Thursday, February 19, 2004

A language more complicated than words

Ok, so this Blog is growing cobwebs. I do have a lot to show for it at least. I’m about to finish up my second week at my new job at Aptima, Inc. I landed a position in the modeling and simulation group and get to actually use my major to do work. Imagine that!

I’m staying with friends for now, which is ok, but I miss my wife. Hopefully we’ll be able to be all moved up here by the beginning of March. It is odd how slow life can be sometimes and then just take off.

Anyway, I haven’t had much time to think about my project. In some respects just learning more in my profession is a good start, but at the same time I don’t want to let things fall off. Life will not likely slow down that much even after I’ve settled into my job and we have a new place to live.

Not having much time to think about the project also means that I haven’t had much time to do any reading. I’m afraid this post will be pretty bland, but I couldn’t see putting it off any longer.

One thing that has really struck me since I started this job is that there is certainly no shortage of approaches to complexity. Yet this isn’t necessarily a good thing. Diversity is good, yet it can also dilute the world of knowledge. In the academic world I primarily see diversity as promoting innovation and the desire to expand our knowledge of the universe and ourselves. Yet, in the personal world, sometimes our own desire for self importance gets in the way.

I write the following as general observation of a specific group of academic and professional researchers. I am by no means writing about any specific individual. With that said, a feeling that is becoming common to me when I meet someone who is obviously brilliant is that they feel the need to somehow prove it to me. Isn’t it ironic that you could be incredibly intelligent and yet not know that trying to prove it to others is a futile task? People will think what they want regardless of how unique your ideas are. In fact, sometime the more you try to point out your own individuality and creativity, the more people dismiss you.

Sometimes it is even worse. In a sad attempt to promote our own self images we go and further dilute the world of knowledge by taking something that is really not that unique and putting on a fancy new layer. We’ll add some layer that may look cool but really adds nothing to the concept. Being aware of this tendency I am terrified of falling into the same trap. In fact, what sincerely most interests me about the idea of a Global Mind is the potential for removing all the fancy shrouds we have built around knowledge.

When I look at all the dogma and countless professional jargons isolating completely related concepts it makes me a bit uncomfortable. Will our desire to feel important continue to fraction the world of knowledge, or will we someday come full circle and tear it all down to form a common base of understanding?

Some of my job is involved with the military, which brings a whole new meaning to the definition of jargon. I have come across 800 page documents with a 20 page appendix just to define the acronyms! Come on! Do you really save that much time by shortening three and four words to their first letters? Some sentences in the reports are completely nonsensical having more acronyms than real words! Of course it is completely logical when you look at the objective of such work. The goal of a military like ours is to ascertain, command, and control outcomes through the use of force and power. The control of power implies that energy be concentrated and placed into the hands of a few. Therefore one of the reasons new names and acronyms are coined is to help keep power within the ranks of military control.

Okay, this has turned into a bit of an obnoxious rant, but I believe that it often helps to just let it out to get over particularly long lasting frustration. I sometimes feel like it is all some twisted power trip that mankind has cursed itself with to make knowledge more difficult and distant from one another. I know as I work on this project it will be like battling the tide to try and return knowledge to its most elemental form.

Of course we will still need jargon to expand upon the complexity of our understanding, but it does not have to be based entirely upon it! Somewhere in even the most complex of problems there is a simple foundation for understanding. I just hope that somehow I can help us return to it.