The Aesthetics of Change

Is an excellent book by Bradford Keeney. This is its second set of book snippets. The first set is here. As usual I'm going to quote from a few pages...
Whenever there is feedback, mental characteristics will be evident.
To adopt a cybernetic view is to enter a radically different world of description.
Symptoms are a sort of "escalating sameness." Symptoms indicate a system's effort to maximize or minimize a particular behavior or experience.
A paradox in ecology is that the most flexible species are the dullest.
A necessary ingredient of effective sociofeedback in therapy involves the introduction of random "noise."
Cybernetics is the appropriate science for studying mental and living processes.
A graduate student at Yale in the days when they were all running rats in mazes said, "Why do we run rats? Why don't we get an animal which lives in mazes. Like a ferret." A ferret is a small pole cat, a weasel type which is a parasite on rabbits. It lives underground most of the time in rabbit quarters which are mazes. And it bites like hell! So he got himself a couple of ferrets, some gloves and a sack. And he built what seemed to him a suitable maze for ferrets. He put a piece of rabbit in the reward chamber and started the ferret off from the entrance. The ferret systematically went down every blind alley until he got to the reward chamber where he ate the rabbit. He was put back to the beginning and the experimenter put another piece of rabbit in the reward chamber. The ferret systematically went down eveery blind alley until he came to the one going to the reward chamber which he did not go down, because he had eaten that rabbit.
When two people interact, each member punctuates the flow of interaction. If an observer combines the views of both individuals, a sense of the whole system will begin to emerge.
As two eyes can derived depth, two descriptions can derive pattern and relationship.
Stability and change, as cybernetics puts it, represent two different facets of the same systemic coin.
Cybernetics proposes that change cannot be found without a roof of stability over its head. Similarly, stability will always be rooted to underlying processes of change.
The cybernetic view is to see all requests for change as requests for change and stability.
Change within the system leads to stability of the whole system.
It should not be surprising that experimental epistemology discovered that the nervous system closes on itself. This is operationally necessary for an organism to be able to think about its thinking.
The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The whole is the organizational closure of its parts.


beyond culture

is an excellent book by Edward T Hall (isbn 0385124740). As usual I'm going to quote from a few pages...
The investigation of out-of-awareness culture can be accomplished only by actual observation of real events in normal settings and contexts.
Research with business groups, athletic teams, and even armies around the world has revealed there is an ideal size for a working group. The ideal size is between eight and twelve individuals.
All theoretical models are incomplete. By definition, they are abstractions and therfore leave things out. What they leave out is as important as, if not more important that what they do not, because it is what is left out that gives structure and form to the system.
Paradoxically, studying the models that men create to explain nature tells you more about the men than about the part of nature being studied.
All bureaucracies are oriented inward, but P-type are especially so.
High context actions are by definition rooted in the past, slow to change, and highly stable.
High context communications are frequently used as art forms. They act as a unifying, cohesive force, are long-lived, and are slow to change. Low context communications do not unify; however, they can be changed easily and rapidly.
Nothing happens in the world of human beings that is not deeply affected by linguistic forms.
If there is anything that can change the character of life, it is how time is handled.
M-time emphasizes schedules, segmentation, and promptness. P-time systems are characterized by several things happening at once. They stress involvement of people and completion of transactions rather than adherence to preset schedules.
By scheduling, we compartmentalize; this makes it possible to concentrate on one thing at a time, but it also denies us context.
In many forms, culture designates what we pay attention to and what we ignore.
The natural act of thinking is greatly modified by culture.
Low-context cultures seem to resist self-examination.
Alfred Korzybski and Wendell Johnson, founders of semantics, identified the Extention Transference factor in the use of words and published extensively on the profound effects of mistaking the symbol for the thing symbolized while endowing the symbol with properties it does not possess.
Environments are not behaviorally neutral.
For some reason, people reared in the European tradition feel more comfortable if they have a rule to fall back on, even if it doesn't fit.


my first Verdal salmon!

I'm extremely fortunate to fish for salmon in Norway for a week every June. I fish the River Verdal, at Tingvol, near Vuku, with four other anglers. The beat owner, John Olav Odren, and Gary Scott look after us all, and when I say he "look after us" I really mean it. Nothing is too much trouble and they help to make it an utterly fantastic week. This year I managed to catch a couple and lost one I never saw. I caught this one on a big snaelda from the middle section.


Atlantec conference

It was a pleasure and an honour to speak at the first Atlantec conference held in Galway, Ireland on May 15th. I talked about cyber-dojo and showed some statistics from a random sample of its 30,000+ cyber-dojos, together with a few examples of code/tests typically submitted, a few dashboard patterns, and wrapped up linking testing to Le Chatelier's Law and some of my favourite Systems Thinking quotes from Bradford Keeney.



fly and bait casting

The Principles and Practice of Fly and Bait Casting, by Reginald D. Hughes is an excellent book published by A & C Black in 1924. As usual I'm going to quote from a few pages:
Style is synonymous with efficiency.
Excessive effort is not only uncalled for, but if practised defeats itself.
To get a really good cast extreme smoothness and ease are essential.
Be content with 12 or 14 yards of line until thoroughly master of that amount, and then lengthen it out by degrees.
The lift of the line is steady and must be entirely devoid of the least tendency to a flip or a cast.
It is necessary that throughout the cast the line is kept alive - i.e., that the whole motion is continuous.
The second need is for a taut line during the making of the cast. If the line is allowed to slacken in the least, even momentarily, the pull on it is lost.
Hold or grip of the rod - there should be none. The rod merely rests in the right hand, while the left hand lightly encircles the butt end.
Both hands must do an equal share of the work.
In learning these casts try and avoid too much concentration, as the great secret is to let the whole body be free and swing easily and comfortably, letting the rod do it, and it will do it if the timing is right.
The extreme back position should be the highest point of the rod's course.
From the very commencement of casting, try not to use the elbow-joint at all.
I think the difficulties and uncertainties are of the very essence of true sport.

spring salmon

I've been trying to catch a spring salmon on the fly. I've had some great adventures visiting lots of rivers. My spey casting has gradually got better and better, but until this week, no springer. On Monday and Tuesday I fished the stunning Tulchan beat on the River Spey with my friend and guide Gary Scott. And just like that, after 4 years of effort, instant success! A 10'lber from beat C and a 15'lber from beat D. Both returned safely.
A-b-s-o-l-u-t-e-l-y fantastic.



the psychology of computer programming

is an excellent book by Jerry Weinberg. As usual I'm going to quote from a few pages:
I've read this book twice before, once here, and again here.
We must deal with one other problem, which is important because of a seldom questioned view of programming - a view which this book will spend a great deal of time questioning. That view is that programming is an individual activity.
Now that hardware has grown cheaper whilst labor has grown more expensive, group members are much less likely to share a machine and system than there were years ago.
The requirement to develop capability cannot be met adequately by a single person. We learn much faster and much better with the active cooperation of others.
Has anyone ever thought of asking appplicants whether or not they like programmming?
With adults, however, the barriers to learning have usually become internalized, and the average adult learns very little of left to his own devices.
It is a well-known psychological principle that in order to maximize the rate of learning, the subject must be fed back information on how well or poorly he is doing.
Such companies are sitting ducks for anyone who comes along with a fancy package of promises - and with lots of sitting ducks, can the hunters be far behind?
An increase in salary only motivates for a short time it is the raise, not the salary level which is a symbol of current value.
To a surprising degree, the only time we fail to learn is when there are negative forces set up against it.
Because the machines are rigid, the people who use them must, if they are to be successful, supply more than their share of flexibility.
We are trying to make the machine help people take advantage of the immense psychological resources they have in overcoming their immense psychological shortcomings.


the universal computer

is an excellent book by Martin Davis (isbn 978-1-4665-0519-3). As usual I'm going to quote from a few pages:
Liebnitz's involvement with the Harz Mountain mining project ultimately proved to be a fiasco. In his optimism, he had not forseen the natural hostility of the expert mining engineers towards a novice proposing to teach them their trade. Nor had he allowed for the inevitable break-in period a novel piece of machinery requires or for the unreliability of the winds.
Unlike the usual experience with a new untried gadget, Turing's Bombes, built from his design, worked correctly as soon as they were made.
"There are several theorems which say almost exactly that ... if a machine is expected to be infallible, it cannot also be intelligent... But these theorems say nothing about how much intelligence may be displayed if a machine makes no pretence at infallibility." [Turing]
There is nothing in Godel's theorem to preclude the mathematical powers of a human mind being equivalent to an algorithmic process that produces false as well as true statements.
It is interesting to contrast von Neumann's view of computer programming as an activity with Turing's; von Neumann called it "coding" and made it clear that he thought of it as a clerical task requiring little intellect. A revealing anecdote tells of a practice at the Institute for Advanced Study computer facility of using students to translate by hand, computer instructions written using human-readable mnemonics into machine language. A young hot-shot programmer proposed to write an assembler that would do this conversion automatically. Von Neumann is said to have responded angrily that it would be wasteful to use a valuable scientific tool to do a mere clerical job. In his ACE report, Turing said that the process of computer programming "should be very fascinating. There need be no real danger of it ever becoming a drudge, for any processes that are quite mechanical may be turned over to the machine itself."
There is no reason to think that a full scale ACE-style computer would not have worked well if the organization and resources to build one had been there. The issue is best understood in the more general context of the question of which computer functions should be supplied by the hardware and which by software. Turing had proposed a relatively simple machine in which a lot was left to be supplied by software, but where, in compensation, the programmer had very substantial control of underlying machine operations.
"I expect that digital computing machines will eventually stimulate a considerable interest in symbolic logic... The language in which on communicates with these machines ... forms a sort of symbolic logic." [Turing]
Searle tells us that Deep Blue "has a bunch of meaningless symbols." Well, if you could look inside Deep Blue when it was in operation, you wouldn't see any symbols, meaningful or not. At the level of circuits, electrons are moving around. Just as, if you look inside Kasparov's skull while he is playing, you wouldn't see any chess pieces, you'd see neurons firing.
Our consciousness is a principal way in which each of us experiences his or her unique individuality. But we know it only from the inside. We experience our own consciousness but not that of anyone else.