Saturday, 29 December 2007

2050: Age of the Silverback

The year is 2050.
Climate change has been acknowledged as a way of life around the world. What differentiates the two broad demographics dominating the planet are their degree of understanding.
Peak oil has passed and the race is on to move the production of essential chemicals to new sources.
The influence of regions which based their clout on the supply of oil and not much else has waned significantly, with considerable impact on global politics. A goal that could have been achieved far earlier has been reached by necessity.
The West as a label describing certain nations bound by their common history has given way to industrialised and under-industrialised regions. The former are able to employ ever more sophisticated methods of determining their status, while the rest function in an ad hoc fashion constrained by their ideological dependencies.
Electronic surveillance, gene technology, and computing power surpassing the historical limits of hardware make it possible to combine their respective potential to create the massively interdependent state.
Privacy has been substituted by meta-data encompassing lateral as well as longitudinal storage of personal information. From movements in terms of geographical locations to multi-level profiling in terms of behaviour patterns at any scale, humanity in the industrialised zones resides in a comprehensive storage of ever increasing complexity.
What prevents the data logs from becoming the authoritarian instruments of old are the lack of resources combined with the evaluation of efficiency quotients down to the minutest detail that are applied to the system of governance.
Derived from the concept of environmental footprints when climate change began to influence the agenda, governments adjust themselves in accordance with dynamic ledgers that feature the current effect of a measure against its ultimate efficacy - feeding back into the overall evaluation of society through its collected data.
Behaviour - whether on a personal or societal level - is no longer subject to ideological boundaries but has become a parameter in a formula that contains the algorithmic calibration of sustainability. These changes are not so much the result of wiser minds; they have been brought about by continually biting shortages of resources available to the administrative processes. Resource-wasting moral guardians are now enemies of the state; they have been replaced by data-mining technocrats.
The profiling of individuals, groups, and demographics consists of a multi-faceted evaluation from genetic to environmental factors and assesses the degree to which the respective elements interact with their system. Any freedoms or constraints in that regard are a function of the role they are able to play within their stratum. The feedback process of sustainability accreditation layers these roles with respect to the system overall. Data-mining provides the parameters, and efficacy measurements establish the boundaries.
Artificial mind simulations of increasing scope are used to play through societal scenarios via functional dynamics, their hypothetical content a substitute for the real world. Such modeling enables the analysis of demographic states on a continuous basis, updated and fine-tuned by synchronising the effects in one sphere with those in the other.
Within the under-industrialised regions the effects of the general resource shift are also felt, but the response lacks the depth only a sophisticated information flow can allow. The resultant pressure is uncoordinated and in tandem with the specific ideologies in force at the local level.
Migration surges occur at regular intervals, but are not permitted to spill into higher-level neighbours. Instead they contribute to changing population patterns inside those zones which could be analysed and responded to positively if only the means to do so existed. The availability of food and energy resources is at the constant whim of random power plays acted out on the basis of religious and political perceptions. What decides a region's membership in one or the other type of zone is its ability to ramp up to the necessities of the times. Sometimes the historical boundaries of nations will have been redistributed to better reflect the nature of their demographics.
Dissolution here and there within the industrialised bloc leads to the formation of niches, which are either made use of or pushed further and further to the edge of their host - on a geographical as well as a cultural level.
The boundaries and differences between demographics are in the end determined by the results of high-to-low and low-to-high conceptual intersections, that is the transposition of conceptualisations from high-complexity regions to lower ones and vice versa. As such the outcomes represent a natural selection process that always had been in operation but has now become more accentuated due to the restrictions prompted by economic contingencies.
The same goes for non-human organisms. The survival of species becomes a matter of their attractiveness to local perceptions, translated into economic utility. Some manage to maintain themselves within their respective eco-systems, some find respite through their usefulness, and others are restricted to special enclaves or computer simulations.
Aid programmes, channelled towards dirigiste governments by the former developed world, have been reduced to narrowly defined policies under the umbrella of sustainable efficiency determined by their source. While the ruling hierarchies at the receiving end are no longer kept artificially alive by such transfers, neither are their dependent masses. Survivability or otherwise has reverted back to the local potential and no other.
Success for the individual means being able to negotiate the constantly changing priorities of governments, businesses, and interest groups, which themselves are subject to similar considerations.
It is the age of the silverback.
Happy New Year.
Note: for references see the next post.

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Without Otoom, what then?

The Parallels, their special sections, and many posts on this blog have presented the Otoom model in various contexts.
The scenarios were the environment in which humans went through their actions, and Otoom supplied the framework to better understand their dynamics. Its predictive powers have already been shown in the Iraq/Afghanistan war, the riots in France, and the implosion of so many Pacific Island states, to mention only a few. The evaluation of human activity systems in those terms on an official level is not so much a question of if, but when.
But suppose such information is not available. How would the players fare under circumstances that are in the process of building up at this very moment? Here is a brief overview of the major items. They are deemed major because their effects are the most comprehensive.
The overriding factor in our time is climate change. The relevant data we leave to meteorologists and environmental scientists; what we are concerned with here are the dynamics of perception, feeding into our modes of conceptualisations.
The immediate cause for the changing climate has been identified as the industrial output by developed nations. That kind of information leads to different interpretations depending on where on the economic scale one stands. The historical dimension adds another factor, deemed more significant by those whose own history does not include the evolutionary cycles of the rich. In the absence of a formal framework the positive as well as the negative aspects of technology and industry are not included in a productive manner. The need for sophisticated infrastructure may be appreciated by those who own it, but its purpose is overlooked by the have-nots. For them the factors represent a one-sided wealth underlining their own victimhood. So far those differences are being expressed through words only. Increase the pressure and they will be followed by actions.
Any solution to a problem relies on its realistic assessment. Substitute realism with ideology - whether of the spiritual or the political kind - and the response will be inadequate. The negative outcome is sheeted home to outsiders. A people's ideal (a god or a political vision) is never held accountable because ideals are untouchable.
Terrorism, portrayed as the scourge of our times, is one manifestation of an idealistic obsession. But in reality it has existed in various forms throughout history, only the means and the responses have changed.
In the West our historical baggage in the form of Christianity drove us into the arms of the Middle East on so many occasions, now accentuated by oil. The latter will go eventually, but in the meantime relationships are cemented into what has been termed 'progression locks' under Otoom - situations that pull their members into a web of inevitability with often disastrous outcomes.
In the case of terrorism it is becoming evident that the countermeasures taken affect the societies they are meant to protect more than the terrorists themselves.
To neglect the functional, cognitive dynamics of those entanglements costs everyone dearly.
So not only conceptualisation matters, but also one's disposition. The moralistic remnants of Christianity are at the roots of an imperialistic evangelism that sees the world in black and white only. In some parts it is stoked by the advent of feminism (its ideological side, this is not about the rights of women) which transposed the concept of motherhood and carer into wider society with profound consequences.
The Child in this context is to be shielded from the outside, as it must in the case of a real child, and it is the outside which is held to account. Translate that into society at large and the traditional sense of responsibility and duty falls by the wayside. The "system" however, that which is forced to pay when things go awry, is made up of the very people who are gradually educated into dependency - a downward spiral of dissolution. Obesity, having already reached epidemic proportions, is but one example of diminished responsibility made manifest. Its costs will haunt us for decades to come.
The adulation of The Child is a consequence of a societal repositioning of priorities. To maintain the status of infancy, to spurn the process of growing up in favour of locking in childhood, represent the deepest urges of the Mother. In the home it is mostly the mother who even in the adult still sees her child. The feminised society of today follows that dictum. No wonder a Paris Hilton demands such attention. The adult body with the mind of a child - how attractive they have become.
Characteristically the converse is condemned - nothing endangers a myth more than the existence of its opposite in the real. Consider the child body with the mind of an adult. It is typical of certain societies that nothing invites greater social opprobrium than the paedophile and the misogynist. Not even a murder comes close. In tandem we have billion-dollar industries feeding the narcissism of the female regardless of her age, we have the child-like postures of models, and youngsters running wild. No-one dares to oppose; for example, teachers rather leave their profession than make a stand in the classroom.
To demonise the drive towards adulthood does not merely unseat the values of just about every healthy culture on this planet; it interferes with the designs of nature. The welfare of society has taken second place to womanhood.
Once again, without a clear understanding of how the dynamics of perception relate to interdependent scenarios, any countermeasures - if they are considered at all - will only ever be ad hoc reactions going nowhere.
The greater the sophistication, the higher the demand for commensurate conceptualisations. Given the diversity of current systems, the opportunity exists for the emergence of local variants which may or may not be recognised for what they are.
Diminished resources create their own pressures, and in conjunction with already existing factors pose a challenge for the participants. Not to understand oneself in the widest sense possible means remaining chained to unwitting consequences.
Most likely the near future represents a mix of insight and ignorance. A preview of what it will hold in about forty years time will be the subject of next week's post.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

An update... and then there was silence

A previous blog featured an open letter to the Queensland Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson, asking him for advice on the situation with Griffith University. In particular certain events were mentioned in which the participants received the attention of the judiciary as it went through their affairs in great detail. In other words, these people got their day in court.

What differentiates those cases from my own are not merely the absence of any - even alleged - criminal behaviour on my part, but the positive nature of the substance behind. Not only that, the highly questionable behaviour of certain people at Griffith still did not prompt anyone to take a closer look at the situation (it must be stressed that the dismissive attitude did not eventuate from a study of the case, particularly the points I raised against the examiners' reports; instead, information gathering consisted in referring to the same gang who created the problem in the first place). It does seem as if justice only becomes available to those who are willing to thump the table.

Since that post - silence.

Although the deputy head of the School of Information & Communication Technology (ICT), Peter Bernus, had threatened me with court action for "bullying and defamation" after I publicly called him and another lecturer as well as the Vice Chancellor Ian O'Connor criminals, the threat was neither repeated nor did it materialise after repeating the same and once again notifying the ICT staff at Nathan Campus about it.

A reading of the Queensland Defamation Act 2005 shows that any court action will lead to nowhere if the alleged defamatory statements can be substantiated. Is that the reason for the silence?

Perhaps even more interesting is the distance kept by organisations which, one would have thought, have an interest in the overall running of universities; such as the Queensland and Federal Ombudsman, the Queensland and Federal Education Department, the Vice Chancellors Committee, the Australian Universities Quality Agency, or the Carrick Institute. No-one approached there wants to have anything to do with it. And now the Police Commissioner seems to keep away too.

A reminder letter is being sent to him, and the people at the above mentioned entities are notified about the open letter to the Commissioner (excluding the Ombudsman's offices).

I won't hold my breath, but when the breakthrough does occur every letter, every email will contribute to the affair's history.

There is the notion of autonomy for universities, referred to by some. Although its historical reasons are sound, it sometimes can be overdone.

Let's see how high that barrier really is.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

The degeneration of a system

The conceptual tool set offered by Otoom makes it possible to analyse the dynamics of systems at any scale, large and small.

As to the former, societies move through their time lines determined by the interplay of their subsystems. They also relate to their environment, where other systems and their functional elements characterise their dynamics.

The more complex such systems have become the more details establish their functional boundaries, each with their own positive and/or negative potentials. What those boundaries mean depends on the elements they define and the latter's affinity with each other and the whole.

The West is one such large-scale system, and its variance across the nations, together with their demographics, has produced its history over time.

Our nomenclature (systems, subsystems, elements, etc) are not merely convenient descriptors. They stand for perceptions, interpretations; in other words, mind sets that evoke the actions among humans here and there. Those mind sets have their particular history, and that link with the past causes them to function sometimes in harmony, sometimes alongside, and sometimes in opposition to present developments.

Today there are number of conceptualisations that do not support their host. As such they undermine the foundations on which they grew.

Incongruence does not necessarily imply destruction per se, but it certainly means the existing frameworks become compromised. "Nature abhors a vacuum", as has been observed before, and in the absence of a maintaining force other influences will come to the fore.

The self-referencing nature of complex systems is but one of their aspects, but translated into more common language it stands for self-confidence and a clear view of oneself and one's direction.

In the case of the West the earlier confidence (often accompanied by brashness and arrogance, it has to be said) has given way to a more insecure disposition. Greater complexity in thinking, due to its heightened internal variance, makes for less compact and so more diverse opinions. For that reason a fanatic will always act more self-assured than their more objective counterparts.

If two of these disparate mind sets confront each other the outcome is a matter of the respective societal resources standing behind.

Today the West is a hotchpotch of many styles; sophisticated attitudes, brutish niches, profound education and superficial beliefs, they all vie for attention and their assumed right to make a difference in our affairs. And all this against the background of climate change, diminishing resources, and internal and external threats. All of which redefine our standards, and all of them are in the process of becoming even more influential as the years go by. Beyond its borders demographics assert their stance in a manner they simply could not have managed in previous decades.

Internally the succession of generations are interrupted by certain demographics - young and old - which have been allowed to negate authority and by doing so demonstrate the virtual paralysis of the system they are meant to be part of. Whether it be children performing like adult criminals or gangs battling it out with police in a suburb, in terms of the underlying dynamics both are similar in nature. They are joined by religious and political demagoguery that dismisses objective pragmatism in favour of moralistic attitudes forcing the rest of society to march to their idealistic tune. In tandem we have the veneration of the primitive, its sycophants falling on their knees before the demands of anti-intellectual fanaticism; and, when attacked, coming back for more.

Complex systems do not move in a linear fashion. They do not evolve - or devolve for that matter - in equal steps. History seems to stand still until suddenly the latent potential erupts and evolution surges ahead. Likewise, the status quo prevails until one more instance causes an implosion. The foundations grew all along, they just weren't recognisable at the time.

Is there a 'final straw' in the West's case? Just as the Otoom mind model predicted the mess in Iraq and Afghanistan, the riots in France, and the difficulties in so many Pacific Island states, here too it has something to say.

More of this later.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

An open letter to the Police Commissioner

This is an open letter to the Queensland Police Commissioner, Bob Atkinson.
Dear Mr Atkinson,
This letter seeks guidance on how to respond to a situation.
It involves a dispute between Griffith University and myself that has dragged on since 1999. Many attempts to have someone critically look at my concerns have fallen on deaf ears.
Perhaps you in your position and experience with the local idiom can point to options I in my naiveté have not considered. The dispute has forced me into a professional limbo only a resolution to this conflict can end.
The whole issue revolves around a ludicrous evaluation of my honours thesis, with the result that my career path is blocked.
One would think a lecturer such as Terry Dartnall, or the deputy head of a school such as Peter Bernus, or even the Vice Chancellor Ian O'Connor, would be able to come to the table with an ability to communicate in a constructive manner. Instead their answers have been bland and self-referencing, approaching the ridiculous even; in fact, it would be akin to someone questioning the member of a gang only to be told everything is fine and having to leave it at that.
Perhaps my status prevents them from taking me seriously. Perhaps my academic efforts leading to a scholarship and membership of the Golden Key National Honours Society are neither here nor there. Maybe completing a three-year course in just two years hardly matters, or particular details of the thesis not otherwise found in similar works are too esoteric to be considered.
Still, my research work - which was the reason for undergoing those studies in the first place - was continued and completed in 2003 regardless.
It concerns explaining how the system of mind works, a world's first. If this framework had been applied by certain decision makers, terrorism would not be the threat it is today, the Iraq/Afghanistan adventure would not have produced the mess it has, and many other scenarios could have turned out differently (the Parallels sections on the Otoom website give some idea of the model's scope and power).
Yet none of this can happen unless the matter with Griffith is resolved. Despite some success through my efforts in the meantime the main problem persists. For example, six months before former Premier Peter Beattie announced his Queensland-European Research Collaborations Initiative (QERCI) I had received an invitation from the European Union to participate in their research projects. Unfortunately, it cannot be followed up because one needs to be affiliated with an institute or university, something I cannot claim - see above. For more details see the CV.
As I said, perhaps my response has been all wrong. It seems a more rigorous, blunt approach makes for results under trying circumstances. For example, a bush ranger and police killer by the name of Ned Kelly achieved such fame his image is celebrated in paintings and his persona even made it into a citizenship questionnaire for immigrants. Or, rioting through the streets of Palm Island and burning down buildings have so impressed the authorities the aftermath saw a coronial inquiry, the involvement by the Director of Public Prosecutions, a former chief justice looked at the case and the people involved had their day in court.
On the other hand, someone who has actually produced something no-one else has can knock on the door of the Queensland and Federal Ombudsman, the Queensland and Federal Education Department, the Vice Chancellors Committee, the Australian Universities Quality Agency, the Carrick Institute, and Griffith's Academic Registrar - only to receive some dismissive note passed through the crack. Oh, I almost forgot; naturally I could assemble a legal team and take them to court myself - too bad I can't afford it.
And yet the university has virtually admitted their fault. Despite openly calling the three people mentioned above criminals (see Boils and chancres!) and threatening to take me to court for "bullying and defamation", and then repeating the same again later (see The gloves are off) nothing has happened. A reading of the Queensland Defamation Act 2005 might have convinced them otherwise.
The question I would like to put to you therefore is, have I missed something?
Yours sincerely,
Martin Wurzinger

Monday, 26 November 2007

And now for the future

For Australians this week marks the beginning of changed times. A couple of days ago the Australian Labor Party with its leader Kevin Rudd was elected.
The label ‘historic’ has been used a lot during those hours. Over eleven years of conservative government unseated by a massive swing; only three hours after the polling booths closed in the east (although Queensland doesn’t have summer time) the outcome was already becoming clear. For the first time since 1908 a man from Queensland became prime minister. First time for a female deputy. First time federal and state governments being Labor. The second time a prime minister not only loosing his office but also his seat in parliament.
Quite a few commentators may say, “I told you so”; take that as you will. But certain signs were there - the reference to future themes by the winners, not really matched by the other side or not at all. A feeling the incumbents being out of touch, of not really understanding the concerns expressed by many.
So here we are, and the nation is ready.
As usual there are numerous local issues, but the big picture cannot be overlooked. Climate change, our Middle Eastern entanglement, peak oil - these are not just background scenery, they are very much in the foreground as they determine our own and everybody else’s life on this planet.
And this is where Otoom comes in. The model’s predictive power has been proven many times (just go through the Parallels pages) and right now Australian politics follows a typical branching pattern of complex systems, a bifurcation if you will.
When minds open to new perceptions, that in itself is a pattern which becomes a functional template for more. Times are changing, in the large and the small, and the clock is ticking for many.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Complexity: the Law vs Nature

During the past week two events took place, independent of each other yet connected in a more profound sense.

First came the release of a report by Dr Graeme Pearman and the Climate Adaptation Science and Policy Initiative at the University of Melbourne. Evidence of Accelerated Climate Change warns that the predictions made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are too conservative. More comprehensive data from both polar regions show that an ice-free Arctic Ocean might not occur between 2050 to 2100 but much earlier. Rises in sea levels have also been underestimated.

On Friday Professor Justice Michael Kirby, one of Australia's seven High Court judges and a strong defender of human rights, gave a lecture, Fundamental Human Rights and Religious Apostasy. His main example was the case of a woman in Malaysia who wanted to leave her original religion Islam and now become registered as a Christian. Being a Muslim country eventually the High Court there decided against her, pointing out that although the constitution guarantees religious freedom, for an individual to choose leaving Islam was not permissible. Clearly, the notion of freedom of choice was not part of the wider interpretation when starting from the concept of religious freedom.

The evidence of climate change rides on an increasingly comprehensive picture emerging from the ongoing analysis of a multitude of data. The more information we have the more accurate our perception can be. Despite the opposition from so many quarters the urgency to act locally and globally becomes more and more pressing. The world of our grand children will be vastly different from what the human race has become used to, but at the very least the data necessary for a productive response are accessible.

Compare that to the situation in a religion-dominated society, where on one hand the few judicial parameters are visible but on the other do not encompass the far more complex mind set programmed by its belief system. For a Westerner the conclusion reached by the majority of the Malaysian High Court judges (two Muslims ruled against the appellant and one Christian decided in her favour) seems extraordinary, but such is the effect of a diffuse and pervasive mental landscape that almost anything is possible when an overriding compulsion demands it.

Much has been written and proclaimed in the context of human rights. Religious freedom is usually interpreted as the right to practise some belief, but rarely does that include the freedom from religion. A belief prospers when supported by an ideology, spiritual or secular, and no matter what its source has a profound effect on the cognitive processes under its guise.

Whether a challenge confronts an individual, a society, or an entire planet, productive solutions cannot be found if the steps taken have to rely on obscure and ill-defined notions.

There is a chance some societies will manage to live with the effects of climate change, possibly even ameliorate them, because their conceptualisations are mostly situated in the real. Yet there are also other demographics where ideas are far more convoluted.

A hint of what is to come can be seen in the tables shown on Demographic orientations. The figures for average life spans, infant mortality, and educational standards from around the world are relatable to the influence a belief system exerts upon the respective population. Right now there are hundreds of millions of people confined to their inner mental prisons where even under the current conditions they barely manage to survive, if at all. Now imagine what happens when rising sea levels, scarcity of water, and dislocation of food productions interfere with the already precarious existence of all those masses.

We will be able to watch the process over the coming years.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

An update... and the ego

Since the last post about Griffith University's threat of court action there has been silence.

Which is particularly remarkable because the following Thursday emails were once again sent to the staff at the School of Information & Communication Technology on Nathan Campus (ICT), pointing to that post. The last time this happened I got two responses, one complaining she wasn't a member of the staff, the other from the Deputy Head of ICT containing the threat. Now however there has been silence.

Some time ago various heads of offices (including the federal and Queensland Department of Education, The Carrick Institute, the Vice Chancellors Committee) were contacted about the affair but none was interested or it was considered outside their jurisdiction.

On Thursday the same people were emailed once again, informing them of the threat. Who knows what happens next.

Here is yet again a scenario that spans a considerable period of time, with major stakeholders adamant in their refusal to engage with legitimate complaints; in other words a situation which is allowed to fester and so gradually abandons the chances of a comfortable resolution.

Other examples can be found on a smaller as well as the larger scale. Family feuds come to mind, or relatively recent developments in the Queensland health system [1]. On a bigger scale still would be the fate of a country like Guyana, where, during the time of independence, much-needed land reform was dismissed by Britain and the US and its proponent, Cheddi Jagan, was eventually pushed aside as a socialist by his opponent, US-sponsored Forbes Burnham [2]. The irony of all this showed itself when Burnham turned the new nation into a communist state shortly after. It was a turbulent period.

By considering the scope of those examples the reader will be able to come up with similar episodes, large or small. In principle the story follows familiar lines: a contentious issue, an often self-imposed blindness by others gradually turning into opponents, and all for what? Just to feed the ego.


1. Morris calls for strong dose of immunity, Courier Mail, 19 Oct 2005.

2. C. Jagan, The West on Trial, Seven Seas Publishers, Berlin, 1972.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

The gloves are off

On the 7 Oct 07 the post Boils and chancres! outlined my position in the affair surrounding Griffith University. In it I asked whether certain players, notably the lecturer Terry Dartnall, the Deputy Head of the School of Information & Communication Technology on Nathan Campus, Peter Bernus, and the University's Vice Chancellor, Ian O'Connor, should not be classified as criminals due to their ongoing refusal to engage with substantial allegations raised against the evaluation of my honours thesis back in 1999.
It prompted an email by Peter Bernus threatening me with court action for bullying and defamation, a response I dealt with in my next post on the 14 Oct (The Empire strikes back!).
It is now three weeks later and the threat did not eventuate. This prompts a certain question. As a reading of the Queensland Defamation Act 2005 will show, for a defamation to be upheld in court the allegation will need to be proven. In other words, unless the facts show that a statement is demonstrably false any threat of court action is a waste of time.
Did Griffith University engage lawyers who, going through the material on record (including of course all the texts on this blog and on the Otoom website, in particular the opposition and The evaluation from hell!), came to a similar conclusion?
Whether such an assessment took place or not, the silence is interesting in any case. With the flawed conclusions in Peter Bernus' reply (including but not limited to, the swipe against the IPSI conferences - see my subsequent post) in addition to the quite strange criticism featured in the evaluation (see The evaluation from hell!) it really does seem as if anything coming from my side is either wilfully misinterpreted or insufficiently understood to begin with.
Do these people really think I would leave myself open to all kinds of attacks by pulling things out of thin air?
Let's not forget that quite apart from the honours thesis the research work that followed is based on detailed observations and analyses which require serious thought on behalf of the reader. The Otoom model of the mind (which, contrary to certain opinions, I have never claimed to be based on the thesis) opens many windows to significant issues affecting us all and therefore needs to be substantiated in so many ways. This places considerable pressure on any material of the challenging type, as researchers in similar situations would know.
Looking at such a wider reference my experience at Griffith should be a cause for concern to anyone who cares about the role of academia in a Western society.
Political tendentiousness, a disregard for potential cases of espionage, the University's tarnished reputation among lawyers, an infatuation with religion, and last but not least causes for dissatisfaction by some staff, they all undermine the role an academic institution ought to play.
Not everyone there should be painted with the same brush, as I have pointed out previously. Nevertheless, although in the current climate of financial pressures, high workloads, and often conflicting standards, any stepping out of line is not to be taken lightly, there comes a time when the need for a profound reassessment of one's direction should be answered. The failure to do so has more damaging consequences overall than the personal fate.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Teaching blindness

Is it possible to teach blindness? You bet.

Case 1. The other day I bought a piece of software which came in a number of files, altogether several hundred megabytes large. There were problems with downloading so I asked to pay the extra charge for a CD burn and shipping after the software itself was already paid for. That's when the trouble started. Their website didn't allow for ordering the burn for that version, and naturally I didn't want to order - and pay for - the whole thing again. I am still involved in trying to explain the situation so that I may get an answer that makes sense in terms of what their system allows a customer to do.

Case 2. While working on the OtoomCM computer program there was the need to save certain screen areas for later reference as the program was running. The bitmap file format suited fine, but for several reasons I had to write and slightly modify the bitmap-file producing function myself. The way Microsoft designed this function is a case study in obscurantism, and so I hunted around the internet for some hint on how the reading of pixels is actually accomplished. There were dozens upon dozens of web pages offering advice about the use of the MS function per se, essentially useless because the parameters make that rather obvious anyway. Yet not a single one explained the weird system used by Windows. It took many frustrating hours trying to figure out how they did it.

Case 3. In various discussion groups I tried to explain my use of the word 'functionality', its understanding essential for an understanding of the Otoom model itself. Although I abided strictly by the definition Webster's, the Oxford English Dictionary, and the Macquarie Dictionary offered, I couldn't get through to certain people because they stuck to the more specific meaning developed later by researchers in the fields of artificial intelligence and others. Using the general meaning common in the English language just didn't work with them.

Case 4. In an article submitted to a journal I was criticised for not dealing with a number of hypotheses that seek to explain in various ways how the mind works. None of them had proven useful, and therefore wasting precious space on things that do not apply seemed futile. Still, those conceptualisations were so ingrained in the minds of the reviewers that stepping outside their bounds was just too much to ask.

What do those cases have in common?

There is a mindset trained to process a given template and not more. Such a mind had never been given the opportunity to deconstruct a scenario in terms of its inherent elements, so that a reassembled version could be applied to the purpose at hand. If that template happened to be appropriate the information was processed, but anything even slightly outside such a norm constituted a challenge. Since the challenge cannot be taken up the situation is not responded to and a constructive outcome proves elusive.

For many decades pupils and students have been faced with a fundamentally different teaching method, one that is "outcome based" and "holistic" rather than concentrating on schematically organising one's thoughts. Information is presented in chunks, and those chunks are interpreted and reinterpreted without giving the learning mind the chance to understand the underlying bits and pieces.

The result is the mind's inability to reorganise an overall concept to suit the moment, and so university lecturers have to teach new students basic maths while education departments focus first and foremost on sociology and social justice rather than on literacy and numeracy, turning schools into "quasi-sociology departments". Of course sociology and social justice are important, but how can you properly evaluate an event if the capacity to critically evaluate its components is missing?

In programming the current development platforms enable the quick and easy assembly of functions - just drag the icon into your form and it's done. Nothing wrong with that, except there is now a whole generation of programmers who simply don't know what stands behind those functions and what's more, don't even see the need to understand their finer points.

Academic journals have settled into well-trodden paths of endlessly repetitive concepts, with no freedom to step beyond the rut no matter how promising such an escape could be.

And simple questions about payment methods turn into a frustrating cycle of emails that in no time escalate into ridiculous complications.

A corollary to the above would be the inability of people to appreciate the detailed mapping out of results as a confirmation of one's message. How can they if the functional detail of a concept had never been the subject of their mental processes to begin with? I strongly suspect this flaw played a considerable role in the evaluation of my thesis at Griffith University.

No wonder that in the UK synthetic phonics is reintroduced into the classroom, and in Australia the government has recognised the serious problem of many graduates being incompetent in basic science, math or history.

Under Otoom the inherent pattern of a given cognitive process - whatever its representative nature - gives rise to further complexes. If those patterns are insufficient or too coarse, the resultant applicability of the complexes will suffer too.

It is high time the post-modernist and feminist habits of mindless chunking are given the flick.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Globalisation and the disappearance of skills

The migration of industries and their associated expertise from the developed world to newcomers such as China and India is not a new phenomenon and has been amply commented upon by now.

Related issues about flawed goods that had to be recalled at great cost (think of Mattel and their toys) and price dumping due to the sheer opportunity offered have also made themselves felt. Only recently the European Union saw fit to take measures against China's state-sponsored undercutting of steel prices. The latter's steel output is massive, the product is often of lesser quality and sold below production costs with significant consequences in the EU.

Under the economic perspective there are two extreme views; one advocates a completely open trade with no restrictions across borders, on the other end are the import restrictions which in effect constitute trade barriers and lead to the isolation of old.

I leave economics to the economists, but it is an interesting exercise to consider the situation in terms of Otoom.

There we have systems within systems, defined by their respective complexity, connectivity, and number of functional elements. These can be circumscribed as functionalities with respect to the exhibited dynamics.

We can also identify conceptual intersections; that is to say properties of the participating elements which, when compared with their respective counterparts in a neighbouring domain, allow their degree of complexity to be compared with each other. If information travels from a domain of high complexity to one of a lower kind, many associations get pared away and the result in the target area has become poorer. Should the movement occur in the other direction, further associations (now made possible due to the target's higher complexity) get added to the data but are in no direct relationship to the contingencies at the source. For example, a project designed by first-world scientists runs aground in a third-world region because it cannot be properly instantiated there. Or, an utterance by a child is turned into a sophisticated concept by adults.

In functional terms 'system' can be transposed into 'economy', 'data' become 'goods', and 'functional elements' are now 'human activities' in a society. Nevertheless, in terms of the underlying meanings the relationships still hold.

Another feature of such systems are their interdependency. Although a subsystem can be identified as a separate entity, it cannot exist in isolation from the rest of its domain. A steel mill for example may be unique, but without adequate transport, energy supply, and a suitably trained work force it won't function. Transport cannot exist without roads and rail, needs fuel or electricity, another work force, and so on and so on.

The overall quality of a subsystem (defined under the terms mentioned above - complexity, connectivity, etc) therefore relies on comparable characteristics of its neighbours. A breakdown in them anywhere transmits its effects across the network.

Everything in life has a cost, and the maintenance of subsystems is no exception. Hence the training of a work force, industrial standards to be upheld, health and welfare, the availability of education and the quality of life in general, they all come at a cost met by the system overall. Goods from developing countries are cheap because in those economies the costs expended upon the population are lower too. Lower costs means less variance, lower quality overall, and gets translated into an output that now competes with similar products in the importing First World. So much so that entire industries have disappeared in the West, and with them the related skills and self-sufficiency.

To let go of the manufacture of garments for instance may not have a catastrophic effect in a place like the EU or Australia, but it does mean that the stakes have now been raised in the context of international competitiveness. If the entire system (ie, Australia) is capable of up-skilling its work force such that more sophisticated output takes the place of garments, all is well and good. In terms of interdependent systems - at any scale - two potential problems arise at that point.

One, should the other domain (for example, China) experience difficulties, the availability of its products becomes affected and therefore influences everyone else who has come to rely on its supply. And Two, should Australia's work force contain sections that cannot be readily trained upwards, we witness the emergence of niches living outside the required standard. Instituting assistance programs for those demographics may or may not work.

From a system's point of view, and considering the costs carried by a system in order to maintain its standards as well as the aspect of interdependency, the solution would be to peg the tariffs on imports to the relativity identifiable in terms of those respective standards.

In other words, if the overall costs of a given product in a high-complexity region is x, and its counterpart in a region of low-complexity is x minus a, where a represents the difference between the costs born by the higher and the lower region, then the tariff at the border to the high-complexity region will be a pro rata. It is not an arbitrary tariff, but a value arrived at by positing the respective societal costs next to each other.

As far as systems are concerned, such values are not artificial because they reflect the very real difference between standards, and they would not be destructive to either side because they are based on existent dynamics, according to which, after all, either system functions.

As such pro rata tariffs are nothing new. Whether applied to the specific usage of shipping tugs for example or the supply of information by State Public Sector Agencies, a basic cost is adjusted according to the conditions at the time. The above merely represents an extension of the concept applied to the wider system.

Given the sheer magnitude of emerging economies and the costly challenges faced by everyone in today's world (just consider climate change and political altercations), the time may not be far off when these considerations are no longer idle musings but will have become a necessity.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

The Empire strikes back!

After last week's post emails have been sent to the staff from Griffith University's School of Information & Communication Technology on Nathan Campus, pointing them to that post. There is the possibility that, if they are familiar with the affair at all, they would have been given the university's version only.

That was on Thursday, and interestingly two responses came in straight away. One complained she was not a member of the staff despite her name appearing on the list provided by the School itself. "It seems you have too much time on your hands and you need to move on as have some of the staff you mention", it went on.

Great piece of logic there, lady. As the thug said to his victim, still limping from the assault, "Why don't you move on? I did!"

The other response came from the Deputy Head of School, Peter Bernus, who linked the thesis and the IPSI-2005 Venice paper that deals with an aspect of the Otoom model (and which, in his opinion, "would perhaps qualify as artistry"). I, the one currently known as The Artist, never claimed the two were connected in any way or form, and calling into question the reputation of the IPSI conference (which "accepts anything and everything and has no scientific value") does not contribute to the argument.

The IPSI conferences may or may not have "scientific value", although a quick reading through the material offered on their website does provide some impressive qualifications of the people behind that venture. (Want to read something funny? Check out one of their pages)

In any case, Peter Bernus' email ended with threatening me with court action for "bullying and defamation".

Again, an interesting logic, if that is the word. To be subjected to a scurrilous evaluation of your work and being dismissive of any points raised in one's defence is acceptable, but as soon as you dare complain about it the cry goes up: "Bully!"

It appears the affair has entered the next phase.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Boils and chancres!

Over the past few days On the origin of Mind has been available as an e-book. In the vast space of the internet it has quietly slipped into the repertoire of the search engines.
Under more usual circumstances the event would have been different. How the mind works has been a conundrum for ages, and no university or institute would have missed the opportunity to ensure such a splash would have wetted the widest audience.
Not this time. No official entity whose interests could be served means effective silence. The affair with Griffith University saw to it.
The details have been presented, and the players, the background and much else besides (see the further links in the pages referred to here).
The question can be asked: How can it be that a blatant disregard for truth can be so effectively protected by a small group of individuals who have no particular status outside their professional circles?
The facts are there for all to see, whether in my own description (see above) or in the thesis itself which is kept in the University library for general perusal. Perhaps I really am incapable of parsing sentences, especially my own, and my writing ends up containing words I cannot perceive myself. Perhaps I deluded myself in thinking a certain text says one thing when everyone else would clearly recognise something else. Perhaps all this is true and the moment will come when, suitably chastised, I stand corrected. But then again, perhaps not.
Should the latter hold - and I claim it does - then for an examiner to deliberately obfuscate one's writing to suit a spurious allegation, can be seen as criminal. Add the consequences of such acts and it's easy to see why perpetrators of this kind have ended up in jail.
Moreover, if others conspire to hide such deeds, to protect them from an outsider's view, then the label 'criminal' surely applies to them as well.
So, what does that make you then, Terry Dartnall, who have refused to enter into any correspondence about this matter; what does that make you, Peter Bernus, who has tried to shift the perception into the arena of esoteric frameworks relating to thesis formats in general; and what does that make you, Ian O'Connor, who as Vice-Chancellor remains satisfied with the bland assurances of those involved - if not a criminal?
The effects of arrogant authority have been reviled throughout the ages. Why, in the 15th century Francois Villon writes in one Ballade,
In sublimate that's dangerous and gives pain,
In a live serpent's navel, horribly;
In blood that's put in bowls to dry and drain,
In barbers' shops, when the full moon is high,
Some green as chives, some black when they are dry;
In boils and chancres - tubs where nurses go
To wash their filthy nappies in a row;
In those small baths of women amorous,
(Who'll understand must first the brothels know),
May those tongues fry that once did trouble us!
Of course, these days we are much more civilised. We have lawyers to do our bidding. Speaking of which - where are they?
Ref: Francois Villon, Poems [italics 3], Everyman's Library, London, 1968, p. 111.

Sunday, 30 September 2007


Have you ever seen a ghost?

Try as I might, I never have. But I know others who did, and quite possibly the lack of a similar experience prevents me from getting too caught up with those stories.

Despite such distance I don't know of anyone who has 'seen' Richard III or Napoleon or Beethoven. Those second-hand tales involved friends and relatives, but the question can be raised nevertheless: why are the perceptions always about familiar figures, someone already known to the person in some way or form?

As a prerequisite there would be the ambience of the moment. A bit of mystery, some irregularity of the setting, the predisposition of the witness inviting the unusual - but all within strict bounds.

Deconstructing the scenario we find a particularly configured mindset and its counterpart, the surrounding atmosphere. This functional template, this recipe if you will, can be applied to other situations not normally associated with the 'supernatural'. The effect is similar in principle, that is to say an affirmation of what has been expected found in the perceptive result.

An astral shape confirms one's knowledge of history (general or personal), fits satisfactorily into the moment, and reinforces the cognitive processes leading up to that point. On a more mundane level the stance of a person relates to what is already known about them, does not unseat one's expectation, and confirms what one thinks would have happened anyway.

I remember something that took place a long time ago. A birthday party was held in my honour and when it came to leave a driver was waiting to take me away. As I was getting into the car it began to move immediately with the door still half open. A small boy came running to shake my hand but the crowd pushed and he was hit by the door. Nothing serious, we were hardly moving and looking back the boy seemed fine. Still, we didn't stop, no-one bothered with the child and with everybody waving good-bye their body language did not relate to the mishap at all. Why?

There was the festive event, the guest of honour. There was the show of goodwill, all the gestures produced to underline its intent. An accident occurred, too small to shift the seat of common perceptions. Under the circumstances I was not expected to halt the proceedings, a series of events requiring their start, middle, and end. Stopping the car would have stalled the closure as well.

Again, a functional template acted out according to plan. A diversion would have changed the frame, rendered the entire episode unfulfilling for all concerned. And so we drove off.

Observe society and a whole set of such scripts become visible. From revolutionary upheavals to elections to weddings to passing-out parades to the morning coffee, they all follow a pre-defined direction that everyone follows.

Because that's the point: regardless of the joy or the anger on offer, it seems the familiarity of the outcome is more important than the sensations along the way.

We are not automatons, so we keep telling ourselves. Yet in a very profound sense the evidence says otherwise. In classical Greek tragedy the players are being pushed towards their inevitable demise, an end everyone foresees and so expects. This includes the hero, but such is the path its very profundity does not allow the slightest diversion. To turn away would make a mockery of the noble mind, and only when in tears do we truly understand greatness.

How sad.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

You precious!

Last year the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change listed a series of costs associated with a change in weather patterns.

Established forms of behaviour are labeled ‘progression locks’ under the Otoom mind model, and they exist not only in our mental processes but can be found in any system, from the biological to the mechanical.

To modify a function costs. In eco-systems the effects are self-regulating; with human affairs outside resources are brought in to compensate for the loss. In the case of climate change much will have to give.

Recently the Queensland government commissioned a study of the effects of peak oil, the results of which were announced in the Courier Mail under the headline End of the Oil Age is near.

In that context David Room of Global Public Media interviewed Andrew McNamara, member for Hervey Bay, Queensland.

The study concentrated on the economics of a region suddenly confronted with diminishing resources of a very fundamental nature. In Australia peak oil has already occurred, but at the moment its economy, integrated with the rest of the world, has largely escaped the more profound responses from a system that is in the process of undergoing a major shift.

Although the price of oil is rising, there are considerable buffers around the world to ensure that so far life can go on as usual - more or less. But this will change.

From Otoom’s point of view there are aspects which go beyond the obvious such as transport, tourism, the price of goods in general.

The last 50 years have given the West an unparalleled opportunity to indulge in whims that at other times and in other places would not even have been considered, let alone carried out. Entire generations have come to believe in the absoluteness of their habits, living in a cocoon of assumed security about their peccadilloes.

Those habits have been sustained through the availability of plenty, its most basic driver cheap oil. What happens when the floor suddenly gives way?

Our thoughts are more than their open manifestations in word and gesture; they also exist in the form of subliminal trains, carrying their particles of perception around our minds behind the conscious stage. The effects are no less important.

Imagine what will happen when there simply is no time to send a group of counsellors to a school because the children there have lost their pet rabbit. What will happen when a mother’s indignation of not having her daughter included in class falls on deaf ears. When everybody is too busy to listen to a moral campaigner who rails against our young looking at naked humans.

What degree of priority will be given to the issue of shiny hair, cascading around the shoulders of the goddess, and what will be the value of designer sunglasses to meet life’s daily challenges?

An entire industry has grown around the need to find one’s true self, an exercise in interpretation and reinterpretation of noble trivia. Position your limbs just so and the world’s problems are solved. What price narcissism then?

A system that haplessly rushes to the aid of the selfish bore starved social skills to the bone - who needs manners when the pieces are picked up by an army of aides driven by their own need for self-fulfillment in the face of stupidity.

How will those demographics of the world fare when their traditional benefactors have other things on their minds, when their own preoccupation with religion and sectarian identity leaves them open to nature’s games and nobody cares anymore. When their demands for cultural sensitivity as a precondition for aid have become meaningless.

What will happen to a village when there is no outsider who digs a hole for them to find water? What will happen to the little kid who can’t get his hair style any more?

I mean, who on earth can live like that??

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Tradition, tradition

In a few days from now the book On the origin of Mind will be available on the Otoom website as an e-book.
The work deals with many areas - science, philosophy, and religion. No matter what the focus however, the framework is a scientific one. This means that assertions are based on observation, analysis, and conclusion. Results are repeatable and falsifiable.
They are also new and radical in the sense that so far no-one has come up with a similarly comprehensive and harmonious description of cognitive processes. Various sections on the Otoom website give a hint of that, but here are all the details.
That raises certain questions, particularly under more traditional auspices.
The familiar path of new scientific discoveries has been from the workbench to the notes to an academic journal. There it is peer-reviewed and if passed goes into publication for all the world to see.
Clearly, this case is different. There has been the 'workbench' of course (the people of this world, existing research, and the computer programming environment), there are the notes, but there are only a few papers in circulation and what's more, none of them provide the overall basis.
For that to be accomplished it needs a book to begin with. Many theories have been advanced over the centuries, with some proving more, others less tenacious. On many occasions the reader needs to reset their conceptualisation of how things are, so ten, twenty, even thirty pages are not enough to explain it all. But book publishers shy away from taking on something about which there had been no preceding awareness. Gleick's Chaos may have been new to many people but the journal articles came long before. And, once published, the book became a huge success.
In addition anything new invites scepticism; that is healthy. It also means the author needs to supply the data and references in abundance so that someone else can indeed follow the path from beginning to end. If there is a mistake it can be handled formally, and if there isn't that also becomes clear.
Here are the figures for the book: Part I (13 chapters, 269 pages, 527 references), Part II (6 chapters, 149 pages, 441 references), Bibliography (61 pages), Index (11 pages, 2-column); total including table of contents, appendix, glossary, overview (25 sections, 520 pages, 970 references).
As for the computer programs OtoomCM and OWorm the figures are: OtoomCM (330 tests), OWorm (320 basic test runs, 560 evaluation test runs); total (1210 tests). OMo runs just as an example of what the system can do.
Such volume would already be a barrier for many. Who has the time to go through all that? Still, the data are there for the taking.
When it comes to peer reviews, the idea is to enable an evaluation by outsiders. They are usually three experts from the field, plus the odd editor or two. Once passed, the paper gets published and hence is seen by many. Nevertheless, there is a pre-existing authority that says, "Read this; it has value". What if the reviewers do not see eye to eye with the material? Let's say already existing frameworks intrude upon their perspectives and the material is judged according to other approaches already done. If those happened to have failed (which is the case when it comes to the workings of the mind) the reviewers' own cognitive space is already pre-loaded with irrelevant data. Semioticians would have a field-day teasing apart the connections between the symbols of one and those of the other.
Just consider the seemingly endless list of papers surrounding the hypotheses categorised variously under such labels as connectionism, dynamicism, etc etc, and read Stevan Harnad's paper Minds, Machines and Searle 2: What's Right and Wrong About the Chinese Room Argument.
Editors of journals want their product to be taken seriously; nothing wrong with that. However, over the years their position has been enhanced by such pressures as 'publish or perish', which forces most academics into a rather servile relationship with the journals. See what Ronald Stamper, a semiotician, has to say about that situation in the footnote to his Stumbling across a "Soft Mathematics"? while Exploring some Issues of Organisation, Law and Metaphysics.
Soon On the origin of Mind can be downloaded from the website by all and read, reviewed, analysed, critiqued and criticised by anyone to their hearts’ content. In the end, that’s how it should be.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Why attack a fortress?

Ask yourself: why did armies in the Middle Ages insist on attacking a fortress and bloody their heads?
Why not occupy the land and establish yourself there? Having land but not a fortress can still give you food, but a fortress without land is just a hulk of stone. (Ah, I hear you say, if you have the fortress you also own the land. - Really?)
On that same note, why storm a palace - are they such a magnet to a hopeful resident?
Now shift to the present, and consider democracy. What is the difference, if not having several factions under the same roof. You can see the attraction: no more sieges, no more conquests. It must be more than a love for heavy oak and shiny candelabras. Or perhaps not, judging by the opulence of today's chambers.
Maybe the occupiers had become more hospitable, or maybe they had lost the will to maintain their solitude at all costs. If that is so, democracy only works within circles of the accommodating.
For let us not get stuck on the trivial. The map shows many nations that have borrowed the word 'democracy' for aesthetic purposes, because their actual governance is anything but.
"He protesteth too much" can be seen from many directions; true democracy does not need the extra ink on the stationery.
Must you storm the palace? Can't live nearby? Then the Democratic Republic of... is for you. The compatriots are waiting.
But there's the rub. Peasants do not form societies, just as ants in the forest are lost without their queen.
A Head needs careful nurturing in a crib, a cocoon away from the battle. In good time there might be a colony, then a state, and a while later still the court is looking for a home. The cocoon moves to its new premises. And nothing has changed.
The cycle continues. Shielded from the adversities of common life the Head plans and plots, but out there, in the dusty streets suitably distant from the manicured lawns of the Residence, they struggle.
Time for another change? Don't bother with the palace, you only get your hands dirty.
Instead settle for something of your own. See the home as something where you are, rather than where you want to be. Slums do it all the time.
There is only one problem. In due course life has to be managed, and managed well. For this it needs well-developed facilities, solid things that work.
They also have value - and so back to the palace.

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Ah - those Hypotheticals!

Many years ago the ABC (that's the Australian Broadcasting Commission) ran a TV series called the Hypothetical, presented by Geoffrey Robertson. He is a human rights lawyer, now in the London.

I like the man. He is articulate, precise, says what he means and means what he says, and of course there is his target, human rights, or rather the abuse of them.

But back to the program. He covered a series of topics - topical topics in fact - for which he invited prominent people, politicians, professionals, heads of departments. Pillars of society one might call them.

Hypothetical situations were played out in which the guests had to respond with their own attitudes and opinions for all to see. It was interesting to watch a righteous representative from the bush wanting to witness the execution of someone caught with illegal drugs in the fictitious land of Xanadu. "That's a pity", Robertson counters, because Xanadu happens to be a Muslim country where the penalty for drinking is death. Plenty of grog where the politician comes from... you get the picture.

Wouldn't it be nice to have another version of those programs, but this time even more realistic.

The politician or professional is confronted with a panel of people who have the facts at their disposal (and who are not afraid of voicing them, one might add). Instead of hiding behind glib news-speak they would have to defend their stance and openly debate with facts and figures, telling us how exactly they came to their decisions. Who knows, they even could be right, but then again maybe not.

One candidate could be Associate Professor Darryl Jones, Director of the Centre for Innovative Conservation Strategies at Griffith University, Brisbane, who would have to explain why thousands of people should be subject to considerable inconvenience to say the least. See on another post what the problem is about. Imagine...

Professor Jones, why aren't we allowed to do something about the crows, do you know how noisy they are? - They are just being noisy teenagers.

Their decibel levels are higher than lawn mowers, and there are council laws limiting their use. - Crows are an indigenous species, they need to be protected.

Because they are indigenous? 80 decibels and higher makes for serious sleep deprivation, which has been recognised by the WHO as a form of torture. - There may be some older people in nursing homes who are affected, so? Anyway, they clean the place of rubbish.

Leave our garbage disposal in the hands of crows? Do you know how cities look like if not councils but animals deal with the rubbish? - Crows are a precious resource, they need protection.

In urban centres? Brisbane has well over 300,000 of them, and the city is for people, not birds. - And so on...

Add a representative from the UN, the city council, the sanitation department and I think we'd have an interesting debate.

Make it an hour-long grilling. If their arguments stand up, so much the better.

And if they don't - that makes for good ratings too!

PS: To be precise, the first statement by Professor Jones comes from an interview he gave for the Courier Mail. Statement #2 has been taken from a letter to me written by the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service who in turn sourced the information from the people at Griffith University. The third comes from a pamphlet by the same organisation. The last comes again from the professor directly.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

An update... and a question

In a previous update I mentioned the various entities I approached in the context of my dispute with Griffith University.

All in all there were seven, with fourteen individuals spread among them. From the Australian University Quality Agency to the Vice-Chancellor’s Committee, they seemed to be the kind of offices who one could expect to respond. Then there were Griffith’s vice-chancellor Ian O'Connor, the lecturer Terry Dartnall at the School of Information & Communication Technology and its deputy head Peter Bernus, the Academic Registrar Richard Armour, plus the heads of the other thirty-two schools and faculties. Next in line came the State Premier Peter Beattie’s office.

The hope was that somebody out there would appreciate the situation for what it was and felt the need to at least acquaint themselves further with my allegations. However none of them, including those more directly concerned at the university itself, shared this view. In the case of the latter any consideration remained restricted to the cabal of insiders who would have been the last to produce an objective insight.

Therefore my next, and possibly last, port of call is the federal member of the Griffith electorate, Kevin Rudd. He also happens to be leader of the current Labor opposition, gearing up for the up and coming election later this year. An event that already hogs the news services in no uncertain terms and no wonder, because much is at stake.

Given there are only twenty-four hours in an increasingly tense day we’ll see how much extra time can be spared by himself or someone in his office. Talk about converging developments.

It really is a strange situation to be in. My personal disposition not only relates to this affair but also rests on the Otoom mind model and its significance in the greater scheme of things.

What in the end determines the importance of something? It may not necessarily be its inherent value because it often takes involvement and understanding to appreciate that, two things that demand time and effort. A considerable factor comes from publicity, in other words the public image. Everybody knows Einstein, but not everyone thinks they understand quantum physics let alone does.

Deprive yourself of the chance to cultivate the wider exposure and the agenda becomes precarious. Think how even an Einstein would have fared had he been denounced and thrown into prison, buried behind official opprobrium.

It’s a vicious circle: being kept on the outer ensuring alienation and lack of familiarity maintaining the exile.

The options for breaking the chain go from one extreme to the other. The value has to be there, but acclaim needs a different momentum. From militant disruption (think of Nelson Mandela) to the passing of time (think of Galileo) the pot is stirred one way or another forcing the established layers of human hierarchies out of their comfort zones.

Each comes with a cost. But, if it’s any consolation, in the end the cost is shared by everyone.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

The reasons against Otoom - again

In the previous post on that topic I mentioned some of the more obvious reasons why the Otoom model can grate against someone's perception of their world. Its descriptive framework focusing on functionality rather than content so that patterns become visible, the definition of an individual's or a group's situatedness within their culture in an objective, non-ideological sense, and so on.
There can also be deeper reasons for becoming uncomfortable with using such a view.
Since Otoom treats cognitive behaviour first and foremost as a system based on chaos-type attractors and hence affinities between clusters, the emergence of complexity as well as the deconstruction of affinities can be observed. These phenomena can relate to ideations as well as concepts and cultural memes at higher scales.
A human activity system that presents itself as a well-developed entity and featuring many subsystems can do so because its inherent characteristics (size, number of members, connectivity, processing potential, resources) allow it to be so. Similar developments can be observed in other areas of nature and indeed life itself, and so the evolutionary path from the simple to the highly complex does not need recourse to some mystical power but is a completely natural function of life's processes.Therefore Otoom builds upon Darwin's description of evolution, but goes one step further. Not only is natural selection being adhered to, but an ongoing development is also defined in terms of what feature does not [italics 1] meet a constraint. Take beetles - these insects have many useful functions allowing them to have grown into the most prolific order in its class, but with many an outlandish body shape emerged simply because it could. If in due course the environment presented no problem such a shape allowed the genus to survive (see an example in the stag beetle below).

From: E. Reitter, Fauna Germanica, K.G. Lutz' Verlag, Stuttgart 1909.

Similar dependencies can be observed in human behaviour.
Religionists, those who require the presence of a mystical god to bring the wonders of this world into existence, stall at such a deconstruction.
A corollary to the above is the progression lock. It refers to the step-by-step evolutionary path and its multitude of junctions, with each a determinant of what can follow given the already existing framework. Unless some event undoes a junction the developmental direction of that entity is laid down in a very specific way. Take urban development - to modify a building in a street is more easily done than changing the layout of the street (that's why the general plan of most European cities reflects the effects of a major fire some time back in their history). On a lower level similar cause-and-effect relationships hold too; for instance compare the general evolution of the skeleton in mammals to that in whales.
In human cognition a progression lock can have devastating effects. An ideologue may be open to all kinds of arguments, but dare touch on their core belief and the claws come out.
It would be a fascinating exercise to apply these principles to existence in its widest sense. How would a quantum physicist approach the question of the beginning of the universe: a rapidly following series of fundamental progression locks during the first few moments of its birth? What else could have been?
Because another major feature of complex systems is the sheer interdependence of its subsystems, any given characteristic is subject to an ongoing feedback loop ensuring that it appears useful to a casual observer. To go back to our example of urban layouts, once a certain street appears just so people will make use of its configuration and therefore such a utility will remain largely unquestioned. Sure, in a certain, contemporary sense that street is useful, but was that really the full intent of those who were responsible for its appearance, and could there have been something better?
Individuals who question those underlying assumptions are called iconoclasts and quite a few of them were murdered for their efforts. And yet, without their courageous ability we would still live in caves.
In a world of an ever increasing potential for self-destruction - a product of emergent complexity - we must unlearn our propensity to stand in awe before those who distinguish themselves by an unwavering adherence to their convictions. The emotional stamina for it should be recognised for what it is - the sign of a psychopath.
Otoom uncloaks their nature. Therefore it is dangerous.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

An update... and a Thank You

The Premier's Office has been contacted again. I was told my previous email had not been received and was asked to submit another request for a meeting (on the other hand, I know that email was opened exactly 5 minutes 39 seconds after being sent). In any case, let's see what happens this time.
And now a big Thank You to all those people who visited the Otoom website and this blog.
Judging by the web stats there must be thousands who have been to Otoom, from over forty countries. Although the blog received far less at this stage, there are the feeds and the cross referrals between the two. So it's not YouTube, but then again the topic is very specialised and it does require some effort to keep reading through the pages. A Thank You to you all out there!
Let's not forget too that word spreads to those who may not be visitors themselves. Consider the constantly increasing number of confirmations which demonstrate that other individuals have arrived at similar conclusions to Otoom (167 confirmations all around and counting - see Parallels). As I mentioned in the Parallels, they would not have known about the model but analysing reality at large brought them to a particular conclusion.
On the other hand, the time could have come where it is feasible to assume some of those individuals actually are aware of Otoom and articulated their perceptions accordingly. Note the tentative wording - at this stage I cannot be more specific.
However, this is not the first time decision makers and politicians had been approached with some effect, however indirect it may have been in some cases. In the early 90s ideas from the book "Logic and Order in Society" (I referred to it briefly in the Opposition) did find their way into official pronouncements. Following are some examples.
- In 1987 the FitzGerald Commission on Australia's immigration invited comments from the public. References to the suitability of new arrivals in my submission found their way into the Commission's report. In June 1995 Prime Minister Paul Keating announced a $25 million initiative to teach Australians "about the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and the functions of government".
- In 1988 details for an electronic checking system for life stock was suggested to the New South Wales Farmers Association and Elders Pastoral. In its 1992 Yearbook the Australian Meat Research Corporation had taken up the idea. Alas, it wasn't until July 2005 that a National Livestock Identification System came into force.
- In August 1992 "Project 21" was forwarded to the Prime Minister's office. It outlined the need for computer-based linkages of universities. A report ("Electronic Facilities Network to Enhance Tertiary Open Learning Services") was published in August 1993 by the working party of the Committee of Australian University Directors of Information Technology (CAUDIT), which in turn responded to a consultants' report commissioned by the Department of Employment, Education and Training. This report emphasised the need for computer-based integration among Australia's educational facilities.
- Still on "Project 21", in April 1995 Prime Minister Paul Keating announced a prime ministerial council in order to study the establishment of a nation-wide computer network to enable Australia join the information super highway. Very much in line with "Project 21".
But as I said, as far as Otoom is concerned it's early days yet.

Saturday, 28 July 2007

A culture most peculiar

In a previous post I mentioned some of the players at Griffith University who would have been of influence in this ongoing affair.

But, as every detective knows, there is such a thing as circumstantial evidence. Hints and signs that may not be directly relevant yet reveal the nature of someone's surrounds, their ambience and culture. Becoming familiar with this type of evidence opens doors and dissolves the mist.

Arriving at Griffith it didn't take long before the place struck you as somehow tendentious. On the very first day there was the introductory performance by Lisa Banyard, chairperson of the local student union, a body run by activists where membership is compulsory for every student and which never lost an opportunity to push its political agenda. In her talk to us newcomers she couldn't suppress mentioning her union's affirmative gender action policy resulting in The Women's Room, an exclusively female space. To the question by someone in the audience, "Why isn't there a place only for men?" Lisa's answer was, "Well, that's politics!".

Nothing wrong with a political agenda - especially if you're young, first time away from a cloying home, and are invited to rebel to your excited heart's content. Except that a body such as the Griffith University Student Representative Council demanded $111.00 membership fee per student per semester (to be paid in total at the beginning of the year - $222 in one hit do make a difference to those on a measly budget) and in 1997 for example the university counted 15,948 students. That translates into well over $3.5 million for an exclusive little club of intellectual narcissists to play with year after year.

If three-and-a-half million dollars makes you wonder what that kind of money can buy, a look behind the dingy office with its couple of photo copiers, the GUSRC's token service to those 16,000-odd students, and the monthly rag Gravigrrrl, a never-drying well of feminist rants, may provide the answer (re Gravigrrrl: in one of its articles I once substituted the word 'man' with 'black' and 'woman' with 'white' - my listeners reacted with horror). I almost forgot - there were the performances by some musicians on campus grounds once or twice or so during the semester; a friend of mine got to play there every now and then, but he never got paid a cent.

In 2000 the Shepherdson enquiry revealed big-party connections and references to the Australian Workers Union having retained control over the GUSRC through dummy candidates.

During 2001 for instance Griffith's band of protesters spent at least $40,000 on demonstrations, political activism that, for all the pious officiousness towards democracy, remained as exclusively left as it was unassailable. In 2002 it all became too much even for the university when it finally threatened to suspend funding (funding? - for someone who gets $3.5 million already??) unless the SRC abided by its own constitution. Clearly, the enquiries and emerging complaints in their wake had left their mark. Mind you, in all those years before no high-gowned mandarin could be bothered.

Enough of the wider framework, although it shows once again how interests further afield create a very particular set of characteristics where much goes unchecked provided it leaves the higher agenda to do its bidding. A typical dictatorial scenario, a breeding ground for abuse.

A culture thus promoted makes itself felt through the smaller detail. Suppose there is the subject "Ethical Issues in Computing", and suppose the female tutor decides to use its thema as an exercise in political correctness. The students are given the hypothetical (?) situation where 'illegal content' is discovered on someone's computer and the Assistant Manager (played by the student) needs to respond. A nice test of one's attention in class, political orientation, and dexterity with euphemisms! To the more critical it also affords the opportunity to collect some statistics about the extent of representation available to women vs men when it comes to workplace related issues - figures which predominantly favour women in every state and capital in Australia.

No response there, the marks were as high as usual. In the final and most important exam however the essay required three specific subtopics, identified by their headings. I certainly dealt with those topics, except that I changed the words in the subheadings to better relate to their content. As I discovered later I almost failed that subject because I allegedly did not do what I was asked - an assessment either based on nothing more than a perfunctory glance at the words in the subheadings, or done for a deeper reason. A complaint to the lecturer - away from Jenny Gasston the tutor - and he restored my marks without much ado. It was my first introduction to academic payback.

Perhaps the silly evaluation of my honours thesis was some grotesque way to get back at my supervisor, Grigoris Antoniou? After all, a successful student or otherwise does reverberate back to the lecturer.

I remember a scene one day. The lecturer - a female - took longer than usual to finish her own session and vacate the theatre. All hundred or so of us milled around the door unable to get in. Finally Grigoris couldn't wait anymore and he told us to enter anyway. As he walked up to the lectern the woman protested, "But I am ... (so and so) and how dare you ...", to which Grigoris replied, "And I am a professor at ... so get out!" Two minutes later our own lecture was underway.

Then there was the criticism of his clothes, or at least the rumour of it. Apparently his superiors had castigated him for his tendency to wear black jeans, insinuating a lack of hygiene. As whispers go, the cadence is on what they don't say. He may have preferred jeans and yes, they were inevitably black, but never had there been any untoward hint about their cleanliness (I should know, my nose is rather sensitive and body odours are more of a bane to me than to most others). Besides, the possibility exists for someone to own more than one pair of the same colour if they wish. So, why such rumours?

My idea of university comes from my European heritage, particularly the Age of Reason. Tertiary institutions would not be what they are today had it not been for the courage and diligence of those who rolled back the dark influence of religion. After all, in the beginning universities did exist as instruments of the church.

How curious then to detect so many traces of ideology, over and over, in such a place. Why does a lecturer in mathematics and logic (no less) see fit to decorate his office wall with examples of his church activities? Why are references to some scientist's homosexuality expressed in such a strange, discomfort-inducing manner during a lecture?

What can prompt a body like a university to build an Interfaith Centre at a time when even computer terminals are subject to budget constraints - an entity which is not dedicated to a methodical analysis of human beliefs and superstitions but designed as a meeting ground for spiritual ideologues of any shade to justify their existence?

Francis Crick resigned his fellowship at Churchill College, Cambridge, because it built a chapel at the behest of a benefactor (for this elucidatory piece of information I am indebted to Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion). And here is Griffith University, not only building an entire religious faculty rather than a mere chapel, but using public funds instead of money given by a private individual!

In a god-fearing demographic like Queensland such matters are par for the course. If there should be a murmur there are measures in place to keep things quiet. Remarks made to this writer about such pressure and undesirable legal events confirm the general impression.

They all constitute a culture by merging into a whole which in turn affects its members. As in any such exercise one is judged according to one's submission to its principles. Accept, and you have it easy; criticise, and punishment follows.

Unless of course some outside arbiter is finally throwing the doors open.