Sorry, no koolaid...
Updated: 10/30/2002; 7:59:28 PM.

 |::| Tuesday, August 20, 2002

 |::|   5:01:39 PM 

From the Education section of the Guardian comes the hitherto hidden story of the largest does of LSD ever administered, to a male Indian elephant at Oklahoma City's Lincoln Park Zoo.

Mystified by the new wonder drug LSD, the psychiatrist Louis Jolyon West and his colleague at the University of Oklahoma, Chester M Pierce, were looking for a new way to investigate the drug in 1962. They came up with an idea so outlandish it could only happen in the world of experimental psychology.

Male elephants are prone to bouts of madness; LSD seems to cause a temporary form of madness; perhaps if we combine the two, they reasoned, we could make an elephant go mad. Their research paper about this venture is a tragicomedy of high hopes and lessons not learnt. For only mindless optimism and blind faith can account for the events that unfolded on a hot summer day in Oklahoma City's Lincoln Park Zoo 40 years ago.

Wait, let's stop right there: What exactly were these guys -- no, let's be frank here, these utter morons -- trying to find out? Because all that this experiment could possibly demonstrate was whether LSD had an effect on Elephants. Which, let's face it, is a pretty unintersting question.

Not mentioned in their reasoning is the little matter of what usually happens to elephants that go "on mush." Last I knew, the standard practice was to shoot them in the head with a very large caliber rifle.

So let's think about this for a moment: These morons -- er, I mean, researchers -- were going to try to induce a dangerously psychotic state in a healthy adult elephant, which -- if their "experiment" was successful -- would most likely result in the elephant having to be killed. Have I got that right? And furthermore, they did it with the full cooperation of zoo personnel?

Quite aside from the gross offensiveness of signing the animal up for what amounted to a suicide mission, they were condemning a very valuable animal. If for no other reason than that, they'd deserve to be sued into poverty and the Zoo employee who helped them summarily fired and jailed for animal cruelty.

Search results for this on Daypop; as of this writing, virtually nothing yet.

 |::Indulgent Quasi-Bookmarking  11:15:10 AM 

Back in school at UR, I was fascinated by Archaeoastronomy. That was fueled by the fact that the so-called "pecked cross" (which was for me, for some reason, the most intriguing mesoamerican display artifact) had only been investigated in depth by archaeoastronomers -- especialy by Anthony Aveni, who appears to have vitalized the field beginning in the '70s.

So this current thread on MetaFilter brings back memories -- but alas, fewer than I'd like to admit. I had a bunch of things on my mind, and the academic subjects that fascinated me often took a back seat to finishing the next module of the World Series of WordPerfect class or getting the latest update of our DOS security [sic] software installed.

So I'll have to go now and take a long look at some of the stuff that interested me most, like the Bighorn medicine wheel.

MeFiite The Michael The offers a caution about all this exhuberance that I might have said myself: "Even if there are constellations painted somewhere in the world and astronomical connections abound, that still tells us nothing about what they meant to the people that created them. So enjoy these archaeoastronomers, but take their writings with a grain of salt." Archaeology is a fascinating thing, and true sometimes the stones can seem to speak. But they never truly do. Unless, perhaps, you've been out in the field too long...

Other links in the MeFi article:

 |::Anti-Naievete Rant For The Day  8:50:17 AM 

[...courtesy Scripting News]

It's so frustrating watching people struggle with the How Do You Make Money From My Earthshattering Paradigm question. For the most part, they never figure it out, though they almost always think they have and though it's usually clear to everyone who never drank the koolaid that the paradigmistas were, at best, hopelessly naive. More often, they're great hand-waivers.

Dave Winer: There will come a day when there has been enough experimentation, and a CEO of a company that's not in software will have a weblog that makes a big difference in competition in a market that's not Internet-related. It could be the CEO of Ford Motor Company. Last week Steven Levy asked if I meant that Ken Lay would have a weblog. No, Ken Lay will not have one. But the next generation CEO will. His replacement will. Why? Because shareholders will demand it. Because there will be a competitive advantage to direct communication without middlemen.

I hear this a lot. But what does it mean? What, precisely, is that competitive advantage?

It's really a simple truth: Size and capital confer advantages, and the institution wielding those advantages will wield them to its advantage. Corporations will act to the benefit of corporations -- or, at least, the wealthy and powerful who run corporations will act to their personal and class advantage. That's not likely to be ours.

For what it's worth, I know that it's been written up many times. The "cluetrain" is one example; the high idealism of the New Economistas was another, related example. The idea is that the Internet is a great leveller, a great democratizer, and that once people have control of their own destiny -- once everyone has the technological tools to do so -- everyone will act.

The problem is that the idea is nonsense to begin with. There will always be some people who will act on their ideals, because it's their nature to do so. But most people won't be willing to make the sacrifices that entails, or do the heavy lifting required to really internalize an ideology rooted in a foreign personality type. And even those people who traffic in the high ideals of individual control of destiny won't be consistent; many of them will happily swill their Diet Pepsi while they hum along with the Britney Spears ad, unawares. Most would never admit that their blind kowtowing to cluetrain or "bazaar" sermons is no more thoughtful than the blind obedience that those ideologies tacitly decry.

So here's what will happen: Corporations like IBM and Sun (and Microsoft, of course) will figure out how to leverage those wonderfully enabling new technologies for their own advantage (IBM already has, Sun is learning fast). They'll probably also figure out that it's to their advantage to leave some breathing room in the ecosystem for innovators (IBM already has, though Microsoft is learning this slowly) -- hell, innovators work better under pressure, anyway. The next wave of New Capitalists will learn from the Enron and Global Crossing debacles, and won't get caught so easily next time.

And weblogs will be everywhere, and CEOs will have them (or at least appear to). Hell, many CEOs will write their weblogs by themselves; they'll even express themselves freely and openly. Does that mean that people will be getting the "truth" from those blogs? I don't know why anyone would think it should mean that.

After all, the key requirement for being a CEO at a major corporation is that you must be a person who's good at creating the impression that a lot of things are going on. You don't have to be technically savvy (though some are), you don't have to have been genuinely good at executing the job descriptions you've had on your upward path. But you do have to be a good talker, a good presenter. You don't really have to believe what you're saying when you say it, but you have to be able to convince other people that you do.

In short, the qualifications for being a good CEO are pretty much the same as those for being a good con artist. This is nothing new, and it's nothing that anybody who isn't dangerously naive didn't already know in their heart of hearts.

The reason Dave Winer is the CEO of a small company that's customer responsive is that he's not qualified to be the CEO of a large, successful company. He is, IMO, naive and idealistic, but he's not a liar or a con man by any stretch.

Here's my prediction for how money will be made from weblogs: Generally speaking, it won't. Not directly. CEO weblogs, where they exist (and they won't exist everywhere), will be marketing tools pure and simple (and where their authors lose sight of that, they will fail), and will "make money" in the same way that any particular specific part of a marketing toolkit does. Despite protestations of 'ink-stained wrongness', online content will continue to make money through advertising and commissions and marketing relationships. Some companies will make a small revenue from selling specific pieces of consumer-oriented weblogging software or services, but the vast majority of "weblogging" innovations will be soaked up and redeployed in systems like Groove, which will primarily be vended by large, established vendors like IBM, Microsoft, and Sun.

There's just no good evidence that anything else is likely. Anybody I've read who's said otherwise is ignorant of ecology.

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