Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Zeno’s paradox, Moravec’s paradox and rethinking how we project forward in our planning 5

Posted in business and convergent technologies, reexamining the fundamentals by Timothy Platt on March 3, 2015

This is my fifth posting to a series on paradoxes, and both as philosophical constructs and as the concept of paradox is applied to business and technology contexts (see Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 2, postings 305 and loosely following for Parts 1-4.)

I began this series with a more detailed discussion of two specific proposed paradoxes: one of long-term historical standing (see Part 1) and one of recent origin (see Part 2.) I then began to more systematically examine how statements might be evaluated as paradoxes and how they can be evaluated as to their logical consistency and validity and for determining their underlying assumptions, and for evaluating how those underlying axiomatic assumptions do or do not apply to the contexts for which they are being applied. And I continue that discussion here, where I will at least begin to address a set of correlated issues that I specifically raised at the end of Part 4 as I pursue the question of what seeming paradoxes actually are.

What impact would the following empirical contexts have on the emergence and identification of putative paradoxes?

• Smoothly developing evolutionary, and discontinuity-defined disruptive change, and their impact on statements as they might be construed to be paradoxical,
• Descriptive and predictive understandability, at least as considered from the perspective of the conceptual framework that I have been developing in this series up to here with its listed criteria for evaluating the nature of proposed paradoxes.
• And I add here to this list, a need to discuss formal and heuristic axiomatic systems as up to here, I have fairly thoroughly blurred an important distinction there.
• And I also add that after discussing these points and the issues that they represent, I will address a topic area that I have been building up to throughout this series: the validity and capacity for validation of the type of system of axiomatic assumptions and emergent statements that I have developed in assembling this blog itself, as a descriptive and recommendational model of business and technology, and from the level of the individual employee, the single business functional area, the business as a whole, systems of businesses, and entire economies. In this, I intend to apply the conceptual reasoning that I have been developing in this series to this blog itself, and to what I am doing here.

But I begin this with my first bullet point from the above list and by repeating the third criterion for evaluating putative paradoxical statements that I have offered in this series, as worded in its Part 4:

3. A seeming paradox can also arise when axiomatic assumptions are made that simply reflect the limitations of some current state of the art and for the technology available, for current practices in using that technology, or both. And this can, among other things arise because of implicit assumptions that the particular path that technology is developed in historically, could be the only one possible.

I couched this in technology development terms, which makes sense given the basic tenor of this series, and of this blog as a whole. But rephrasing this in a perhaps more general form, what I stated there was that:

3′. A seeming paradox can also arise when a statement’s underlying axiomatic assumptions are valid and germane when that statement is originally proposed, but where they drift out of truth and relevance with time – but where that statement’s logical underpinnings are assumed to remain as valid as they originally were as if they were ongoing self-evident truths. And the second sentence of my original formulation of this proposed paradox evaluation criterion went on to note the significance of nonlinear, paradigm-disruptive change and how that can break the relevance of underlying assumptions and of the logic of a proposed paradox, as a mechanism of this relevance drift.

Point 3, or if you prefer this Point 3-prime restatement, are where timing and the potential for change enters this narrative, with Point 3 allowing for that in a technology development context and Point 3′ addressing that from a more open-ended perspective.

Contextual change of the type that I cite here can accumulate slowly and even essentially unnoticed, at least when viewed from a shorter timeframe perspective. The overall cumulative impact of evolutionary change often only really shows itself when you step back and take a broader, longer term perspective than usual. Disruptively innovative, discontinuous change is more dramatic and visible for its impact. And this, if anything makes statements and assumptions that hold risk of losing validity or relevancy more readily and even compellingly visible for that – at least in principle. But both of these forms of change can have unexpected and unexamined ramifications and consequences. So the mere fact that we have entered into a period of rapid change, and on many fronts does not guarantee that fundamental underlying assumptions will be examined and updated, or abandoned and replaced as needed.

I would argue that one of the defining underlying character differences between pioneer and early innovation adaptors, and late and lagging adaptors is in how they hold onto unexamined underlying assumptions. Most everyone holds at least some truths to be self-evident and maintains them without explicit examination as to what they imply or what they can lead to. But late and lagging adaptors tend to hold more of what they believe as if inviolate and immutable. Pioneer and early adaptors are more likely to challenge what they have been led to assume and to change them – at least in contexts in which they are early adaptor-flexible.

And this brings me to the second bullet point from above and the issue of descriptive and predictive understanding and understandability. Simple description of what is, is fundamentally static. Prediction of necessity is dynamic and requires a willingness and ability to understand if not always embrace change. That point becomes important in the context of this discussion because it, like the point just examined above and how it is addressed, shapes how underlying assumptions are held – assumptions that might stand the test of time and remain valid but that can also with time become inaccurate, and even if they were entirely valid once. How does this apply here? If you take a more strictly descriptive approach, you are less likely to see and understand the possibility that the assumptions you make might need updating or replacement – and more likely to face seeming inconsistencies and even outright paradoxes because of empirical reality/underlying automatic assumption mismatches.

And with that, I turn to the third bullet point of my above “to-discuss” list, and from consideration of individual assumptions, axiomatic or otherwise, to consideration of complete axiom-based logical systems per se as organized systems of automatically-held assumptions and their logically consistent consequences. I will discuss that and the last, fourth of those bullet points in a next series installment. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 2 and in my first Ubiquitous Computing and Communications directory page. I also include this in my Reexamining the Fundamentals directory as an entry to a new Section V: Rethinking Underlying Assumptions and Their Logic.

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