Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Edge-Joo-Mah-Cay-Shun

I wrote an article on a kooky guy named N.D. Sickels once (here). I found the old man's writing to be very honest (though pretty crazy). Due to it's quaintness and honesty, his book written in 1919 called "The Universal Panacea" has remained relevant to modern kook researchers.

Another equally quaint and honest manuscript by a bored old man, back in 1990, which has remained relevant for many years now is the one by Ernest "Free" Mann. He shares many things in common with Sickels (utopian, honesty, quaint) but Mann is less crazy than Sickels (yet he's also a far more boring writer than Sickels). Mann was an old retired guy with a lot of time on his hands, who sat down and wrote his thoughts on life and then offered it free of charge as a newsletter through the mail (this was pre-internet of course).

Mann's Manuscript, Free I Got: http://mountholly-lamano.com/freeigot.htm

It's very long and you'll notice right off the bat, it's very utopian and unrealistic. In fact, respected kook researcher Ivan Stang assesses Mann's manuscript in his work High Weirdness by Mail as follows,

Definitely the most idealistic, and arguably the most naive set of pamphlets in our Archives. The author's plan for total world utopia involves, simply, everyone working for nothing; all competition would be abolished. Work without pay - is that too much to ask? It's a pathetic halfway measure, though. We'd still be working. Otherwise, it might be a great idea...on some other planet, using some other race besides humans. [The price of the newsletter is] Free, of course.

-Stang, I. "High Weirdness by Mail", p.159

Ernest Mann tried to push a platform called the "Priceless Economic System" (or PES) in his newsletter and manuscript. This platform involved everyone doing what they felt like doing and work was done by people offering certain skills they had into a "skill pool" which would be shared by everyone.

I like to read these types of things because I like to synthesize many many different opinions on subjects before I develop my own opinion on them. Kook writings are great because you have a good chance of finding a view point that you haven't seen before, which may refine your opinion a bit more. Even if you conclude that everything they said in the article was wrong/bad/crazy at least you've hit another opinion vein. Even disproving an opinion on a subject is still refining your own opinion, it's not lost time.

The other great thing about kook writings, is the rare time, when something they said turns out to probably be right. In a manuscript this long, where probably a few thousand opinions have been released, it's rare that not one of them would be right.

Education

The following are excerpts from "Free I Got" and other writings in Ernie's "Little Free Mann Press,"

Have you ever wanted to learn something new? Like a new trade or profession? Then looked into the cost and time it would take to go to college? One can learn at the library through books, but most books are so vague that one must get more books to understand the first book. This way they make more money from books and classes.

When I bought my computer in about 1987, I also bought "Microsoft Word" one of the best word processor software packages. The 3" thick manuals that explained how to use the word processor, sometimes had such vague explanations that it was nearly impossible for a beginner to understand. Of course they had classes one could buy. Microsoft also sold a book that they wrote, explaining their manuals. No! They didn't include that book with the software! How do you suppose the Microsoft owner (Gates) got to be a billionaire in his thirties. Not by helping people, but by charging all the traffic would bear! This is just one of the tricks that people must play to get ahead in the Profit/Wage Economics Game. It is not bad people, just a bad Game.
I didn't buy their "extra" book and I didn't take their classes. The self teaching was really fun. It felt so good to re-discover the thrill of learning. There was agony too, but the thrills out-weighed them, so I succeeded.

What I'm trying to get at is, -- now we have a great new technology with computers for self-teaching. There is self-teaching software already, but the good stuff is very expensive.

When we start using the Priceless Economic System, my guess is that children and adults will prefer to learn at their own speeds and will mostly do it with computers at home. I bet it won't be too long before we have networks within our homes. Like each family member will have his/her own keyboard and monitor in their room and the power unit and printer will be in a central location in the home. I suppose the more affluent families already have this. We won't even have to go to the library to get the software. We already have modems that can copy the software from the library over the phone in minutes on to our own hard disks or floppy disks to keep in our home libraries. This sharing wouldn't cost the libraries anything. But you can see how the Profit/Wage Economic System (PWES) would object. (pronounced, pee wee's)
The only thing that is keeping this from happening is the PWES. Think of the Profit land speculators and industrialists make selling land and construction materials to the government to build school and college buildings, to fill them with furniture and fixtures, to sell them heat, air conditioning and light and to supply them with maintenance items. Think of the Profit the publishing industry makes on all the books. Student housing, clothing and busing industries get in on the bonanza too.

Even now, without the use of computers, parents who home-school their children, side-step the above expenses and some do it in less than two hours per day. Their children are able to pass the same tests as the kids who must spend their whole day in school plus have 2 hours of home-work. Tell me, which looks like the most sensible route to Progress?

-Ernest "Free" Mann, Free I Got, (1990)

For 1990, this is pretty good reasoning. Fast forward 22 years to 2012 and it looks like his prediction came true.

Is the university system a big scam? I think I agree with Ernest on this one. Are people now a days starting to learn at their own pace on the internet? Yeah.

I can't tell you how many times I've searched for how to do something and then learned how to do it from a video on the internet. A video that I watched for free, one that someone uploaded to the net simply to teach someone else how to do something. It seems people all over the world are putting up videos, writing manuals, and instructions on how to learn new things for free.

Wait a sec...

Is this the "skill pool" he was predicting? Was he right about that too? Why is everyone teaching everyone else how to do things for free?

Here's an example of the millions of "How-To" videos on the net right now:



The Precious KHAAAAN! Learning System

Okay, maybe how to tie a tie is not the coolest example of the learnable skills in the vast and deep skill pool of the internet.

This website, which probably everyone knows by now, Khaaaaan! Academy Dot Org (or http://www.khanacademy.org/) is a better example. Khan Academy is basically a High School diploma for anyone who wants one. Heck, it's even a college diploma for anyone who wants one. Who am I kidding, it's a university degree for anyone who wants one. Well, not really...you can't put Khan leaves on a resume so no one's going to believe you're smart even though you are.

It was started by a nice guy named Sal Khan who worked as a hedge fund analyst in the Profit/Wage Economic System (sorry, I'm still stuck in Ernie Mann viewpoint shock after re-reading Free I Got) who got sick of the bullshit, ditched the PeeWees, and started contributing merit to the Priceless Economic System.

Why did Khan ditch the world of sheisters and scammers, to devote his life to free education?

Khan
According to him,

"With so little effort on my own part, I can empower an unlimited amount of people for all time. I can't imagine a better use of my time."

-Sal Kahn



Time

That word, "time", comes up about a hundred thousand times in Ernest Mann's manuscript. As an old man putting his thoughts to paper, Ernie must have had time on the brain. Maybe as he was aging and starting to understand his time was in its waning years...maybe he started thinking about what actual contributions and merits he made to human history during his time being part of it,
  
"Knowing I'm 63 years old and counting. Even though I'm trying for 165 years, time is still precious. Realizing I have only "X" number of years left and starting right now to use them (this moments) for my own pleasure and happiness. "
-Ernest Mann
Similar to Khan, Ernest Mann was successful in the business world. He worked in the real estate business in Minnesota before getting sick of the rat race and dropping out of it at the age of 42.

In retrospect, maybe his ideas weren't as crazy as once was thought. Is scamming and squeezing more money from someone else for someone else really the best use of your time? Money which is just a human construct that doesn't even really exist? Probably not.

Are sites like Khan Academy proof that Mann's idea of a universal "Skill Pool" or his "Priceless Economic System" may actually hold some water? Possibly, at least it's interesting to think about anyway.

Conclusion

Sometimes observing subjects from a different perspective is fun. You can form your own conclusions on matters and maybe even alter your belief systems slightly.

"Since then [Mann] has had the time and space to observe economics from a different perspective and has had 21 years to travel to many countries; read, observe, discuss, think, evaluate and form his own conclusions about the economic situation, politics, religion, life and individual freedom. Now his belief systems are far different than they were when he was busily engaged in trying to keep his bills paid."

-Free I Got