posted for free download in December 2005. This book, written by a self-described “hacker”, presents a model for linking the Enneagram to the current findings of neuroscience regarding prefrontal cortex (PFC) and amygdala asymmetry.

My site stats tell me that during 2006, that link in the above paragraph to the home page of my book was clicked 945 times. Given that that page was loaded 2222 times, it would appear that many people revisited the page — suggesting at least some degree of interest in the book. These stats further tell me that there were 765 attempts to download the PDF version of the book (out of which it seems there were about 300 successful downloads). Also, the HTML web page versions of the various chapters of the book appear to have been visited by some hundreds of folks. Virtually all of this interest can be traced back to Wikipedia.

So if the hypothesis in my book proves correct, Wikipedia will get the credit for bringing out that hypothesis to public consciousness. Realize that before I uploaded the book for free download and added the above paragraph to Wikipedia, I contacted some widely recognized experts in the Enneagram community, soliciting interest in the ideas of my book. The responses I received were polite and even warm. Yet the universal upshot was disinterest. Hence my decision to go the self-publish/Wikipedia route. Since as far as the Enneagram and neuroscience are concerned, I am merely one among the unwashed “crowds”, if my hypothesis does prove correct, Wikipedia will have once again demonstrated the powerful wisdom of the crowds. So hooray for Wikipedia.

But of course, with day comes the night, and with Summer comes the Winter, up with down, useful with less useful, and so on. Like all phenomena, Wikipedia is not immune to this yin and yang law of nature.

Where there are crowds, some among them will be mobs. The difference between a mere crowd and a mob concerns emotion. That is, a mob is a crowd infused with passionate emotions. Conversely, a crowd is merely a group of people under the sway of no overriding emotional state.

Where do we find mob rule on Wikipedia? We find it on some emotionally charged topics. The one I visited last night was Wikipedia’s page on 9/11 conspiracy theories. Check out that page. Notice anything?

Perhaps you’ll notice that the entire tone and approach of the page comes from the conspiracy “debunker” corner. To test that assumption, I made an entry last night on that page concerning Larry Silverstein’s famous “pull it” statement on PBS. If you haven’t heard it yet, here’s the video. And here is the text of what Mr. Silverstein said in that video:

“I remember getting a call from the, er, fire department commander, telling me that they were not sure they were gonna be able to contain the fire, and I said, “We’ve had such terrible loss of life, maybe the smartest thing to do is pull it. And they made that decision to pull and we watched the building collapse.” (emphasis added)

The debunker interpretation of the above paragraph would have us believe that in saying the words “they” three times, and the word “it” once, Mr. Silverstein was referring in all four cases to the very same entity — namely the firefighters who were presumably battling the fires in WTC Building 7 on 9/11. The obvious problem with the debunker interpretation is that it violates some fundamental laws of grammar that we native English speakers learned as toddlers.

So last night, I entered a couple of sentences to that effect in the “Building Seven” section of the “9/11 conspiracy theories” Wikipedia page. As of last night, these extra sentences concerning the grammatical errors of Mr. Silverstein were in that section and available to any visitor to read.

But this morning, when I checked that same section, these entries of mine had been deleted. I feel this deletion confirmed my suspicion that the page is “owned” and “patrolled” by a mob of self-styled 9/11 “debunkers”.

In my podcast below, I also go into how the page treats Steven Jones. As with the deletion of my passage concerning a glaring grammatical error, the treatment of Mr. Jones can’t be described as pro-actively false. That is, the falsity is not found in what is said. Instead, the falsity is found in what is omitted and, judging from my own experience, regularly deleted.

In other words, while the mob controlling this Wikipedia page is led astray by its strong emotions, it is still lucid enough to ensure that its falsities are subtle enough that only a small fraction of visitors will probably identify just what is false about the page.

Thus Wikipedia is a sober reminder that in the coming People vs. Corporations struggle, the People will include not merely benign crowds, but also more than one wayward mob.

Here’s my podcast on this:

(117) Wikipedia: Crowds versus Mobs. Wikipedia is a paradigm example of wisdom of the crowds. However, concerning strong emotional topics (like 9/11), it can degenerate into the ignorance and error of the mobs.

After the series of blog postings I did on a model linking new American music genres with American social turnings, and after noticing that the messiah-wanna-be Barack Obama seems to side with the People versus Corporations, I got a hunch that maybe there was a link between these turnings (specifically, the crises), American Presidents during the crises, and the Enneagram. Sure enough, studying the matter closely, I concluded that George Washington (Commander-in-Chief during the Revolutionary War), Abraham Lincoln (President during the Civil War), and Franklin Roosevelt (President during the Great Depression and World War II), all were Enneagram “Seven” types.

Looking at the list of viable Presidential candidates for 2008, I concluded that Obama was the only Seven among them. And given that, as I mention above, he seems a tad anti-Corporate, I made the rash decision to predict that Obama would win the Presidency in 2008, even though still, as of this writing, he hasn’t even announced that he’s running.

It’s not like that I like this guy any more or less than I like anybody else. Like Love Lovett once sang, I love everybody. Still, I see Obama just as yet another messiah-wanna-be in American history. But more than two centuries of American history say that when the sh#$ hits the fan in America, America always seems to turn its lonely eyes to one of these self-styled messiahs.

Moreover, the last two such messiahs have appointed ultimately victorious generals who seem to have been Enneagram “Fives” (namely, Ulysses Grant and Dwight Eisenhower).

This fascinates me. A year ago, I podcasted that, as a nation, American “culture”, such that it is, seems to be of the Enneagram “Eight” type. So perhaps one might expect that during our nation-defining crises, we People would elect an Eight to take us through the crisis. And short of that, maybe one would expect that the general who brings us victory would be an Eight. Yet this is not what I have found. Instead, we Americans seem to fall for messianic Sevens who turn to plodding, determined, highly-organized Fives to bring an end to the crisis.

This fascinates me because it suggests the reason why I seem to love America so. America loves the ideal of the Eight — the go-it-alone person of strength who acts forcefully to protect the innocent. Of course, during “peacetime”, we’re a land of selfish self-interested bullies who pretend to be all about “justice” and “process”, but really we’re all just about ourselves. This is the downside of the Eight which leads us into the crises. But then during each crisis, the upside of the Eight is reborn anew, and the nation becomes even more emotionally healthy.

Yet this dance of the Eight toward enlightenment is manifested by personalities other than Eights (namely, Sevens and Fives playing major roles). This, I believe, makes for a truly singular nation in history.

Here are my podcasts on this:

(113) American Turnings, Presidents, and the Enneagram: The Model. It seems that every U.S. President in office during American crises — Washington, Lincoln, and Roosevelt — were Enneagram 7 types. Moreover, the winning generals of the last two — Grant and Eisenhower — seemed to have been 5s.
(114) American Turnings, Presidents, and the Enneagram: Where are the 8s? Since the crisis Presidents were 7s, and their generals were 5s, how is that America is an 8 country? We find our answer in George Mason.

Got an email from a friend a couple of weeks back. He forwarded this Washington Post article to me: FTC Moves to Unmask Word-of-Mouth Marketing. The Government is requiring marketers who use Word-of-Mouth techniques to disclose that they do this. In other words, the Government seems to have sided with the People against the Corporations concerning Word-of-Mouth.

Two years ago, I blogged once or twice about Word-of-Mouth. The phenomenon so interested me that I made a wacky prediction about it. I even used Word-of-Mouth as Exhibit A in a podcast about “Corporate Lying”. So it’s safe to say that this phenomenon interests me and that I hold a dim view about it.

On the other hand, I’ve also argued that the Corporations pretty much own the Government. For example, I podcasted about “Corporate Cheating” whereby Corporations use the Government like a cheap prostitute to write the very laws that govern them. Indeed, I’ve also podcasted that the notion that Government = Corporations is the core basis of my prediction about the impending union of Far Left and Far Right in America. But here we have the Government, via the FTC, coming down on the side of the People on Word-of-Mouth.

What gives? Do I need to roll back this whole Duck! and Gather site?

I don’t think so. Looking at the FTC closer, I concluded that it is one of those “meta” bureaucracies that don’t track with any particular powerful Corporate industry. As such, the FTC is among the remaining beach-heads of the Government still populated by actual People who are free to side with the People against Corporations. That even such a small corner of Government is still not owned by the Corporations gives me hope that the coming crisis may prove not be so calamitous.

Here’s my podcast explaining this:

(112) FTC Sides with the People. I have said that the Corporations own the Government and its bureaucracies. But then the FTC just came out on the side of the People concerning Word of Mouth marketing. What is up with that?


for the money has gone too far

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