Galbraith – Enron and the like Beyond Monitoring

Re-read the JK Galbraith article. (Blogged earlier)
“[Corporations like Enron have] grown so complex that [they are] now almost beyond monitoring …. there was almost no criticism from the shareholders ? the owners, [until they collapsed.]”. Galbraith detects something of the conspiracy of silence he recounted so memorably in his book The Great Crash: 1929, first published in 1955 but as readable today as it was then. “They remained very quiet,” he wrote of the financial luminaries of that era. “The sense of responsibility in the financial community for the community as a whole is not small. It is nearly nil. To speak out against madness may be to ruin those who have succumbed to it. So the wise on Wall Street are nearly always silent. The foolish have the field to themselves and none rebukes them. [Just as 73 years ago] there’s still a tradition, a culture of restraint that keeps one from attacking one’s colleagues, one’s co-workers, no matter how wrong they seem to be.”
Perhaps I should rename the DeLorean effect, the Galbraith effect. Actually it’s the emperor’s suit of clothes effect anyway – the institutionalised conspiratorial cock-up. Argyris’ “avoidance-of-embarassment rationalisation of the irrational”.

Happiness Breaking Through – Noonan

Economist and WSJ Peggy Noonan
Reviews of Blogging linked from Blogger itself.
The words of a friend of Samuel Johnson quoted by Ms Noonan
“I meant to be a philosopher, but happiness kept breaking through.”

[Post-note – I notice Ms Noonan is part of the team that creates West Wing, the award winning US White House spoof drama. Intelligent stuff.]

Intuitive Knowledge or Explicit Instruction

Link via John Robb’s Radio WebLog from NY Times.
Russian Pilot Had Conflicting Orders. A Russian pilot received contradictory instructions before crashing into a cargo plane over Germany last week, German investigators said today after reviewing voice recorders from the two jets. By The Associated Press. [New York Times: International] Interesting says John Robb. “I once got a flight vector from air traffic control that would have sent me into a mountain. Needless to say, I didn’t follow the direction. Pilots need to fly the plane first and listen to controller instructions second.”
Who needs artificial intelligence when you can have the real thing. – This is the DeLorean effect – how to make a wrong decision, when you know it’s wrong – all too easy.

The Significance of Common Sense

The significance of Common Sense
A quote from Ellis D Cooper’s Dictionary of Consciousness
Stephen C. Pepper – World Hypotheses, A Study in Evidence – 1966 – University of California Press
“[ extract only] Our evidence, we showed, indicates that every item of common sense is a dubitandum, a matter that ought to be doubted in the sense of being subject to rigorous critical scrutiny, but this very same evidence indicates that the totality of common sense itself, is, so to speak, not a dubitandum. It is a well-attested fact. All evidence points to it as the ultimate source of our cognitive refinements, and as the lowest legitimated level to which cognition could sink should these refinements fail.”
[IMOW – what is known is more than the sum of any facts, in fact the individual facts may be doubtful, and the “conclusion” still true. The holism / emergent property / fractal angle. Compare with the Searle vs Pinker debate.]

Also an intriguing definition of cognitive science : “Cognitive science is the scientific study of the aspects of mind which are governed by finite sets of rules for the formation, transformation, and destruction of information”. [IMOW – in addition to the finite vocabulary issue, note “destruction” consistent with my “reification destroys knowledge” again.]

Diito consciousness : “Consciousness is the overcoming of difficulty”. seen this before somewhere, but cannot locate. “mind as a system for overcoming problems”

Free thinking moment ?
Physio-mechanical hard-wired mechanisms – feedback / causal connections / mechanistic behaviour.
Electro-chemical hard-wired mechanisms – feedback / causal connections / reflex stimulus response behaviour.
Sub-conscious mental soft-wired mechanisms – stimulus response behaviour learned and pre-conditioned by culture / environment.
Conscious mental soft-wired mechanisms – world view model and symbolic (?) memory brought to bear on decision making response.
Higher / other states of consciousness ?
As with my three-layer view – it’s the interfaces betwen these “levels” that seem interesting. eg
Adaptation of physio-mechano-electro-chemical levels from re-inforcement of learned responses.
Neurone connectivity /re-connectivity.
Implication that “harder problem” requires more conscious resource, not always true.
Switch-off / think about something else for a while / sleep on it etc ?
Subconscious has resources not necessarily available to the conscious.
Difficulty of defining the conscious aspect of “consciousness” – awareness / subjectivity

The levels do not build additively, however spookily close to Pirsig’s levels of moral values / Maslow’s hierarchy of needs etc. ?
A new higher level builds on the lower levels, sets the rules and drivers for changing / improving lower levels, must not undermine / short-circuit lower levels, lower levels must not constrain or direct higher levels. I may have spotted this link in reverse working from Lila – must check his descriptions, and my previous blog entries on Pirsig.

Johnson – Words are the Daughters of Earth

Upgraded to latest version of YACCS code

Quote from Samuel Johnson 1755 in the preface to his dictionary
“I am not so lost in lexicography as to forget that words are the daughters of earth, and that things are the sons of heaven.”
Which I take to mean don’t forget that words are simply human inventions to symbolise what is perceived about the “real” world, whatever we perceive that real world “to be”. (Note the Bartleby source has the Columbia Encyclopaedia, the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, as well as an excellent collection of dictionaries of quotations. Added to glossary / dictionary / encyclopaedia links page.)

Still struggling to re-locate the ancient caveat I spotted about “beware meanings of words in dictionaries”. Been through every link in the DoPTN.
Not this one (from Krippendorf)
A dictionary like the discipline whose terminology it alms to clarify — is constantly in flux. It is aided by communal efforts and in turn aids communication within the community of users.
Got it ! (not so ancient).
From Marvin Minsky – The Society of Mind – 1985.
Thanks to the Alberta Uni Cog-Sci Dictionary.
“It often does more harm than good to force definitions on things we don’t
understand. Besides, only in logic and mathematics do definitions ever
capture concepts perfectly. The things we deal with in practical life are
usually too complicated to be represented by neat, compact expressions.
Especially when it comes to understanding minds, we still know so little
that we can’t be sure our ideas about psychology are even aimed in the right
directions. In any case, one must not mistake defining things for knowing
what they are.”
[NB not just beware, but more harm than good. A bit like my “reification destroys knowledge” mantra.]

Found loads more philosophy sources to be added to the links / glossary pages.
Hippias / Noesis, Guide to Philosophy on the Internet, and a Dictionary.
Philosophy in Cyberspace (many broken links)
Bjorn’s Guide to Philosophy – not recently updated.
Links page of the DoPTN – part of Noesis.
As well as all the secondary links from the Glossary page.