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Re: Social Engineering. {was: Re: Opium [was: Re: freelance sysadmining -- superlong -- [WAS: "Red Hat recommends Windows for consumers"]]

> From: Ron Johnson <ron.l.johnson@cox.net>
> It seems to me that the "most successful" would be those who can
> master the social needs (get good grades from approved testbooks,
> etc), while still being able to think outside the box.

Ron, I can't give your remark the attention it deserves because this
topic is way OT, but I find no way to resist saying just a little.

Your implication that students who know how to work within the system
tend to get good grades strikes me as accurate, as is the implication
that good grades don't necessarily correlate with "intelligence."

However, there are some serious problems lurking behind these

We have no satisfactory measure of intelligence, certainly not the
discredited "IQ" test. We therefore must always specify just what we
mean by intelligence, particularly the context in which it is
manifested. There's probably different kinds of intelligence that are
only loosely correlated with mental acuity.

For example, I have an intuitive sense that some people really pick
things up quickly and frequently come up with unusual insights. I
suppose that is a sign of their native intelligence.

Unfortunately, that ability correlates poorly with success in school
and with success in life. Many of these people have difficulty with
formal college courses because they find it difficult to fit into the
grove of the system's implicit assumptions and goals and lack the
presumed fundamental information and skills. Many of these people
don't do particularly well on the job, either, for they may not have
some necessary social skills or not take seriously the rules governing
work, or perhaps are simply not given opportunity or reason to act

While I think of such people as sharp, and I find them interesting and
fun to be with, their mental sharpness may do them really little
good. That is, they are not really "intelligent" in the sense that
they can think constructively "outside the box." Sometimes they are
not so much "outside the box" as "off the wall".

Creative thinking, just as creativity in the arts, requires
discipline, the mastery of certain skills and possession of a body of
knowledge. The issue, I believe, is not thinking "outside the box," as
if honed skill and the possession of information is somehow the enemy
of creative thinking, but being creative in terms of one's skills and
knowledge. Intelligence or creativity without material constraint to
give it meaning and direction seems vacuous (lecture here on
thermodynamic engines, and how structures give rise to improbable
outcomes by constraining a dissipative system's degrees of freedom,
etc., etc., etc.).

For example, with baroque music there were many geniuses and a lot of
hacks whom we seldom hear. The former struggled with and bent
conventions to create extraordinarily powerful music. On the other
hand, today there's not much left of the old rules, and so it becomes
very difficult for a composer to produce anything but
soon-to-be-forgotten "elevator music."

We are heirs of an ideological contradiction between freedom and
determinism, while in fact, in human affairs and to a significant
extent in the natural sciences, causality is probabilistic. This
suggests the contradiction is false.

Haines Brown        

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