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"The Rhythm of Creativity"

Pekka Himanen,
The Hacker Ethic and the Spirit of the Information Age,
pp. 38 - 39, Random House, 2001

One cannot deny that our management still focuses too much on the external factors of work, like the worker's time and place, instead of inciting the creativity on which the company's success depends in the information economy. Most managers have not understood the deep consequences of the question, Is our purpose at work to "do time" or to do something? In the early seventies, Les Earnest of the artificial-intelligence laboratory at Stanford University gave a good prècis of the hackers' answer to this question: "We try to judge people not on how much time they waste but on what they accomplish over fairly long periods of time, like half a year to a year."
 This answer can be understood both purely pragmatically or ethically. The pragmatic message is that the information economy's most important source of productivity is creativity, and it is not possible to create interesting things in a constant hurry or in a regulated manner from nine to five. So even for purely economic reasons, it is important to allow for playfulness and individual styles of creativity since, in the information economy, the culture of supervision turns easily against its desired objectives. Of course, an important added condition is that in the realization of the task-oriented project culture—that they are not the deadlines of the survival life—so that there is a genuine opportunity for creative rhythm.
 But, of course, the ethical dimension involved here is even more important than these pragmatic considerations: we are talking about a worthy life. The culture of worktime supervision is a culture that regards grown-up persons as too immature to be in charge of their lives. It assumes that there are only a few people in any given enterprise or government agency who are sufficiently mature to take responsibility for themselves and that the majority of adults are unable to do so without continuous guidance provided by the small authority group. In such a culture, most human beings find themselves condemned to obedience.

Wanted: Chief Ignorance Officer

Charles Leadbeater ,
The Weightless Society,
pp. 6 - 7,Texere, 2000

. . . The implication seems clear: knowledge is the new gold. The more knowledge you have, the better off you must be. The goal, for individuals as well as for companies, must be to acquire as much knowledge as possible. Knowledge helps us to get a purchase on the world and to achieve our ends. Knowledge reduces uncertainty and confusion; it liberates people from superstition and tradition. That is the dominant, optimistic account of how society has become richer through the accumulation of knowledge. Knowledge is on a par with green open spaces, dolphins, and organic food as unquestionably a "good thing."

So far so good. Yet while as a society we are made better off by our acquisition of knowledge, that is not necessarily true of us as individuals or companies. Take the cell phone as an example.

Tens of millions of people around the world use cell phones. They greedily buy up the latest versions, with lighter batteries, more efficient semiconductors, and more powerful software and services. Yet only a tiny fraction of the population could explain how a mobile telephone works.... Our lives are made richer by our ability to rely on the knowledge of other people, and that means learning to live with our own ignorance.

As the knowledge economy becomes more developed and our lives more interdependent, this ability to trust the knowledge of other people will become more vital. All of us are made richer by our ability to remain ignorant while other people do the learning and inventing for us. We need knowledge management to tell us how to learn and gather knowledge; but just as important we need ignorance management programs, to help us cope with our reliance on the brains of other people.

How Ideas Precede Reality

Henry David Thoreau,
November 4, 1858.
From Selections from the Journals, Walter Harding, editor,
Dover Publications, 1995

. . . Nature does not cast pearls before swine. There is just as much beauty visible to us in the landscape as we are prepared to appreciate, - not a grain more. The actual objects which one person will see from a particular hilltop are just as different from those which another will see as the persons are different. The scarlet oak must, in a sense, be in your eye when you go forth. We cannot see anything until we are possessed with the idea of it, and then we can hardly see anything else. In my botanical rambles I find that first the idea, or image, of a plant occupies my thoughts, though it may at first seem foreign to this locality, and for some weeks or months I go thinking of it and expecting it unconsciously, and at length I surely see it, and it is henceforth an actual neighbor of mine. This is the history of my finding a score or more of rare plants which I could name. . . .

Like giants, hurling experience ahead of us, remembering what we already know . . .
Robert Frost,
from The Figure a Poem Makes (1939),
Selected Poems of Robert Frost. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1963.

No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader. For me the initial delight is in the surprise of remembering something I didn't know I knew. I am in a place, in a situation, as if I had materialized from cloud or risen out of the ground. There is a glad recognition of the long lost and the rest follows. Step by step the wonder of unexpected supply keeps growing. The impressions most useful to my purpose seem always those I was unaware of and so made no note of at the time when taken, and the conclusion is come to that like giants we are always hurling experience ahead of us to pave the future with against the day when we may want to strike a line of purpose across it for somewhere...

"There Is No Fiction"
The Law and the Promise,
pp. 44 - 45, DeVorss Publications, 1961.

There is no fiction. If an imaginal activity can produce a physical effect, our physical world must be essentially imaginal. To prove this would require merely that we observe our imaginal activities and watch to see whether or not they produce corresponding external effects. If they do, then we must conclude that there is no fiction. Today's imaginal drama — fiction — becomes tomorrow's fact.

If we had this wider view of causation — that causation is mental — not physical — that our mental states are causative of physical effects, then we would realize our responsibility as a creator and imagine only the best imaginable.

Fable enacted as a sort of stage-play in the mind is what causes the physical facts of life. Man believes that reality resides in the solid objects he sees around him, that it is in this world that the drama of life originates, that events spring suddenly into existence, created moment by moment out of antecedent physical facts. But causation does not lie in the external world of facts. The drama of life originates in the imagination of man. The real act of becoming takes place within man's imagination and not without.

How Everyday Practices Ground History-Making
Charles Spinosa, Fernando Flores, Hubert L. Dreyfus,
Disclosing New Worlds : Entrepreneurship, Democratic Action, and the Cultivation of Solidarity,
pp. 21- 22, MIT Press, 1998.

There is more to the organization of practices than interrelated equipment, purposes and identities. All our pragmatic activity is organized by a style. Style is our name for the way all the practices ultimately fit together. Our claim is that a style is not an aspect of things, people, or activity but, rather, constitues them as what they are.

To understand the importance of style for a disclosive space, we turn from the way we, other people, and things show up in terms of our everday insturmental activity to how our familiar actions and inactions are coordinated. We distinguish two aspects of a disclosive space: its organization and coordination. We have already specified that a disclosive space is organized as an interrelated set of equipmental relations, plus roles that give a point to the activity of using that equipment. But in order for things, people, and selves to show up as meaningful (as opposed to merely effective), this organized activity needs a further level of organization, which we call coordination. To be coordinated is more than to be interconnected.

When people change their practices in meaningful ways, they do so on the basis of the style they already have. Style acts as the basis on which practices are conserved and also the basis on which new practices are developed. Thus style is the ground of meaning in human activity. A style, or the coordination of actions, opens a disclosive spaceand does so in a threefold manner: 1) by coordinating actions, 2) by determining how thing and people matter, and 3) by being what is transferred from situation to situation.

These three functions of style determine the way anything shows up and makes sense for us.

Bird Brain
Gary Kinder,
Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea,
pp.108 - 110, Vintage Books, 1998.

Perhaps the worst problem faced by the crew on the Arbutus was not the sun or the weather or the currents or the sharks or trying to move the Arbutus, but the seagulls. "It was seagull heaven," said Clyne, "guano city." Birds flying up from Havana to the Marquesas would settle onto the Arbutus for an extended stopover before continuing their journey. Hundreds if not thousands of seagulls constantly lined up on the rails and on the beams, occupied every perch a bird could find on the ship, frittering up and down the rail ...

"Our deck in the morning would look like Detroit at Christmas time," said Clyne. "White. Just white."

After a rain, the deck was slick and dangerous, and it smelled as bad as the theodolite tower. They had tried putting up scarecrows, but the birds had landed on the scarecrows and dumped all over them, too. The crew swung ropes and brooms at them, and lunged at them, but only a few would move and they came back, squawking louder, almost like they were laughing.

Then Tommy had an idea: Let's electrify the rails; we can run a 220 line, send it up to the mail rail and shoot a current all the way around to the other rails and control it all from the wheelhouse.... Just enough to tickle the bottoms of their feet and make them fly away.

Tommy wired the ship and they got everybody safely up in the wheelhouse where they had the battery. With all the lines connected, Tommy looped one around the negative terminal, and then he touched the other line to the positive terminal. Suddenly, hundreds of birds shot into the air squawking and flapping away from the ship.

"You could hear them scream as they took off," remembered Clyne. "It was great. It worked! We couldn't believe it! Everybody was patting everybody else on the back, you know."

For almost a year they had been living with bird droppings thick all over everything, even their gear. From the time they arose in the morning until they finally retired at night, they had had to breathe the stuff and feel it squish through their toes. Now, they'd finally found a way to get rid of the problem.

Tommy disconnected the battery to make the ship safe for the crew, and the divers went back to looking for treasure. A short while later, the birds started coming back, and after a bunch had collected along the rails, the crew ran back into the wheelhouse, and Tommy hit the juice again, and again the birds shot into the air and flew away. All except one.

What happened next got the crew to wondering about a seagull's IQ, because what happened next not even some of the crew would have figured out.

Tommy hit the juice again and the current shot along the rail, and they thought that one seagull would fly away, but she didn't. She lifted one leg. They disconnected the battery, and she put her leg down. They zapped her again, and she lifted the other leg. Without both of her legs down to complete the circuit, the electricity just ran on through. Another bird landed, then another bird, and another bird, and Tommy touched that positive terminal with the wire again, and half a dozen seagulls lifted one leg. As soon as the electricity stopped, they set the leg down.

After two days, every one of the seagulls had returned, and it seemed as if many had brought friends and relatives, for the entire bow was lined with seagulls and the deck was white again. Now when Tommy threw the switch, hundreds of seagulls would lift one leg in unison, and by touching the wire to the terminal back and forth in a rhythmic way, he could make the birds dance. It reminded Clyne of A Chorus Line.

The Renewable Resource of Creativity
Peter Coyote,
from Imagine What America Could Be in the 21st Century: Visions of a Better Future from Leading American Thinkers,
Marianne Williamson, Editor
pp. 71 - 72, Rodale Books, 2000.

Morover, if the creative process were understood as a cheap, renewable, problem-solving resource, it would be demanded as a dominant part of public school curricula. Every pupil would be studying music, sculpture, dance, acting, drawing, poetry, and writing—not to create more artists, but to nurture people in whom senses and skills operate at peak efficiency. This is how we will train the integrated and organized minds to appreciate nuance and detail and to make the creative leaps necessary to keep culture and industry vital. This is where we will find the renewable resources to produce more beautiful products, architecture, and cultural expression.

Design sense and keen aesthetics, after all, are not merely right-brain "creative" activities—they are forms of intelligence. Look at the patterns on a computer chip. It is impossible to separate their function from their design. In fact, part of the intelligence imbedded in them is design. The same is true for a honeycomb. The repetitive octagon of the honeycomb is the most efficient design for maximizing storage capacity in a given space. A chambered nautilus, the valves of the heart, a coral reef, a kimono, and a lacquered bowl all represent a fusion of form and function that is a kiind of heightened problem-solving intelligence. This intelligence, which can be studied, learned, replicated, and reproduced, needs to be integrated into our schools' curricula if we want to reap the public rewards inherent in a highly skilled, educated citizenry and labor force.

Ecology of Mind
Robert Grudin,
, pp. 153 - 154, Random House, 1992.

In the dreamily long summer days that followed, Snell turned to his new book, On Wonderment. On the surface his mode of operation was harmless enough, even rather staid: the laptop computer, the regular hours, the meticulous use of the journal and other secondary files. But Snell's subject matter, style and organization of material suggested lunacy in its purest form. The subject matter, first off, had no apparent rationale or coherence whatsoever. Snell wrote about nature, art, abstract ideas, personal experience, science, history, psychology, without the slightest effort to connect these fields at all. His style was patently inconsistent, including, sometimes within the course of a single working day, satire, tragedy, conversational anecdote, philosophical discourse, humor and belletristic essay. And as for development, there was none at all. Snell would simply pick up an idea, ride with it for what it was worth, let it go, and open up a new page. His only homage to system was the network abbreviated subject codes that might someday allow him to draw related sections together out of the increasingly vast miscellany of discourse.

His friends responded to these exotic activities with various degrees of concern. Sarah, whose feelings toward Snell had grown undisguisedly affectionate, feared for his sanity. Adler referred to Snell's project as Briareus, the hundred-headed monster. Emmons feared some bitter and violent response from the theorists.

But there were more sanguine responses as well. Worried as he was, Emmons could not help comparing Snell with Renaissance humanists—Alberti, Machiavelli, Erasmus, Rabelais and others—who combined genuine learning with the ability to speak effectively to the general reader. Schmutzhauf and Edward Marlin (who now visited Snell occasionally) were even more positive. To Schmutzhauf, Snell's M.O. was reminiscent of great tradition in modern science. "This is a perfectly valid way to work," he asserted. "You collect everything, no matter how incoherent it appears. You don't stop collecting until you've collected everything that's in your power to collect. And then you let it all ferment inside of you. Darwin worked this way."

Marlin put it differently. "Adam's having a dialogue with himself. He's exploring mental geography—not just his own but that of his culture as well. He's tempting pure chaos but opening himself up to real discovery. No one's ever found order in himself or society without first having a love affair with disorder, noting word by word the proceedings of Babel."

The Dancer
& The Dance
Paul De Palma, "http://when_is_enough_enough?.com",
as published in
The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2000
David Quammen (Editor),
pp. 46 - 47, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000.

...The microcomputer industry has been with us for a decade and a half. We have poured staggering sums down its insatiable maw. It is time to face an unpleasant fact: the so-called microcomputer revolution has cost much more than it has returned. One problem is that microcomputers are vastly more complex that the tasks ordinarily asked of them. To write a report on a machine with a Pentium II processor, sixty-four megabytes of memory, and an eight-gigabyte hard disk is like leasing the space shuttle to fly from New York to Boston to catch a Celtics game. Though there are those who wouldn't hesitate to do such a thing if the could afford it (or get it subsidized, which is more to the point), we follow their lead to great peril....

Please don't misunderstand. This is not a neo-Luddite plea to toss computers out the window. I am, after all, a computer science professor, and I am certainly not ready (as the militias in my part of the country put it) to get off the grid. Further, the social benefits of computing – from telecommunications to business transactions to medicine to science – are well known....

Putting microcomputers in their place will also have a salutary effect on my discipline. We in computer science could then begin to claim that our field – like mathematics, like English literature, like philosophy – is a marvelous human creation whose study is its own reward. To study computer science calls for concentration, discipline, even some amount of deferred gratification, but it requires neither Windows 98, nor a four-hundred-megahertz Pentium II processor, nor a graphical Web browser. Though I am tempted, I will not go so far as to say that the introductory study of computer science requires no computing equipment at all (though Alan Turing did some pretty impressive work without a microcomputer budget). We do seem, however, to have confused the violin with the concerto, the pencil with the theorem, and the dancer with the dance.

I am afraid that we in computing have made a Faustian bargain. In exchange for riches, we are condemned to a lifetime of conversations about the World Wide Web. An eternity in hell with Dr. Faustus, suffering the torments of demons, would be an afternoon in the park by comparison.

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