Technology Control Destroys Knowledge

I’ve had an angle for some time (since before the manifesto) that adding technology to a system that is not already reasonably automatic, almost invariably makes matters worse. Introduction of new IT systems for example bring new process constraints whose downside may often outweigh the value of the system itself, since the value of ad-hoc human processes are easily overlooked in the formal system design. (Dr James Willis work has documented many examples of this in healthcare.) Another thread in this blog is that communications immediacy means misinformation that is easily communicated can prevail over “better” (truer) information that is less easy to communicate (ie the spread of toxic memes. For Blackmore, objectivism itself is the toxic meme.). This has always been part of my motivation to find knowledge models that adapt to the softer, subjective human components of knowledge, like motivation to name but one.

Anyway, having re-acquainted myself with Brian Josephson’s web-site, in the previous post, I find a row concerning the “arxiv” physics paper pre-print archive hosted at Los Alamos on behalf of the theoretical physics community. Apparently the upload of contributors papers can be banned by an administrator simply switching a flag based on the author’s name or the source of the paper, prior to any review of validity of content – quite the antithesis of anonymous peer review. Brian is one of a number of Nobel Laureates fighting against that kind of prejudice. Was it Mark Twain who said “A man with a new idea is a crank until he succeeds”

I was interested by this quote on the Archive Freedom home page, from physicist Louis deBroglie, as long ago as 1974 … “The new ideas here triumphed; but, in proportion as the organization of research becomes more rigid, the danger increases that new and fruitful ideas will be unable to develop freely.”.

Increasing control of organisation through technology is dangerous. Enabling and decision support can be technological, but control should remain human (or fail-safe) in anything but the simplest of contexts.

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