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An Army of Davids on the March

From reveries.com comes a review of instapundit's new book - "An Army of Davids""Glenn Reynolds, the blogger of Instapundit fame, is out with a new book that celebrates the power of the individual in the age of information, as reviewed by Adrian Wooldridge in The Wall Street Journal. The book is called "An Army of Davids: How Markets and Technology Empower Ordinary People to Beat Big Media, Big Government, and Other Goliaths." It is written by one who lives and breathes that premise. Glenn used to be an "obscure law professor" who liked to brew his own beer and record his own music. In 2001, he started writing his own commentaries online (pretty much before blogs were blogs; they were then sort of known as "mezines").

Today, Instapundit attracts "more than a half-million page views a day" and Glenn's new book captures what drives that kind of popularity: "The secret of success in both business and politics in the twenty-first century," he writes, "will involve figuring out a way to capitalize on the phenomenon of a lot of people doing what they want to do, rather than -- as in previous centuries -- figuring out ways to make lots of people do what you want them to." Hm. As Adrian Wooldridge observes: "This attractive thesis is hardly original -- Ronald Coase explained the economics of it back in 1937. It has been chronicled many times since, especially recently."

But no one has framed it quite like Glenn Reynolds, who applies his philosophy "with verve and wit" to goals such as space colonization, advocating a "Wild West model for outer space: If we privatize space travel and give land grants to people who colonize the moon, we will soon see a space rush, even a Mars rush." He also likes the idea of memory chips to improve our brains and cellular manipulation to extend our lives. Glenn also cites "the 'comfy chair revolution' .. the appearance of comfortable chairs in bookshops and even clothes shops," as the best evidence of "the army of Davids on the march," providing its foot soldiers with "temporary offices as well as lattes and muffins." Overall, says Adrian, Glenn Reynolds offers "a coherent, and very American, philosophy of the world" in just "268 undersized pages."

Hmmm...there's just one problem as I see it. How many illiterates you got in the U. S. of A? Over 90 Million isn't it? So something like a third of the population aint gonna be sitting in those comfy chairs in bookstores. They're gonna be watching the idiot box or listening to rap on their iPods. And instead of doing "lattes and muffins" as "foot soldiers of the Army of David" they're gonna be hooking into booze and crack and shooting each other as soldiers of the street.

But Reynolds has some spot-on things to say about the demise of traditional newspapers and the rise of...well...guys like me - "I'd put some of the money I saved by abandoning delivery trucks, printing presses, and the like into hiring reporters and writers, who have been the object of a lot of cost-cutting over the past couple of decades. And I'd expect a broader range of competency: My reporters would also all be photographers, equipped with digital cameras, and videographers, shooting clips of video that could be placed on the website along with their stories. This isn't asking too much, really. The world is full of people who can write and take pictures. I've heard editors at existing newspapers who doubt that their reporters could do this sort of thing, but if so, they need better reporters. I'd tell them to learn, or seek employment elsewhere........
I'd stop insulting readers. As Malone notes, many newspapers lean left; they're out of touch, as numerous surveys demonstrate, with the attitudes of most Americans. Often, like George Clooney (spokesman for another declining industry), they celebrate this disconnect. They shouldn't. People don't like being preached to, or manipulated, and they are increasingly unwilling to pay for that now that they have alternatives. So stop; give them the news, with as little bias as possible.

Fourth, I'd get readers involved. I'd incorporate readers and bloggers into the reporting, fact-checking, and revision of news stories. I'd be generous about handing out credit, too -- people will do a lot for a little bit of ego gratification. With digital cameras, cameraphones, etc., all over, there's usually somebody on the scene when something happens. I'd take advantage of that. I'd also take advantage of readers with special expertise in particular areas -- in fact, I'd build a roster of those people and use them as color commentators on stories in their areas.

The bottom line is that there's plenty of market space for the news business, so long as it sticks to its core competencies of actually, you know, reporting news accurately and well. But the Daily Planet model of newspapers -- or, worse yet, the model shown in today's New York Times or San Francisco Chronicle, places where behavior that Perry White would never have tolerated is, sadly, routine -- is on its last legs. There's no reason that newspapers can't remain competitive -- no reason, at least, outside their own management.

Yeah...well...it's obvious isn't it? We're the beat on the street and it's getting louder baby. But I gotta admit I'm starting to get a bit concerned about the power of the Technoratis of the world. Without them picking up and listing our blogs we're pretty-well fucked. I'm reasonably cool with them but I hate it when they mess with market forces. Fuck, if people wanna write about fucking Tammy or Pavlina or Paris - fucking let them. Who cares? I think they see it as manipulation - spamming. But what do you do about that? We're awash in a sea of spam and to cut down guys like me and delorumrex because we're having a bit of fun with hot search words seems to me to be an over-reaction. At least we write entertaining copy unlike the bloody spammers who just crank out sausage-factory filler. So cut us some slack Technorati. You might find, as Instapundit is saying above, that we'll be the guys dictating the terms in the not-too-distant future. Anyway, I like to think it's not Dave Sifry putting the block on us but some po-faced techie in the back-room. "Look what these guys are doing - they've taken that chap Pavlina's name and they've spun it off into something tawdry and cheap - all to boost their traffic. Well we'll soon put a stop to that".

And in News to Hand: Someone else is thinking this thing may be an elitist movement too - "The “every person an entrepreneur” world sketched here raises the same concerns I expressed in regard to David Bolchover's The Living Dead: this will be a wonderful world, indeed, for the intelligent and self-motivated people who will prosper once liberated from corporate cubicle indenture. But not everybody is like that: in particular, those people tend to be found on the right side of the bell curve, and for every one on the right, there's one equally far to the left. We have already made entire categories of employment for individuals with average or below-average intelligence redundant. In the eighteenth century, there were many ways in which such people could lead productive and fulfilling lives; what will they do in the twenty-first? Further, ever since Bismarck, government schools have been manufacturing worker-bees with little initiative, and essentially no concept of personal autonomy.

As I write this, the élite of French youth is rioting over a proposal to remove what amounts to a guarantee of lifetime employment in a first job. How will people so thoroughly indoctrinated in collectivism fare in an individualist renaissance? As a law professor, the author spends much of his professional life in the company of high-intelligence, strongly-motivated students, many of whom contemplate an entrepreneurial career and in any case expect to be judged on their merits in a fiercely competitive environment. One wonders if his optimism might be tempered were he to spend comparable time with denizens of, say, the school of education. But the fact that there will be problems in the future shouldn't make us fear it—heaven knows there are problems enough in the present, and the last century was kind of a colossal monument to disaster and tragedy; whatever the future holds, the prescription of more freedom, more information, greater wealth and health, and less coercion presented here is certain to make it a better place to live.

The individualist future envisioned here has much in common with that foreseen in the 1970s by Timothy Leary, who coined the acronym “SMIILE” for “Space Migration, Intelligence Increase, Life Extension”. The “II” is alluded to in chapter 12 as part of the merging of human and machine intelligence in the singularity, but mightn't it make sense, as Leary advocated, to supplement longevity research with investigation of the nature of human intelligence and near-term means to increase it? Realising the promise and avoiding the risks of the demanding technologies of the future are going to require both intelligence and wisdom; shifting the entire bell curve to the right, combined with the wisdom of longer lives may be key in achieving the much to be desired future foreseen here.

From formilab.ch - a bit high falutin' for my tastes but I think he's right. Otherwise its a kind of Ayn Rand "Atlas Shrugged" type of world and do we really want that? Dumbfucks are a drag but they're our dumbfucks. They need to be catered for, not excluded from the new hi-tech society. The world needs street-sweepers and factory workers too.

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