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Re: [dist-obj] B-A-I-T :) (was: Re: [dist-obj] [Longish] ... )
Sundar Narasimhan wrote:
> Actually, David: Please don't get defensive. I asked that because "I"
> wanted to understand what kind of understanding "you" were after.
I deny the defensive characterization. ;-) It's more accurate to say I
play games according to rules other folks set even when I look silly.
> Good starting point, but not enough for me. I'd like to make two
> points: a. "understanding" of complex, interacting systems is possible
> (but in a different sense than you mean above) and b. it really doesn't
> matter (i.e. you shouldn't care about it too much).
Only in pieces and not in totality. And not caring was my own point
when I said one can just relax and see if on gets where one is going.
> Remember that your observation was about complex systems interacting
> in ways that you claim no-one "understands". I believe that what you
> outline above is a bit mis-placed. It is my opinion that you don't
> understand the interaction of complex systems by using definitions
> that are rooted in "understanding" simple systems studied in
> isolation (i.e. those of prediction and control).
That agrees with my thesis, that folks generalize from simple systems
to an assumption someone (somewhere) always understands every more
complex system, when this is not the case. Because folks expect some
authority to exist, they will annoint anyone volunteering for the job
(or the most impressive sounding person when there is competition).
> The reason for this has to do with how such systems evolve -- with
> complex systems you don't deal w/ phase spaces and simple trajectories,
> arcs through time; Lego-block physics don't cut it anymore. You have
> to study ensemble properties and probability distributions and expected
> outcomes and emergent behaviors. There are also teeny but thorny problems
> about observability (there are after all things you cannot see or
> measure), and controllability (things you cannot ever possibly affect).
Stipulated. (I see no reason to defend my own impugned understanding. :-)
> What does prediction and control (if that's what you are really after w/
> your use of the word "understand") mean in such an enlarged context to
You seem to miss my original point that it cannot be done, and that there
exists no totally inclusive authoritative viewpoint, and that none can
even exist. I was writing to make folks stop expecting that. So I'm
confused when you attribute to me the behavior I was criticizing.
> Your use of replacing components *is* relevant. People *do* study how
> building new runways affect city economics, or how telecommuting
> patterns affect wealth distribution. I think it's perfectly ok to have
> the former body of knowledge lie unconnected to the latter, use
> different models etc. -- at completely different levels of explanation.
I think division by levels is effective; I grasp what abstraction means.
However, just because folks study complex sytems does not mean that all
complex systems are studied or even recognized. And if all were studied
and recognized separately, this would never be the same as conjoining
all the perspectives into one big picture. I am NOT advocating such a
unified big picture. I assert that none can even exist in principle.
> The only way I can currently understand your observations is to say: I
> think what you are perhaps reflecting is really a generic and general
> dissatisfaction with increasing specialization (you really have to go
> spend a couple of Ph.D's worth of time to truly "understand" ONE of
> these effects -- and even geniuses only have so many neurons and hours
> to spare). Grand synthetic theories, if that's what you are after,
I'm not after a grand synthetic theory; I deny one exists or can exist.
If we take a vote, I predict folks will agree I already said this. :-)
Certainly I'm dissatisfied with increasing specialization; but I'm also
dissatisfied with smog and I tolerate that too.
> do occur about once or twice in a century (and with the world's
> population going the way it is such discoveries could accelerate, but
> I wouldn't hold my breath), but the people who are genuinely able to
> "understand" such syntheses get fewer and fewer because as a society
> we are so effective at using and amplifying the power of such theories
> "without" being able to understand them. That's really why a lot of
> people (me included) believe in the level separation principle, and
> don't seek GUTE's.
I'm confused. Here I've been railing away against One True Way ideas,
and you are saying I've been advocating them instead. Why is that?
I agree level separation works (even if this short word gives bad vibes)
and I will not accept your positioning me as disagreeing.
I do not believe that geniuses of grand caliber exist with comprehension
so greatly exceeding average run-of-the-mill geniuses all around, that
they have ideas uniquely different from other merely very smart folks.
(I basically don't believe in genetic mysticism at all, that folks are
ranked into castes of intelligence as a sign of natural stratification
by objectively measurable ordering of native ability. Once you get in
the high end of the bell curve, there is only variations in focus.)
Now let me finally address what seems to be the central issue, about
whether it's okay or good to use complex systems without understanding
them, since power can be applied whether or not the reasons are known.
I have no objection to complex things existing or being used. I only
object to things being made more complex than necessary. We might be
disagreeing about what is necessary. I focus on software developers.
I like to see software developers able to use their tools productively.
I understand developers come in more than one grade of competence, but
I like to see all grades productive, and not just the highest grade.
And I argue the highest grade is more effective with simpler tools.
I don't believe the common idea in the computing industry, that some
developers are inherently much smarter than others, and only the best
should be allowed to make high end products because everyone else can
just be users instead of makers. And that the best results comes from
having the smartest use the most complex tools conceivable.
I think that's all the result of folks taking the competitive systems
of education and social ranking, and projecting them as natural laws,
to be used to select the best of the best of the best, who will grasp
complex systems while everyone else become consumer grade Eloi's.
Geeks should aspire to be more than Morlock's, shouldn't they?
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