*Excellent* video on Big M and small m meetings by Johnnie Moore. Watch this!!!


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Charity shop goons

Went out for a lovely lunch with the lovely Mrs Towers. Haloumi fish and chips!

Charity shop people are getting more and more vicious. As we were innocently walking past they would leap out and force us at gunpoint to buy books.

I got
The Survivor by James Herbert. Guy survives plane crash in which everyone else is crispy. Film of it was shot in Adelaide. I remember we’d drive into the city past the growing Jumbo jet, which one day was torched (they filmed the crash the night before). I have an idea to write on the mechanics and meaning of civil aviation. It’s in the “maybe one day” file.

The Consumers’ Guide to the Protection of the Environment by Jonathan Holliman. Published originally in 1970, my “revised and updated edition” of 1974 has a mention of carbon dioxide accumulation and the ‘greenhouse effect’ (I am going to write something on the (very) early days of popular awareness of climate change…

Easy Learning German Verbs, published by Collins. Did you know that “William Collins’ dream of knowledge for all began with the publication of his first book in 1819. A self-educated mill worker, he not only enriched millions of lives, but also founded a flourishing publishing house.”
Why? If I want to be more employable, being a competent German speaker would be a Good Thing. Watch this space…

Peace for Beginners by Ian Kellas. One of those cartoon/text books. I am shamefully ignorant of the history of the peace movement.

The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope . Melmotte and all that – big “decadence” jeremiad form the 1870s. Will be interesting to read using the Multi-Level Perspective…

Helmsman and Heroes; Control theory as a key to past and future by William Gosling. Yep, also need to read Beniger’s The Control Revolution

Bloody charity shop goons.

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Not agnostic about agnatology – ignorance as a weapon in the never-ending class war

Don’t let your slaves learn to read. Not even the Bible, and the bits about the sons of Ham. Who knows what else they might do with that tool you have put in their hands. The field ones, definitely not. The house ones – a bit, so long as they have enough to lose…

Well, that works fine (for you, not them!) if you’re running a plantation economy, a feudal society.

In a knowledge economy though, you gotta have a trained workforce. Not an educated one, mind you – there’s a subtle difference!

So, I’ve just stumbled on a great term – “agnotology“. There is, of course, a wikipedia entry about it.

Agnotology (formerly agnatology) is the study of culturally induced ignorance or doubt, particularly the publication of inaccurate or misleading scientific data. The neologism was coined by Robert N. Proctor,[1][2] a Stanford University professor specializing in the history of science and technology.[3] Its name derives from the Neoclassical Greek word ἄγνωσις, agnōsis, “not knowing” (confer Attic Greek ἄγνωτος “unknown”[4]), and -λογία, -logia.[5] More generally, the term also highlights the increasingly common condition where more knowledge of a subject leaves one more uncertain than before….

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Academic NVDA – not as exciting as it sounds…

It occurs to me that many academics (with honorable exceptions!) engage in their own form of NVDA.

Sadly, those letters stand for “Nonsense Verbiage Destroying Attention”…

Thanks, I’m here all week…

In other news, Big and Good changes afoot. Happy as the proverbial pig in the proverbial…

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Ostrom, Habermas and understanding t’world

Reposted from Peter Levine’s website. Hat-tip to Sam

Ostrom plus Habermas is nearly all we need

The late, great Elinor Ostrom is much on my mind. I taught her work in Mexico a couple of weeks ago and will be visiting her Bloomington (IN) Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis next weekend. I’d like to claim that many thinkers have influenced me, and I wouldn’t want to have to do without any of them. But I believe we can get at least 80% of the way to a satisfactory social theory if we combine the two thinkers we talked about in Mexico: Ostrom and Jürgen Habermas. They are importantly different, as this table indicates–yet I think both contribute essential insights.

Ostrom Habermas
Fundamental problem Tragedies of the commons. People manipulating other people by influencing their opinions and goals.
Characteristic symptom of the problem We destroy an environmental asset by failing to work together. Government or corporate propaganda distorts our authentic values.
Characteristic starting point People know what they want but can’t get it. People don’t know what they want or want the wrong things.
Essential behavior of a citizen Working together to make or preserve something. Talking and listening about controversial values.
Instead of homo economicus (the individual who maximizes material self-interest) we need … Homo faber (the person as a maker) Homo sapiens (the person as a reasoner) or homo politicus (the participant in public assemblies).
Role of the state It is a set of nested and overlapping associations, not fundamentally different from other associations (firms, nonprofits, etc.). Citizens form public opinion, which should guide the state, which makes law. The state should be radically distinct from other sectors.
Modernity is … A threat to local and traditional ways of cooperating, but we could use science to assist people in solving their own problems. A process of enlightenment that liberates people, but it goes wrong when states and markets “colonize” the private domain.
Main interdisciplinary combination Game theory plus observations of indigenous problem-solving. Normative philosophy (mainly achieved through critical readings of past philosophers) plus system-level sociology.

If you ask me who is right about any of the issues in this table, I am inclined to say: both.

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What happens when you get rid of managers? Excellent interesting reading…

Hat-tip Tim Kastelle


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Nobody likes a know-it-all

At work yesterday someone said words to the effect  “You know something about everything, don’t you?”

I demurred, pointing out that she only remembered the times that I had something useful to add.

[I see you at the back there Jenkins, stop snickering!!!]

She didn’t remember all the times I kept my mouth shut.

[Jenkins!  Morgan!  The Headmaster’s Office, now!!!]

She asked how I got this way, and the reply was along these lines

– a fairly methodical memory (but then, everyone thinks they’re above average)

– boredom with “popular culture” to the point of not having an Idiot’s Lantern, and filling the gap with getting on the stepper and reading articles

– getting interested in a subject, reading a few books (and more latterly google-binges), until bored and found a new subject

– keeping lists of unfamiliar words and facts and then going on google-binges.

To my eternal credit I also pointed out that knowing a load of facts doesn’t make you smarter, better, nicer, more effectual or anything like that.  It simply means you know a lot of facts.

Is there a point to this blog post?  No, just the old narcissism.

Well, maybe this – there was a time when I would have been (wrongly) proud, when I would have metaphorically puffed out my chest.  Age, if not Buddhist practice and meditation has allowed – so I pretend – a certain ironic detachment;  This is who I have become.   I know some of the hows and the whys.  I am unlikely to change much, so I had better get used to it.

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