Quote of the Week Selections, Second Quarter, 2002
prior quotes

020625, Quote #255:
A Simple Understanding of Complexity

Christopher Alexander , Notes on the Synthesis of Form, p. 32, Harvard University Press, 1964.

...It is true, and important to remember, that the simple cultures never face the problems of complexity which we face in design. And it is true that if they did face them, they would probably not make any better a showing than we do. When we admire a simple situation for its good qualities, this doesn't mean that we wish we were back in the same situation. The dream of innocence is of little comfort to us; our problem, the problem of organizing form under complex constraints, is new and all our own. But in their own way the simple cultures do their simple job better than we do ours. I believe that only careful examination of their success can give us the insight we need to solve the problem of complexity. Let us ask, therefore, where this success comes from....

020611, Quote #254:
From Converging Conditions
Come Emergent Ideas

Michael A. Hiltzik, Dealers of Lightning; Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age, pp. xxv-xxvi, Harper Business, 1999.

One of the most unusual and prolific research facilities in history, PARC was originally conceived in much more modest terms – as a research lab for a computer subsidiary Xerox had recently acquired. How it burst those boundaries in the early 1970s to become something more closely resembling a national resource is part of its special mystique. Four factors contributed most to PARC's explosive creativity. One was Xerox’s money, a seemingly limitless cascade of cash flowing from its near-monopoly on the office copier. The second was a buyer's market for high-caliber research talent. With the expenses and politics of the Vietnam War cutting into the government's research budget and a nationwide recession exerting the same effect on corporate research, Xerox was one of the rare enterprises in a position to bid for the best scientists and engineers around.

The third factor was the state of computer technology, which stood at a historic inflection point. The old architectures of mainframe computers and time-sharing systems were reaching the limits of traditional technologies, and new ones were just coming into play – semiconductor memories that offered huge gains in speed and economics, for example, and integrated circuits that allowed the science's most farsighted visionaries to realize their dreams for the first time. Never before or since would computer science be poised to take such great leaps of understanding in so short a period. The intellectual hothouse of PARC was one of the few places on earth employing the creative brainpower to realize them.

020603, Quote #253:
Science's 4 Step Creative Process

David Bohm , Glimpsing Reality: Ideas in Physics and the Link to Biology, University of Toronnto Press, 1996.

Any theoretical science has four aspects. These are:

insight, to perceive the structure of new ideas;

imagination, which projects a mental image of the whole idea, not only as a visual image, but a feeling for it;

reasoning, to work out the consequences logically; and finally,

calculation, to get numbers that make possible precise tests with experiment.

020518, Quote #252:
"The Purpose of This Intense Experience"

Jack Whyte, The Sorcerer Metamorphosis, p. 65, A Tom Doherty Associates Book, 1999.

As is often the case with matters of real significance, the constituent parts came together very gradually at first, but then they fused together at the end in a crescendo of insights and explosive recognition. I can clearly recall being genuinely surprised to discover, towards the end of our deliberations, that my problem with respect to the people in the lands beyond Camulod concerned nothing less than the goals of the origin and survival in the face of the unthinkable. My unexpected and intense involvement with Nero Niger and his Appious clan over the course of the ensuing few weeks provided the different perspective that stripped the shutters from my mind and allowed me to see the path I had been unaware of for so long.

020426, Quote #251:
Hymning to Life

Robert Grudin , The Most Amazing Thing, p. 181 - 182, knOwhere Press, 2002.

••• 2002 Benjamin Franklin Award™ Finalist •••

At times like this, I can't resist getting into the jeep with Ranguma and Paws and driving down the hill to the mouth of Marble Canyon, and walking up into it till we're 2000 feet deep in vertical rock walls, and (if it's not spring, when Seneca Creek really thunders), listening for the wildest noise I think I've ever heard, the kingfisher's cry echoing through the narrow canyon as he flashes upriver, and that cry will call to me of all the mysteries of nature, and of how, in Aldo Leopold's words, everything is interconnected. And then I may shout my great shout and Ranguma howl her eery howl, and as the echoes fade we'll stand silently marveling at the perfect desolation of the place...

I love all in man that talks to the patient roots that move stones, and to the stones that move but endure and to the water that feeds the roots and rounds off the stones. I love all in man that loves his world, all that hopes, all that remembers.

020408, Quote #250:
The Value of Opinion

Karl Popper, All Life is Problem Solving, pp. 85 - 86, Routledge Books, 1999.

...For unfortunately, it is all too common among intellectuals to want to impress others and, as Schopenhauer put it, not to teach but to captivate. They appear as leaders or prophets—partly because it is expected of them to appear as prophets, as proclaimers of the dark secrets of life and the world, of man, history, and existence....

What externally distinguishes the Enlightenment approach and the approach of self-declared prophets? It is language. The Enlightenment thinker speaks as simply as possible. He wants to be understood. In this respect Bertrand Russell is our unsurpassed master among philosophers. Even when you cannot agree with him, you have to admire him. He always speaks so clearly, simply, directly.

Why does simplicity of language matter so much to Enlightenment thinkers? Because the true Enlightenment thinker, the true rationalist, never wants to talk anyone into anything. No, he does not even want to convince: all the time he is aware that he may be wrong. Above all, he values the intellectual independence of others too highly to want to convince them of important matters. He would much rather invite contradiction, preferably in the form of rational disciplined criticism. He seeks not to convince but to arouse—to challenge others to form free opinions. Free opinion formation is precious to him: not only because this brings us all closer to the truth, but also because he respects free opinion formation as such. He respects it even when he considers the opinion so formed to be fundamentally wrong.


© MG Taylor Corporation, 1995 - 2002

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