A while ago a friend gave me a copy of Malcolm Gloadwell’s “The Tipping Point”. It was, as he would say, good. It was a NYT bestseller, a look at how ideas spread within the culture. Later, some months ago, I was at another friends who’d just been interviewed by Gladwell. He had an advanced copy of “Blink”. Unwilling to wait for the publishing date, and failing to get the agreement of my friend to borrow it, I purloined the thing. Again it was good. I’ve recently come across many blog posts on Blink. Today one at Deep Green Crystals (entreprenuer / VC blog). The following is a comment I posted to his review:
I read Blink a while ago from an advanced copy I purloined from a friend. I liked it too, though I agree that the actionable content isn’t very high. Charles Sanders Peirce, founder of semiotics, associate of William James, disgraced philosopher, and all-round genius, is altogether different. Blink with more Think. He gives plenty more to go on. His work was lost for decades in the Harvard library and his contribution in many fields has only recently come to light.
He invented the term abduction, being a third form of inference (in addition to Induction and deduction). Induction is inferring the general from the specific; and deduction the specific from the general. Abduction, however, is the spontaneous generation of a hypothesis which is then to be tested by further observation. Like, Karl Popper, whose work may or may not derive from Peirce (the jury is still out), he claimed that this is the true methodology of science. It is abduction that is practised by Sherlock Holmes (there is a good book edited by Umberto Eco, “The sign of three”, that compares Holmes with Peirce). Peirce said “There is a more familiar name for it than abduction, for it is neither more nor less than guessing.”
Of further interest may be Timothy D Wilson’s “Strangers to Ourselves – Discovering the Adaptive Conscious” which rounds up current science on the subject.
Blink is abduction at work.
A friend emails:
I expressed some concern . . . about your - how can
I say this - preoccupation with suicide. Of course, I realised quickly
enough that you’d be killing others before you got on to yourself. So I’ll
keep an eye out for the signs. When I get time I will start one, yes; blogs
are the new media, people are now charging for advertising on their blogs.
And while this may only be those that are tech specialists and so on, the
trade magazine publishing sector is dying and dying. From there, I imagine,
it’s a matter of watching the tide rise and seeing which media boats
survive. Your the prescient one, tell me where it’s going to end up.
Of course he’s right about the suicide thing.
Another story today has Sri Lanka (7th highest suicide rate in the world - Lithuania is No. 1 if you’re curious) cutting up the brains of suicides in an attempt to identify genes that may be responsible.
But back to blogs, where does it all end up?
Well, we will all have one. All of us, each and every one. Not only will we have one, we’ll use it every day. We’ll use it to communicate with people we know, people we’d like to know, people we don’t even know exist. We’ll use it for work, for all of our work.
I was having a discussion a couple of days ago with a friend who’s doing some consulting for a v. large corporation in this area. Imagine BigCorp forcing employees to use an open workspace blog. People working on a project are constantly aware of what co-workers are doing. The project moves ahead faster because there is less duplication, problems become apparant more quickly, are solved more quickly. Managers are aware of progress, can help where needed, can get on with other things if not.
Customers of BigCorp get to keep an eye on how their piece of the action is progressing. In fact they are part of the process, picking out features of the project that they are concerned may not fit their needs, raising their fears, making suggestions. Casual observers also get to see what’s going on, may even become interested enough to become customers.
Of course everyone knows everyone else’s business. So what? Really. So what?
People have been taught for decades that a perfect market is the best way of distributing resources. One of the pre-requisites for a perfect market is perfect knowledge. So, along comes a technological way of approximating that.
We spend half our time worried about our privacy. Why?
Deep down we know that battle has pretty much been lost already. When I use the phone someone could be listening. When I use the net someone could be monitoring what I do. So what? It doesn’t matter IF I know who is monitoring, who is listening.
George Bush can watch me having a shower for all I care, as long as I’m aware of the fact and have the ability to do the same to him. (Not one of my fantasies, incidentally.)
If anyone can view data, everyone should be able to view it.
Someone can watch me walk down the street. London has more CCTV cameras than anyplace else. These are public places. Why can’t I watch too?
The battle ahead is not about privacy, it’s about openness. Blogs are a neat staging post.
I was thinking about why I’m blogging, about why anyone blogs. [and making it difficult for myself by pumping out The Chemical Brothers new album “Push the Button” at the same time.] Of course there are a number of obvious answers. Fred Wilson (A VC) pretty much sums up the basics. But what interests me is the blogspace itself and what it represents. C S Peirce in “The Fixation of Belief” argued that there are three (it’s always 3 with Peirce!) characteristics which should be present as a basis for belief.
1 It must control our thinking, our thinking must not control it
2 It must be publicly observable
3 It must lead to a common opinion
Something is real if its nature is independent of how I happen to think it to be. The truth, such as it is, is to be found through a COMMUNITY (Peirce himself capitalises the word) of observers. Ultimately, truth, he imagines, is to be found in an unbounded community in the whole of time. Peirce’s system is self-corrective, subsequent investigators correct the idiosyncrasies of those who have gone before, but knowledge is never absolute. We must accept fallibility, it’s the best we have.
“The real, then, is that which, sooner or later, information and reasoning would finally result in, and which is therefore independent of the vagaries of me and you. Thus, the very origin of the conception of reality shows that this conception essentially involves the notion of a COMMUNITY, without definite limits, and capable of a definite increase in knowledge. And so those two series of cognitions - the real and the unreal - consist of those which, at a time sufficiently future, the community will always continue to reaffirm; and of those which, under the same conditions, will ever be denied. ” - CS Peirce (Questions Concerning Certain Faculties)
I give you the Blogosphere - a community without definite limits and capable of a definite increase in knowledge.
I think this is important because it goes some way to explain why it upsets so many, and is going to upset so many more. A friend once told me that he couldn’t believe that the internet was allowed to happen, since it gave consumers all the power. What he hadn’t understood is that THEY, the corporations in this case, didn’t get it. (We’ll ignore the fact that most consumers don’t get it either) Most still don’t, though there are the beginnings of rumblings. Anyone who’s read Cluetrain, or my favourite blog gapingvoid will know what I’m on about.