Hold on ...let's think LO11569

Robert Ingram (ingram_b@ix.netcom.com)
Thu, 26 Dec 1996 12:56:29 -0800

Replying to LO11564 --

Frank Voehl writes in part:
> My belief is that our brains are pattern making systems which cluster and
> organize our perceptions of the world into patterns which enable us to
> function effectively.

What you describe is very similar to Thomas Kuhn's theory of paradigms, as
described in "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions." In that book, Kuhn

"Few people who are not actually practitioners of a mature science realize
how much mop-up work of this sort a paradigm leaves to be one or quite how
fascinating such work can prove in the execution. And these points need to
be understood. Mopping-up operations are what engage most scientists
throughout their careers. They constitute what I am here calling normal
science. Closely examined, whether historically or in the contemporary
laboratory, that enterprise seems an attempt to force nature into the
preformed and relatively inflexible box that the paradigm supplies. No
part of the aim of normal science is to call forth new sorts of phenomena;
indeed those that will not fit the box are often not seen at all. Nor do
scientists normally aim to invent new theories, and they are often
intolerant of those invented by others. Instead, normal-scientific
research is directed to the articulation of those phenomena and theories
that the paradigm already supplies."

The same principle, IMHO, applies to all areas of thought, not just to
science. I describe the phenomenon this way. All human beings (and
probably all living creatures) are the result of three major influences:
biology (particularly genetics), development (psychology), and culture
(anthropology). These influences are dynamic, which is to say that they
exist not in isolation but in relation to one another. Biology impacts
development, which influences culture, which molds development, which
conditions biology, etc. Evolution is the result of these dynamic
relationships over time.

Though I generally don't like mechanistic comparisons between computers
and human beings, I have found the following analogy to be useful in
explaining these concepts, especially to employees and managers in
high-tech companies. Biology is human hardware. The hardware can do only
what it was built to do. It can do less but not more. But the hardware
cannot be productive without applications, or programs (software). The
software (our psychological, developmental programming) takes the hardware
(biology) and makes it useful. This productivity takes place, however,
within the confines of an operating system, which, in human terms, is
culture. Culture is the template, or operating sytem, that allows the
software to run on the hardware. Just as biology restricts what humans can
do, culture restricts what humans allow themselves to do with the biology
and development that we have.

PCs and Macs have different "cultures." Programs created for one "culture"
do not work well, if at all, on the other, unless a mediating device
"translates" between them. Thus, we see an example of mediated
cross-cultural communication. When an American design engineer tries to
work with a Japanese manufacturing engineer, problems often occur because
one's mindset (A.K.A. paradigm, A.K.A. culture, A.K.A. operating system)
does not match the other's. Their cultures condition (and limit) what they
are able to think, see, hear, and feel. They are speaking two different
languages, not just in the linguistic sense, but in the broader cognitive
sense as well.

Of course, we are not doomed by predestination. As free agents, we can
change our biology, our experiences, and our culture, but all three of
these influences change very slowly. They strive for a balance between
teleology and homeostasis, which brings me back to another discussion, so
I will leave it there.

Robert Ingram
Ingram Communications
"The world is a kaleidoscope of wonder."


Robert Ingram <ingram_b@ix.netcom.com>

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <rkarash@karash.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>