Social Networking Manifesto

The Real DaVinci Code or a Semiotic Approach to the History/Future of Religion

We've told stories since the beginning of time. We used to gather around fires at night and recount the day's tales, and laugh or cry at our failures. In times of trouble we would stir up group sentiment to tighten our belts; in times of joy we would have wild parties.

As these stories would spread you would get the weird phenomenon we call the telephone game. One person tells the next who changes the story a bit, then tells the next and so on. Before you know it legends are born. But all legends reflect truth. The useful legends survive, and the people who live by those legends conquer. If jokes are funny it is because they contain an element of truth.

Animals can't tell stories that are half as funny or half as exciting, because of the simple fact that they can't talk. So the "technology" of speech is what allowed us share our individual experiences. Now the old joke is that those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it. That's dead wrong, those who know their history get to repeat it, the others are left in the dust. Once someone discovered fire, we needed a story, a history to repeat the discovery.

However an individual human can only memorize so much. After a while one person could no longer contain the entire knowledge of humanity. So one person would know everything about fire and another everything about the wheel. But sometimes you would need to use both together and those two people would get together and work on it. That's all fine and dandy but there's more to life than fire and wheels.

We get more stories that can be stored in society. limited by the number of individuals that can communicate with each other and the capacity of each individual. So what happens? People who can remember a lot, communicate effectively and infer meaning form a new class in society, the religious class.

Ok so how did we increase this limit. Once we had agriculture we came up with the idea of cities. In cities there are more people closer together. This brings a bunch of new problems, not least of which is that it's a lot harder to find parking in the city. Thus the age old expression, there's no free parking. Except at Walmart, but then the customer/city/state ends of paying for it. So they paved paradise and put up a parking lot. They took all the trees put them in a tree museum. They used to charge all the people a dollar and a half just to see them, but now most natural history museums are free, because let's face it who's going to pay to see dead trees. Heck most people won't even pay to see live trees.

But problems aside cities flourished and new stories flourished and along with them came new technologies, not least of which was the written word. Ok so we had cave paintings, but now we have an actual language in semi-permanent form. You can write something down and remember it later. So you don't have to keep everything in your head. But now transmitting this information takes a lot of time you have to copy everything by hand. So you get a new type of people the people who transcribe stuff and they have a lot of power, because they get to reinterpret things as they go about their job.

This goes on until the printing press. Now cheap reliable copies can be made, but little changes are hard to make. Only publishers can really make new editions.


Postal mail.

Eventually we get electricity and a bunch of new technologies. Telegraph, telephone, movies, records, radio. Telling stories all the way round the world.

Computers come along. We connect them together in networks. We then network those networks and create the internet. We then make a network of texts and call it the web. And we come up with a way to send message to anyone in the world and we call it email, and a technology to talk to anyone at any time, anywhere and we call it cellphones.

Finally there's facebook, facebook tells us who knows whom. And more importantly their likes and dislikes. Which according to high fidelity is sufficient information to judge people. Anyways facebook isn't the only online social network. There are many of others, but they're not connected to each other. And they're all centralized, which means the guys who control the network know everything about everybody. Absolute power corrupts absolutely or something like that.

So now we need a decentralized social network that everyone has access to.

People are afraid of social networks because they assume that malicious users have an easier time of gathering information (stalking). But the good users outnumber the bad. And the good users are always looking out for each other. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. The problem is that the people in charge of the social network have a lot more power, and if they're not looking out for us, we're all screwed. So all the bad guys are trying to get to those guys. In the past they'd bribe politicians... Now those nerds are the politicians. What's the answer? Let's get back to the question.

The question is religion. But religion isn't what you think it is. Religion is social cognition. That means religion is the way groups think. But thinking is emotional, and that means that we communicate emotions. Now you need someone to take that written word and interpret it for people. You can call them preachers, you can call the teachers, you can call them actors, you can call them what you will. And so there's an entertainment industry, because people want to be happy. And there's an educational system because people need to learn history, in order to repeat it. And all along the way people are having new experiences left and right and they're being written down and interpreted and this happens again and again. Because each generation needs its own story. But as the rate of these discoveries increases the stories get closer and closer together. We had the bible for over 1000 years, Shakespeare for a couple of hundred. Now everything is moving all that much faster. Honeymooners, Jetsons, Flintstones, Simpsons, Family guy, South park, Futurama, and that's just one example. When I was a kid we communicated in Simpsons. The Simpsons were our shared language. Then it was family guy or South Park, or something.

Now as good as that all is, nothing beats face to face communication. Well face to face communication has the same limits it's always had. We can only remember so many people; we can only fit so many people into a physical space. So we need a way to provide face to face communication over long distances. But people don't want face to face communication over long distances, because really the problem isn't any of those things. The problem is that people want to pick and choose. We go to a library and we pick and choose which book we want to grab, because we need this information or that information or the other thing. Well we want to do the same thing when it comes to interacting with others.

What is it about libraries? Everything is organized. You have order, out of the chaos of millions upon millions of books. But what is it that allows us to navigate it so rapidly? The bulk of the information is symbolic, even the indexes are symbolic. The better your reading skills the faster you can navigate it. Well what if social relationships could also be represented in symbolic form. Well they can and that's facebook. You can see who is friends with whom, without having to look around.

So now why hasn't web + social network taken over the job of libraries? Because google doesn't allow the same quality of searching that libraries do, the web doesn't have the same quality of content, and facebook scares the bejezus out of people.

So two problems:
we don't trust the network
the network just isn't good enough
We don't trust the network, because some small group owns/controls it all. And that group with its tremendous power is under very little social control. We need a group that is under social control to run the network. We need nerds, and lots of them. This is the final revenge of the nerds. But it's not really revenge, because we nerds are nice people.

Prophets have always been nerds, religious people have always been nerds. All progress is from the nerds. The smart people lead. And there are lots of kinds of smart people. It's not all about computer nerds. We need social nerds, we need artistic nerds, we need math nerds, we need athletic nerds, we need honest nerds, we need eco nerds. We need the best of the best! What is a nerd? A nerd is an expert!

But today everyone's an expert. Technology like wikipedia allows people to provide as much input as they are able to. We can document everything and we are doing it. Just look at wikipedia explode :)

The only problem is that doesn't work for personal information. All public knowledge is converging onto wikipedia. But private knowledge isn't there yet. Because wikipedia isn't linked into facebook. Not yet. And even if it were, we wouldn't want to put our personal information on someone else's computer.

We're going to get started and we're going to do all these things. We're building an open-source distributed peer to peer social network, and we're going to link it to facebook, and wikipedia and all the other great networks. And all we need is a few good men and women. People who are willing to take risks. People who are willing to live dangerously. People who are willing to love:

1 Corinthians 13

1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Don't worry this isn't terminator 2 stuff this isn't judge dread stuff. This isn't bladerunner, this isn't 1984. This is a brave new world, and ahh what beautiful people we are!

Bijan Soleymani,

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