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Re: [ontolog-forum] memory loss

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Cc: paoladimaio10@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From: Steve Newcomb <srn@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sun, 11 Oct 2009 17:47:57 -0400
Message-id: <4AD2528D.4040005@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Randall R Schulz wrote:
> It 
> only takes one person to advance knowledge or ability, after that, it 
> is merely the transmission of information that makes that advancement 
> available to others.
>       (01)

With respect to the "transmission of information", I personally don't 
think there's anything "mere" about it. The phenomenon eludes objective 
observation, and it's not well understood. I'm not at all sure that "it 
only takes one person to advance knowledge", either.    (02)

It might be easier to think about civilization's memory loss problems if 
we begin by examining what it means to transmit insights from one node 
in the human network and receive them in another.    (03)

Don Bitzer, the pioneer of computer-based instruction (and, not 
coincidentally, the inventor of the plasma display panel, the 
downloadable glyph, and the "back" button), is alleged to have said that 
the true purpose of all such technologies is to reduce the cost of 
allowing the receiver (the student) to exploit the perspective of the 
transmitter (the teacher). (He is supposed to have laughed at the 
audacity of using computer technology to achieve such a difficult, 
ill-understood goal, but he was audacious anyway.) I would argue that 
the same is true for all semantic technologies, not just for those whose 
stated purpose is education. In other words, it's all about the 
implantation of ways of seeing things -- of semantic universes -- in 
human minds. As a practical matter, it's about implanting them in such a 
way that they can bear fruit.    (04)

In other words, the "transmission of information" is a lot like farming. 
The complexity of farming, as a metaphor, might be useful for some 
playful thinking about how to address civilization's memory loss issues. 
Every season, we need to grow crops, even though conditions are always 
changing, and new challenges can appear abruptly. The distinction 
between "advancing knowledge" and "transmitting information" is very 
similar to the distinction between harvesting and planting. Just two 
aspects of agriculture, really.    (05)

Steve Newcomb    (06)

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