All posts for the month February, 2003

The End of Doneness – A 1998 Dave Weinberger JOHO article [via Gurteen’s Blog] [Quote] The cards are stacked against documents. We are seeing a massive cultural shift away from the concept of done-ness. The Web allows for constant process and enables open-ended groups of people to be invited into the process. Documents are things that are done. That is why the Web will kill them. [Unquote]

I think this is healthy – a process view of web information.

Cost Effective Meta-Data – From Stefano Mazzocchi [via Seb] [Paraphrasing] The more, higher quality meta-data the better, because the quality of meta-data heavily influences the effectiveness of retrieval systems. Meta-data mark-up-based “semantic” web solutions (RDF, Ontologies) are economically infeasible (because the human assignment of the right tags is in addition to defining the content itself and is either expensive to do properly or compromised by cutting corners.) The best semantic meta-data solutions are based on transparent inference, without heuristics (in publishing the content). User feeling is important (in creating meta-data, and in how it is perceived as relevant later). [End Paraphrasing – my italic emphasis]

IMHO – The quest is for some kind of ontology that captures (or infers) the creator’s actions and intent at the point of creation and/or publication, not some misleading post-rationalisation according to some fixed prescribed ontology. ANKOO – A New Kind of Ontology ? Maybe not, “AnOint” perhaps – An Ontology of Intent ? Has your blog / output been annointed yet ?

If the human assigns meta-data to their own output, the “intent” problem just shifts along one – from why did Mr X say that, to the question of why did Mr X assign that meta-data to it. When the Mr X says his latest offering is the best thing since sliced bread, do you believe him because it is, because he says it is, or because you believe him (or not as the case may be) ?

Progress via Disruptive Technologies – From Hugh Blackmer, Science Librarian, Washington & Lee Uni. [via Seb] Particularly on the subject of colaborative web tools, but on the message of emergence and change – mainly technology driven – usually hingeing on chaos at disruptive cusps in development. See my dissertation on business change.

Interesting and related story today on BBC Radio 4, about business cycles in large successful family run businesses, being driven by the three generations rule. Very much my view of Kondratiev in economic cycles (Techno-Economic Paradigms) generally – One generation to learn & grow – One to succeed & exploit – One to lose-focus & fall prey to the next disruptive influence. 80 Year knowledge cycles are predictable. Is the cycle of change really faster in the e-memes age ? I doubt it – still human limited – unless artificial knowledge can really supplement the rate of human knowledge transfer, evolution and emergence.

Conversational Terrorism [via Seb] For example, as the same quote used by Seb, sums it up …
[Quote] “Think vs. Feel” Any person will likely be off-center of the analytical / emotive spectrum in any heated exchange. By pointing out which side the other person is on, (either side will do) he/she is obliged to defend his/her temperament instead of the case at hand. Either
(1) “Your cold, analytical approach to this issue doesn’t take into account the human element.”, or
(2) “Your emotional involvement with this issue obscures your ability to see things objectively.” [Unquote]

Kurzweil on WolframBlogged a few days ago on the Ray Kurzweil comments and discussions from last year on Wolfram’s ANKOS. A long set of discussion threads now exist on this work. First off here are some Kurzweil / Wolfram quotes …

Kurzweil [Quote] Personally, I find Wolfram’s enthusiasm for his own ideas refreshing. I am reminded of a comment made by the Buddhist teacher Guru Amrit Desai, when he looked out of his car window and saw that he was in the midst of a gang of Hell’s Angels. After studying them in great detail for a long while, he finally exclaimed, “They really love their motorcycles.” [Unquote] And on the subject of how progress arises from catastrophe.

Wolfram [Quote] From such a repetitive and deterministic process [CA – Cellular Automata], one would expect repetitive and predictable behavior ….. Whenever a phenomenon is encountered that seems complex it is taken almost for granted that the phenomenon must be the result of some underlying mechanism that is itself complex. But my discovery [ WTF !!?!?! ] that simple programs can produce great complexity makes it clear that this is not in fact correct. [Unquote] But surely this is well known chaos, complexity and fractal stuff as, of course, Kurzweil proceeds to comment. Kurzweil’s basic conclusion is that Wolframs CA’s cannot possibly drive all natural behaviours mechanistically without the kind of complexity generated by evolutionary drives and mechanisms. I’d have to agree, interesting, stimulating discussion, valid thoughts, but not new, and certainly not ANKOS nor Life the Universe and Everything.

Kurzweil’s site also hosts many thoughtful “MindExchange” threads, prompted by his article. See this thread with Karun Philip.

Karun Philip [Quote] creative conjecture procedes solely by a process of analogy …. Syllogism itself is an analogy to causality (whether such causality is real or apparent is unimportant) [Unquote] Analogy and metaphor again. [Quote] AI, in my opinion, is useless, practically speaking. We might as well hire someone from China [Unquote] Is this a deliberate Chinese Room allusion ? And for an encore his book Zen and the Art of Funk Capitalism [Quote] …. purports to tell the story of what is true of the universe in which we live. If we are to tell the story of what is true, we must then begin with an investigation of what constitutes valid knowledge and what does not. Indeed, what do we mean by the word knowledge ? (epistemology) …. ends with a proposal that I claim will largely get rid of extreme global poverty …. giving people the knowledge and philosophy of how to maximize the chance of building a successful small business. [Unquote] I’m all for high-minded aims. Mine are merely to improve business organisational decision making. Intriguing stuff. K-Capital is Karun Philip’s business venture.

Frank Ramsey – Brother of the Archbishop Lord Michael Ramsey and son of A.S Ramsey (Mathematics, Vice-Master Magdelene, Cambs), died in 1930, aged just 26. [Cambs links broken – temporary here, and here.] Get’s a mention in Wittgenstein’s Poker as the “precociously brilliant mathematician” I notice, but I had not recognised his contribution to changing the thinking of Maynard-Keynes and Wittgenstein (post-Tractatus) until I read this. Hugh Mellor’s transcript of his 25 year old BBC radio program about Ramsey. [Quote] The final words of the Tractatus, for example – ‘Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent’ in the original English translation – positively reek of profundity. Whereas Ramsey’s ‘What we can’t say we can’t say, and we can’t whistle it either’ (p. 146) sounds much less impressive, although in fact it sums up a serious objection to the Tractatus, whose approach Ramsey was, incidentally, influential in persuading Wittgenstein to abandon.[Unquote]

On truth [Quote] “It is true that Caesar was murdered” means no more than “Caesar was murdered”. The real question is what it is to believe that Caesar was murdered – as opposed on the one hand to hoping, fearing or having some other attitude to Caesar’s murder, and on the other hand to having a belief about something else. If we can answer those questions we shall thereby also, Ramsey claimed, “have solved the problem of truth”[Unquote] Mentions also that Ramsey knew of C.S.Pierce, and he is compared to Quine – the line to Dennett is apparent ?

On deferred gratification [Quote] as Keynes remarked …. even a non-economist like me can appreciate Ramsey’s use, for the ideal state in which all possible enjoyment can be had now, so that there’s no need to save anything, of the technical term ‘bliss’! It isn’t only in economics that one wishes writers could more often be so apt and witty in their choice of words.[Unquote]

On binary choice [Quote] The adherents of two [opposing] theories could quite well dispute, although neither affirmed anything the other denied. [Unquote].

Quote from the Archbishop about his militant atheist brother [Quote] he was aware of mysticism as a kind of phenomenon worth studying empirically [Unquote]. A mind worth investigating methinks. The parallels in maths / economics / game theory with John Nash (A Beautiful Mind) are striking too.

Spooky photograph of Ramsey atop Red Pike in the English Lakes – a spot on which I’ve stood myself, possibly even been photographed.

Thales to Thatcher, Anaximander to Bush – A draft history of philosophy from Miles Hodges [via Jorn]. Rich summary of early stuff, getting a bit thin on content towards the modern day, but with interesting headings and links. In fact this is a review of the western world view contrasted with more oriental cultures – though Islam seems to be brushed aside ?

Rudyard Kipling – The White Man’s Burden. Interesting to see the final part of Empire by Niall Ferguson on UK’s Channel 4 and its characterisation of US dominance arising out of the fall of the British Empire. Britain “doing the right thing” in opposing two other evil empires at the cost of its own and a huge debt and reliance on the US, foreseen by Kipling. The Mahdi uprising in Iraq in 1880’s and parallels with Al Qaeda. US global brand domination, speed of light comms and speed of sound gunships – US Empire by any other name. Some thought provoking stuff to follow-up.

The 80/20 Rule in Blogging Communities. This piece from Clay Shirky has been bouncing around the blogosphere for some days – but I hadn’t spotted its significance until today. Most people are referring to “Power Law” from its title Power Law, Weblogs and Community. Part of the thesis, from my original manifesto is that Power Law distribtions (80/20 Rule) are in some way a natural part of all human endeavours. This paper includes statistical evidence and other research demonstrating this behaviour in clustering of hits around given sites in particular blogging communities, and concluding that it is natural and predictable, and further more the wider and freer the choice / access the more pronounced is the effect. Democracy creates inequality if you will – it’s natural, it’s human nature.

Sifry’s blog on this subject is interesting in suggesting that it is possible to hold this conclusion as both true and false, depending on the “scale” at which you view the situation, since there are levels of clustering within the overall statistical average view. Fractality at play here.

From a bookclub party conversation with Dave Weinberger [Quote] … asked Minsky if he had read Wolfram’s book. “Of course not.” Why not? Because Wolfram is merely repeating what has been known for twenty years. Further, said Minsky, the book only finds three types of cellular automata: simple ones, looping ones, and complex ones. For a theory to be interesting, said Minsky, it needs to have at least five categories, not three. Minsky was being cocktail-party witty, but I believe his serious point was that Wolfram needs to present a theory that further analyzes the single class of complex and seemingly random cellular automata.[Unquote] I’m in good company then ?

[Am I the only person who confuses Dave Winer, Dave Weinberger and Steve Weinberg ? Sorry guys.]

Is there anywhere where this stuff is not currently being debated ? Browsing the BBC “Word of Mouth” message board – where typically, “Disgusted of Dorchester deplores the demise of the English language” – I find a thread debating the political motives of words used to describe Richard Reid’s cemtex-filled shoes. [Quote] Weapons of Mass Destruction came into popular usage to mean chemical/biological/nuclear weapons at just the same time as the US was re-writing its anti-terrorism laws, and its administration was trying to convince the populace of a conspiracy between America’s disparate enemies. [Unquote]

How can anyone contemplate unravelling words, from meaning, from intent, from reasoning – from conspiracy and paranoia ?

The fact that a perfectly tight, reasoned defintion could easily be arrived at – something along the lines of a weapon whose existence could not be justified based on its intended use against a bounded target – is irrelevant to the fact that this is a political debate, not an etymological one – and it always is. Every utterance has intent.