Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Zeno’s paradox, Moravec’s paradox and rethinking how we project forward in our planning 6

Posted in business and convergent technologies, reexamining the fundamentals by Timothy Platt on April 2, 2015

This is my sixth 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 1-5.)

I began addressing a set of three categorically distinct empirical contexts in Part 5, at least briefly analyzing how they would each individually impact upon the issues of how and when a statement might appear to be paradoxical, and to whom. And I focused on and explicitly discussed the first two of them there, examining the impact of:

• Smoothly developing evolutionary, and discontinuity-defined disruptive change, and their impact on statements as they might be construed to be paradoxical, and
• 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 on the determination of statements as representing paradoxes.

I turn here in this series installment to consider and discuss the third and final categorically distinct such context and to at least begin a discussion of how the logic and reasoning that I have been developing here, would apply to this blog itself. But I begin this with that third arena of possible context, and with an at least brief and selective discussion of:

Formal and heuristic axiomatic systems.

Formal systems, as discussed in my above-offered Wikipedia link, are:

• Logically constrained and defined systems
• That rest for their capacity to determine the validity of any putative well-formed formula that they might contain,
• On absolute adherence to their underlying axiomatic assumptions.

The axiomatic underpinnings of these systems might be construable a priori to and independently of, these logical systems themselves as being self-evident truths. Or they might simply be assumed to be valid anchor points for the purpose of the particular systems that they are used as axioms within, and without holding any self-evident truth status, in and of themselves. But when such statements are deemed to be axiomatic, they are assumed to be fundamentally immutable and to be universally valid – within those specific logically organized and analyzed systems.

Heuristic systems are by definition empirically grounded, where absolute validity is assumed for what is directly empirically observed, and not in a set of fixed axiomatic assumptions that observable empirical experience might be logically predictively inferred from.

In a larger more abstract context that approach can be generalized to allow for analysis of systems that are not fully grounded in directly observable empirical observations. And in this wider context I would cite fuzzy logic-based systems where truth and falsity do not have to conform to a simple binary all true or all false pattern, and where the level of truth per say can be partial and fit along a continuum. This also allows for a measure of laxity in any assumed underlying axiomatic foundations to the analytical systems under consideration.

A statement such as Zeno’s dichotomy paradox as discussed in this series in Part 1 might arguably appear to present a true paradox in the context of a formal logical system. But as soon as primacy is given to observable outcomes, with more loosely defined and even re-definable axioms assumed, as ultimately is the case in heuristic and fuzzy logic-based systems, the whole issue of paradox becomes moot. An apparent paradox per se, becomes a point of directed challenge to whatever underlying assumptions that are in place that would make an observable reality seem contradictory to the lines of inferential reasoning that should lead to it.

And with that in place, as an at least brief and selective beginning of a discussion of issues that hold more complexity than this series would address, I come to that fourth “to-discuss” issue that I raised in Part 4 and again in Part 5, which I reword as a set of connected bullet points here:

• 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 at the level of the individual employee, the single business functional area, the business as a whole, systems of businesses, and entire economies.

First of all, I have been developing and elaborating on the ongoing overall discussion that comprises this blog, on the basis of axiomatic statements that I at least see as reasonable approximations of self-evident truths. I have based my ongoing discussion here on a combination of my own direct empirical observation and experience, on experience that others have shared with me who I have come to trust for their accuracy of reporting, and on my studies and thought as they would connect and organize all of that into a (hopefully) fairly coherent descriptive and predictive pattern – which I offer in prescriptive terms when seeking to offer best practices approaches. So I have taken a primarily-heuristic systems, realized outcomes approach in all of this. But I still build this blog and its discussion from a set of basic assumptions that I do at least start out construing to be self-evident truths too – even if I actively question and analyze at least some of them in the course of this ongoing flow of discussion.

And that opens my ongoing discussion in this blog to the possibility of generating inconsistencies. And more specifically it opens this blog up to the possibility of my reaching conclusions that might be viewable as paradoxical – and even just within the framework of my direct discussion here itself.

My resolution in all of this has been to keep turning back to an empirical observation foundation, and to a progression of what amount to ongoing experiential reality checks, which means, among other things, keeping an eye out for self-evident truth assumptions that might seem evident but that might only be situationally true at best.

And with this stated, I would add in a possible complicating wrinkle to this description of my blog, and turn this series’ overall discussion back to its Part 1 starting point. And I begin this aspect of this overall discussion by noting a crucially important point for when considering the nature of paradoxes at all:

• Paradoxes and seeming paradoxes are in the eye of the beholder.

Consider a situation where I hold one set of basic underlying, assumed axiomatic assumptions to be self-evident truths in constructing and elaborating this blog – and a reader holds a different, and at least partly divergent set of such assumptions that they consider to be self-evidently valid from their experience. When my conclusions collide with those points of axiomatic assumption divergence and even disagreement, and when I manage to present them in a way that appears to be empirically reasonable and observationally valid, I at the very least set up that reader for finding themselves facing an apparent paradox – and certainly when both of us simply take our assumed self-evident truths for granted and when we do not specifically identify them as particular points of disagreement, and do not think them through for their possible ranges of valid applicability.

That in principle can go both ways when I find myself addressing feedback comments – forcing me to ask what I have simply been assuming too. And this brings me back to Part 1 and to the first fundamental reason that I proposed as to how a statement might appear paradoxical:

1. A seeming paradox can arise when a logically consistent and formally valid line of reasoning is offered in description of an empirically observable circumstance, but where its underlying axiomatic assumptions are not applicable to the circumstances or conditions for which it is being applied.

If I am to offer overall, long-term value in what I write and offer here, I need to keep examining and questioning my own underlying assumptions, and I need to actively seek to understand those of others.

I am going to finish this series at that point, though I am sure to come back to further discuss at least some of the issues that I have raised here. 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. And I also include a link to this specific series installment in About this Blog.


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