But attacks like this are rare – and courageous. Are they the best way to deal with the problem? I don’t know! John Keane (author of a huge recent volume on the Rise and Fall of Democracy) used a slightly different approach in an open letter to David held.
And in that same spirit of agnosticism let me continue the quotes from the article I mentioned yesterday on the stupidity of efficiency.
At the heart of the efficiency error is a dichotomy to do with knowledge and the way we store and use it.All of which points us to Taleb’s writings about the Black Swan – the need to think about the unthinkable. Here’s an interesting article of the implications of his argument for management. And also a journal from India with an excellent article about self-development .
When I discuss knowledge in the context of business I like to refer to “primary” and “secondary” kinds of knowledge. Dinosaurs are a good example of relying exclusively on the primary sort. Primary knowledge is compressed into simple routines. It is the kind of knowledge that says “when this happens, respond by doing x”. Easy. Cheap to store. Easily encoded. Easily replicated. Very easy to manage. And produces the same result every time.
Businesses love this kind of knowledge. It lies at the heart of the dumbing down in every large business. It makes the cost of management lower because you don’t need much management overhead to get consistent results.
Until, of course something changes. As in the environment shifting.
Then all that supremely efficient knowledge is rendered not just useless, but dangerous. Organizations who pride themselves on their efficiency are betting that their environment will justify their knowledge. They have, either explicitly or implicitly, planned that they know the future.
Secondary knowledge, by its nature, is high cost to deploy. It involves lugging around all sorts of unused rules that may or may not ever be deployed in action. There is always a tension between primary and secondary knowledge. Business prefers primary at all times since it is cheaper. Adaptation requires secondary since it allows change. Evolution has used both, but the emphasis is on primary knowledge with the result that failed knowledge implies extinction. Dinosaurs being a good example. Perfect for a very long time. Constant evolution along a path that then became, suddenly, a poor one. Highly efficient. And then not at all efficient.
Finally a good piece about what's happening to our language.