Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Quick Comments

I feel very honored to have another blogger commenting on some of the things the Growlery and I have been throwing around. It just amazes me that the closer you look at even the most simple question the further it spreads out into even more interesting fields, like a Mandelbrot set. Take this remark:
In a previous life, my job was to assist clients to develop information systems. Reading Felix and Dr. C., I now become aware of how we limited our definition of information. Information, when designing a computer system, was data that was not previously known. In other words, our computer information systems allowed the manager to view data in such a way that some bit of data was used in a manner that allowed the manager to make better decisions.
Actually, I find this a provocative definition: "data that was not previously known." It casts information into a utilitarian role. Who would dispute that except perhaps an aesthete, i.e. one who valued information just for the sake of information. Perhaps an art connoisseur, or cellist. But then, you might rejoin that someone who just wanted pure information (if there is such a thing) was a dilettante.

You see what I mean, its like opening Pandora's box.

On another note, the Growlery has taken issue with my disparagement of Intelligent Design. That is a discussion that needs to be had, but I beg off until we get further into our current doings. However, I accept full sackcloth and ashes for belittling Intellectual Freedom even the slightest bit.


I suspect that we could go on talking about localization and dispersion of information for a long time and not even scratch the surface. It was interesting to follow the course from the Neanderthal, where almost all was localized in the individual, with some shared in the immediate community, to Homer where it was further dispersed, to the ages of libraries and print, and now to the age of the Internet. In each age the individual human has varying levels of on board information. As the Growlery points out, with A.I. robots coming on the scene, the delocalization of information is even more complicated.

But, we still have to get information into the human. From my standpoint, there are a number of interesting aspects of this process which we can go into in the next post.

Exactly how much information can someone know? How much should a person know (onboard v.s. access via, e.g., the Internet)? Is there a threshold amount of information after which the brain starts kicking things out the other end (wherever that is)? Furthermore, do we really forget things that we have learned or are they just non retrievable? Once you start asking these questions you can’t stop. Maybe I can make a stab at it after we develop information intake.

Aside: I am impressed that pedagogy spends little time teaching children facts anymore, at least as we were taught facts only 50 years ago, but I am not sure what is taught in its place. For instance, do they even teach the times tables anymore with the advent of hand held calculators? What about all those poems that people used to memorize. God forbid that I should ever have to go through medical school again (a recurring nightmare) and face that memorization gauntlet.

My staff, a number with children, informed me yesterday that they do not teach cursive handwriting anymore and that even in the early grades they learn keyboarding (which rhymes with skateboarding and, of course, snowboarding.) Children when they have to “write” by hand use printing. Sounds like regression to me. I suspect they will next be knocking out cuneiform script on clay tablets.

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