Posts Tagged ‘knowledge’

I’ve previously mentioned Rodney Brooks approach to robotics, and also “bottom up” views of knowledge. Here’s a nice quote (from Brian Rotman, Mathematics as Sign, p115):

Brooks’ attachment to the bottom-up procedure is also performative, ruling the description as well as the content of his approach. Thus, not only mind—problem solving, central control, representation—is subordinated within his model of intelligence but also its sociocultural correlates—philosophy, abstract thought, theory—are likewise invoked by him on a minimal, need-to-know basis.

This appeals to me, in part, because it chimes with my views about another form of abstract knowledge that’s central to programming: knowledge of programming languages.

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In the light of Venkat Rao’s theory of gollumization and raving fandom, it’s reasonable to ask the question: “Am I a raving Venkat Rao fan?”

There’s evidence on both sides, but here’s my case against.

Admittedly, I dutifully gave away my stealth edition of Tempo, and claimed my free Kindle edition to replace it. But, although the content was all very interesting, there was something I didn’t quite like about either edition. I didn’t like the way they smelled. To quote Rupert Giles:

Smell is the most powerful trigger to the memory there is. A certain flower, or a whiff of smoke can bring up experiences long forgotten. Books smell musty and rich. The knowledge gained from a computer is a — it, uh, it has no texture, no context. It’s there and then it’s gone. If it’s to last, then the getting of knowledge should be, uh, tangible, it should be, um, smelly.

Let’s pick a different example. Perhaps a neglected difference between a satnav nomad’s understanding of a city, and The Knowledge of London is in smell: fried breakfast, stale cigarettes, diesel, piss.

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Frank Stajano’s presentation on security (and the recent Cambridge Stack Overflow Dev Day) was based on the premise that hustlers and scammers understand human psychology in a way that engineers do not, and so security engineers would do well to learn from how classic scams work.


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