All posts for the month August, 2003

Pollard Predicts the Future of Communication – An interesting analysis of patterns of communication now and in the future from Dave Pollard.
I see the weblog becoming a ubiquitous communication medium, a proxy for every individual, where everything you want to know about that individual (which they have given you permission to see) can be called up. The effect of that will be to eliminate many communications whose purpose is simply to get information. The blog will be the main vehicle by which we educate, inform and explain (the first of the five communication objectives) and express ourselves (the last of the five objectives). The middle three objectives – to persuade, decide and relate – are the more intense and participatory reasons for communicating, and even the much-improved weblogs of the future aren’t going to be up to those tasks.

I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that the communication ‘killer app’ of the future will be peer-to-peer videoconferencing. Not the bulky, cumbersome room videoconferencing tool of today, but the next-gen personal wireless webcam-based tool that will allow you to look at, and talk to, some one on the other side of the globe as if they were right beside you. For the same reason that I have predicted weblogs will transform the way in which we share information, by becoming the proxy for what you know, so do I predict webcams will transform communications by becoming the proxy for where you are. Turning on your individual webcam in the future, so others can see you, will be as simple and automatic as putting on your glasses is today, so you can see others.

How – Peer to peer – Agreed, as I’ve said several times too.
Want to know what I think – see my web-log proxy – Agreed.
Want to communicate with me – see my portable web-cam – I wonder ?

Chance and Stupidity have Changed History – Top Ten history books by Terry Deary in the Guardian [via Jorn]. Particularly interested in No.7 The Hinge Factor: How Chance and Stupidity have Changed History by Erik Durschmied. Reminds me of “Tipping Point” [see Ton]. One of my themes is chaos / catastrophe and the fact that significant outcomes are often controlled far more by subtle circumstantial details than rational plans.

A butterfly flies through the forest rain,
And turns the wind into a hurricane.
A schoolboy yawns, sits back and hits return,
And round the world computers crash and burn.
by Neil Hannon – The Divine Comedy
(The Certainty of Chance, from memory)

John F Sowa – An interesting source of more philosophically based knowledge modelling material for the world of electronic communications from an ex-IBM consultant John F Sowa. [via Onno][via Matthew]. Biog includes MIT, Harvard and VUB (home of Heylighen and Principia Cybernetica), and as well as on-line parts of Sowa’s “Knowledge Representation” he includes a review of Lakoff and Johnson’s latest “Philosophy In The Flesh” – already on my hit list. Interestingly they say quoting a 1965 review of William James “Principles of Psychology” …
Rereading James brings a sense of perspective and even a little humility to our regard for more modern achievements”.
I’d have to agree. Nothing new under the sun, it was ever thus, as I may have mentioned.

West Met East – Metaphorically Speaking – Resturned from China. Suprisingly I didn’t get to read Northrop as much as expected, because I’d just received Lakoff and Johnson’s “Metaphors We Live By” the morning I departed. I’ve just finished the book itself on the flight back, just the afterword added to the 2003 edition to go.

Excellent stuff on categorization & ontologies based on metaphor (orientational, structural, ontological, emergent, creative and complex), including dead metaphors in the archaeology of language, as well as metonymy and weak and strong homonymy (bells kept ringing about those problematic classifications Alan Thomson listed for us in EPISTLE, back in 97/98). A theory of truth and, more importantly, understanding as pragmatic experiential coherence. In one final rant in Ch30 (p232 of my 2003 Chicago Press edition) they say …

[Quote] Communication theories based on the conduit metaphor [the idea that information is simply transmitted and received] turn from pathetic to evil when they are applied indisciminately on a large scale …. There what is most crucial for understanding is almost never included, and it is assumed that the words in [an electronic] file have meaning in themsleves – disembodied, objective, understandable meaning. When a society lives by the conduit metaphor on a large scale, misunderstanding …. and much worse are the likely products. [Unquote]

A brief book which paradoxically, despite significant repetition, is quite densely packed with good concise material, much of it unexpected from the title focussing on Metaphor specifically – a one page (p195) potted history of western philosophy, and an analysis of the myths of both objectivity and subjectivity (Ch24 to Ch 29). Lots of clues re-inforcing the need for me to get round to reading McLuhan. The medium and the message ? I’m glad I read this before picking up on the later philosophical works of Lakoff and Johnson – I have Lakoff’s Women, Fire and Dangerous Things already. Spot on my agenda.

Holochory Rules OK – The world really is just a hologram, well maybe says Scientific American. [indirectly via Apothecary questioning the Delphic Oracle]. Seems this concept is becoming more mainstream after previously being touted by the British Computer Society and its Quantum Information Processing mission statement.

Suspend disbelief ….
The world IS information.
Information IS a fundamental quantum concept.
Holochory / holography IS the most efficient representation of quantum information.

Business Blogging – A collection of links from Lilia Efimova, selling the value of K-Blogs to businesses. An excellent presentation from Nick Finck, plus this quote via John Robb [Quote] knowledge workers spend 35% of their productive time searching for information, while 40% of the corporate users report that they cannot find the information they need to do their jobs on their Intranets” (source: Working Council of CIOs). The Delphi group estimates that this costs the average 20,000 person organization $720 million a year ($120,000 all in cost per employee equates to $36,000 per employee spent searching).[Unquote]

Psychological Feedback Over The Web ? Interesting piece from Spike Hall’s blog, also picked-up by Oliver Wrede. I posted comments on both. Illustrates how important the psychological feedback aspects of knowledge communication are. Metaphorically, if you can’t see into the eyes of the people you’re interacting with, how do you detect understanding, uncertainty, emotion, intent etc. Without time to build-up a long relationship of understanding, what is the web equivalent of getting into someones head ? (Is there any chance for FOAF – Friend of a Friend – I blogged earlier that it seemed to include psychometric profiling stuff !)

Coincidentally, here’s a post from Jorn (with a link to his SIMS proposal) about simulating the “neurotic” component of human interaction.

Monstrous Knowledge Management – This article from Ton Zijlstra’s Interdependent Thoughts blog, similar to the post I made about the KM Bandwagon devaluing core intent of KM very rapidly, which prompted comment from Dave Pollard.

Also interestingly, Ton’s next post is on the drying-up of blog-like networks. I posted on reduced blogging rates here too, but think the main point has also been made many times. It doesn’t matter which medium is used for an interactive community of contacts, there is a limit to how many (150 max some say) organised only so many ways (5 to 10 categories say) in which any one human brain can manage and participate. The media will come and go – boards, blogs, wikis, whatever, the underlying modes of human interaction do not actually change. I think Dave Weinberger’s “Small Pieces, Loosely Joined” does however have some lessons about how the sheer connectivity of web-based technologies (whichever mode is in fashion) does bring some new challenges, The one drawback I keep raising is the negative effect of speed on development of ideas. [here] [here] [here].

As Ton puts it “how to allow for digestion and consolidation between spurts of discovery” – without the fashionable mode connecting the current group of peers moving on to the next fashion too soon. Staying power required.

As you know, I’ve just started reading Northrop [Previous] [ Previous] and already hooked because he is straight into the pragmatic effects of the Catch-22 of the recursive argument about how absolute can a metaphysics be that includes it’s own definition. [Quote] the basic paradox of our time [is that] “sound” theory tends to destroy the state of affairs it aims to achieve [Unquote] (His scare quotes, not mine). As good a statement of the Catch-22 as any I’ve heard.

Some interesting and directly Pirsig related points too …

Chapter 7 is all about culture and Greek science. The main references are McKeon, Hutchins and Adler, right from the opening para. (I skipped to Ch7 from Ch1 after stumbling across the references at the end !). Not only is it about these people, it’s about Hutchins switch from “legal realism” (dialectic with value based inputs) as Dean of Yale Law School to “what is needed is more adequate scientific grounded [Aristoletian] philosophy” as Dean of Chicago University. In fact he was looking for an objective “idea of the good”. A metaphyisics of quality perhaps ?

Interesting that a Pirsig [see timeline] who reads, and is thoroughly influenced by Northrop aged 20, on a troopship in 1948, is shocked (nay, incensed) to find out about McKeon and “the Hutchins mob” [after Rorty] at Chicago University, aged 33 during the summer of 1961, after he has been accepted there and interviewed by McKeon.

No evidence Urizen has any common link with Zen ? Sparked off to look at Blake’s Urizen by the material on the home page of Brian Bauld, who hosts a copy of Geore Steiners “Uneasy Rider” New Yorker review of ZMM, amongst a lot of other gems.

The Wikipedia entry on Urizen says [Quote] In the complex mythology of William Blake, Urizen was the embodiment of reason and law. He is usually depicted as a bearded old man; he sometimes bears architect’s tools, to create and constrain the universe; or nets, with which he ensnares people in webs of law and conventional culture. [Unquote]

Webs ensnaring people with conventional culture – a recurring metaphor even then ?

Just received “The Meeting of East and West” by F.S.C. Northrop (MacMillan, 1946, 1st ed, 2nd impression) (just said that) and what a book. This is the volume that so influenced Pirsig on his troopship return from Korea in 1948. The book that turned a lateral drifter into pursuer of something important (ZMM25 p124). Anyway, I read the intro and first chapter before getting out of bed this morning.

Given that I got on this knowledge modelling lark from an ISO Information Standards angle, it’s spooky to find the entire volume prefaced with the quote from Chinese philosopher Mo-Tih “Where standards differ there will be opposition. But how can the standards in the world be unified?”

Given my obsession with the Catch-22 of my manifesto, it is even spookier for me to find the opening sentence is “Ours is a paradoxical world.” In fact I’ve already counted the word paradox 4 times in the first 6 pages. As I’ve been discussing with Matt Kundert recently, this paradox would be joke, non-existent meta-physically, if we were not so culturally hidebound by the linguistic metaphors of apparently rational decision making processes. As Northrop says, “The paradox appears in a purely verbal, but none-the-less important, form ….”

Of course this is a book written during and published immediately after WWII, so questions of world harmony were topical. Topical !? I keep saying nothing new under the sun – it was ever thus – and Northrop talks of “ever present” issues.

A very promising start.

Just received “The Meeting of East and West” by F.S.C. Northrop (MacMillan, 1946, 1st ed, 2nd impression) from MGBooks used bookstore @ URL:// 1013 Brice Road, Rockville, Maryland, :-) 30 hours after confirming a standard flat-rate US-snail-mail order through Amazon’s used book service. I’m very impressed – with Marcy George, Amazon, the US Postal Service and whatever the “Royal Mail” local-loop is called these days.

OK, so speed is good too – see previous post – another of life’s little “paradoxes”.