So hopefully I will soon be hosting an Inspirathon event. An Inspirathon is an inspirational movie night, where we all get together and watch concept-challenging videos and then discuss in a salon/casual atmosphere. Jeff Lindsay invented and hosted the first Inspirathon.

It will probably be at my house (Bay Area, SJ, CA, USA), and we’ll have a host of videos, like this video and this video. Though we don’t intend on making this a giant event (it has to fit in my house), you are welcome to inquire and see about capacity. Probably best to join the mailing list and see how things are going.

http://inspirathon.pbwiki.com/

http://groups.google.com/group/inspirathon

The point is to meet great people, talk about great things, and have fun.

I had a massive conversation with Jeff Lindsey yesterday. Eight hours of non-stop education talk. Our conversation ranged from computer games, learning, history, to religion. However, we always focused on one major theme, Design. Jeff is the first Design Scientist I have met.

Most people think of design in a purely aesthetic framework. Computer graphics, art, and the shapes of consumer items, are classic examples of the popular conception of design. But design, at its most fundamental, is analysing and synthesizing systems. Design is about the understanding of interaction. This is Jeff’s and my domain.

As Design Scientist, both Jeff and I are enamored by Systems. We learned Systems Theory through different iconoclasts. Jeff learned it from Russell Ackoff, who approaches systems from an organizational management point of view, though Ackoff does discuss systems in the abstract. I found systems through Buckminster Fuller, who approaches systems from a geometric/structural approach, but again talks about systems explicitly.

This article really has no purpose other than to celebrate having met a fellow Design Scientist. And I suppose it is kind of an introduction to some useful iconoclasts. Thinking of it that way, here are a few links that discuss Systems Theory at the essence level.

Ackoff:

Fuller:

  • Synergetics, a online book illustrating a system of geometry that is triangular/tetrahedrally based (stable structure), not square/cube based (unstable structure). Describes the basic interaction of systems.
  • Image Index for Synergetics, check out some of the different indices, some amazing shapes and interactions all based on the closest packing of spheres.

Short Neuro-Cogno Post

May 26, 2007

It was while I was practicing Zazen today that I became aware of the time duration of the thoughts I was observing. Some thoughts took longer than others to “complete.” This duration awareness struck me when I was thinking about a conversation I had about education. The recall lasted so long, that after I came out of focusing on that portion of my past, I could detect the duration I lingered over specific sentences and gestures.

Unrelated, I have been thinking about what constitutes the point between conscious and unconscious thoughts. When I am solving a problem, I often step away to get a drink and have to run back because the solution has popped into my head. Something about rendering a thought-endeavor unconscious allows you to run it in parallel with other thoughts. When a thought-endeavor remains in the conscious it can not run in parallel. Often times, focusing on an issue that has already been clearly defined will paralyze solving it.

Now I see the connection between the prior two paragraphs. Perhaps unconscious activity are those thoughts we linger on for near-zero duration. Not enough to draw specific sensations, but enough to draw general/aggregate emotion and to skip to other related thoughts.

Why Do Leaders Exist?

May 22, 2007

Why do leaders exist in the first place? I think this originally had to do with emergencies, which are perceived moments of resource scarcity. Let’s say you graph a population making questions and decisions. And lets say it adopts a bell curve distribution. I think the non-emergency versus emergency would look like this.ecomp

In an emergency, resources appear scarce and people give up questioning, planning, and judgement to a minority whose size relative to the population depends on the scale of the emergency. This lines up as many resources as possible behind one plan of action for maximum effect.

Obviously this isn’t the only reason leaders exist. Although it might explain why leaders are sometimes the cause of crises or support perpetual crisis states. Leaders offer inspiration and non-emergency group cohesion. At their best, they establish culture and structure useful limitations around power.

In my last article about encephalotechne I wrote about the encapsulation of emotional states into command-verb forms. This is the idea that we can form words for commanding personal change. So as you can tell a person to hit a ball, you can tell them to feel happy.

Practicing encephalotechne has been very useful to me. This last week and a half I’ve felt a remarkable difference in my mood, composure, and work. I’m not sure it will work for everyone, but here are some of the words I’ve created, and some others that I’ve put more of my time into thinking about.

Invented words:

  • Confidate: Become confident
  • Brite: Write in your blog (Just invented, I might make a new one because this one already has a definition)
  • Dermaclear: Clear up acne (This is my most far fetched, and yet creates a local relaxing effect that I think increases circulation)

Recovered words:

  • Hope
  • Enjoy
  • Discern
  • Tranquilize (I’ve used this to alleviate pain)
  • Calm

The word discern is of particular note because of the multitude of reactions it has created in me. One time I told myself to discern, I was overwhelmed with feelings of happiness. Another time, I became very tranquil. Another time, it made it very easy to turn in some applications I had been avoiding.

Confidate is one of the earliest words I developed and most important in affecting my overall mood. I walk taller and get myself into situations I would have hesitated to the point of withdrawal. I talk to women more readily.

The new word I’ve been thinking about, but have yet to create, is about, “becoming the person you wish to be.” This might be encapsulated in the word “develop,” though develop is too impersonal. Impersonate! That’s some of the word, but I want it also to mean having certain material possessions and accomplishments. Perhaps that word is for another post.

Often times, when I try to motivate myself to do something, I use definitions to invigorate myself. For instance, if I’m supposed to write a blog post, I tell myself that, “I write a blog post every day. This is what I do.” Or if I’m supposed to work on software, I say, “I write this software.” These reinforcements of personal title rarely move me toward activity.

After thinking about the actual words I was using, I have started using verb commands. This is remarkable in it’s ability to motivate. And it makes sense when you think about how a person motivates another. When you tell someone to do something, you don’t tell them, “You are the person that stacks the books,” you say, “Stack the books.”

The new motivating words I use are things like, “Write the software,” and “Post on the blog.” The ‘I’ drops away because it would indicate the action as a description of ‘I’. And as the issuer of the command I don’t need to add a redundant definitive ‘I’.

But what about creating emotion? For example, how do you command yourself to be confident? There are no verb commands for confidence (to my knowledge), so I invented one, ‘Confidate’. I also have an anti-depressant verb for moments of malaise, the forgotten, ‘hope’.

So far these internal verbal commands are great at sparking action and emotion. Maybe I’m deceiving myself, but I’ll accept it under the test of pragmatism.

Your Happy Place

May 4, 2007

I’ve been thinking of how to artificially construct personality. I was reading about thought palaces, a mnemonic tool where you imagine a building where the rooms and objects are tied to bits of information you want to recall easily. This was mainly taught for remembering things like speeches, where a walk through the building reveals the progression of what you speak.

But instead of speeches, what if we could tie a thought palace to a collection of memories designed to reinforce personality characteristics that you do not currently have? By visiting this metaphysical realm consistently and in times of doubt, one might be able to pick and choose one’s characteristics.

A quick exploration of mapping social connections between people reveals why companies are doomed to commit evil acts after they reach a certain size. I believe this critical size to be 162, but even if I’m wrong about the particular size, the same theory applies.

Lets say that you model the average employee’s company relationships on a two-dimensional plane. We could say that each person knows two other people. This would create a line like this:

Relationship:line.jpg

Organization: longline.jpg

If we really wanted to be true to the average employee relationship model, it would have to look like a ring. Otherwise, the persons on the end of the line would only have one relationship.

But this is hardly what work environments are like. Generally, you know a multitude of people, and may have atleast seen or shaken hands with a multitude more. But how many people do you deeply interact with at company on regular basis? My experience is about three to nine. Sometimes more, but this is rare. So an average employee number of relationships would look like this.

Relationship: hexagon.jpg

Organization: network.jpg

And of course, we have to make the average relationship occurs at all points, so this plane transforms into an approximate geodesic sphere.

icosahedron.jpg

Looking at this system, we can make some guesses about communication. If everyone has everyone else’s phone number, they could call anyone directly. Habit and hierarchy usually prohibit this. If something were to be passed by word of mouth, the minimum travel time would be the distance across a hemisphere to the point diametrically opposite.

Word of mouth: icosahedron2.jpg

If committing a socially unacceptable action (like dumping toxic waste into the water supply, running sweat shops, or giving up information about dissidents to oppressive governments) is based on your connection to the organizational community, then the larger the organization and the more visible you are in it, the less likely you will commit unethical actions. The extreme opposite of accountability is the jerk in an online forum. His anonymity is his protection. The opposite of that is a family. You certainly know where those people sleep at night.

In small organizations, all action goes noticed because communication is direct. With every increase in the size of an organization the distance from point to opposite (however you define opposite) point increases the distances messages about a person have to travel. Increase the distance and you increase signal loss. So if a company says it will do no evil and a core group of people behave this way, then as the company grows, the effect of this ethic gains less impact because cultural signal break down over travel time. It is not that the people are bad people, it’s just impossible to enforce an ethic over a certain size community.

Of course wrong is defined here as what the community sees as wrong.

Feel free to take these images and use them as you wish.

I sat down to do some meditation yesterday and experienced some of the most peculiar visual anomalies to date. I was staring at the towel in my bathroom (the bathroom is the only place I can ensure quiet), and suddenly the weave of the towel got larger and the edges of the towel sort of expanded into my peripheral vision. It was as if my vision was zooming in.

The only time I felt something similar to this is when I fell asleep in class. I have only fallen asleep once in class, and it was in Chemistry. I think I fell asleep with my eyes open and suddenly my vision zoomed in on the professors face. The moment this happened, I burst back into normal awareness and knocked my books into my lap.

This zooming is not the first aberration I have experienced. When I first started meditating, I would notice a red haze appear over my entire field of view. The red was the color of those temporary marks on your eye that you get when you look at the sun. As I kept up my meditation this eventually went away, and I suspect the zooming will as well.

A second aberration was when I was meditating after yoga. I entered a super-relaxed state and this lasted well after meditation. It was kind of like when I had my wisdom teeth removed and I was on Vicodin. When I took Vicodin it relaxed my muscles and gave me a floating feeling. I also rambled a lot. The relaxation after yoga was about ten times as powerful. So much so that I couldn’t really flex my hand muscles enough to pick things up.

The focus of Zen is not on these visual anomalies, but on your thoughts. It is discouraged to think them too worthy of further concentration. But they are really cool.

I drew this learning ecosystem yesterday. I’ve defined learning in this particular example as a device of information transfer.

learning ecosystem

I would have written a list, but a list has a way of undermining a grouping’s connectedness. Feel free to use this graphic at your own discretion.