Battle ready, brain ready.
- UCL Scholar Examines Brain Differences in Liberals and Conservatives (craigconsidine.wordpress.com)
- Social wasps show how bigger brains provide complex cognition (esciencenews.com)
- Brain scientists offer medical educators tips on the neurobiology of learning (sciencedaily.com)
- Is your brain right or left? (aypee.wordpress.com)
- Mirror Neurons and Mentalizing (neuropoly.com)
- Head and Heart (forthearchives.wordpress.com)
- Reflective Blog: Week 5 (jules1012.wordpress.com)
- Flow of Alpha Brain Waves (flowpsychology.com)
- My Métier (nrhatch.wordpress.com)
- Consciousness and Free Will (lessonme.wordpress.com)
- stream of consciousness Sunday-In my own skin… (dysfunctionalsupermom.com)
- Stream o’ consciousness for April 10th (orrenmedia.com)
- I follow a stream, a stream of consciousness that is (ungabungagirl.wordpress.com)
- Tips To Start Journaling (psychcentral.com)
- Stream o’ consciousness for April 7th (orrenmedia.com)
A testimony to the power of water, in recent Australian floods.
Water level in rivers follows the Log-Pearson 3 probability distribution(see attached picture)
Tightly clustered around the mean, with little variation, and a limit on how far the left hand tail can go (ie “dry”)
The right hand tail though is much fatter than the standard normal distribution. Even though it remains a very low probability event, the consequences keep going; they don’t trail off to insignificance like in the standard normal
In forecasting and then living the future, we see something like the Log-Pearson 3 distribution in practice. We get accustomed to extrapolating from previous “normalish” experience which works so often that it becomes a reasonable technique and standard practice. Our monkey brain is poorly adapted for remembering the lessons of fat tails and properly estimating their effect on our plans
When the underlying process though is NOT a generator of standard normal, but rather has elements of chaos and uncertainty in it, we can get to experience the surprise of consequences which conform to power laws: unpredictable as to frequency of occurrence or seasonality, and unpredictable in terms of magnitude of consequence.
Our monkey brain will tend to discount the early indications of potential disaster as a combination of a number of well-known biases and fallacies. Remember that cognitive biases get turned into fallacies when you start experiencing the consequences. Ask the guy holding the camera in the video clip.
We often can’t know the degree of chaos in the underlying process until we discover results that suddenly and stubbornly refuse to conform to standard normal expectations.
In digiworld you get do overs.
In realworld, you get the opportunity to learn from other peoples’ catastrophes; you don’t get to learn from your own catastrophes.
This is the basis for Nassim Taleb‘s (“Black Swan”) discussion of 4th Quadrant problems: when our statistically based insights can actually expose us to far more risk than standard models can/will describe.
Taleb’s advice on living in the 4th Quadrant: What Is Wise To Do (Or Not Do) In The Fourth Quadrant
1) Avoid Optimization, Learn to Love Redundancy
2) Avoid prediction of remote payoffs—though not necessarily ordinary ones
3) Beware the “atypicality” of remote events.
4) Time. It takes much, much longer for a times series in the Fourth Quadrant to reveal its property.
5) Beware Moral Hazard.
6) Metrics. Conventional metrics based on type 1 randomness don’t work in the Fourth Quadrant.
- Black Swans (spectrum.ieee.org)
- “Nassim Taleb” and related posts (dailymarkets.com)
- Steven Poole’s non-fiction choice | Review (guardian.co.uk)
- Vivian Norris: A Walk Through Paris With Nassim Nicholas Taleb (huffingtonpost.com)
- Using R for Introductory Statistics, Chapter 5 (r-bloggers.com)
- Watch Ben Bernanke Get Ambushed With Question About Nassim Taleb (businessinsider.com)
- Books of The Times: Explaining the Modern World and Keeping It Short (nytimes.com)
- Reflections on strategic leadership (kansasreflections.wordpress.com)
- Black Swan may be one of those rare things (theglobeandmail.com)
- Reflections on “Sonic Boom” by Greg Easterbrook (kansasreflections.wordpress.com)
- Reflecting on a strategic inflection point at CGSC in Army education (kansasreflections.wordpress.com)
- Late night reflections on theory (kansasreflections.wordpress.com)
- Reflections on Starobin’s Five Roads to the Future (kansasreflections.wordpress.com)
- More reflections on Mintzberg on planning (kansasreflections.wordpress.com)
- Reflective learning in the markets (kansasreflections.wordpress.com)
- Thanksgiving reflection (kansasreflections.wordpress.com)
- “Just being alive is an extraordinary piece of good luck.” (or the very best pieces from Nassim Nicholas Taleb) (beinghuman.blogs.fi)
- Reflections on economy, China and education (kansasreflections.wordpress.com)
I am enjoying Dr Steven Goldman’s 24 lecture series from the Teaching Company on “Science Wars: What scientists know and how they know it” Lectures 16 thru 22 are directly related to Kuhn, does a great job of summarizing the context and subsequent interpretation of Kuhn’s work.
Synopsis: Kuhn was a pro-science scientist, whose work was appropriated (and misappropriated) by the social constructionists, advocate/participants (2 of Creswell’s 4 world views; Kuhn (and Goldman) believe these 2 groups took his thesis far beyond the region of fit, by using it as evidence to undercut the previously priviledged place in epistemology that scientific knowledge enjoyed. Goldman believes they have mischaracterized his arguments to try to create a belief that science and reasoning are simply one way to go about creating knowledge.
Kuhn’s work broke no new ground, as elements of his thesis reach back to the debate between Plato and his Ideals and the “earth giants” like Protagorus who declared man as the measure of all things” (by which they really meant the “measurer of all things.
The post-positivists’ reaction to Kuhn can almost be used as evidence of the social behavior Kuhn tries to describe pragmatically, but they would argue that they are defending their position in scientific fashion. Outsiders are likely to support whichever side they are biased towards.
Goldman believes that Kuhn makes fundamental errors in describing the incommensurability of competing paradigms, and does not give enough attention to the reality that, for example: Einstein and Newton had different paradigms of the nature and workings of space, time, mass and energy, and yet would still have been able to agree about much since 1 paradigm actually is a special case of the other.
Goldman does credit Kuhn with getting the main parts of the description right, concerning the social context of scientific collectives, by likening science to language: in other words, language REQUIRES social interaction as well as enabling it. Science, too, can be seen as a collective thought effort conducted in networked processing nodes (scientists’ brains); as such, the reasoning goes, social context is inevitable, and is actually healthy.
a final distinction for this note, is the idea of the difference in how to constitute authority: some modern theorists i have been reading describe the move away from the traditional “validation through usage by the community” to one of “validation by publication in peer reviewed journals”. You can see why this matters by looking at the ClimateGate scandal, where the pro-AGW (anthropromorphic global warming)crowd was able to dismiss the skeptics as outside the mainstream by virtue of the fact that they controlled the peer-reviewed journals and could suppress dissent by refusing to publish.
In the traditional “validation by usage”, what became accepted as the paradigm were those findings that were actually put into use and built upon by subsequent research; So, what didnt work simply died out, but what actually worked was refined and furthered.
The work of Israel Scheffler “Science and Subjectivity”, a peer and co-worker of Kuhn, from 1965, is a good summary of the contemporary response to Kuhn by the post-positivists who rejected his assertions, while Popper’s body of work represents a deeper and more formal contrarian position to Kuhn, while also serving to dismantle the logical positivists.
am writing this from memory, in the airport, but i believe I have spelled the names correctly
Hadot’s discussion of philosophy as a way of life
Hadot emphasizes that philosophers live in the space between the gods and the unconscious masses. He describes philosophy as a searching and a striving for perfection in thought and deed, for excellence (arête) in living. He asserts that
The gods have no need for philosophy, since they already manifest perfection in their being and are never out of that state.
The masses, being unconscious of the potential or need for improvements in their thoughts and deeds, exist at an unconscious level, manifesting their unrefined human nature. They also have no need for philosophy.
The philosophers are simultaneously aware of their imperfections, but desiring to know and live virtue and knowledge, are constantly striving yet never (or perhaps rarely, for a moment achieving perfection)
By describing philosophy as “A way of life”, I believe Hadot makes the following points:
1. Because it is “a” way” and not “the” way, he implies there are real and meaningful choices for how to proceed along the “way”. Phil makes this point concerning the real choices available and accessible.
2. Because it is a “way” of life, it implies a comprehensive pattern of actions, behaviors, motivations, justifications that informs and guides and entire life, and acts as a standard to be measured against. It I not something to be confined to a particular time and place in our lives, but something that ties it all together. Andrew describes this well in his reflection on internal standards, as does Mel in her sicussion of consistency and evaluation.
3. Because it is a way “of life’, Hadot connects the search for excellence and love of wisdom to the center of our living, both as an action verb (excellent living in action) and a state of being (achievement of a state of excellence as a consequence of action).
Hadot’s discussions of the various ancient schools situate them along various choice points, demonstrating through their tenets and through the exemplars of the lives of their founders and representatives. Phil’s summary again, is useful here in capturing the differences between the goal-oriented school of the Epicureans (seeking pleasure, but not just sensually, but in accord with all elements of the human nature, including the desire to connect with the divine ) and the rigorously distilled, laconic principles of the Stoics, who sought crystallized and perpetual gems of wisdom from which right action could be derived and applied for every situation.
His rich descriptions of Socrates, Zeno, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius demonstrate how these choices and endeavors manifested in the living of their lives.
In his chronicle of the massive undertaking of Aristotle to provide structure for the sum of human knowledge at the time morphed over time into a pursuit of ontology for its own sake, losing sight of the purpose of the study of physics as simply a method whereby a man might apprehend and then conform to natural excellence. Aristotle’s achievement becomes an end in itself as philosophers began to increasingly to look at knowledge and discourse as an end in and of themselves, and not as an inherent part of the examined and properly lives life.
I am reminded of Weick’s reflections on the intersection of theory and practice: as he developed a useful way to examine the dual nature of reflective living which is that life is lived and experienced going forward in the moment, while it is known and understood looking backwards; as sense-making seeks to make clear what was known as uncertain when it happened.
Hadot concludes that philosophy, as practiced, has departed from the ancients, into a compartment of wordmakers and ontologists, and out of the center of spiritual and physical lives.
In my own life, I find a connection with Stoic thought, traced to an exposure to the works of Epictetus (who wrote the philosophy manual of the Roman legions) and Marcus Aurelius, whose reflections from the frontier of the Empire resonated with me when I was serving in the DMZ in Korea. The personal story of Vice admiral Stockdale, who found strength and solace in the Stoics in his 7 1/2 years in solitary confinement in a Vietnamese POW camp stays with me to this day.
i was remembering his analogy of the ship at sea in a storm, and that democracy is not well suited (his conclusion not mine)for voting in the right person to take the wheel, that what we really want is the best captain at that moment of storm, regardless of whatever other short comings he may have personally beyond the immediate needs of the moment. So what if he is a bigot, he will get us safely to shore where we will re-educate him in proper thinking what makes rhetoric so potentially insidious is how easily the mob can be swayed into thinking that we are in times of crisis.
Of course, there are times when we actually are, but the language is the same and only critical thinking can distinguish between real crisis and manufactured for political or other purposes. “S” like his Roman counterpart Cincinnatus, served his term honorably, and then left it all behind, selflessly.
And yet Socrates had a soft spot in his heart for Alcibiades, who represented one of the gravest threats to the young democracy until Sparta won. Selfless service is an ideal of our Army, an explicit value, and one we recognize and honor in others. who give the last full measure of devotion. i think we can rise to that upon peak occasions, and some exemplify it routinely to a greater degree than others, but i think it has the same problems as pure objectivity, in that both represent, in their purest form, an absolute that seems almost inhuman, unsustainable and not something you can base an entire profession on without checks and balances
Even those who act most selflessly by sacrificing themselves for others, in war for example or in fire & rescue, have not set aside their self-hood. i believe rather, that they sacrifice the self in full knowledge of what it means to give that up for the selfhood of others.
If critical times are moments when the old ways are passiong but not yet fully given way to a new order, then perhaps the chaos around us is a time when we need critical thinking more than ever? A touchstone in rimes of crisis, and a guard against complacency and unwarranted assumptions/complacency by the majority in times of comfort?
ever watchful, onward
Distinguish among the 4 types of epistemology that Heron and Reason (Chapter 24) suggest. How will your work encourage multiple ways of knowing beyond just “propositional knowledge”? from The SAGE Handbook of Action Research (2d ed) by Reason and Bradbury (2008). London, SAGE Publications,
In Chapter 24, Heron and Reason briefly define co-operative inquiry, and then describe 4 types of knowing: Experiential, Presentational, Propositional, and Practical. They discuss the implications for co-operative inquiry of each type of knowing in the reflective phase, the action phase and as the object of output for each phase. I will summarize their descriptions, examine how I can encourage the use of all 4 forms in my own work and offer my observations on the chapter.
Summary of co-operative inquiry: a form of action research that emphasizes the 2d person approach, in which researcher and project members are co-equal researchers in the design and management of a project. My sense of cooperative inquiry was of an open ended project that engaged all members as equals in the process, with the researcher maintaining the connection to the community of AR practice.
Summary of the 4 types of knowing:
Experiential: Knowledge created by a conscious being, fully aware of and grounded in the immediacy of the direct sensory environment, while mindful of the duality of our mental imagery and the real world. Heron and Reason accept the ontology of a real world as given.
Presentational: Knowledge generated by and communicated through a variety of richly imagined artistry. This is Knowledge as metaphor as described in the Mythos vs Logos dialogue. Heron and Reason elevate the arts other than language in this section, arguing that language as tool may constrain the presentational knowledge in hierarchical ways
Propositional: Heron and Reason describe this as formal theoretical, conceptual knowledge, encoded in language. They characterize the dominant modern propositional knowledge in terms of logical positivism and Cartesian duality, and express concerns with the way it may serve to irreconcilably separate the subjective and objective. They allude to a causal argument that leads from language to subject/object dichotomy to man-made ecological disaster to highlight a problem of taking untempered formal propositional knowledge to extremes.
Practical: Heron and Reason emphasizes the AR tradition of the primacy of the practical. My sense was of a back-propagation of validity and quality from the practical which suggests we are sensible for pursuing the paths of the experiential and presentational forms of knowledge as they can be later validated through practice. This is knowledge in action that has consequences which can be compared to alternatives and then valued by human judgment. This is knowledge supported by a body of knowledge and a community of practice.
Applications in my work:
In general: these 4 epistemologies are a reminder that our personally constructed knowledge, as well as the received wisdom are not set in stone. assumptions about how the world works, and what is true are working assumptions and that in programs and policy decisions that impact people and societies we must appropriately embrace the rich diversity of human experiences and values.
In particular: in my effort to help create learning that lasts with respect to change management in the US Army, I am actively encouraging the immersion of students into moments of direct experience in the classroom that link the concepts under inquiry to significant emotional experiences they have already had, and offering them tools and situations that will give them more capability and insight to manage change in the future in a positive way.
By creating multiple ways of telling their stories in a variety of settings (oral and written, individual and group, formal and informal), and providing them a professional language to share experiences in a meaningful way, I hope to help students make the connections between their experience and the world of theory in their own words and stories. It is essential for them to engage in creative narrative to become full participants in the creation of this professional knowledge.
Within the context of the lessons I help to educate students and faculty on the schema of Army change management that governs people, processes and products, so that when they are assigned back to the world of practical action, they will be more effective in achieving change that is consistent with their goals and visions.
Comments on the chapter:
1. I like the idea of integrating the 4 epistemologies in a co-operative inquiry project and the emphasis on the primacy of the practical. I think its important therefore for the community of practice to grow and maintain the body of knowledge in order to give credibility to the unconventional wisdom (by positivist standards) that it is practical, in the end, to encourage, solicit and value the experiential and presentational knowledge. There is argument that the experiential and presentational epistemologies are valued and worthwhile in their own right. By relying on the utility of the practical knowledge, and/or the elegance and predictiveness of the propositional knowledge. may work to undermine the efforts to begin a program of inquiry that relies, for the first time, on experiential and presentational knowledge. This is especially important in new domains and cultures without a track record of practicality established for experience and presentation.
2. It’s not much of a challenge to support the ideas of propositional and practical epistemologies, because we have inherited that tradition from the modern sciences and the development of the professions, respectively.
3. Heron and Reason went to elaborate lengths to justify the experiential and presentational knowledge epistemologies, while only giving the darkside of propositional knowledge, and then only referring to the positivist approach, which has already been suitably marginalized.
4. A devil’s advocate might say that throughout all of human history the newest epistemology has been the propositional, and that the species remained mired in the worlds of superstition, magic and myth until the Enlightenment put weight behind the effort to find Truth underneath the world of the practical. To say that, in a human way, we have not managed the boundary condition of the limits of rationality well, may not be an argument to discard the primacy of propositional knowledge and revert to the experiential and presentational knowledge, but rather a call to better educate on science and propositional knowledge. In other words, in a society where more people believe in UFOs and ghosts than in evolution, we may not want more feelings and storytelling and less science, particularly when the greatest challenges we face as a planet incorporate a technological cause.
5. I would answer the devil’s advocate by granting that achieving real results on thorny human problems in real time that go beyond command directives issued by an established hierarchy, we must find ways of engaging all manners of knowing, tacit and formal, theoretical and practical, traditional and expressive or we run the risk about studying more and more trivial problems with more and more precision, and neglect the important central issues facing our society. This is really a poor restatement of the AR approach, but one that has its own quality and compelling support.
a short bibliography that discusses the issue of good and bad scientific thinking in greater detail could reasonably include:
Chalmers,A.F. (1982). What is this thing called science? (2d ed.). Indianapolis, IN. Hackett Publishing Co. Inc.
Park, R. (2000,) Voodoo Science: The road from foolishness to fraud. Oxford University Press, New York.
Sagan, C. (1997,) The Demon-haunted world: Science as a candle in the dark. Ballantine Books. New York.
Schermer, M. (2006), Why Darwin matters. Times Books. New York.
A new blog friend, Konrad Talmont-Kaminski, a naturalist philosopher in Poland, shares an interest in bounded rationality. He is thinking hard about superstition and the question was posed to me:
Given the connection between stress and superstition the army must be a good place to run tests. Do you think the military are among the more superstitious groups of people?
my first thoughts, without trying for a formal definition of superstition, or pretending to know any of the literature, are these:
i think we are very “superstitious” in the sense that we have invested a lot of belief in “rules of thumbs” and the received wisdom of very successful leaders in the past. We take up their advice with religous fervor.
What I find interesting is that this is also a culture that places a very high value on rational, analytical control to achieve certainty. Yet, when the stress levels go high and you must choose in the absence of certainty, military officers revert even more quickly and stubbornly to the chestnuts of the past.
An example: we revere Clauswitz and Jomini, studying them carefully. In what other profession that idealizes certainty and modernity do you see the leading philosophers living in the 19th century? Is their content really that timeless or has our culture placed them on such a high pedestal and invested such emotion in being right that we are locked into this “superstition”?
At the same time, based on my experience in combat, I have seen how soldier latch on to rituals to help keep themselves alive on the next mission, even when the rational mind must be certain that it is not related to reality in any way. In the same way, we read all the time about professional athletes who repeat all the behaviors they performed before their last win.
Ken Dryden, the goalie from the Montreal Canadiens, describes that phenomenon well in his terrific book, “Behind the Mask”. The rule in the clubhouse was “Don’t change the luck!”. People need explanations for uncertainty and chaos. The more the uncertainty, the stronger the need for an explanation no matter how ludicrous. And if the ludicrous belief becomes socialized, then it can achieve “Revealed Truth” status , I think.
I am probably not using superstition in the formal sense but this is the paradox I see.