Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - June 29, 2019

Brian Gongol


Please note: These show notes may be in various stages of completion -- ranging from brainstormed notes through to well-polished monologues. Please excuse anything that may seem rough around the edges, as it may only be a first draft of a thought and not be fully representative of what was said on the air.

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Segment 1: (11 min)

BUT FIRST: The opening essay

Against the cult of disruption

As far as I'm concerned, there's only one good kind of cult and it's the cult Phil. I'll watch office space or The Big Lebowski just about any time it comes on, and you can rest assured that I've never turned down an opportunity to watch Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

But every other kind of cult troubles me.

Religious cults are notoriously dangerous and have led people to do incredibly stupid dangerous and even deadly things over time think for instance of the Jonestown Massacre, but even outside of religion. I'm troubled by Colts. I hate personality Cults anytime people voluntarily give up their thinking to someone else. They're surrendering basically everything that makes them human beings.

But there's another cult that troubles me and it troubles me enormously.

It's a cult in which everybody thinks alike without their having to be a central identifying figure.

The cult that bothers me right now is the cult of disruption.

There's a belief that goes around, that disruption alone, disruption all by itself, turning over the apple cart -- is a good thing.

Simply for the virtue of disrupting whatever used to exist. I'm pretty sick and tired of that attitude.

It is neither a left-wing nor a right-wing attitude. It isn't exclusive to either one. It shows up frequently in both.

But the people who just want to blow it all up drive me berserk.

They get this idea that it's okay from watching the occasional disruptive genius usually in fields like business or technology.

There's no doubt that from time to time. Somebody comes along with an idea. That is so much better than everything that existed before it that they do effectively disrupt an industry.

But it's not the disruption itself that's virtuous. The disruption itself is just a manifestation of the fact that sometimes you have what evolutionary biologists would call punctuated equilibrium things are normal for a long long time until suddenly something snaps and change occurs very quickly.

That's just nature and evolutionary biology isn't any different from the way that we as human beings behave after all we're biological machines. Sometimes an idea comes along that snaps the status quo and pushes it forward, but it's not good just because it disrupts it's good because of the results either the results are good or the results are bad.

But the thing that's different between human beings and our behavior and evolutionary biology is the fact that Evolution Finds Its way to these punctuation Xin equilibrium, simply by the accumulation of lots and lots of trial and error. That's what evolution is all about. Human beings get to make a choice.

Now we need to make choices and we always have to make choices about getting better. Again. That's the very nature of being human is to think and to make choices and to try to make things better to seek Improvement.

We're not just a bunch of atoms bouncing off of one another. We actually have choices and free will and conscience.

I don't think we should be ashamed of those things nor do I think we should be ashamed of the fact that making choices sometimes comes within constraints There are rules that apply and that affect the choices that we make.

Now if you're a member of The Cult of disruption, you may look at the outcomes that we've experienced in life. You may be dissatisfied with those outcomes. And you may say that anything would have to be better than what we have now. So let's try something different.

This voluntary subscription to the notion that disruption itself is the good is naive and it's hugely dangerous.

Sometimes systems become sclerotic sometimes things wear out. Sometimes it really is time for a big innovation in the way that we live life.

But those really good punctuation 's to our equilibrium don't really come out of the sky. They have been with in some kind of context even big technological disruptions happen within a context.

Google was massively disruptive to the nature of search engines and our use of the internet.

But it didn't disrupt an order that had existed for a particularly long time.

There was at first the arrival of bulletin boards, which were highly structured then there were walled Gardens that formed networks and ultimately people found their way onto a free and open internet.

Finding order within the internet originally began as an effort among directories and index pages. That was how Yahoo! Got its start.

And for a long time the internet seemed like the kind of thing that could be manually organized and updated and catalogued

it wasn't to be so for very long.

The directory approach to organizing how the internet would work or out pretty fast because the internet became too popular to take that form any longer. So something better had to come along and it was formed by a couple of people who happen to be working within the boundaries and the confines of computer science Sergey Brin and Larrry Page.

I was working.

As a graduate student at Stanford.

Studying how the system might work.

Cultivated the way that he ultimately delivered a method that did work for discovering. What existed on the internet?

Sergey Brin and Larry Page didn't just come out of The Ether setting out to disrupt the world. They saw a problem. They sought to fix the problem and they applied what they knew from the world to making the outcome better.

They deserve a lot of credit for that.

Subsequently, they formed a formal organization around doing this the one we know today is Google they even gave it a mission statement.

Don't be evil.

What's interesting, of course about Google? Is that now that it's no longer just a startup company, but is in fact a major employer.

the biggest advertising company in the world

and a hugely influential force on how we live our lives today.

Some of the rules that were originally set up to contain the organization have turned out to be an adequate.

Does Google need to be disrupted or does it need to follow rules and establish order using trial and error much like nature does with Evolution to try to find a better way.

I would submit.

That Google needs more order within itself more structure not less and I would submit that setting out merely to punctuated equilibrium merely to disrupt. It doesn't guarantee that what comes out. The other side is any better?

People get tired of what they see in politics and think well that should be disrupted to anything has to be better than the status quo.

that unfortunately

is a mindset that can only emerge from a lack of knowledge of History.

If there's one thing history tells us it's that things can always get worse and they often do often much faster than anybody thinks is possible.

The whole point of civilization is to try to avoid things getting bad in a hurry.

We don't do that by disrupting the apple cart at every turn. We do that by fixing our systems applying rules improving the rules doing things better than we used to do them. I'm not interested in the mission of the disruptor.

I think that there are people who want to do things better.

And sometimes doing things better will be disruptive. If disruption comes as a consequence of improvement. That's fine. But disruption itself is a terrible mission.

It's sort of an abstract nihilism thinking that the void is better than what exists.

But just as nature abhors a vacuum so does human nature?

We need structures we need order and we need predictability. It's best if those things are self-imposed and we ought to be very critical about how we apply them and we ought to seek to improve them at every turn we can.

But we don't improve them just by blowing them up.

I don't want to see disruptors make their way into politics if that's their only Mission let them find something we're breaking things can't make things worse.

I would suggest the world of art, but it definitely doesn't belong in the art of politics.

The moral of the story: Systems require accountability. And there's no accountability for the vandal who wants to turn over everything from "outside the system". It's not all it's cooked up to be in business, and it has almost no place at all in how we govern ourselves.

Segment 2: (8 min)

Totally Unnecessary Debate of the Day

The moral of the story:

Segment 3: (14 min)

News Smoke-filled rooms, now on Twitter

The election will be decided on the secret Slack channel reserved exclusively for Iowans. We're all on there every Tuesday and Thursday night.

The moral of the story:

Segment 4: (5 min)

Website reminder

What should rise on the old YMCA site? Not an undistinguished courthouse. If the Federal government is going to take a prime location, they owe us a prime building.

The moral of the story:

Segment 5: (11 min)

Technology Three | The week in technology

Aviation News Electric airplanes really are coming

Yes, please. Now on display at the Paris Air Show.

Segment 6: (8 min)

FTC says "Operation Call It Quits" has led to new suits against robocallers

Twitter to flag world leaders

Segment 7: (14 min)

News Australian town shuts down banana festival parade

The cause? Covering the anti-terrorism expenses was going to be too much for Murwillumbah's budget to bear. George Bluth could not be reached for comment.

Humor and Good News National security dad jokes

David Larter: "With a Russian ship docked only 100 miles from Key West, does that make it a...near pier competitor?"

News A one-word answer to our biggest threat?

Chuck Todd's question at the Democratic Presidential debate was a profoundly unserious way to address an existential matter. Most of the problems alone take more than one word to describe, much less what it takes to tell why, or how they should be addressed, or what trade-offs are involved.

News Student-loan forgiveness for all?

Education has a cost-inflation problem, as well as a delivery problem. We need to have a long talk about where the "added value" is showing up in education, generally.

The moral of the story:

Segment 8: (5 min)

Have a little empathy

News Time to speak up

This is an appropriate time for leaders of conscience -- both within faith communities and outside of them -- to speak up for humanity and humane treatment, especially for vulnerable children in the custody of our government. Those who have nothing but venom to spew ought to reconsider whether they want to be remembered well after they depart this life. Leaders like Russell Moore deserve credit for being among the former; Jerry Falwell, Jr. deserves scorn for being among the latter.

Stop the deliberate ignorance

The moral of the story: The President of the United States doesn't have to impress anyone, and doesn't need friends. If you need a friend, get a dog.

Unsorted and leftovers:

This week

Hot (social) topics

By the numbers

Make money

Have fun

Clean up after yourself

Computers and the Internet Cowardice in the face of...Instagram?

How a United States Senator lends his name to feigned outrage over account suggestions from Instagram is beyond sane explanation. Conservatives, in particular, ought to think of themselves as strong enough to scroll past a non-conforming opinion or two without losing their minds. In the words of Calvin Coolidge, "The American Revolution represented the informed and mature convictions of a great mass of independent, liberty-loving, God-fearing people who knew their rights, and possessed the courage to dare to maintain them."

Mind your business

Quote of the Week

Your role in cyberwar

Iowa news

Contrary to popular opinion

Hyperbole is going to kill us all

21st Century conservatism

Curiosity, competence, and humility

Inbox zero

Tin Foil Hat Award

Yay Capitalism Prize

Capitalist solution of the week

Kickers

One year ago

Five years ago

Ten years ago

Programming notes

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Live read: Smart speakers (hour 1)

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Live read: Smart speakers (hour 2)

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Recap

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