"Tyranny was the solution to what was essentially a communications problem"

Here are some of the things I found via Twitter this past week.

QUOTE: “How to squelch human potential – Step 1) Create assembly-line schools, 2) Distract w/ pop culture, 3) Build corporate cube-farms. Mix well” by @Richard_Florida

Dyer: Why the Arabs can handle democracy via @ewellburn

A mass society, thousands, then millions strong, confers immense advantages on its members. Within a few thousand years, the little hunting-and-gathering groups were pushed out of the good lands everywhere. By the time the first anthropologists appeared to study them, they were on their last legs, and none now survive in their original form. But we know why the societies that replaced them were all tyrannies.

The mass societies had many more decisions to make, and no way of making them in the old, egalitarian way. Their huge numbers made any attempt at discussing the question as equals impossible, so the only ones that survived and flourished were the ones that became brutal hierarchies. Tyranny was the solution to what was essentially a communications problem.

Fast forward ten thousand years, and give these societies mass communications. You don’t have to wait for Facebook; just invent the printing press. Wait a couple of hundred years while literacy spreads, and presto! We can all talk to one another again, after a fashion, and the democratic revolutions begin. We didn’t invent the principle of equality among human beings; we just reclaimed it.

Modern democracy first appeared in the West only because the West was the first part of the world to develop mass communications. It was a technological advantage, not a cultural one – and as literacy and the technology of mass communications have spread around the world, all the other mass societies have begun to reclaim their heritage too.

The Arabs need no instruction in democracy from anybody else. They own it, too.

RWW How Recent Changes to Twitter’s Terms of Service Might Hurt Academic Research via @jonhusband

Twitter’s recent announcement that it was no longer granting whitelisting requests and that it would no longer allow redistribution of content will have huge consequences on scholars’ ability to conduct their research, as they will no longer have the ability to collect or export datasets for analysis.

We all know that our bosses legally spy on us. But what do they do with the info? by @jessebrown [read through to the conclusion]

“Almost everybody monitors—close to 100 per cent,” says Avner Levin, a business law professor at Ryerson University and director of the school’s Privacy and Cyber Crime Institute. “It’s become a fact of corporate life. There’s hardly a discussion about it anymore.” While British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec have legislation guaranteeing some level of employee privacy, Ontario offers none. Many companies ask you to sign away every possible claim on your own data. You may have agreed to be spied on when you signed your employment contract.

Why the weak students end up as educators CS Monitor via @pgsimoes

We also need to develop our future teachers’ own minds, by holding them to the same intellectual standards as other college students. Their so-called methods courses would be much richer if we asked them to read and write about the key dilemmas in their fields. And they should also take more classes outside of the ed-school, where intellectual requirements are already higher.

Would that make them “better” teachers? I’d like to say yes. Surely, though, it would make them more complex, curious, and contemplative human beings. There is nothing in the world more inherently fascinating than education. But ed schools have made it boring, by stripping it of its intellectual edge – and by letting our students slide along.

The students know it, too. That’s why weaker ones flock to the subject – and the more able ones stay away. In each of the past four decades, as my colleague Sean Corcoran has shown, a declining fraction of America’s top college students have chosen to become educators. If we want to reverse that trend, we’ll have to make teacher-preparation programs challenging enough to lure these students back in.

PEG: Knowledge Workers in the British Raj – by @pevansgreenwood [excellent series]

The future of our business – post Enterprise 2.0 and Social Business Design – is not in applying a new human-resources paradigm to our existing workforce. Much like the British Raj in provincial India, our businesses need to adapt to an environment where we don’t have the time or resources to micromanage every task. The workforce which staffed our bureaucracy in the past is not the same workforce we need in the future. The future of our business is with a smaller, more dynamic workforce of self-starters, built around flat organizational structures and more general skills which devolve responsibility for operational problems to the front line and empower them to work together and solve these problems under their own direction, while freeing the executive team to focus on steering the organization through the challenging environment we operate in today.


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