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186The good ideas everyone should have...

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  • David Cymbala
    Dec 3, 2001
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      Hi Pascal,

      > There is a certain class of ideas that, to me, always sound like "if
      > only the whole world would act like this, everyone would be much better
      > off" - and this class of ideas can never work, at least in my opinion.

      On this point we are in complete agreement.
      The misguided notion that a specific idea or
      practice should be universally adopted tends
      to fall on its face. Even beyond all the vested
      interests we encounter, such ideas usually are
      based on short-sighted thinking of some kind.
      Based on observations of both genetics and
      neural networks, the system needs to have
      two critcal elements: Noise and Feedback.
      The necessary variation (noise) is present
      such that the common reinforcements (feedback)
      walk through a vast state space, eventually
      arriving at a configuation that serves the greater
      whole. It would seem that this borders on
      ideas about learning, but learning as a group
      (e.g. a genome, or a community).

      > For example, some extreme variants of type systems in programming
      > languages look to me like this. However, in practice you always have the
      > problem of connecting your own little piece of software to other
      > libraries/components/whatever, with different assumptions about type
      > systems, or even without any type system at all. So at some stage, every
      > programming language has to deal with it, and for this reason, must
      > break some of its assumptions. Now, wouldn't it be better, if the whole
      > world would use a single programming language? Couldn't we then just do
      > away with this problem?
      >
      > No, we couldn't. And my main point here is, that this is not due to some
      > inherent problems of type systems, or programming languages or the like,
      > but _only_ because it is an "improve the whole world" argument, and
      > these arguments don't work by definition (IMHO, I don't have a proof for
      > this conjecture). Such arguments are based on the assumption that a
      > single person (or a group of persons) understands much more and a much
      > greater scope than what happens (and what is important) in their own
      > special circumstances. Human beings are not capable of that.

      Again, total agreement. Perhaps that is why we organize
      into societies and so forth, so that we can solve certain
      dilemmas of life through collective effort, even though
      individual success might be limited.

      > Therefore, "each individual attempt to solve isolated what concerns all,
      > must fail". (Still not correct english here, but I am working on it...
      > ;)

      Perhaps another way to say it is:

      "Isolated individual attempts to solve issues concerning everyone must fail."

      Like a single node in a neural network being so heavily
      weighted that it singlehandedly determines the result.
      Not very effective. :-)

      -David
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