Icons: System Security

I have been thinking about system security and the types of threats that malware presents to a system. There really are only four types of Malware: Spyders (Malevolent Select), Viruses (Malevolent Insert), Trojans (Malevolent Update) and Bombs (Malevolent Delete).  I’ve been playing with other terms: Causus (Cause), Ductus (Person), Modus (Function), Datus (Data), Eventus (Event), Locus (Node).  I have also included standard security measures:

I hope these icon ideas get you thinking about system security not just in the context of computer systems.

Discrimination Destroys Performance

I just read an article in the Economist “From He That Hath Not” that discusses Cognitive Disenhancement research. Subjects were told to think of Empowering or Disempowering experiences and their cognitive performance was tested. People who thought of disempowering experiences performed more poorly. However, I think this research was nothing compared to the work of a third grade school teacher in a small all white Iowa town, Jane Elliott.

Jane Elliott separated her class by eye color and discrimated against the brown eyed students for a day and then against blue eyed students for a day. The students who had been performing well as a whole suddenly showed a marked difference. The students discriminated against performed considerably poorer. When asked why they performed more poorly, the students discriminated against explained that they were preoccupied by the discrimination against them and could not concentrate. Afterward, having learned the effects of discrimination the students’ performance as a whole actually improved overall.

Jane was asked to perform the same experiment with adults and the same results were found.

Discrimination robs people of achieving their full potential in any pursuit.

Here is the Frontline video, “A Class Divided(55 min)

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more about “A Classroom Divided“, posted with vodpod

The book “A Class Divided” can be found here.

Icons: Systema

I finally put together a broad range of icons for the System Elements. Remember Causus (Why), Ductus (Who), Modus (How), Datus (What), Eventus (When), Locus (Where):

Systema

Tonight I broke out the dictionary and began examining my Latin roots. Spurred on by the term “datum” I decided to go all the way and produce an internally consistent set of terminology for a system:

I have a confession to make.  I abused the Latin a bit.

I recently learned that to enable philosophers of all languages to exchange their work Latin is used as the standard. In working to refine my understanding of system concepts I can see the rationale behind using a language with a thoroughly refined vocabulary and grammar. Dead languages do have utility.

Design: Attacking Convention

It’s wrong. The way we think about managing files in applications is wrong. And it is wrong for one reason. It lacks conceptual abstraction, simplicity and consistency.

“Wait!” you may say, “the icons are the same in all the applications! We’ve got the sheet of paper for ‘New’, the opening folder for ‘Open’ and the diskette for ‘Save’. We’ve even got a cute magnifying glass for ‘Search’.”

Frak the magnifying glass!

That’s part of the problem. The “New”, “Open” and “Save” icons should be sacrificed on the alter and replaced. New is relatively acceptable, but when we open it is not file we open but a folder. When we save we are not saving to a diskette. And we shouldn’t even be using the term “File” for anything. We are managing “Email”, “Documents”, “Worksheets”, “Presentations”, “Databases”, “Calendars”, “Projects”, “Drawings”, “Contacts” and “Browsers” people! If our applications are single function so should be what we are editing.

When you “Open” you could be uploading or downloading into your computer’s memory. When you “Save” a document, you could be uploading it to a hard drive on the web or downloading it to your hard drive; it could be burning it to a CD-ROM or good heavens even writing to a diskette. I’m not going to draw little hard drives. I’m going to abstract the concepts completely.

I always hated the clipboard metaphor. I just decided to call it a “content block”. You either delete it from your document, copy it from your document, update your document with it or select it in your document.

This is not my final version in the least. But I wanted to put some food for thought on the tabula rasa.

Design: Illusion Sciences

Arthur Shapiro keeps a fine blog, IllusionSciences.com, where he presents visual illusions from his psychology and neuroscience research. The site is rich in concepts and ideas which can be borrowed by visual designers to create novel effects in their work. The site is just plain interesting as well.

The Brain: Hardwiring and Softwiring

I’m just finishing a very fine book by Steven Pinker, The Languange Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language

and several years ago I read Donald D. Hoffman’s book, Visual Intelligence: How We Create What We See. Both books deal with the same subject: What part of our minds are hardwired–instinct–and what parts of our minds are softwired–reason. It is a truly fascinating exploration.

Stephen Pinker in The Language Instinct very thoroughly explores all the aspects of spoken language. He discusses how broken pidgin languages are turned into grammatically rich creoles by children. He explains that whether a person learns a language or not they can have complex thought he calls Mentalese. He explains Chomsky’s concept of a Universal Grammar and how, with language, learning does not cause mental complexity, but mental complexity causes learning. He reveals that children have an acute sense of the morphology of words and rapidly acquire vocabulary as listemes because of the nature of the relationship between child, adult and reality. The perception of speech as well as the physical production of speech is explored. How we derive meaning from language rejects the technical concept of packets being transmitted and received for a much more subjective process of interpretation. The ability of children to learn language is treated as an evolutionary trade off existing only long enough to adopt the tribes language and then shutdown to make way for other special priorities. The “Language Organ” or region of the brain that is responsible for speech is narrowed down. The chain of being is pushed aside for the bush of evolution to reveal that hundreds of thousands of generations existed for language and homo sapiens sapiens to evolve separate from all our other primate cousins. The difference between living spoken language is separated from living written language, the discipline required for each and the fact that language is never in decay. Finally the relativism of the Standard Social Science Model (SSSM) or tabula rasa as proposed by Margaret Mead is rejected, Pinker takes sides with the Evolutionary Psychologists stating that environment alone cannot create the complexity of the mind, the mind must have many complex modules to be able to learn from the environment at all. He discusses Donald E. Brown’s Universal Person (UP) inspired by Chomsky’s Universal Grammar (UG). Finally, Pinker tries to define the modules of the human mind and here I get excited as I find I am able to fit them easily into the Six Hats, Six Coats model. Pinker says that language is a system and extrapolates to say humans are a system of both hardwiring and softwiring.

Hoffman’s book deals with an aspect of mind that more easily subscribes to the module concept than language because it is a much more detached, empirical exercise to test for the visual hardwiring that humans have through the use of visual illusions. Hoffman takes us through many aspects of vision such as facial recognition, edge and shadow and color and the perceptual development of children to reveal what appears to be hardwired and softwired. He concludes with a relativistic statement, but I think that he chooses this because of the political desire of scientists to distance themselves from the eugenics of the first half of the 20th century instead of an objective conclusion that, yes, we have a complex module in our brain specifically hardwired and softwired for vision as used by our species. In other words, when presented with the depth of Steven Pinker’s work compared to the breadth of Donald Hoffman’s work, I believe that we do have a vision instinct.

All in all I believe that Steven Pinker’s and Donald Hoffman’s work is revealing that humans minds are far more than just an empty neural net at birth. That in fact there is an evolved complex predefined structure that humans make use of through the learning stages of childhood to understand their environment that diminishes to adult levels at puberty. Consequently, no form of Artificial Intelligence will succeed unless it also comes with a robust collection of Artificial Instincts.

Related Article:

relationary stuff for disaster relief

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Whether you are a system architect, a SQL developer or a SQL programmer there’s great stuff for you at low prices. All proceeds will go to the Canadian Red Cross Sichuan Earthquake Fund.

Space: Earth’s Inner Space

Robert Ballard reveals that we do not have to leave the surface to see what no one has seen before, we need only go beneath the surface of our oceans. The oceanic depths are mostly unmapped and unseen and there is proof that new forms of life exist down there that we know nothing about. Robert Ballard, calls upon us to raise a new generation of explorers to help us understand the unknown 72 percent of our own planet.

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