recentpopularlog in

robertogreco : douglashofstadter   3

Request for Comments | Gardner Writes
"As Naughton tells the story, the young graduate students who were at the center of the Network Working Group found themselves with the future of the Internet in their hands. The big corporate brains knew about the machines that made up the network, but they didn’t know much about the network itself–it was too new, and it was an emergent phenomenon, not a thing they had built. The grad students in the NWG felt they were at great risk of offending the honchos, of overstepping their bounds as “vulnerable, insecure apprentices,” to use Naughton’s words. Crocker was especially worried they “would offend whomever the official protocol designers were….” But the work had to go forward. So Crocker invented the “Request for Comments,” what he called “humble words for our notes” that would document the discussions that would build the network.

Here’s how Crocker himself put it in this excerpt from RFC-3, “Documentation Conventions”:
Documentation of the NWG’s effort is through notes such as this. Notes may be produced at any site by anybody and included in this series…. [Content] may be any thought, suggestion, etc. related to the HOST software or other aspect of the network. Notes are encouraged to be timely rather than polished. Philosophical positions without examples or other specifics, specific suggestions or implementation techniques without introductory or background explication, and explicit questions without any attempted answers are all acceptable. The minimum length for a NWG note is one sentence.

These standards (or lack of them) are stated explicitly for two reasons. First, there is a tendency to view a written statement as ipso facto authoritative, and we hope to promote the exchange and discussion of considerably less than authoritative ideas. Second, there is a natural hesitancy to publish something unpolished, and we hope to ease this inhibition.

You can see the similarity to blogging right away. At least two primary Network Working Groups are involved: that of all the other people in the world (let’s call that civilization), and that of the network that constitutes one’s own cognition and the resulting “strange loop,” to use Douglas Hofstadter’s language. We are all of us in this macrocosm and this microcosm. Most of us will have multiple networks within these mirroring extremes, but the same principles will of course apply there as well. What is the ethos of the Network Working Group we call civilization? And for those of us engaged in the specific cognitive interventions we call education, what is the ethos of the Network Working Group we help out students to build and grow within themselves as learners? We discussed Ivan Illich in the Virginia Tech New Media Faculty-Staff Development Seminar today, and I was forcibly reminded that the NWG within sets the boundaries (and hopes) we have with which to craft our NWG without. School conditions what we expect in and from civilization.

I hope it’s also clear that these RFC-3 documentation conventions specify a praxis of intellectual discourse–indeed, I’d even say scholarly communication–that is sadly absent from most academic work today.

Would such communciation be rigorous? Academic? Worthy of tenure and promotion? What did these RFCs accomplish, and how do they figure in the human record? Naughton observes that this “Request for Comments” idea–and the title itself, now with many numerals following–has persisted as “the way the Internet discusses technical issues.” Naughton goes on to write that “it wasn’t just the title that endured … but the intelligent, friendly, co-operative, consensual attitude implied by it. With his modest, placatory style, Steve Crocker set the tone for the way the Net developed.” Naughton then quotes Katie Hafner’s and Matthew Lyon’s judgment that “the language of the RFC … was warm and welcoming. The idea was to promote cooperation, not ego.”

Naughton concludes,
The RFC archives contain an extraordinary record of thought in action, a riveting chronicle of the application of high intelligence to hard problems….

Why would we not want to produce such a record within the academy and share it with the public? Or are we content with the ordinary, forgotten, and non-riveting so long as the business model holds up?

Or have we been schooled so thoroughly that the very ambition makes no sense?

More Naughton:
The fundamental ethos of the Net was laid down in the deliberations of the Network Working Group. It was an ethos which assumed that nothing was secret, that problems existed to be solved collaboratively, that solutions emerged iteratively, and that everything which was produced should be in the public domain.

I think of the many faculty and department meetings I have been to. Some of them I have myself convened. The ethos of those Network Working Groups has varied considerably. I am disappointed to say that none of them has lived up to the fundamental ethos Naughton identifies above. I yearn for documentation conventions that will produce an extraordinary record of thought in action, with the production shared by all who work within a community of learning. And I wonder if I’m capable of Crocker’s humility or wisdom, and answerable to his invitation. I want to be."
gardnercampbell  internet  web  online  commenting  johnnaughton  2011  arpanet  stevecrocker  via:steelemaley  networks  networkworkinggroups  ivanillich  standards  content  shiftytext  networkedculture  networkedlearning  blogs  blogging  inhibition  unfinished  incomplete  cicilization  douglashofstadter  praxis  cooperation  tcsnmy  sharing  schooling  unschooling  academia  highered  highereducation  authority  humility  wisdom  collegiality  katiehafner  matthewlyon  rfc-3  rfc 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Links 2013 ["Bret Victor: It’s the end of 2013, and here’s what Bret fell in love with this year"]
"What is the difference between scientific and non-scientific thinking? Thinking within a consistent theory versus thinking haphazardly?

I'm crucially interested in the problem of representing theory such that intuitions are fruitful and theoretically sound, and representations suggest analogies that stay true to the theory. That's not diSessa's problem, but I feel that his viewpoint has some powerful clues."



"Hofstadter says that all thinking runs on analogy-making. Sounds good to me! If he's even partially correct, then it seems to me that a medium for powerful thinking needs to be a medium for seeing powerful analogies. And a medium for powerful communication needs to be designed around inducing the dance he's talking about up there."



Kieran Egan: "Thinking about education during this century has almost entirely involved just three ideas—socialization, Plato's academic idea, and Rousseau's developmental idea. We may see why education is so difficult and contentious if we examine these three ideas and the ways they interact in educational thinking today. The combination of these ideas governs what we do in schools, and what we do to children in the name of education.

Our problems, I will further argue, are due to these three ideas each being fatally flawed and being also incompatible with one other."

Bret Victor: "If you're going to design a system for education, it might help to understand the purpose of education in the first place. Egan points out how modern education is implicitly driven by a cargo-culty mish-mash of three lofty but mutually-incompatible goals. Good luck with that!"



"The cultural importance of the printing press doesn't have much to do with the technology -- the ink and metal type -- but rather how print acted as a medium to amplify human thought in particular ways.

Print was directly responsible for the emergence of a literate and educated society, which (for example) made possible the idea of societal self-governance. The US Constitution could only exist in a literate print culture, where (for example) the Federalist papers and Anti-Federalist papers could be debated in the newspapers.

As you read and watch Alan Kay, try not to think about computational technology, but about a society that is fluent in thinking and debating in the dimensions opened up by the computational medium.
Don't think about “coding” (that's ink and metal type, already obsolete), and don't think about “software developers” (medieval scribes only make sense in an illiterate society).

Think about modeling phenomena, modeling situations, simulating models, gaining a common-sense intuition for nonlinear dynamic processes. Then think about a society in which every educated person does these things, in the computational medium, as easily and naturally as we today read and write complex logical arguments in the written medium.

Reading used to be reserved for the clergy, to hand down unquestionable Revealed Truths to the masses. Today, it's just what everyone does. Think about a society in which science is not reserved for the clergy, to hand down unquestionable Revealed Truths to the masses, but is just what everyone does."



[Reading tips from Bret Victor:]

"Reading Tip #1

It’s tempting to judge what you read: "I agree with these statements, and I disagree with those."

However, a great thinker who has spent decades on an unusual line of thought cannot induce their context into your head in a few pages. It’s almost certainly the case that you don’t fully understand their statements.

Instead, you can say: "I have now learned that there exists a worldview in which all of these statements are consistent."

And if it feels worthwhile, you can make a genuine effort to understand that entire worldview. You don't have to adopt it. Just make it available to yourself, so you can make connections to it when it's needed.

Reading Tip #2

Carver Mead describes a physical theory in which atoms exchange energy by resonating with each other. Before the energy transaction can happen, the two atoms must be phase-matched, oscillating in almost perfect synchrony with each other.

I sometimes think about resonant transactions as a metaphor for getting something out of a piece of writing. Before the material can resonate, before energy can be exchanged between the author and reader, the reader must already have available a mode of vibration at the author's frequency. (This doesn't mean that the reader is already thinking the author's thought; it means the reader is capable of thinking it.)

People often describe written communication in terms of transmission (the author explained the concept well, or poorly) and/or absorption (the reader does or doesn't have the background or skill to understand the concept). But I think of it more like a transaction -- the author and the reader must be matched with each other. The author and reader must share a close-enough worldview, viewpoint, vocabulary, set of mental models, sense of aesthetics, and set of goals. For any particular concept in the material, if not enough of these are sufficiently matched, no resonance will occur and no energy will be exchanged.

Perhaps, as a reader, one way to get more out of more material is to collect and cultivate a diverse set of resonators, to increase the probability of a phase-match.

Reading Tip #3

Misunderstandings can arise when an author is thinking in a broader context than the reader. A reader might be thinking tactically: :How can I do a better job today?" while the author is thinking strategically: "How can we make a better tomorrow?"

The misunderstanding becomes especially acute when real progress requires abandoning today's world and starting over.

We are ants crawling on a tree branch. Most ants are happy to be on the branch, and happy to be moving forward.

[image]

But there are a few special ants that, somehow, are able to see a bigger picture. And they can see that this branch is a dead end.

[image]

They can see that if we really want to move forward, we'll have to backtrack a long ways down.

They usually have a hard time explaining this to the ants that can only see the branch they're on. For them, the path ahead appears to go on forever.

[image]"
bretvictor  brunolatour  andreadisessa  douglashofstadter  place  cognition  science  sherryturkle  kieranegan  terrycavanagh  stewartbrand  longnow  julianjaynes  davidhestenes  carvermead  paulsaffo  tednelson  dougengelbert  alankay  reading  toread  2013  gutenberg  printing  print  modeling  simulation  dynamicprocesses  society  progress  thinking  intuition  analogies  education  systemsthinking  howweread  learning  ideas  concepts  context  readiness  simulations 
january 2014 by robertogreco
David Brooks: The social animal | Video on TED.com [Love this quote (and others) in the comments: "there are plenty of policies that can support the ideas Brooks put out. But they are contrary to his political position."]
"Tapping into the findings of his latest book, NYTimes columnist David Brooks unpacks new insights into human nature from the cognitive sciences -- insights with massive implications for economics and politics as well as our own self-knowledge. In a talk full of humor, he shows how you can't hope to understand humans as separate individuals making choices based on their conscious awareness."
psychology  socialskills  philosophy  davidbrooks  cognitivesciences  relationships  consciousness  consciousawareness  economics  socialtrust  trust  humans  humannature  rationality  schools  cv  learning  education  dehumanization  lcproject  unschooling  deschooling  dividedselves  emotion  emotions  reason  incentives  motivation  measurement  testing  parenting  children  tcsnmy  empathy  collaboration  metis  equipoise  sympathy  blending  limerence  flow  transcendence  love  douglashofstadter  mindsight  politics  socialemotionallearning  self-knowledge  self  openminded  socialemotional 
april 2011 by robertogreco

Copy this bookmark:





to read