From: John Conover <john@email.johncon.com>

Subject: Re: NASA, TQM, and SPK/Kerr

Date: Thu, 17 Oct 1996 14:24:34 -0700

Donald Kerr writes: > >For the relationship of game-theory and human conflict in > >civilization, see "The Ascent of Man," J. Bronowski, Little, Brown and > >Company, Toronto, 1973. > > John, > Could you tell me more about "The Ascent of Man?" > Hi Don. I am an engineer, by profession, and executive. Usually, CTO, VP of Engineering, or Technology. My academic stuff was in information theory, which, along with game theory are two of the cornerstones of contemporary complexity theory, (and make up what is usually called entropic methodology, which is a firmly founded field in economics-for example, it is the methodology used in programmed trading of equities.) My advanced studies are in the realm of cultural anthropology, which has a branch that is the study of industry, technology, and economics. I suppose that technology and anthropology seem distantly related, if at all, but, I suppose, that the attempt is to put current technology in some kind of historical perspective. Brownowski wrote the book and made a super, IMHO, TV series on PBS in the 1970's concerning such things. He was a mathematician, worked in various government QUANGO's on some of the weapons stuff, and created the field of human specificity, (a branch of anthropology,) which attempts to quantify the difference between humans and the rest of the primates, both current and extinct. "The Ascent of Man" was a "light" presentation on his findings, (and is the documentation from the lectures in the TV series,) and chronicles the history of human thought-particularly scientific thought. Its a classic book that is available in most book stores, in the history, or anthropology sections. (Also available in the big paperbacks.) My hard cover has an ISBN of 0-316-10930-4. His contributions to the field of mathematics are many, among them, significantly advancing the interpretation of game theory. He was one of the first to recognize the significance of information theory as a methodology of analyzing rule based systems, like mathematics, itself. For example, it can be shown that the next theorem of mathematics can never be deduced by a mechanical, rule based process, (which has led some industrial grade thinkers, like Roger Penrose-of Stephen Hawkings fame-to conclude that there is something qualitatively different between the human mind and a computer-ie., we can never make a computer that is the equivalent of the human mind.) It can also be shown that most mathematical theorems can not be proven true or false. Likewise, it can be shown, that if a system is sufficiently complex-ie., something as simple as the arithmetic is-that the system will give incomplete or inconsistent results. For example, it can be shown that addition is complete and consistent. The same can not be said for subtraction-at least using only the theorems and postulates of the arithmetic. What all this means, in a practice sense, is that, although science is a useful tool, that there is limitations to what science can do. For example, if we can not build a system that is as simple as the arithmetic, that is logically self consistent and complete, then how would we write a normative document for a society, (normative document is a legal term for the Constitution.) How would we set up a management system? How can we verify that Liberal Democracy works? Big questions, that are all too often argued on the grounds of logical merit-at least by those that don't know any better. The essence of Bronowski's book is the lay introduction of such concepts, (besides being a compendum on the history of scientific thought.) Since Bronowski's death in the mid 70's a lot of mathematical formality has been dedicated to these issues. Probably the most formidable is the economist Kenneth Arrow's so called "Impossibility Theorem," which is an extension of Bronowski, et al's, work. Arrow showed that there was no way that 3, or more, people, could, logically, rank conflicting priorities. (He used the game-theoretic methodology of linear programming to prove this-and pop'ed a Nobel for it, while at RAND in the 50's.) It is not clear what this means to rule based social systems. (Actually, the authors of the US Constitution were savvy to such things-the original Constitution is logically consistent-in a strict and formal sense. If you look at the differences in word smithing between the drafts and the final document, it is absolutely astonishing that they understood such concepts, 3 centuries before it was formalized. What has happened since the penning of the document, well ...) Taken in the context of historical perspective, the 20'th century has been, at least in some sense, the century of anti-science, since we entered the century with the prevailing concept that everything could be deduced, logically, and it was only a matter of effort to formalize the GTOE, (Grand Theory of Everything.) A very Leibnezian, (of calculus theory fame,) concept. None other that David Hilbert-the greatest mathematician of the 20'th century-thought this. In 1928 the young Austrian logician Kurt Godel proved him wrong. Physists were also having their trouble in the 20's, specifically, Leo Szilard's troubling formal discovery that the universe itself may not be quite so predictable as clockworks, and may, indeed, operate by chance. (Re: Einstein's comment about the quantum mechanics, which Szilard was formalizing at the time, which was "God does not play dice," and, I think it was Fermi-or was it Bohr-that replied "Einstein, stop telling God what to do.") Heisenberg formailzed the issue of "universal chance" further, into the science of entropy, (and Heisenberg uncertainty,) as introduced earlier by Boltzman-he proved Boltzman's concepts of "disorder in the universe," ie., entropy, correct. Astonishingly, (Szilard won a Nobel for his discovery of information theoretic concepts, so did Godel,) these works were only the tip of the iceberg of a far larger structure, the nature of which is not clear today, although there is much theoretical work being done on the structure in an attempt to figure out what it means. As it turns out, Boltzman's concept of entropy, Godel's incompleteness theorem, and Szilard's information theory have been found to be all the same thing. Entropy is an information-theoretic concept that has physical meaning and interpretation, like mass, force, etc. The guy that formalized these issues is Gregory Chaitin, et al, and the "Information-Theoretic Incompleteness" theorem, which simply places limits on what scientific (eg., rule based,) methodology can do. Which, in a nut shell, brings things up to date from the Brownowski book to the present. Actually, there is a new information-theoretic formal proof that assuming the speed of light to be constant and scientific induction to work is, logically, contradictory. (Note that the quantum mechanics, the "queen of science," is based on scientific induction and the speed of light being constant.) I would not venture an interpretation as to what this means. As the mathematician John Casti said, "Mathematics is a religion. It is unique among the religions in that it can prove itself a religion." And as the logician, (and science fiction writer,) Rudy Rucker stated, "the laws of logic are pitifly few." (You could count them on both hands and feet.) There is a new realization of science. IMHO, 500 years from now, mathematicians will look back at the 20'th century, and see that a new age dawned. Hilbert never understood that. Godel Von Neumann, Bronowski, Szilard, Heisenberg, Boltzmann, et al, did. (Some, like Von Neumann, claimed the comprehension was a religious experience.) John BTW, Re: the previous email where I made the statement that of all of NASA's technical achievements, the contributions to the management of large, dispersed, projects was its most significant. Now, you can probably understand why I made that statement. For example, for the Apollo missions, there were never more than 30,000 NASA employees, but these managed 400,000 other workers, granted 200 colleges $100 million for basic research, awarded contracts to 16 major industrial firms, and 20,000 subcontractors, and made it all work. They had to re-define what management meant. It was the largest project ever attempted in the history of humanity. (Refer to the above paragraph on ranking of priorities. I mean, how did they do it? How did they make it all work? Astonishing!) And if that wasn't enough, consider the differences between the NASA of 1967, (and the Apollo spaceship fire, killing several astronauts, which was do to "sloppy" operations,) and the NASA of Apollo 13. Big difference. Not only could NASA build an organization, they could "turn it," which is a far more formidable proposition. -- John Conover, john@email.johncon.com, http://www.johncon.com/

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