Linked List: September 2013

The Function of Education #

First chapter from Think on These Things (aka This Matter of Culture), by Jiddu Krishnamurti:

I WONDER IF we have ever asked ourselves what education means. Why do we go to school, why do we learn various subjects, why do we pass examinations and compete with each other for better grades? What does this so-called education mean, and what is it all about? This is really a very important question, not only for the students, but also for the parents, for the teachers, and for everyone who loves this earth. Why do we go through the struggle to be educated? Is it merely in order to pass some examinations and get a job? Or is it the function of education to prepare us while we are young to understand the whole process of life? Having a job and earning one’s livelihood is necessary but is that all? Are we being educated only for that? Surely, life is not merely a job, an occupation; life is something extraordinarily wide and profound, it is a great mystery, a vast realm in which we function as human beings. If we merely prepare ourselves to earn a livelihood, we shall miss the whole point of life; and to understand life is much more important than merely to prepare for examinations and become very proficient in mathematics, physics, or what you will.

So, whether we are teachers or students, is it not important to ask ourselves why we are educating or being educated? And what does life mean? Is not life an extraordinary thing? The birds, the flowers, the flourishing trees, the heavens, the stars, the rivers and the fish therein – all this is life. Life is the poor and the rich; life is the constant battle between groups, races and nations; life is meditation; life is what we call religion, and it is also the subtle, hidden things of the mind – the envies, the ambitions, the passions, the fears, fulfilments and anxieties. All this and much more is life. But we generally prepare ourselves to understand only one small corner of it. We pass certain examinations, find a job, get married, have children, and then become more and more like machines. We remain fearful, anxious, frightened of life. So, is it the function of education to help us understand the whole process of life, or is it merely to prepare us for a vocation, for the best job we can get?

What is going to happen to all of us when we grow to be men and women? Have you ever asked yourselves what you are going to do when you grow up? In all likelihood you will get married, and before you know where you are you will be mothers and fathers; and you will then be tied to a job, or to the kitchen, in which you will gradually wither away. Is that all that your life is going to be? Have you ever asked yourselves this question? Should you not ask it? If your family is wealthy you may have a fairly good position already assured, your father may give you a comfortable job, or you may get richly married; but there also you will decay, deteriorate. Do you see?

Surely, education has no meaning unless it helps you to understand the vast expanse of life with all its subtleties, with its extraordinary beauty, its sorrows and joys. You may earn degrees, you may have a series of letters after your name and land a very good job; but then what? What is the point of it all if in the process your mind becomes dull, weary, stupid? So, while you are young, must you not seek to find out what life is all about? And is it not the true function of education to cultivate in you the intelligence which will try to find the answer to all these problems? Do you know what intelligence is? It is the capacity, surely, to think freely without fear, without a formula, so that you begin to discover for yourself what is real, what is true; but if you are frightened you will never be intelligent. Any form of ambition, spiritual or mundane, breeds anxiety, fear; therefore ambition does not help to bring about a mind that is clear, simple, direct, and hence intelligent.

You know, it is really very important while you are young to live in an environment in which there is no fear. Most of us, as we grow older, become frightened; we are afraid of living, afraid of losing a job, afraid of tradition, afraid of what the neighbours, or what the wife or husband would say, afraid of death. Most of us have fear in one form or another; and where there is fear there is no intelligence. And is it not possible for all of us, while we are young, to be in an environment where there is no fear but rather an atmosphere of freedom freedom, not just to do what we like, but to understand the whole process of living? Life is really very beautiful, it is not this ugly thing that we have made of it; and you can appreciate its richness, its depth, its extraordinary loveliness only when you revolt against everything – against organized religion, against tradition, against the present rotten society – so that you as a human being find out for yourself what is true. Not to imitate but to discover – that is education, is it not? It is very easy to conform to what your society or your parents and teachers tell you. That is a safe and easy way of existing; but that is not living, because in it there is fear, decay, death. To live is to find out for yourself what is true, and you can do this only when there is freedom, when there is continuous revolution inwardly, within yourself.

But you are not encouraged to do this; no one tells you to question, to find out for yourself what God is, because if you were to rebel you would become a danger to all that is false. Your parents and society want you to live safely, and you also want to live safely. Living safely generally means living in imitation and therefore in fear. Surely, the function of education is to help each one of us to live freely and without fear, is it not? And to create an atmosphere in which there is no fear requires a great deal of thinking on your part as well as on the part of the teacher, the educator.

Do you know what this means – what an extraordinary thing it would be to create an atmosphere in which there is no fear? And we must create it, because we see that the world is caught up in endless wars; it is guided by politicians who are always seeking power; it is a world of lawyers, policemen and soldiers, of ambitious men and women all wanting position and all fighting each other to get it. Then there are the so-called saints, the religious gurus with their followers; they also want power, position, here or in the next life. It is a mad world, completely confused, in which the communist is fighting the capitalist, the socialist is resisting both, and everybody is against somebody, struggling to arrive at a safe place, a position of power or comfort. The world is torn by conflicting beliefs, by caste and class distinctions, by separative nationalities, by every form of stupidity and cruelty – and this is the world you are being educated to fit into. You are encouraged to fit into the framework of this disastrous society; your parents want you to do that, and you also want to fit in.

Now, is it the function of education merely to help you to conform to the pattern of this rotten social order, or is it to give you freedom – complete freedom to grow and create a different society, a new world? We want to have this freedom, not in the future, but now, otherwise we may all be destroyed. We must create immediately an atmosphere of freedom so that you can live and find out for yourselves what is true, so that you become intelligent, so that you are able to face the world and understand it, not just conform to it, so that inwardly, deeply, psychologically you are in constant revolt; because it is only those who are in constant revolt that discover what is true, not the man who conforms, who follows some tradition. It is only when you are constantly inquiring, constantly observing, constantly learning, that you find truth, God, or love; and you cannot inquire, observe, learn, you cannot be deeply aware, if you are afraid. So the function of education, surely, is to eradicate, inwardly as well as outwardly, this fear that destroys human thought, human relationship and love.

Questioner: If all individuals were in revolt, don’t you think there would be chaos in the world?

Krishnamurti: Listen to the question first, because it is very important to understand the question and not just wait for an answer. The question is: if all individuals were in revolt, would not the world be in chaos? But is the present society in such perfect order that chaos would result if everyone revolted against it? Is there not chaos now? is everything beautiful, uncorrupted? Is everyone living happily, fully, richly? Is man not against man? Is there not ambition, ruthless competition? So the world is already in chaos, that is the first thing to realize. Don’t take it for granted that this is an orderly society; don’t mesmerize yourself with words. Whether here in Europe, in America or Russia, the world is in a process of decay. If you see the decay, you have a challenge: you are challenged to find a way of solving this urgent problem. And how you respond to the challenge is important, is it not? If you respond as a Hindu or a Buddhist, a Christian or a communist, then your response is very limited – which is no response at all. You can respond fully, adequately only if there is no fear in you, only if you don’t think as a Hindu, a communist or a capitalist, but as a total human being who is trying to solve this problem; and you cannot solve it unless you yourself are in revolt against the whole thing, against the ambitious acquisitiveness on which society is based. When you yourself are not ambitious, not acquisitive, not clinging to your own security – only then can you respond to the challenge and create a new world.

Questioner: To revolt, to learn, to love – are these three separate processes, or are they simultaneous?

Krishnamurti: Of course they are not three separate processes; it is a unitary process. You see, it is very important to find out what the question means. This question is based on theory, not on experience; it is merely verbal, intellectual, therefore it has no validity. A man who is fearless, who is really in revolt, struggling to find out what it means to learn, to love – such a man does not ask if it is one process or three. We are so clever with words, and we think that by offering explanations we have solved the problem. Do you know what it means to learn? When you are really learning you are learning throughout your life and there is no one special teacher to learn from. Then everything teaches you – a dead leaf, a bird in flight, a smell, a tear, the rich and the poor, those who are crying, the smile of a woman, the haughtiness of a man. You learn from everything, therefore there is no guide, no philosopher, no guru. Life itself is your teacher, and you are in a state of constant learning.

Questioner: It is true that society is based on acquisitiveness and ambition; but if we had no ambition would we not decay?

Krishnamurti: This is really a very important question, and it needs great attention. Do you know what attention is? Let us find out. In a class room, when you stare out of the window or pull somebody’s hair, the teacher tells you to pay attention. Which means what? That you are not interested in what you are studying and so the teacher compels you to pay attention – which is not attention at all. Attention comes when you are deeply interested in something, for then you love to find out all about it; then your whole mind, your whole being is there. Similarly, the moment you see that this question – if we had no ambition, would we not decay? – is really very important, you are interested and want to find out the truth of the matter. Now, is not the ambitious man destroying himself? That is the first thing to find out, not to ask whether ambition is right or wrong. Look around you, observe all the people who are ambitious. What happens when you are ambitious? You are thinking about yourself, are you not? You are cruel, you push other people aside because you are trying to fulfil your ambition, trying to become a big man, thereby creating in society the conflict between those who are succeeding and those who are falling behind. There is a constant battle between you and the others who are also after what you want; and is this conflict productive of creative living? Do you understand, or is this too difficult? Are you ambitious when you love to do something for its own sake? When you are doing something with your whole being, not because you want to get somewhere, or have more profit, or greater results, but simply because you love to do it – in that there is no ambition, is there? In that there is no competition; you are not struggling with anyone for first place. And should not education help you to find out what you really love to do so that from the beginning to the end of your life you are working at something which you feel is worth while and which for you has deep significance? Otherwise, for the rest of your days, you will be miserable. Not knowing what you really want to do, your mind falls into a routine in which there is only boredom, decay and death. That is why it is very important to find out while you are young what it is you really love to do; and this is the only way to create a new society.

Questioner: In India, as in most other countries, education is being controlled by the government. Under such circumstances is it possible to carry out an experiment of the kind you describe?

Krishnamurti: If there were no government help, would it be possible for a school of this kind to survive? That is what this gentleman is asking. He sees everything throughout the world becoming more and more controlled by governments, by politicians, by people in authority who want to shape our minds and hearts, who want us to think in a certain way. Whether in Russia or in any other country, the tendency is towards government control of education; and this gentleman asks whether it is possible for a school of the kind I am talking about to come into being without government aid. Now, what do you say? You know, if you think something is important, really worth while, you give your heart to it irrespective of governments and the edicts of society – and then it will succeed. But most of us do not give our hearts to anything, and that it why we put this sort of question. If you and I feel vitally that a new world can be brought into being, when each one of us is in complete revolt inwardly, psychologically, spiritually – then we shall give our hearts, our minds, our bodies towards creating a school where there is no such thing as fear with all its implications. Sir, anything truly revolutionary is created by a few who see what is true and are willing to live according to that truth; but to discover what is true demands freedom from tradition, which means freedom from all fears.

Draw.io - Create Diagrams in Your Browser #
Regular Expressions 101 - Online Regex Tester, Debugger and Explainer #
Happy 30th Birthday to GNU #

Avoid surveillance by switching to Thunderbird and Enigmail.

UTF-8 The Most Elegant Hack #
Thoreau 2.0 #

When you’re not in for the money, success doesn’t come to you pre-labeled. It can look just like failure. Chasing money makes it easier, because then you can quantify success unambiguously. Otherwise, you may have a hard time telling the two apart.

You can work on a lot of projects, but you will only get a couple of opportunities to work on something long-term. So I would say pick those carefully, do things that are intrinsically rewarding, and be very loath to abandon them. And work that day job if you have to!

After leaving jail, Thoreau wrote an essay called “Resistance to Civil Government”, where he tried to reason out what we should do when the government compels us to do something morally wrong.

It’s not our job, Thoreau argues, to fix the world. We may not have the time for that. But we can’t cooperate with injustice. If the law compels us to do something wrong, we have to break that law.

The World Is A Dynamic Mess of Jiggling Things If You Look At It Right #

What a legend. Love his Harry Callahan haircut in this one. Want to learn more about physics? The Feynman Lectures are now online.

How Voyager’s Tech Keeps Running #

I wish today’s web developers would design sites with similar vision.

Simple jQuery Tree Menu #
Fira Firefox OS Typeface #

Designed by Erik Spiekermann with the source code freely available. Here’s the specimen page with content-editable HTML so you can click and edit to try any text. Open source design has grown up.

The Banality of Systemic Evil #

Peter Ludlow:

In “Eichmann in Jerusalem,” one of the most poignant and important works of 20th-century philosophy, Hannah Arendt made an observation about what she called “the banality of evil.” One interpretation of this holds that it was not an observation about what a regular guy Adolf Eichmann seemed to be, but rather a statement about what happens when people play their “proper” roles within a system, following prescribed conduct with respect to that system, while remaining blind to the moral consequences of what the system was doing — or at least compartmentalizing and ignoring those consequences.

A good illustration of this phenomenon appears in “Moral Mazes,” a book by the sociologist Robert Jackall that explored the ethics of decision making within several corporate bureaucracies. In it, Jackall made several observations that dovetailed with those of Arendt. The mid-level managers that he spoke with were not “evil” people in their everyday lives, but in the context of their jobs, they had a separate moral code altogether, what Jackall calls the “fundamental rules of corporate life”:

(1) You never go around your boss. (2) You tell your boss what he wants to hear, even when your boss claims that he wants dissenting views. (3) If your boss wants something dropped, you drop it. (4) You are sensitive to your boss’s wishes so that you anticipate what he wants; you don’t force him, in other words, to act as a boss. (5) Your job is not to report something that your boss does not want reported, but rather to cover it up. You do your job and you keep your mouth shut.

The Core Distortion of the War on Terror #

Glenn Greenwald:

The core distortion of the War on Terror under both Bush and Obama is the Orwellian practice of equating government accusations of terrorism with proof of guilt. One constantly hears US government defenders referring to “terrorists” when what they actually mean is: those accused by the government of terrorism. This entire memo is grounded in this deceit.

Don’t Smile #
Drakon Visual Language #

DRAKON is a visual language to represent any knowledge that explains how to accomplish a goal. See also: Using DRAKON to generate code from flowcharts:

Human eyes and brains are optimised for looking at shapes and patterns - not lines and lines of text. Drakon allows you to spot errors in your algorithms before you commit them to code.

Once you have drawn out the code using the visual editor, it can automatically produce clean and efficient code in Java, C#, C/C++, Python, Tcl, Javascript, Lua and Erlang.

The New Gmail Sucks #

Yes.

The Public Domain Review #

The Public Domain Review is a not-for-profit project dedicated to showcasing the most interesting and unusual out-of-copyright works available online.

TogetherJS #

Add real time collaboration features to your website with two lines of code. Mozilla continues rocking the web.

Bullet Journal #

Great system for taking notes on paper. The sites reminds me I should do a project using IM Fell DW Pica.

Bye Bye Microsoft #

Gabe Newell:

The big problem that is holding back Linux is games. People don’t realize how critical games are in driving consumer purchasing behavior.

Jacob Appelbaum at Euro Parliament Privacy, Security, Encryption, Spying, Government Abuses of Journalists #

Surveillance is not an end toward totalitarianism, it is totalitarianism itself. Limited in scope for the moment, but when the Golden Dawn [party] in Greece has access to these systems, with their racist ideology, what will happen?

Full speech here.

To Flickr, From Randall Munroe #

Points to anyone who hacks the Flickr devs' computers to make their text editors do this when you click on anything.

Safety #

Jacques Mattheij:

It’s been a bit of a slow realization for me, but I don’t actually want to be safe, I’d rather be free and unsafe. I think that if I have to choose between rolling the dice and possibly dying or having a loved one die in some terrorist attack, or a perfectly safe state with zero crime because all the criminals and terrorists are arrested due to perfect oversight that I’d take my chances with crime and terror if the alternative is to have everybody monitored all the time.

Yes. The damage from a totalitarian society is much higher than from terrorists.

Octopus Camouflage #

Extraordinary.

Scott Expedition is Departing in October #

Back in 2006 this expedition to walk to the South Pole and back unsupported was called ‘South’ and Hypertexthero bought Mile 890. Wishing Ben and Tarka good luck!

Phillip Rogaway Statement of Condemnation of U.S. Mass - Surveillance Programs and a Reminder of Our Ethical Responsibilities as Computer Scientists #

Both US-persons and non-US-persons have a right to be free of routinized surveillance. This right does not spring solely from the US Fourth Amendment; it is a human and natural right as well.

Simple Frameless Geodesic Dome for Living #

Gotta hack architecture, too.

IL-2 Sturmovik And Oculus Rift #

Time to install my favorite flight simulator ever once again.

Maybe Silicon Valley is Waking Up #

Michael Arrington:

I’m scared of our government and I’m disgusted by what little Silicon Valley has done to fight it.

We Should All Have Something To Hide #

Moxie Marlinspike:

If the federal government had access to every email you’ve ever written and every phone call you’ve ever made, it’s almost certain that they could find something you’ve done which violates a provision in the 27,000 pages of federal statues or 10,000 administrative regulations. You probably do have something to hide, you just don’t know it yet.

The Git Parable #

Studies show that even short exposures to nature can help recharge the mind’s creative potential. You’ve been sitting behind the artificially polarized light of your monitor for days on end. A walk through the woods in the brisk Autumn air will do you some good and with any luck, will help you arrive at an ideal solution to your problem.

The great oaks that line the trail have always appealed to you. They seem to stand stark and proud against the perfectly blue sky. Half the ruddy leaves have departed from their branches, leaving an intricate pattern of branches in their wake. Fixating on one of the thousands of branch tips you idly try to follow it back to the solitary trunk. This organically produced structure allows for such great complexity, but the rules for finding your way back to the trunk are so simple, and perfect for keeping track of multiple lines of development! It turns out that what they say about nature and creativity are true.

Tails The Amnesic Incognito Live System #
Take Back The Internet #

Bruce Schneier:

Government and industry have betrayed the internet, and us.

By subverting the internet at every level to make it a vast, multi-layered and robust surveillance platform, the NSA has undermined a fundamental social contract. The companies that build and manage our internet infrastructure, the companies that create and sell us our hardware and software, or the companies that host our data: we can no longer trust them to be ethical internet stewards.

This is not the internet the world needs, or the internet its creators envisioned. We need to take it back.

And by we, I mean the engineering community.

Yes, this is primarily a political problem, a policy matter that requires political intervention.

But this is also an engineering problem, and there are several things engineers can – and should – do.

One, we should expose. If you do not have a security clearance, and if you have not received a National Security Letter, you are not bound by a federal confidentially requirements or a gag order. If you have been contacted by the NSA to subvert a product or protocol, you need to come forward with your story. Your employer obligations don’t cover illegal or unethical activity. If you work with classified data and are truly brave, expose what you know. We need whistleblowers.

We need to know how exactly how the NSA and other agencies are subverting routers, switches, the internet backbone, encryption technologies and cloud systems. I already have five stories from people like you, and I’ve just started collecting. I want 50. There’s safety in numbers, and this form of civil disobedience is the moral thing to do.

Continue reading at The Guardian

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Python #

This opinionated guide exists to provide both novice and expert Python developers a best-practice handbook to the installation, configuration, and usage of Python on a daily basis.

Wired Story on Dean Hall, Creator of Day Z #

With a photograph by Antonin Kratochvil!