Category archives for Essays

Lawfare: King John, Stephen Langton, and Donald Trump

“Lawfare” is a term of art that refers to the selective application of the law to persecute a disfavored demographic group while protecting a favored group. The relevant analogy is a chess game, where one selectively uses the legal moves to protect one’s own pieces while threatening or eliminating the pieces of one’s opponent. Lawfare […]

Integrated Systems and the Phenomenon of System Disintegration

In Psychology, there is a diagnosis known as Dissociative Identity Disorder, which is the new name for Multiple Personality Disorder. The lay public often conflates Dissociative Identity Disorder with aspects of Schizophrenia and/or Schizoid Personality Disorder. In Schizophrenia, one may be affected by disorganized thinking associated with unexamined and/or erroneous beliefs (e.g. imaginative anxiety-driven beliefs […]

Adventures in Escalation

A while back, I was given a hand-me-down iPad Mini as a thank-you gift for doing some pro-bono technical work for a cash-strapped professional colleague. This iPad Mini has WiFi, GPS, and cellular capability. I’ve been a Bell Atlantic / Verizon customer for 27 years. However, I don’t own a cell phone, so I don’t […]

Mathematically Defined Crypto-Currencies

How a BitCoin Transaction Works

There has been a lot of attention on BitCoin of late, and a number of my correspondents have been digging into the topic. I was looking for some good analogies through which to understand the idea and the dynamics of BitCoin and similar mathematically defined crypto-currencies. This is my first shot at constructing such an […]

Gaming the System

Politicians, lawyers, and well-heeled lobbyists are uncommonly gifted at gaming the system. To that list, you can add sheriffs, prosecutors, judges, and other local and state law enforcement officials. The concept of gaming the system was put on a rigorous mathematical foundation in the 20th Century, with the development of Chaos Theory, Game Theory, and […]

Our Place In the Cosmos and the Role of STEM in the Advance of Civilization

Symphony of Science Our Place In the Cosmos Two years ago, Wired Magazine reported that Neil deGrasse Tyson would host a sequel to Carl Sagan’s Cosmos which aired on PBS three decades ago. The producers of the new sequel say the new series will tell “the story of how human beings began to comprehend the laws of nature and find […]

Going to Hell in a Hand-Basket

“Where are we, and what are we doing in this hand-basket?” ~Bumper Sticker When I was a graduate student at Stanford University, laboring toward a degree in Systems Theory, one of the technical courses in my curriculum was on the mathematics of Feedback Control Theory. That subject plumbed the arcane depths of the theory of […]


Elsewhere in recent conversations, we’ve been talking about “mirror neurons” in the context of empathy. But imitation (or mimesis) is not limited to the brain’s ability to echo or reflect emotional states detected in others. Let’s zoom out and take a broader look at the phenomenon of mimesis. Contagion (or mimesis) is an insightful sociological […]

Orin Kerr on Engineering vs Law

Orin Kerr is a legal scholar specializing in cybercrime law.  He is a Professor of Law at the George Washington University Law School.  Before transitioning into the Law, he majored in Mechanical Engineering at Princeton and Stanford. Professor Kerr has drawn my attention to an item he posted in June 2007 on his thoughts about making […]

Solving Systemic Problems Requires Systems Thinking

As many of my colleagues and online acquaintances may know, my professional work has largely been grounded in the application of systems theory, to analyze and solve problems calling for a systems approach. Now that I’m mostly retired, I’ve increasingly begun to reflect on the larger class of problems that plague humankind, above and beyond […]

Building Community

This knol presents ideas first introduced in 1994 on a three-stage model of community building that I call “Communitas”. For the past 20 years, I have been building online educational communities for children and adults.  In this work, I have noticed a 3-layered model, that I call ‘Communitas’. In my experience, the most successful online […]