440 Davis Court #1602
San Francisco, CA 94111-2496
415 781 5700

Date: Sat, 24 Jun 2000 06:34:14 -0700

04 00067 61 00062401

Mary Keeler
University of Washington
Seattle, Washington

Subject:   OHS/DKR Meeting at SRI 000518
Peirce's "New List of Categories"

Dear Mary,

Thanks for taking time from your schedule and family concerns to pass along important work dealing with the DKR and my own interest in "knowledge."

If time permits, you might try commenting on a perspective different from philosophy, in this sense: if we assume the aim of a DKR is to help a lot of people, similar to alphabet technology, then we need something that is relatively simple, or can be made simple by tweaking technology a bit, so that a lot of people can do it regularly like breathing, and it works a lot better than what they are doing now.

The rigors of philosophy are helpful in providing clues for such a solution; but the philosphical process itself, as beautifully set out in your paper (see below), is not going to be adopted as a life style change to help people do a better job attending a meeting, mowing the lawn, reading a book, etc.

Indeed, I don't think what I am doing (illustrated for example by the record of the meeting you attended at SRI on May 18, 2000) will be adopted any time soon by a lot of people. But,I suspect it falls within the alphabet category of an explosive technology that is quite simple, once understood, and requires very little energy, and so has the potential over time, like the alphabet, to make a big contribution to civilization.

Here is the basic notion...

I have gathered, from experience the past 15 years or so using my system of writing up a diary and tying things together, that the complexity of sequence is far greater in human affairs than is apparent in day-to-day life. This happens because complexity, which masks causation, occurs along a continuum from the molecular level to the largest scale imaginable, with the result that much, if not most, of human reasoning occurs outside of our conscious span of attention at too small a scale to be noticed. The rate and volume of information, also, impact awareness, with the result that, as the amount of information increases from constant calls, meetings, email, media, the chance of overlooking cause and effect, i.e., failure to recognize sequence, increases exponentially leading to error, loss, conflict and crisis. In other words, even if people nominally reason correctly, or logically, if they are mistaken about sequence, correct reasoning causes error. The corollary result is that the same environment necessarily increases the opportunity to significantly reduce mistakes, if we can provide tools that help people manage sequence by maintaining alignment. Even if people are not good logicians, if they have good command of sequence, there is good likelihood this alone will lead to the correct path.

This is the secret power of our stories that begin with "Once upon a time...," and explains why people who have to make a decision begin by asking: "What's the story? and inject prompts, like, "...and then what happened?" They want to know the sequence because that reveals causation.

However, the human mind's ability to summarize complexity masks the opportunity to help people reason better by managing sequence better. As Steven Pinker (MIT - How the Mind Works p. 90) points out: "This is a feature not a bug." We are so immersed in the habit of sequence and causation, that we walk past the opportunity to leverage human intelligence by significant degree.

I realize I am walking a line between cog science and your work, but Peirce's work seems to suggest that "experience" is an important component of knowledge, if not, in fact, the whole of it. Experience, it seems to me, is sequence, and connecting and retrieving relevant threads of cause and effect. This latter aspect of identifying and naming useful chunks of information as related threads, is quite a complex matter in itself. But initially, I am wondering about your take on the complexity and sequence issue.

For example, I have never seen the idea of mastering complexity as an opportunity to augment intelligence, i.e., basic human reasoning, discussed in the liturature in quite these terms. Is this a well recognized matter? Do you know of any studies showing how many mistakes are revealed by writing up the record rather than simply starting to apply first impression?




Rod Welch

Mary Keeler wrote:

Dear Rod,

Sorry I've been so terribly slow, but am in wilderness Idaho looking after my very feeble mother. The network is very slow, here, so I'll just you something a prepared for Jack, and hope to follow it up, later. The "cause and effect" problem is an old one in philosophy, and needs great care in understanding.

Take care, yourself!



Mary Keeler

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 5 Jun 2000 16:28:37 -0700 (PDT)

From:   Mary Keeler,

To: Jack Park,

Subject:   Peirce's "New List of Categories"

No better way than to dive into the original. Beware, here, there are some stray footnotes marks (such as "P1") in the text that might confuse you. I'll send the sequal to this, next. Happy reading, take your time!



Mary Keeler

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