My Plea Answered

I asked for help with Wolfram and Steven Weinberg (via Jorn) provided a timely review in the NY Review.

[Quote] Wolfram makes it seem that physicists choose simple rather than complex phenomena to study because of long habit or mathematical flabbiness, but in seeking the laws of nature it is the essence of the art of science to avoid complexity. [Unquote] Good old Occam again. Therefore how can “science” hope to explain anything complex.

[Quote] It was the simplicity of planetary motions that allowed Newton to discover the laws of motion and gravitation ……. Newton would never have discovered his laws by studying turbulence or snowflakes. [Unquote] Excellent – well that’s the two-body problem sorted, what would “science” like to offer as an encore ? It’s interesting that Weinberg should use this example, because he also rather disparagingly denies any practical value in simple computers with [Quote] The simpler the design of a universal computer, the more steps it takes to emulate each single step of a practical computer. This is why Dell and Compaq do not sell Turing machines or rule 110 cellular automata.[Unquote] Meeeooowww !

[Quote] I am an unreconstructed believer in the importance of the word, or its mathematical analogue, the equation. [Unquote] Glad to hear it, but unless I’m misunderstanding current thinking around mathematical equations, Weinberg seems to have a strangely simplistic / logical / mechanistic view of words in a linguistic sense.

[Quote] After looking at hundreds of Wolfram’s pictures, I felt like the coal miner in one of the comic sketches in Beyond the Fringe, who finds the conversation down in the mines unsatisfying: “It’s always just ‘Hallo, ‘ere’s a lump of coal.'”[Unquote] I know what he means. (See my earlier plea.)

At least Weinberg found some claims worth challenging in Wolfram’s book – all I’ve seen so far is countless pretty pictures, and constant repetition of what must be pretty obvious to anyone who’s taken any interest in chaos and complexity in recent decades, that complexity can arise from simple rules. Interesting too that Weinberg writes in an apparently open-minded way, referring to Wolfram’s magnum opus as “an interesting failure”, yet he constantly exhibits that western scientific arrogance in his choice of arguments. This one will run and run.

Reading Matter.

Having finished Foucault, I was off to Borders the night before.

Scan read Wolfram’s “New Kind of Sience” yet again. Just can’t bring myself to buy it. For anyone excited by patterns in numbers and nature, it has a million and one examples to play with, but I cannot fathom any structure in the book itself leading to his hyperbolic claims that the whole basis of science is changed. A thousand pages of little fractal images [“cellular automata”] is pretty, but ultimately tiresome. Help me somebody. I’d actually like to believe him, some of his claims would appear to support my own case, but I cannot find any rationale or argument, be it scientific, logical or rhetorical. Is his case simply that if he lists every scientific law / phenomenon he can think of, and can express it in terms of some little pattern generation rule, that these little numerical rules must therefore underly all science, because no-one has written a longer list than he ? I hope no-one takes up his challenge of writing a longer list to prove him wrong, ’cause it’s not likely to be a rivetting read. Proof by attrition ?

Drifted into the Philsophy section again, only to find they’ve re-organised it. Couldn’t find Foucault’s Pendulum in stock (nor any Wittgenstein at all ! Not that I was looking for any you understand. Does this mean the world has really moved on ?) Came away with Umberto Eco’s Kant and the Platypus. Amusing start, looks promising.

[Must get my bibliographic notes / reading list organised so I can plan / order books needed, as well as record the significance of those read / referenced.]

Texte zur Wirtschaft

Texte zur Wirtschaft. German Business Newsletter (via Thomas **) entitled “The Archaeology of Blogs” discussing the idea that the rhizome / network view of knowledge has been around since the end of the 70’s. (I beg to differ – Deleuze and Guattari’s “Anti-Oedipus” popularised rhizomes in 1977, but Foucault coined “The Semantic Web” back in 1966. Can’t quite work out the context of the article (my German isn’t what it should be), but it ends with a paragraph headed “But finally, Blogging”. (The newsletter includes references to Thomas Burg’s blog as well as that of the author Joerg Kantel at Der Schockwellenreiter.) Basically the line is that blogging is the culmination of the idea of networked knowledge. True because whatever the technology infrastructure of the web, blogging is by definition P2P. (See previous blog.) This is of course in practice the reason I am myself so interested in blogging – because it is the “best” model for knowledge management that I’ve yet to find, particularly once a little structure is added to the linking, via RDF / RSS say.

[** Actually found this link when I discovered that if you go to your site meter and find that someone (in this case Thomas) has followed link to your site from their site meter, what you have is a link to their site meter. Follow that link and you have links to everyone their site meter has recorded. Confusing at first, but interesting in a voyeuristic kind of way. Not deliberately snooping, sorry Thomas !]

P2P Networks Will Replace WWW

P2P Networks Will Replace WWW. New Scientist article (via Robb) about IRIS, US government funded P2P Network. I’ve believed P2P was the future for a couple of years, ever since being amazed at the power of Napster (and Kazaa since). Notwithstanding the technology aspects, P2P is much closer to what knowledge really is. [Check out with Graham at Empolis / Bertlesmann.]

[Post Note – More like the WWW will “continue to evolve into” a P2P network.]

Human Side of Knowledge Management

The Human Side of Knowledge Management. Slides (pdf) (via Seb and Thomas) from John Seeley Brown, plugging his book “The Social Life of Knowledge”. Basic message is knowledge is socially constructed, so design any system, be it physical office organisation, training courses or computer applications to encourage social interaction – “conversation” metaphor. He’ll get no argument from me. [Some good graphics to re-use elsewhere – Rate of processing power / storage capacity doubling periods + plus the community law, knowledge value equals 2 to the power of n connected users. Explicit vs tacit knowledge iceberg, and several more including the obligatory BCG 2×2 grid and “virtuous circle” cliches.]

Metaphors We Live By

Metaphors We Live By. From JOHO’s booklist. Blogged several earlier mentions about how metaphorical aphorisms often seemed closer to the truth than any apparently rational view of a reality being described. (Part of my main thesis in fact as “many a true word”.) Bizarre, but here’s a book by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson on that very subject. Hmmmm. I’m due to start a new book this week too ?

JOHO also comments on “Affective Computing” by Rosalind Picard [Quote] Raises questions about our assumption that rationality is the king of consciousness. [Unquote] I should say so.

JOHO’s Weinberger is also one of the contributors to “Cluetrain”. Ref The Cluetrain Manifesto : The End of Business as Usual. Intersting that an “e-biz” dot.com marketing hype book should still draw rave reviews in 2002. Good stuff about how it’s “humans” actually communicating even if the medium is the web. The human interactivity theme is very evocative of Douglas Adams thoughts on the web. This one caught my eye [Quote] No.29 (of 95) Elvis said it best: “We can’t go on together with suspicious minds.” [Unquote] IMHO – there is clearly an element of trust across a hyperlink, presumed or negotiated, about the communication you’re about to receive. [Post note – Just started reading Eco’s “Kant and the Platypus”, and he also talks of communicating knowledge being like a contract.]

[Quote] If you only have time for one clue this year [and can’t be bothered to read the other 94], this is the one to get… “We are not seats, or eyeballs, [or hits], or users, or consumers. We are human beings, and our reach exceeds your grasp. Deal with it.”[Unquote]