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Seriously, why not?  Why the hell can't we have voluntary, tight-knit communities organized around dedication to science, technology, and Humanism?  Why do our scientific communities all degenerate into research arms of the military-industrial complex or corporations?  I've been on a completely random and inexplicable kick lately of watching documentaries and reality TV shows about the Amish, and it got me wondering - why are the only self-sufficient, grassroots, tight-knit communities in this country ones that are based on fucking religion (spit)?  Why is that the choice - live in a disconnected, nihilistic suburb; a disconnected and dangerous urban labyrinth; or a rural community full of ignorant hicks who hate modernity and don't know the Earth is round?  Why can't we build real, self-sustaining communities like in Neal Stephenson's Anathem that are strongly rooted in scientific and mathematical education?

This is admittedly just a random thought, but it's one that occurs to me again and again, and keeps irritating me.  We have college towns in this country that are strong on education, but they're completely undirected - basically just places where people can, if they feel like it, seek an education.  But where are there communities that are actually dedicated to the educational/scientific/technological proposition from stem to stern?  Where are the cities whose governmental architecture is fundamentally designed to promote continuous progress and advancement?  

We have tons of cities that are nothing more than brand labels on the financial interests of the rich people who live in them; so-called "communties" that are nothing more than filing cabinets for the workers who support the rich people in the former category; and here and there, rural towns where organic cultures evolve that are painfully dominated by ignorance, parochialism, and religious superstition.

Obviously what I'm talking about is not some impractical fantasy of a city full of scientists and engineers, because obviously any working community needs a lot more waitresses and construction workers than PhDs, but where are the cities that are ethically and politically guided by science and engineering?  Where are they?  These things are the zenith achievements of Western civilization, but they're treated as little more than gadget-mongers to implement the designs of nihilistic corporate sociopaths and corrupt political systems.  Why not have communities where science and engineering are the guiding forces and not just slaves to base impulse?  

I'm thinking that the Amish are a pretty robust, stable societal model, and it's not because what guides their culture is particularly worthy - it's a bunch of religious mythology and gruesomely authoritarian attitudes, and they'd be well and truly fucked if the rest of society didn't protect them.  But why not have voluntarily religion-free communities where it's the theists who are shunned, and stupidity rather than impiety is the sin?  Where principles of logical planning and evidence-based policy are at the core of the local culture?  

I know this is just a random tangent, but maybe the country as a whole would benefit from the development of such communities.  We already have more than we can handle of medievalist fundie towns and corporate wastelands, and the artistic achievements of our major cities aren't really enough to overcome the damaging effects of the former.  We need some Science Cities - not just places associated with science and technology, but actually dedicated to them on every level.

8:51 AM PT: Think about it: Isn't the Federation really just the extension of university life to the level of an entire civilization?  Why can't we start that by implementing it on the municipal level?

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Comment Preferences

  •  Silicon Valley and the Boston Area (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jfdunphy, Troubadour, FG

    (for example) are what you're describing, more or less.

    And illustrate that a fair degree of wealth and a high standard of living can be generated from such an approach.

  •  How about Greensburg, Kansas? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    OrangeMike, Troubadour

    They seem to want to be a community like that, committing to trying all sorts of environmentally sustainable technologies and approaches after the tornado destroyed their town a few years ago.

    "Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it... unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense." -The Buddha

    by Brian A on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 07:55:59 AM PST

  •  Try Silicon Valley (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour, FG

    It is not quaint, like the Amish country, and it is not decades ahead of mankind with jetpacks and flying cars.

    But in terms of favoring science, funding activities that are based on science, and having an economy based on scientific development, it is a fair model.

    That said, there are a lot of libertarians and execs and finance guys who are rank and file GOP koolaid drinkers who do not quite recognize the disconnect between their political leanings and their lives.

  •  The Amish are a lot more saavy than (8+ / 0-)

    you think, especially if your only exposure to them is a reality show that's mostly false anyway. I'm lucky enough to have them as neighbors, and for the record, they don't live seperate from "the English", as they refer to the rest of us. They kind of can't, in the same way you describe we can't have exclusionary "science cities".

    There's plenty of science cities. Research Triangle? Silicon Valley? New York City? Cambridge? Come on. You didn't look hard enough.

    pseudoscience can kill

    by terrypinder on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 08:06:46 AM PST

    •  We took a tour of the Mennonite/Amish Behalt (5+ / 0-)

      this summer; our second tour of this powerfully-painted circular panoramic painting and cultural center in rural (Amish country) Ohio.

      Our explainer/lecturer for the tour was astoundingly articulate, smart, and educated.  It was one of the best lectures/tours of an historical structure and of an artwork that I'd ever experienced--- and I'm well-traveled, going on lots of such tours.  This man blew me away with his excellence.

      I asked him afterward if he'd attended an institute of higher learning or done college-level studies of art and/or history, and he replied that he was self-taught and had only come up through Amish schooling.

      That's one more thing to add to my long list of small problems. --my son, age 10

      by concernedamerican on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 08:11:11 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  there's an Amish family up the road (7+ / 0-)

        who (for a price, obviously) hosts "Family Style Home-Cooked Dinners" for groups in their home. We did one of our thanksgivings there.

        The only difference between her kitchen and my kitchen is the lack of electricity.

        pseudoscience can kill

        by terrypinder on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 08:26:22 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Very interesting! (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Troubadour, raincrow
          The only difference between her kitchen and my kitchen is the lack of electricity.
          So just have a bunch of electric appliances sitting there, being  totally useless due to the aforementioned lack of electricity?

          Or is that point that YOU eschew such things?

          •  I actually have very few appliances (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Roadbed Guy, raincrow

            like toasters and toaster ovens and random mixers and those ridiculous things they sell on TV because they'd rarely get used.

            however, the ones I saw appeared to be gas/kerosene powered (for those that needed immediate use, like a refigerator---to make mashed potatoes they used a battery powered hand-drill.)

            I suppose I should have been a bit clearer. No, they don't have microwaves either. On the other hand I didn't until I was 17 or so.

            pseudoscience can kill

            by terrypinder on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 12:48:51 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Hmm. that's interesting! (0+ / 0-)

              I didn't realize that gas powered appliances were OK for the Amish (while the corresponding electric powered counterparts were of the devil!).  

              But I guess it's not up to me to judge other's religious beliefs - heck, if that were the case as a Pastafarian somebody would have long since eaten my god.

              •  it depends on the individual church group (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Roadbed Guy

                some groups are very anti-tech--to the point where we have to fight them to put reflectors on their buggies. Others are a lot more open to it.

                The ones in my area don't have electricity in the home and do not own cars  but they do shop at Walmart and the grocery stores for supplies. People drive them there, or they drive their buggies there.

                There's also lots of people in my area who help them out by giving them rides to worksites and typing letters for them, which is why I can't call them a closed community. They also use travel back and forth on Amtrak between Lancaster and Philadelphia (although I'm not sure where the group I saw was headed). There's a lot of interaction between the groups, but they don't seek converts so they're not actually spreading their religion which is probably why I don't really mind them too much. That's probably the one of the few way that they're a closed group to outsiders. A lot of the TV shows about them are not quite correct. Also, they're just such damn good cooks. My favorite treat of summer are the pies.

                I suppose in other parts of the nation it's different. Pennsylvania is pretty densely populated so there has to be a high level of interaction, it perhaps is different in Indiana and Ohio which also have large Amish populations.

                pseudoscience can kill

                by terrypinder on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 01:06:48 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

    •  Why the Amish? (0+ / 0-)

      Despite the diarist's spitting contempt (para.1, 4th sentence) for religion in general and the Amish's Christianity in passing, the juxtaposition vis-a-vis a "science-based" community is telling.
            Perhaps the Amish are sustained over centuries of time (as are other communities like abbeys, nunnerys, kibbutzim, etc.) BECAUSE they are faith-based; they believe in something/SomeOne greater than the human mind/ego/person?
           There have been numerous attempts at idealized communities based on mutual love/support/respect in the US, starting with the English settlement of Massachusetts, through the Amish and Mennonite separatists,, through the open marriage covenant groupings of the 1830s & 1840s (see "New Harmony" e.g.) right down to the hippie communes of the 1960s. Yet the ones that have LASTED invariably seem to be those that build into their core an understanding that we are not alone and that we are not the masters of the universe. That day-in/day-out acknowledgement of our limits and of our place seems to make sustained communities possible while others wither away.
            In the 18th & 19th centuries maybe we got it wrong. Scientists were sorting and classifying all forms of life down to the species level. For a name (like, say, "canis domesticus") they looked for a term that was broad enough to include all members of the species yet narrow enough to be distinctive. That way you can tell a "canis domesticus": domesticated dog, from its cousin "canis lupus": the wolf. Obviously similar...and yet most definitely distinct.
           They debated on what to call humans and settled on "homo sapiens": "Wise human". Another contender was "homo religiosus": "worshipping human." They may have missed it; theism on some level is far more universal to our species than wisdom (I offer in denying evidence of wisdom the physical existence of Sarah Palin and Louis Gohmert.)



      "God has given wine to gladden the hearts of people." Psalm 104:15

      by WineRev on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 12:58:57 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Greed. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour, WineRev

    This is your answer.

    This tunnel vision towards money makes people blind to other things like safety and long-term goals.

    The engineers at NASA said please don't launch the Challenger in 1989 because it is too cold. Their superiors and politicians wanted them to because there was all kinds of political and monetary incentives to do so. The guys who made those infamous o-rings also did not specify that they could be used at such low temps.

    The safe thing to do would have been to reschedule the launch date. If they did, then the elementary school I went to would not have been named after Christa McAuliffe.

    Engineers make mistakes too. Try the Kansas City Hyatt Walkway collapse.

    Sometimes they're unintended... see First Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

    Engineers may have a much better tendency to learn from failure but they are faaar from perfect.

    An engineer in politics who sticks to ethics, efficiency and pragmatism? A technocrat.

    Why hello there reality, how are you doing?

    by Future Gazer on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 08:08:47 AM PST

    •  Kansas City Hyatt Walkway collapse (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      was due to bad implementation, not design.

      The walkways were supposed to all be attached to the roof.  Instead they were all attached to the walkway above them, meaning the top one had to bear the full load.

      That was a failure of the builder and inspector.  The blueprints were not followed.

      Watching Mitt's strategy is what it looks like when you try to put an etch a sketch in a centrifuge.

      by AppleP on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 09:37:03 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  If the blueprints were not followed (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        why did the architects lose their licenses?

        The dudes threading the roof attachments didn't want to thread that much of the support rods so they suggested a change which the architects (or their underlings) didn't realize holy shit instead of bearing L, it's bearing 2L! They signed off on it.

        I seriously doubt the original design was fine wrt to building code. I saw the size of the roof attachments they were pretty darned thin... along with the way they attached them to the walkway beams.

        Let's try another engineering goof: those DC-10 planes that fell out of the sky. The cargo doors were not plug types. For outward opening, they had this rube goldberg mechanism. The hydraulics were in the floor, then floor collapse when the doors flew off, then hydraulic fluid bleeds out and the pilot couldn't control the plane.

        Why hello there reality, how are you doing?

        by Future Gazer on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 10:18:19 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  You have something (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Future Gazer
      Greed. (2+ / 0-)

      This is your answer.

            How would things look different?
           During World War II Nigeria was part of the British Empire. Food and the land to grow it on was scarce in England and a lot of trading partners were not available. The British had the Nigerian Governor-General (or whatever the title was) have the Nigerians sharply increase their crops of vegetables for export to England. Parliament ponied up extra money to pay for it.
           The Governor-General placed large orders at prices higher than the going rate (which, of course, is exactly what capitalism teaches us about 'human nature'). But quantities of vegetables (which was the point) collapsed. Nigerians hoarded beets, radishes, potatoes, etc. and refused to sell.
           In vain did the Governor-General explain that they had nothing to fear. No, they would NOT be be left with nothing or reduced to subsistence (which is how he interpreted their actions) but rather would make more money for the same quantities.
           Then it was explained to him the Nigerians did not fear shortages or even confiscations. Rather, now that the Governor-General was paying twice the usual prices for their vegetables for export to the mother country, everyone realized they only had to work half as hard...since they were satisfied with what they had and earned.
            Only later did the Governor-General hit on the idea of paying LESS than the going rate (so people had to work harder to produce more to keep their incomes level) did he get the quantities he needed for shipping to England. He was also in the unusual position of having to explain to Parliament why a war measure was producing excellent results at half the cost expected, and why was the Governor-General seeking to RETURN funds to the Exchequer?

      So what values do we have...and what values can we construct?


      "The world produces enough for every man's need but not for every man's greed."----Mahatma Ghandi

      "God has given wine to gladden the hearts of people." Psalm 104:15

      by WineRev on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 01:16:15 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Much simpler time. (0+ / 0-)

        I also doubt the Nigerians have the same society that we do or the technological sophistication wrt to the time period you mention. You are describing a very agrarian society.

        If we could make the newest techs without capital intensive equipment, then I'm sure an inverse-Amish tech town would be more than doable.

        The Amish build/grow almost everything themselves - at least that was the impression I got from a documentary I watched in high school. Where they need money to buy the other things they can't make, they will produce goods to sell on the market. Amish-made noodles, furniture and things like that are pretty common in Michigan.

        Ever wondered what it takes to build JUST the CPU in the computer you're using to reply to me?

        Why hello there reality, how are you doing?

        by Future Gazer on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 01:37:03 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Where was your elementary school? (0+ / 0-)

      My kids went to a school named for her as well, in Silicon Valley.  It was one of four alternative schools in its district, with an emphasis on hands-on learning.  Also tons of field trips made possible by spending money on trips rather than busses (lots of parent driving requests).

      I think the school once checked and found 3 other schools named for her.

      Also Challenger was 1986.  I remember where I was when we heard the news, an office in San Francisco; was working in SV by 89.  Which was when we had the Loma Prieta earthquake (the one televised because it was at the Bay Area World Series).  The two major structural failures there: one section of the Bay Bridge collapsed and an elevated section of I-880 pancaked onto the other section underneath.

  •  The idea of science-oriented communities is good (8+ / 0-)

    Though I wouldn't assume that everyone interested in living in such a community would also "spit" about religion.

    Also, I wouldn't assume that the Amish are either anti-technology, or that their communities are all about relgion. You've likely seen much of this if you've been watching shows about them (though I've watched none of the shows about them, so I don't know how they come across on TV), but Amish communities are more of a social movement than a fixed religious idea. Their evaluation of technology isn't based on any feeling that technology is evil or ungodly. The idea is to weight the benefits and losses of the technology against the stability of the community. Because most of these decisions are left to individual communities, there's a lot of variation in what is acceptable and what is not. A common example often used to illustrate the intent of the restrictions is that Amish have no trouble with roller skates, not even with modern in-line skates, but they often have strict restrictions on bicycles. Why? Because they view bicycles as something that might take a child too far from home too early in life. Phones in the house where they distract from family matters? No. Phones in the business? Yes.

    Sorry for running on. I spent a couple of years researching the Amish and visiting with some local communities to build up background for a novel. Since I've never sold the novel, I have to spew the information when I get a chance.

    Anyway, the Amish aren't Luddites. But then, neither were the Luddites.

  •  Don't forget medical research hospitals (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    they can't exist in a vacuum, they need patients to perform their function.

  •  Cryptonomicon? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Didn't you mean his book Anathem?

    "The language of the conqueror in the mouth of the conquered, is ever the speech of a slave." Tacitus

    by letsgetreal on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 08:24:54 AM PST

  •  It's not a bad idea. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    My fear is that if a community like that thrived, the fundagelicals and other medieval thinkers would hate that and burn it to the ground.

    Maybe we could use it as a plan for the first permanent settlement on the Moon.

  •  I used to live in Boston (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour, Yoshimi, FG, the fan man

    I'd say that's pretty close.

    Let's see. One town: Harvard. MIT. UMass. Boston College. Brandeis. Tufts. Northeastern.

    And arts. And music.

    Republicans are politely given a map and a one-way ticket out of town.

    Unless you prefer Eureka? But that's been cancelled so nevermind.

    I am progressive. I am liberal. I make no apologies. - Kos

    My political compass: - 8.38,-6.97

    by pucklady on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 08:33:14 AM PST

    •  Eureka if it weren't an MIC tool (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      and if it were serious and visionary rather than a bunch of semi-comedic Acme gadget humor.  Basically a much more flexible version of Tokyo.

      Like I say, I don't see Boston or those other college towns as being what I'm talking about.  They have a culture of education, but it's not formalized - it's not any kind of official basis for their existence.  The colleges don't run the cities.

      In Roviet Union, money spends YOU.

      by Troubadour on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 08:43:12 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Well, Eureka had potential (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour, trumpeter

    when I first started watching this TV show I thought it was going to be about something like that, but actually Global Dynamics works for the Defense Department. And something goes horribly, drastically wrong there in every episode. And the only guy who can fix it is our common-sense, non-scientist sheriff, sigh.

    TV and movies have a long, sturdy tradition of painting science and scientists as corrupt, evil, wrong-headed and blind. Spielberg probably bears some of the blame for our culture's view of science.

    I love it that Obama's channeling Harry Truman: "I don't give 'em hell; I just tell the truth and they think it's hell!"

    by sillia on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 08:33:22 AM PST

    •  Our culture's view of science is largely to blame (0+ / 0-)

      on the fact that we inherited our technological foundations from a bunch of ex-Nazis, and had to dance a tango with the Soviet Union to avoid armageddon.  But we don't need to be chained to the past like that, and certainly not to a present that's nothing more than trivial gadgets.

      In Roviet Union, money spends YOU.

      by Troubadour on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 08:45:18 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Ah, ah, now ... the sheriff didn't "fix" problems (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sillia, Troubadour

      per se ... he asked the right questions to get the science guys to fix the problems.  That was his real talent.

      And really, only Beverly was portrayed as "evil" - the other scientists' main failing was not thinking through all the possible consequences after getting caught up in the "golly gee wow, that's cool!" trap.  And that's a human failing, not a science failing.

      Yeah, I liked Eureka - even the reboot, which I thought was at least original. :)

      •  The Sheriff understood that science ran the show (0+ / 0-)

        and he was just there to make sure things didn't run off the rails.  That's what all the normal jobs in a town dedicated to science would be like.  People might not understand everything that's going on around them, but they'd get to participate nonetheless, have a sense of being part of something larger than themselves, and have tangible proof of the value of that participation rather than lame-ass faith.

        In Roviet Union, money spends YOU.

        by Troubadour on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 11:03:26 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I liked it too (0+ / 0-)

        and I also like the sheriff and his reasoning. It's just that everybody else there seems out of control. As you say, not seeing consequences. In reality most scientists are cautious, often too cautious.

        It was Spielberg who makes scientists malevolent. And I think that has had an effect.

        By the way, did you watch Warehouse 13? I just love the interesections in it with Eureka.

        I love it that Obama's channeling Harry Truman: "I don't give 'em hell; I just tell the truth and they think it's hell!"

        by sillia on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 11:52:27 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Luurrrve Warehouse 13! (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Actually, the first scientist portrayed as "evil" per se really was Frankenstein, who created a "monster" and then abandoned it (in the book) and rejected it (in the films).  Try some of the Frankstein movies made by Hammer Films in the '60's, starring Peter Cushing.  Dang, but that portray of Frankenstein would have made Lucifer slap his forehead and "I could have had a V-8!" :)

          There are lots of films where scientists are shown as "evil" or "malevolent", starting with the beginning of film.  How about the 1930's version of "The Island of Dr. Moreau?"  Charles Laughton was definitely malevolent in that one!

          Heck, if you read Jules Verne, Nemo kinda comes across as slightly malevolent (or at least obsessed), and Robur, Master of the Air is definitely malevolent.

          So, I don't think we can lay the blame exclusively on Spielberg.  He may have expanded the meme somewhat, but he definitely had a strong foundation to work from.  

  •  Does a tight knit community (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour, terrypinder

    advance or deter scientific discovery?  

    Are major experiments economically sustainable?  There is a reason why DOD, DOE, and major corporations are involved.  

    A builder of scientific communities.

    •  Pursuit of economically sustainable means (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      to undertake major experiments could be one of the important ongoing achievements of such a community.  Not everything with great significance has to involve baroque engineering - in fact, creativity is often stifled the more bloated, bureaucratic, and politicized science becomes.

      In Roviet Union, money spends YOU.

      by Troubadour on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 08:48:46 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Seed money is the big issue. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        FG, Troubadour

        ROI can be great but anything on the scale of Hadron can only be made viable through the funding by government (s).  And with this funding strings are always attached.

        But once you get beyond your obligations to government, many of our ongoing experiments are actually making money and our major labs hold patents on the building blocks of our world.

        Would you consider CERN a scientific community or is it a Government centered lab like our DOE labs: Oak Ridge, LLBL, LLNL, Argonne, Etc?

  •  Call it a religion, you might get govt aid. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree. -Martin Luther

    by the fan man on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 09:41:07 AM PST

  •  You are to a significant extent describing a (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    the fan man, terrypinder

    culture of some startups and science departments in major universities. The thing is that creating artificial communities doesn't really work well. Soviet Union tried it with their closed cities and Akademgorodok. It wasn't anything terrible but there was no obvious advantage to them.

    Natural communities (e.g. Silicon Valley) work much better. They are not as uniform but it's actually a good thing.

    •  And yet 'artificial communities' like the Amish (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      somehow manage to prosper and spread in their own way.  There is sure as hell no organic basis for people to shut themselves off from prevailing technology and societal norms and instead live by religious principles.  It's an arbitrary choice that continues on its own social inertia, and I see no reason why that couldn't also occur with principles that actually deserve to be embodied in a culture.

      In Roviet Union, money spends YOU.

      by Troubadour on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 10:32:34 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Many people in your target audience already have (0+ / 0-)

        communities like this in their workplaces and to some extent other activities (neighborhoods, schools, churches etc.). And unless the environment around them is hostile (and they mostly live in the areas where it's not), there is little reason to go beyond that.

        My point is, I'm not against your idea. I just don't think communities like you propose will be sustainable. You need strong motivation to shut yourself off from the world. Religion may provide it but I don't see what else will.

        •  How about as a rejection of religion? (0+ / 0-)

          As a rejection of corporate domination?  These things are suffocating science and humanistic commitment to progress.

          In Roviet Union, money spends YOU.

          by Troubadour on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 12:23:15 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Rejection of religion is not nearly as powerful in (0+ / 0-)

            creating closed communities as religion. Science needs money. A lot of it. Where will it come from if not government or corporations? You really don't need to go all the way to creating a special community if you simply want to find a group of like-minded people to hang out with.

  •  Corvallis, Oregon (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    As close a place as I'm aware of.   It's not all that large.    Note that the big summer festival is "DaVinci Days".
    Oregon State University is there, and some engineering companies.   HP is there - it used to be a lot bigger, but the campus is now home to a number of research outfits.       The town is quite liberal.     Of course, you've got to be rain-tolerant.

  •  Science and research need money (0+ / 0-)

    which means either a governmental or private industry backing.

    What you get culturally depends on who is supplying the money (the culture of Caltech and MIT are quite different, and there are good reasons why.   Likewise Silicon Valley is pretty different from Seattle in how corporate cultures fall out...both have high tech incubators but the evolution was different, the funding sources are different and the big established companies are VERY different in history and emphasis).

    By contrast, if you want to form an Amish settlement all you need is land suitable for the lifestyle and some like-minded people.   There is a startup cost, but once it's going it doesn't need the constant money is essentially self-sufficient.

    Even groups that do need outside support (religious compounds, militia groups or similar) don't need money anywhere near on the scale of scientific research and development. want a technocratic utopia with the best elements of a research university?   You need a cash cow that is independent of outside pressures.  Bill Gates chose to spend his fortune in other ways.  So, unfortunately, did all those right wing dudes who tried to buy the last election and continue to focus on politics.

    •  Along these same thoughts (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Troubadour, trumpeter, terrypinder

      The TV Show Eureka is kind of a thought experiment of this type, a community of "mad scientists", a cartoon of what you're thinking of. exists only because of a government-funded private megacorporation that does all kinds of unethical, morally dubious and objectively unsafe things.    Which means it all exists by permission of the Govt military industrial complex oversight (I think there is a general directly assigned, plus it's part of the defense budget so it's subject to Congressional appropriations in the end)

      Even in fiction, there is a recognition that a society based on research and learning isn't sustainable by its own resources.  It either needs constant outside funding, or it needs to focus its research on stuff that can be turned into products for resale (which swiftly turns you into a company town, not the college-like environment desired).

      •  Unjustified assumption more than "recognition." (0+ / 0-)

        In Roviet Union, money spends YOU.

        by Troubadour on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 10:35:15 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Show me a counterexample (0+ / 0-)

          anywhere in the world or at any point in history.

          I know of none.   I'd welcome being proved wrong.

          Research and learning are expensive and they don't pay for themselves without a relentless focus on products that can meet a current demand.   Historically centers of learning and inventors were paid for with patronage.  Currently, patronage is often replaced by government funding or corporate grants (which both steer research toward their pet concerns)

          It's tough to build a community that is a money pit without becoming beholden to something or someone outside that can provide the funds...and thus warp the community and its goals.

          •  Think of it like this. (0+ / 0-)

            Christianity doesn't pay Amish people's bills.  And yet it's the center of their culture.  They do things to pay their bills that are in accord with their view of Christianity, but their religion is the whole point of their identity.  So why can't the pinnacle achievement of Western civilization, modern science, fulfill a similar role?  Science is not a program, BTW, but a set of principles and methods.  We have no idea what kinds of innovations could come out of such a culture.

            In Roviet Union, money spends YOU.

            by Troubadour on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 10:59:42 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Science is a methodology, not a cultural morality (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              You make a hypothesis
              You test the hypothesis
              You publish results and methodology of your tests
              Others repeat the tests and review your conclusions.

              Lather, rinse, repeat.

              It's gained traction because it has had success in answering questions about the world, and in finding solutions to problems in the physical world.

              But it doesn't help at all in telling a person how to live his life, or how to treat other people or how to structure a community.   A lot of why not is that much of what is important to people is inside them and can't be measured or verified from the outside.

              If you look at religions, the heart of them is the strictures which give guidance on how a "good" person lives their life.

              A community based on "science" would need to agree on what the definition of a "good citizen" was as their starting point.   Then maybe you could come up with theories about how to ensure more good citizens, test those theories, change things based on the results, etc.

              In the university structure, the behavioral norms are in fact deeply tied to the funding structures and the power relationships between those who provide money, those who do the research that draws the money, those who teach and those who learn, plus those who provide day-to-day support so all of the above can focus on things other than food and shelter.    A modern university campus has more in common with a 10th century religious monastery than any "scientific" society.

              If I was to imagine a society where the highest good was to advance scientific research, it would be a society where everyone tithed to pay for the research, there would be some kind of meritocratic gateway to be one of the chosen few who gets to use the tithe to DO the research and hopefully some way for the community as a whole to get a say in what sort of research got done.

              This isn't all that different from countries where taxes pay for grants for research, with the university and degree programs providing the meritocratic gateway.

              It's just that a science-based subcommunity would be paying a significant amount of income in LOCAL taxation where they could then direct the funds into research benefiting LOCAL concerns (and also the educational opportunities of their citizens for preparing for and passing the meritocratic tests to become a high status scientist, with lower status but still valued positions of research assistant, lab tech etc).

    •  "Science and research need money." (0+ / 0-)

      Really?  Or is it just that the science and research that people with money want to see needs money?  I'd be curious to know what kind of science and technology could be achieved with the PhD-ridden equivalent of a barn raising.  Elon Musk sure as shit had no backing when he started out, and he isn't even a full-blown scientist or engineer - he just knew what he was doing.

      In Roviet Union, money spends YOU.

      by Troubadour on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 10:34:44 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  this is why I like steampunk and retrotech (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      To me, it boils down to finding ways to reduce the amount of money and physical and social infrastructure necessary to enjoy the fruits of technology.  If you can build it out of wood in your garage, then you don't need governments and megacorps with effectively unlimited budgets, manpower, and resources.

      There are limits of course, but that's where sociology comes in.  "Big science" is impossible without collaboration no matter who funds it.  You have to be able to get people together in the spirit of creation and discovery to achieve something far beyond what any one person could do individually.  To the extent that practical concerns (food, shelter, etc.) can be taken care of with a minimum of time and effort, more people can devote more of themselves to bigger and better things.

      To those who say the New Deal didn't work: WWII was also government spending

      by Visceral on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 10:53:23 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  This is very true. (0+ / 0-)

        After all, the original visions that ultimately led to the Apollo program were born in 19th century imaginative works that saw it in far simpler terms than the reality had to be.  The dream has to be communicated before the complex reality can be born.  You need Jules Verne before you can have Goddard, and Goddard before Von Braun.

        In Roviet Union, money spends YOU.

        by Troubadour on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 11:06:18 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Sign me up. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I wish I could double-rec for the spit emote on religion.

  •  Have you ever seen (4+ / 0-)

    "Big Bang Theory"?

    Alas, there are many elements of it (apart from the humor) that are accurate enough to show why it never happens.


    I am not religious, and did NOT say I enjoyed sects.

    by trumpeter on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 10:34:18 AM PST

    •  Doesn't have to be populated with prima donnas. (0+ / 0-)

      Not every scientist is a giant ego monster who constantly obsesses on trivial minutiae.  Those people can stay at the universities.  I'm just wondering about everyone else, who just wants to make progress.

      In Roviet Union, money spends YOU.

      by Troubadour on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 10:41:32 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I have never run across (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        a place that had a lot of smart people that didn't also have an almost terminal competitiveness to it.  The smarter people get, and the more successful in their field, the more they tend to believe they have more answers than they really do.  And the neuroses in BBT are, in my experience, an only slightly exaggerated version of the real thing.

        Yeah, Academe is often a place where this gets out of control, but out of the University you get the scientists at Monsanto and BP and the like who are smart, competitive, pressured, amoral, and completely under the thumb of Big Money, which can make them even more neurotic.

        I am not religious, and did NOT say I enjoyed sects.

        by trumpeter on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 10:48:22 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Hence the need for an alternative, right? (0+ / 0-)

          A place where the point is science, nothing else.  Obviously you can't excise human nature, but you can at least design things from the get-go to be about science and technology rather than about pleasing some bureaucrat or banker scumbag.  I'm just brainstorming here, but I don't see why people couldn't do this - why science couldn't be a social and cultural discipline in addition to an academic one.

          In Roviet Union, money spends YOU.

          by Troubadour on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 10:56:47 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  True enough (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Troubadour, terrypinder

      nevertheless, and call me monumentally naive if you must, but I still pine for the day when experimental and theoretical physicists will co-exist in perfect harmony!

      •  I don't yearn for completism. (0+ / 0-)

        The finalization of physics would basically be the death of science.  And since I don't believe it's possible to fully encompass reality, it would be an unnecessary death because people would merely assume they'd achieved a final answer when they'd merely wrapped up their immediate questions without bothering to look for higher-level ones.

        In Roviet Union, money spends YOU.

        by Troubadour on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 11:11:18 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  And I are one :D (0+ / 0-)


      by raincrow on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 04:04:26 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  analyze WHY the Amish do their thing (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour, MarkW53, WineRev

    Religious communities (like the Amish) are explicitly based around a shared identity, value system, and eschatological goal.  Their technology (or lack thereof) is actually secondary to moral/spiritual purposes: the means rather than the end.  When they do adopt a high-tech solution to a problem, they actually justify it in terms of making it easier to live according to their religious beliefs and sociological agenda.

    This suggests that a humanistic techno-utopia would likewise have to be rooted in sociology, with the shiny toys as the byproduct rather than the goal.  Paradoxically, you'd need to engage the same primitive impulses that religion and tribalism do.  Progress with a capital 'P' would need to be seen not just as a material thing but as a moral obligation and even as a tribal identification: "This is who we are; this is what we believe; and this is what we do!"

    High technology would be the byproduct of a humanistic ethos directed towards expanding horizons and developing, exercising, and [artificially] enhancing physical and mental faculties so that the human who is the object of it all can have, do, be, and know as much as is possible.  Cultivating that ethos in oneself, networking with people who share it, and disseminating it to others who might be open to it would be the core of this project.

    To those who say the New Deal didn't work: WWII was also government spending

    by Visceral on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 10:46:17 AM PST

    •  Well said. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I'm frankly disgusted in our failure to do this in centuries of modern scientific and humanist philosophical effort.

      In Roviet Union, money spends YOU.

      by Troubadour on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 11:12:33 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  b/c science doesn't do mysticism (0+ / 0-)

        Science cannot tell you that you are special ... because you're not.  Science cannot tell you that there is some ineffable quality that elevates you above "this crude matter" ... because there isn't.  Even 'mind' the noun is just another word for 'brain' the verb.  Science cannot tell you that your folkways embody some deep and vital truth about human nature and the physical universe ... because they don't.  Science cannot tell you that this is your land given to you by God ... because it isn't.  Science cannot answer right or wrong, good or bad, only effective, adaptive, etc. ... but effective or adaptive to what end?  Science cannot answer "why", at least not in the teleological sense that laypeople mean it: i.e. materialistic determinism doesn't count.

        Science fails as a basis for culture because it cannot perform the value-creating function of culture, because science does not deal in values.  Science doesn't sell what people want to buy.  Now I'm a bitter and cynical young man who doesn't really care about all that and would be happy to live in a soulless utopia, but most people both rich and poor, simple and sophisticated, wouldn't want to.  This is what religious people mean when they claim that people cannot live without faith, or what Nietzsche meant when he argued that it was not the specific values but the act of valuing that people need in order to function on anything more than an animal level.

        Progress is undefined if you don't have a goal in mind ... and what happens when your goal doesn't require science or high technology or is even harmed by those things?  When you're looking for righteousness or authenticity or any of the usual philosophical objects that culture and tradition and religion explicitly address, science and its toys aren't high on your list.

        To those who say the New Deal didn't work: WWII was also government spending

        by Visceral on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 01:33:28 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Like Minded is One Thing - A Cult Is Another (0+ / 0-)

    Troubadour's comments quoted below are very admirable:

    High technology would be the byproduct of a humanistic ethos directed towards expanding horizons and developing, exercising, and [artificially] enhancing physical and mental faculties so that the human who is the object of it all can have, do, be, and know as much as is possible.  Cultivating that ethos in oneself, networking with people who share it, and disseminating it to others who might be open to it would be the core of this proj

    However, the original blog note as well as Troubadour's comment misses an important question: What is so admirable about a tight knit community? Is it that they are so immediately identifiable? Or is it the implied support system they represent? I tend to think it might be the latter.

    Whether or not like minded beliefs become so strong as to result in tight knit communities, it is the beliefs themselves that are important. Therefore the anti-intellectual science is wrong beliefs are just as important to recognize and condemn as are those point's Troubadour cites in his quote above....and which are quite admirable.

    In my opinion, however, we don't need a cult. I would feel satisfied that there are like minded individuals who through discourse, and disagreements, recognize and respect each other's beliefs.

  •  to your update: (0+ / 0-)
    Think about it: Isn't the Federation really just the extension of university life to the level of an entire civilization?

    No, it wasn't that at all. Except in TNG, perhaps. TOS/DS9 it basically was America in space.

    pseudoscience can kill

    by terrypinder on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 12:51:28 PM PST

  •  Well, the folks (0+ / 0-)

    at Biosphere 2 gave it the old college try -- without the college. Now it belongs to one.

    Bonus worksheet for Biosphere 3 re thrown in [PDF] to get one started.

  •  You are welcome to build it. (0+ / 0-)

    Just don't say I didn't warn you when the villagers with pitchforks show up to kill you and your GMO plants/animals/people.

  •  hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!! (0+ / 0-)

    They're authoritarian and believe in fairy tales, but their shit works, and it's been working for a very long time, and they make close-knit families and prosperous farms and stuff.

    We're sane and rational and smart and very free-spirited but our shit never works, and we keep going over to the dark side and making weapons, and we can't get no gurls.




    by raincrow on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 04:03:28 PM PST

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