Literacy and Numeracy: Stone Axes and Bone Knives


Ultimately, everything is metaphor, whether we relate a taste to a strawberry or a color to a sound.  I use the word synesthesis broadly to describe the mechanism in memory that makes this possible.  The more I read, the more I am discovering that the structure is relatively the same in most individuals, but the perceptual history of every individual shapes the content of this structure differently.

There is some research that shows identical twins when together take different paths, however separated identical twins take similar paths.  You can find this in the work of Steven Pinker.

What is known is multiple sensory cues are better than individual sensory cues.  A visual cue will have a synergistic effect in memory when accompanied by other sensory cues including what I call the “cognitive sense”.  This being the case, the classroom is a terrible environment for learning and it is generally better to be immersed and learning in an environment with as many real sensory cues as possible right from the start.  This is why immersion is regarded as the best way to learn language although there are some caveats.

Steven Pinker has found that restricting language does limit people in their thinking, however in a generation the children build complete grammars with the language they are given and even coin new words as their experience dictates.  Language is a living, evolving thing within and across generations and cannot be contained in a 1984 fashion.  Nor is it wise to attempt to freeze a language you are studying, because it is a moving target.  Spelling guides, pronunciation keys, dictionaries, thesauruses, quotations, encyclopedias, news was never meant to police your thinking, but to equip you to think more broadly than your current abilities.  You weren’t meant to follow these books, you were meant to read to lead.  The books were meant to follow you.

Memory is infinitely flexible.  We are continually living a life where our mental data is accumulating and where we encounter crisis, climax and resolution or some variation mentally and we make the mental leap or stand on the cliff edge unable to evolve and cornered by our past.

Physics, Chemistry, Chronology, Geology, Psychology, Biology, Mathematics are the foundation stones of our sensory perception and our symbol systems and every one of these symbol systems evolves as we accomplish a phase change in any one due to an accumulation of exceptions until the system on which the symbols are based breaks down.  We call these phase change points “zero” and “infinity”, but zero and infinity are only place holders on a continuum be it linear, geometric, exponential or hyperbolic that has yet to show a limit of any kind.  All they mark are phase changes.

As Goedel demonstrated mathematically no system is complete, therefore no symbol system is complete.  There will always be phenomena that have yet to be represented and cannot be represented by the present system.  This is true for any language as well.  Listen to the phenomenal aural vocabulary of our youth as they imitate the sounds of their environment such as instruments and devices that our previous generation never heard.  Can we capture those “sound effects” with our current alphabet or icons?  I listen to children and youths communicating without uttering a single word in any language.  They communicate in the sounds and visual action of their home entertainment systems!  Anime is creating a world of children who speak a language their parents cannot fathom unless they are watching what their children watch.

And don’t be surprised to find children are no less intelligent than we were.  They don’t need the literacy we had to function in their environment quite effectively.  Measures of literacy and numeracy are irrelevant justifications for perpetuating an obsolete educational system.  The problem isn’t your children, it’s your educators.  Your children will define what communication will be in the future and we have to learn their lingua, not teach them ours.  Educators refusing to make the leap are, as Elliot said, “hollow men”.  Our children’s communication tools and cognitive abilities are in many ways superior to the cognitive tricks we use to think literally and mathematically with alphabets and numbers.  And that is all they are, a bag of tricks hammered into us for over twelve years.  Our literacy and numeracy tools are like stone axes and bone knives compared to what our children are using now.  Children can compose in video, audio, events, graphics, text, gesture and digits faster than we ever could read, rite and rithmatic with our pencils.  What makes our technology so exceptional or even worth preserving?  Are you still using a stone axe?

Welcome to the world of Marshall McLuhan.  Make the leap and learn the new media.  Let your children get on with computing.

The next time your child gets poor results on a literacy or numeracy test, tell the teachers to get their shit together and teach new media or find another job.

Love your children not your herd teachers.

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The Cloud: “Welcome, To the Hotel California”


On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair, Warm smell of Colitas rising up through the air.

Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light.

In my province, I have begun pushing for a Design Council. However, I am beginning to wonder if I am just calling every problem a nail or creating another stovepipe. Software as a Service, Database as a Service, Science as a Service, Art as a Service, Design as a Service, Engineering as a Service, Manufacturing as a Service, Inventory as a Service, Sales as a Service, Purchases as a Service, Currency as a Service, Accounting as a Service, Service as a Service… all plugged into the huge amorphous global system we call “The Cloud”.

My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim, I had to stop for the night.

We are being frontsourced and backsourced, upsourced and downsourced, leftsourced and rightsourced, insourced and outsourced, yesterdaysourced and tomorrowsourced up the ying yang and out the wazoo. I think the economic crisis may just be the tip of the iceburg. We may be in a deep financial dependency, but we may also be entering a 24/7/365 service dependency where we could relinquish all our corporate and personal control to third parties completely losing our ability to independently execute decisions.

There she stood in the doorway; I heard the mission bell.

And I was thinking to myself, “This could be Heaven or this could be Hell.”

Then she lit up a candle and she showed me the way.

There were voices down the corridor, I thought I heard them say,

“Welcome to the Hotel California. Such a lovely place. Such a lovely face.”

“There’s plenty of room at the Hotel California. Any time of year, You can find it here.”

The Hotel California.  Peter Drucker lit up the candle and called the way “creaming”.  We continually seek work offering higher margins and abandon our lower margin work. Our Service Providers are willing to take up the lower margin work and establish a beach head. Instead of assuming control of our supply and rescuing the lower margin demand we forego them.  The Service Providers keep the beach head and begin undermining us and we surrender the middle margin work and seek even higher margins.  Eventually, we reach the top of the ladder. Either we freeze the state of affairs and impose it downward or we get pushed off the top. How do we impose such a freeze?

Her mind is Tiffany-twisted, She got the Mercedes-Benz.

She got a lot of pretty, pretty boys, That she calls friends.

How they dance in the courtyard, sweet summer sweat.

Some dance to remember, some dance to forget.

Silicon Valley was the center of the Personal Computer revolution.  Berkeley University. Stanford University.  Drugs.  Affluence.  Free sharing of information.  Lots of pretty boys at Xerox PARC and IBM dancing to forget.  Lots of pretty boys at Apple Computer and Microsoft dancing to remember.

So I called up the Captain, “Please bring me my wine.”

He said, “We haven’t had that spirit here Since nineteen sixty-nine.”

The first ARPANET IMP log – a record of the first message ever sent over the ARPANET took place at 10:30PM on October 29, 1969 setting up a message transmission to go from the UCLA SDS Sigma 7 Host computer to the SRI SDS 940 Host computer.

And still those voices are calling from far away.

Wake you up in the middle of the night, Just to hear them say,

“Welcome to the Hotel California. Such a lovely place. Such a lovely face.

They’re livin’ it up at the Hotel California.

What a nice surprise, Bring your alibis.

The Hotel California. Apple, IBM PC, MS DOS, Lotus 123, WordPerfect 5, dBaseIIIPlus, MacIntosh, MAC OS, MS Windows, MS Excel, MS Word, MS Access, Mobile Phones, Internet, AOL, MMUG, NetScape, MS Explorer, Web 1.0, Laptops, Yahoo, Amazon, eBay, Google, Chat, Forums, Blogs, Napster, Linux, Apache, MySQL, pHp, DOOM, Cellphones, Web 2.0, Firefox, iPod, iTunes, MySpace, YouTube, Skype, GoogleEarth, Facebook, Twitter, PirateBay, Wikipedia, WoW, SecondLife, iPhone.  The permanent digital network data repository of religions, organizations, emotions, locations, actions, possessions, professions, obsessions, transactions and reservations that we are voluntarily contributing to daily.  The Service Providers have stipulations in the Terms of Service you agree to permitting them to change the terms at any time without notification.  Recently one Service Provider changed the Terms of Service declaring that they owned all member content with no limitations on its use.  They backed down, but their weapons test was complete.

Mirrors on the ceiling, Pink champagne on ice.

And she said, “We are all just Prisoners here, of our own device.”

Worldwide data centres with petabytes of personal data connected by fiber optic spinal cords ready to be sliced and diced by domestic and foreign government agencies, corporations, criminals, theives and cyberterrorists looking for gold in the data mine.

And in their master’s chambers, They gathered for the feast.

They stab it with their steely knives, but they just can’t kill the beast.

Perhaps all these records will not matter to the Always On Generation or to the Zippies.  Since everyone’s sins are online no one can be held accountable or no one could be hired.  Or everyone could be held accountable and the Republics fall and we enter the Dark Age of a new Dictator Emperor, followed by a God Emperor, followed by a Pope Emperor all with sound legalistic documentation of the inquisitions.  This is what happened to the Roman Republic and Roman Europe.  Big Brother reigned for 1300 years.

Last thing I remember, I was running for the door.

I had to find the passage back To the place I was before.

“Relax”, said the night man, “We are programmed to receive.”

“You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.”

As you drive down that dark desert information highway, look in the rearview mirror, because 1300 years of history might be catching up with us.

Thank you for checking in.

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Big Brother and the Pope-Emperor


I am continuing my reading of Critical Path by R. Buckminster Fuller and I am finding that his thinking regarding history in many ways correlates with my own.

Scientio: I Know

Buckminster does not have a good explanation for pre-human history, but he does have a good explanation for human history.  I think he inaccurately rejects the origin of mankind in Africa, however he makes a very sound argument based on the likely origin of the Bronze Age geologically.  The prime geological location where copper and tin could have been accidentally mixed to create bronze is in Thailand on the Chao Phraya River.


At the mouth of the Chao Phraya River lies Bangkok and Buckminster speculates that ship building also originated in Bangkok as strong non-rusting bronze is an essential metal in assembling wooden ships.  The Bangkok builders of the dhow vessels have a history extending back 10,000 years.  With shipping came the need for navigation and the development of astronomy and trigonometry to do so.  This made Navigators the the high priests of their societies and the first to understand the secret of Earth as a circumnavigable sphere.


The Babylonians in 3000 B.C. developed a spherical geometry of 360 divisions, but would not correlate it with time’s 360 divisions.  In 410 B.C. the Pythagorean Philolaeus was the first in recorded history to describe Earth as a spherical entity revolving around a central, perhaps galactic, fire with a spherical Sun and spherical planets.  In 350 B.C. Pythagorean Heraclides conceived the Earth as a sphere spinning west to east, but in a geocentric universe.  A Greek, Aristarchus in 200 B.C. conceived of a heliocentric system with around which the planets revolved, the moon revolved around the earth and the stars fixed in the heavens.  In 200 B.C. Eratosthenes calculated the circumference of the Earth to within 1.5 percent accuracy.  It is believed that Eratosthenes had knowledge of a west to east circumnavigation of the Earth by the Phoenicians around 200 B.C. and produced a map not knowing in the abscence of magnetic compasses, sextants and chronometers that the reports included the Americas.  But here science would end.

A singularity was evolving into a pluralarity.  At first lifespans were barely 20 years and existence so miserable that heaven was only for the Navigator-Emperors in the East and the Astronomer-Emperors in the West.  Life was too harsh and technology too limited to accommodate anyone else’s entry into heaven and the first Babylonian ziggurats, Egyptian pyramids and astronomical observatories of India, Mesopotamia, Crete, Egypt, England were built.  The infrastructure created to build the first pyramids improved the quality of life for the next generation and emperors and their entourages were entombed in even larger pyramids.  With the infrastructure again improved it became possible to entomb the nobles. With the next round of infrastructure improvements it became possible to entomb the middle class.  Carved mausoleums and burial urns became part of Greek and Roman middle class culture.  Pythagoras in the West and Buddha in the East began spreading the word of universal enlightenment, entombment and a Heaven open to all.  The priesthoods of the world had gone from serving 1 percent of humanity to 99 percent of humanity.  At the same time the Greek Republic and Roman Republic were abolishing their monarchies, then their nobility.  An age of the individuals was emerging.  Human society was encountering a pluralarity.  Then the powers of Rome seized control.


Credo: I Believe


From 200 B.C. to 200 A.D. the knowledge of a spherical world became of importance to the incumbent powers as the Roman Dictator-Emperor came into existence.  Scientific thought began to be crushed if it contradicted the goals of the State.  In 47 B.C. the Alexadrean library, the largest database of the previous thousands of years of recorded history, 700,000 volumes, saw 40,000 volumes burned by the first Dictator-Emperor during a seige.  In 27 A.D. the last vestiges of the Roman Republic were erased with the Roman Senate granting the God-Emperor his power.  By 200 A.D.  humanity would face another enduring singularity.


Around 200 A.D. Ptolemy created the first latitude and longitude map of Eurasia and North Africa.  However, at this time the Roman Pope-Emperor Church-State was being formed and a spherical world was a threat to its logic.  What was needed was a parallel Heaven, Earth, Hell system surrounded by the unknown.  A meta-physical martyr God from a cult was harnessed by a physical Pope-Emperor utility.  All contacts with God were available through the utility for a fee.  Confession and Inquisition were created to detect and correct anyone “attempting to set in order the facts of their own experiences.”  The Alexandrean library would be burned by Pope-Emperors in 272 A.D. and 391 A.D. and then totally destroyed by the Muslims in 642 A.D.  The world of George Orwell’s 1984 existed from 200 A.D. to 1500 A.D. working diligently to eliminate any recorded contradiction between “science” and “theology”.


Big Brother, the martyr God, and the Pope-Emperor reigned like a boot stomping on the face of humanity for 1300 years.

Core Vocabulary

In working with system frameworks and database systems I have often wondered about optimizing language in various domains which led to some serendipity.

The Dark Side

When most people talk about “core vocabulary” the first thing that pops into their heads is visions of George Orwell’s 1984 and Newspeak.  The objective of Newspeak was to reduce the range of thought of a population.  Fortunately, according to Steven Pinker, we are just not wired to make that possible.  However, I recently came across a very benevolent application of a core vocabulary that acts not as a constraint on speech, but as an access point to the entire English language for the severely disabled.

The Bright Side

Augmentative and Alternative Commmunication (AAC) has been the work of Prentke Romich Company since 1966.  They have developed “Unity”, a vocabulary access foundation, based on their research determining over 50% of English communication uses roughly 100 words.  This is not necessarily word frequency, but word utility.

Thousands of severely disabled people have had their inner worlds opened up to those around them through PRC’s products.  And there is now an AAC Institute that does a fine job of expressing the three primary requirements of Augmentative and Alternative Communicators:

  1. Saying exactly what they want to say
  2. Saying it as fast as they can
  3. Measurable results

Another non-profit ACCP Canada addresses further issues in the quality of life of AAC users.  Children’s Hospital in Boston also has a good site and program.

PRC is a leader among the companies addressing this challenge.  All these AAC Device Companies deserve applause for making vocabulary’s core and more available to the people who need it.