Doug Hofstadter’s 6 word autobiography, according to XKCD.

I’m so META,
even this acronym.

aka “The reference implementation of the self-referential joke.”

Thanks to Psybertron Jr for spotting it. Even as recently as two of the last three posts, the word has been meta and the reference has been Hofstadter.

Meta has been the word since 1999/2000 when most other people were distracted by the mythical millennium bug, but The Economist no less predicted that meta would be the word of the noughties. We were almost right, maybe in the teenies we’ll get there. No-one in the dot.com-boom spotted the impending explosion in media opportunities to spread memetically the lowest common denominator of obvious “old knowledge” and that this would be a drag on advancing attention on new “meta” knowledge,  recognizing the underlying reality of [meta(meta)^n]-knowledge. The Religion vs Science debate has been just as distracting in creating an artificial binary opposition of old knowledge – attention grabbing in the media spotlight.

Thanks to Quine, Hofstadter (and Dennett) got there before most of the rest of us.
Attention is the valuable commodity.

Plus Ca Change

Prompted by an F-something-or-other (*1) screaming overhead and out into the North Sea, I was reminded of recent Norwegian and Dutch colleagues mentioning that Russian “reconnaissance” intrusions into northern NATO controlled airspace were happening again – just like the old cold-war days. Fylingdales isn’t what it used to be, but we didn’t have Google then.

This whacky right-wing US site has a collation of reported sightings. Ironically, the Chamorro Bible site is also a plane-spotter’s dream. (Chamorro is hard to navigate, everything is by date, and the links don’t convey the wealth of images they contain – Example Feb 2007 contains some excellent F14 sunset shots, including the “Green Sunset” …. you just have to browse the massive hi-quality collection – every subject under the sun – weather, wildlife, geography, geo-physical events, natural-disasters, relief-aid, hardware – photographed from US military and Nasa platforms.)

Same old TU95 Bear’s but this interceptor here is an F22 Raptor.

(More arty shots as well as this one
– with sunsets and moon backdrops –
in the linked Chamorro collection.)

(*1) At one time my visual acuity and general plane-spotting-geekiness meant I could spot just about any model at any altitude, but sadly the eyesight and knowledge of post-80’s aircraft ain’t what they used to be. (This one was twin-tail-fin, twin-engine, low-fuselage-side-intakes, high-swept / tapered wing, high-forward-fuselage and bubble-canopy, didn’t notice whether tail-planes or forward-canard / extensions, didn’t sound all that heavy – say like an F15 Eagle, or even more like an F18 Hornet, MiG29 Fulcrum or Su27 Flanker 😉 – can’t imagine what any are doing serving over North Yorks – maybe an air-show display visit, or a newer model I don’t recognise ? Not an F14 Tomcat or an F35 JSF / Lightning III(*2) or an F22 Raptor so far as I could tell, none have that “hunched” forward fuselage look.)

(*2) refuse to call it Lightning II since there have already been (at least) two. P38 Lightning and BAC F1/F3/F6/F53 Lightning. BTW this on-line Flight International archive, Flight Global has a great collection of those cutaways – some poster sized with amazing detail – right from 1903 to 2006 (!)

[Post Note June 2013 – Seems the only the active USAF bases in the UK are Mildenhall (Tankers, EWACS and Transports) and Lakenheath (F15’s) – no F22’s or F35’s – so in fact F15 is the reasonable conclusion, seen a few more since.]

Managing Complexity

Been a trend in the day job to look at complexity as a subject in itself. Whether Oil&Gas or Nuclear Power, the systems view seems to acknowledge complexity as an explicit variable to be addressed. Thanks to David Gurteen for the link to this piece by Nick Milton – knowledge management, whatever you believe that is (*), is part of the solution. Topical on the scale of human generations, in the post-Macondo, Post-Fukushima context.

(Agree with David Gurteen’s observation that it would be interesting to hear Dave Snowden’s take – in the light of the simple BCG Grid, given his extrapolation of the grid concept into the world of complexity.)

Sadly the New Scientist link appears broken – looking into that.

(* The Ron Young version, or the Euan Semple version. Being too well defined is counter-productive.)

Smart People

Thanks to Dave Gurteen for Tweeting to his LinkedIn stream a link to a Michael Sampson post reviewing a Rajesh Setty post on why “Smart People” sometimes appear bad at sharing knowledge.

It’s because what passes for knowledge becomes removed from current activities. Computation as compression – efficiency in the evolutionary arms race. The more expert / experienced one becomes in a subject the more the “obvious” stuff becomes buried beneath the more interesting / exceptional / creative variations – the more conscious effort is required to go back and unpick the “process” by which the current knowledge was arrived at in terms of its more primitive components (see the linked graphic). This is part “every picture paints a thousand words” – where the picture replaces / stands-for a thousand knowledge-items learned, but it can never “convey” that knowledge to anyone not really already knowing them. It is also part Hofstadter’s tit-for-tat-tabletop – the next move (or the pattern of moves) is ALWAYS a (more) creative metaphor away from the current world situation – away from the table-top or theatre-of-operations in front of you – in a layer of metaphorical abstraction.

Apart from sharing what is already known, any metaphor / abstraction should be original / creative, or it is simply a cliche, a meme. Progress always happens at the meta-level. Only accounting / stubbed-toes / dragged-knuckles occur in the world of here-and-now beans / rocks.

PS just listening to Bertrand Russell’s original 6-part Reeth Lectures archive from 1948. He has that “of course it’s all too obvious to the likes of me” tone of condescention – which also comes across in his cock-sure position on logic, so lampooned by Wittgenstein – BUT, so much of what he said is in fact  too true, nothing new under the sun, plus ca change, etc … ’twas ever thus. Just like the tone I’m now using, What goes around, comes around. Great section in the first lecture on the balance of social authority vs individual freedom. I see MoQ-Discuss is on another endless loop on “free” will vs determinism. Oh for a Hofstadterian strange-loop.

Of course that Seth Godin link from David includes such a loop. Rule 6 says if in doubt ignore rules 1 to 5. That’s normal. Rules are primarily for their exceptions (*). The only reason to learn rules 1 to 6 is to understand why it’s rule 6 that matters. Learning rules 1 to 5 is simply part of the learning process in practice.

(*) That’s not quite what I mean. The interesting aspect of rules are primarily their exceptions, conflicts and harder interpretations, the rules themselves are primarily to record the obvious / background knowledge …. to link back to the original piece.

Time In

I’ve become rather lazy with blogging recently, a whole month since I last posted and a low rate of posting for several months now. Partly because the day-job work-load has become focussed and intense, so I feel more guilty just browsing and commenting in the blogosphere, partly because the smaller trivial titbits fit more directly into Facebook bypassing the blog entirely, and partly because even when I see interesting things to comment on, they seem to be repeating messages I’ve already done to death (in my mind at least).

As, I’ve said before I need to switch from browse and comment mode into new creative writing mode, it’s just that the day-job-project is consuming most brain cells for the foreseeable year or two, and needs must.

I keep an eye on Johnny Moore, who links most of his blog posts via Twitter to Facebook and /or LinkedIn. Johnny is moving the core of his business-consulting subject area closer to psychology, and even taking in Buddhism and “non-rational” thinking sources. I identify with so much of his link-collecting and commentary. In that sense, he’s part of the “repetition” – the nothing new under the sun – that’s caused me to tire of posting such things, but he is maintaining a great and growing collection of relevant links and anecdotes. Someone has to do it. Thanks Johnnie.

Talking of balancing time between day-job and other “projects” here is one example link from Johnny. I think I may be stuck with “Time In”.

And this creepy “I am not a number” plea, is a reaction to the relentless objectification of quality. So well established – nothing new under the sun – that the old Oscar Wilde quote “a cynic is a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing” remains hard to improve upon as a distinction between (objective/rational) price and (subjective/psychological) value. Graven images – religiously cast in stone tablets – the epitome of mis-placed objectification.

Even this link to Susan Weinschenk leads to the conclusion that even serious academic psychology basically reinforces folk-psychology. The science of brain functioning will be complete when we can agree reality IS folk psychology. Reality is already clear, it’s just the rationalizing process of evidence and argumentation that lags behind. Qu’elle surprise.

Real life’s a game and the game is called psychology – game theory in practice.

Anyway, talking of Johnnies, to change the subject, saw John (Johnny Rotten) Lydon last week with PIL at Rockefeller in Oslo. Greatly exceeded expectations – keeping it real with real passion, a real eccentric connection with the audience and real quality musicians in the band. Best gig for a couple of years, and I’ve seen quite a few – busy obtaining the overlooked back collection in MP3’s.

Go Johnny Go. Go, Johnny B Goode.

PS – Also read Mark Radcliffe’s “Reeling in the Years“. Mark’s 2 years younger than me, but his musical journey through life hits so many of the same spots as mine – the full text that is, not just the chapter head-liners. Mark (he’s a drummer as well as a DJ / Musicographer) told the same Coldplay drummer anecdote back-stage at Glastonbury that appears in his book.

Q. Since you don’t actually own a drumkit, how do you practice drumming ?
A. With 200 gigs a year, how hard can it be ?