All posts for the month September, 2002

I’ve made made countless references to Maslow ever since I noticed that Pirsig’s levels of “value” (absolute quality or goodness) appeared to mirror it and recently since Foucault seemed to reinforce this impression. I always warmed to Maslow since pre-MBA management training days so I thought I’d better check out how good my memory was with a Google search. As usual I have unashamedly rolled several different theories together in my head – better to build and synthesise than to discard one theory in favour of another. Quite frankly IMHO, Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs can be (and often is) re-stated in words and varying levels of granularity that make Hertzberg’s (binary) Motivators and Hygiene Factors, McGregor’s (binary) Theories X and Y, and Ouchi’s Theory Z all just special cases of Maslow’s more general case. Most criticisms of Maslow can similarly be countered by judicious choice of words, and by remembering to treat his pyramid as an analytical framework, rather than some prescriptive methodology. These theories come predominantly from “management science” domains, but Pirsig and Foucault seem to say they represent something pretty fundamental about human social organisation and values – or even, dare I say, of any higher order intelligent beings natural or artificial.

Bearing in mind my original declaration of consciously viewing information and knowledge from a “human intent” perspective, then perhaps it becomes apparent why I see these drivers as one fundamental part of any knowledge model.

The Apothecary’s Drawer. Interesting mixed culture / science / history / writing blog from Ray Girvan (Link via Seb) with main site home pages containing many interesting (and classified) links. Picked up a link from there to Kuro5hin – “Technology and Culture from the Trenches” a lo-noise bulletin board with democratic moderation.

[Post Note – I’d forgotten until I re-looked recently that Ray’s tag line was actually “an eclectic and sceptical look at topics near the triple point of science, arts, and culture”.]

Finished Foucault – ultimately unsatisfactory despite 80% good content. Conclusions as incomprehensible as the penultimate chapter on Man. Did Foucault get tired towards the end, or his translator, or his editor (or was it just me) ?

Discovered publishers note about the mysterious translation of the title – sure enough, the publisher suggested The Order of Things precisely to distinguish it from other works in English with the titles “Words and Things / Objects” (See Quine below)

Umberto Eco’s little joke in his title “Foucault’s Pendulum” is of course responsible for the confusion between Michel Foucault and the Pendulum. (See the 10 most elegant experiments blog earlier)

[Note that psybertron seems to have got into search engines and directory listings at last – so more direct google hits etc, rather than re-directs from the old weblog archives. That, plus the increasing number of reciprocal links, probably responsible for the rising hit rate. I’ll have to watch my P’s&Q’s.]

Seb’s Open Reasearch. Another interesting blog – seen some time ago, now added to the sidebar. Picked-up this quote / link:
The O’Reilly Network has posted a transcript of Lawrence Lessig’s keynote speech on copyright at the Open Source Convention in late July. His four theses:
+ Creativity and innovation always builds on the past.
+ The past always tries to control the creativity that builds upon it.
+ Free societies enable the future by limiting this power of the past.
+ Ours is less and less a free society.
Pirsig’s levels explicitly in here, though not acknowledged – ie base / older level enables higher/ future level , but must not constrain it, however the other side of the deal is that the more developed level mustn’t undermine the lower, until it has re-built a foundation – kind of credible “respect your elders” adage. Dupuy also said about AI / Cybernetics “reflective contemplation is essential to progress”, not because one should feel constrained by it, but because it provides many possible bases on which to build, and many more allies than enemies. Little is thought that has not been thought before – who said that ?

Confucious “Study the past, if you would divine the future.”

Stepford Citizen Syndrome. (From BuzzFlash via Adam Curry). Many a true word, but really an example of how “cultural rationalisation” manifests itself like some kind of evil conspiracy, yet each individual would probably claim – “but I’m different.” Argyris again.

[Post Note – spookily my recorded impression of Perth, WA is Stepford Wives meets Bournemouth … now I recall why.]

Cycorp – Dimensions of Context Space. Reference to Doug Lenat’s paper (via Seth). If one accepts “context” as the space in which information represented by relationships is organised and characterised, then this Cyc stuff has a lot in common with the EPISTLE work I’ve mentioned before. Also like EPISTLE Atomic Templates and Seth’s Mentographs, includes the idea that information comes as “atoms” which may be indivisible in terms of their communication, but have internal structure which together with context defines their semantics. I see a total convergence of thoughts here, in that the description of “information” is reduced in all cases to characterisation of relationships and the directed pattern of their linking, even if I’m uncomfortable with the choice of “context” to describe this set. (Lenat’s context – Figure 1 – in fact seems to represent what I alluded to as the communication chain in my manifesto, originally brought to my attention by Guarino.)

Lenat’s paper goes further, in that it suggests (defines) 12 dimensions for characterising these “contexts”. The basic spatio-temporal-extent (EPISTLE) idea is there as both points and periods in both time and n-Dimensional space (four of the dimensions). Most of the remaining 8 are very much around human intent, which is very encouraging, but I see no convincing argument offered as to why this particular breakdown is significant, though examples given demonstrate it’s utility. Pleased also to see “granularity” as an explicit dimension – my current spin is one of “fractality” – something like necessary levels of granularity linked to complexity of the context.

I ought to explain why I don’t feel bound to respond scientifically to the 12 dimensional breakdown from the perspective of attempting to challenge any specific inadequacies. There may in fact not be any, but that is not my point. Taxonomies / ontologies also can be very useful and flexible, so much so that many people would still not question significant limits to their utility for organising information / knowledge. I am more concerned at present to establish if there are any fundamental bases on which such ontologies (even ontologies of context – because that’s all they are) should be constructed – before re-addressing any pragmatic limits to implementation.

Lenat’s 12 dimensions do indeed however look like the shape of things to be expected. No argument there.

[Note to self – must get into the habit of creating little discusions like the above as “quickies” – a la Jorn – so that they take up less space in the Blog itself.]