Software Nerd

Monday, January 15, 2007

The idea of a UO transcript

This is an idea I've been toying with for some time, but one that has taken more concrete shape after threads on two different forums. The basic idea is simple: create a textual transcript of the "Understanding Objectivism" (UO) lectures.

Why UO is a good candidate:

1. Sales possibilities: The UO lectures have broad relevance to all students of Objectivism, regardless of their specific interest (unlike, say, lectures on History, Science, Economics, Parenting, etc.). There are quite a few young people who are students of Objectivism, who find the audio version expensive, but might be convinced to buy the text version. Since UO has been around for a while, a text version will probably not cut into the sales of an audio-version.

2. Potential customers among audio-owners: From some feedback I've received on the two forums, I think that many people who already own UO on audio would buy the transcript. They recognize the value of the lectures and would find it convenient to have a text copy that they can read through, mark-up, flip back and forth, etc. Unlike the hungry students, many of these folk also have the money to afford this. Speaking for myself, though I already own the audio, I would love to be able to buy a transcript.

3. Activism Value: Some people read Rand's books, get involved with Objectivism for a while, but then give it up as being impractical in some way. Arguably, some of these folk will "leave" no matter what. However, some may "stay" if only they understood that Objectivism does not require them to pit their philosophy against their true desires, or pit themselves against the world. This, after all, is the premise of the UO lecture series itself.

Consider the idea of the "funnel": broad reach of the high-school books project, ending up with a smaller group of committed intellectuals finally specializing as Objectivist intellectual heavy-weights and helping to move the culture. The way I see it, at some point mid-way down the funnel, there's a significant-sized hole that people fall through. UO is what's needed plug that gap. Even if these "saved" folk do not make it all the way to being Objectivist intellectuals, some will probably become ARI donors, and will otherwise be engaged in the growing Objectivist community, furthering activism in other ways.

4. No book planned: Since one hears that Dr. Peikoff is working on various other projects, it appears that a book-version of UO is not currently planned. Therefore, the lecture-transcripts will not preempt any possible book sales.

5. Semi-volunteer possibilities: The wide appeal of the UO subject-area makes possible a semi-volunteer project. For instance, UO has 11 chapters. It seems feasible to get 6 volunteers to transcribe 2 chapters each [about 40 A4-pages per chapter], by letting each of them keep the audio-version that they use for the transcription, and giving them a copy of the final transcript.

My personal motivation: This idea cannot be generalized to all lectures. Rather, I think UO is the ideal candidate for this. It has always been a personal favorite, because it helped me improve my methods of thinking and to correct my own rationalism. Since listening to them years ago, I've often recommended them to others. In the past year or two on the forum, I have seen so many people who would benefit from the lectures, but many of them are students and the cost (over $300) is often a sticking point. So, my motivation is activist and evangelical, in a sense: I simply want to convert Objectivists who haven't heard UO to Objectivists who have.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Water-drinkers Anonymous

AA might want to consider expanding it services to those who're trying to break a guilty habit of drinking bottled water!

A snippet on NPR caught my interest. The journalist was talking about parishoners who admit to drinking bottled water, but won't go on record as doing so. Turns out that the United Church in Canada (the largest Protestant denomination, with over 500,000 members) is on a crusade against bottled water.

A spokesman of the church says that "water is a sacred gift that connects all life.'' One priest pointed out that water features prominently in scripture -- Noah's flood, water parting in Exodus, water for baptisms. Water, he figures, is something that God gave us to share. A spokesman of the church says: "The main thrust is our concern about the privatization of water,''.

It's straight out of Toohey's manual: Look for something that people do, and make them feel guilty about it.