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 culturethat
they are not the deadlines of the survival lifeso
that there is a genuine opportunity for creative
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.
. . 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."
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.
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.
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.
Ideas Precede Reality
. . 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. . . .
giants, hurling experience ahead of us,
remembering what we already know . . .
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
three functions of style determine the way anything
shows up and makes sense for us.
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
deck in the morning would look like Detroit at
Christmas time," said Clyne. "White.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
writingnot 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.
sense and keen aesthetics, after all, are not
merely right-brain "creative" activitiesthey
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
Book, pp. 153 - 154, Random House,
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
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.
there were more sanguine responses as well. Worried
as he was, Emmons could not help comparing Snell
with Renaissance humanistsAlberti, Machiavelli,
Erasmus, Rabelais and otherswho 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."
put it differently. "Adam's having a dialogue
with himself. He's exploring mental geographynot
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."
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....
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....
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
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.