flwyd: (Vigelandsparken face to face)
Religions are moral exoskeletons. If you live in a religious community, you are enmeshed in a set of norms, relationships, and institutions that work primarily on the elephant to influence your behavior. But if you are an atheist living in a looser community with a less binding moral matrix, you might have to rely somewhat more on an internal moral compass, read by the rider. That might sound appealing to rationalists, but it is also a recipe for anomie—Durkheim's word for what happens to a society that no longer has a shared moral order. (It means, literally, “normlessness.”) We evolved to live, trade, and trust within shared moral matrices. When societies lose their grip on individuals, allowing all to do as they please, the result is often a decrease in happiness and an increase in suicide, as Durkheim showed more than a hundred years ago.

Societies that forgo the exoskeleton of religion should reflect carefully on what will happen to them over several generations. We don’t really know, because the first atheistic socieites have only emerged in Europe in the last few decades. They are the least efficient societies every known at turning resources (of which they have a lot) into offspring (of which they have few).
— Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind: Why good people are divided by politics and religion, "Religion is a Team Sport."

While many European countries have low native birthrates, the successful ones have high immigration rates. I see this as a transitional phase in group selection. Haidt argues that religious communities and practices are a group adaptation: groups of humans with a strong religious bond are able to overcome free rider problems and outcompete—as a group—groups which are less cohesive or whose cultural practices are less effective at bringing collaboration to fruition. For most of human history, one's membership in a religious group was generally from life through death: leaving a religious group meant leaving a tribe, or having a conquering tribe's religious system forcibly replace the conquered tribes.

But now large group "superorganisms" (including religions, nations, governments, and companies) don't have to be tied to a human lifecycle. In the 21st Century, humans have considerable ability to move between groups. Much as an animal organism doesn't die as its cells come and go at a steady pace, a paper entity can grow and thrive so long as it can get a continual influx of new resources, even if those resources shift focus to providing outcomes beneficial to the group rather than reproducing on their own. This is particularly true for companies: two parents often work for different companies; a baby born to the couple is not generally part of either company's culture; and there's no assumption that the child will grow up to be part of the company as an adult. Workers might be part of a company for a few months or a few years (and rarely more than half their lives), yet companies like IBM and UBS are older than roughly half of the countries in the UN.
flwyd: (mail.app)
Background: My company's email server runs MS Exchange. They won't turn on IMAP support, so the ways to access one's email are MS Outlook, Webmail, and programs written to read the (undocumented?) webmail format. As far as I can tell, Evolution is the only mail user agent which runs on Linux and can access (through a plugin) MS Exchange. Evolution's theme animal is the primate: its old logo had a monkey, it was originally called Ximian Evolution, some of its background processes are named bonobo, and so forth. Though not my favorite mail user interface, Evolution works reasonably well. The evolution-exchange plugin, on the other hand, has gone through several revisions of bugginess. A year or two ago it had a tendency to crash Evolution at random, but these days the main bug is the moderately annoying habit of re-downloading mail I've already seen when I launch Evolution. I've got to give the developers credit for creating something that's at least usable given the unsupported environment in which they're working, but all things being equal I'd rather not have this setup for my mail.

This morning, I came in a little after 8:30 and stepped through my new mail. One item in my inbox was spam, so I hit the Junk button in Evolution and moved on. A few hours later, I got an instant message that a coworker had sent me an email with a stack trace. I heard my "new mail" beep, but the message didn't show up in my inbox. I asked him to resend and the same thing happened. I looked at my inbox via webmail and saw the messages, but Evolution still had no clue, even after a restart.

After a morning of not getting email, I dug around in the files Evolution stores. I could see my new mail in the file on disk, but I couldn't see it in the application. I deleted the index, the metadata file, the summary. No help. Since Evolution was clearly copying data from Exchange to files on disk, I started investigating other clients I could use to read and send mail, planning to leave Evolution as a mail delivery agent. While Sylpheed and its offspring Claws looked promising, they seem to require the internal use the MH storage format and I didn't want to add an MBox to MH step to an already somewhat fragile mail setup. I installed Thunderbird and started setup for a mailspool account. But then the Thunderbird GUI seemed to hang while loading my spool (which only contains 147 cron messages), so I figured I'd give Evolution one more try.

I looked back in my Inbox mbox file and noticed that the junk mail I'd received this morning was still there. "Hmm... maybe Evolution just flags spam, but doesn't move it." I took a gander in my Junk folder and sure enough, there was all the email I received today. Select, mark as "not junk," and my mail was magically back to its correct place. I have no idea why everything got auto-filed as junk. Maybe there's a sticky flag bug. Maybe its small sample size made it think something like "From" was a spam word and everything with "From" in it should be marked junk. Regardless, I turned off junk mail scanning and sighed about a wasted afternoon.

The lesson for today: An infinite number of monkeys will eventually misplace your email.

P.S. I think I saw that the Exchange protocol will soon be (more?) open. I hope that will quickly lead to quality plugins for a great many email programs so that Evolution can fight for natural selection with more than the null set.
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