[unrev-II] Future of Learning Balances Public Policy and Privacy

From: Rod Welch (rowelch@attglobal.net)
Date: Tue Oct 30 2001 - 09:27:21 PST

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    You ask in your letter today for advice on whether to release a knowledge
    sharing capability, or to wait; and, you mention Pandora's Box connoting
    potential risks. My experience indicates "knowledge" is an interesting subject
    that requires care in advancing proposals.

    My approach would be to experiment on a small scale among friends and in various
    public and private projects. Demonstrate work product over a period of time
    that is effective for saving time and money. Use feedback to refine capability
    and decide about broader application.

    With respect to mandatory disclosure of all "knowledge," I do not favor that

    I think the character of human cognition and the history of civilization shows
    that a balance between disclosure and confidentiality is needed. In many cases
    fear of disclosure is not justified, and is harmful, see POIMS.....


    Yet respect for privacy and legitimate requirements for secrecy and
    confidentiality is essential for effective organizational memory.

    My sense is that this can be accomplished with statutory requirements to
    maintain organizational memory (history and alignment) on communication, similar
    to requirements for public and private organizations to perform regular
    accounting of finances. Control and release should be entirely within the
    purview of individuals and not subject to legal discovery, with only very narrow

    This arrangement would present a dynamic where people who claimed not to
    remember the content of communications, would be subject to sanction for having
    failed to maintain required records, but would not be forced to disclose the
    record itself. The purpose of the record, in my view is to help people
    understand correlations, implications and nuance of what they are doing, which
    is greatly increased by creating the record and linking it up. This
    significantly increases the quality of work, and so reduces error, loss,
    conflict, crisis and calamity. Again, this is a very complex issue that
    requires careful consideration and experience to determine an effective balance.

    Preliminarily, I am inclined to the view that if people are forced to disclose
    records prepared to improve the work, then there is great resistance to create
    useful history and analysis, which necessarily degrades performance, leading to
    bumbling. Public policy should aim for reducing mistakes and blunders, therefore
    it must encourage capturing the record and converting it into knowledge. At the
    same time, many occasions demand vigorous inquiry to discover causation.

    Eliminating the excuse of not remembering by encouraging capture of daily
    details, balances needs for public inquiry and oversight with the need for
    privacy and confidentiality in order to improve performance of work. If someone
    misstates the record, other people can provide additional information that
    reveals a truer picture, recognizing that "truth" is always subject to
    refinement. Even if we get the actual record, that merely reflects what was
    believed, or a desired belief, at the time of writing. This arrangement might
    encourage people to pad the record, but weighing different perspectives and
    hearing testimony, looking at conduct of what was actually done in relation to
    what was recorded, all help triangulate the true state of affairs for making
    public policy.

    So, knowledge is a delicate, complex issue that deserves great care in
    presenting capabilities that impact the balance between public and private
    practice, as contemplated by your letter today.

    Good luck with your project.



    David Kankiewicz wrote:
    > Hello Rod Welch,
    > Here is a chance to influence one of those little human minds that
    > doesn't fully understand the consequences of acting in an overly
    > complex world. Simply put, I've got a genie and am wondering what
    > to do with it... and for some reason everyone passed this one up!
    > 10/29/01 10:25:45 PM, Rod Welch <rowelch@attglobal.net> wrote:
    > <cut>
    > >Clearly, our friends in education have a great contribution to make by
    > >advancing Doug Engelbart's call for educating young and old alike
    > >about new realities that require a new role, new tools and a new way
    > >of thinking about continual learning to meet the exigencies of a new
    > >world order. Our only choice is to harness the power of the microcosm
    > >or be weighed down. As in the fable, having unleashed the power of
    > >the genie, we must not shrink from the challenge of using it wisely.
    > > Fortunately, experience over many years shows that with a few simple
    > >steps, we can grow a garden of knowledge that makes learning to
    > >keep up in the 21st century fast, easy and fun.
    > >
    > >Rod
    > A few questions:
    > The history of control and power show they are best harnest in an open
    > democracy where everyone can see their abuse and quickly correct them:
    > Would you support the contigency of using a full blown "Garden of
    > Knowledge" only if each member worked within a publicly visible manner?
    > Down to their first and last penny? (What's you thoughts on this...)
    > What would be the minimal set of restrictions you would place on
    > accessing the entire collection of human knowledge? Restrictions only
    > on dangerous knowledge? Who decides? What overlooking/balance of
    > power would you implement? Min/Max -- Any opinion?
    > I've been privately debating these issues, and many more, before rushing
    > forward and creating a public/private project to form a global knowledge
    > database... I've got my own designs/ideas/goals but have way too much
    > empathy for individual humans to jump the gun on such an overreaching
    > project, which might has well be the end of the world has we know it...
    > Its intriguing for me, in hindsight, to see how amazingly simple the steps
    > are that lead to unlimited, shared knowledge... Would you like the project
    > be completely public? private? a mix? Government involvement? Or,
    > underground and completely decentralized?
    > Note, my design would have a major impact on all fields, occupation, and
    > science domains that have anything to do with computers. O'say, the
    > impact magnitude would easily (being conservative) reduce the man hours
    > needed to a tenth of what they are today... Timeframe, easily within a
    > decade... Would you say go ahead or delay?
    > Sincerely,
    > David Kankiewicz
    > P.S. No matter what you think of the above, IMHO, you wouldn't want to
    > be in my shoes... trying to decide what to do!
    > I'm a not so average person, who is interested in everything and stumbled
    > across Pandora's open box... I'd rather close it and shove back into the
    > cave of wonders but I haven't got one reason to act on that thought. Hell,
    > I've already got every reason in the world to release it and only about ten
    > reasons to wait... Thanks for any input!

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