Ok, so 'you should blog' and yada yada.. Now, i never felt much push to publicize ever evolving opinions, but i was impressed by Edsger Dijkstra conviction that it's a scientist's duty to maintain a lively correspondence with his scientific colleagues. Not that i'm an outspoken Dijkstra devotee although there's an odd synchronicity going on in recent weeks, nor do i find blogging of much scientific relevance or that my daily working can make such claim, by anyway.. what not better to start blogging than to write about things close to the heart, or in this case the liver.
So, roughly 11 years ago i made a choice to pursue a career in information technology. It seemed a kind of challenging endeavor enveloping both mathematics, physics and engineering at it's foundation and things like psychology and commercialism making up the branches. Working at a small Internet-oriented company, early on a particular programming paradigm caught my attention early on, mobile agents, and i was very intrigued by the possibilities where distributed computing systems would start having biological characteristics, something touching on artificial life.
Being rather ignorant, off i went looking for work that would utilize such paradigm, which with my lack of knowledge on computer science seemed an obvious stage of the industry's evolution, and of course it would soon be so.
A clear signal should have been an early application at a famous company referred to with a TLA, where it should be noted the abbreviation stands for it's hardware product and not it's consultants. Having scored a rather flawless result (of course language was scored badly) on the intelligence test used as a little entrance exam for the interview, i was invited, yet after discussing for some 10 minutes the interviewer was honest and openhearted enough to say i could not get the job as i was "too smart", the work they had to offer was too boring and politically sensitive and the TLA company would not afford investing in such a risk. Alas the nearest R&D facility was in Switzerland which proved an unmanageable jump at the time.
Looking back the subject still intrigues although i still haven't worked with such subject matter. But the way people behave.., i'm not so sure.. let's just say i haven't worked with artificial life on computers..
Dijkstra calls for the computing community to be unmasked as a "Secret Society for the Creation and Preservation of Artificial Complexity", which is a nice way to put it, although the current state of affairs do remind me of Gulliver's Travels where a very technically advanced society aims to create an engine which closely resembles some implicit management objectives..
Every one knew how laborious the usual method is of attaining to arts and sciences; whereas, by his contrivance, the most ignorant person, at a reasonable charge, and with a little bodily labour, might write books in philosophy, poetry, politics, laws, mathematics, and theology, without the least assistance from genius or study.” He then led me to the frame, about the sides, whereof all his pupils stood in ranks. It was twenty feet square, placed in the middle of the room. The superfices was composed of several bits of wood, about the bigness of a die, but some larger than others. They were all linked together by slender wires. These bits of wood were covered, on every square, with paper pasted on them; and on these papers were written all the words of their language, in their several moods, tenses, and declensions; but without any order. The professor then desired me “to observe; for he was going to set his engine at work.” The pupils, at his command, took each of them hold of an iron handle, whereof there were forty fixed round the edges of the frame; and giving them a sudden turn, the whole disposition of the words was entirely changed. He then commanded six-and-thirty of the lads, to read the several lines softly, as they appeared upon the frame; and where they found three or four words together that might make part of a sentence, they dictated to the four remaining boys, who were scribes. This work was repeated three or four times, and at every turn, the engine was so contrived, that the words shifted into new places, as the square bits of wood moved upside down.
Now, above seems to be one of the earliest descriptions of a certain type of computer. But it also touches on the very discrepancy between scientific and technical reality, and business expectations. What i encounter with a rather shocking frequency is managers and more specifically sales and marketing people tend to confuse the hundredth monkey effect with the theory of infinite monkeys.
Many customers encountered in recent years have an "aggressive planning" which usually means that a 2-3 year project is to be delivered within 3 to 6 months, or they engage on the SOA route without employing a centralized team and methodology, or they assume open source equates to lower costs in the long run while that label is mostly an excuse to mature buggy tools at the expense of early adopters, or they have been off-shoring much of the activities in an effort to exploit the saddening 21st century slavery movement as a cost reduction to most often accelerate their own career in exchange for the poor fellow that needs to follow up on this as well as a highly compressed economical growth program noone at the Worldbank could have envisioned, or a combination of the above.
Yet, this does seem to be emergence in action, the 100th monkey effect applied to managerial expectations, albeit not directly with computing itself... but how it's usage is perceived. And although no amount of typing monkeys, or in modern day soft language, alphabet architects, will ever produce the works of Shakespeare this does kind of correspond with a recent insight that emergence is coupled to scope, not level which in this context would translate into how more often skewed information is provided, the more it will shape reality. The ideas pervading the current world of information technology, with a high concentration of unrealistic short-term stock market driven blah, which only seems to become more prevalent, it still doesn't confront a simple formulated principle, nine women can't make a baby in one month.
Why so much nonsense can prevail so easily touches on what i miss so much in the current world of information technology, maybe it's just a lack of integrity as Feynman put it, i don't really know. Most people don't seem to be doing the thing they really love doing, they haven't chosen for spending most of their daytime on something they find worthwhile, they are just trying to fulfill a role, prescribed by an intricate web of skewed perceptions and expectations, by some bureaucratic system without someone being ultimately responsible for it. Why don't most people do what they feel is right instead of doing what they are expected to do ? Why don't people follow their own bliss ?
Why is it so much an uphill battle to follow mine ?
Maybe the emergent intelligence of crowds has the rudimentary smarts of a single-cell life form, maybe the military organisational model underlying most companies doesn't stimulate the best in most people or maybe RAW had put his finger on something painfully right..
.. "I am also puzzled," Sam Three Arrows said finally. "I worked, long ago, in New York City, in construction, like many young men of the Mohawk Nation. I found that whites were often like us, and I could not hate them one at a time. But they do not know the earth or love it. They do not speak from the heart, usually. They do not act from the heart. They are more like the actors on the movie screen. They play roles. And their leaders are not like our leaders. They are not chosen for virtue, but for their skill at playing roles. Whites have told me this, in plain words. They do not trust their leaders, and yet they follow them. When we do not trust a leader, he is finished. Then, also, the leaders of the whites have too much power. It is bad for a man to be obeyed too often. But the worst
thing is what I have said about the heart. Their leaders have lost it and they have lost mercy. They speak from somewhere else. They act from somewhere else. But from where? Like you, I do not know. It is, I think, a kind of insanity." ..
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