The App: from Killer to Mother

Killer AppThe Wikipedia defines “Killer App” as a marketing term for “any computer program that is so necessary or desirable that it proves the core value of some larger technology.” Not surprising that the term comes from marketing, that branch of business devoted to competing for customers and trying to kill off the competition. But if we remove ourselves from the context of dog-eat-dog, and then start from that definition and work backwards to come up with a single word that it defines, well, “killer” hardly seems right. “Mother” fits much better. Those applications that seed the growth of whole new realms, we ought to call Mother Apps.

VisiCalc, the first spreadsheet app, often gets used as the prime example of a Killer App. Lots of folks bought Apple II computers just so they use VisiCalc. More broadly e-mail (as a category of App) frequently gets nominated as the Killer App for the Internet. Pretty obviously nothing was killed in either of these examples but lots got birthed.  More recently the term Killer App has become diluted in common usage to mean any indispensable computer program. Just try typing into google “X is the killer app”, and substitute for x with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc, and you’ll see what I mean.

But I find it really useful to maintain that distinction of source or spring-board. So I offer this definition of “Mother App”: a computer program (or class of program) that uses a technology in a new way to both reveal and unleash its power.” I hope it catches on!

Current-see and Death Straight Talk

I haven’t written much lately, I guess I’ve been busy… mostly with two things: Cancer & Ceptr.

Currently, my time is about living with a spouse with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer and all that it takes to support her as well I can. My work is about building tools for a post-monetary society; creating a new meta-language to allow a vast expansion in social forms that is currently limited primarily by the world’s current statement of value: money.  These two worlds have recently come together in ways worth writing about.

WhDeath Straight Talk Stickeren describing my work-in-the-world, people are always asking me for more examples.  Because abstract descriptions like the one in the paragraph above don’t really do it for folks. I get it.  But it’s hard for me!  When what you are designing is like grammar for a kind of language that doesn’t exist, it’s pretty hard to give examples of sentences in that language, because it doesn’t exist yet!  But there are openings into what that language looks like and what it might feel like to “speak” it.  Here’s the one that comes from the intersection of my two lives.  It’s called DST (Death Straight Talk).

First, go and read my post about DST on Ellen’s cancer blog.  There I share the concrete personal story, when you get back here I’ll tell the current-see story that connects it to my work:

In the post-monetary world, value coordination isn’t reduced to a unidimensional bottom-line of money.  We actually already live with one foot in that world.  We are swimming in non-monetary current-sees like grades, credits, degrees, e-bay/Amazon/Uber ratings, food certifications of all sorts (USDA Organic, Fair-Trade, Non-GMO, etc)–the list goes on.  We just normally don’t recognize them as “parts-of-speech” in a single “language.”  When we do, new things become possible.  

This is what happened to me around DST.  Pretty much everywhere I go now I look at the world through the lens of seeing all the information token systems we use to coordinate our actions.  Movie and train tickets are current-sees, so are postage stamps, and buy-10-get-1-free coffee cards, intake-forms, passports, and licenses, the list goes on and on.  I look for the current-see life-cycle, the issuer, the redeemer, other co-functioning current-sees, and I look for the level of wealth the current-see corresponds to in our living systems model of wealth.

In December, Ellen got diagnosed with malignant pleural and pericardial effusions, which required hospitalization to get drains inserted to relieve fluid buildup in the sacs around her lung and heart (cancer cells muck up the usual flow paths).  While in the hospital a protocol around a slightly lowered blood sodium level involved giving her “some fluids.”  Seemed innocent enough.  Well, in Ellen’s case, those IV fluids ended up causing pretty extreme swelling in her feet (she renamed her feet manatees).  The swelling was bad enough on its own, but due to neuropathy from previous chemotherapy, meant that thereafter walking was almost impossible due to the pain in her feet.  It took three weeks for the swelling to go down, and for Ellen to do more than hobble.  This had a cascade effect on loss of muscle which still hasn’t returned.

It’s pretty clear to me that the protocol that triggered the IV fluids didn’t take into account increased swelling risk, that, it turns out, comes from protein loss from pleural fluid drainage.  I really doubt it took into account added pain due to neuropathy.  And I know for certain that it didn’t take into account quality-of-life assessment around the questions of balancing risk of loss of mobility for a person possibly in the last months of their life, because no-one asked.

At the end of January, I went to California to help co-facilitate a workshop on Deep Wealth Design principles.  On the last day of my trip, I got word that Ellen was back in the hospital again.  After the previous hospitalization we had talked lots, and felt pretty good, about how to communicate with the medical world about her specific risk around IV fluids to prevent immobilization by swelling.  But this time around there was much more going on.  The short version: I could tell that lots of hospital protocols weren’t going to take into account Ellen’s situation, and what she wanted given her prognosis of limited life span.  

Then it hit me, probably because I was primed by the workshop:  Medical staff have a current-see that they know how to pay attention to, the Do-Not-Resuscitate order (DNR).  And it’s issued by the patient!  I knew we need something like that, and that I had to have an acronym to refer to it.  That’s how DST came to be. The rest of the story you know from my post on Ellen’s blog, but from a current-see perspective here’s the take-home:  Adding a token issued by the patient allows re-evaluation of risks built into other protocols based on that patient’s stated understanding of what will create well-being for them.

Note that DST so far isn’t a real current-see, because, unlike a DNR, there’s no social agreement on its issuance, use and life-cycle.  But just my words to nurses “pretend like she has a DST sticker in her chart” made it work as if it were.  It connected the main current-see hospital staff has to work with, the chart, with Ellen’s particular place in the flow.  It’s a pretty powerful example of the effect of current-sees on social systems, and my own beloved’s well-being in the midst of them.

I want this story to give you a visceral sense of how the social body gets built out of the formal information tokens we create  Yes, underneath it’s the humans and their compassion and love and all that great gushy stuff that really matters.  But the social body is built out of communication tokens and the agreements around their use –things like DST.  We will lose what really matters if we don’t understand this.  When we understand it, really and deeply, then we will also develop a kind of “language”, that can all “speak” to allow us to spin up various DST-like current-sees, and to evolve them on the fly.

When we have that new “language,” then we will have stepped fully into the post-monetary world.  That’s why I work on Ceptr and the MetaCurrency project.

 

Behold, the magpi…

And, YAAP (Yet Another Arduino Project), the Micro Arduino Gaming Platform Interface. Finally I’ve done the “shareable value” part of putting together an instructables for how to make the retro-game controller I built for (and with) Will for Christmas. I love this video of Will demoing it:

Das Blinken Bonken!

Seems like end of the year is DYI electronics projects time for me as the Sound Alarm happened round this time last year too.  Well, I’ve been having a ball making Arduino stuff, this time as Christmas presents.  This time I got my documentation act together even more and made a construction tutorial on instructables too!   The code for Das Blinken Bonken is on github, and here’s a video of Jesse showing off the game:

Arduino Sound Alarm

I’ve just completed my second Arduino project, a sound level detector which sets off an “alarm” when there’s the sound level is to high for too long.  I built it for use in a school that wants to provide visual feedback to students when they are being too loud.  The “alarm” is a string of flashing LEDs that’s controlled by an IR-remote, which I reverse engineered using the the arduino itself and the excellent IRremote library to figure out which codes activate the LED string. The IRremote library includes an example that dumps the codes and code types that remotes typically use.  So I just ran that example with my arduino hooked up to an IR detector from adafruit.  It was really quite easy to do.

It’s been a fun project because it’s quite flexible and configurable.  Here’s a short video of the finished product:

For anyone who wants to build one of these here’s a bread-board diagram that I made using the very cool Fritzing package:

The Adruino sketch that powers this is available on github.

Here are some details on the circuitry.  The sound detector is based on the ZX-Sound board. Here’s a nice post on the arduino.cc site that I used as my starting place for building the sound part of this board.  The video helpfully includes a parts list which I sourced from Allied electronics, all except for the mic.  The LCD is the $10 16×2 from Adafruit (their tutorial on wiring it up was great), and I also used their electret microphone.  One note about the microphone is that it’s polarity matters.  If you get it in backwards, it’s much less sensitive.  I found this out purely by accident!  I also used their IR LED.

Here are some photos of assembling the project.

First the prototyping phase:

Then building the connector for the LCD:

Then drilling holes and installing the configuration controls (push-button and pot)

Then assembling and soldering the board with the sound circuit and the trim pot for the LCD as well as the resistor for the IR LED.

Finally, just before enclosing..

The completed project.  Note that I left the mic and IR LED lose because I’m not sure exactly where the alarm is going to be installed and the way they face could matter.

Some lessons learned:

  1. When soldering a header for an LCD remember to take into account that if you copy the wiring order as you have plugged it into the bread-board, you will actually be doing it backwards because the connecter will be attached upside-down!
  2. You will need to drill a little extra hole in your case to accept the tab on the pot that keeps it from rotating when you spin the shaft.
  3. Electret microphones have a polarity.
  4. Hot-glue is great for attaching push-buttons.
  5. Ask you children for UI advice!  Will had the excellent idea of using the setup-pot to spin between the different settings.  In the original code I had it so you had to press the button to toggle between the setup parameters and then do a long-press to actually set one.  The way it ended up is much better.

Parts List:

Arduino Uno: https://www.adafruit.com/products/50 ($29.95)

Makershed Arduino Enclosure:  http://www.makershed.com/Clear_Enclosure_for_Arduino_p/mkad40.htm ($15.00)

9V powersupply: https://www.adafruit.com/products/63 ($6.95)

100K Potentiometer: Radioshack ($1.69)

pushbutton switch: Radioshack ($.99)

Breadboard PCB: https://www.adafruit.com/products/589 ($3.00)

Electret Mic: https://www.adafruit.com/products/1064 ($1.50)

IR LED: https://www.adafruit.com/products/387 ($.75)

LCD 2×16: https://www.adafruit.com/products/181 ($9.95)

Components: (~$5)

  • resistors: 1k ohm x 2; 100k ohm x 2; 12 ohm; 39k ohm; 22k ohm; 230 ohm (for IR led)
  • capacitors: 470uf 16v; 0.1uf 50v; 22uf 25v
  • Dual op amp IC: TLC272

Total Price: ~$70

Blackout Strike

I’m not much of a guy for protesting.  But SOPA & PIPA are absolutely nuts.  They are terrible implementations of worse ideas.  So I’m joining the strike.  This blog will be down tomorrow.  I know I don’t get much traffic, but that’s not the point.  I must publicly stand against the moves of entrenched power to enclose the information commons.  The rhetoric around these laws pretends to be all about protecting the little guy, the artists and the economy.  But that’s totally bogus.  These laws are all about protecting the ability of large corporations to enclose ownership of more and more data, and use the government to a pawn to rend the very fabric of the Internet when that enclosure is threatened.

On Voles and Openings

I just signed up for Edgeryders and completed my first mission, which is to “share your ryde.”  This provided me with an end-of-year opportunity to think about and document where I’ve been over the past years, so I’m reposting that “mission” here:

I’ll start the story of my Ryde by quoting my first blog post ever (back in 2005):

A few days ago I stopped at a gas station. As I was pumping, I noticed a vole scurrying across the parking lot. The lot was covered with a thin layer of that dry compacted, dirty snow that you get when it’s been cold enough that the snow never melted or turned ice. The vole would zip along for about six feet, and then try to burrow under a clump of snow, only to hit pavement so it would zip another few feet and try again. It had come from behind the gas station where there is a field, and it was headed in the direction of a very busy road. This vole was in for trouble and I’d better do something about it. I was half way through pumping so I finished filling my tank and then turned to see what I could do for the creature.

By the time I’d spotted it again, it was about twenty feet from the road. I headed not towards the vole, but at an angle that would cut it off from the road so I could shoo it back to the field. But it must have know that I was trying to prevent it from moving towards its intended direction because it immediately headed for the road at a modified angle calculated precisely to avoid me.

Within seconds the vole was in the middle of the road. The first semi missed it by five feet. The next one flattened it.

I don’t know if the vole would have gone on to the road had I not tried to save it, probably it would have. But I do know that if I had stopped pumping gas right when I realized that this vole was in for trouble, that I would have had a much better chance of saving it.

I hate pumping gas. Every time I do it, I feel like I’m that vole flinging myself and my fellow humans as fast as possible right toward those tractor-trailer truck wheels. The vole’s consciousness doesn’t even include roads and trucks, but unlike the vole, I know about peak-oil, and global warming. I can see the truck coming. But why didn’t I stop pumping for that vole? Why don’t I stop pumping for all us? How conscious can I become?

I decided to register for Edgeryders after reading this post of Vinay’s.  Clearly there’s an affinity of sentiment between Vinay’s post, and mine from that blog post, but that’s not why I signed up.  Instead it’s because I’ve been struggling with that sentiment for many years, and decided to take the “Share your Ryde” mission as an opportunity to continue with that struggle.

There’s something that feels righteous about “being willing to face the facts,” about not being in denial about how bad the situation is.  It feels responsible, and grown-up.  It feels like honesty, like trying not to be self-delusional, as well as being willing to take a stand.  All these are attributes I strive for.  But my struggle, is around being responsible not only to what is now, but also to what can be, to what is possible.  In his post, Vinya writes: “If you’re not aware of this situation, I guarantee you it’s because you’re not paying attention, alas.”  That’s a great rhetorical flourish: “If you’re not X, it’s because you’re not paying attention.” Makes me really want to be X because the last thing I want to be blamed of is “not paying attention.”  But in attention lies the rub.  There are different qualities of attention that yield awareness of facts (how things are), and of possibility (how things might be).

There’s that saying “A falling tree makes more noise than a growing forest.”  What I’m most keen on doing, is focusing my attention on the space of actual new possibilities, on listening for the quiet growing forests of our time.  For me the key experience in this regard over the last years has been what feels like “openings.”  Though I cannot deny the importance of “facing the facts,” what seems of far greater import is to listen for the possibilities, the search for, and openness to, openings.  When openings come, they have consequences.  An open door is an invitation to at least look into the room behind it. So, to share my ryde is to share openings and their consequences.  The direction of my life has changed drastically since 2003, because of a number of openings and the consequences of them.  Here are the key ones, not strictly in chronological order, but close:

Opening #1: In 2003 my father gave me two books to read: Interest & Inflation Free Money, by Margrit Kennedy, and The Future of Money by Bernard Leitaer.  For me these books were one-way doors.  Once I’d stepped through, there was no going back, because suddenly I understood three things: 1) money was a human invention 2) this particular invention is foundational to all human social patterns 3) we can change it, and there-by change our social patterns. Thus, I became open to a huge new possibility.

The consequence of this opening was two-fold: first, that I became involved in a local currency project (one that never got off the ground), and second that I was invited on the board of the E. F. Schumacher Society, a small non-profit that for decades had quietly been working on many decentralist economic efforts, including local-currency efforts, which has now grown and become the New Economics Institute .

In 2004, the Schumacher Society held what I consider to be a pivotal conference called Local Currencies in the 21st Century.  Plenary speakers at this conference included both Kennedy and Leitaer (authors of those two books), and also Tom Greco, but most importantly for me, it’s where I met Michael Linton, Jean-François Noubel, and Arthur Brock.

Opening #2: Michael Linton.  I knew of Michael before the conference from my reading, as he is a pioneer in the community currency world, well know for his design of LETS, one of the most widely deployed community currency patterns. But at the conference Michael was talking about his ideas for open money.  I daresay few people at the conference then, or since then, have understood the import of what Michael was sharing.  He was explaining, as a unified vision,  the necessary aspects of how the structure of money could to change. Namely that 1) money is information, 2) the pattern of flow of that information in relation to communities should be circular, i.e. issued within the community so it would flow around it, not through it as happens with moneys issued outside of communities.  3) That there must be a rich ecology of currencies appropriate to each communities circumstances.  4) That these currencies must exist in the context of a network that emerges out of an interplay between communities of function (what people do together) and communities of identity (how people see and name themselves).  Michael was the first person I met who was thinking coherently on this level and actually trying to build a system that addressed these issues and was designed to scale.  Over the next few years I came to work closely with Michael on the open money project.

Opening #3: Michael introduced me to Ashby’s Law of Requisite Variety, and to Reed’s Law of Group forming Networks.  These two “Laws” are both fascinating and deep, and they clearly apply to money and currency systems.  Single national currencies fail to provide the systemic regulatory variety necessary for a healthy economy.  Also, a multi-currency network would be an incredible group-forming network.  But the real opening for me was not so much in the laws themselves, but in that they both point to the fact that in networked and cybernetic systems, new ways of thinking are necessary, and the results are surprising and non-intuitive.

Opening #4: Jean-François Noubel. At the Local Currencies conference Jean-François was sharing his work on Collective Intelligence.  This work identifies and describes the evolution of the forms of collective intelligence from “original collective intelligence” through where we are now, which he calls “pyramidal collective intelligence,” on to the possibility of “global collective intelligence.” In his work, Jean-François also focuses on “invisible architectures,” those patterns that, mostly unconsciously, regulate our lives.  One of the most crucial that he identifies, of course, is the monetary system.  Looking at the world through the this opening, the lens of collective intelligence and invisible architectures, gave me, and continues to give me, not only a powerful explanatory rubric for how things are now, but also where they might go.

Consequences, phase I: I’m trained as coder (I have a B.S in computer science), but just before my father gave me the books that constitute opening #1, I had decided to give up coding.  Over the years I had written a bunch of a good code that had made a bunch customers happy, but I didn’t feel like it was right.  I wanted to be focusing on something that had a deeper impact.  So I gave it up, and told my partner that I wanted out of our small dev shop.  Well, after openings 1-4, I found myself right back in coding land.  I knew that now I had the opportunity to try and implement software systems that could realize the promise of a new monetary system.  This felt like impact.  So this led to working closely with Michael to build a web-app that was pretty much to his open money specifications, and was meant to be a single server fully functional prototype to demonstrate what a networked multi-currency system would look like.  That system is still operational and used in a couple of places.  You can check the dev site.

Opening #5: The levels of Wealth and their relation to systems. This opening was sparked by Jean-François Noubel, who described to me a taxonomy of wealth.  He had realized that money is a tool that focuses on building tradable wealth, but that tradable wealth is just a small subset of measurable wealth, which itself is a subset of acknowledgeable wealth.  What I realized, is that those levels exist because of systemic truths, i.e. that each level of wealth corresponds to levels of systemic integrity.  That tradable wealth corresponds with parts and products of systems, and measurable wealth corresponds with properties of systems as a whole, and acknowledgeable wealth corresponds with relationships between systems. Here is where I first wrote about all this: http://openmoney.info/sophia/.

Opening #6: Arthur Brock, flow and current-see.  The opening about the levels of wealth came pretty much at the same time as I was also deepening my association with Arthur Brock who I had first met at the Local Currency conference.  When I met him at the conference he was championing what he called “targeted currencies,” special purpose currencies for solving particular community problems, rather than general purpose exchange currencies.  Arthur had been using the metaphor of the electromagnetic spectrum, comparing monetary currencies to visible light, when there was actually much larger range of currency “frequencies” that were available to solve other problems.  But it wasn’t until I came to understand Art’s deeper definition of currency, as “current-see” or formal information systems that allows us to see and interact with currents, flows, that the things really came together.  These different levels of wealth, corresponding to the levels of systemic integrity, also needed corresponding currency types, to manage the different types of flow that are taking place at those different systemic levels.

Consequences, phase II: Openings #5 & 6 showed that my first open money system wasn’t enough, that as well as being able to create new currencies in the network environment, that it would be necessary create multiple types of currency that operated very differently depending on which level of wealth they were targeting.  I wanted to build a generalized “wealth acknowledgement” system.  And I also wanted to try my hand at building a system that would be client-server based that would allow multiple servers to play and thus be decentralized.  At the time I met Geoff Chesshire who had also been working with Michael Linton and was building a currency system called Regenerosity, which used the idea of laying down what amounted to a social network graph to record the changing relationships in a community, which is essentially what monetary transaction are.  Using these ideas I built a whole new system.  Here’s an overview of the technical architecture (what I called the Mesh & Churn): http://openmoney.info/techne/overview.html, and the code I wrote to implement it is here: https://github.com/openmoney.  A demo site is still up at: http://omclient.heroku.com/

The new system was working, and it was pretty easy to create mutual credit currencies, as well as reputation currencies, and if you were a geek you could configure other types of currencies too.  But there was a big problem.  Though I had made allowance for these different types of currencies, technically most of my focus was on laying down that social graph, the mesh.  I hadn’t yet paid lots of attention to what the range structure of different possible currencies could be, and how I was going to integrate that.

Opening #7: David Abram’s “Spell of the Sensuous.”  Abram’s book provides an amazing account of how we’ve shifted the locus of meaning from the natural sensual world to human constructed one in the form of our abstract alphabet.  The opening came while reading his account of the evolution of writing.  That description opened my eyes not only to how currency is very much like writing, but that it’s also on a similar evolutionary track, going from a very concrete representation form, “pictograms”, to a much more abstract one, an “alphabet.”  We think of modern money as very abstract, most often just bits in a computer.  But what I realized, is that money is still very concrete, and just like pictographic writing. It’s not abstract at all because all moneys so far use the same encoding mechanism they always have for value: relative scarcity (just like all pictograms use the same encoding mechanism for meaning: shape)  And that encoding mechanism is only really appropriate for tradable wealth where scarcity is true for parts and products of systems.  It’s not appropriate for the wider levels of wealth.  What I saw is that we have no “alphabet” for encoding all the levels of value, and that’s what the open money system I’d been working on could evolve into.  I’ve written a couple blog posts about this if you want to read about it in more depth:  here and here.

Consequences, phase III: The rise of the MetaCurrency project, XGFL & the Flowplace.  By this time, it was clear that I was interested in more than “money” because monetary currencies are those that apply to the smallest circle of wealth, tradable wealth.  I was committed to working on what I was calling a “meta-currency” system that had a currency specification language that would be capable of representing wealth at all levels.  So Art & I co-founded the MetaCurrency project to be a home for the tech protocols and know-how that would make this happen. Focusing on this problem from the currency-specification language point of view resulted in a design document that included the Simple Game Format Language (SGFL) which later became XGFL (X for eXtensible).  This language was to be for currencies, as HTML was for web resources.

At the same time I started working with Jean-François and Fernanda Ibarra who together wanted to a usable platform for groups of early adopters they were working with in the transitioner network who wanted to start living these ideas of multi-level-wealth currencies.  So together we built the Flowplace.  Here’s the demo site. The Flowplace implements the XGFL language, and at the same time includes a bunch of other important ideas necessary for actually organizing communities (what we called circles) around them and making them useful, the equivalent of a marketplace in the multi-level-currency context.  Jean-François and Fernanda have used the Flowplace in a number of contexts and people have had transformative experiences as it can give a taste of a what a multi-level-currency world might look like.  But from my perspective, as a system designer, this experiment, like my previous one, was a dead end.  Where the Mesh & Churn didn’t have a native way to include currency specification, the Flowplace with XGFL, didn’t have a native way to relate currencies to each-other.  We did do some important work on what we called membrane currencies to address this difficiency, but it just didn’t feel right, and I knew it didn’t have legs.

Opening #8: The evolution of expressive capacity.  Unlike all the other openings I’ve listed, for this one I can’t pinpoint its source.  Of course it builds on all the other openings, but there’s not a particular person, conversation or writing or even moment that I can remember where it arrived.  I think its the product of all of us working together around the MetaCurrency project.  I now see that all the previous openings were partial views of this bigger pattern.  So, yes, money is information, and yes, its evolution is like that of writing, but here’s the deeper pattern: It appears that the greatest leaps in “novelty,” i.e. increased possibility that we know of, all arise because of the emergence of new embodied information encoding systems, what I like to call “expressive capacities”.  DNA, neurons, language, writing, the printing press, computers, these are all examples, at various levels of complexity, of such expressive capacities that allow for a explosion of possibility that is unimaginable before their arrival.  Notice that though they are all “revolutionary” some of these new expressive capacities are more revolutionary than others.  The invention of writing and the printing press are extensions of the basic expressive capacity of language.  But the arrival of language and DNA are much more, shall we say, foundational.

So here’s the crux of the opening: I see that we are at nexus point where new expressive capacity is ready to emerge that’s on the same “foundational” level as language and DNA.  Our current day money is to that new expressive capacity as the coordinating hunting grunts of some proto-hominids is to language.  Just as those grunts were somehow synthesized into a small collection of phonemes out of which an infinite number of words could be built, and which themselves are connected and organized into the subject-predicate grammar of human language, so is there the possibility for us to evolve away from that form of grunting we call money.  What we can it evolve toward, is, for the lack of a better term, a language of flow.  What this language expresses as an embodied information encoding system, is the equivalent of DNA, but for social, rather than biological organism.

Consequences, phase IV: After this opening became clear, it was pretty obvious what the problem was with XGFL.  It’s at the wrong expressive level.  Expressive capacities are all built out of fairly simple nested composable units.  Narratives are built from paragraphs, which are built from sentences, which are built from phrases, which are built from words, which are built from word parts, which are built from phonemes, which are built from phones.  The rules for composability at each level are fairly simple, yet the variety of that which is expressible is infinite because of the combinatorial explosion.  This same property works for all other expressive capacities, think of DNA and neurons, a small vocabulary of composable parts, mixable with definite meaningful grammatics.  You see the pattern.  Starting with XGFL to define currencies was like starting with a whole paragraph as the basic unit for a language.  It was an expressive capacity without the necessary simple levels of composability.  Here’s a blog post where I wrote about this.  That post includes a diagram of a new architecture that we worked on for quite a while, but again, it didn’t quite feel right, until…

Opening #9: The Receptive Stance.  In November of 2010, I flew to Denver for a working retreat with Art.  The opening came early on in our working sessions.  I have photo of the flip chart with the exact quote we wrote down when it came: “Composition requires creation of a negative space, i.e. receptors for an as of yet unknown interaction.”  For so long we had been searching for some currency ontology, i.e. we were trying to figure out what the basic currency components were out of which we could build our flow language.  This opening had us flip our attention, i.e. not to look for the parts, but to look at the negative space, the structure of containment that could allow for the rise of as of yet unknown parts.

Consequences, phase V: From this opening a whole slew of other things have emerged (and are still emerging).  These consequences haven’t played out yet, so I’ll just say that it’s led to what we are calling the ceptr platform, as well as a strategic plan for rolling it out, which includes a very cool app call Streamscapes.  Prototyping for both of these is at: https://github.com/zippy/anansi

To close, as short story: I live in an intentional community. One of the things we’ve been doing here is lots of planting.  For me, this meant that besides starting a terracing system to create a kitchen garden this year, I also planted four fruit trees: a cherry, two peaches and an apple.  I decided to buy fairly large trees (not the less expensive bare root trees you can get) but ones that were already a good six foot tall with a root-ball, to get a head start.  It felt like a good investment.  Well, not more than a month after planting, the apple tree started leaning over in the wind.  So I added some stakes and support to help stabilize it.  A month later I found the tree almost lying flat.  Examining it, closely I found that it was no longer a tree with roots, but rather more like a stake with branches jammed into the ground.  Some critters had totally separated the growing trunk from all the roots.  Turns out it was voles.  Nearby the trees I had dumped a large pile of manure which was planning to spread in the spring.  The warmth of pile is now host to a prolific family of voles, that apparently also took advantage of the soft earth that resulted from my digging a nice hole to plant the apple tree, and enjoyed the roots and bark of the tree in the mean time.

So here are the voles again, intersecting with my life.  But this time, oddly, something I did was giving them life, and to my expense! There is the economic farmer in me who’s frustrated and angry.  Frustrated at the loss of a $50 tree, and wanting to just go get rid of those @&!#@* voles.  But there’s someone else in me who’s laughing.  I can’t quite name that person, but I feel like he/she’s laughing at a joke that’s on me, and it’s actually a good-humored joke.  It feels like maybe that vole-chewed tree is part of a bigger pattern that I can’t quite see, but that person inside me can see it, and is chuckling at my farmer response to the vole.  What is that pattern?  I don’t know for sure.  But what I am sure of, is that though I have to be responsible to facts of the current reality, at this stage, it’s essential that pay very close attention for openings through which I may be able to become responsible to emergent possibilities.