How Shit Happens

Communication of intent
A variation on send three and fourpence ….
Seen pinned to many an office screen.
This copy lifted from David Stern’s Genesis project site
How Shit Happens
In the Beginning was The Plan
And then came the Assumptions
And the Assumptions were without form
And the Plan was completely without substance
And the darkness was upon the face of the Workers
And the Workers spoke amongst themselves, saying
“It is a crock of shit, and it stinketh.”
And the Workers went unto their Supervisors and sayeth,
“It is a pail of dung and none may abide the odor thereof.”
And the Supervisors went unto their Managers and sayeth unto them,
“It is a container of excrement and it is very strong,
such that none may abide by it.”
And the Managers went unto their Directors and sayeth,
“It is a vessel of fertilizer, and none may abide its strength.”
And the Directors spoke among themselves, saying one to another,
“It contains that which aids plant growth, and it is very strong.”
And the Directors went unto the Vice Presidents and sayeth unto them,
“It promotes growth and is very powerful.”
And the Vice Presidents went unto the President and sayeth unto him,
“This new Plan will actively promote the growth and efficiency of this
Company, and in these Areas in particular.”
And the President looked upon The Plan,
And saw that it was good, and The Plan became Policy.
And this is How Shit Happens.

Also, I have myself often quoted John Z DeLorean
from “On a Clear Day You Can See General Motors”
Committees of moral [competent] men [& women]
often make immoral [incompetent] decsions


Group interpretation is quite different to individual intent.
Also incorporates aspects of conspiracy vs cock-up experience.

And another anecdotal subject.
The “No accident has a single cause” idea
Popular thinking (usually around “disasters”) is to find fault – something to fix (if not blame).
“Double-jeopardy” was often claimed against system failure possibilities, before more formal Hazard Analysis / Safety Case approaches became adopted (eg in the process industry).
In a “system” no effect has a single cause ? Check it out.

Meme Collaborates Against Freeloaders ?

Sample meme initiated on Slashdot
Points to a game theory article on cooperative strategy which competes successfully against freeloaders.
Useful thoughts about peer to peer systems.

Concerning the interconnectedness of things as systems,
considering things as wholes, rather than simply the sum of their parts

Learning or problem solving by discovery and feedback, trial and error.
(From both Greek and Latin for discover)

A-Life & Quantum Computing

Ventrella – Artificial Life site,
plus fractal art and a few philosphical goodies.

BCS (British Computer Society) Cybernetics specialist group
Series of interesting subject areas around Cognition and Quantum Physics
from State of the Art Report from Peter J. Marcer, chairman, dated 18/06/01
This ability of qubits [Quantum Bits] to ‘register’ both 1 and 0 at the same time, would therefore (as has been shown theoretically) speed up a variety of computations thought impractical classically, including, Shor[2] showed, the factoring of very large numbers important in decryption. It may also even extend the very notion of what is computable (eg to topological (non-commutable) computation, since quantum theory concerns the physics of knots). The fact, that quantum computation, a physical theory, replaces the mathematical/Turing theory as the correct one, is one even now, which few scientists and computer practitioners have taken on board. The principle subject of the Group’s annual programmes therefore concerns this fundamental paradigm change in science and computing.
Very encouraging, to have the ability to model the real world, rather than just some rationalised “approximation” to it too.

BCS Cybernetics group also has links to
The (British) Cybernetics Society at Kings College.
Which is affiliated to The World Organisation for Systems & Cybernetics
Which has Kybernetes as its official journal.
This looks worth tracking
Brian Rudall (Bangor Uni of Wales) – Editor in Chief
(NB Gerry Wolf at Bangor – see links page)
Alex Andrew (Reading) – Internet Editor
Brian Josephson, Nobel Laureate (Cambridge) – Honorary Fellow

Golden Ratio Meets Chaos & Fuzzy Logic

The Golden Section – Hans Walser
The golden ratio meets Pentangles, Fractals, Pythagoras and the 80/20 rule.
(Plus the usual Fibonacci series and natural patterns etc…..)
(Pythagoras meets Fuzzy Logic in Kosko)
(Fractals meet Chaos and Fuzzy Logic everywhere)
80/20 naturally inherent in pentangles & pentagons (fifths)
But, Golden Ratio also inherent in these shapes and important related solids / hypersolids.
72/18 degrees (80/20 ratio) in the right angled triangles
Also 36/72/72 degrees (20/40/40 ratio) in the acute isosceles
Also 108/36/36 degrees (60/20/20 ratio) in the obtuse isosceles
Is there really simple geometry in fuzzy (business process) rules ??
Need to transform the golden ratio into the fuzzy logic hypercube and see if this represents any special case.
Weird, even bonkers, but then I always had a strange view of the Pareto 80/20 principle anyway – see Manifesto !!

Seven Wonders of the Web

The Seven Wonders of the Web – The Guardian
Includes Blogger (along with Google at No.1) with some good historical perspective of the significance of the web a la Douglas Adams.

Cognitive-Affective Model by Dov Te’eni from MISQ
Interesting – right in the intro to the paper includes “People ….make clever adaptations ….” Clever !
Have ongoing debates with implementors between “Users are a nuisance / dumb – my system must be sufficiently tightly constrained that a user cannot break it” on the one hand, and “It’s just as well users are creative / clever, because your system would be pretty useless if they weren’t” on the other. Both are one dimensional generalisations – 80% right, but 80% useless too. Isn’t this just cup-half-full vs cup-half-empty vs being both full and empty at the same time in reality ?

Also from MISQ
Knowledge Management and Knowledge Management Systems
Conceptual Foundations and Research Issues, Maryam Alavi and Dorothy E. Leidner
Information Technology Development Creativity
A Case Study of Attempted Radical Change by Randolph B. Cooper
Understanding GDSS in Symbolic Context
Shifting the Focus from Technology to Interaction by Abhijit Gopal and Pushkala Prasad
An Empirical Investigation of the Factors Affecting Data Warehousing Success
Barbara H. Wixom and Hugh J. Watson
A Confessional Account of an Ethnography About Knowledge Work
Ulrike Schultze
Learning Dysfunctions in Information Systems Development
Overcoming The Social Defenses With Transitional Objects by David G. Wastell
Explanations From Intelligent Systems
Theoretical Foundations and Implications for Practice by Shirley Gregor and Izak Benbasat
And many more hours of fun ….

Kosko’s Fuzzy Thinking

Just finished Bart Kosko – Fuzzy Thinking (1993)
Excellent read, though Kosko does not seem to find favour with later non-classical logicians – many notes recorded (see bibliography). Focussed on machine AI and control systems – but many analogous applications apparent. Some points that stick instantly …..
(1) Reasons given for decisions / actions (eg to an analyst) are invariably logical positivist rationalisations of what in reality were much fuzzier rules governing actual behaviour (cf Argyris) Also, like Argyris implies, makes an explicit east vs west cultural distinction in logical positivist trap. (Over stated perhaps re Japanese consumer goods industry AI – topical at time of writing ?) See also my earlier (!!) (1991) conclusion in Managing Change and Flexibility – Attitudes and Organisational Culture – Chapter 4 – Blockages to Organisational Learning. Spooky.
(2) FCM (Fuzzy Cognitive Maps) look like excellent methodology to turn “mind maps” into fuzzy analysis tool. Could consider applying to this research effort itself ??
(3) Linguistics / natural language is the key to fuzzy rules (cf Robot Wisdom and Gellish)
(4) Fundamental Fuzzy Logic – Is it a bird, is it a plane ? – Yes. Decisions, including classifications, are not binary. Even if statistical answer, the probablities do not have to add up to unity !!! Being partly “both” (or one of any number of dimensions) can be 0%-100% on each orthogonal dimension independantly. (Contrary to Aristotle / Witgenstein etc : not logical positivist perspective – closer to eastern “mysticism”) Also very closely allied to the whole school of management thinking around “Paradoxes”.
What about a real process industry example :
– is it a pump, is it a heat exchanger ? Yes, it’s a thermosiphon.
Or an Information example :
Is it a document, is it data ? Yes, it’s XML in Motion.
Or more generally ….
Is it true that XXX ?, Well, Yes and No.

The clues are in the real world. This looks blindingly obvious – why model something approximately rationally, when it is precisely irrational ? You better believe it.

Reading James Gleick – Chaos (1987) comparing with Ian Stewart – Does God Play Dice (1989).
Mostly same material content so far. Copy temporarily stolen by my elder son Tom. Need to buy another copy anyway, to replace the one loaned by Leon, now covered in notes / doodles !!

Chaos and Fuzzy Logic stuff seems to recognise many applications in physics / physical systems / machines on the one hand and in populations / ecology / economics / politics on the other, but don’t see much reference to systems on the human organisation / business scale. Scalability aspect fundamental ? Surely I’m not the first in this field ?

All confirms reasons to follow up Walsham and Myers’s more qualitative / behavioural “ethnographic” IS approaches, analysis based on “what are these people doing here ?”. (See MISQ).

Also to research Heylighen’s work on associative modelling for search engines and PCP (Principia Cybernetica Project) via Links page. Heylighen also supports a primarily “process” view of the world, with all other physical or conceptual entities, phenomena and attributes being manifestations of “things happening”. A man after my own heart if ever there was one !!!! Seems logical to me if you are modelling “business”, then process is what it is all about after all.

Also points to need to formally understand “Systems Theory” paradigm from 1950’s / 1960’s and probably “holism / holistics” too.

Bibliography page added – under construction. Intend to use to capture notes / reference points.