Re: [unrev-II] Fwd: Charles Ess's criticisms of the Global Brain idea

From: Jack Park (
Date: Sat Jun 23 2001 - 08:44:53 PDT

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    You flat-out completely continue to amaze me.
    Yes, the dna of communication!

    I once proposed to the headmaster at my kids' grammar school that we start
    a program beginning in kindergarten and continuing through high school,
    that would encourage kids to build a portfolio of their evolving models of
    the concept of *communication*. (I tend to carry the biased notion that the
    ultimate primitive concept is communication -- contrast that with my words
    about reductionism below!).

    Clearly, such a model would start at high (social) levels -- facial
    expressions, hand shakes, talking, etc. But, with time, communication will
    be discovered to involve concepts all the way down to quantum entanglement.

    I presently envision such a project as being conducted with a particular
    kind of tool! A topic map engine that allows users of all ages to approach
    the problem of describing stuff with age-appropriate interfaces. The idea
    is that the kid starts awfully big-picturish, but then "drills down" by
    establishing links from high-level topics to entire topic maps. At first,
    things will likely -- though I wish not to say for sure -- begin rather
    descriptive, growing into taxonomic, and from there, full-blown ontological
    in nature.

    Is there a dna in there? I don't know. I rather think that the tool
    itself is the dna -- a convenient way to hang the particles of
    understanding that the learner evolves onto a picture frame (a map of the

    Did I miss something? Yup. The notion that my ideas are awfully
    westernish in bias. I frankly have no idea how to get around that, but I
    understand that all peoples (make that *living things*) on earth do, in
    fact, communicate one way or another, and usually (animalia) with some sort
    of visual, vocal, and chemical behaviors. Could every human on earth come
    to understand a topic map tool? I don't know. I'd like to see what Koko
    or one of the chimps would do with it...

    Is there something in Peirce and the semiotic that is suggestive of a dna
    of communication? I just do not know. There has been an enormous spurt of
    discussion on Don Mikulecky's Robert Rosen list that is somewhat
    telling. It goes something like this: Rosen (among many others) suggests
    (make that *claims*) that reductionist methods will never be able to allow
    us to come to an understanding of the universe; everything needs to be
    viewed in terms of relations, not mechanisms. Within the recent
    discussion, it was pointed out that, indeed, representing knowledge of
    living systems in terms of differential equations was, itself,
    reductionist. A suggestion: find a way to make differential equations,
    themselves, somehow evolvable. Another suggestion: doing so would simply
    build larger models that, themselves, remain reductionist. My preliminary
    take on that: math may not be the universal communication tool we once
    thought it was. What's really interesting in the referenced discussion:
    Jon Awbrey was trying to tell Rosen followers that Peirce's triads are of
    great importance. Mickulecky countered that triads could be described in
    terms of Rosen's modeling relation, suggesting that the modeling relation
    is perhaps more important. Now, Peirce did his thinking during late
    1800's, and Rosen did his thinking in the late 1900's. Though I do not see
    any reference to Peirce in Rosen (though that doesn't mean Rosen didn't
    reference Peirce), one must wonder if there is not a proper evolution of
    thinking that must follow Peirce. Once again, are we playing with the dna
    of communication here?

    I am less concerned about generating totalitarian traps, though I suspect
    that if such is possible, one or another major software enterprise will
    find a way to do so. I am more concerned with the OHS vision, which is to
    build the tools that will allow tough problems to be tackled by more
    people. My view: we are all stakeholders on planet earth, and our elected
    "brains" continually exhibit the ability to completely misunderstand our
    problems, and to make more of them. It's time that a much larger segment
    of humanity participate in the problem-solving effort. That, itself,
    strikes me as a proper way to deal with the totalitarian traps we now

    Let's get on with building tools.

    At 11:35 AM 6/23/2001 +0200, you wrote:
    >Some comments on Charles Ess's criticisms of the Global Brain idea ...
    >As Jack at least knows out of private conversations, I am one of those who
    >stick to the notion that attempt(s) towards any Global Unameit may hide
    >somewhere an implicit totalitarian view of the world, but OTOH strongly
    >believe that we need some fertile utopias to push us forward. Global Brain
    >is one of those ambiguous concepts, and basically Charles Ess's criticisms
    >seem to the point.
    >How to avoid the totalitarian trap? Maybe we have to think in terms of
    >global tools rather than Global Solution(s). For example telephone and
    >e-mail are global tools, like before them writing and printing. The bottom
    >question is how much of the culture and ideology of the
    >community/country/civilization/economic system inventing and spreading a
    >tool is embedded in it.
    >Now we are about knowledge technologies, and as their name indicate, those
    >technologies have already and will have more and more built-in knowledge
    >(ontologies, vocabularies, categories, basic structures of language). If we
    >do not want to feed the totalitarian and colonialist soil, the tools we are
    >now thinking about and develop have to preserve and sustain what I like to
    >call *ontodiversity*. But we have learnt from nature that biodiversity is
    >grounded on a single strong and versatile information code. That is the most
    >amazing discovery of the past century. DNA is without contest the better
    >information standard so far, allowing very subtle information interchanges
    >between very different organisms. So what we have to invent is something
    >like DNA for knowledge technologies. Some minimal common standard toolkit,
    >able to support and help develop a large scope of views of the world and
    >knowledge communities, allowing them to live independently but to share
    >whatever they want anytime they want, and not forcing them to share
    >everything all the time (we have to admit there is over 90% of human
    >knowledge that you and I really don't care to share)
    >For example "Topic Maps + OHS" seems a good candidate to be a toolkit of the
    >sort. As far as I can see in my "immediate universe", it's the best
    >available. But so far, everyone must admit here that developers and users of
    >those technologies are mainly originating from the dominant western
    >civilization. I'm looking forward to seeing Asiatic, Arabic, African ...
    >people step into the community and tell how they feel about those tools,
    >their "universality" and "neutrality", and their capacity to be used to
    >carry and share their knowledge and views of the world. I had recently a
    >conversation with a philosophy searcher whose study field is non-verbal
    >communication, from autistic people expression to exchange between
    >civilizations. She had a very acute vision that what we consider as basic
    >notions like "subject" "object" "category" "statement" are not as universal
    >as our "upper ontologists" like to think. So I wonder for example ... are
    >"topic" "association" "role" bound to be really human universals, or
    >conceptual fruits of our centuries-long culture?
    >Mondeca - "Making Sense of Content"
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