Re: Emergent Learning LO2099

Michael McMaster (
Fri, 14 Jul 1995 08:41:49 +0000

Replying to LO2073 --

There's a trilogy of three small books that I like very much called
"The Earthsea Trilogy" by Ursula Le Gain. The first and third of
these are about becoming a wizard and the personal challenges of
that. The way to become a wizard is to learn the "real" name of
things. When you can name something, you have control of it.

English is has the largest vocabularly by far of all languages - so
I'm told. The power of this language is that we can make
distinctions that make a difference. We have all these words so that
we can do something with them. If it doesn't matter what we call it,
then let's get rid of this redundancy and simplify our life - or at
least our communication. Jean Houston a once great actress and now a
leader of personal development used to bemoan the lack of expression
in ordinary conversation compared to the possibility of the language.

Doug says,
> Well I'm not sure if it's that important whether or not a database
> contains knowledge or information, as long as it *triggers* knowledge in
> the reader's mind.

Sure, it's the pragamatic test that makes the difference. Why
quibble about what we call it if the result is produced? What I'm
interested in is what are the linguistic phenomena that will enhance
our ability to access, generate and share knowledge? These are
beyond the "mere" word - information or knowledge - but the words are
important because the sentences we form and the ideas that develop
are different depending on which words we use. The word, the
sentence, the thought are all connected parts of a complex whole.

For instance, to use your own words, knowledge is not something that
is *triggered*. Knowledge is not a thing. Knowledge is an active
process an occurs or emerges in a context of circumstances and
action. At least, this is the way that I use the term so that the
langauge is more active, dynamic and not reducible to dead stuff.

Your example of the flight intstructor makes the point. A live
question in a context of interest, focus and intention where action
and action potential are present generates something and knowledge is
created. That is, something is created that will have meaning and
provide action potential *in future circumstances*.

If that same information is put into a database - as you indicate it
could be - then we will not have knowledge in the database. Why not?
Because it will have to be read and related to in a similar way to
the live event that you mention. Just reading it will be unlikely to
produce the same effect and, more unlikely still is that it will even
get read.

Your next example of conversations with friends and the simple words
which generate complex thoughts is a similar case. It's not the
existence of the "simple words" in a dead medium but the living
experiences of past, present and future interactions that have the
result produced. Putting those words into a database will not
produce the results of the interaction with friends.

Part of the value of the distinction is that we can design databases in
ways that will facilitate or trigger the living (and complex) processes of
intelligence and knowledge. We can also create processes - rather than
databases - which will contribute to information becoming knowledge. We
can become more competent at designing the combinations of these things
with clear distinctions.

I am saying that you will not fall into the mechanistic, reductionist
language in inappropriate areas and then will not waste massive
effort in attempting to do something that is both impossible and not
what is really wanted - such as thinking or basing action in the idea
> The
> objective afterall is to get it in the mind of the recepient.

The objective is that something occur or that something be generated
by another, in my interpretation of the world and the linguistic
structures that I use - not "get something into somebody's mind".

Michael McMaster