Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 736.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
Date: Wed, 14 Mar 2001 07:33:34 +0000
From: "Osher Doctorow" <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: 14.0732 Terry Sanders, "Into the Future"
From: Osher Doctorow firstname.lastname@example.org, Sunday March 11, 2001 11:22PM
This is most remarkable. I was just yesterday thinking of writing a paper
entitled "Into the Future," but on a totally different topic. In any case,
I will proceed to summarize my views.
I have come to the conclusion (let us say a conjecture to be precise) that
humanities (in particular, languages such as English, French, etc.) and
science/mathematics constitute two realms which have different associations
in the brain, although there are also perhaps some overlapping regions. I
think furthermore that civilization is incomplete without both of them, and
that each has a somewhat different unique contribution. I will not repeat
the words *I think* below, but they are to be understood. English (short
here for natural languages) summaries our deepest analyses of events, our
intuition (although part of intuition seems geometric), and our deepest
summaries of events (if that is not a double noun construction - actually,
even if it is) and most closely relates to the deepest logical propositions,
in which respects it acts somewhat like a metalanguage, although because of
certain human habits of mislearning it also contains single words which have
multiple meanings which can confuse very much. Mathematics
condenses/shrinks/makes concise and eliminates multiple-meaning confusions
to some extent but probably not at the deepest most fundamental levels, and
approaches in some respects single-meaning English when it is at its best.
Its main defects are in its axioms and operations - when these are not made
totally clear and overt almost to the point of exhaustion, mathematics
disguises as much as it reveals. Thus, I regard the main method of creative
genius in mathematics as changing axioms and operations (once they have been
thoroughly absorbed, learned, and understood - civilization is both a very
conservative and revolutionary process) and translating into English.
Science/engineering/medicine other than mathematics tries to combine the two
above approaches, and that is perhaps why engineers tend to be CEOs of at
least technical corporations so much - namely, they are trying to do the
almost impossible which is combining both natural language and mathematics,
so very few people are equipped to challenge them, plus they have formal
Degrees usually in the claim to do that. It has become my conclusion that,
in view of the tendency of technical corporations to hire the least
proficient people in doing the two tasks above (namely, new college
graduates or new PhDs or well-established university bureaucrats who do
consulting usually on the side but often have the creativity and courage of
piranha fish), technical corporations attain a level of idiocy which is
often comparable to that of computers without human
operators/programmers/engineers. In that respect, "into the past" may be
a better description of their work.
My wife Marleen's uncle was an Italian-American manager of an
engineering/mathematics branch of Hughes Aircraft for many years until his
retirement, and he was quite convinced that progress in science could not be
sped up. I often suggested to him that an emergency program should be
instituted to speed things up, including in medicine (he was ill for many
years after his retirement) and space flight. I think that I begin at last
to see his reasoning. If one does manage to get by the personnel experts
who are afraid to select people whom they believe management will not like
(people with very different or novel ideas, say), and past the mathematical
experts who cannot talk English or other natural languages beyond grunting,
then one would have to get past the engineer type CEOs who are trying to do
both and can realistically do neither terribly well.
There is hope, however, that grain and vegetable and tea and tree-planting
corporations will save the day. I await the future with great interest, if
not for myself then for the vegetable life that may supplant us in that
remarkable thing called Civilization.
Ventura College, Doctorow Consultants, etc.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Humanist Discussion Group
To: "Humanist Discussion Group" <humanist@lists.Princeton.EDU>
Sent: Sunday, March 11, 2001 1:32 AM
Date: Sun, 11 Mar 2001 09:20:30 +0000
> From: Edward Vanhoutte <email@example.com>
> Subject: Into the Future
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