Category Archives: Epistemology

It makes you stop and think

I stumbled across the book Think! by Michael R. LeGault today at Barnes and Noble.  The book caught my eye because it’s cover was an obvious play on the book Blink by Malcolm Gladwell.  I am about a fifth into the book and can’t help but nod my head furiously as I read it. 

LeGault aptly points out that there is no problem with intuition, in other words quickly summing up lots of information to make a decision.  He is careful to point out that you can only do that standing on the back of careful inspection and analysis.  It’s refreshing to hear someone who gets the integration of the two instead of trashing one and championing the other.

I am also pleased that he doesn’t talk in pure abstractions, but grounds the impact of both poor in good thinking with real consequences.  It’s so important to concretize the practicality in every day life of critical thinking.  This is really the companion book the The World Is Flat in the sense that in a world where globalization exists, we each have to figure out how to be smarter and add value.  It’s not enough to just keep doing what works, because it gets commoditized so quickly–which is a wonderful benefit to us as consumers.  All of this rings especially true to me in software development, where really understanding what you’re working with is imperative.  I can’t count the number of times where I’ve made a 10x better decision by just doing the simple analysis to look at how things work.  That settles so many design arguments that are stuck talking about floating abstractions and personal opinions.

Being an admirer of great architecture, I was interested to read LeGault’s apply his point to the rebuilding on the World Trade Center site:

A brilliant case study of egalitarian intelligence in action is the design plans for Ground Zero.  The plans have changed and shifted countless times as more people and organizations have delivered their input to the committee overseeing the plans.  The striking, twisting wedge-shaped tower originally approved for the Freedom Tower has now apparently been scrapped, a victim of security concerns.  Instead, a new design being favored for the tower is one built on a concrete pedestal, giving the building a fortresslike appearance.  The building’s design has been scorned by critics, who have called it a “nightmare.”  The fallacy in this decision is that, on the basis of one major terrorist attach in the city’s history, security should be made the main concern in the design of a new tower.  Yet, by far, the greatest risk, from a security or financial standpoint, is building a new tower in the first place.  Letting the security issue override all logic, however, the committee is seriously considering approving a building that will mark Lower Manhattan, in perpetuity, with a horrid monument to fear.

It is sad, but true.  Frank Lloyd Wright would be making the same point.  The purpose isn’t to be secure.  That is but a means to an end.  The end is a working space for humans–a temple human productive accomplishment!

Apprentice, episode 1

So I just finished watching the first episode in the new Apprentice season.  I remember laughing at all the self-promotion jabs Trump got in in the first season, and just enjoying them as more humor than anything bording on serious.  I noticed in the new season they’ll do these weird scenes where it cuts in on him talking to someone apparently important, and then telling them he had to go.  Is it just me or was this overly corny!?

The other thing I thought was weird is how the participants actually went about solving the problem.  The project managers don’t seem like they could possibly be college graduates, much less MBAs.  Maybe they just cut out footage, but it looks like both teams jumped into brainstorming mode right away before thinking about what qualities success would entail.  They also had all nine people on their team brainstorming, even though some of them could have been doing market research or buttering up the designers that would later help them.  It didn’t seem like there was any real foresight or project management here.

What impresses me most are the people who can recognize what might be called the “high order bit”, which would be a point of leverage that will catupult you to a whole new level, far more than getting any one particular detail right on a task would.  There were a few people in the first season who really got this, and would recognize that they didn’t need to just go through the motions, but rather figure out where they needed to end up and what would be most impressive in the end.  A good example of this was the team that advertised on their rich-shaw (sp?) cabs.  Or when Bill cornered the market on the VIP customers in the Taj espisode.

Anyway, hopefully this season will be as entertaining as the first.