You can’t play 20 questions with nature and win « Mind Hacks

“That the same human subject can adopt many (radically different) methods for the same basic task, depending on goal, background knowledge, and minor details of payoff structure and task texture implies that the “normal” means of science may not suffice.”

Another perspective on the failure of normal science.

(Sorry, climate change deniers, antivaxxers, intelligent designers [now there’s an aurochsy-moron] and your ilk, that doesn’t mean I agree with you that science is wrong; all that’s being said here is that the current approach to some huge problems isn’t working.)

“…In Allen Newell‘s 1973 paper, a classic in cognitive science … he confesses that although he sees many excellent psychology experiments, all making undeniable scientific contributions, he can’t imagine them cohering into progress for the field as a whole”, writes Tom Stafford.

My immediate thought was to jump to a comparison with management theory and its interventions: improve performance, improve engagement, better customer service, data gathering: the twenty questions of management consultancy.

Are you sure you really want that Theory Of Everything?

The ToE sin: attempting a synthesis using a welding torch.


Is light a particle? Yes
Is light a wave? Yes.

Can you develop a theory that integrates both?

Well,  they’ve been trying for 80 years or so…

But why bother?

We have two lovely theories about light and we know how to use them!

I have a drill and a saw and a hammer and a screwdriver.

Black and Decker have a multi-tool that combines them all. They are obsessed.

If you want to see a builder laugh, ask him what he thinks of them…

How to tell if the guy in the next cubicle is an everyday sadist – Quartz

“Savoring the suffering of others isn’t merely the stuff of Fifty Shades of Grey or Hannibal Lecter. Recent psychology research reveals that most people are more likely to encounter sadism in their offices, at the hands of a colleague, than from someone with a flogger or a glass of chianti.

“That boss who seems to love chewing out his underlings in front of the entire team? He could very well be an “everyday sadist,” the latest addition to what scientists call the “Dark Tetrad”—personalities that feature “socially offensive traits falling in the normal or ‘everyday’ range” of behavior, as Delroy Paulhus, a psychology professor at the University of British Columbia put it in a recent paper (paywall).

“Alongside everyday sadism, Dark Tetrad personalities include narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. These individuals may be malevolent, but not so much that their day-to-day functioning is impeded or that they will land in prison or a psych ward.”

File under: management

Generation X, meet Theory Y… it’s like Douglas McGregor never existed

If Your Boss Thinks You’re Awesome, You Will Become More Awesome

Turns out that people improve and stuff if they are rated highly by their boss. Yada yada. The findings are a bit incoherent; the author seems a little puzzled.

What interests me, not in a good way, is how the once-mighty HBR has ascended into a strange world; a Patrick Bateman training room —all glass walls, blonde wood, PowerPoint and flipcharts— where people with MBAs* discuss pop-psychology quizzes that are pure Cosmo ’50 ways to please your manager in the boardroom’ stylee, and nobody, nobody remembers Douglas McGregor.

(*MacBook Airs.)

Back in the late 90s, Peter Fryer and Frances Storr developed a rapid, low-cost, paperless, humane, 360-degree performance appraisal system, inspired by complexity theory concepts.

And it was effective. These days we would describe it as ‘strengths-based, but, not a lot of money to be made from that: no software, didn’t need a week-long training induction programme, so not exactly billable boulevard, baby.

It’s another ‘sense-in-common’.

EDGES: for example, the EdgeOfDiscomfort

” But what is it about these repulsive characters that we find so attractive that their very idea entertains us and in this season becomes part of Halloween play? The answer lies in the way we play with the edge of discomfort. Play often enlists the mischievous and disruptive, the transgressive and the alarming. But only up to a point; we like roller coasters and spooky movies as long as they’re only momentarily disturbing. Here, playing with the undead, perhaps joining one of the downtown midnight zombie walks that have surged in popularity around the country, we draw a queasy thrill from the odd sense that arises from an encounter with an object that looks real enough to be real, or that moves realistically enough to seem real and alive, but that is nevertheless not real or that seems not quite real or not quite alive.”

Another interesting edge, the edge of discomfort.

Remind me to write a long piece about why edges are important and interesting.

Edges like the edge:

# where land meets sea, beaches, perfect play, where life on earth evolved (probably)
# of a large organisation, where the learning is
# of popular music, where jazz and all forms of experimental music live
# of offence, where much of the best comedy lives. Was that a sick joke? Too soon?
# QI: Quite Interesting. The edge of interestingness.
# The Edge out of U2. Actually, no.
# Edgy haircuts, clothes, remarks: mostly not.
# John Brockman’s