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.

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