Re: [unrev-II] OHS Overview

From: Henry van Eyken (
Date: Wed Nov 22 2000 - 06:53:59 PST

  • Next message: Howard Liu: "RE: [unrev-II] Re: Tuesday's meeting"

    Allow me struggle through this a little with Eric's questions before me
    having to move on to other things.

    About human systems "naturally" evolving and "pushed to evolve," some

    Evolutionary psychology holds that underneath new culture lies old
    psychology. Humankind has adapted to changes in culture (see first word of
    this sentence) and artifacts. I don't think there is much quarrel about this

    Next part, "pushed to evolve" or stimulating evolution. When we send out
    children off to school, aren't we stimulating them to evolve? Isn't it the
    school experience in addition to natural maturation giving them a different
    outlook on life, behave differently, more quickly and more self-assuredly
    adapting themselves to societal life, and in some way gaining some control
    over their relationship between self and family and friends and larger
    social circles? Aren't school and work, visits to new places, and meeting
    new people experiences that add value to the human system in the sense that
    it can perform better? ren't education and experience giving us better tools
    in hand and in head? In a way, aren't human systems to a large extend tool
    systems as well? (Maybe we are contemplating a bit too sharp a dichotomy
    between human system and tool system. When we "get hold of ourself," we have
    a human system acting on the very self as a tool system. Company's employees
    are largely paid for because of their "tool status." When I took my dose of
    Economics 101, I resented labor being treated as part of a demand-and-supply

    Creating a "working dichotomy" between human system and tool system seems to
    me very useful when looking at human beings enhancing their talents with
    computers. At this point, I feel compelled to first think of the human
    psyche as part emotional, part rational. I further understand that incoming
    signals to the brain may follow two rather distinct kinds of pathways: one
    via our emotional center, another bypassing it. Cognition has an emotional
    component. Fine-grained cognition will have grains in them with different
    blends of the rational and the emotional. That's the nature of the beast.
    Hence, when we seek to augment with computers, this realization calls for
    extra care because the human organism may revolt at facing the truth. Truth,
    logic can be devastating.

    There is little doubt in my mind that we can augment the rational aspect of
    humans so as to stimulate it to perform at higher levels of the cognitive
    domain. Or maybe I should say that it will "waste" less time on the lower
    levels (doing longhand division, for example) and thereby become more
    productive. Doug's Air Force" proposal of 1962 has computers stimulating the
    mind in faster, more productive action by replacing a slow proces of people
    internally creating a picture by having computers concretize it for them -
    showing them the effects on a display terminal. The evolution is not so much
    in the human system as it is in how the human system performs. That is an
    evolution that, methinks, can be stimulated by purposeful design. (If you
    have the patience and time, may I refer you to where, without knowing even the
    name Engelbart, I essayed on just a little part of all the things Doug has
    been saying. And this sort of thinking is why I feel at ease with him.)

    One more word here. Doug's purposeful design is not one that takes big risks
    by making big leaps. No Big-Brother Masterplan putting everyone at risk. His
    notion is to tread carefully, but decisively with as continuous a feedback
    as possible so as to avoid breaking the dishes.

    Back to Eric's questions:

    1. Q. Will the human system go on as before unchanged?

    A. Quick answer: that old psychology remains unchanged, but as a working
    agent adapts to forever changing LAM/H for survival. (LAM/H is Doug's
    synopsis for language, artifacts, methods in the human system.)

    2. Q. Will the human system evolve naturally in the new environment?

    A. That old psychology will only over those long periods that are part and
    parcel of natural evolution. Don't expect any change here over the next
    century or so. But the way the psychology lets us behave will, and fast
    (think of "crazes," for example, or oppressive regimes for another; the
    effect of masses' conduct on individual behavior and convictions).

    Q. Eric continues the question with "If so, the evolution that will take
    place is worth mentioning in a companion piece, but it is not an integral
    part of the system that is being proposed."

    A. Going back to my point that the human system is partly also within his
    tool system, that makes it an integral part.

    3. Q. Is the proposal seriously attempting to change human systems
    simultaneously with a change in technology?

    A. I believe the question is less of "attempting to" than "expecting of."
    Then the answer would be "yes."

    Sorry, Eric, my philosophy is darn uncultured, but, I like to believe, still
    a cut above clax bovis.


    Eric Armstrong wrote:

    > It has the same difficulty as the colloquium,
    > in my view -- it covers way too much ground to
    > be a practical recommendation for anything.
    > When it begins talking about the "human system",
    > in particular, it reflects the colloquium. Like,
    > the colloquium, the specific impact on the
    > "human system" is never adduced. Three possibilites
    > spring to mind:
    > * Will the human system go on as before
    > unchanged? If so, it scarcely needs
    > mentioning.
    > * Will the human system evolve naturally
    > in the new environment? If so, the
    > evolution that will take place is worth
    > mentioning in a companion piece, but it
    > is not an integral part of the system
    > that is being proposed. The only significant
    > relationship to the human system (as far
    > as it leads to acceptance) is what *benefit*
    > will the system have on the human system.
    > * Is the proposal seriously attempting to
    > change human systems simultaneously with
    > a change in technology? If so, what is
    > going to be different, and why is there
    > any reason to believe that the effort
    > will be successful? (I suspect that any
    > such effort is fore-doomed. I'm willing
    > to be convinced otherwise, but have yet
    > to see a convincing argument.)
    > Analogy: What we really need is a
    > transportation system that allows your
    > personal auto to become part of a "train".
    > That allows efficient, hands-off travel
    > while preserving the benefit of autonmous
    > travel at your destination. But that
    > requires everyone to change everything,
    > all at once, and it just ain't gonna happen
    > in this lifetime...
    > Toffler pointed out that new technologies first
    > replace the preexisting models. Only later are
    > they expanded into new territories. It seems
    > clear to me that a system which provides immediate
    > benefits comes into use. The co-evolution that
    > occurs in system functionality and human use then
    > produces even greater benefits.
    > But to speak of the "human system" as anything
    > other than a naturally evolving system is to
    > defeat the project before it gets started.
    > If the evolutionary hypothesis is accepted, then
    > the only significant aspect of the system is how
    > it will make your life better today -- before you
    > change anything at all about the human systems
    > you are used to.
    > Again, I believe the document you've constructed
    > accurately reflects the issues as they have been
    > formulated to date. I just believe that the
    > particular formulation we've all seen has always
    > been, and will continue to be, an "impossible sell".
    > Believe it or don't, use it or toss it.
    > Them's my thoughts.
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