This page is called “About Logistics” rather than something meaningful, because it’s just a rough braindump of ideas connected by the keyword: “Logistics.”

… the stuff on communications through mesh networks will soon move to the MeshNetwork page …

This page talks about literal logistics (getting raw materials to the place where they are processed, and getting the processed end-results to the end user) as well as other things that more or less metaphoric analogies can be drawn with logistics. Logistics: “I, Pencil”. CyberneticEconomy full of spimes. An amateur courier network. The importance of “sharing” the “what” process. Analogies with logistics: “Programming is logistics”. self-organization.

I, Pencil

“I, Pencil, simple though I appear to be, merit your wonder and awe … if you can become aware of the miraculousness which I symbolize, you can help save the freedom mankind is so unhappily losing. … Simple? Yet, not a single person on the face of this earth knows how to make me.”

Thus begins the influential essay “I, Pencil. My Family Tree as told to Leonard E. Read” (1958).

Many students spend years of their life in highly structured hierarchy. So the idea that hierarchies are not absolutely required is a bit of a surprise. The idea that alternatives to hierarchies are often superior – HierarchyConsideredHarmful – is even more surprising.

The essay “No Silver Bullet Revisited” by Brad Cox (1995) argues that software is different from pencils: “This underlying difference is that electronic goods are made of bits but tangible goods are made of atoms.” However, it holds out hope. We have an astonishingly complex yet astonishingly efficient “I, Pencil” system that today converts a desire for a pencil in someone’s head into a physical pencil in one’s hands. It holds out hope that perhaps, someday, we will have an analogous system that, although complex, efficiently converts a desire for software in someone’s head into software that implements that desire. A system where people are paid well to keep that system running. A system where people are guided towards doing things that are highly useful, rather than wasting their time on stuff no one wants. A system where people can rapidly assemble useful software from pre-existing components, rather than creating everything from scratch every time. A system that allows people to use that software at low cost, without needing years of study to understand all the complexity involved in putting it together. (But will this system solve the “fun” problem discussed at ProgrammingAtWorkIsLessFun ?)

The “I, Pencil” system works great for commodity items. But IntelligenceFailure describes situations where it doesn’t work so well, even for physical objects.

Allegedly related pages: StigMergy CanTheSemanticWebWork HiveAllocation CyberneticEconomy EcosystemOfNetworks DoctrineOfSecrets Wikipedia:I,_Pencil


I don’t know if it’s worthy of a page yet or not, but, something I have had my eye on for a while, and have just now started to put together:


Basically, I’m noting a connection between being a programmer, and being a logistics manager.

It seems like the only real major difference is that the programmer instructs the manipulation of virtual things, whereas the logistics manager instructs the manipulation of material things.

Here’s what Wikipedia said:

The term logistics has evolved from the military’s need of spare-parts supply, but is now widely accepted to include activities like purchasing, transport, warehousing, organizing and planning of these activities. Logistics managers need general knowledge of each of these functions, and specific knowledge of the industry, commodity, or business protocols governing the product types being managed.

(Emphasis added.)

Now, is this something that applies to every work?

Let’s take something like knitting- I’m not so sure that, described in abstract terms, would really match the programmer. You could work at it and make something that looked like programming, but I think it takes more work than the logistics manager.

The role of being a doctor is also somewhat similar to programmer. Or does it? Maybe it’s more like a debugger in particular. You have a system which you are trying to restore to health. Not quite programming.

Nah; Being a logistics manager seems more similar.

You have this concept of what you want the system to do and how it is supposed to work, and then you just have to know all the different papers and forms (excuse me, interfaces) and procedures that the different warehouses and services and transports require.

Programming is logistics.

Briefly surfing the web, here are some of the types of things I see:

As a programmer, we’ve all seen hoards of these things. We call them APIs, and we use them to tell things what to do.

I was first keyed into this Logistics = Programming idea by Mark Atwood, a friend of mine. He didn’t say that; He just brought up logistics when we were talking, and seemed interested in the subject. I suspect he was, in the back of his mind, piecing this together.

One of the things we talked about with the AloNovo? guys while WikiVanning was how companies like McDonalds work, and stuff like that.

We talked about SupplyChain?s and stuff like that.

I did not fully understand the arguments that were being made, but I did think that they were interesting.

One core idea was that we’re going to have what I’d like to call a CyberneticEconomy. This is one where all the people who buy and sell things will have little price tags and description flapping out on the InterNet, and that we’re going to have these things where it’s super-easy to build a custom supply chain, logistics network, whatever we’re supposed to call it.

In order to better understand the idea myself, I took it to a crazy extreme:

Let’s suppose I’m going to work, but I want a package delivered to a friend in Ann Arbor as well. I can somehow electronically express that this little package of mine is supposed to go to MarkDilley. I immediately get an instruction back: “Okay; Just put the letter next to the light post at the corner of 9th & Howell as you’re walking by in Seattle. Oh, and by the way, would you bother picking up the package on 8th & Howell, and dropping it off at 2101 9th ave, on your way to work? It’s only a minue out of your way.”
And then I drop off my package, and pick up someone elses. Someone who was going to Sea-Tac, say. Sea-tac being our airport. At the airport, the package is inspected by staff, and handed to a person who is taking a trip that has a stopping point in Ann Arbor. And so on, and so forth. You see how this goes.

This may actually not be a totally crazy idea.

Within 3 years, cell phones will come standard issue with GPS and Accelerometer devices. (I know about the GPS part; HansWobbe and another filled me in on the Accelerometers part, which totally blew me away.) I would be surprised if this were not true for laptops as well. In 5 years time, a significant population should be locatable in real-time. After that, it’s just a matter of figuring out what people want done, and lots of bookkeeping. Software developers groan, but the public grins.

At any rate.

The idea is that businesses will become something like this. If you manufacture something, you will register yourself on the Internet by some specification, and you will have a rating. You will be on the SemanticWeb.

And then logistics of meeting demands will be automatically computable, and chains of price will be figured out and purchasing orders sent out.

One of the guys in the van said: “Any motion will be capitalized on.” (Or something like that.)

I mean, obviously, it’s not going to be so fine grained, to start with, at least. You’re not going to go to work, and get a notice that if you pick up a rock from a block away, and take it with you on the bus to work, you get 5 Lindens. It’s going to start with much larger motions- perhaps slaughterhouses for cows will be looked up electronically, rather than by searching through piles of books. (Something remote from your life.)

But I wouldn’t be surprised at all if, within 20 years, if you’re taking a daily commute to work, that you could register that travel, and systems would automatically find a way to capitalize upon that, and automatically renumerate you.

The question we were having in the van, was about: What are the effects of this?

MarshallBrain has already explored this subject within the firm. It’s already been shown true in at least 3 places that I have read of; Here's one of them. So, we can see where this is headed within the firm.

What Marshall Brain has not described for us is the effect in the market. I think it’s entirely realistic that this sort of technology will appear and be used in the marketplace. It will be longer coming, because there is advantage in integration. But over time, the required standards (for specifying what a thing is, for specifying pickup, handling, dropoff requirements, for specifying purchace orders) will be written (because there’s money to be made,) and this thing will actually happen.

I (personally) would call it a “Cybernetic Economy,” though I would be surprised if there isn’t some word for it that’s 30 years old.

The main question in my mind is:

  • Will this lead to greater control over the marketplace by a few?
  • Or will it lead to a Pike Place Market type scenario, where it’s this crazy and wonderful bazaar of services, and the big businesses come crumbling down, outmaneuvered by local action?

In a sense, CityComeaWalkin is all about a struggle (by cities) explicitely to push us from scenario #1 to scenario #2.

The AloNovo? people made some arguments in the car about why #2 is the scenario that must happen. I must admit that they know a lot more about the subject space than I do, and I had difficulty following their arguments.

Just something that I’ve been thinking about lately.

But I’m serious about the bike-courier like thing.

I think that, just for fun, people will make a network (in the 5-15 year future) for shipping packages entirely from person to person. They’ll do it just for fun. Like the “WheresGeorge” people, tracking US dollars, just because they can.

I doubt we’d get by the airport thing, since there’s a suspicious lot. But I bet the people who post to CraigsList about the trips they’re taking down to California would be willing to carry a package with them for a small fee, or an exchange in service on an AlternativeCurrency.

Ciao Lion - i am still lurking at what goes on here although i gave up trying to contribute, long ago, because i don’t manage to tune in as well as i would like …

However, “Logistics” sent me digging back in my uselss “e-mumbles” and … here is what i found …

Of course, if it “does fit in” less than nicely … we can wipe it off

Cheers, Luigi

Dead end attemtp to talk about what i meant to refer to as “Logistics in the present tense” … from a mailing list archive:

> I have a systems model for a holistic approach to the implementation of
> virtual learning environments into any organisation but I shall restrict
> myself to universities.

As a byproduct of a professional self-learning process I have been using a similar approach in non-academic contexts, while impersonating the role of an industrial spin-off entrepreneur for over three years

> My model draws on the metaphor of the "fire
> triangle" which some of you would recognise if you ever undertook any
> training on how to use fire extinguishers.

My model draws on a SELF-LEARNING work experience, as systems and user support analyst, in a number of infrastructure organizations, established by European research endeavours in different disciplines. After that experience I tried to export its worth to an ICT industry working environment and to an international ICT standardization expert group. A number of “Unrecoverable Fatal Errors” guided me to the present role of (still “tentative” and “unrecoverable error prone”) contributor to a European RTD and Demonstration Programme on Promotion of Innovation and Encouragement of SME Participation.

> The fire triangle is made up of
> three sides, or elements. They are fuel, oxygen and a heat source.
> Without any one of these elements the fire cannot start nor continue. My
> triangle for implementing virtual learning environments (or any new
> learning technologies for that matter) consists of
> 1.infrastructure,
> 2.training and development
> 3.organisational culture.

In my conceptual framework your three elements are:

  1. what - matches well with your “1”
    (in my view: a resource management process)
  2. with whom - can be related to your “2”
    (in my view: a self-learning process)
  3. how - matches well with your “3”
    (in my view: an objective sharing process)
> The final and most important and the one always ignored is the
> organisational culture which includes the policies, attitudes and personal
> models of learning, organisational climate, staff rewards, assessment and
> grading systems etc, etc. All those elements which either reward and
> encourage staff and students for implementing/using VLEs or create barriers
> and punish them for participating.

When business objective achievements become increasingly affected by the ability to use technology, the prevailing organisational cultures seem to miss the importance of “sharing” the “what” process, i.e.: they fail to see the importance of making the “how” process and the “what” process dependent from a BALANCED “with whom” process

> Like the fire triangle, the implementation of VLEs will not succeed without
> an equal, integrated and coordinated investment in all three of the
> elements of my model. This is an OD or organisational development approach
> and although all universities have a staff development department how many
> have an OD department or even recognise that the need for such a function
> exists or is required?

This is a problematic area where an (techie/digital) implementor mentality and a (not so techie/analogic) business mentality seem to be divided by some sort of cross-cultural barrier.

I’ve heard (did I hear this on CommunityWiki? from one of you?) that already, today, if you’re taking an airplane somewhere, you can call up a courier company and get paid just for carrying a package with you.

I did not know that! I’ve never heard that! I just asked AmberStraub, though, and she told me she’s heard of that.

Sounds interesting. Could you give some more details?

I heard a friend of a friend from Australia claim she planned to earn a little money on her vacation in the U.S. by driving a car through several states. (Apparently the company hiring her figures out regional differences in demand/prices for particular used cars. The company buys the car at a low price in one place, and sells the car elsewhere at a higher price. Alas, I can’t remember the name of the company).

I think http://bookcrossing.com/ is a partial implementation of a “vast amateur courier network”. (Currently BookCrossing is entirely free, but is limited to books).

So one argument is that perhaps courier firms will go away. We’ll still have couriers; We’ll just have all the standards formalized and collected, and when we need something shipped, our payments will go straight to the bike courriers / normal-everyday-people who are involved in the shipping.

That is, the role of logistics management (figuring out who should be where when, making sure that payments go through, negotiating service, etc.,.) will be entirely automated.

So if we believe this story, and if it scales up, than Wal-mart will evaporate as local economies are plugged into a cybernetic economy.

What the story CityComeaWalkin is about, is that the equivalent of Wal-mart (in the story world) realizes this, and works to be the sole Internet provider, monopolizing the CyberneticEconomy for themselves, and basically controlling everybody.

If you put all your eggs in one basket, it becomes critical to watch those eggs. (As Mark Twain liked to say.) The eggs in this case are the cybernetic economy, the Internet Service Providers, etc.,.

We do know that companies abuse their powers; Many ISPs that are also the phone company have been blocking Skype and VoIP traffic wherever they see it, for instance.

China also has tight controls on Internet traffic throughout their countries. It is unlikely, but perfectly plausible, that the US Federal government could similarly say that it’s in the countries best interest that all Internet traffic is “under observations.” Scare quotes put in place, because it seems likely to me that it would also introduce the power to control, not just observe. I’m not saying that this will happen. I’m not saying that it’s likely, even. I’m saying that I think it’s plausible, and something to watch for.

Which brings us to MeshNetworking?. Lion, you said that a lot of people are working on MeshNetworking?, so I assume you’ve been following it a little. I’m not that interested in following the standards battle until it comes down to a handful of possibilities, but please let me know when it does.

Heh heh, btw, I suppose logistics routing protocols could be thought of as a type of mesh networking protocols anyhow, although the fact that people will be able to say, “I’m at home now but I’ll be going to work tomorrow at 8am and available to pickup” probably totally changes the routing algorithms.

Reasons why I think mesh will work:

  • Big Heavy Books at the Bookstore – the last time I saw this kind of thing, it was DSL: I saw these big heavy books, about deep mojo way beyond me, and they were sitting in my section of the bookstore – I figure: “If there’s enough activity that there’s this much detail and it’s sitting at a general bookstore like Borders, then this is a technology with a future.”
  • Lots & Lots of Interest – non-techies come at me saying, “gee, shouldn’t we be able to do this?”
  • Lots & Lots of Labor – look on Wikipedia:Wireless_mesh_network, and you’ll see that there are a ton of routing protocols in development.

The person on the ground will probably say, “Geeze, this is soo hard,…” But I’m thinking: There are a ton of people working on it, and someone’s going to crack the lock.

A simple-minded growth trajectory suggests that within 3 years, (by 2008,) someone will have a good prototype, and within 5 years after that, (2013,) we’re going to see frequent geek deployments. We would think “5 years after that, mainstream would start to get into it,” (2018,) but that’s patently rediculous: We’re going to have so much bandwidth, pretty much everywhere, that it doesn’t make sense. (Single variable problem.)

So, the work of economic forces unbeknownst to me makes me think that by 2013, mesh will be actually a common thing. I would think that businesspeople looking ahead will be developing it into their phone systems, and that we would see it by 2013 integrated into consumer products (what we today call “cell phones.”)

The geeks who are interested in this stuff, do not appear in a vacuum, after all, entirely “grass roots.” No, the information diffuses out from geeks working in the IEEE, geeks working at these companies, etc., etc.,. The industry geeks are the permiable barrier between the companies and the grass roots efforts.

Now, I haven’t been doing much research here. It is plausible that someone has already made a functioning (& somewhat scalable) mesh networking solution. If that’s the case, then industry is ahead of the game, and we could expect to see these technology (I would think) as the product can be assembled, the software integrated, and the market sold. Since I don’t see much public selling going on (by selling, I mean public pressuring– convincing people that this is a good idea,) I’m going to guess that this is at least 2010. (To contrast: The public is being sold on having accelerometers in their phones right now: See the stuff about “your cell phone can call 911 in event of spontaneous super-high acceleration, ie an accident.”)

So my net estimate would then be 2010-2013 for mesh.

joking Why LionKimbro do you exaggerate? Do you want your estimation to be right or do you want this to happen earlier? /joking

theory: you underestimate how much of an influence the fact that you mention it here has.

I don’t think I’m exaggerating. I would prefer that mesh happen much sooner than it will. That said, it’s not a domain I’m prepared to work in.

I don’t understand how my mention affects people. I present my reasoning so that if I’m wrong, someone can show me how.

The place I really need to put this is on the futures wiki.

James Hendler thinks that the semantic web will allow small businesses to have “supply chains” like big ones do today (slide 32 of this talk).

[1] If you haven’t already, you probably want to hear this http://www.itconversations.com/shows/detail610.html and read JohnSeelyBrown? on GlobalProcessNetworks? etc.

I’m going to point out that one of the main differences between this “amateur logistics network for physical stuff” and the Internet is that I can make any number of perfectly identical copies of digital information, so it’s no big deal if 10% of the packets are dropped and lost – the communication protocol just makes another identical copy and tries again.

That sort of protocol won’t work at all for one-of-a-kind irreplaceable physical objects.

But stuff like “bananas” already has a certain percentage of loss (10% ?) that is shrugged off as acceptable by the companies involved – perhaps many physical objects are similar.

And perhaps the GPS / cell phone tracking thing will allow us to develop new protocols more appropriate for one-of-a-kind objects.

An amazing synchronicity: Last week I came across “No Silver Bullet Revisited” by Brad Cox 1995, which quotes the “I, Pencil” essay. Then I check a book out of the library (“The Price of Everything” by Russel Roberts) and discover that Chapter 2 is pretty much entirely a discussion of “I, Pencil”. We’ve mentioned it a few places here at CommunityWiki, so I’m making a little section on this page about it and how it relates to other pages here.

I thought about creating a fresh page about “I, Pencil”, but I think I’ll take the BigBucketsFirst approach and let it grow here for a bit, and then later decide whether or not to bud it off into its own page.

I believe that it is the power of self-organization, of evolution.

The phrase is, “The pain creates the organ.”

I believe that it applies just as much to biological organisms as it does to OpenSpaceTechnology as it does to markets as it does to conversations as it does to the real operations within firms as it does to wiki, though it works a little different in all of these.

When we talk, we feel the “need” to speak something; That something is “burning” to be spoken. There are divergences and convergences, explorations and reconnection. And “the pain creates the organ.”

Everything we see around us, is the product of self-organization. Every single thing.

TeilhardDeChardin took it a step further.

He said: Even the human spirit is a result of this self-organization.

But then he said something different than most.

He said, (paraphrasing: ) First, the increasing encephylization of species in evolutionary lines existed to support the biological organism. But then, psyche’s true character emerged, and it now clearly exists for itself: Psyche loves psyche. He said that minds never operate without a purpose. Animal vestiges can pull us from the purposes our minds conceive, but that – once a little bit of mind has control over itself, that it takes control, little bit by little bit, assembly by assembly, communication by communication. It was very much a “singularity” vision, but then again, with a difference.

The mind always does things for purposes – but for what purposes? The highest capacity of the mind is to work for the transcendent Heart. Anything else is just so much self-manipulation. Striving towards the highest ends and highest values of man, – that is the only thing that the psyche can strive for.

Teilhard said: A universe that is undergoing the process of psychicalization (of turning from matter into psyche,) is no different from a universe that is acquiring a personality. And that the personality is ultimately human, or perhaps “super-human.”

By super-human, he does not mean “super-powered,” like someone who can fly, and zap people better, or has sharper teeth.

He meant: “someone like Jesus Christ,” who holds the highest values.

Gene Roddenberry had someone ask him, “Why is so-and-so bald? It’s the 24th century; Wouldn’t they have cured baldness by then?”

His response was, “In the 24th century, people don’t care if you’re bald or not.” :)

I think that Teilhard thought that psyche (awareness, thinking, feeling,) as a part of the soul, exists outside of time and space, but can only incarnate (word made flesh) in the matrix of a world. Even the heavens require a backdrop to be painted against, after all. So he sees the universe as “building up” to psyche.

And I think he saw Christianity as special, because it focused on a person, and on the world, and on resurrection. (That, and, well, he grew up aspiring to be a Jesuit priest.)

Teilhard is very optimistic about the future: Mankind can do nothing but become more human, because that is the very nature of psyche itself. It’s just this “booting up” of a world, through massive self-organization (which he also talked about,) in some ways “self-organizing up” to what is required of it. This takes a bit of a stretch to see, but I have intuitions about how Teilhard simultaneously held both that “matter / evolution doesn’t have intention and directionality,” (in keeping with the modern Neo-Darwinian perspective, I believe it is called,) and that God is transcendent to the universe, and ultimately, that the universe “boot-straps God.”

A bit off topic, from self-organizing pencils, but you’re David Cary, and I figured this is what I should say to you.

I want to stress the personhood. He did not see the future as becoming increasingly abstract, in the sense of “people become light, and there is no uniqueness from person to person,” as TransHumanist? visions frequently point to. Rather, he saw deeper and deeper personhood and uniqueness.

The nature of love is not to annihilate lover and loved, he argued; He said: It’s a unity across uniqueness, connecting both worlds of difference and unity.

His greatest aspiration was that the Earth would be connected in a great hope, held in common, voluntarily held by every single person.

The entire universe acquiring a personality? Interesting idea. I think that can be consistent with “The heavens declare the glory of God”.

drifting even further off the topic

I am interested in the general idea that things other than human individuals can develop a “personality” or at least a “reputation”. Quite a few pages here at CommunityWiki discusses 3 specific cases (I also am interested in other specific cases):

We would like to make better physical communication devices. We would also like to improve our ways of setting up who talks and who acts.

Switching from a weaker tool to a more powerful tool can go beyond finishing the same task in less time – it can also lead to amazingly cool and wonderful things that were simply impossible with the weaker tool.

But we also worry that switching from a weaker tool to a more powerful tool will cause greater damage if it is accidentally misused or if people/companies deliberately abuse their powers. Sometimes dangerous tools can be improved in ways that don’t improve the maximum speed of the tool, but instead help directly reduce the risk of damage (better brakes on a car, blade guards on a saw) or indirectly let people see it isn’t being misused (brake lights on a car, SharedAwarenessSystem, the Open Meetings Act, PlainText, posted “last inspected on …” notices in elevators, etc.).

Alas, it is all to easy to focus too much of our time and effort on improving easy-to-measure things, and not enough time on improving more important (but not so easy to measure) things. (somewhat analogous to the Wikipedia:Megahertz_myth ).

Some easy-to-measure things: the amount of hair on a man’s head; the bandwidth and latency of a physical communication device; whether a person votes “Yea” or “Nay”.

Some more important, but harder-to-measure things: the attitude of most people towards baldness; does the person at the other end of a link understand what I’m saying; does this change help the entire group act with love and intelligence and inspire others to do the same, rather than vengeance and IntelligenceFailure.


Define external redirect: TransHumanist GlobalProcessNetworks AloNovo SupplyChain MeshNetworking JohnSeelyBrown

EditNearLinks: OpenSpaceTechnology BookCrossing CraigsList InterNet WikiVanning