14.0736 brain thoughts

From: by way of Willard McCarty (willard@lists.village.Virginia.EDU)
Date: Wed Mar 14 2001 - 08:45:43 EST

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 736.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

             Date: Wed, 14 Mar 2001 07:33:34 +0000
             From: "Osher Doctorow" <osher@ix.netcom.com>
             Subject: Re: 14.0732 Terry Sanders, "Into the Future"

    From: Osher Doctorow osher@ix.netcom.com, Sunday March 11, 2001 11:22PM

    This is most remarkable. I was just yesterday thinking of writing a paper
    entitled "Into the Future," but on a totally different topic. In any case,
    I will proceed to summarize my views.

    I have come to the conclusion (let us say a conjecture to be precise) that
    humanities (in particular, languages such as English, French, etc.) and
    science/mathematics constitute two realms which have different associations
    in the brain, although there are also perhaps some overlapping regions. I
    think furthermore that civilization is incomplete without both of them, and
    that each has a somewhat different unique contribution. I will not repeat
    the words *I think* below, but they are to be understood. English (short
    here for natural languages) summaries our deepest analyses of events, our
    intuition (although part of intuition seems geometric), and our deepest
    summaries of events (if that is not a double noun construction - actually,
    even if it is) and most closely relates to the deepest logical propositions,
    in which respects it acts somewhat like a metalanguage, although because of
    certain human habits of mislearning it also contains single words which have
    multiple meanings which can confuse very much. Mathematics
    condenses/shrinks/makes concise and eliminates multiple-meaning confusions
    to some extent but probably not at the deepest most fundamental levels, and
    approaches in some respects single-meaning English when it is at its best.
    Its main defects are in its axioms and operations - when these are not made
    totally clear and overt almost to the point of exhaustion, mathematics
    disguises as much as it reveals. Thus, I regard the main method of creative
    genius in mathematics as changing axioms and operations (once they have been
    thoroughly absorbed, learned, and understood - civilization is both a very
    conservative and revolutionary process) and translating into English.

    Science/engineering/medicine other than mathematics tries to combine the two
    above approaches, and that is perhaps why engineers tend to be CEOs of at
    least technical corporations so much - namely, they are trying to do the
    almost impossible which is combining both natural language and mathematics,
    so very few people are equipped to challenge them, plus they have formal
    Degrees usually in the claim to do that. It has become my conclusion that,
    in view of the tendency of technical corporations to hire the least
    proficient people in doing the two tasks above (namely, new college
    graduates or new PhDs or well-established university bureaucrats who do
    consulting usually on the side but often have the creativity and courage of
    piranha fish), technical corporations attain a level of idiocy which is
    often comparable to that of computers without human
    operators/programmers/engineers. In that respect, "into the past" may be
    a better description of their work.

    My wife Marleen's uncle was an Italian-American manager of an
    engineering/mathematics branch of Hughes Aircraft for many years until his
    retirement, and he was quite convinced that progress in science could not be
    sped up. I often suggested to him that an emergency program should be
    instituted to speed things up, including in medicine (he was ill for many
    years after his retirement) and space flight. I think that I begin at last
    to see his reasoning. If one does manage to get by the personnel experts
    who are afraid to select people whom they believe management will not like
    (people with very different or novel ideas, say), and past the mathematical
    experts who cannot talk English or other natural languages beyond grunting,
    then one would have to get past the engineer type CEOs who are trying to do
    both and can realistically do neither terribly well.

    There is hope, however, that grain and vegetable and tea and tree-planting
    corporations will save the day. I await the future with great interest, if
    not for myself then for the vegetable life that may supplant us in that
    remarkable thing called Civilization.

    Osher Doctorow
    Ventura College, Doctorow Consultants, etc.

    ----- Original Message -----
    From: "Humanist Discussion Group
    <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk>)" <willard@lists.village.virginia.edu>
    To: "Humanist Discussion Group" <humanist@lists.Princeton.EDU>
    Sent: Sunday, March 11, 2001 1:32 AM
                Date: Sun, 11 Mar 2001 09:20:30 +0000
    > From: Edward Vanhoutte <evanhout@uia.ua.ac.be>
    > Subject: Into the Future

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