[FoRK] [VOID] Thirty-five and still alive. (Take two.)

Adam Rifkin adam at xent.com
Thu Dec 9 23:57:57 PST 2004

This post failed to archive properly at


due to assorted pipermail bugs... er... features.
So I'm trying again, for posteriority...


> Pronunciation: pb`steeuri'breetee
> WordNet Dictionary
> Definition:				
> 1. [n]  following in time
> 2. [n]  the quality of being toward the back or (in quadrupeds)
> toward the rear end

Um, yeah. I'm guessing that the bug... er... feature... was the
use of a period to begin a line.  Let's see if this repost fixes
that... where is the FoRK-archive at XeNT.CoM of yesteryear?

Where are the [VOID] posts of yesteryear? Or is it the case that now,
since Rohit is a doctor with a wife, there no longer is a [VOID] to avoid?

What is the role of FoRK in a world of blogs and ever-faster feeds?
I will borrow from my typepad post today,


but I will add some thoughts as well.  I began today a little less than
24 hours ago with a pair of fortune cookies, one of whose fortunes said,

    Wisdom is only found in truth.

The more I think about turning 35, the more I realize that it's really
no different from 34...


or 33...


or 32...


or 31...


or 30...


or 29...


or... Well, okay, being 35 definitely feels different from being 29.
At 29, the magic question was still...

    What am I going to do with my life?

whereas at 35, the magic question is now more nuanced...

    Who am I and where do I fit in?

At 29, I had the sense that decisions made had less permanence;
there was ample time and space for experimentation. At 35, I have
the sense that decisions once made close certain doors for good,
and the opportunity costs are as great for motivation as the
thought of leading a charge and/or achieving a breakthrough.

Days go by quickly, but as Cesare Pavese said,

    We do not remember days, we remember moments.

Can a single person change the world?  I remember the words of
George Bernard Shaw, who said,

    The reasonable man adapts himself to the world;
    the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt
    the world to himself. Therefore all progress
    depends on the unreasonable man.

Is it possible to be unreasonable at 35? Actually, I am of the
belief that it is MORE possible to be unreasonable at 35 than it
was to be unreasonable at 29, because at 35 I have less to lose.
I am closer to my own mortality, and I now realize that losing
everything is not the worst thing that can happen to a person.
As Tyler Durden said in Fight Club,

    It's only after you've lost everything that
    you're free to do anything.

As we get older, we trade in knowledge for wisdom, and we trade
in the pride of solo accomplishment for the leverage of leadership.
Steven Covey recently wrote,

    Leadership is communicating to people their worth 
    and potential so clearly that they come to see it
    in themselves.

We live in an age of acceleration, but it is also an age where
increasingly mathematics and science are valued less by our
society. The National Science Foundation sees its budget cut,
and American children as a whole rank near the bottom of the
world in math skills:


Jane Kronholz wrote in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday 


a piece called "Economic Time Bomb: U.S. Teens Among Worst at Math",
which broke the news that,

    The percentage of top-achieving math students in the
    nation is about half that of other industrialized
    countries, and the gap between scores of whites and
    minority groups -- who will make up an increasing share
    of the labor force in coming decades -- is enormous.

Culturally, the United States no longer values science and mathematics
the way we as a society did during the Cold War when it was of National
Security interest to make sure we stayed a step ahead in the Arms Race
and the Space Race.

How can it be the case that even with ever-improved living standards
and ever-more-empowering learning tools, America's children as a group
continue to decline in absolute knowledge compared with the rest of the
world? Does valuing faith have to happen to the detriment of valuing
science? For the sake of our country's long-term economic prospects,
I sincerely hope not. Time will tell.

Today in a group meeting with Rohit, I quoted John Roberts, saying,

    Time [is] the only true currency.

John himself wrote in


that, and I quote,

    For a year or so, I was on the FoRK mailing list.
    Too much for me, but that group clearly makes bloggers
    look like slowpokes in the adoption curve.

A few days before, John quoted Michael Schrage's final column for
MIT's Tech Review at


that, and I quote,

    Simply put: innovation isn't what innovators do; it's what
    customers, clients, and people adopt. Innovation isn't about
    crafting brilliant ideas that change minds; it's about the
    distribution of usable artifacts that change behavior.
    Innovators -- their optimistic arrogance notwithstanding --
    don't change the world; the users of their innovations do.

We live in an accelerated age. I wrote in January at


that, and I quote,

    The world we grew up in didn't have such effortless
    facilities for any two people in the world to connect,
    whereas the world we live in keeps adding the technologies
    that not just facilitate but vastly accelerate the
    interconnection of relationships and knowledge. Fast
    forward a generation or two, and imagine the possibilities.
    Our grandchildren will live in a superconnected world,
    and that in turn will make such incredible advances for
    humanity that it's easy to get excited about what the
    future brings.

Innovation will come eventually despite increasingly-flailing U.S.
mathematics and science skills. It just might take longer.
In the near term, I'm increasingly optimistic that The Web Way


will serve as an interesting guide in the playground of productivity.
I wrote in that post that The Web Way is a philosophy toward Web-based

   1. They should be as simple as possible, but no simpler.
   2. They should have clean designs for user interfaces and clean
   designs for programming interfaces.
   3. Where it's useful, they should embrace REST.
   4. Where it's useful, they should embrace loose coupling.
   5. Where it's useful, they should embrace glorious, nonblocking,
   asynchronous pubsub. ;)
   6. Where it's useful, they should embrace microformats, a/k/a
   lowercase semantic web.
   7. Where it's needed, they should embrace the time-tested principles
   of Scalable Internet Architectures (three simple rules : optimize
   where it counts, complexity has its costs, and use the right tool).

Furthermore, I believe that Rohit's work on ARRESTED, summarized by


has a lot of currently-unmined potential to change the way people
write decentralized applications.  It has a compelling vision


that could change how e-commerce is conducted...

   zLab is exploring a new frontier of electronic commerce:
   decentralization. In its first decade, CommerceNet advocated using
   the Web to reduce friction in business, helping usher in the
   so-called "New Economy" of large, centralized, hyper-efficient
   firms. We think the next decade will be about agile networks of
   firms collaborating dynamically to form a "Now Economy."

   In that sense, the original New Economy vision of Amazon.com is
   merely a very large, centralized, hyper-efficient bookstore (and now,
   toy store, clothing store, etc.) The new sense of a Now Economy is
   also being pioneered by Amazon, through its Amazon Services
   subsidiary: using open business services to turn Amazon "inside out"
   by letting affiliates tap into their product catalogs, reviews,
   sales, and fulfillment processes to create their own stores.

   This fits into our larger vision of building software that works the
   way society works, following the principles of Decentralization:
   without unduly restricting the freedom of sovereign individuals and
   organizations to trade directly.

So we'll see what comes of this decentralization experimentation at
CommerceNet.  It was only six months ago that I quoted CommerceNet
Founder Marty Tenenbaum as he quoted several others


in giving me several pearls of wisdom to string together...

    You should be the change you seek in the world.
          -- Mahatma Gandhi


    If you will it, it's not a dream.
          -- Theodor Herzl


    The best way to predict the future is to create it.
          -- Alan Kay


    What we do in life, echoes in eternity.
          -- Maximus Decimus Meridius, Gladiator


    it takes courage to grow up and turn out to be who you really are
          -- ee cummings

Which brings me full circle to where I started today: with a fortune
cookie whose fortune says,

    Wisdom is only found in truth.

The truth shall set me free, as each day cascades into the next
and time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping... into the future...

ifindkarma AT something-or-another DOT com

Money doesn't solve everything. You can buy more disks and bandwidth,
but you cannot buy more secrets and time.
      -- Rohit Khare in a group meeting today

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