Wednesday, 29 December 2010

An Alternative World View - Part 1

McLaren (2007) is moving on to look at the type of world that Jesus talked about and endeavoured to live out. In line with my own thinking, he talks of giving as "a more secure investment that accumulating and hoarding" (p 135). Security, equity, and prosperity come through generosity. Jesus clearly promoted an anti-prosperity gospel emphasising that anything else will lead to hating God.

The question then is how do you assess a person's value in society? McLaren argues that "Each has intrinsic value in relation to its Creator" (p 138). He refers to the economist Herman Daly (1996) who has suggested "that we should reverse our human egoism and consider our value in relation to our service to others of God's creatures: "We grant ourselves intrinsic value... But we do not count our instrumental value to other species, which is too often negative but could be positive if we cared about it"" (p 138).

Here the author is arguing for a change in the method of calculating worth. Rather than using a monetary value, the proposal is to use "our instrumental value to other species." That is what we are capable of giving to help others survive.

As I write this, I am thinking of a discussion on one of the games forums that was related to religious games. I jumped in being critical of religious games that I had examined because the game play gave a different message to that of the context of the game. The authors hope to portray or teach religious content through using it as the context of the game. However, most of these games still portray different values through the nature of their play and their scoring systems. In the discussion, I have talked of the difficulty of using a scoring system and having a winner when collaboration is the objective. As soon as you talk of having a winner, there is an element of being better than other players. When I have played Carcassonne with the goal of assisting rather than hindering other players, I still find myself winning simply because if the way the game rewards players. If promoting giving or collaboration is the goal then we need to look at other ways of rewarding the behaviour.

I see some difficulty with courses like a team projects course where we want to promote team work but we have a marking system that favours a higher contribution. We don't have a measure that rewards the sacrifice of a personal mark in order to help someone else understand what is being done.

What this really highlights is that our measuring systems are messed up. We measure things in terms of people being better to having an advantage over others. Seldom does the reward or measuring system foster giving or self sacrifice partly because if these are performed in true humility, there can be no measurement other than better equality in society.

Having reintroduced Jesus from the perspective of his challenges to the empire system, McLaren begins to look at each of his three core systems (prosperity, equality, and security). He starts with the security system initially talking of a "peace insurgency" (Chapter 19). He then begins to look at the state of the world and our potential to solve many of the world's problems. He makes some interesting observations.

"The 2006 budget showed that US military expenditures were twenty-one times larger than diplomacy and foreign aid combined, and that the United States was dead last among most developed nations in foreign aid as a percentage of gross domestic product. One wonders what would happen if good-hearted Americans realized that a mere 10 percent of the US military budget, if reinvested in foreign aid and development could care for the basic needs of the entire world's poor" (p 165). He goes on to talk of defence policies built on "Mutual Assured Destruction" (MAD) and "Shock and Awe" (pp 166-167). We hold other nations at peace because if they attack, they can be assured that as much as they may destroy us, we have the power to destroy them. With Afghanistan and Iraq, it is more a case of striking with such force that the enemy is forced into submission. The Pentagon's Defence University released a report called "Shock and Awe: Achieving Rapid Dominance." In it, the authors say "In our excursion, we seek to determine whether and how Shock and Awe can become sufficiently intimidating and compelling factors to force or otherwise convince an adversary to accept our will" (p 166). To me, this statement condemns American foreign policy and shows its complete lack of concern for others. McLaren at the end of this chapter says "In the eyes of the rest of the world, our "craving for absolute security" has already driven us to the brink if moral bankruptcy" (p 168). The problem is that it isn't simply America that utilises such policies and strategies. Israel attacked an aid convoy going to Gaza. Israel's craving for "absolute security" means that she attacks with military force those carrying out a mission without any military protection. Is it surprising that the people of Gaza seek to attack and destroy Israel?

Later, McLaren says "The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy" (p 185). This is part of a quote from Dr King.

Another peace leader, Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said "The world has the chance to finally say "no" to the continuing scandal of the unregulated weapons trade... No longer should peace business be undermined by the arms business" (p 172). This statement reflects the stupidity of western nations manufacturing and exporting arms to those whom it is seeking to have "accept our will." In other words through its trade policies, it fosters the very terrorism that it claims to be fighting. This is the ultimate stupidity of American and British security fears. If they refused to manufacture and export arms then many of the conflicts around the world would lack the weaponry to continue.

So what is the solution to this downward spiral? McLaren argues that Jesus might say to us, "You need to choose another type of fighting: instead of fighting against each other, you must fight with each other against injustice, for the good of each other" (p 178). We must fight, not with military force, but with pacifist activism, for peace and reconciliation.

McLaren reminds his readers of Jesus' words in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:21-26, 43-48) where he talks of being reconciled with those who have something against us. The core requirement for peace is not allowing disputes to go unresolved. We have to address the real issues that cause division and refrain from forcing others to submit to our will. McLaren argues that "Jesus envisioned a people actively dedicated to peacemaking" (p 182). This can be achieved not by forcing others to change the way they live but by voluntarily changing our behaviour in the confidence that such a change will precipitate an unexpected change in their behaviour" (pp 183-184). I would go further and contend that by changing the "unacceptable way that we live," we will remove the objections that others have thus removing the point of contention and strife. Our mistreatment of others leads to what we regard as their unacceptable way of living. Removal of our mistreatment removes the incentive for their behaviour and our response to it.

The Prosperity System

McLaren uses the idea of theocapitalist religion describing its four laws.

  1. Progress through rapid growth
  2. Serenity through possession and consumption
  3. Freedom to prosper through unaccountable corporations
  4. Salvation through competition alone

McLaren argues that the system fosters inequality rewarding the rich and penalising the poor. The idea behind the name, theocapitalist religion, is that these laws are seen as being unbreakable. He says in relation to "salvation through competition alone" that "to violate this law would be to work against the very structure of the universe, and would run counter to the will of God and his "gospel of wealth"" (p 195).

It is this belief in the capitalist system that is hard to shake people's belief in. McLaren says "The market's own mindless expansion, effective as it is in the short-term, inevitably brings its own long-term problems as it further taxers the planet's carrying capacity beyond the already bad overload coming from the population increase. It's not a question of ideology, but of physical limits" (pp 201-202). He makes other interesting comments like the rich being so focused on growth that they don't have time to enjoy what they have already obtained.

So what is the counter laws or way of living? McLaren says God's love economy is "a new way of living as part of God's sacred ecosystem" (p 206). The laws that counter theocapitalism's four laws are:

  1. Good deeds for the common good
  2. Satisfaction through gratitude and sharing
  3. Salvation through seeking justice
  4. Freedom to prosper by building better communities

Where theocapitalism emphasises the individual and the exploitation of resources, the counter laws emphasise community and the sharing of resources. McLaren contends that this is for the benefit of all living organisms.


McLaren, B. D. (2007). Everything must change: when the world's biggest problems and Jesus' good news collide. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Herman Daly (1996) Beyond growth: The economics of sustainable development. Boston: Beacon Press.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Framing stories

McLaren (2007) describes the framing story for the Roman empire (p 83-86) and the views of Jesus that he feels exist. The views of Jesus either see his 'good news' as an offer for a better future in the next life (sin and salvation through Jesus) or as a challenge to the framing stories of his day (the bringing of God's kingdom to this world). The second views, McLaren calls the 'emerging view.'

However, it is his narrative of the empires framing story that drives this reflection. It is a framing story that promises peace and security except for ... . I would argue has the framing story changed? We may not have the old style slaves but people are still being enslaved so the wealthy can enjoy the comforts of a peaceable life.

McLaren does make an attempt to show how this empire framing story has been played out again and again (pp 88) but he doesn't seem to make the connection with the culture of a capitalist economy. Colonisation saw western countries build empires controlled from the home country. The new source of power or promise of security is through economic conformity to a system of credit and debt. Financial prosperity offers the new opportunity for peace and security but the freedoms are removed through enslaving forces of debt and the drive for greater prosperity.

I still have a long way to go in my reading and maybe, McLaren addresses these issues in the 'equity' system. However, it is clear that our western culture and its related financial mechanisms are little more that another form of the empire framing story. It promises peace and security but not to all. It encourages a new level of conformity through enslaving to an economic system, and it continues to use force to put down those around its borders who might want to see things through a different economic picture.

The sad part of this framing story is that the Christian church has been and still is part of building that empire. There are those around its borders who think differently but they are still to a large extent regarded as heretics by the most vocal and visible Christian denominations. The church in its many forms has taken on the framing story of capitalist economics and seems unable to break free.


McLaren, B. D. (2007). Everything must change: when the world's biggest problems and Jesus' good news collide. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Framing Stories

What are the consequences of the framing stories in which Christians interpret the gospel message and what are the consequences of using those framing stories?

One of the framing stories could be that of building an empire or Christendom. Here there is a desire to be in a position of power and authority so that the Christian morals and standards become those of the empire. The consequence is adherence to belief and moral codes by force and not by a conscious free will decision.

Empire building has other consequences such as the acceptance of force to subdue opposition to the empire. This may even be to force into submission to the faith.

The empire building framing story still continues even though Christianity isn't seen any longer as the state religion. There are those who seek to be in the corridors of power simply to ensure that the laws of the land enforce what they see as being Christian morals.

A second framing story is that of the prosperity gospel. In this framing story financial success is seen as a symbol of strong faith. As wealth increases, so do the defences to protect that wealth. Security fences and alarm systems replace open interaction with neighbours. The preachers parade the trappings of wealth surrounded by their body guards while less successful members of their congregations suffer in poverty while trying to maintain the practices of prosperity preached from the pulpit. Inequality runs riot and questionable financial practices become the norm since wealth is God's blessing for faith.

A third framing story is that of putting others first. Maybe this isn't a good wording but the focus of this framing story is building an equitable and sustainable society. Not all advances in technology are seen as good. They are evaluated based on their ability to maintain balance and equality. Love becomes the primary focus and self gain is put aside.

The final framing story is that of poverty and separation. In this story, the believer separates from the world to avoid contamination by it. They live a subsistence life style free of the trappings of the surrounding culture. But, the separation means that they do not participate in society or have any influence in it. Instead, they have an enforced separation that ensures that their faith remains free of all contamination.

I would like to think that I lean toward the third framing story but I am aware that my faith has been influenced by some of the others.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Algorithms, Data Structures, and Patterns

I have a feeling that this may be revisiting an old theme but as I relate to others, I realise that old definitions seem to change little over time.

An algorithm is defined by the idea of a sequence of instructions. This definition corresponds well with imperative or procedural programming but not so well with the object-oriented paradigm. Guzdial and Ericson (2005) introduce the algorithm terminology in their programming test but it doesn't maintain any prominence. They initially refer to both programs and algorithms as recipes. They then talk of the study of recipes in terms of "How a recipe works" (algorithm), "the units used in recipes" (data structures), and type of recipes (pp 3-4). They do use a couple of more formal definitions. The first being that an "Algorithm is a description of a process apart from any programming language" (p 6). As such an algorithm "can be written in English" (p 6). In the second definition, they say "An algorithm is a description of behaviour for solving a problem" (p 516). Although they make some other references to algorithm, it doesn't have the focus that I would have expected from the way that it is introduced.

Data structures as suggested by Guzdial and Ericson are units used in algorithms but in teaching data structures, algorithms may be taught that describe how to manage the data structure. How an algorithm is implemented for a data structure depends on the implementation language or maybe more accurately the programming paradigm that the programmer is using.

My interest here is that we place an emphasis on teaching algorithms. Often universities teach algorithm and data structure papers but few that focus on design patterns. It makes me wonder whether the issue of the difference between imperative programming and object-oriented programming has really been examined or considered as a real issue.

In the debate on teaching object-oriented programming there was the proposal to use elementary patterns as foundation for teaching (Wallingford 1998). Partially as I expected these patterns include loop and selection patterns. These cover wider range of patterns that I taught in my introductory programming course in the early 1990s. The patterns can be used to build a base for reasoning about program design and for constructing more complex programming logic.

The question then is whether elementary patterns can be used to describe algorithms and data structures? If they can then maybe we should teach patterns in our introductory courses to lay the foundation for later learning.

Is it possible that patterns can be programming paradigm independent or is the link between a paradigm and a pattern very fixed? I think there is a pattern that can be applied across paradigms and it is these that should be the foundation of introductory programming courses. In the same manner as I used logic diagrams as a foundation for teaching imperative programming, we should be able to use the patterns as generic representations or abstractions that are them implemented in specific constructs.

A further extension of this elementary patterns thinking is introductory implementation patterns (Beck 2007). In theory, Beck's patterns are language specific but he had already produced a similar Smalltalk (1997) and there are some overlaps. It is these overlaps that are significant. The question is whether, other paradigms (i.e. functional, logic, ...) have implementation patterns? I am sure that there are but they may not be called patterns.

What I believe we can talk about and use to teach are foundational patterns that have variable implementations in different programming paradigms.

The other use of patterns is pedagogical patterns (Bergin 1998, 2000). These tend to focus on class room practice rather than planning content. You could say they are teaching best practice.

From my own research, I am focused on patterns of variation in content that help bring focus to what should be learnt. Marton et al. (2003) have described four patterns of variation. What I would like to see is these formalised in a way that is easier to apply.

What I am looking at is utilising patterns as the building blocks for a course. Patterns of variation are used in conjunction with pedagogical patterns to teach elementary patterns that are implemented in the programming language.


Beck, K. (1997). Smalltalk best practice patterns (1st ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Beck, K. (2007). Implementation patterns. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Addison Wesley

Bergin, J. (1998, 11 May 2002). Some pedagogical patterns, from

Bergin, J. (2000, July). Fourteen pedagogical patterns, from

Guzdial, M., & Ericson, B. (2005). Introduction to computing & programming with Java: A multimedia approach. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Marton, F., Runesson, U., & Tsui, A. B. M. (2003). The space of learning. In F. Marton & A. B. M. Tsui (Eds.), Classroom discourse and the space of learning (pp. 3-40). Mahwah, NJ; London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.

Wallingford, E. (1998, 17 July 1998). Elementary patterns and their role in instruction: A report on the ChiliPLoP'98 hot topic workshop, from

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Can the existence or non-existence of God be proved by science?

This question has repeatedly come up in my thinking. If we can explain through science how the universe came into being then is there any further need for god? On the other hand, science hasn't proven there is a god so does this mean there is no god? Is it possible for science to prove the existence or non-existence of god?

I have difficulty with the idea that because we can create conditions that might be similar to the conditions when the solar system may have come into existence then we have shown that there is no requirement for god. All that we do is speculation about what might have been before the existence of what we know now exists. I keep thinking what was it like before time existed or matter existed but I also need to ask the question whether there was a point where nothing existed? Can we really talk about the beginning of time?

In my belief system, God exists outside of time and matter. Death also removes us from time and matter as we know it. If we are to contend that God is external or always existed then he cannot be constrained by dimension that came into existence at creation or the big bang. The realm or dimensions that we exist in limits our understanding and restricts our existence.

God is not restricted by our dimensions of existence. I would contend that the biblical contention of that he brought those dimensions into existence. Can the creator be constrained by that which he created? Does what the creator brought into existence constrain the creator?

We search for proof of god within the dimensions of our existence or understanding but if God exists outside those dimensions are we likely to find Him / Her within those dimensions? We may observe evidence of His / Her handiwork but not the creator him or her self. A person builds a piece of furniture but that person doesn't become part of that furniture. We may observe the handiwork and make judgements about the creator but the furniture will never show us or reveal to us its creator. The creator of the furniture exists apart from the furniture.

Science works within the dimensions of our existence. Our thought processes work within the dimensions of our existence. We exist within the dimensions in which we came into existence. If we are to search for God then we must do so in the dimensions of his / her existence and not within our own limitations. I met with God in what I call the spiritual realm. The biblical authors talk of this realm but our scientific method doesn't understand or apply to it. Science from my perspective can not prove or disprove the existence or non-existence of God.

Before I finish this dialogue, I would contend that our description of God is limited by our realm of existence. Why do we say God is he? In our existence, persons are either male or female. If we understand God to be a person (a restriction that we place on God) then we want to refer to God a him or her. Depending on our perception of the nature of God, we will either see God as male or female.

If I follow my argument that God exists outside our dimensions of existence then God may not be a person as we understand being a person to be. God may not be male or female as we understand male or female.

My understanding of God and my experience of that understanding are based on my experience of God and the limitations of the dimensions of my existence or expression available to me. We use our limited vocabulary and experience to express something that we do not have the full capacity to experience or describe.

I have written before that in logic systems, the proof that something is true only requires one proof of existence. To prove the universal negative (i.e. the non-existence of something), we have to show in all cases (dimensions of possible existence) that the conditions hold true (i.e. the universal negative applies). If we limit the dimensions of investigation, we can argue that the universal negative applies within those dimensions. When we acknowledge tat we can not claim to prove the universal negative.

If life exists in another solar system then we perceive it as being in a form that we understand as being life. We are restricted in our comprehension and understanding by our experience and knowledge. Our proofs of life or the non-existence of life is restricted to our dimensions of knowledge, existence, and understanding. It is only as we become aware of new dimensions that we see new possibilities and ways of expressing our experience or understanding.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Relevance of Work

Barclay (1976) in his introduction to 2nd and 3rd John, has a portion of the Didachē. It talks about the rules for judging travelling prophets or preachers. One of the key measures was a person's willingness to work amongst the settled congregation. The portion that Barclay quotes says “if he be minded to settle among you, and be a crafts man, let him work and eat. But, if he hath no trade, according to your understanding, provide that he shall not live idle among you, being a Christian” (p 134). The implication is that any who settle should endeavour to work at a trade or help the community. They should not be able to sit idle and expect to live comfortably. However, the community is to provide for them not based on how much they work but according to the communities understanding. The new arrival should give of their skills and abilities, and the community provide for the person's needs. This sounds like an itinerant worker who during the harvest arrives at farms to help with the harvest and then moves on when the harvest is done.

There is another interesting aspect in the assessing of these travelling prophets / teachers. The Didachē clearly says “if he ask money, he is a false prophet,” and “no prophet who ordereth a table in the Spirit shall eat of it,” and “Whosoever shall say in the Spirit: Give me money, or any other thing, ye shall not harken to him” (p 134). It is clear that the prophet or teacher should not ask for money or loggings as part of the ministry although there is an expectation that the community will meet their needs.

It could be argued that this doesn't apply to settled ministry but when I think of some of the churches with high profile teachers who appeal for money / gifts to support their ministry and then live in luxury off those gifts then I see them as in breach of these tests in the Didachē. The Didachē is talking of a minister who wishes to settle or the prophet who speaks to the community. Clearly the Didachē is expecting these people to work ub the community and not to be appealing for money for their survival. Our high profile ministers and prophets will fail this simple test.

In relation to work, it is clear that all must be willing to work and offer their skills to the community. In return, the community offers their hospitality or provides the ability for that person to live among them. The worker gives their skills not demanding payment but in order to contribute. The response from the community is to recognise a person's need and to provide for those needs.


Barclay, W. (1976). The letters of John and Jude (revised ed.). Edinburgh: The Saint Andrew Press.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Communicating a Political Message

This blog has its origin during the period leading up to the British elections in 2009 and a discussion sequence on Facebook. The instigator of the Facebook discussion sequence initially encouraged people to listen / watch a “Prime Ministerial debate” but also emphasised a desire to see “green” policies / projects promoted. Others in the discussion emphasised that in the current economic environment where “green” options are more expensive, moving to “green” fuels wouldn't happen simply because they are too expensive. They never discussed the reason for them being more expensive or why oil companies were continuing to make healthy profits from current non-“green” fuels.

The issue is really one of political will and being willing to challenge current economic and political thinking. In the discussion, I endeavoured to raise this challenge and to promote the idea that we need to think differently if we are to resolve the problems that we have created. I place emphasis on “we have created” because the problems being debated are things that we (people) have put in place. They are not things that simply happen as a result of natural events (i.e. volcanoes, weather, etc.). People created financial systems and people make decisions on the use of fuels. People can change these things if they have the political will.

As I have thought about this, I keep coming back to Walter Reuther's (a civil rights leader of the 1960's) quote “If we can have full employment and full production for the negative ends of war, then why can't we have a job for every American in the pursuit of peace?” I would change this and argue that we will accept the cost of destructive practices (war, pollution, unemployment, ...) but not the cost of positive practices (peace, clean environment, full employment, ...). The justification is based on the upfront cost and not the ongoing cost cleaning up or putting right the destruction.

Britain and the US never asked whether they could afford war in Iraq or Afghanistan. They never looked at the ongoing cost of restoring these countries or retaining “peace” keepers. The desire was to enforce their own political will on these nations. The costs of doing so were not fully considered.

Reuther's comments relate to World War II and maybe the Vietnam and Korean wars (the cost of the Korean war are on going). particularly for the “World Wars” nations were mobilised for the war effort. Cost was not the concern. After the first World War, there was a period of economic depression possibly partially caused by a return to “peace time” economics but during those war periods funding was found to maintain the machinery of war. Money was injected into the system to pay for things that would be destroyed.

When we look at the issues of “peace” or “green” technologies, we seem unable to find the resources or the will power to make these things happen. Instead, we will use thousands to dollars to pursue environmentally unfriendly projects. If we want “peace” or a “green” economy then we need the political will to fund it or to change the accounting system so that it becomes economically viable to pursue desire outcomes (“peace” and a “green” environment) and economically lacking in viability to pursue destructive outcomes (war and a polluted environment). In the current economic thinking, you tax heavily the destructive focussed projects and use the taxes to support “green” or “peace” initiatives. Better still is to change the economic thinking.


The great era of building empires through colonisation may have come to an end with many former colonies gaining independence or so called independence. These colonisation efforts ignored and destroyed the indigenous cultures of the nations being colonised. As the empire took over, the people of that nation were expected to conform to the systems being implanted by the colonising power.

In some places, we see attempts to revive or recover some of these indigenous practices but the share determination of the colonising power often destroyed the culture and the will of the aboriginal people.

No nation would now claim to be a colonising power but we see the western nations continuing to ignore eastern practices and systems. It is my belief that colonial thinking has driven the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the so called “war on terror.” There is no desire by western nations to understand the concerns of the opposition rather the desire is to see these people conform to western style democracy and economics.

Just as the colonial forces of the past era ignored the wealth of knowledge and cultural practices of the indigenous people, so the western nations are ignoring the eastern knowledge, practices, and systems. There is a wealth of knowledge to be learnt from other cultures but again like the pursuit of “peace,” we ignore that learning in the pursuit of conformity to western democracy and economics.

If we really wish to pursue peace then we have to learn to listen and to learn. Our own systems need to be critiqued and revised. We need to give those cultures room to adapt and grow. Our interaction with them has to involve understanding how they wish to trade and not enforce our trading practises on them.

Defence of our society has to be seen through developing understanding rather than pursuing conquest. Again we need fresh thinking. As Einstein said “we can not solve the problems with the same thinking that created them.”

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Living / Communicating A Dream

Back on 31 August 2010, I reflected that the American Civil Rights movement never fully achieved their dream. The racial barriers have been reduced but not completely. However, it was the dream of "a job for every American in the pursuit of peace" (Walter Reuther) that remains unfulfilled and in the current economic practices unlikely to fulfilled. When monetary concerns dominate and cloud the thinking then the abilities and skills of the people are ignored.

Reading Stephen Denning's "Squirrel Inc." (2004), I am reminded of the change patterns book (Manns & Rising 2005). Both books talk of bringing change to an organisation. However, Denning talks more of resistance to change and of methods to overcome that resistance.

Denning helps explain a little better why the Civil Rights dream has not been fulfilled. I have said the foundation for the resistance is economic thinking. Denning shows or talks of this in his story when he puts the words "Your hard numbers are about the past. The future can't be scrutinized. It hasn't happened yet. It doesn't have any hard numbers. You've never seen a nut-storing organization. Neither have those fifty-six squirrels you interviewed" in Diana's mouth (p 108).

If we ask people to pursue a dream, we are asking them to do something that they haven't done or seen before. There is no hard evidence of the possible outcome or of the steps required to make it happen. Any attempt to gather numbers is meaningless because there is nothing to measure. Pursuing a dream is about believing in possibilities not recalling past victories or failures. What can be shown by exploring the past is that full employment hasn't been achieved in pursuing peace and that current economic practices stand in the way of achieving that dream. Denning emphasises how the "knowledge game" tends to work on current assumptions and not challenge them (p 110). We see this in economic research that continually emphasises and supports current practice without ever questioning the direction or assumptions. It takes a brave researcher to step outside the current paradigm and challenge the underlying thinking.

Yet to fulfil the dream of "full employment for peace," we need to be challenging the underlying thinking. We need to be communicating a dream and causing the current system to crumble. To some extent natural disasters do this on a small scale. People have to step outside the restrictions to survive but as normality is restored, there is a return to old economic thinking and assumptions and the destruction of the new sharing that developed.

Denning has his character say "In contrast, a vision doesn't use these exclusionary moves. It doesn't claim to be true or false. It offers you a possibility. It bids you escape from the constraints of the past and enter fresh territory. It opens up a landscape of possibilities still to come" (p 110). The dream of "full employment" has to throw up new possibilities and challenge old stereotypes. Such a future based on placing the needs of people ahead of economics has to open doors to new possibilities. Old patterns of thinking have to crumble. Old rules and restrictions have to be discarded. The new hope has to flow from new paradigms and new thought processes.

Denning goes on to say "A vision is a dream, but it's a dream with a twist: it's a dream that's shared. When we dream together, it's already the beginning of a new reality. When we share the same dream, we all begin to participate in it" (p 111).

The first step in making a vision or dream reality is to share it. We have to use our telling of the dream to break down the resistance to challenge the "standard ways of doing things" that have "become embedded in the minds and hearts of everyone" (p 116). We need to learn to live the dream regardless of the cost in the current system so that people are free to think in fresh ways about living in community.


Denning, S. (2004). Squirrel Inc.: A fable of leadership through storytelling. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Manns, M. L., & Rising, L. (2003). Fearless change: Patterns for introducing new ideas. Boston: Addison Wesley.

The Dream of a Giving Communities

In thinking about the design of a game designed to foster different forms of economic thinking and theories, one of the issues is to help people see how these alternative theories may be able to operate with a wider context that is hostile or operating in opposition to the desired theory.

Israel was encouraged to behave in one manner to fellow Jews and sojourners but to treat the foreigner differently. My thought is that we want to foster giving communities but that these communities can be exploited by a self interest community that surrounds them.

In our society, there are barter communities that deal with out side communities either by barter or by the prevailing economic practices. This same model could apply to a giving community. Internally, the focus is on giving. When dealing with other communities the desire would be a focus on giving but it may need to use barter or priced commodity. Never should it barter or set a price for personal advantage. The giving communities operation should always challenge alternative economic systems even if at times, it places its own existence at risk. It should never allow the self interest policies communities to destroy the foundation of its operation. This is what I believe has happened with current Christian communities. Priority has been given to personal survival and as a consequence, the economic practices of ensuring personal gain have taken over destroying the emphasis of satisfying the need of others.

Any economic game needs to bring these different forces into play so that the game player has to make decisions based on joining a giving focused community where personal needs are meet by the community, and a self interest community where the individual is forced to fend for themselves. The consequences of the choices need to become visible fairly quickly with in the game play.

The player needs to not only join a community but will also need to play at the boundary between communities. This way, they will have to experience the interactions and resolve the conflicts caused by different philosophies and theories.

Keeping the game simple also has to be an integral part of the game design. If the game gets too complex, it will cause the player to lose interest or slow down the game too much.

I am just wondering what influence games like Civilisation are having on my thinking. I haven't played them often but I am aware of their community focus and on the interaction between communities. What I see wrong with these games is the emphasis on building a community that dominates the surrounding communities. I have not found a way to build co-existing communities. As I reflect, I wonder what Gandhi would think of modern India? Would he still see it pursuing his model for community? What we see is communities falling in favour of Western Capitalism and then struggling to retain their independence and sense of community. All these things should visible in a game.