The Math Forum

Search All of the Math Forum:

Views expressed in these public forums are not endorsed by NCTM or The Math Forum.

Math Forum » Discussions » Education » math-teach

Topic: best use of computers: classroom or personal workspace?
Replies: 8   Last Post: Dec 1, 2014 11:54 PM

Advanced Search

Back to Topic List Back to Topic List Jump to Tree View Jump to Tree View   Messages: [ Previous | Next ]
kirby urner

Posts: 2,578
Registered: 11/29/05
{Spam?} Re: best use of computers: classroom or personal workspace?
Posted: Dec 1, 2014 11:17 AM
  Click to see the message monospaced in plain text Plain Text   Click to reply to this topic Reply
att1.html (20.6 K)

On Sun, Nov 30, 2014 at 8:16 PM, GS Chandy <> wrote:

> (The paraphrased Churchill slogan appears, to my mind, to encompass a good
> bit of what happens to our minds and psyches pretty well. But you're most
> welcome to toot your version if you wish - I guess history will tell us
> which turns out to be a more effective slogan or 'mantra').

This disagreement has been thematic in our correspondence and I think
traces back to a different meaning for "technology" (technos).

A Bucky Fuller scholar such as myself, is accustomed to a slightly
different spin on that word in that a termite mound, and indeed the termite
insect itself, is a highly technical affair, a technology if you will, just
not of human design.

Indeed, the human might be considered "God's robot" or "FSM's robot" which
is meant to underline not a belief in a deity, but a belief that 99.9% of
Universe is technology that was not humanly contrived. That's the
"mathematics" Israeli Knight says has always been here. Stars etc. All

So a first question for me, in looking at systems, is where do humans
potentially have a role we might call "steering" or "governing" as a part
of some feedback loop? Where do humans insert their "sensors" (polling
devices)? What levers do they have (what controls?).

Intelligent planning often involves leveraging natural systems that
pre-exist human systems. I might go so far as to say intelligent planning
*always* leverages natural systems. Diverting or damming a river for
irrigation and power is a prime example. A river is a system within the

In other words "economics" and "ecology"ultimately refer to the same

GST, being more science-minded than most economics, might be considered
ecology's "answer" to economics. Humans as an embedded system, a borg-like
self-organizing organism, aboard a spherical "spaceship" that receives
tera-watts of solar power daily, is where GST begins its analysis. We call
it "surfing the solar gradient" (cite 'Into the Cool').

How Fuller tells the story is at one point we considered there to be
"living" and "not living" systems but with the discovery of the virus,
considered living, but clearly a machine, the whole idea of "machine"
versus "not machine" somewhat breaks down.

Viruses are beautiful constructions, systems for self propagation, not
designed by humans, but micro-machines nonetheless.

I bring up the virus for two reasons...

First: the mathematics and the equivalence of cuboctahedral and
icosahedral number sequences, as shown in OEIS and as made obvious by the
Jitterbug Transformation (1, 12, 42, 92...), viruses being icosahedral in

Second: in English we now speak of memes, cultural artifacts, such as
musical tracks, or Youtubes, as "going viral" meaning they self propagate
exponentially as people share them with others.

Much of PR (public relations) is about figuring out ways to piggy-back on
these word-of-mouth propagation channels i.e. people sit around and
brainstorm, a lot, about how to make such and such a campaign "go viral on
the Internet" or wherever. I'll be coming back to that meaning of "viral".

> Of course, that IS indeed what does happen in the world as it exists, when
> you seek (deliberately?) to omit the fundamental ideas in the 'OPMS'
> approach, namely that:
> i) 'systems design' should actually be carried out by the 'stakeholders'
> in the system - NOT by specialised Mafia;

I would say systems science or GST anticipates / predicts a pattern
wherein, among stakeholders, various groups will specialize, and one or
more of those groups may come forward as a "protector" cast that invokes
"security" as its rationale. A group claiming to be "defenders of..." or
"friends of..." will appear.

Whether that group then bullies others depends on circumstances of course.
Generally a cast develops "expert status" with an eye towards at least
"bossing others" i.e. telling them what's what. I see "contributes to" and
"hinders" as two of your OPMS relationships but what about "bosses"?

I imagine a board game or computer model called GangLand the whole point of
which is to chronicle and study the emergence of gangs and their inner
circle bosses.

Perhaps I've been influenced by Haim in thinking of everything in terms of
a Mafia, but then I grew up in Italy and know "mafia" just means "mia
familia" i.e. my family, or the family. I myself come from an old banking
family one could say, or at least the name does. Urners = people of Uri.

Italians in the context of a US under the thralldom of Prohibition, amidst
a thirsty population of criminals (ordinary citizen drinkers of prohibited
substances), emerged as effective organizers of providing booze to the
masses, adding to the reputation of an "Italian Mafia" in this country.

We also had the "Irish Mafia" with such kingpins as booze runner Joe
Kennedy, father of the Kennedy brothers JFK and RFK, both gunned down in
gang-land style shootings, two victims among many in what president Johnson
referred to as "Murder Inc." (the Kennedy brothers had been hoping to
murder Castro, but ended up with a murdered Diem, a fellow Catholic).

> ii) the ideas and concepts of 'systems' are, in fact, simple enough that
> the stakeholders do not really require a great deal of specialised and
> highly technical languages to deal with their systems.

We have not defined "stakeholders" in much detail.

I think it's a given that you'll have consultants / experts wanting to
advise (on contract) given their chosen area of expertise. Any systems
modeling must anticipate the arising of "experts and pundits" (including
sloganeers) if it hopes to stay in touch with reality.

> No. iii below talks of a very minor extension to the 'standard prose' that
> all of us stakeholders have spent umpteen years mastering - simply add
> directional arrows to depict the relationships between elements in the
> system.

Where you talk about "directional arrows" is where I talk about a graph
database, same idea. I was watching a Youtube by a gent in Bangalore the
other day about how his company channels vast amounts of data into a graph
database for BI purposes (as presumably RH does, if at all serious about

Here's the slide show that goes with his talk:

> (This is, I claim, something that any high school student can understand
> in a couple of hours and master in a couple of weeks by constructing his/
> her/ their own representations of their own mental models: I have been able
> to demonstrate this: we do need to understand that this does demand a
> 'reasonably open' mind).

I'd suggest "spiraling" as a theme here. Start modeling systems early in
life, but don't settle for your first models. "Build the first model to
throw away" is good advice. Go through drafts and keep refining your

Analysis / diagramming / graphing of:

(a) key players (e.g. bosses)
(b) workflows (roles, processes)
(c) outcomes (e.g. inventory)

is critical.

GST also offers the "Be Do Have" projects completion cycle, corresponding
to "design time", "run time" and "having the results" of whatever process.
These results are then available for the next round of designing.

As my GST slides show, the metaphors of theater are key, as they are in the
military language for systems.

The area of combat is called "a theater" (much as doctors call their
operating room a theater).

"Theater" implies onlookers, spectators, often stakeholders wanting to
observe with an eye towards "improving their game" i.e. becoming more
effective at whatever they do.

Theater (programs) are instructive in that regard, or have that potential.

What programs or games (theatrical in nature, shows) might "go viral" and
thereby help accomplish the Mission of this or that group?

That is the question.

A first step: storyboarding.

> Whatever makes you think I'm seeking 'tribute' of any kind? !!!
> Is 'tribute' YOUR heart's desire???
> Do the things I suggest appear to you like "tooting my own horn"??

You toot your OPMS horn on the basis that others do not comprehend systems
the way you do and as a result the world is going to hell in a hand

We might all be saved from our certain doom if you would only get that web
site up and running, but alas you have a lot on your plate, so the future
of humanity remains suspended in limbo as we all hold our breath, hoping
you will grace us with your superior understanding someday.

In the meantime, we must make do with the Powerpoint slides you slip in as

Perhaps humanity still has a fighting chance. OPMS may save us yet.

> So, do tell us, what have you been doing, tooting 'GST + Agile' as THE
> way to go in complex problem solving, when it is impossible to demonstrate
> (using 'GST + Agile') how to make an Action Plan in any complex system? I
> do recall the so-called 'Action Plans' you had proposed for a number of
> Missions.

Right. Examples of action plans:

Mission: bring more attention to Synergetics as a worthy body of writing
Action plan: award cash and spotlight those who study Synergetics and
publicize it

Mission: bring more attention to "design science" as a worthy
problem-solving endeavor
Action plan: award cash and spotlight those who use "design science" to
solve world problems

Mission: bring more self-avowed atheists into Quakerism (including lots of
scientists and engineers)
Action plan: develop an 'Abducted by Quakers' bumper sticker with Flying
Spaghetti Monster (FSM) decal

The first two have been accomplished and/or are ongoing.

The last may require sorting out trademark issues with the FSM copyright

> However, I certainly AM warning that we (human beings) have reached more or
> less the 'FINIS' to our story - unless we can learn how to control our
> greed and urge to control that's been our story thus far.

This may be the first time I've seen

(a) greed and
(b) an urge to control

as your idea of the most blameworthy aspects of the human animal, when it
comes to why this species may prove dramatically unsuccessful in the long
run (has already proved devastatingly eager to inflict harm on itself -- a
suicidal species to be sure).

> Clearly you have (probably deliberately) understood nothing at all about
> it - probably because you're too busy tooting 'GST + Agile' as THE WAY TO
> GO. As I had observed earlier, 'GST + Agile' is *designed* fundamentally
> to help with developing better software programs more effectively - and it
> does that very well indeed.

Software programs = eCommerce + telecommunications + navigation + social

If GST + Agile is able to improve software development, then I'd call that
a huge contribution to the success of the human animal and the species.

> The purpose of 'GST + Agile' is definitely NOT to help, say:
> - -- the individual student "to understand the math I need in the world
> outside"; or

Software can help with this.

> "to motivate myself to get over my 'fear and loathing' of math"; or

Software can help with this.

> - -- "to help a small group clarify to each other how to create an Action
> Plan"; or

Software can help with this.

> - -- to work on tackling a problem such as India confronts, "to reduce the
> 42% child malnutrition we're facing today despite having overflowing food
> storage godowns and silos", and so on.

Software can help with this.

> Working with OPMS as above, I have thus far found not one of the
> 'contradictions' you have been seeking to pose (or create) from time to
> time. Definitely there need be no conflict at all between small groups of
> people working to create a more equitable society in a gigantic nation of
> 1.2 billion people - and the "centralised planning" about which you're
> rightly sceptical.

Conflict is a fact of life as are Mafia bosses and viruses. I hope OPMS is
not turning a blind eye to those facts, for its sake.

> We really do need, simply, to start understanding what 'action planning in
> complex systems' means - something which 'GST + Agile' does NOT help us do.

Software development requires understanding complex systems and planning.

GST + Agile has a track record of providing useful tools, such as TDD
("test driven development").

Write the tests first. Then write the code to pass those tests.

TDD could be applied to curriculum writing as well, and indeed in my
earliest memo to NCTM I started with a test I would like to see middle
schoolers pass someday:

> >
> >I'm skeptical the "grand plan" form of administration
> > can work here. It smacks of "central planning" in the
> >failed sense of the word.
> >

> Indeed. So how did you somehow manage to get the weird idea that 'OPMS'
> involved some kind of "grand plan" form of administration or "central
> planning" or such?

It seemed like you were implying a more holistic understanding of systems
would mean everyone being on the same page and acting in concert according
to a single agreed upon agenda. That sounds like central planning in the
failed sense of the word.

I'm suggesting a group of Mafia bosses get together and in the name of
security, drive a process forward and require others to adapt, more of a
gangland or warlord style of theater.

These bosses will push their favored experts and pundits into the
foreground, much as boss Murdoch pushes his faves forward via Fox News.
That's a model of how humans do things.

The Irish Mafia ran the Kennedys for awhile and much good came from it.
Humans went to the moon under the JFK + RFK gang of warlords.

> If that was what happened to you, then I'm afraid I must have been very
> unclear indeed. I see I shall have to study some of Robert Hansen's
> 'American' English poetry in order to make this clear.

I've been eager to see your plans to boost early grade school understanding
of 1, 12, 42, 92... but you apparently begged off, not finding this an
interesting challenge.

Someday, OPMS may want to join the effort to get more systems thinking into
the school systems.

Understanding the topology of nodes and edges and how this topology may be
formed into polyhedrons i.e. wireframes, with the tetrahedron of four nodes
and six edges being the most primitive "cage" or "container" with a
distinct inside and outside, is one place to begin.

Here's a series of billboards you might find interesting, from the Language
Project of the 1980s:

Picture: Earth from space
Caption: Spaceship

Picture: Children playing on geodesic dome
Caption: Wildlife

Picture: Nautilus Shell
Caption: High Tech

Picture: Earth from space
Caption: Game Park

Then there's my Python billboard with just the Python logo (already well
known) and the caption: Just Use It.

"Just Use It" alludes to Nike's "Just Do It".

Nike is a familiar / avatar of goddess Athena, as is the Python.

Leveraging Greek mythology is one of the things I do (in the tradition of
Carl Jung et al), such as retelling the story of Apollo and the Python he
supposedly slew... the Python escaped actually, and moved to Nashville,
where a full scale Parthenon exists with a museum about the original
Parthenon (temple to Athena) in the basement. (shows Athena with Nike and Python in Nashville

But I digress. Did you know of the connection between Athena and West
Point? We're talking about the military again.



No, not {Spam?}

Message was edited by: kirby urner

Point your RSS reader here for a feed of the latest messages in this topic.

[Privacy Policy] [Terms of Use]

© The Math Forum at NCTM 1994-2017. All Rights Reserved.