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October 13, 2000

03 00050 61 00101301

Mr. Cliff Joslyn
Computer Research Group (CIC-3)
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Distributed Knowledge Research Team; MS B265
Los Alamos, NM 87545

Subject:   KM Agenda

Dear Cliff,

A recent letter to Pat Lincoln at SRI set out an agenda for moving KM ahead, following up the letter to LANL dated September 25, 2000 on gaining experience using Knowledge Management.

You and your colleagues are well positioned to perform three (3) basic research tasks for knowledge management...

  1. Develop underlying mathematics of meaning drift, i.e., the rate of decay in alignment that causes misunderstanding in the human mind, and the rate at which error is spread through communications that are not aligned, and eventually impacts the work, for example, as reported at NASA on October 1, 1999.

    Thomas K. Landauer, PhD, has done important work on the mathematics of meaning drift in a paper reviewed on May 18, 1996.

    This is a crucial contribution because people are not aware of this cognitive phenomenon that is rampant in daily life, and escalates due to information overload. Since the human mind is wired to buffer out awareness of meaning drift, it makes communication the biggest risk in enterprise. In the modern scene, this innate safety valve to avoid stress by suppressing awareness of meaning drift, causes fear and denial that prevents a remedy. A straight forward mathematical model, and scientific report could therefore be very helpful.

  2. Develop similar mathematical analysis to show the rate of acceleration in complexity of daily communications, based on the first study. For example, people are not aware that sending a single email or placing a phone call, greatly escalates the complexity of issues that comprise the context of decision making.

    An indicator of what your research would establish is that the number of issues that arise in ordinary business meetings is about 100 times greater than people are able to recognize, as indicated in a report by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on October 7, 1997.

  3. The first two studies can be used to extend the preliminary analysis you presented at SRI on the mathematics of SDS that adds proactive alignment to manage complexity by avoiding meaning drift.

National Security and other benefits would be more readily appreciated, and the urgency for taking action might then follow.

I realize everybody is busy, but the opportunity for KM seems to be falling in line with the national agenda. Please let me know about LANL's ability to contribute.




Rod Welch

Copy to:

  1. Pat Lincoln