The Story So Far

An Interim Thesis on the What, Why and How of Knowledge

By Ian Glendinning, 4th August 2002.
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The Manifesto, which predated the Psybertron WebLog, indicated a number of factors affecting the quality of information and knowledge in an organisation or business environment based on what my experience had taught me was self-evident. Whilst thoughtful and held with some conviction, these views were not at that point the subject of any rigorous analysis.  Indeed, the purpose of the research, of which the Weblog currently remains the major part, was to study and analyse the experience expressed in these views.

I have oft alluded in the Weblog, that “objective scientific method” appears to be part of the problem rather than the solution, and that this presents me with something of a Catch22 in rationally analysing the views as originally stated. I was also fully aware then, from common knowledge and from previous brushes with generic information modelling from first principles, that the epistemological issues underlying the research were pretty basic philosophical, even metaphysical, questions subject to debate over several millennia.

I guess what I didn’t know when I started was the extent to which debate on these issues had been preserved in the fields of AI and Cybernetics, and indeed the fundamental physics of Quantum Theory and the like, as current and continuing hot topics. The lines of research into the subject lead (as I said in my original organisational learning MBA dissertation) to ever broadening avenues of investigation, but as they diverge and multiply, I find convergence and reinforcement of a number of threads.

This essay serves to state these threads, frequently mentioned in the Weblog, so far as I am currently able.

The Threads

Basic statement of what the threads are

(1) Values and Levels – the “quality” of knowledge (eg how true is something) relies on value judgements on multiple levels - Maslow / Pirsig – absolute is a relative concept – The post-modernists may have something to say about this.

(2) Rationalisation – of the irrational - Emperor’s suit of clothes – Galbraith’s conspiracy of silence – DeLorean’s immoral committees of moral individuals – Argyris’ theory-in-use or skilled incompetence – Political correctness - Cultural preference for avoidance of hassle, personal embarrassment, conflict with colleagues by applying “rationale” to situations and decisions based on logical assembly of “facts” - A defence mechanism for “winning arguments” and to avoid having to deal with true complexity of “real life” situations. Our comfort zone appears to be logical consistency – The appearance of scientific method and logic rather than rhetoric, the latter being consigned by culture to a pejorative term.

(3) Emergence – a corollary of (2) – Real knowledge (as opposed to rationalised mis-information) is an emergent property of complex relationships between facts, not some logical sum of those facts - Holism, synchronicity, non-locality, etc.

(4) Many a true word - It has ever been thus – It is quite likely that in the information and communications “Techno-Economic Paradigm” in which we find ourselves – overload of quantity and complexity of information in the web-enabled age - reinforces and exaggerates the paradox the between the sum of “objective” facts and true knowledge, but it is NOT new. The cultural fabric of society is full of preserved evidence in aphorisms, euphemisms, humour, metaphors and so on that indicate that many a true word is spoken “informally” – Much truer than any formal statement - Truth stranger than fiction - Freudian slip - Truth spoken in jest - In vino veritas etc.

Discussion of the threads and supporting references

Hold – in progress (being collected initially from those in the Weblog)

What does this tell us about information models

Hold – in progress