The Philosophy Breakfast table in May 2000 free-associated long and hard. Here are some of the questions we discussed; grateful acknowledgements to JB, JC, BD, GdM, JJ, AP, BW, and others.
5 May --- Aphorisms:
- "The Future of Humanity is that nobody shows up."
- Inadvertent loop-closing is the curse of our age. (anecdote: an airline offered "spouse flies free" and, a few months later, decided to send thank-you notes to those who had gone along on business trips --- but flew into a sudden downdraft as thousands of notes reached husbands and wives who hadn't traveled...)
- The seeming solution to Artificial Intelligence: "Throw another rule on the barbie!"
- Could good aphorisms be generated algorithmically? What are the critical factors --- contrast, surprise, juxtaposition, apparent self-contradiction, ...?
- Debate: is intelligence just a matter of having enough computing power plus the right structure? (i.e., is the computational theory of mind correct?) Or are there Oracles or other "magic" in there somewhere?
12 May --- People:
- See the article in the 5 May issue of Science by Martin Nowak and Karl Sigmund, re altruism and feedback loops
- "Blamestorming" --- our tendency to find somebody to punish for anything that goes wrong ("She was the kind of person who felt that for everything that went wrong, somebody had to be blamed ... and it was her responsibility to find that person.")
- How can knowledge be gathered and shared effectively in a large organization? (What are the differences between large and small companies?)
- How can "communities of interest" be formed to match people's needs (without massively wasting their time)?
- Bureaucratic problem-solving challenge: find the person who knows the answer, but who may not know that s/he knows...
- How can collaboration and sharing be rewarded in an "information economy"? ("A lot is known about how not to do it!")
- How can one recruit the right people for a job? One can screen for obvious bad characteristics, and it's easy to turn people away. But how can one recognize and hire the long-term assets, the folks who will form the backbone of an organization, who will learn the corporate culture and then help develop it further and pass it along to the next generation?
- Perhaps instead of a mere "interview" one should live with people for a few weeks --- that would make it harder to fake honesty and conscientious behavior.
- How can a large organization promote risk-taking and individual initiative ... yet not fall for those who are charismatic, tell a good story, and then move on before their failures become obvious?
- A big secret of life: internal rewards. Don't depend on recognition and praise from others as a motivating factor. ("If your rewards aren't internal, you're doomed.")
19 May --- Bureaucracy:
- Is the problem the pay system? Too many layers of management? Too many filters that prevent mavericks from doing mischief, but thereby damp out creative energy?
- How can homes be created for "orphans" --- unconventional ideas, projects that don't fit into the standard mold?
- It's not hard to list twenty critical problems we may have to deal with during the coming decade. We need to have people working on those twenty problems, not just devoted to answering today's mail and putting out today's fires. ("But those people will never be promoted!" --- "Yes; we're a prisoner of the inbox." --- "Maybe 50% of the staff should be prisoners of the inbox.") Of the twenty key problems we can envision, perhaps only a handful will actually turn out to be real. But we can't identify those in advance --- so we need to be working on all twenty.
- The big organizational difficulty is connecting long-range thinking (R&D) with the rest of the outfit, so that researchers don't go off on irrelevant tangents.
- Metaknowledge is essential --- an information organization has to be able to find the top expertise to answer unanticipated questions, and has to do it quickly.
- We must escape the old paradigm of "knowledge is power" which leads to a culture of knowledge hoarding, selfishness, lack of sharing. ("The Peasant Mentality: bring the other fellow down to my level" --- as opposed to a philosophy of helping everybody move up, while avoiding envy)
- When people leave (quit or retire) they should be required to write a "lessons learned" essay --- to "compose their own obituary" --- guidance for those who are to follow, both what to do and what not to do. (Maybe everybody should do this every year?!)
26 May --- Justice:
- "First, do no harm" should be a guideline for politicians, not just doctors.
- "When is the job to break the rules?" When laws conflict, how does one choose which one(s) to follow?
- Civil disobedience didn't come up in John Stuart Mill et al. --- see Gandhi lectures on liberation philosophy, and Martin Luther King Jr.'s Letter for a Birmingham Jail
- Can there be a "just war"? How can conflicts be resolved?
- Different people have different hierarchies of rules; so do different cultures.
- "Every decision worth thinking about is a conflict between two good things."
Wednesday, July 12, 2000 at 21:59:54 (EDT) = Datetag20000712
TopicPhilosophy - TopicPersonalHistory
(correlates: TwoGreatSecrets, ArgumentByItalics, UpsideDownShadows, ...)