August 25, 2015 at 9:57 pm #5223
Conversations from Chapter 1
August 31, 2015 at 3:24 pm #5246zbonakerParticipant
Good morning, all!
The timing of this book discussion has me a little behind… a bit of travel (w/o the book) and starting work with a new company. I’m playing catchup right now, but I’ll be ready for chapter 2… and hopefully can participate in Ch 1 discussion shortly!
September 1, 2015 at 12:21 am #5249
At one time or another we’ll all be out of sorts.
September 1, 2015 at 12:19 am #5248
“… and conceive of the human organism as a combination of living elements, all of which tend to co-operate in securing the good of the organism (or of the species of which the organisms is a temporary representative), but each of which retains some measure of initiative – so that the co-operation is never mechanically perfect.” pg 9
How interesting. My father was -4 when this was published. Yet this describes how agents in complex systems act.
I wonder what other thoughts we’ll find that relate to our current experience.
September 1, 2015 at 2:22 am #5250
I’ll be reading on a plane tomorrow, so I’ve not started yet. I figure I can get in one chapter from here, and one from another book, after I’ve done some of the work I need finished by tomorrow.
Yeah, about 4-5 hours of flying time should do it. I might even get part of an audio book.
September 1, 2015 at 2:25 am #5251RyanRipleyModerator
It fascinates me that we have chosen a means to create software (Agile) that seems to mimic the systems of work that our own bodies are governed by as Don’s quote points out.
I found the description of the “art of government” to be inline with the definition of a ScrumMaster: “…the delicate task of coordinating the actions of partially independent living organisms.” (pg 15)
I’m also struck by the reliance on machine metaphors still being pervasive today. I see comparing software development to construction as being the same trap that Wallas noted in chapter 1…the comparison to how thought works with machines.
One other spot really stood out on my first pass: “Metallurgy is, indeed, a good instance of a sphere of action in which science and practice are now keeping step, and are producing rapidly progressive ‘scientific art.'” (pg 3)
What is software development “keeping step” with to produce ‘scientific art’? Is that ‘scientific art’ = Agile? If so, have we partnered SW Dev with system thinking, anthropology, and/or sociology?
More later, but this should be an interesting book. 🙂
September 1, 2015 at 3:37 am #5254AmitaiParticipant
Book in hand, should have time to read Chapter 1 tomorrow or Wednesday evening.
September 1, 2015 at 11:18 pm #5258
An interesting bit of the read is how much time Wallas gives here to rejecting a mechanistic or mechanical view of thought and impulse.
In the “hormic” view he carries, not only is an individual not like a machine, but it is more like a colony of independent lives which are trying to live in an integrated way — even to the metaphor he used of grafts and transplants living on in another organism.
I like that he not only refutes the idea of a mechanistic person, but also that an organization and even a government is an integration of lives and not a mechanism waiting for the “great man” to come to it’s head and drive it forward to do his will.
The body doesn’t work that way; the mind doesn’t work that way; and the organization made of organisms doesn’t work that way.
Surrendering the single-willed, instinct-/reflex-driven machine man metaphor, we are open to ideas of many parts of us working together with contrary ideas and opinions and approaches, and from this perhaps we can organize to create a higher art of thought.
Or so he suggests, or so I interpret. Is that also what you see? Do you suppose I brought myself to the work too much?
He was not, of course, the first to compare people to the parts of one body, nor was Paul — writing his theological masterpiece from Corinth — the first. I suspect that this is a VERY old possibly very correct comparison.
September 1, 2015 at 11:55 pm #5263RyanRipleyModerator
Tim, I think you are spot on. I see the creation of a higher art of thought as an expression of voluntary association. We come together of our own free will to exchange diverse and contrary ideas with the ultimate effect of creating something new. Kind of like The Study Hall. 🙂
September 1, 2015 at 11:24 pm #5259
I was relieved of some guilt when Wallas said that science and empiricism are sometimes out of step.
September 1, 2015 at 11:26 pm #5260
“that beauty of words and form and colour by which our thoughts are made more permanent and more significant”
September 1, 2015 at 11:32 pm #5262
“the aim of the evolutionary development of the central nervous system is to integrate its diverse and contradictory reactions, so as to produce a coherent result adapted to the welfare of the organism as a whole”
Okay, first I have to notice that the idea of “intentional evolution” is probably going to set some people off. Certainly we can look at a result, and see it as an intention — else conspiracy theories could never be born.
But I think it is a good description of anything that resembles intellectual, social work. I forgive a bit of anthropomorphizing for the process in order to say something more important about the nature of organized tissues; and from there organized organs; organized organisms; organized organizations.
Watch for this “convergence” and “incubation” thought later in the book, hinted at already.
Heck of a quote though. Heck of a thing.
September 3, 2015 at 2:32 am #5265AmitaiParticipant
Quick reactions before I read yinz’s:
The reason we need to get better at the art of thought is basically Spider-Man: “with great power comes great responsibility.” (Uncle Bob made the same point, pointing at healthcare.gov when it was in the news, about how we’re making software way faster than we’re getting better at making software.) Postmodern then as now, we’ve mastered the art of looking down on all the latest thinkings, but not the art of doing our own better thinkings. That’s harder, and if we want to achieve it, then we need to understand how thinking works, when it works.
Describing the human organism, Wallas avoids both dualism (mind vs. body) and a wishful unity (“mechanist”) in favor of what he might agree to call a complex adaptive system (“hormist”). He cautions us, comparatively realistic though hormism may appear, that we oughtn’t get carried away with it. It’s just a model, and by warning us of it he’s modeling an aspect of the art of thought. (Korzybski’s “The map is not the territory” first appeared in 1931, according to Wikipedia, five years after this book.) The mechanical powered-machine metaphor for what humans are doing when they think is also a model, one that despite being terribly limiting was once, in Wallas’s recounting, especially compelling. Metaphor carries great power — and great responsibility — for the would-be artisan of thought.
The quote from Professor Pillsbury in the first sentence on page 5 is the most literal “fixed mindset” claim I’ve ever seen.
Wallas’s description of the incongruous agglomerated parts of the British Constitution is hilarious, and as metaphors for our thought process go, unlikely to be far wrong.
September 3, 2015 at 4:52 pm #5266zbonakerParticipant
I warned everyone that I’d be last to the party this week. Watch out though… next chapter, I’ll be the first to provide insight that likely makes the next response brilliant.
I won’t rehash what’s been discussed already. Great thoughts abound.
But I couldn’t help think of the concept of “holons” described by Arthur Koestler. He noted brilliantly–but in post-brilliance seems obvious–that all things in our world are both wholes and parts… physical, symbolic, emotional, it matters not… it’s a common pattern that applies to everything. As humans, we are made up of cells operating independently, yet form organs… which operate independently, yet form humans… who operate independently, which form teams… and so on.
Here’s where Wallas gave me pause, in that he so accurately described how autonomy surfs chaos to excel at a collective goal. A holon must balance its desire for agency (to act on its own) with its need for communion (to work together for a goal). When a holon exhibits too much agency, the holon collapses itself. When a holon exhibits too much communion (to duplicate work, to expect work done by others), the holon collapses itself.
The mechanical thought process describes the fallacy of creating a system under total agency. I like how Wallas not-so-subtly pointed out that creative thought also needs to consider boundaries for modeling the process, else collapse on the opposing end of the spectrum (as Amitai pointed out).
I couldn’t help thinking about some of the #NoEstimates conversation taking place… how some thinkers have asked us to explore outside the mechanical explanation… how some people have responded with hostility at the notion.
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