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All posts for the month October, 2002

Peter Drucker Foundation. Some interesting stuff about management of non-profit organisations setting future trends of business management including this interview with Charles Handy. Some good recommended reading lists too, including ….

The March of Folly by Barbara Tuchman (Ballantine, 1992), ….. the follies of humankind in bringing about …. disasters that could have been avoided …. the best and the brightest can blithely and arrogantly march into colossal blunders. (Warren Bennis favourite text).

Mary Parker Follett, Prophet of Management (Harvard Business School Press, 1996, orig 1920’s). It makes one wonder why the rest of us bothered to write anything at all! Read and Admire says Charles Handy.

Ishmael by Daniel Quinn (Bantam, 1995) [actually a trilogy] …. elegant inquiry into deep cultural assumptions that shape how we think in the industrial era. and Synchronicity by Joseph Jaworski (Berrett-Koehler, 1996). ….. leadership grows from how we think about reality …. our Western scientific view of reality is being turned upside down this century … says Peter Senge.

Uncertainty About the Uncertainty Principle. Can’t anybody get Heisenberg’s big idea right? By Jim Holt in Slate (via Apothecary). Not even Heisenberg apparently. Strange when I read Heisenberg’s Physics and Philosophy I posted earlier that I was puzzled as to why he seemed to imply the “measurement disturbance” view of uncertainty in his many examples. Not just me then.

[Post note: Seth picked-up on this link and suggested identity and expressivity as conjugate information variables. Neat idea, I think this equates to my “reification kills knowledge” mantra. The more information is defined by tight syntax / ontologies (identity? ) the less knowledge (expressivity ?) it actually captures. Less is more !]

Conspiring to Mis-inform. New page from Robot Wisdom with this quote resonating with the summary statement of my manifesto in the header above. [Quote] Defining a universal ontology will require defining explicit categories for every variety of human experience, and every step in this direction must tighten the noose around the conspiracy of self-deception.[Unquote]. My earlier words were … “models which continue to rely solely on scientific rationale conspire to misinform”.

Sir Robert Winston interviewed on Breakfast BBC this morning, plugging his new TV Series (and obligatory book of the series). Several interesting and relevant tidbits. Firstly, echoing the previous post, the instinct (genetically inherited and socially conditioned) that allows us to recognise friend or foe from first impressions (fractions of seconds contact even) is an ancient survival mechanism. Interestingly Winston also has views on the extent to which such behaviours are innate and are subsequently conditioned, which include the belief that there must be some fundamental basis of instints that have a “moral” aspect, and examples of survival vs sacrifice behaviours. (See Chrucky items blogged earlier – moral insticts by tacit agreement etc.). Winston admitted candidly that as a scientist, some of these beliefs were pushing the boundaries of what his peers might consider scientific, but they were seriously held intuitions.

Just a little anecdote I found myself re-telling last night. Sylvia and I have a tacit understanding that allows us to agree with a nod or a wink about individuals we encounter in any service industry context – teller, check-out, waiter, barman etc. whereby we instantly know if this is an individual we would employ “if I were Richard Branson”. ie the success a person brings to any role has more to do with the qualities of the person, than the specific industry or job emplying them – skewed at least 80/20 IMHO.

Still reading Eco at the moment, though finding only brief moments to do so, but still looking very good and building on Nietzsche, Kant and Peirce. Obtained Steven Pinker’s latest last night – The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature. If the introductory chapter is anything to go by this is right on message. (Makes seemingly positive references to Searle too, which augers well.)

The MS vs Mac Scam. This story, linked from Adam Curry, has been circulating in many forms, including amongst colleagues at work. Adam makes the strong point – Why are we surprised ? One commentator says – Why do we go through the motions of appearing offended ? Interesting that in the workplace the main reactions were Friday afternoon humour – the right place for it. All life is about constructing stories (illusions) from existing information and metaphors. I say – What do we think facts are anyway ? What else is accounting but creative ? The place for simple scientific logic and arithmetic is confined to very narrow spheres of life. Adam also makes a link back to Bernard McGrane’s Zen TV Experiment, a link I blogged a year ago. He’s right.

Why Science Needs Us to be Afraid. From Cringely, quoting a letter from Australian engineer scientist Richard Worsley. [Quote] … I’ve done my time in the trenches …. therefore feel able to comment on the lot of the scientist today….. science is not separate from society …. what you are seeing is a symptom …. of a broad social trend to globalization, market driven, efficient use of resources …. to such an extent that there is no intellectual freedom any more … without that, creativity is dying …. scientists spend more time justifying their work ….. science has always worked on the fact that we don’t know the answer …. we ask the question without having the answer ….. try getting that concept up when you have to justify continued expenditure ….. best scientists I know are all crazy …. you have to be ‘on the edge’ or unstable …. like the best fighter planes. [Unquote] The classic Catch-22 of having to rationalise the irrational. Tell me about it. A good documented example.

The Pepys Connection. Atlantic Online review (via Jorn) by Philip Hensher of “Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self” by Claire Tomalin. Interesting angle on the plethora of seemingly irrelevant first person details being key to why Pepys’ record represents a more important body of knowledge than any other 17th and 18th century objective accounts. Good advert for James Joyce in [Quote] Pepys’s commitment to recording the totality of experience would not really be matched until Ulysses and the diaries of Virginia Woolf. [Unquote]

The Classification of Links. Interesting link (via Seth) from “Hypertext Links: Whither Thou Goest, and Why” by Claire Harrison at First Monday. The ontology is a bit contrived and a bit focussed on e-biz dot.com web site domains, but (like Jorn’s simple text buttons) a step towards modelling the right bits of the semantic web IMHO. There is something fundamental here worth looking for.

Managing to find some time to read Eco’s Kant and the Platypus at last. He is a big fan of Nietzshe’s Truth and Lies and quotes ” … truth is a mobile army of metaphors, metonymies and anthropomorphisms … that subsequently gel into knowledge.” That’s just about where I’m coming from. Eco goes on to say “… we become accustomed to lying according to convention …. placing our actions under the control of abstractions …. having reduced the metaphors to schemata and concepts. Thence a pyramidal order of castes and ranks ….. constructed entirely by language …. the graveyard of intuition.” Exactly, “reification kills knowledge” is my mantra, “lying by (western) convention” is Argyris’ thesis. This could almost be the last word on the matter of justifying why rational objective ontologies are the last thing a model of knowledge needs.

[Metonymy and other forms of rhetoric seem to be a flavour of the month on the web.]

Subjects, objects, data and values. Sept 2001 (Rev 10 !!) of Robert Pirsig’s original 1995 paper. Although I bogged a link to the Quantonics site many moons ago, I didn’t spot there was so much Pirsig related stuff here and on the MoQ “Metaphysics of Quality” site, both recently added to the side-bar. Spooky to me that Pirsig directly, (and indirectly through a band of followers) has already closed the loop with his static / dynamic quality levels with quantum information et al. Another rich seam of research opens.

Chrucky’s paper (yesterday’s blog) covers interesting ground, even if the purpose is a catholic religious / abortion argument about what constitutes a human person. The concept of whether “morals” are something fundamental and whether consciousness and communication shared between “persons” are really part of some social contract, existing at tacit levels to build on more explicit conscious actions. (Duties, agreements, negotiations, Hobbes, body-politic, Searle, weak-AI, capabilities, facilities, and more.)

[Quote] […. distinguish between “Hypothetical” and “Categorical” duties or rules …..] H-duties are those things I must do to survive or to live well. The obvious h-duties that I have are to obey the laws of nature and such overwhelming forces as muggers, tyrants, and the law — on the threat of such things as penalties, injuries, incarceration, or death. C-duties are those actions which I have promised or agreed to do freely — overtly or tacitly. Talk of c-duties is grounded in some kind of an agreement. This is the insight of the social contract theoreticians, such as Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Kant, and John Rawls. Such an agreement is viewed as a historical fiction, but which is invoked to reveal the logic of c-duties. Talk of c-duties is based on some explicit or implicit set of agreed-to rules. According to the social contract theories, these rules may in fact be imposed through social laws or through indoctrination. Call this their genesis. However, their justification is through a fictitious, historical original free rational agreement. This is to say that h-rules in order to be freely accepted must be grounded in c-rules. And by being so grounded they become extensions of c-rules. Another way of expressing this is to say that there are many rules which appear to be h-rules but are really c-rules. Unless h-rules are agreed to at least implicitly, they have the character of imposed commands and remain merely h-rules. Let me clarify this through some thoughts about pursuing survival and the good life ….. [Unquote]

Very much Maslow / Hertzberg distinctions in motivations, here cast as social “duties”. Need to diagnose his “historical fiction” comment about the social contract idea – seems to me he’s making the same point that the distinction between survival pursuits and the good life is set at some (tacit) level defined by (or rationalised using) previous explicit negotiated agreements. Same thread as Pirsig and Foucault about the relationships between “moral” levels being pretty fundamental. As soon as you have a human social intent view of meaning and knowledge, the moral base level “human survival” seems a similarly fundamental basis for the knowledge model.

Transforming Information into Knowledge. Information Glut and Knowledge Creation in Biotechnology by Richard Gayle (via Seb’s Blog). Good paper – bases view of business on Porter’s stuff (see references in my own dissertation) therefore not limited to Biotech. [Quote] As companies grow and as the amount of information generated increases, fewer people have time to read the literature or are able to personally interact with those outside their particular program. This results in isolated projects, the inability to stay current, and the repetition of effort. [Unquote] Not surprisingly, the proposals are about knowledge management based on human interaction. (See also Heylighen’s papers on Information Overload effects.)