Cluetrain Plus 10

Discussion with Doc Searles and Dave Weinberger ten years on. (Note that third collaborator, Chris Locke, is over at Rageboy &  Mystic Bourgeoisie). My favourite was always:

No.29 – Elvis said it best :
“We can’t go on together, with suspicious minds.”

And this has been instrumental in my citing the W3C architecture having “Trust” and the top of the stack.

You’d think

… after (almost) ten years of blogging, I’d know when not to blog. Ten year celebration here at Fiatech I managed to get out onto 6th street and spend three hours between “Friends” and “Chuggin Monkey” … no idea which bands I actually saw but the musicians flitted between the two, and … I don’t know where to start … they entertained. So much higher quality than either Nashville or Memphis. Austin rocks, even outside SXSW. Good news is the band that ended at Friends are apparently there on Tuesday too. Could do a lot worse.

(Post Note : Main band at Chuggin Monkey was “the Statesboro Review”)

Apologies Dear Reader

As well as rather large gaps in the flow of blogging, due to current overly busy lifestyle phase, I see the BBC news plug-in has failed at last – I need a news feed widget (anyone ?) – and I see also that my page format is now browser / version dependent – fine in Chrome, but error prone in IE6 (yes, still IE6 on the corporate desktop). Time for some maintenance – one day soon. Still working on Buzz integration, which I think may lead to making worthwhile use of Wave … LinkedIn is OK – for work-related contacts and posts, but FaceBook and Google Friend Connect are just a mess – no ?

World Water Day

And I can confirm on World Water Day, that it has rained steadily in Charlotte  NC. And perversely, recall I said too much communication was not necessarily a good thing … well, the internet is the biggest threat to ecology. It’s the remote anonymity that undermines local personal value.

Too Much Integration

I’m reading Stephen Toulmin’s 2001 “Return To Reason” (I also have, but have not yet read his “Cosmopolis“). It is as good an expose so far on the enlightenment wrong turn as I have yet read. That reasonableness is more than rationality, that wisdom is more than knowledge.

I hadn’t before quite appreciated how the 17th century enlightenment (Newton, Leibniz,  Descartes et al) was such a direct reaction to the sectarian religious violence laying waste to the populations of Europe in the 30 Years War. The response was the attempt to create and capture the  perfection of (God’s) nature in the certainty of mathematics and logic.

Some significant quotes here from Toulmin, illustrating the too-greedy-reductionism in assuming a scientistic view is a solution to every problem.

In practical terms, the people with the best claim to be the heirs of Leibniz are computer information engineers … .

We can dream up all the theories we please (of communication and control, neurophysical holography and artificial intelligence, automated reasoning, deep grammar and brain function, etc) But the further we move away from the Sciences of Matter and Energy, and toward the Sciences of Information, the more we must integrate theoria and praxis, and the fainter the distinction between “pure” and “applied” sciences.

By now, the question “How should the new ideas of science be utilized?” needs to be faced even at the initial state of conceiving possible new theories. So it is helpful to recall why the dream of rationalist philosophy proved to be a Dream indeed.

No formalism can interpret itself;
No system can validate itself;
No theory can exemplify itself;
No representation can map itself;
No language can predefine its own meanings;
No science can decide which of its technologies are of real human value.

… we must ignore the seventeenth-century ideal of intellectual exactitude, with its idolization of proof and certainty and recall the practical wisdom of sixteenth-century humanists, who hoped to recapture the modesty that had made it possible to live happily with uncertainty, ambiguity and pluralism.

It is admirable to share Bacon’s dreams in The New Atlantis, but let us be realistic about the obstacles to realizing those dreams – the most serious being the epistemological obstacles. The greater our interventions in the natural world, the less we can forecast their effects, the more significant will be their unintended outcomes. (… risks run today in the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River.)

The dreams of seventeenth-century philosophy – infallible scientific method, perfectly exact language, and the rest – may still fascinate and inspire powerful new theories. But the future depends just as much on our ability to recapture the values of the sixteenth-century humanists and maintain the fragile balance between refinement of our practical skills and the human interests they serve.

…. there ends Chapter 5 – “Dreams of Rationality“.
Chapter 6 – “Rethinking Method” opens with ….

One aspect of the standard view of “rationality” is the assumption that a single method can turn any field of enquiry into a “hard science” (like physics …)

Head Fake

As a parent I have more than a passing interest in this talk. This “famous” last lecture of Randy Pausch in 2007 has been cited as “inspirational” by many. I beg to differ.

Yes, you have to be impressed with a man in the last months of terminal cancer being this upbeat and positive to the last. I am impressed. And amongst all the private in-jokes for his geek friends in Virtual Reality at Carnegie Mellon, which one can indulge given that context, his message about following your dreams, is really a message about living life. Learning through the fun of doing creative things and living life the right way, with honesty, integrity, trust, loyalty, saying thank you and sorry, and of course hard-work. Hard work verging well over into workaholism, if his response is this boastful, “well if you wanna know, call me at 10pm in the office any day”. That message is at odds with the real “head fake” here – that this really is a message for his kids, not the faculty attending his last lecture.

If you want an inspirational lecture (pre YouTube and TED – yes, you have to read it) for kids, the future in general, as well as one’s own try this commencement address, from Richard Russo in 2004. But perhaps I should have head-faked that too ?

(“Head-fake” is the idea that doing fun creative things IS learning … you don’t have to be explicit in who or what is being learned and taught.)