Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Short termism

The long view is in danger of extinction. More and more we focus on the new, new thing. David Armitage and Jo Guldi writing for the Chronicle of Higher Education said, "We live in a moment of accelerating crisis that is characterized by a shortage of long-term thinking. Rising sea levels and other threats to our environment; mounting inequality; rotting infrastructure. Our culture lacks a long-term perspective."

I am not sure it is a crisis, but it is something to be aware of. I am an academic, an educator. We generally believe the three pillars of this life are:

  • Teaching
  • Research
  • Service
But, I once read an alternate theory that suggested the three pillars are:
  • Gather knowledge
  • Chronicle the events of our time
  • Mentoring
Similar, but different. I write a lot about the events of our time. Most commonly, it is about security, (which is about as short term as it gets), but also cultural events.

One hundred years from now will anyone remember Ashley Madison?  Will it be considered important that some number that hovers around 32 million users signed up for an infidelity web site. The institution of marriage, generally for life 100 years ago, is now transient for many people. (Don't worry I am not getting preachy, I am simply recording an event of our time).

So, what can we do? We can interview real people and document real events. For instance, just yesterday, I interviewed the founder of a small business startup that endured daily adversity for three years, because it is a real event of our time. 

According to the Smithsonian, "In every community — in families, neighborhoods, workplaces, and schools — there are people who have knowledge and skills to share — ways of knowing and doing that often come from years of experience and have been preserved and passed down across generations. As active participants in community life, these bearers of tradition are primary sources of culture and history. They are, as folklorist Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett writes, "living links in the historical chain, eye witnesses to history, shapers of a vital and indigenous way of life. They are unparalleled in the vividness and authenticity they can bring to the study of local history and culture."

Through documenting their memories and stories, the past comes to life in the present, filled with vivid images of people, places, and events. And it is not only the past that we discover: we learn about the living traditions — the foodways, celebrations, customs, music, occupations, and skills — that are a vital part of daily experience. These stories, memories, and traditions are powerful expressions of community life and values. They anchor us in a larger whole, connecting us to the past, grounding us firmly in the present, giving us a sense of identity and roots, belonging and purpose."

And there is guidance on how to go about this type of knowledge gathering. They go on explain the process of the interview. And it really matters in a world of perception management. For various reasons, people are fabricating and publishing stories that are completely false, there are digital identities that don't really exist and very soon, if not now, they will be AI sentient

In a well received keynote I gave several years ago called 12 Laws of IT Security Power, I suggested looking at Google Trends at least once a week. But we want to balance that input to our thinking with something long term and solid. I am an occasional Wikipedia editor, but I bought a set of the last printed edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, (revise that :).

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