Page 6 of the paper print edition of the IEEE Spectrum, tells us that “William H. Davidow is no ordinary technophobe, as he explains right at the start of his essay ‘Our tools are using us.’” The subtitle adds that “Human brains can’t cope with today’s technology.” The digital edition on www.spectrum.ieee.org of the same essay was renamed as “Virtual Reality Is Addictive and Unhealthy: Interactive technologies give us a quick fix, and that's not a good thing.”
In what follows, repeated use of the “creative synthesis” concept is made from a paragraph in Davidow’s essay that says: “This exponential rise in capability has greatly augmented the pooling of knowledge from different sources to achieve the creative synthesis described by the 19th century mathematician and philosopher Henri Poincaré: ‘To create consists precisely in not making useless combinations, and in making those which are useful and which are only in a small minority…. Among chosen combinations, the most fertile will often be those formed of elements drawn from domains which are far apart.’”
Next is a dialogue between Jim Isaac and me under the digital edition of the article:
Me - Part 1 of 2.
Mr. Davidow has provided us an excellent and exceptional article. It shows very clearly that financial systems are not only very complex but highly unstable.
However, I must respectfully disagree with the belief “… that our minds, bodies, businesses, governments, and social institutions are no longer capable of coping with the rapid rate of change.” To disagree I will apply the “creative synthesis” insights that Mr. Davidow quotes from Poincaré.
Creative synthesis is the key to the solution to address the wicked problems of the financial system and also that of the electric power industry. Those wicked or more precisely systemic problems are the result of widespread use of the “useless combinations” that Poincaré warned us of. To see an example, please take a look at the post Smart Grid: SoS [system-of-systems] "… interacting in unpredictable ways that regulators and investors cannot comprehend, far less control.”
That article’s summary says: “Similar to financial markets, system crashes are expected in smart grid, because they have been though to be just complex technological systems, when they are in fact ultra large scale socio-technical systems. The difference between the two kinds of systems is told in “… the story of the London Millennium Bridge, which opened in June 2000 and two days later was closed for two years to remedy destabilizing swaying motions induced when groups of people walked over it.” As industry restructuring was flawed, legislators, regulators, and investors have a change [not change, but chance] to minimize the damage in the making on the power industry, by learning about their responsibility of the now known error of the Normalization of Deviance before it is too late.”
Me - Part 2 of 2
I have worked a lot on the electricity industry and how restructuring led to a complex and unstable system. Many people were hurt by ENRON, but ENRON was not alone. The flaws in deregulation came directly from the lobbying input into the US Congress Energy Policy Act of 1992, and other regulations, which should be blamed even more.
The way to solve those problems is to follow Poincaré’s advice about creative synthesis. One way is to come up with simple and stable systems is by following Peter Senge's suggestion of Leader as Designer in the Fifth Discipline. Regulatory reforms (incremental changes) are the main problem designed to keep the status quo happy.
To address systemic problems, for example, in the financial and electric power sectors, we need a regulatory revolution, as described for example in "Can EPRI Professionals Get Out of the IOUs Box to Join the EWPC Necessary Revolution?"
jim isaak [says:]
Bill's history of humans adapting to tools parallels the perspective of Susan Blackmore ('The Meme Machine') presented on ted.com at
Me - Part 1 of 2
I will apply the “creative synthesis” insights that Mr. Davidow quoted from Poincaré to show where Susan Blackmore’s origin of the species and cultural evolution don’t apply. Please look to the title of the IEEE Spectrum’s paper print version of William (Bill) H. Davidow’s article, which is “Our tools are using US.” At the end of the video, Susan Blackmore identifies two possibilities, the first of which actually answers Bill’s question: Why are our tools using us?
She says that our tools are using us “… because we are self-replicating. We have babies. We make new ones, and so it's convenient to piggyback on us, because we're not yet at the stage on this planet where... the teme machines themselves will replicate themselves.”
But then the second possibility are still “useless combinations” that Poincaré mentioned. As Susan said, “… we’re not yet at the stage on this planet where…” “… the next 'replicator' which goes beyond Bill's model as it becomes an independent replicator following an evolutionary path of its own…”
Are there any real examples of consumer products, services or business models available in today’s marketplace where, as Susan said, “… the origin of the species explains… all design that we think of as human design”? I don’t think so.
The real examples are the result of real human design “creative synthesis” with the aid of the mind. This is why: Apple and Amazon are still doing what Ford did to change culture with proposals customers were not expecting but love.
Ford’s famous quote, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses,” fits quite nicely what still goes on. It happened as a result of cheap oil and started the mass market revolution with Ford’s moving assembly line creative destruction of capitalism.
Instead of being a result of cultural evolution, it was actually those companies that started their particular cultural shift in people behavior. Instead of cultural evolution, what was actually going on in those cases was the creative destruction of capitalism evolution by using “creative synthesis.”
Bill mentioned in his article how Amazon used the creative destruction of capitalism by “… putting a bookstore in every home that had an Internet connection.” I recall that Apple, with Steve Jobs at the helm, actually applied creative destruction of capitalism in the PC, music recording and mobile phone industries.
It’s not that “the tool are making the rules,” as Bill says. In the article “Over-regulated America,” The Economists magazine said “The other force that makes American laws complex is lobbying.’
Me - Part 2 of 2
Thus it’s lobbyist that are making the rules, as can be also seen in “FERC's Order 1000 as a Potential Example of Over-Regulated America,”
Wikipedia says that “The Emergency Banking Act was introduced on March 9, 1933, to a joint session of Congress and was passed the same evening amid an atmosphere of chaos and uncertainty as over 100 new Democratic members of Congress swept into power determined to take radical steps to address banking failures and other economic malaise. The EBA was one of Mr. Roosevelt's first projects in the 100 days. The sense of urgency was such that the act was passed with only a single copy available on the floor and most legislators voted on it without reading it.”
Political organizations in the public and most importantly in the private sector under public regulation, like finance and electricity, have not kept up because they have not follow W. Edwards Deming advice, letting in many “useless combinations” in regulations and management. In the preface of the second edition of his book “The New Economics,” the late W. Edwards Deming wrote:
“This book is for people who are living under the tyranny of the prevailing style of Management. The huge, long-range losses caused by this style of management have led us into decline. Most people imagine that the present style of management has always existed, and is a fixture. Actually, it is a modern invention – a prison created by the way people interact. This interaction afflicts all aspects of our lives – government, industry, education, healthcare.”
To avoid useless combinations, please take a look, for example, at the article “A Better Decade Require the End of the Prevailing Style of Management.”
In order to apply Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge to Advance Technology for Humanity, I reiterate my suggestion of an IEEE Systemic Code of Ethics.