Three practical philosophies

Summary

In addition to major life philosophies and religions, there are also various philosophies and methods which aim at doing better various things in life. In this post I write about three such “minor” philosophies.

Feldenkrais Method

The Feldenkrais Method belongs to the realm of complementary and alternative medicine. It stresses user physical movements. It is applied by people like dancers or musicians, who want to improve their movement repertoire, and by people, who want to reduce their pain or movement limitations. One famous student of the Feldenkrais Method was David Ben-Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel.
Wikipedia article (also source of this summary): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feldenkrais_Method
The Feldenkrais Method Center: http://www.feldenkrais-center.com/INDEX_ENG.HTM

Eliahu Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints

The Theory of Constraints (TOC) belongs to the realm of business and organizational management. Each system (business or organization) has a goal to be maximized. Each system has also a key constraint, which limits the system’s performance relative to its goal. In order to manage the system’s performance, the key constraint must be identified and dealt with.
Wikipedia article (also source of this summary): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_Constraints

Steve Litt’s Universal Troubleshooting Process

The Universal Troubleshooting Process (UTP) belongs to the realms of repairing malfunctioning equipment and software debugging. It is a method for troubleshooting reproducible problems and ensuring that once they are fixed – they stay fixed.
The core of this process is a 10-step process, which covers preparations, actual diagnosis, repair, and post-repair work.
Longer description of the process: http://www.troubleshooters.com/tuni.htm

Organizations need more people with leadership skills than you think

I would like to take issue with a point made in Why do we persist in trying to turn ourselves (and other people) into what we and they plainly are not?

The writer believes that only one or two leaders are needed to work with a very large number (tens or hundreds) of people. The following are counter-examples and counter-arguments.

  • A committee typically has between 5-10 members. It needs a leader to function effectively.
  • When an emergency, such as fire, earthquake or serious equipment malfunction occurs, there is not always time to bring the leader (assuming that the leader is not already busy putting out a fire elsewhere). At least one of the people dealing with the emergency needs to have leadership skills and be able to organize his colleagues as necessary to deal with the emergency.
  • People with leadership skills have also better team membership skills. They would support the current endeavor’s leader and make him more effective.
  • It is easier to restructure and expand the organization if external circumstances so require, if it already has high percentage of people with leadership skills.
  • People with genuine leadership skills would not indulge in petty politicizing to the detriment of themselves and their fellows.

Freedom of expression for primary and high school teachers

I was prompted to write this by a request, which I received today.

Some background information: large part of the contents of my DEAF-INFO Web site is material, which was posted to the DEAF-L mailing list by various subscribers over the years. When the mailing list was active, I saved the best posts and put them in the Web site, with attribution to the original contributor.

The request, which I received today, was to remove the attributions to a particular contributor.

In the past I received similar requests. Upon further questioning, it turned out that most of those requests were made by people, who expressed their strong opinions about various deafness related issues, while they were students. Few years later, they were to get jobs as teachers in schools of the deaf. Then they were concerned that they’ll get into trouble because of the opinions, which they expressed in the past.

I asked someone, who teaches in a regular primary school, about this. She explained to me that teachers are forbidden to publicly express their opinions. The teachers are usually state or county employees. The only people authorized to publicize opinions are the employer’s public relations specialists.

I believe that this state of affairs is rather unfortunate. Teachers work “in the trenches” – they deal with pupils with learning disabilities, they deal with non-working educational methodologies, they deal with poorly-designed materials. They should be able to criticize non-working methods of instruction. If their school principal does not improve the methods, the teachers should be free to publicize their criticism. This would allow parents to ultimately have a say in improving the quality of instruction their children receive.

This is important especially in the area of deaf education, which is especially rife with conflict among different goals (integration vs. separate identity), philosophies (oral vs. Sign Language) and a bewildering choice of communication methods.

Finally a test for aptitude for programming?

It is well known that it is impossible to use currently available tools to test for ability to program computers.

In their paper The camel has two humps (working title), Dehnadi and Bornat claim to finally have a test, which can predict one’s ability to program. Basically, their test assesses the candidate’s ability to manipulate symbols according to rules without looking for a meaning in those symbols.

A note to self:
According to the above paper, the following are the major semantic hurdles, which trip up novice imperative programmers:

  1. Assignment and sequence.
  2. Recursion/Iteration.
  3. Concurrency.

Novice declarative programmers have to leap the following semantic hurdle:

  • Argument substitution.

In addition to the above semantic hurdles, I know of one additional major semantic hurdle:

  • The concept of a pointer.

I wonder whether there are additional semantic hurdles, listed in some obscure (or not so obscure) paper published somewhere in the world – or even unrecognized so far.

How did the superego come into existence and survive?

Thoughts after reading the article On awakening the intuitive mind as part of a modern lifestyle:

According to the article, the intuitive, unconstrained mode of thought is probably more productive than the usual constrained mode of thought.

The question is, then, why do we have at all a constrained mode of thought?

I suspect that the answer lies in the pack nature of humans. Humans are similar to dogs in following a leader. Several humans can switch between being leaders and being followers. When they are followers, they are supposed to subordinate their senses and thoughts to those of their leader. They should integrate with the pack way to maximize its effectiveness. The leader alone is supposed to have fully independent thoughts.

The symbolic representation of the above subordination is having in one’s mind the concept of a super-ego, a captain, who gives orders and does not allow the rest of one’s mind to have full freedom to follow wild thoughts.

When an human is alone or is the leader, he is supposed to make full use of his brain. Then the super-ego or the captain are supposed to go offstage until the human is again working in a subordinate role.

Consider the economics of the situation. One human with very free and productive mind can create intellectual output (say, a symphony, an inspiring book, or an ingenious computer program) at rate of say 100 times that of someone whose mind is always in the subordinated state.

However, if a great project needs the intellectual output of 1000 geniuses, then the only practical way to accomplish it is to subordinate the minds of millions of more or less ordinary people to accomplish the great project. It is even impossible to coordinate the workings of those 1000 geniuses without seriously impairing their individual intellectual outputs.

NOTE:
When considering a great project, consider the Manhattan Project, or the project of building a space station capable of housing one million humans.

A way to pass the time during Yom Kippur

… is to read the tome “The Shepherd – The Life Story of Ariel Sharon” by Nir Hefez and Gadi Bloom.
I am still in the year 1969, but I am already impressed by the circuitousness of his life story. He was groomed by David Ben-Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel. In the 1950’s he founded Unit 101 and later, in spite of quarrels with other commanders of IDF, he was made responsible for developing methodologies and training soldiers. He already exhibited the qualities of thorough preparations and rigorous postmortem analyses, which served him well in his career.
If his qualities were not needed for defending Israel against its enemies, he would probably have become an agricultural or biotechnology tycoon by now.