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inkwell.vue.490 : Digital Life - a conversation with Mark Stahlman and friends
permalink #0 of 195: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Fri 22 Apr 16 03:34
    
We are pleased to have Mark Stahlman, president of Center for the
Study of Digital Life and managing partner of TMT Strategies. Mark
is a retired Wall Street technology strategist, investment banker
and serial entrepreneur, he launched his first software company –
Computron Technologies, Inc. – in the early 1970s after leaving his
study of Theology (University of Chicago) and Molecular Genetics
(University of Wisconsin, Madison) to join the still nascent digital
revolution. Stahlman started his digital career as a computer
architect and programmer, designing computer and networking systems
for Wang Labs, Citibank and the Diplomat Arabic word processor for
Computron. He began his Wall Street career as a principal at Sanford
Bernstein, and is credited with being the first to cover Sun
Microsystems (SUNW) in 1986. He continued at Alex Brown and Sons,
where he was a partner and he formed of the New Media banking
practice which managed the initial public offering for America
Online (AOL) in 1992. Stahlman’s work in computer architecture led
him to coin the term “network computing,” which Sun Microsystems
adopted for their corporate motto “The Network is the Computer.”

In the 1990s, Stahlman co-founded the world’s largest Internet
group, the New York New Media Association (NYNMA), and is credited
with the term “Silicon Alley.” His Why IBM Failed article for
Harvard Business Review led to an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal
and a consulting assignment at IBM that pushed the company towards
its leadership in the services business. More recently, Stahlman
helped organize an East-West “Dialogue of Civilizations” conference
at the United Nations, and guest-edited a Special Centennial issue
of the literary journal Renascence, devoted to Marshall McLuhan. He
is a prolific writer whose reports have generated over $50M for his
firms and 10-20x investment returns for his clients. He was on the
first Institutional Investor magazine All American Team for
Microcomputers, has appeared often on CNBC, CNN and Bloomberg TV,
was profiled by Forbes as “The Futurist,” has written for Wired and
Information Week, and is a contributing editor at Strategy +
Business. His godfather was Norbert Wiener, and he considers CSDL to
be a continuation of his father’s participation in Wiener’s “Genius
Project.”
  
inkwell.vue.490 : Digital Life - a conversation with Mark Stahlman and friends
permalink #1 of 195: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Fri 22 Apr 16 03:40
    
Ted, (tcn) is a co-host at the WELL and general digital gadabout. I
curate on Digital Culture on scoop.it, host a Digital Culture topic
in the VC conference, here on the WELL, and have spent the past five
years working with Howard Rheingold and his Howard Rheingold
University endeavor -- six week intensive co-learning experiences on
the topics of Mind Amplifiers, Think-Know Tools, and Literacies of
Cooperation. 

Mark, great to have you with us and thank you for taking the time to
share about the work your company has been doing and your take on
digital life.

Could you define 'digital life' as you see it...you have a
well-defined focus, or lenses, with which you see this all. Could
you share a a bit about how you came to using them and how they
inform your contend and discovery?
  
inkwell.vue.490 : Digital Life - a conversation with Mark Stahlman and friends
permalink #2 of 195: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Fri 22 Apr 16 03:42
    
Here is the link to the Center for the Study of Digital Life, CSDL,
from here on out:

http://www.digitallife.center/
  
inkwell.vue.490 : Digital Life - a conversation with Mark Stahlman and friends
permalink #3 of 195: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Fri 22 Apr 16 10:52
    
Our own inestimable Jon Lebkowsky, fresh from a birthday, will be
ably assisting me. Jon Lebkowsky has been making and sharing
experiences in digitalculture and media for over 25 years. Currently
he's part of PolycotAssociates, a mission-driven digital development
co-operative basedin Austin, Texas. He's also President of
EFF-Austin, an organizationthat’s been supporting digital freedom in
Texas since 1990. He'sbeen an activist, sometimes journalist, and
blogger who writes aboutthe future of the Internet, digital culture,
media, and society.http://weblogsky.com.
  
inkwell.vue.490 : Digital Life - a conversation with Mark Stahlman and friends
permalink #4 of 195: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Fri 22 Apr 16 10:54
    
Added to our great good pleasure, Mark is bringing a cohort of
digerati to join in the conversation...

Warm welcome to you all:

Doug Rushkoff, Doc Searls, Fred Davis, Iona Miller, Ben Stolz, Adam
Pugen, Anders Fernstedt, Debbie Newman, Jeff Martineau

Think that covers the waterfront of cyberspace, pretty muchly.
  
inkwell.vue.490 : Digital Life - a conversation with Mark Stahlman and friends
permalink #5 of 195: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Fri 22 Apr 16 10:55
    
(This asynchronous conversation will continue for two weeks, so
check back every day or two if you find it interesting.)

(Only members of the WELL can post directly to the conversation, but
others can send questions or comments to inkwell at well.com, and
our hosts can post them here.)
  
inkwell.vue.490 : Digital Life - a conversation with Mark Stahlman and friends
permalink #6 of 195: Mark Stahlman (spheres3) Fri 22 Apr 16 11:04
    
Ted:  Thanks very much for the invitation (and thanks to Jon for
helping out) . . . !!
  
inkwell.vue.490 : Digital Life - a conversation with Mark Stahlman and friends
permalink #7 of 195: Mark Stahlman (spheres3) Fri 22 Apr 16 11:11
    
First, I should probably begin by noting that this conversation has
already been going on for a while -- on my DL list (around 80 of us,
invite only) and in various forums on Facebook, including the TETRAD
group (based on the McLuhans' "Laws of Media") which I manage and
the New Explorations Group that is managed by Adam Pugen at the
McLuhan Program at UofToronto.  We are also thinking about including
a bunch of forums on the CSDL site, so this WELL experience will
help us all to learn how to best proceed.
  
inkwell.vue.490 : Digital Life - a conversation with Mark Stahlman and friends
permalink #8 of 195: Mark Stahlman (spheres3) Fri 22 Apr 16 11:17
    
Second, Douglas Rushkoff is a valued advisor to CSDL (as is Doc,
Debbie, Ben, Fred, Jeff etc)and he was kind enough to acknowledge my
help with his recent "Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus: How Growth
Became the Enemy of Prosperity" -- so one of the topics we might
want to discuss would be this fantastic new book.  I wrote a review
of it, which can be found here -- 
http://www.strategy-business.com/article/Rocking-the-Bus
  
inkwell.vue.490 : Digital Life - a conversation with Mark Stahlman and friends
permalink #9 of 195: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 22 Apr 16 12:10
    
Hello, Mark! And thanks, Ted, for inviting me to be part of the
conversation. I definitely agree that we should focus some time
discussing Doug's important book and the thinking behind it. 

Thinking critically about the problematic prevalent global economic
model is important, but we should also hope to have action items
that emerge from that thinking.
  
inkwell.vue.490 : Digital Life - a conversation with Mark Stahlman and friends
permalink #10 of 195: Mark Stahlman (spheres3) Fri 22 Apr 16 14:26
    
I know that Doug approached all this with a concerted effort to come
up with some new ideas and wasn't going to be satisfied with
*either* the typical "socialist" or "capitalist" laundry-lists.

He launched the book at the New School at a conference on Platform
Cooperativism and both in that speech and in his book there are lots
of *very* concrete ideas about what to do to get us to what he calls
"Digital Distributism."

http://livestream.com/internetsociety/platformcoop  

It is important to remember that we are now in a new
"counter-culture" and both of the typical failed approaches are a
part of the old *electric* culture we are now compelled to toss into
the dust-bin of history.

That's where the Center comes in, since we are focused on what comes
next with *digital* technology.  This shift parallels the one we
went through in the 1960s but its much bigger this time . . . !!
  
inkwell.vue.490 : Digital Life - a conversation with Mark Stahlman and friends
permalink #11 of 195: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Sat 23 Apr 16 00:38
    
From your review of Throw Google:

"Rushkoff is free to consider how human prosperity can displace a
mechanistic growth drive. At the same time, he belongs in the
category of techno-realists who squarely avoid both the utopian and
dystopian outlooks.

Rushkoff is throwing rocks at more than the Google buses. He has
been a hands-on participant as well as an astute observer during the
past 20 years as the Internet has taken over our lives. He deserves
to be read carefully, and his voice is likely to be an important one
as we craft our new “human paradigm.”

Let's start with a few definitions and then see if we can tackle the
big three - Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Mixed Reality.
You use lenses, three of them to be exact...Would you talk a bit as
to how you came to center on them, why that particular focus, and
how you came to your main overview - East, West, Digital?

That's just an outline for us to ramble along for the next couple of
weeks...

Jon may have some areas he'd like to explore, you may as well, and I
know I have one in particular, and I share this with Doug...I hope
we can talk a bit about humanity's evolution to a new or higher
consciousness, and how digital effects and enhances that dimension
of 'life'.
  
inkwell.vue.490 : Digital Life - a conversation with Mark Stahlman and friends
permalink #12 of 195: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Sat 23 Apr 16 00:40
    
From Doug's review, one human paradigm, or many? And how does it
integrate life lived 'on the ground' and life lived in the screen?
  
inkwell.vue.490 : Digital Life - a conversation with Mark Stahlman and friends
permalink #13 of 195: Mark Stahlman (spheres3) Sat 23 Apr 16 03:10
    
Evolution and Co-Evolution -- where else than the WELL could we have
that discussion (so maybe Kevin Kelly should be brought in) . . . ??

As you know, before WIRED Kevin edited the "Co-Evolution Quarterly."
And, of course, he's the one who made Marshall McLuhan his "Patron
Saint."

I was once a PhD candidate in Molecular Genetics, so knew a few
things about *biological* evolution and it's not the same thing as
"cultural" evolution.  The causes of MUTATION aren't the same (as
Ken "RU Kidding" Goffman might put it).

In the case of *culture*, the cause of change is our own inventions.
Or, "We shape our tools and, thereafter, they shape us" as John
Culkin put it all the way back in 1967, when he was introducing
McLuhan to the crowd at Fordham.

As we all know, humans aren't born with what is undeniably our
greatest invention, language.  We need to be taught to speak and to
read/write and in that learning, our brains are literally *wired*
into our cultures (plural) -- causing us to "evolve" in the process.


In 1956, Marshall McLuhan and Ted Carpenter published their essay
"The New Languages" in which they reported on the initial progress
of their EXPLORATIONS group at UofToronto.  The first sentence is
"English is a mass-medium."  Every technology we habitually use is a
"language" and, as a result of those habits, we are "mutated."

So, once the topic of "media" is understood in terms of how they
change us (yes, which means we have to re-read the 1964
"Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man"), we can get on with a
discussion of our EVOLUTION -- which is now underway at an
incredible rate, since *digital* technology "mutates" us in
radically different ways from the effects of the previous 
*electrical* technological environment.

http://www.amazon.com/Understanding-Media-Extensions-Man-Critical/dp/158423073
8/
  
inkwell.vue.490 : Digital Life - a conversation with Mark Stahlman and friends
permalink #14 of 195: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Sat 23 Apr 16 12:40
    
Indeed...digital has a built in divide...two actually...one, an
individual can interact with other individuals and a cyber culture
can occur, and well as the mutation you mention...thoughts on what's
going on in that sphere?

two, an individual, traveling at the "speed of byte", can interact
with just the bits - surfing, reading, 'porning', coding, on and on
- no human interaction (some would argue there is no human
interaction in the first case either, it's all just bits and bytes
and our minds organize and our organized by the interaction...Lots
of neurological studies being done in regards to all of this.

Again, what all do you see going on here? I'm asking because I think
we want to have clear definitions and parameters before "Leaping"
into what is happening and going to happen once we are immersed in
VR, AR, and MR. Once we are digitally mediated, like a basted turkey
in a cyber microwave :)
  
inkwell.vue.490 : Digital Life - a conversation with Mark Stahlman and friends
permalink #15 of 195: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Sat 23 Apr 16 12:48
    
As an aside, (hlr)Howard Rheingold also was editing the CO Evolution
Quarterly, and Whole Earth before that...aside from capturing the
essence of this digital medium as a Virtual Community he has
continued his thinking forward into the tools and amplifiers and
literacies which foster co-learning, collaboration and cooperation
within the various Networks(why we call it the NET) that occur -
intentionally and serendipitously. You all at the Center seem to
have a lot to say in that regard as well....

Well, that's four questions all packed in...feel free to comment on
whatever rings your bell. 
  
inkwell.vue.490 : Digital Life - a conversation with Mark Stahlman and friends
permalink #16 of 195: Mark Stahlman (spheres3) Sat 23 Apr 16 13:07
    
You are right!  The humans have a choice (and then some).  They can
allow themselves to *mutate* (and remain "evolved" humans) or they
can "become" robots.  That is new.  And, it's the reason for the
THREE Spheres.

To be sure, those who opt to become ROBOTS have an interesting
history.  One of McLuhan's last interviews was titled "Angels to
Robots" (done in 1978, published in 1989).

http://www.amazon.com/Global-Village-Transformations-World-Century/dp/01950791
08/

Defeating death and deifying yourself are schemes as old as the
hills.  So that *fork* isn't so interesting but still needs to be
well understood.

On the other hand, those who are glad to remain human under
*digital* conditions are the ones we are most inclined to study at
the Center.
  
inkwell.vue.490 : Digital Life - a conversation with Mark Stahlman and friends
permalink #17 of 195: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 23 Apr 16 14:59
    
We should invite <rusirius> to the conversation, as co-author of
_How to Mutate and Take Over the World_
(http://www.amazon.com/How-Mutate-Take-Over-World/dp/0345392167).  

I'm especially interested in co-operatives as a fair way to
re-organize. Polycot Associates, our web development co-operative,
and many other co-ops that are emerging will be models and arguments
for a next economy - and more so if they're successful, as we've
been so far. 

I'm also interested in a new politics based on Open Source
principles of shared code, transparency, and effective
collaboration.

I recall reading an interview with Gary Snyder some years ago, where
they asked him what we should do about "the establishment" as we
explore and try to write new cultural code. He said "Ignore 'em." 
  
inkwell.vue.490 : Digital Life - a conversation with Mark Stahlman and friends
permalink #18 of 195: Mark Stahlman (spheres3) Sun 24 Apr 16 03:30
    
You are right!  The humans have a choice (and then some).  They can
allow themselves to *mutate* (and remain "evolved" humans) or they
can "become" robots.  That is new.  And, it's the reason for the
THREE Spheres.

To be sure, those who opt to become ROBOTS have an interesting
history.  One of McLuhan's last interviews was titled "Angels to
Robots" (done in 1978, published in 1989).

http://www.amazon.com/Global-Village-Transformations-World-Century/dp/01950791
08/

Defeating death and deifying yourself are schemes as old as the
hills.  So that *fork* isn't so interesting but still needs to be
well understood.

On the other hand, those who are glad to remain human under
*digital* conditions are the ones we are most inclined to study at
the Center.
  
inkwell.vue.490 : Digital Life - a conversation with Mark Stahlman and friends
permalink #19 of 195: Mark Stahlman (spheres3) Sun 24 Apr 16 03:50
    
Sure, it would be fun to get Ken "R. U. Kidding" Goffman involved in
this discussion, as it would be to have Howard Rheingold weigh in --
both of whom I know pretty well.

I last saw Howard in December at the "Future of Text" conference in
Palo Alto, where we were both speakers.  FoT was mostly a gathering
of the Doug Engelbart "tribe," with a very interesting Russian
overlay.

Doug's AUGMENT impulse is a version of the *mutate* meme.  Alas, he
never seems to have quite figured out where he was going with it,
beyond some general notions of "collective intelligence." 
Interestingly, his inspirations seem to have been Alfred Korzybski
(i.e. General Semantics) and Benjamin Whorf (i.e. Theosophy) -- both
of whom were RADIO era schemers.

I recently got into a discussion with Frode Hegland (an organizer of
FoT) about how important LSD had been for Engelbart.  John Markoff
weighed in recalling that Doug had found it "interesting" but not
life-changing.  Alas, that doesn't seem to have been true for many
who Doug worked with.

All that would be consistent with the TELEVISION (i.e. fantasy)
character of LSD -- which Ken might have somethings to say about. At
FoT I had suggested that under DIGITAL conditions we are looking for
the "NeXT LSD" and in the corresponding breakout session called that
an "illuminated manuscript" (in keeping with the "text" theme of the
conference) . . . <g>
  
inkwell.vue.490 : Digital Life - a conversation with Mark Stahlman and friends
permalink #20 of 195: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Sun 24 Apr 16 04:35
    
Wow, quite a lot to talk about, not sure two weeks is going to do
it.
Hope we can get to Digital DNA and how it relates to that last two
paragraphs above. This is all shaping up to be another Magic Bus
ride. Can someone check to see if Wavy Gravy is available to drive!!
:):)
  
inkwell.vue.490 : Digital Life - a conversation with Mark Stahlman and friends
permalink #21 of 195: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Sun 24 Apr 16 04:35
    
For now though, let's stay with your work at Digital Life and talk
about the 3 spheres...please tell us how you all came to those, why
they are the 'lenses' that you use, and what you have discovered at
they apply to this whole domain of Digital...
  
inkwell.vue.490 : Digital Life - a conversation with Mark Stahlman and friends
permalink #22 of 195: Mark Stahlman (spheres3) Tue 26 Apr 16 05:17
    
Ted & Jon -- thanks for inviting me into the Whole Earth 'Lectric
Link.  Although I've been a New Yorker since the 70s, NOCal has long
been my other home (yes, I did make it to the Summer of Love in
'67).  I've known lots of people who participate here for many
years, I've read some of your recent conferences (particularly those
with good-ol'-boy Bruce Sterling and bad-ol'-boy Ken Goffman), so I
think I'm ready for some three-hulled racing with the rest of you .
. . !!

Speaking of THREE-ness, Ted has asked me to start out by describing
the 3 SPHERES notion behind the Center for the Study of Digital
Life, where I'm a co-founder and President.

www.digitallife.center

It's pretty simple.  As we all know from our travels, humans are
*not* all the same and, in many ways, the differences start with our
languages.  Btw, noticing these differences is okay.  Digital
encourages us to pay attention to the "discreteness" of life,
whereas "analog" (i.e. television etc) had us all thinking in terms
of the "continuous" (i.e. no borders, no rules, no authority, no
meaning etc).

Every technology we use is a language -- which was a point made by
Marshall McLuhan (who I will be channeling in this conference) as
early as 1956 in an article called "The New Languages."  And every
language/tool/technology we use *shapes* us, as John Culkin made
clear in his famous 1967 "We shape our tools and, thereafter, they
shape us."

We are born without either spoken or written languages --
recapitulating our own phylogeny, since both of these are
technologies invented long after our biology was pretty much what it
is today.  Learning how to use these technologies is one of the
first things we all have to do as we grow up and become part of our
own civilizations (yes, plural).

Some of us learn our ABCs.  Some of us learn our Yins-and-Yangs. 
And, some of us learn our HTML etc. In the process of that learning,
our brains are literally wired according to the "grammar" of the
technologies we habitually use.  Yes, that is what Marshall meant by
"The Medium is the Message."

So, taking what McLuhan et al said seriously, and noting that he was
a part of the early movement sometimes linked with Benjamin Whorf
(whose major essays were also collected/published in 1956)-- as was
the hero-hereabouts Doug Engelbart (who footnoted Whorf in his
famous 1962 "Augmenting Human Intellect" essay)-- which is now known
as "linquistic relativity," different languages produce different
cultures and different people.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linguistic_relativity

These primary language technologies -- each of which spans the globe
today -- are the ALPHABET (which includes many syllabic
technologies), the IDEO/PICTOGRAPH (i.e. Chinese writing etc) and
BINARY (yes, even if you program in a "higher-level" language).  The
*effects* of being trained into cultures based on these technologies
are profound -- as anyone knows who has tried to master more than
one of them.

If you wish to communicate with Westerners, you will typically use
the Alphabet.  With Easterners, you will often use Chinese/Japanese
writing.  And with our cybernetic friends, you will use binary
linguistics (i.e. logical structures).  Each of those communications
approaches carries with it deep cultural presumptions that are
generally taken for granted but, nonetheless, tend to make us who we
are without us having to think about it.

So when the time came for us to launch a strategic research group
devoted to helping us make better decisions based on a better
understanding of the effects of *digital* technology on our lives,
we decided to summarize all this with the notion of 3 SPHERES: East,
West and Digital. And as best we can tell, this starting hypothesis
is unique to the Center.

Yes, it helped that I have been doing work in-and-on China since for
20+ years now.  Yes, it helped that I have been programming for 40+
years now.  Yes, it helped that my "godfather" was Norbert Wiener
(father of Cybernetics) and that my partner in launching the Center
hosted the first group from China who came to the US following the
1970s Nixon/Kissinger diplomatic breakthroughs.  You could say that
the 3 Spheres are us.

These THREE Spheres now drive global affairs and, since few
world/thought leaders are aware of this fact and its consequences,
the Center has a lot of work to do -- which is why I'm going to
spend the next few weeks talking with all of you in the INKWell . .
. <g>
  
inkwell.vue.490 : Digital Life - a conversation with Mark Stahlman and friends
permalink #23 of 195: Ari Davidow (ari) Tue 26 Apr 16 06:56
    
I'm intrigued by the notion of choosing between mutating or becoming
robots. 

It seems that we have faced that question at least a couple of times
before in human history, and the long-term choice sounds more like
robots. I'm thinking of the transition from the relatively healthy
hunter-gatherer mode to organized agriculture and cities--good for
the warrier class. Bad for everyone else. Then I think of the
transitions during the industrial age. In England, this meant
enclosures, the end of the commons, replacement of individual
craftsmen with their home looms by factories, and for a couple of
centuries (I'm following EP Thompson's narrative from "The Making of
the English Working Class" here) of, again, worsening health,
worsening conditions, alleviated eventually (and apparently
temporarily) by the union movement.

Are enough individuals sufficiently empowered such that human
society might mutate against the inertia and power of those who
currently own the majority of the world's resources, or are we
seeing a transition more familiar, and more similar to the rise of
city-states and a digital equivalent of a new warrier class? Good
for the digiterati, perhaps, but not so good for the rest of us (or,
as it seems to be happening, the planet)?
  
inkwell.vue.490 : Digital Life - a conversation with Mark Stahlman and friends
permalink #24 of 195: Mark Stahlman (spheres3) Tue 26 Apr 16 07:19
    
Ari: This is *exactly* where thinking in terms of 3 SPHERES comes
into the picture . . . !!

How will the WEST handle this?  How will the EAST handle this?  And,
make no mistake about it, their responses will *not* be the same.

Last week I attended a meeting at the UN titled "A China Story IV"
where many details of the 13th Five Year Plan were described.  This
was followed by a luncheon that was keynoted by Jonathan Sachs
(Columbia Univ. Earth Institute and the one who invited Bernie to
Rome etc) in which he praised the Chinese for their *bold*
sustainability goals.  And, in fact, they are just that.

http://www.cefc.org.hk/a-list/9029-eng

The recent Inkwell conference w/ Bruce Sterling spent a lot of time
on the topic of "apocalypse" (missusing the term but we all get the
idea) and GLOBAL WARMING.  Will the West get their act together? 
Or, will the East have to clean-up the planet?  (Hint: Yes, they
will.)

The Chinese are *far* better equipped to "mutate" than we are, based
on the 20+ years I've been working with them.  In the West, as your
question implies, we are more inclined towards becoming "robots" --
since it seems to us (given the effects of the Alphabet etc on our
lives) that chucking it all in and giving up as *humans* might be
the better alternative.  No, that would *not* be an option seriously
considered in China.

When George Dyson (who is an advisor to the Center) wrote "In the
game of life and evolution there are three players at the table:
human beings, nature and machines.  I am firmly on the side of
nature.  But nature, I suspect, is on the side of the machines," he
was speaking from a decidedly up-to-date Western perspective.

http://www.amazon.com/Darwin-among-Machines-Evolution-Intelligence/dp/04650316
25/

All of which should bring us into a serious discussion of what
happened in the West and where it is going now that it is also
DIGITAL -- but we have a few weeks to get into all that . . . <g>
  
inkwell.vue.490 : Digital Life - a conversation with Mark Stahlman and friends
permalink #25 of 195: Ari Davidow (ari) Tue 26 Apr 16 07:24
    
I'm not sure I understand the basis for your optimism about the East. In 
the case of China, we seem to be talking about a highly corrupt society, 
one in which a few are getting ahead, but most are not. It is a society in 
which most freedoms (from disease, from poverty, from fear of the 
authorities) seem absent. Or, at least what is reported here in the West. 
The current crackdown on dissent by Chinese leadership, and the increasing 
power of the current premier, seem to feed into that narrative.

What are you seeing that is so different? Why?
  

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