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All posts for the month March, 2004

Butterflies and Wheels [via Ray Girvan] Butterflies and Wheels is “fighting fashionable nonsense” (particularly pseudoscience driven by political ideology). There’s currently a dig at cultural relativism and at the charge of elitism (is it elitist to strive for excellence, and why does no-one ever cry “elitism” over those given special treatment to foster their sporting talent?). Includes collection of rhetorical argumentation moves by Julian Baggini – fascinating.

This and the previous three posts blogged from the hotel broadband link in Aotou, People’s Republic of China. Like last time in January, the travel has given me reading time, and the hotel evenings blogging time. Fourth visit, so the local place names are beginning to stick – Dayawan, Anhui, Aotou, Danshui, Huiyang, Huizhou. Also love the way the main routes are named after the first (of two) syllables of the main place names at either end – Shenzen ["ShenShan"] Shantou. Neat.

Difference this time is I have a cold – throat, head, nose, the lot – bad news in this Guangdong / Hong-Kong region. Practically lost my (oral) voice, so I stayed in the hotel yesterday and am now cooped up here for the weekend. Still, it’s an ill wind.

Synthesia. A blog by Watford-based Julian Elve, not one I’d seen before. Looks interesting contentwise and he seems to have got himself organised catogory-wise using MT. Must return to that particular task soon.

Has has a thread on Action Research (a la Argyris ?) which I must take a look at, and another on Pattern Synchronicity – intriguing.

Julian also links to TheObvious blog by Euan Semple (also Watford-based). Another interesting set of links and posts.

Also just read Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point, which by comparison with Capra is a crushing bore. Yes, certain small things can have disproportionate non-intuitive effects. Yes ideas spread like contagion. Yes it helps if the idea “sticks” and is transmitted to the next generation of communicators. Yes communication is more than words. Zero-tolerance. Look after the pennies. Intentions matter. Yes it helps if the environment (context) supports the idea. No, really ?

This is memetics – just ask Darwin, Dawkins and Blackmore. (None of whom get even a reference). The fact that Tipping Point is an acclaimed best-seller proves its own point. Sh*t sticks.

I exaggerate of course. It’s not wrong, just unoriginal packaged as groundbreaking – the one thing sure fire to wind me up. Athropology is what humans do. Whether its the fashion business or business fashions. The rules of 7 and 150. Crossing Geoffery Moore’s chasm. It’s 50 / 50 in the genes and in social peer behaviour, and practically nil in rationalised messages, rules and intents of parents, educators, managers, directors, authorities or governments. It’s game theory in practice, and we’re all part of the same athropological game of life. I’d have quoted Pinker’s analysis, Gladwell quotes Judith Harris directly.

Life is the name of the game, and I want to play the game with you (or not as the case may be) – after Brucie.

No denying the evidence of Tipping Point’s success proves its own message. Oh well. Nothing new under the sun – again. Rats!

1976 book by Frijtof Capra (with 1992 updated afterword). Written slightly after, but published slightly before, Michael Talbot’s Mysticism and the New Physics (Blogged earlier and originally read even earlier.)

Excellent books both of them. Capra is a best-seller which has a surprisingly detailed description of state-of-the-art particle physics, together with a summary of the parallels with many threads of Buddhist, Hindu and Tao world views. Compelling parallels even if it remains humanly hard to conceive as to how the sub-atomic scale can really relate to the human scale in anything but metaphors. Like Talbot, the homing in on Holography / Holochory as the technology which brings the same “whole is in the part” quantum information view into the real world. Like many writers in this space (Northrop, Talbot, Dupuy, Pinker), Capra sees world-scale significance this “new” philosophy being overlooked, and greater expression of knowledge in art and literature than in classical science. Human conscioussness must indeed be a part of any true model of the real world and must therefore be linked to quantum information effects.

Henry Stapp and Geoffery Chew get many mentions, along with the heroic Heisenberg and Einstein. (Brian Josephson, my reference for Stapp, does not.) Many references in common with Northrop too, including Mexican(?) Carlos Castaneda / Don Juan.

On the subjects of modern physics, eastern philosphies and the ancient links with pre-Socratic greek philosophy this book is practically a reference work in its own right, before one considers the enormity of the message in the parallels.

Must look out for Turning Point and Uncommon Sense.

Had several people make comments recently about Google not being what it was, about how search results are swamped with disguised commercially sponsored links ?

Can’t see it myself. As a blogger, I personally find Google amazing in the speed and depth of indexing, including my own pages – as if by magic, with no commercial input from myself. As far as I can see the sponsored links are pretty obviously advertised as such, so I don’t see these as a big blockage. What do you think ?

Spiral Model for Knowledge Acquisition. “Spiral” metaphor contrasted with “Waterfall” metaphor. Iterative vs Sequential. Right first time is wrong (sets wrong expectation), lots of parallel working and recycle is better. (IBM “Rational” approach for managing S/W development uses this concept if not the same metaphor.) No brainer, common sense. [Here in a psychology context too.] [In knowledge context it comes from Nonaka and Takeuchi 1995]
[Interesting search hit on my blog.]

And memes are self-reinforcing. Talk about blindingly obvious. It’s my Catch-22. How do you argue rationally against scientific fundamentalism / logical positivism ?

I’ve read Dawkins, though I’ve still never read “The Meme Machine”, but now I’ve just read Susan Blackmore’s “Waking from the Meme Dream“. Stong Zen thread here – clearing the mind of those certainties of memes from the history of humanity – to allow a little doubt in. Waking from the collective dream that scientific rationale is the answer to everything.

I’d only previously seen memes as matter of fact metaphor for how ideas spread – I’d never seen it before as the reason why bad, but easy to understand, ideas become the norm. Again blindingly obvious. A natural selection process tending to conformance and common denominators in the space where ideas compete for airtime – the brain and the web of comms media. Where ideas are concerned good (fitness) equals easy to communicate / understand / fit the web of communication – fit with available schemata – it does not relate to any intrinsic value relationship between the content of the idea and it’s application in the world beyond communication itself, without some postive feedback. If we all hold logical / scientific schemata, and our feedback allways post-rationalises event outcomes against ideas as inputs, then all ideas will tend to be scientific.

BTW the “TAO” site (Hungarian ?!) where I found Susan’s paper has some magic content – lots of links to full texts of many interesting works including Pirsig’s ZMM naturally, only some of them in Hungarian.

Where to start – I have 12 pages of notes from David Gurteen’s 3rd Knowledge Management Conference in London yesterday 3rd March 2004. (Matt Mower has blogged notes too.) The main speakers were David Snowden (IBM / Cynefin) and various advocates and users of the Cynefin framework – Martyn Laycock, Bruce Cronin, Les Johnson, Anabelle Mark. Personal impressions …

Overwhelming sense of re-inforcement, of those ill-expressed ideas of my own in this blog and my underlying thesis, by the Dave Snowden / Cynefin consulting framework analysis of modelling organisational complexity. This wave is a “Kondratiev Tsunami”, and Cynefin has given us some surfboards on which to survive when it thunders up the beach of general business management in 3 or 5 years time. Hype ? Actually I hope not, ‘cos we (all) really need this to happen on so many levels.

Not much is actually new. Boston Consulting 2×2 grids, as I’ve opined before, but with a new twist of axes that focus on what really defines the manageability of an organisation – order<>unorder and complexity<>simplicity. The way human behaviour contributes to that order and complexity (as complex-adaptive, post-rationalising agents in complex-adaptive systems”), and the socially and culturally conditioned “schemata” we humans hold to guide our decision making, are thrown into immediate spotlight as the issues to be “managed”. Anthropology, evolutionary psychology, and story-telling are as old as human life, and surprisingly for some, many philosophical writers and management commentators have been pointing out their relevance to what makes the world go round for aeons too. Cynefin get’s this stuff into management powerpoint-land not a day too soon for those of us in businesses riding the Information & Communications Technologies wave. Aren’t we all ?

How many of those presenters and participants yesterday had languages and philosophy as their first degrees ? How many had learned their wisdom in cybernetics and the like ? Most.

The questions are ancient – when you act or plan to act, how do you know what’s true and how do you know what’s right ? Newton / Einstein, Socrates / Pirsig, Rudyard Kipling / Douglas Adams / James Willis – all human life is here.

More coherent report to follow.

Robot Wisdom Back On-Line. Hooray … Jorn still does not yet seem to be posting in public anywhere, but his material (home pages and blog) are all back on line in the state they were on 1st October 2003.

Great news given that I am slowly getting to grips with James Joyce’s Ulysses, is that Jorn’s on-line copy annotated with his comprehensive schemata is there to be used. (Oh no, and not only the Nietzsche links, but also McLuhan links as well from Finnegans Wake. So much to research. [Quote] Marshall McLuhan looked up to Joyce as a writer and artist of encyclopedic wisdom and eloquence unparalleled in our time [Unquote, Eric McLuhan]) Jorn is the reason I’m reading James Joyce. He has such a wealth of material self-penned and gathered from the four corners of the global physical and virtual libraries, that it is quite literally staggering. Awesome in its own right. Remembering where Jorn was coming from in AI, he sees Joyce in Ulysses and Finegans Wake (and the one year research period between) on a mission to create the inventory of life, the universe and everything, as described here [Quote] The general hypothesis is this: Various branches of scholarship have been searching for centuries for a universal categorization of human experience– Aristotle, Spinoza, Vico, Roget, Dewey, Polti, and the Yahoo Web index … and now especially the AI (artificial intelligence) community desperately need a concise inventory of psychological themes: [Unquote.]

As well as Dr. James Willis’ Scylla and Charybdis metaphor for the perils of plotting a course between scientific fundamentalism and unscientific irrationality, I made the link to both Dave Snowden’s and Mark Maxwell’s Edge of Chaos.