Sunday, October 23, 2011

The One Percent

Props to New Scientist for highlighting this report, which identifies a network of 147 tightly clustered entities that control 40 percent of the world's wealth. The top 20 included Barclays Bank, JPMorgan Chase & Co, and The Goldman Sachs Group.

Here's the direct link to the study, found in PloS One: The network of global corporate control

From my perspective, not only is the concentration of ownership exceptionally dangerous (as Cory Doctorow says, "one disaster could sweep like wildfire across them all") it is also deeply undemocratic. These companies and their directors answer to nobody, and there is no electoral process to unseat them. Asserting pressure economically is also not an option; these people are the economy.

So long as they have allowed sufficient wealth to the rest of us they have been left alone, but with the world's resources being depleted and environmental change impacting economies, they are increasingly on a collision course with the world's poor - the 99 percent of us who do not have a say in how these companies are run and who do not share in their wealth.

The article explains:

"The idea that a few bankers control a large chunk of the global economy might not seem like news to New York's Occupy Wall Street movement and protesters elsewhere (see photo). But the study, by a trio of complex systems theorists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, is the first to go beyond ideology to empirically identify such a network of power. It combines the mathematics long used to model natural systems with comprehensive corporate data to map ownership among the world's transnational corporations (TNCs).

"From Orbis 2007, a database listing 37 million companies and investors worldwide, they pulled out all 43,060 TNCs and the share ownerships linking them. Then they constructed a model of which companies controlled others through shareholding networks, coupled with each company's operating revenues, to map the structure of economic power.

"The work, to be published in PloS One, revealed a core of 1318 companies with interlocking ownerships (see image). Each of the 1318 had ties to two or more other companies, and on average they were connected to 20. What's more, although they represented 20 per cent of global operating revenues, the 1318 appeared to collectively own through their shares the majority of the world's large blue chip and manufacturing firms - the "real" economy - representing a further 60 per cent of global revenues."

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Czech Course Followup Questions

I was asked the following questions after my presentation to CZ Course RVP_VT21 yesterday:
  • (Elements of Coop.) How to ensure any educational outcomes in accordance with short-time curricular aims? Students having autonomy do not usually feel about the aim the same way as teachers. Is it a call for a curricular change?

This is like asking, "how do you have freedom, and still control people?" In an open educational environment, you cannot "ensure any educational outcomes", nor is it desirable to do so. I said during the presentation there is no core curriculum; this is directly contrary to the idea of ensuring educational outcomes.

I think that parents and administrators need to rethink what they want students to learn and how to teach them. Look at this post:

Notice that though there are no curricular outcomes, the instructor is able to lead students towards the things he thinks are valuable by modelling the process. The students are also given more incentive by having their work posted online. A wide variety of persuasions and inducements are available.

  • (Distributive vs. Connective): How to ensure one isn't gonna be disturbed receiving so many stimulations from the others or we won't get parallel outcomes when students don’t know who’s working on what? I see it’s not contra-productive from the educational point of view but once a teacher wants their students to work um some comprehensive topic, I have my doubts about the result.

I'm not sure what it means to be "disturbed by receiving so many stimulations from others." You could always turn off the computer! But beyond that, you can select to receive input from only a few sources, as opposed to many.

It is important to understand that in a connectivist environment the *learner* is responsible to selecting media and resource sources. It is not the case that the teacher or school sends a whole lot of things to them. Rather, the learner selects the content sources, and makes the decisions about what to read or not to read.

Over and above that, being able to select relevant materials from a large body of materials is a skill that should be cultivated in a connectivist environment. I have talked in the past about knowledge as recognition. This is the same sort of thing. As a person becomes more adept in a certain subject area, he or she is much more able to recognize which materials out of a sea of materials are worth reading. It's exactly the same process as recognizing your child's face out of a sea of faces.

Over time this sort of perception will be aided with technology, just as we are aided in visual recognition by glasses and telescopes and video monitors. Filtering systems, content recommendation systems, analytics and other tools will make the task of recognition easier. But in the end, it will still be necessary to select relevant material by recognition, and the effectiveness of such selection will improve as a person's expertise improves (and, indeed, is a measure of that expertise).

  • Don't we produce "information mess" this way? Everybody just writes, doesn't read, speak and doesn't listen (a nice metonymy to the academic world by the way) as if our purpose wasn’t to learn how to cooperate but to win ourselves some recognition.

In my paper 'Educational Blogging' I point out that the first step to successful blogging is to read blogs. In my paper 'How to Be Heard' I recommend that people use other blogs and articles as starting points for their own creative activities.

It is in fact extremely difficult to be creative in a vacuum. The very possibility of creativity implies the existence of a stimulating environment to remix, repurpose, and to create with. Just as the academic will work against a literature or tradition in his or her field, so any creative person will work against a similar creative environment.

Having said that - there is a subtext to this question which suggests that content needs to be organized, the best content selected, and a mechanism put in place to ensure that people follow and pay attention to this content. I would suggest that such a mechanism will create more harm than good, as the process of selection will distort the normal selection and reading of materials, and will create a disincentive to create unpopular or unsanctioned work which would never be selected.

In an open communicative environment, where people depend on each other for ideas and inspiration, and where a mesh-like network of connections between these people develops, a form of organization emerges of its own accord. This phenomenon is well known - look up 'clustering' in the network literature.

Finally, the question addresses the idea of a purpose of being to 'win some recognition'. I think we can certainly detect and distinguish between those people who are attempting to work cooperatively and those who are attempting to win recognition. It is the distinction between those people whose communications are intended to benefit other people, and those people whose communications are intended to benefit themselves.

In the world of broadcasting, controlled media, corporate or institutional publishing, and group-like structures, the self-promoter may well be successful. This occurs when they are able to obtain a privileged interaction with managers or those responsible for broadcasting. This is an instance where the community as a whole suffers. People are unable to avoid broadcast media - this is what the self-server is counting on. He will *push* his way into their consciousness.

But in a network-based cooperative environment, the self-serving communicator is unable to obtain success. Because the learner is responsible for the selection of his or her own media, they will select materials that hep themselves, and do not serve the interests of the sender. It's exactly the same process as selecting useful content instead of advertising. That doesn't mean self-selection will be perfect, and the self-promoter may be able to obtain some traction in such an environment. But where the recipient makes the decisions, the generous, rather than the selfish, will tend to become more popular.

  • What amount of time does it take the students to work cooperatively when they're not used to it? It seem it would (will!) take a lot here.

There is no fixed amount of time. Or, another way of offering the same response: it will take whatever amount of time they are willing to put into it.

The question appears to presuppose a model where a person learns content 'XYZ' in some number of hours. The suggestion is that it will take more hours to learn 'XYZ' if working cooperatively. But the question really doesn't make sense in this context.

Let's suppose I want to learn how to program a 'bubble sort' in Python. Given a teaching resource - perhaps some sample code with instructions - it will take me maybe half an hour to learn the procedure. In order to impress it into memory, I would need to revisit the process at regular (and increasing) intervals over time. So, say, a total of two hours.

This would be the case whether or not I was working in a cooperative environment. The actual learning time for something simple and focused like that is unchanged, because the materials and process are the same. We could talk about how better or worse to design these materials, but that now leaves the domain of cooperative versus collaborative learning.

But now, in cooperative learning, I do something I don't do in other forms of learning: I document my learning, and make it available through some feed-forward mechanism, to a wider audience. This takes more time. And the benefits to learning are indirect.

We can suggest that perhaps one's own learning will be entrenched through documentation of learning. We can suggest that some ancillary skills, such as documentation skills, language and presentation skills, and the like, would be developed. As John Stuart Mill commented in his autobiography, he never learned something so thoroughly as when he was teaching ti to his younger brother.

But the greater benefit of one person learning this way is felt by *another* person. Prior to even learning how to conduct a bubble sort in Python, it is necessary to locate and select an appropriate learning resource. In a broadcast system there may be one available resource, but it may cost to much, may be inaccessible, or may be unsuited to your learning preferences. In a cooperative system, a wider selection of such resources will be available, many often more suited to your needs and preferences.

But even here, I do not want to assert that you will find better resources more quickly. You may still be slowed down by the greater selection and difficulty of choice. But you are benefiting in indirect ways - you are seeing the same subject from multiple perspectives, you are seeing it in a wide variety of applications, and people will address the subject from many different contexts. In the direct method, you will learn how to conduct a bubble sort, but in the cooperative environment, you will learn the *meaning* of a bubble sort, by observing its use in a variety of contexts.

  • Won't the borders between different school subjects get blurred in the connectivist manner? It seems like one great Project-based learning model to me since students work mostly according to their own scheme.

Yes, the borders of different schools will become blurred. That is a good thing. It enables students to communicate with a much larger number of other students, and to learn and appreciate the true diversity that characterizes society.

You can think of it as a "great Project-based learning model" if you wish; that description would not be disagreeable to me. One's home school would provide resources, environment, coaching and support. It would be a base of operations. But one's actual learning would take place in the wider community, not only from other schools, but from the community as a whole. This is a good thing.

In just the same way, the borders between school subjects will also become blurred, and int he same way, this is also a good thing, for two reasons:

- first, no subject is independent. Every subject is related to every other subject. People sometimes talk about 'math across the curriculum' or 'critical thinking across the curriculum', but in fact, we could just as easily talk about 'chemistry across the curriculum' or 'political science across the curriculum', as these two subjects, like the others, are embedded in every other subject.

The division of learning into subjects is, to my mind, an improper abstraction and idealization of some subjects, and some subject descriptions, above others. It resides in the view that there are some 'core' subjects on which all other subjects depend. But knowledge, include the knowledge received from an education, is not structured that way. By fostering an understanding based on 'core' subjects we foster an improperly abstracted and ultimately incorrect view of knowledge and the world generally

- second, it may be the case that there are core patterns or regularities underlying all disciplines, but these are not such that they can be abstracted and taught in isolation, but rather learned only through a process of pattern recognition. each learner will identify different regularities and different patterns, depending on their points of view. And they need to be engaged in a program that combines multiple disciplines in order to be in a position to identify these patterns regularities.

(As an aside, I am not specifically advocating discovery learning here, though there may well be an element of this. I don't expect students to detect the patterns in this by themselves, with no assistance. They should be given tools, support, assistance and encouragement. Instructors and colleagues would be prepared to show them where to look, or how to look. But this is very distinct from an environment where the instructor  says 'this' is the underlying regularity, 'this' is the foundational principle. What counts as foundational., underlying, or regular ought, in the end, to be determined individually by each person.)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Ruse and Hate Speech

Michael Ruse addresses the American First Amendment with a deft argument but with a base of knowledge that does not extend to actually dealing with the hateful. He writes:

I detest laws that restrict freedom of speech. Apart from anything else, like banning drugs they only exacerbate the problem... Let him speak and ignore him, I say. Show your contempt by saying nothing."

There is not a widespread majority wanting to spread hate the way there is wanting to use drug - and if there were, Ruse might be singing a different tune. But from the perspective of one who has run discussion forums, it sometimes _seems_ like there's that many people spreading hate, and I can tell you surely, letting them speak and ignoring does not make the problem go away.

The problem is, hate speech is like poison. It contaminates and ruins any discussion into which it infiltrates. Think about how far you read into YouTube comments before turning away repulsed at the misogyny and hatred. Nobody lingers for a discussion in a forum filled with Nazi propaganda. The attack dogs of the neo-right have perfected the art of destroying public places with hatred.

I support the Canadian approach: shut it down. Even more, I am inclined to shut it down more quietly - filling the newspapers full of Ernst Zundel's opinions doesn't help anyone. On my own website I remove the comments silently and without explanation. If you don't like my policy, start your own website.

The point is, hate speech is not free expression. The utterance of hate speech is an _act_, just as surely as striking a blow or shooting a gun. And this is something Ruse, who is a philosopher and must surely have read J.L.Austin, must know. Hate speech is the manipulation of bits or print or sound waves not with the intent of creating dialogue or meaning, but with specific intent to shut down, to hurt, to destroy.

Anyone who has run a discussion forum knows this. They know that people on the forum are not 'more free' when someone starts venting hate, they are less free, because the entire forum is poisoned. They know that ignoring the hateful will lead only to a hundred more hateful posts. They know you can't argue with hate, can't reason with hate, because hate is just another manifestation of the barrel of a gun. That's why they kill spam and hate speech before it gets out of hand. And that's why I say that Ruse speaks with knowledge, but without experience.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Occupy NB Moncton - Results

We had a good crowd of about 500 people in Moncton, which is quite large for a city this size (the same proportion would be 20,000 people in Toronto). Zero police. A lot of horns being honked in sympathy. Loud drums. Union support. No politicians (none!). A lot of media, who were gone after a half hour or so. Link to photos below. As I write the protest continues, with diminished numbers, in a gale-force wind (really really unpleasant weather). Here's the photo set on Flickr.

Here's a video (made by hummingbirdstew)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Occupy NB Moncton

The Moncton demonstration will most probably be small, but I will be there, and hope many others will be, as we do our small part in the global 'occupy' protests October 15th.

I just saw in +Daniel Lemire this link to a Bloomburg post about how Google shifts its profits to Bermuda in order to avoid paying taxes. More here This is just the sort of thing that we have to put a stop to.

Let me be clear. I have no objection to people or companies making money. But it is not right for them to earn so much money they distort the democratic process, and it is not right that their profits come at the expense of education, health care, housing and food for the world's population.

Some Occupy NB resources:

CURRENT OFFICIAL LOCATIONS MONCTON: 655 Main Street (City Hall), October 15th 12:00pm Link: SAINT JOHN: In front of City Hall & Board Walk, October 15th 9:00am Link: FREDERICTON: 397 Queen Street, (City Hall), October 15th 12:00pm Link: *** Remember that the times and locations may change!

Occupy NB Facebook page:
Facebook event page:

Times and Transcript article announcing the event for Moncton City Hall at noon:

CBC article, same time and date:

Someone has set up an OccupyNB Twitter feed!/OccupyNB but unlike David W. Campbell I would not regard it as in any way authoritative - the protest in NB is not about shale gas.

Purple Violet Press, another anti-fracking interpretation of the protest. Really, folks, it's not about anti-fracking.

The New Brunswicker speaks with Jared McRae about Occupy Fredericton 100 2942

Charles Leblanc interviews an OccupyNB person: Occupy New Brunswick is confronted by the Blogger

DRN: Downes RDF Notation

The usual disclaimers apply: although I'm creating this myself, it's probably not unique to me, someone else probably thought of it first, and I don't expect anyone in the world to actually use this, though if it is in fact new, when it's reinvented by someone at MIT or Stanford all credit will revert to that author.

DRN: Downes RDF Notation

I've done enough coding of permissions systems to know that they're a pain. So I like this proposal for an RDF-based permissions model.

But as I read the article, I am reminded again of the RDF community's general failure to develop readable syntax. This post presents the comments in Turtle, a synonym for TRTL, an acronym of Terse RDF Triples Language. It's better than native RDF, but you still get long convoluted senseless statements.

Having read yet another statement in some language that look like this:

resource:r1 per:read domain:domain1, domain:domain2,  domain:domain3;
        per:create  domain:domain1, domain:domain3;
        per:update  domain:domain1, domain:domain3;
        per:noread  domain:domain4;
        per:nocreate  domain:domain5;
        per:noupdate  domain:domain5;

I declare an end to ridiculous RDF syntax.

So herewith, DRN, 'Downes RDF Notation.

DRN is composed of two major sections, the 'declarations' section, and the 'statements' section. In the declarations section, we associate terms with namespaces, while in the statements section, we make statements using those terms.

The Declarations section consists of a series of statements, each of which associates a namespace with a series of terms. Like this:
     namespace1: term1, term2, term3, term4;
     namespace2: term4, term6, term4.
As can be seen in the example, the namespace URI is followed by a colon, terms are separated by commas, and each declaration is separated with a semi-colon.

The namespace is like a dictionary. It is another document written in DRN (or DERN, or DELRN, see below) that provides additional information about the term. Thus, if you use the term 'robin', you don't need to specify every time that a 'robin' is a 'bird', that it 'flies', that it is not a 'rock', etc; this is all done in the namespace.

Proper names are terms that are defined by a proper names registry, which is simply a namespace used to define proper names.

The Statements section simply uses the terms in a rational manner. Like this:
    term1 term2 term3.
    term4 term5 term6.

As the punctuation implies, terms are separated by spaces, and statements end with a period.

You can use commas to create sequences of terms. As follows:
   term1, term2, term3 term4 term5.
   term5 term2,term3 term6.

That's the notation!

A couple of footnotes. First, white spaces (spaces, carriage returns) are used only to separate terms in statements. White spaces inserted after punctuation for clarity are ignored.

Second, while nothing prevents the use of the same term twice, from different namespaces, such usage obviously creates ambiguity. Hence, when the same term is used twice, the last or most recent definition of a term by a namespace is taken to be authoritative.

While there are no a priori constraints on the order or nature of terms, the typical sequence of terms is 'subject verb object'. The creation and use of passive verbs, such as 'is_created_by', is strongly discouraged. It's much better to write statements of the form 'x creates y' rather than 'y is_created_by x'.

Finally, a space in the defined term becomes part of the term, and not part of syntax. Thus, for example, the term 'blue jay' is treated as a single term; the parser is asked to think of it as though it were 'blue_jay'.

Note that it's very easy to construct a full logical system in DRN.  For example: is,has,contains,creates robin,bluejay,grouse feathers,eggs
     robin is bird. grouse is bird. bird has feathers. bird creates eggs.

The proof of a notation is to write a parser and an inference engine, so I'll put that into my list of projects. But with only five syntax characters (white space, comma, colon, semi-colon, period) and one exception (ignoring the '://' construction in URIs) actual parsing is very simple.

DERN: Downes Extended RDF Notation
DRN will do almost everything people creating large and complex RDF structures may want to do. However there will be cases where an extended expressive capacity is required. Hence, DERN defines a set of ways of creating complex verbs using well-known modalities in conjunction with defined terms.

Modalities may be defined in the declarations section, though the default set (listed below) may be taken as as assumed. The purpose of a modality is to in some way modify the term being used. Here's the declaration of some modalities:


If I every create a formal version of DERN I would create the complete set here.

The effect of defining modalities is to create a superset of terms containing white spaces. It also allows a parser to define a set of inference rules based on these modalities.

For example, suppose we have defined the following:
   (Modalities)http://someplace:com:some,the,a;,blue jay  

The parser creates a superset of possible terms based on these definitions, consisting of the following:
   some robin,the robin,a robin,some blue jay, the blue jay, a blue jay

Note that the modality always precedes the term in question.

As before, there are no a priori constraints on the nature or range of modifiers; anything may be used as a modifier, and a modifier may modify anything. However, it should be clear that the use of the same string as both a term and a modifier can result in ambiguities. For example, defining 'not' as a term and then 'not' as a modifier may result in ambiguoous understandings.

As a rule of thumb, in such a case, the doubly-defined term should be understood as a modifier. However, persons wishing to recreate Continental philosophy may force the issue by defining the modifier first, then the term, invoking the rule that the 'the last or most recent definition of a term by a namespace is taken to be authoritative.' If you want to talk about 'the not', feel free (but don't expect to be understood).

Finally, modalities may be quantified. To quantify a modality, place the quantification in brackets after the modaility itself. Some obvious examples:
    some(14) bird
    probability(45) is

Quantifiers may include units. For example: (14 grams), (45 percent).

DELRN: Downes Learning Extended RDF Notation
This part of DERN is intended to enable inference. It makes use of the basic logical forms to create compound statements from which conclusions may be drawn. I will express the basic logical operators in CAPS for clarify, though they are not natively case-sensitive.

For any statements (represented with statement) the following basic logical operators may be defined:

   statement AND statement
   statement OR statement
   IF statement THEN statement
   NOT statement
   statement IFF statement
(IFF is the same as IF AND ONLY IF).

A DELRN inference engine would apply well-known logical principles in order to generate new statements from existing statements, or (more usefully) to evaluate the truth of proposed statements against the body of known statements. For example, there is a well-known rule of inference:

   If A then B. A. Therefore, B.

Given the first two statements (those preceding the word 'therefore') then we generate the third statement (the statement following the word 'therefore').

What is significant about learning rules is the employment of variables. This saves us the necessity of repeating the same rule over and over. So, for example, instead of saying:

   IF a bluejay has wings THEN a bluejay is a bird.
   IF a robin has wings THEN a robin is a bird.

and so on, for every term defined in the system, we can say:

   IF x has wings THEN x is a bird.

In order to implement DELRN, we first implement DERN, and then add the inference component after it, as follows:

First, a statement that defines variables:

   Variables are x,y,z,a,b,c.

Second, a set of rules. These rules are in addition to the standard rules of inference (the subject of another document) such as modus ponens and the rest of them. These are rules of inference specific to the present document or set of documents.

For example, a rule might be:

   IF some x is a bird THEN the x eats some(5 grams) seeds.

This tells the system not to attempt to find a namespace for the terms. It tells the system that any term being used may be inserted in the rule in place of the variable.

This enables full expressibility in predicate and modal logic.

DLEARN: Downes Learning Extended Adaptive RDF Notation

This adds one simple element to DLERN: it allows statements to become terms. Hence, we can talk about a statement as though it were an object. This allows us to make metastatements.

For example, suppose we have the statement 'A robin is a bird.' By enclosing the statement in single quotations, as done in the previous sentence, we can now treat the statement as a single term. This allows us to do something like the following:

   Variable: x.
   x is 'A robin is a bird'.
   x is probably(56 percent) true.

The statement from the start of this article? It looks like this: read,write,create,update. r1.
domain1 can read, can create, can update r1.
domain2 can read r1.
domain3 can read, can create, can update r1.
domain4 can not read r1.
domain5 can not create, can not update r1.
That's clearer, isn't it? Though now we are left wondering whether the authors could simply have written: read,write,create,update. r1.
domain1 can read, can create, can update r1.
domain2 can read r1.
Of course, with our greater expressive power, we could simply define a type of resource and apply permissions to that type. Or permission variables. Or a host of other permissions statements, all equally clear, and yet easily parsed..

Well, that's it. Over time, I may want to add a few things (bracketing to establish precedence, for e the basic language. It resembles natural language to a great degree, does not include pointless syntax and redundancies (such as the repetition of namespace names dozens of times in a document).

So - over to the readers. Who has already invented this? Where can I find an inference engine that uses it? Etc. Or - why won't it work? How is it expressively incomplete? Where is it ambiguous? What obscure notation from set theory cannot be expressed in this language?

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Conversation on Innovation

This is a summary of the 'expert discussion' at the conclusion of Day One of the International Monitoring Organization conference. Each paragraph denotes a different speaker, the speakers are not identifies, the result being to produce a single more-or-less coherent document.

Re: the negative side of innovation, there's a pretty consistent assessment of innovation & technology, a pretty consistent statement, by the youth in the occupy movement...

But, negative side of what? Is there a negative side of progress, of change?

If we go one step beyond innovation, we have actually reached a cusp in the west. The economists don't have a theory any more. We are discussing the restructuring of democracy. These are crucial aspects of the times. The issue has to do with 'management of uncertainty' - we have reached it.

I would follow the suggestion coming from the Israel presentation. The problem is "for whom and why have we made the innovation." This isn't just academic, it's also practical. Who will implement this system? Who are they? The vast majority of managers would not support this program. Does the general population support innovation? All innovation?

We need to start thinking about 'innovation' and 'Innovation'. More people than ever are talking about the fundamental and deep flaws of our financial system. Cf. Herman Daly, 'For the Common Good' - social cost accounting and triple bottom line. The role of the capital markets effectively running the world. How do we reconceive at a deep level these things that are in place now - 'Innovation' in how we live, vs 'innovation' being faster, cheaper, smarter.

We will encounter deep generational conflict - we see a gap now between generations - gen Y, the freaks, the nerds, those who promote tech progress, and the gap between those who feel sidelined, feel overextended. And as long as innovation is tech development, not social development, we will leave them behind.

The big four dilemmas were very nicely worked out, and you stressed they are inescapable, and I agree, and yet these dilemmas are so destructive, nobody can survive it. One indicator is the epidemic growth of stress disorders, especially among creative people. And there are lots of people going bankrupt as a result of these processes. So how can we influence these dilemmas you brought out.

We need to repeat our understanding of the problems faced by young people, through real examples.

You have been working with dilemmas, and you translated it into in English, and you used the word 'contradictions', but there are other ways dilemmas exist. There may be antagonisms, but there is an incommensurability - they belong to separate categories, so they are not contradictory, and they may be unify-able, if we adopt a distinct stance.

This IMO project is (finally) developing a new momentum, testing a dialogue in a completely different manner. It's fascinating because when we speak about innovation as scientists, we are usually at least able to find the variance, but not we see we can no longer stick to this as the only possible view of innovation. It's a question about values now. Pure economic success is no longer a value a majority of the population wants to stick to. And people are now much more able to express their value systems between populations; the conflict is on a global level. But at the same time, we see in SE Asia practices like Taylorism implemented to an almost perfect degree. And many companies that reply on economies of scale are relocating to that region. What, by contrast, are our values and skills? Maybe managing diversity in a productive way, having a true credible understanding of differences in our society.

I think the framework presents what we knew about innovation in the last decade. So if there is a paradigm, I don't think there's a paradigm shift here. And this paradigm has produced acceptable results. So what would the new paradigm be? Many it relates to what has been said about values.

That's the problem. For whom and why must we innovate. Maybe we need to keep the term 'dilemma'. If we can do the same exercise looking at the 60s, they couldn't understand why these are dilemmas. Because then these were not dilemmas at all. In the 60s this was not believable and not understandable. And this is a clue to values, as to why they became dilemmas. There was a paradigm shift in capitalist development. Eg. the shift to think that full employment was not the first goal of policy. If you don't consider these real forces, the risk is of talking about a dream. Which kind of actors will support this? Which kind of frame?

This framework was developed to understand innovation forces within one organization, but we have been discussing challenges that cannot be solved within one organizational perspective. How can we address those challenges from a different perspective, addressing these challenges through networking and process within society. The other thing is to define what we mean by innovative capability, and it is still unclear how we define that concept.

Values - unfortunately so closely related to politics. Let's look at the origins, where the values come from. One is teacher training. We could come up with different kind of innovation - teachers are so powerful in harnessing the ways of harnessing knowledge, and through the hidden curriculum how and what people can use knowledge. Another compass is management, business schools. This also includes continuing education for managers. They teach future managers how to manage knowledge in the workplace - and again, the power play, who is supposed to use the knowledge, and how. We know that the power to innovate is in the people, and a lot of the potential is not put into place, and we have to ask, why is that?

Let's focus on what IMO's task is, it's not to give recommendations as to what an overall innovation strategy for Europe, it's to focus on knowledge and skills development. We cannot save the world.

And that's the problem.

There is the underlying dilemma, if I look at these eleven strategies, I look at them more or less as constraints. "You want to be responsible, but there's cost pressure." I hear the deeply held idea that you want to control things. Planning and control are difficult in a complex world where there are all kinds of constraints. You cannot have control and innovation at the same time. You have uncertainty. Control is the denial of uncertainty. We are going to solve the problem - and if there are negative sides, we don't want to see it.

I appreciate the task of the project, but everything is nested in a context, and if we focus on a non-shifting paradigm of innovation while society if on the cusp of paradigm shift, then you're really dooming innovation to irrelevance.

Planning and control. If we had been sitting here before the Arab spring, would we be having this discussion? I doubt it. Underlying the discussions here is that uncertainty can be planned for and controlled. To me the project plan now looks aged. It looks like a perspective that the financial crisis and other events have already passed. The dilemmas are still with us, but would we use the same strategies? Would we even use strategies? We certainly wouldn't put 'management of uncertainty' there.

Ten years ago it was very fashionable to have risk management - you didn't manage uncertainty, you accepted it and went with it. The possible generation conflict leads me to think of potential generational collaboration. Thinking of the very European values. The potential to avoid marginalizing large groups of society. Eg., an IMO project about innovative capacity in an era of demographic change. We need to investigate the ways to promote and encourage the multigenerational dialogue. Look at 2025, when the baby boomers push 80. What will the challenges look like there.

You mean cohesion. To avoid marginalization, means cohesion.

My point was to talk about the firm's perspective, to find advantage in some of the things we've been talking about. But we have been trying to come up with soltions that are larger than we can find within one firm. Coming up with strategies or other ways to network. This is perhaps a good model for everything good.

If the strategies are to be used by different organizations then there's just a different reference point. They are elaborated as a point of departure together.

Need to think beyond organizations. Beyond cohesion. These are dilemmas precisely because we are thinking of the good of the organization as posed against both the individual good and the social good. We don't need more cohesion, we need less. We need looser structures - but the problem is how to let go of the fabric that currently defines our structures today. Management is one of them, values another, common understanding another. We need to learn how to let go of these.

In terms of IMO, we need to raise questions in terms of agency. The question is, who is going to do it. Kids today have no faith that corporations will start a progressive innovative strategy any more. How do you get people to be able to redistribute wealth or whatever you need to get others to be able to join the conversation? Part of this IMO study should be to figure out who might be the agents.

I am both inspired by this and quite lost. There is a list of very important issues, but I don't connect what is written up there to what are the current hot topics. It's more, how to bring all these aspects we have discussed into some kind of order. There is a saying, form follows function. What are the forms of work organization? It depends on the goals that you've got. We've been reporting on these experiences. The question is how we transport these experiences into our lives, how do we change the paradigms here? We had much better strategies before the financial crisis; no we're not judging any more. We have to get it in line - the structures of our schools have to be different if we are to not hierarchically teach people, which means we have to change the schools.

A hammer slightly damaged is still useful. But it's not true that function follows form. We have to consider how these strategies come to be. After two and a half years of monitoring, etc., we had a huge amount of knowledge that was unstructured. I can't take 1000 pages of unstructured information to our government and say, "here, make a structure for yourself." It is structured - it is a map that defines what we are talking about. It may refer outside the scope of the IMO project, but it's a structure or pattern we can use.

I'd like to add a 12th strategy. We should add the actors. Eg., I don't learn from a computer course, I learn from a hotline. If I have a problem I call the hotline. I learn from colleagues. On the shop floor they learn from each other. We need to pay more attention to these new actors. Look at managers, one of the new roles of managers is to be coaches and trainers.

Of course, we have heard of the new actors, and these eleven strategies are not it, we have addressed as well various cross-sectional categories, the cross-section and cross-linkages of alliances. Targeting of knowledge, enabling and dispersion, of knowledge, etc.

It (the discussion of knowledge) complements the existing design.

Jay Cross and Harold Jarche were involved - they would say "to learn we need a certain amount of unlearning". I want to add a 13th strategy, the certainty of unmanagement.

Maybe we should join the other group and talk about uncertainty. The framework is an excellent compilation of how an organization could go about the project of encouraging innovation. But there is a problem - look at the research on resilience, etc. The models we are working on are growing so complex we cannot explain anything any more, because we cannot understand all the variables. Try to use the model to explain - we can't explain anything. When we go to companies, we show them the eleven points - but it's almost like a historical document - but companies don't want to hear the 25th version of the model, they are on the brink of performance level. We know that it's important to give people autonomy - but we're not doing that any more. Companies are working with only 10 percent of their resources, because they don't know what to do with the remaining 90 percent. This is a good starting point, but these discussions should happen with very diverse groups, not the academics any more.

I sometimes feel it's very necessary to compile and structure it. But to me what's necessary is to discovery the application - to research any apply is not a contradiction. To apply is a process of research. It's like children learning language - they do not proceed without uncertainty, reading all the grammar books - they just adapt. Adapting, applying and them making new discoveries.

Innovation is dynamic. Innovation carries obsolescence. And the third is that value and ethics need to be with organizations. And sustainability if going to be critical in the next few years.

Yes, sustainability was one of the dilemmas. And the definition of innovative capability includes this. And we have many different perspectives, from Russia to Canada.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Undercutting Industry

Stephen H. Foerster write, on OER-forum:
     > The logic is that it's inappropriate for government to undercut private industry. 

There are many cases where it is appropriate for government to, as you say, 'undercut industry'. For example:

- industry could make lots of money building roads and bridges and changing tolls, but government does this (usually without tolls) because it's a lot more efficient

- industry could make lots of money offering health care, but in many nations (such as Canada, my own nation) government provides these services, because it's more efficient, and many people could not afford commercial health care

- private industry would make a lot of money offering primary and secondary school, but government offers this service to ensure a proper quality of education and to ensure all can attend

- industry makes money delivering letters and packages, but government also provides a postal service, because industry will not serve remote regions at reasonable rates

- private industry offers security and protection services, and would make a lot more money if not undercut by public police and fire services, but government provides these to ensure everyone in society is protected


It can be appropriate for government to 'undercut industry', and these are cases in which industry cannot or will not provide services at reasonable rates to all segments of society.

It is arguable that (a) academic and educational publishing is an essential service that ought to be available to all segments of society, and
(b) private industry is not able or willing to offer these services to all segments of society at a reasonable cost.

In such a case, it is reasonable for government to 'undercut industry' in order to ensure that the benefits of the educational system reach everyone in society.

Indeed, I would go further and argue that in some cases the government ought to block industry participation in some markets where industry participation is harming, rather than serving, the public interest. One such case is industry participation in academic publishing, where government-granted monopolies over the distribution of government-funded academic and educational materials are resulting in severely limited access to educational and academic materials.