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All posts for the month July, 2004

I’ve blogged two or three times before about Dutch and UK experiments with removing all road signs, speed limits and road markings and discovering increased road-safety due to the humans (yes, cars have humans inside them) having to rely on common sense and eye-contact to communicate and negotiate priorities etc.

Picked this one up from FN4, but it seems Toyota are going one further. Building body-language and expressions of emotion into the cars themselves. Barking mad ? Maybe not.

I’ve not yet finished reading Eco’s “The Name of the Rose” – great 14th century murder mystery with philosophers, inquisitors and church leaders thrown in – hard to spot where fact ends and fiction starts … anyway the point is I’ve also just received and started reading the 2nd edition (2002) of Nils Brunsson’s “The Organization of Hypocrisy” (1989).

Only just through the introductory paras, but having read Brunsson’s original “Irrational Organization” I’m already sympathetic to the message. In my Manifesto, and my Dissertation before that, I refer to Chris Argyris’ and Donald Schon’s “Theory in Use” – which I tend to summarise as “What we say, What we do, & What we say we do, are three different things”. The basic hypocrisy often turns up as “political correctness” in what we can say, whatever we intentionally or naturally actually do – with a clear conscience – a necessary lie. The net result is best-laid-plans, written records, and any knowledge learnt from them, can be deadly misleading if you act on them. They are comfortable “rationalisations of the irrational”. Knowledge and learning must be based on action and intent – hence “Theory in Use” & “Action Science”.

Interestingly Brunsson’s preface to the new edition suggests that perhaps he should suspend judgement on whether the hypocrisy was just a feature of society & culture at the time of original publication. Sadly for us all I suspect “it was ever thus” again – nothing new under the sun.

Remember Pinker’s “Baloney Generator”. Innately (by genetic evolution) the left side of our brain is hard-wired to be a spin-doctor, thanks to a long history of memetic / cultural evolution of rationalising the irrational.

Just noticed Brunsson’s subtitle is …
“Talk, Decisions and Actions in Organizations”
which maps very neatly to my own aphorism …
What we say (Talk),
What we say we do (Decisions) &
What we do (Actions) …
being three distinct things.

Looking forward to reading in full.

Following the Lisa Jardine trail … lots of interesting stuff Francis Bacon and Milton, to name a few … anyway … at the Center for Editing Lives and Letters (CELL) …

The Auchinleck Manuscript was probably created in London in 1330/1340-ish and is currently housed in the National Library of Scotland. This is an on-line copy of an English language literary work that pre-dates Chaucer, so is important lingusitically and culturally as well as a work of literature.

I was moved to blog the link. because I happen to be reading Eco’s 1980 “The Name of the Rose”, set in and around the “scriptorium” of a monastery in 1327, under investigation by a member of the “inquisition”. The text is full of the jargon of scribes and manuscripts and the Auchinleck site has a useful glossary of such terms.

Lisa Jardine, Professor of Renaissance Studies at Queen Mary College, University of London and Honorary Fellow of King’s College Cambridge was interviewed on BBC Radio 4′s “Devout Sceptic” programme yesterday. An interesting person – atheistic, brought up in an orthodox Jewish extended family, though her parents were also atheistic intellectuals, but with a love of rousing Christian hymns, at funerals, including her own – Jerusalem, I Vowe to Thee, etc. (I have a soft spot for Jerusalem too, it was my old school hymn, and indeed is that of my sons’ school.)

Lisa mentioned an epiphany moment in her life, seeing Dr Jacob Bronowksi pick up that handful of human ash mud near the gates of Auschwitz, speechless with emotion in the closing scene of one programme from his Ascent of Man series. I mention that same moment as a formative experience of mine, and apparently it was voted one of the top 50 moments in TV (though I wasn’t aware of that until yesterday.)

The late Jacob Bronowski was hero of mine. He was Lisa’s father.
 
(Excellent Bronowksi site by Stephen Moss … Bruno was a polymath, a geometer and a poet specifically. Interesting aspect of mysticism where art met science in the quote from his wife Rita Jardine, shortly after they had first met, whilst he was posing for her to sculpt … [QUOTE] Like many people he thought of Blake as an eccentric and a mystical, otherworldly character. At this reading he had sudden insight into the heart of the man, whom he saw to be a true man of his time, a real revolutionary. Bruno rushed off to research the newspapers of the time and wrote a breakthrough book called William Blake, A Man without a Mask which has had a strong effect on the manner in which William Blake is viewed today. [UNQUOTE]

I collected a lot of fractal art links over a year ago, and in fact played around with some cheap tools myself, but these are really excellent images – Blatte’s Fractals – you can download them as backgrounds if you want. [via Rivets] (Some great coluration variants on the “infinitely fascinating” Mandlebrot set, but some other magic styles too.)
Loved this one for example :

Look out for Phoenix, Crescent-II & Tropical Beach.

One of Martin Rees (Astronomer Royal) on the end of the world (again)

Another of Ernst Mayr (of Pirsig interest)

Just read most of the Mayr interview. Interesting. A bit of a sales pitch for Biology as a distinct subject (motivated by some round of budgeting somewhere I’ll wager). His point that biology is not just molecular biology, and molecules are not just physics, and physics are not just …. etc is the usual stuff. All biology is just molecular biology of course if all you are going to do is analyse it, but it is not just a synthesis of its molecular parts. There is an emergent level, called life if you like, which requires a holistic systems view of the parts interacting, not just adding together. This is Capra’s connections, and Pirsig’s levels. Biology is distinct from physics, in the same way that consciousness is distinct from biology. That is, not very.

If you want to do more useful than just scientific analysis, the connections / relationships / interactions are more interesting than the distinctions.

A little overblown – I’ve got the solution for the sematic web style – but I guess we’d all like to believe that. Nova Spivack’s Minding the Planet blog is marketing stuff from his Radar Systems venture, but his paper From Semantic Web to Global Mind brought to me by Matt Whyndham includes some good concepts amidst a review of their relevance to achieving the semantic web dream.

Breathless Fluff to Deep Thought Matt calls it, but I think Nova touches on a key point in the ability to characterise new links, and see these as additive to a given knowledge object as he calls them.

e-Biz sounds awfully passe already, but as Business Week’s special issue, “The E-Biz Surprise” (May 5, 2003), noted, “The Web is the same age color TV was when it turned profitable.” It’s gonna need a new name but e-everything has barely started, and the technological capability aspects of it are arriving plenty fast. That’s not (never been) the problem.

The Futurist: The Intelligent Internet. [via FN4] This long review of “The Intelligent Internet – The Promise of Smart Computers and E-Commerce” By William E. Halal actually reads very naively and uncritically about the many technology advancements it catalogues arriving around our ears. What it doesn’t really address is the “business modelling” side, though it does identify the problem …

[QUOTE]
Cynicism persists over unrealized promises of AI …. forecast for a glorious IT future may seem extravagant amidst the dismal mood of IT today …. main obstacle is a lack of vision among industry leaders, customers, and the public as scars of the dot-com bust block creative thought.
[UNQUOTE]

Cracked record time … this is the memetic problem, which the web suffers from in spades. “Next big things” circulate at the speed of light, particularly if they’re catchy and easy to understand, whether or not they are likely to be successful in any pragmatic sense beyond the marketeers wet dream. This would be an annoyance, but for the fact that such traffic noise drowns out the possibility of analysing the more difficult (human) questions, whose answers might actually create uses for us (humans) amidst the free-for-all.

Evolution leads to dead ends as well as progress, you know.
“We do these things because they are difficult, not because they are easy.” JFK

Looks like I made all the right connections with John Sowa the first time I blogged him, despite finding the VUB connection a surprise just a few days ago.

(A propos of nothing much, got a 10 minute direct (non search engine) hit on that 2003 link from someone in Minnesota last night.)

Must get this blog internally categorised and cross-linked – come on Blogger, or I may have to shift to MT after all.

Pages updated here include the various newspaper cuttings from St.Paul, Minnesota, which now include Pirsig’s denunciation as a bigot following a book review by Pirsig in the New York Times.

Read it and see what you think. I ain’t saying nuffink.

(I’ve also updated links between the related articles, including the Cruising Blues piece and Nancy’s interview about their own world cruise plans. Makes you want to cry.)