Friday, January 25, 2008

War College Philosophy

E. J. Applewhite. Synergetics Dictionary.
Garland Press, 1986. Vol. 4 page 140

In a civilian school like Princeton, the philosophy department tends to hash over what might still hold water, although it's OK to venture back along the time line and study what, by today's standards, are truly unbelievable belief systems (medieval philosophy and such -- I took at least one course in that, found lots to agree with).

But when you're looking out over a battlefield, trying to figure out why people dressed that funny way are taking up swords against that other group over there, you can't afford the luxury of believability. You just need to know what animates these people from the inside, to help with modeling, anticipating what might be coming next (just saying "one damn thing after another" is sort of a cop out -- clients won't pay for that).

The OWL/DAML community is happy to talk about ontology, a philosophical term, but has less use for teleology, which is where I think Bucky Fuller might lend us a hand. He spoke of teleology in terms of voltage pressure.

Just as hamburger fuels long divisions among 8th graders in North America, so does water held back by dams, give us the pressure to turn huge coils through magnetic resistance, generating that back and forth push/pull of electrons known as alternating current (AC) -- keeping the lights on in those schools. We also use direct current (DC) and convert back and forth, from AC to DC, from DC to AC.

OK so where does teleology come in? In how we switch all that power, in the form of energy investments. Do we drive with this or that control panel API? What tools do we commit? What skills will we need? Does the storyboard depend on any unproved or as yet unavailable technologies? If yes, is this all just science fiction then?

Putting it another way, to every ontology, however unbelievable, there corresponds a pressure to perform in this or that way. Perhaps aggressively, perhaps with vindictiveness (stay alert for that stuff).

You still need to do a lot of intelligence gathering, as the devil is in the details. Plus you'll need repositories in which to store your findings, like DemocracyLab or whatever.

Even better: enlist the assistance of true believers to help with their own modeling, plus remember to share the road i.e. don't be too proprietary about your own way of thinking, especially if you want friends -- help 'em stay up to date and in the game, or they'll have no choice but to work around you.

Where both physics and theology agree to some extent is in judging that some beliefs just don't have much underwriting, in terms of laws of nature and/or God's will. If you think you can fly, and jump off a ledge, more power to ya, but really, probably here's a belief system with a short TTL.

To have "no integrity" doesn't mean to sneak around lying so much (too obvious) as it means you've already stepped off that ledge, and so now we'll see: does it really fly? Unless Nature is behind it (Fuller's "generalized principles"), then the answer is no, at least not for long. But of course that's a borderline tautology, plus a frustrating outcome is always a good excuse to try try again, and yes, sometimes persistence pays off.

Fortunately for us humans, we're able to auto-reprogram to some extent, especially by staying open to Spirit (what we believe as Quakers anyway -- that there's that of God within each one of us, potentially to the rescue in times of belief system melt down).