Wednesday, September 01, 2004
Manhattan Project to Integrate Human-centric Information Production
Stratified complexity and the origin of mental/social events, (Prueitt 2002)
Conjecture on Stratification
A discussion between information scientists
Note from Dr. Richard Ballard, Founder, Knowledge Foundations Inc.
Ben and Friends:
I think that you have touched upon a central issue in knowledge sciences and one most appropriate to this circle of associates seeking to unify those sciences. It is a discussion that may be uncomfortable to those mathematically inclined, because it goes to the foundational claims and proofs for every categorical abstraction. 3 years ago that would have been particularly difficult and schismatic in this circle, but Paul has evolved remarkably as a community leader and sponsor of central dialogs. My understanding and faith in that demonstrated maturity makes this now the only and most important place to begin this conversation. John Sowa is central too as will be evident in my comments.
The universal concern right now is for defining an organizational structure for metaphysical modeling -- "the structured ontology problem." All presume that whatever the dimensionality of this metaphysical space of imaginative variance, the tree-like trend top to bottom is based upon absraction hierarchies -- with an "all encompassing imagination" (God or Perfect Intelligence) at the top and our finest-grained model detail and deepest theory constructions at the bottom.
All are likely to agree that a scale for enumerating all possible civilized thoughts starts in 100 Millions and continues growing toward a countable infinity. Some have tried from time to time to define the top-most "taxonomy" or "lattice" top-down -- "An Upper Model". Others of us consider that a total waste of time and as a practical matter build ours bottom up -- "A Lower Model" enumerating "sufficient upper level commitments" ("Primitives"). Paul leaps into the middle ground of metaphysics with his conjectures and mathematical training. So as you rightly point out, he appears to have no systematic basis for linking to anything we might see as concrete and testable -- except by linguistic metaphorical allusions -- and where is the science in that.
So there are serious problems in trying to construct theories of knowledge piling conjecture on conjecture with rules of poetry as an epistemological guide. Still Paul perseveres and does us service with his phoenix-like edge-of-ruin reinventions of himself -- preserving our mutual connectedness and colloquy as a community. For myself I look only for those occasional surprised declarations on his part that my past note was exactly how he felt on the same issue. John Sowa alternately denounces privately the tone of my expressions and continues to give me advice of absolute integrity -- we all remain a passionate community.
I look though for some movement toward formal "divisions of the house" along acknowledged questions and dimensions. Our need now is not to bring us all to "one mind" as a community of believers. Rather, I think, the need is to subdivide our ontological commitments along clear lines and recognize the articulate and productive champions in different "schools".
Members of various communities will parse between different dimensions and sides as each investigation work seeks to develop, propose and agreeing on which tests should decide the issues between them.
We need now to agree on how to disagree constructively and make the most of those differences. That constructive process of drawing clear lines is our bond.
In my Knowledge Science course description, I outlined within a solid border that "Knowledge Science is the study of those systems with the capacity to learn from past experience, to preserve that legacy, and employ it successfully to adapt their future behaviors toward ever higher goals of survival and achievement."
So most pointedly, my ontological commitment is not to the discovery of "truth" -- a concept I find irrelevant in physical reality. Knowledge science is the pursuit of new and more successful behaviors -- not sanctification of any particular ideal. From that perception, our differences are absolutely structural and forever necessary, our goal is to become something different and better by our own best reckoning.
I would use again Thoreau's famous quote, "Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." He ended it with the challenge. "Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day". Our challenge as a community is not in "maintaining consistency", but in choosing to speak in "hard words," whenever we take any position.