RE: virus: Altruism, Empathy, the Superorganism, and the Priso

Wright, James 7929 (
Wed, 23 Apr 97 16:07:00 EDT

Reed wrote:
>Um, James...what planet are you from? <VBG> I'm sorry, that was
>intended as the lightest possible humor. I know this is somewhat beside
>the point you were making, but...<

Obviously not this one, eh? <VBG!> Since TAD THE SILENT is from TeTa, I
suppose I could be from some other locale - although sometimes, here in
the southeastern US, it does feel like I am from some other planet.

>While I am a great supporter of the academy as an experiment in
>intellectual freedom I think you are conveying the "ideal" of education
>in the same way the "ideal" of democracy was expressed in the
>Constitution of the United States. In both institutions the reality
>falls far short and often the ideological rhetoric is wielded as a
>weapon by those in power while they seek their own self interest
>"behind the curtian".
>There is no ivory tower. Academics just compete via a different set
>of rules. One of the great problems of education these days is that
>it is so least, that is the perception voiced by a
>number of people. In many ways my greatest frustration with
>academics is that they time and again fail to live up to the ideal
>described. Not that the attempt isn't's just that there
>more saints in education than are in law or business.<

I don't recall addressing what goes on inside academic institutions; I
was generalizing about their role in society. The primary purpose of
these institutions is still transmission of knowledge, in whatever flawed
and fallible mechanisms they can manage. I am quite aware of the "publish
or perish" mind-set, the academics who research in order to be able to
have a technical basis for their own start-up companies, and so forth. I
would still contend that despite their problems, they are a unique and
efficient way to transmit knowledge from one group to another.

The miracle is that they exist at all; the background of the discussion,
I thought, was that knowledge could convey a competitive edge to the
descendants of those who have it. If you create fire and could (somehow)
keep its secrets to yourself, then your children will be better-comforted
and possibly better-fed than your competition. The same applies to
knowledge that creates tools, machines, lasers, etc. Universities and
such transmit a tremendous amount of useful knowledge and discover more,
along with cultural baggage, mindless prejudices, etc.

The purpose of expounding ideals is not to imply that existing
institutions fail, even when they do; nor to point out how unattainable
they are, and it's pointless to try. Ideals exist to give you a goal, a
desirable point to aim for. Keeping the goal in sight is what keeps you
from wandering far away from the path towards it; and this is a real
problem right now in our government and social institutions.

There is no ivory tower; but we do not wander in total darkness, either.
I am grateful for the light that shines about, whoever and whatever the
sources are.