All posts for the month August, 2005

Microsoft that is hard on the heels of Google following in Skype’s footsteps. By acquisition of Teleo in this case. No mention of Skype in the news story.

Messenger has all the components in place already I guess. VoiP has been easy for ages. All Skype brought to it was Kazaa’s P2P networking, and a neat user application.

Interesting too, this Creative / Apple iPod “Zen” patent story. I told you so I guess. The main innovation with iPod MP3′s was not the compact portable storage format, but the really neat UI. I’ve never yet owned one, but I’m always impressed with it when I see people using it. Good to see they patented the right thing.

Is the working title of Sam Norton’s book. Sam provided a link to the drafts of chapters 1 and 2, and I’ve written a commentary so far, and posted it here.

I guess the reason Sam suggested I read it is that is covers a lot of material I’ve blogged about. I remember in a previous exchange with Sam in the “Eudaimonia” thread I concluded by saying we’d be better off starting with a blank sheet of paper than with analysis of lots of existing work we don’t actually agree with, and risk talking past each other attributing quotes as assertions. I have the same unsatisfying view of this draft and review so far – but it’s full of the key issues – so lots to build on. Just need to find those static latches.

I’ve no wish to clutter up Sam’s blog with my atheist comments, so I’ve brought the link here to make my comment.

OK OK you win, I have to read Wittgenstein :-)

Sam Says [Quote] In Remarks on Colour, §317, Wittgenstein writes: “When someone who believes in God looks around him and asks ‘Where did everything that I see come from?’ ‘Where did everything come from?’, he is not asking for a (causal) explanation; and the point of his question is that it is the expression of such a request. Thus, he is expressing an attitude towards all explanations.”

In other words: this is meaningful. Asking the question is an expression of its meaning, not a query about the meaning. [Unquote]

I would point out that Wittgenstein’s point is applied to “someone who believes in God”. However I doubt the statement is true even with that caveat. Yes asking a question has some value in it’s own right – for some of the askings it may indeed be the primary, only value – rhetorical questions for a start. But it can scarcely be the only reason anyone would ask that question.

Wittgenstein’s quote actually contains many other useful points, but accepting that causality itself is somewhat mysterious, there are also pragmatic reasons to ask such a question and apply an understanding of any possible causal answers to decisions affecting the future. So yet again, I buy god-like analogies for the wonder of the workings of the world, but cannot buy any causal involvement (in any intentional, purposeful intellegent entity sense) beyond “natural causes”.

Good news is that “explanation” is the focus again.

Met two MoQ’ers last week, Horse (custodian of MoQ-Discuss) and Sam (Elizaphanian Blog).

With Horse, discussed the state and politics of MoQ discuss, (post the MoQ Conference and the “Loggins” hoax), and mainly his plans to update the technology to allow individuals to manage their subscription profiles, and work with multiple forum areas for different discussion topic areas.

With Sam, covered much more philosophical ground, whilst at a great rustic sea-food shack in West Mersea, where we broke bread and drank wine. Apart from discovering my second-hand reading of Wittgenstein is pretty close to Sam’s first-hand reading, the main areas of interest were;

The nebulous “experience” aspect of Pirsig’s Quality, which I attribute to an incomplete model of consciousness;

The causal, intentional god-like analogies to Dynamic Quality, which I currently reject in favour of a more arbitrary view of dynamism (as per neo-Darwinian evolution); and

Better descriptions of the intellectual level of the MoQ, which we both see as being closer to Bo’s “SOLAQI” view as described, and therefore incomplete – SOM is simply the lowest layer of the intellectual level, the first (or second) kind of reasoning to have evolved (so far).

Link to a movie I’d not heard of, picked up from Ronelle in the Sam Harris “Politics of Ignorance” discussion thread. (In fact I see Sam Harris has some commercial involvement in the film, and Dawkins provides a commentary too. Can’t see what the existence or otherwise of Jesus has to do with it, mind – ah I see, it’s the mythos again, personification of the myth, see the final comment below.)

Ronelle says

President Bush, I fear, may intentionally be kicking off a zero-sum game of “Armageddon” and the “Rapture.” I don’t believe in this but he certainly does.

Not usually my kinda conspiracy theory stuff either, but did pick up on that Bush & Armageddon thread a couple of years ago.

Ronelle also quotes

As Carl Sagan pointed out in The Demon Haunted World it is more dangerous today for society to tolerate and promote any pseudo-scientific belief – like ID and Creationism – than any previous time in history. Those fanatics had no A Bomb back then and the unimaginable eradication of human life on earth could not have been accomplished with spears, or even, cannons and guns. Our technology has advanced way beyond our capability to let go of childish mythology which is the basis of all religion. Irrational thinking of how the world really operates will probably be the downfall of our technologically advanced society.

Too true. I’m not sure it’s the weapons that make it the urgent issue “of our times”, but the ubiquity of information technology, that allows ignorance to spread like wild-fire. It’s not the “childish mythology” but the religion that’s the problem, the mythos is merely the basis for misuse by the latter.

Why would Google want to get into this messaging / telephony / VOIP space ?

I’m a big fan of Google as you know, but puzzled by Google’s recent round of financing – putting up more shares for sale, not just to finance development but also operating expenses the story read. So despite being the world’s largest media company, are they just one huge bubble ? Careful guys, we need you.

Their targetted, sponsored advertising in the low graphic search pages and even more so in the G-Mail pages are quite spectacular, spooky even, in how focussed they are, but I have to say they tend to say more to me about the people prepared to pay to promote their wares, than the value in the wares offered. With a lot of “philosophical” subject matter in my e-mails, it’s interesting to see how many paid ads there are out there for people SELLING “intelligent designer creationist” crap and the like.

As I was in the Opposite Aphorisms post below … here is a link to Steve Johnson’s latest book “Why Everything Bad Is Good For You“, linked from Euan Semple’s blog.

I assume this is the same Steve Johnson as in Lakoff and Johnson ?
Looks worth a look. Looks like pure Dynamic Quality.
Almost all change produces some good – is this any more than every cloud has a silver lining ?

Thanks to Euan also for this link. Like him I say “You’re not bloody kidding”. I’ve posted several times in the past month about the poisonous meme that is “intelligent designer creationism”. It needs to be stopped, by force of intellect over culture. I like the Trojan Horse metaphor, also picked-up by one of the commenters. Interestingly Barbara Tuchman uses it as the archetype for governmental cock-ups everywhere. Where is the Mythos when you need it ?

Interesting post from Digital Dust (Dan Dixon ?) via Piers. The gist is about the difference between “teams” and “organisations”. His title is “Many hands make light work, but too many cooks spoil the broth.” two aphorisms that seem to say the opposite, but in fact express the fact that there is an optimum size (in any given circumstance) for a team of people cooperating on a common “project” beyond that inter-team management must be seen as different to intra-team management, unless …

… you can engineer “teams of teams” …

… teams are almost by definition in competition (or even conflict) with each other.

Meta-Teams. This circularity, or strange loopiness, keeps cropping up.

Interesting idea, very like the core of the EPISTLE Templates implementation architecture. Micro-Formats are small re-usable pieces of semantic (intended to mean something to a human first, machine second) where each may conform to any appropriate existing standard, but which can be re-used and assembled into larger messages and applications. Via Monkey Magic, where Piers is still concentrating on the taxonomic / ontological aspects of the semantic web. Lots of good links if that’s your bag.

It’s still my bag in a way, despite focussing on the philosophical foundations of information, but it’s good to see that more and more of the implementation developments focus on more abstract aspects of architecture rather than explicit schemas and the like. Definitely more long term mileage in that.

Seems the Loggins paper at the MoQ Conference (and Loggins himself) was a hoax, a parody perpetrated by Glenn Bradford and Struan Hellier.

Damned by faint praise in my own report (fortunately), in fact the parody, in the paper itself and in Glenn’s description of the hoax, can only be seen as a valuable addition to MoQ debate, whatever Glenn and Struan’s motives. (The parody itself is based on the famous Sokal post modern quantum mechanics hoax.)

In fact the day of the “First MoQ Conference” was more a celebration and a social event than a conference at which the subject matter was debated – the papers were all “personal views”. The “positive vibes” all those got out of the day, need to be put to better organisation of what the MoQ does actually say, and the issues people have with it.

Oh well; Many a true word; Nothing new under the sun.

[Post Note - Jan 2006 - In the conference report linked above, I mentioned that the hoax and responses to it had created ill-feeling between those directly affected. Some relevant web-pages and forum correspondence have been removed from public view, some remain live. Any of my links to such live pages remain active. Beware therefore that the public record of the public and private responses to the hoax is incomplete and potentially misleading. If in my view the remaining links do mislead or are misused, I reserve the right to delete any and all such links from my pages..]

Strange set of connections materialised whilst I was reading Barbara Tuchman’s “The March of Folly”, hope you’re following this …

I’m reading Tuchman’s March of Folly, because I recalled (incorrectly) Charles Handy recommending it as the best management text book ever written, making all the others redundant. (In fact it was Warren Bennis’ recommendation, Handy’s was Mary Parker Follett’s “Prophet of Management”. Folly / Follett see.)

Anyway Handy was (is) one of my favourite management gurus, folksy style, contemporary of Roald Dahl in Shell in the Dutch East Indies I guess, but I digress; most people will know Handy through his BBC Radio 4 “Thought for the Day” slot. (Odd that I identify with Handy, a lay preacher, when one of the MoQ’ers I seem to have most in common with is Rev Sam Norton.) Handy, together with Tom Peters, I also associate with the management gurus of the 80′s pushing excellence through corporate cultures, and making quality management links to Pirsig’s ZMM, the origin of the MoQ.

Anyway another MoQ’er I have a lot of time for is Dave Buchannan, whose MoQ Conference paper “Fun With Blaspheny” drew on the work of Joe Campbell, in particular “The Masks of God”, in outlining an Orphic myhological screenplay for ZMM and the MoQ. (Incidentally I’ve just received the Jean Cocteau Orphic Trilogy DVD set, and watched the first two “Blood of a Poet” and “Orpheus” so far. At least the second one has a recognisable Orphic plot. Anyway the third one “Testament to Orpheus” was recommended by Pirsig after being moved by David’s paper, but I digress again.)

Joe Campbell’s “Masks of God” was referenced by Pirsig in Lila, his sequal to ZMM, in which he develops his MoQ.

The spooky connection ? Tuchman’s “March of Folly” opens, preceeding it’s introduction, with a quote taken from Joe Campbell’s 1969 foreward to “Masks of God” -

“And I can see no reason why anyone should suppose that in the future the same motifs already heard will not be sounding still …
… put to use by reasonable men to reasonable ends,
… or by madmen to nonsense and disaster.”

So add Joe Campbell and Mary Parker-Follett to my reading list.

Barbara Tuchman’s “March of Folly” is a good read so far; her style made me laugh out loud several times, particularly reading the “Renaissance Popes 1470 to 1530″ section, the general depravity leading to the sack of Rome and confirming the Lutheran protestant secession, by way of the Medicis and Borgias, not forgetting Savonarola’s bonfires of the vanities again. Being a major patron of the arts is one thing, but your motives for being so matter. The gist of the book is that govermental (managerial) incompetence knows no bounds, and is a case of folly (cock-up rather than conspiracy) despite ample evidence and means of higher quality actions in the long term self-interest of the institutions governed. Hence the fit with my thesis / manifesto.

Younger son did 5 (five) a-level (UK high school) exams and got his results yesterday. Got 4 grade A’s and a B, and was only 4 marks in a few hundred away from an A in the B subject as well. Absolutely fantastic, the undoubted effort paid off.

However, the B was in the subject in which his conditional offer from his first choice university required the only A, and so he can’t have his place, no exceptions. Rather than accept his second choice yet, he’s requesting a re-mark in the B paper(s). Go for it. Fingers crossed for a couple more weeks.

As I was with Tebbit in the preceeding post, sadly I see Mo Mowlem has passed away.

I’m reminded from the links in the story she, like I, supported Claire Short after her resignation over the Iraq invasion, which strangely due to its timing created exactly the opposite reaction to Robin Cook’s. Cook put his principles first, Short put loyalty and duties first initially before succumbing to her principles and was accused of political expediency for her troubles. As the Mo Mowlem piece says, quoting Tony Blair, “[Mo] was a natural politician, could read a situation and analyse and assess it as fast as anyone.” Your words Tony; think on.

All casualties of war in their own ways.

In preparation for writing some synthesis of Davids Deutsch and Chalmers’ work, I was updating my earliest links to quantum information (Deutsch and Josephson), and see that Deutsch’s QuBit Centre for Quantum Computation home page is now a Blog.

Intriguing, after my summary of Deutsch’s four main threads in the Fabric of Reality as
* Popper (Epistemology),
* Dawkins (Evolution),
* Everett / Wheeler (Quantum Universe), and
* Turing (Universal Computing)
I remarked that in that book, there was little if any reference to Deutsch’s Quantum Information work, and even less in Chalmers’ book.

I see in the side-bar on his site, the four threads are re-characterised (more correctly IMHO) as
* Popper,
* Dawkins,
* Quantum Computation (Information) and
* Virtual Reality.

I see also that Peter Marcer’s BCS “New Era” @ CASYS 2005 happened last week in Liege, and that invited speakers included Brian Josephson. Excellent, must get papers / proceedings.

I’m very close to finishing “The Conscious Mind – In Search of a Fundamental Theory” by David Chalmers. Everything except his review of Quantum Physics, over which I skimmed ahead to get a feel for the scope he’s addressing. I find myself in a very strange state, skimming some sections forwards and backwards, returning to read some sections very carefully. I can hardly believe it but everything I’ve been researching for four years is just slotting into place before my eyes. Spine tingling.

The bit I just did not expect to find in Chalmers, because I’ve not seen anyone quote or argue the aspect with him in papers or conferences, is “Information” (after Shannon). Information as something more fundamental than consciousness itself. Which is significant because Information was in fact my subject when I came into this space, and I’ve already bought the idea from quantum information work, that information is more fundamental than physics, and suspected it must underly both physics and consciousness or, effectively, a physics embracing information underlies everything including consciousness.

David is very careful with his argumentation – really impressive in fact – painfully distinguishing speculations from tiny fragments of evidence, recognising intuitions and suspending disbelief where unproven too, all in a synthetic way, and building cases that are hard to refute despite few individual “knockdown cases”. Very much aligned with Deutsch’s stuff, as I said already, when it comes to the limitations of logic in building a quality explanation or formal argument.

Everything is here. Quality. Physics. Logic. Life. Consciousness.
From Dave Deutsch via Dave Chalmers to Dave Bowman’s final words.
“Oh my god, it’s full of information.”

So rather than another long-winded dump of incoherent thoughts and impressions, it’s time I tried to put a thesis together. I’ve felt I should do this many times before, but the problem has always been the breadth of what needs to be covered, and however narrow an aspect I chose to focus on in a potential paper, there were always boundary conditions that couldn’t avoid undeveloped (and hence incoherent) reference to more of the other aspects. In truth, I spotted this with Deutsch’s Fabric of Reality, where his synthesis of four arguments each suffering an explanatory gap in their common sense acceptance, nevertheless seemed to hang together as a whole. I’ve just gotta do it.

Don’t hold your breath. It may be worth the wait, but don’t forget that the patron saint of the universal church of the interactive network is St Douglas (of the whooshing deadline) Adams.