Not so elementary, my dear Watson!


“Knowledge comes by eyes always open and working hands; and there is no knowledge that is not power.”

                                                                                                        Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1862

 Awhile back, I had been intrigued to read about IBM’s artificial intelligence (AE) named Watson competing in the Quiz show Jeopardy and beating two of Jeopardy’s record holding champions at their own game! It made me realise the extent to which AE development has been able to close in on to the human mind in terms of sifting through and analysing information to reach a correct decision. IBM’s Watson has clearly graduated from the realm of data crunching to become a possessor of knowledge.

Since the dawn of civilisation, Man has sought knowledge. Knowledge to alleviate hardships, to control the environment, to predict outcomes. Knowledge became a source of power and this manifested itself throughout history. Be it through intrigue, technology or the Brahmin rituals. Through millennia and centuries, such a belief only got reinforced.

As individuals, we develop our knowledge by linking it to other knowledge bases. But our belief in our own knowledge is not for knowledge sake but the power we derive from it. Be it in our personal or professional lives. Our inner fears of loss of power or relevance make us resist any changes in our knowledge structure. Eve though deep down we do realise that like all else, there can be no permanence; change in one aspect can shift the entire knowledge structure and its relevance.

But knowledge to be useful has to move away from being mere information. Especially as we face an exponential overload of information. Raw, disjointed data streaming in from all over. And as we grapple with this information avalanche, we have no time to reflect, analyse and produce usable knowledge.

It was only in the last century that we witnessed a formal acknowledgement of what has come to be known as “knowledge work”. And in 1959, Peter Drucker coined “Knowledge worker” as someone who works primarily with information or one who develops and uses knowledge in the workplace.

So how do I see knowledge trending? As organisations have sailed into this century, business leaders have believed in the mantra of investing in technology and knowledge workers. But they also continue to hold the belief that for goals to be achieved there needs to be a control over the work activity and process flow. But this clashes with the loose and unstructured environment that the knowledge worker seeks.

And then there is the deeper issue of a radically changing workplace. As chip based machines take over structured and repetitive activities, the less skilled workers increasingly take on “knowledge worker-like” qualities. Be it book-keepers, clerks or factory floor workers. In essence, more and more workers are learning to manipulate and use knowledge in a decentralised and flat manner.

The twenty first century workplace demands knowledge through unhindered access to information not only within the organisation but by connecting to diverse, outside sources. But does this not run contrary to our age old belief that to retain power, we need to keep the individual in a silo, fed with only ‘need to know” information and expertise? Clearly a significant perspective shift is warranted in our business leaders to be able to accept a radically different information flow and power structure.

And this I would term as our knowledge quandary.

As workers, we need and demand more and more instant access to information from all over. As individuals, we have less and less time to mull over and process the veritable deluge of information coming at us. As leaders and managers, we like to retain power by restricting information and knowledge flows on a “need to know” basis. As we hold onto these power bases using outdated knowledge. And in the midst of all this, now queering the pitch is Watson and artificial intelligence coming centre stage. Truly a case worthy of Sherlock Holmes and he would have doubtlessly remarked, “Not so elementary, my dear Watson!”

And what do I envision going forward? Do I see the “power of knowledge’ pendulum swinging wildly between the individual and the corporation? As the former uses unfettered knowledge for empowerment? And as the latter fights to retain control through use of Watson to aggrandise and analyse information, convert to knowledge and take decisions? And what if Watson were to evolve and “learn” to the point that he cracks the last human stronghold of intuition and creativity?

In Learning……………..                                                                                  Shakti Ghosal

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37 thoughts on “Not so elementary, my dear Watson!

  1. Hi Shakti,

    I read your post and your readers’ comments with interest. Talking about worldly knowledge (I have commented about other-worldly knowledge separately), it is about knowing something or having the means to know something that creates value to the masses. If that something is more unique and more valuable to those that seek it, then in turn it accrues more in value and that results in more power to the individual(s) who have that knowledge.

    Because of the power that is derived from the possession of that “knowledge”, whatever that may be, those individuals who have had it have always sought to prevent it from being known to the public at large in some way or other for obvious reasons throughout human history. With the introduction of computers, the knowledge barrier has been coming down steadily because of the wider availability, use and application of information in various fields in ways that was unimaginable before. Ofcourse, the knowledge-fiends, be they individuals, corporations or even governments, have been trying very hard to erect silos like you have talked about by restricting the use and availability of information by creating pass codes, censorship and other means with limited success. Organizations like WikiLeaks have sprung up to break those barriers and spread the information. I expect this tug of war to continue to eternity. The more vigorous the efforts to try to protect and restrict access, the more aggressive the so-called “hackers” will be to break it down. They are the modern day Robinhoods in my opinion.

    As regards IBM’s Dr Watson, it is quite remarkable how far we have come within 50 years of the computer revolution taking place. From a clunky big box in the early days, the speed and the processing power available now on a silicon chip the size of a finger nail is amazing indeed. At this rate it is not impossible to predict that in the next 50-100 years we might be able to solve questions like why we are here, and other life mysteries. Mankind can be set free of dogmatic beliefs and oppressions in the name of religion and faith. Ofcourse, there will be Herculian efforts put forth by those who are interested in maintaining the status quo to prevent this from happening, and even if it happens they will try to restrict that knowledge from becoming freely available. But the dam has been breached and it would not be possible to stem the free flow any longer. We have seen this recently how technology has been harnessed by people under oppressive regimes to communicate, organize and set themselves free.

    Even if Dr Watson and its later incarnations become ever more powerful, is it ever likely that one day we will be ruled by the “Terminator” machines? In my introduction to AI two decades ago, one of my professors asked this question and famously said this: “we will always have an “off” switch somewhere built-in so that we have the ultimate control”. In the mean time I wonder what Dr Watson has to say about the Mayan prediction about the end of the world in December this year!!

    I just have a few comments of my own with regard to the other-worldly knowledge and comments from some of your readers, including my sister Chitra from Australia. Even supposing that our ancient vedic scripts have all the answers, why was it not widely disseminated and practiced then or now? Did the chosen few keep all that knowledge to themselves? India should be the most prosperous and powerful nation on the planet with all that knowledge if that were true. I have also listened to lectures by Swamijis extolling the virtues of knowing thyself for answers to everything. However, when I saw the Swamiji diving into his pocket to pick up his cell phone, I knew that even he did not have an answer and was as dependant on modern technology as I am.

    • Hi Sesh,

      First and foremost, I need to acknowledge you for the detailed and thoughtful comment you have offered for my and other readers’ benefit.

      When you stress on the aspect of ” Knowing…. to create value…”, you essentially imply the way in which raw data converts into usable knowledge.Such knowledge and its usage indeed brings power- what you have said and what I have also mentioned in my post.It is of course this aspect which has led to the “knowledge-fiends” weilding their power over the masses through the ages.

      And indeed, technology is getting used and harnessed in imagined and un-imagined ways including the advent and success of ” Arab Spring” in the region where I reside.Projecting the trend into the future, I do not really foresess any graet difficulty in machines developing consciousness to be able to source their own energy needs and ability to turn on and off. As we speak, we have vacuum cleaners which clean up the house after everyone has left and then go and sit in their charge pods. And my laptop has the ability to come on, receive Windows updates every morning and then go back into hibernation. Just imagine what we would be seeing 25 years hence!

      I much appreciate Chitra’s comments which bring in a completely different perspective.

      And Sesh, thank you for your presence here.

      Cheers

      Shakti

  2. Pingback: Network over Knowledge « Technology Trend Analysis

    • Dear Udayan,

      Over the last one week I had been travelling with limited access to internet. Thus I could see your comments only today. It is with pleasure that I note that you have shared my earlier post to your group. Very much appreciated.

      Warm Regards

      Shakti Ghosal

  3. Hi Shakti,

    I am not a very frequent visitor to the egroup, but I never miss reading your articles. I just wanted to tell you that I have enjoyed every one of them. It is amazing that you have interests and insights on such varied issues and even more amazing and laudable that you make the time to articulate your views and share it with people. My father has always maintained that knowledge sharing is a human dharma and often rues the fact that this phenomenon is rapidly on the decline. Which brings me to your latest article on knowledge – I agree with Sridhar’s sister that much of what we are attempting to rediscover is already codified in the Vedas and ancient texts. I thought I must share with you a personal experience. More than a decade back, I happened to build the primary theme of my book on Knowledge Management around what I called the Dual Model of Knowledge – broadly around the constructs of Explicit and Tacit Knowledge. An uncle of mine who is an extremely learned Sanskrit and Grantha scholar happened to read my book and commented that our ancients texts had come up with this demarcation even at that time and spoke about Para Gnana and Apara Gnana – (infact this is a much deeper and superior classification).

    And you are so right – I think it is an eternal struggle to comprehend that amazing metamorphosis of data into information into knowledge into wisdom…

    Some time back, I stupidly agreed to do some crystal ball gazing into the area of KM. Thought you might be interested in some of my random ramblings…

    http://www.thehindu.com/business/Industry/article2076742.ece

    Keep the bytes flowing Shakti – it will always be lapped up with delight 🙂

    Sandy
    ( IIM Bangalore ’82-’84 Group)

    • Hi Sandhya,

      Do pardon me for being somewhat late in acknowledging your mail. This is usually not me but I somehow got caught in various pulls on my attention and time through the week. Most of them, I dare say, not of my own making but such is life I guess.

      I loved your comment , Sandhya. And your “random ramblings” in the Hindu brought to the ignoramus ME more clarity about KM than what I have been able to pick up over the last so many years.I specifically liked your take on ” First, organisations have to move from being creators of ‘knowledge mass’ to becoming generators of ‘knowledge momentum’.” This , I believe , is where most folks and organisations lack the differentiating awareness.Data warehousing and archiving activities somehow are perceived as an end in itself, a lot of energy is used in that and accolades gathered by those involved. It is assumed that folks who would need to access such ” knowledge” would do so as and when they wish. But . in actual practice, that happens sparsely. And even then, the insight and intuition to ” link such knowledge” into new patterns and structures to create innovative and relevant actions is rarer.That is why I would like to call all such compilations by the older terminology ” Data Bank” and not by the fancier ” knowledge warehousing” that gets bandied about nowadays.

      Taking a cue from what your father told you regarding sharing of thoughts,I am still reflecting on what is my compelling reason to do so. And if truth be told, I would quote Rhett Butler’s line, ” Frankly. my dear. I don’t give a damn!” But on another level, I do notice a more personal and selfish reason.As I ramble, I gain clarity and that I consider reason enough.

      And Sandhya, I remain blessed that folks like you take the time out to read and comment on my ramblings.

      Cheers and have a great weekend.

      Shakti

      P.S. I found your crystal ball gazing so very comprehensive that I am taking the liberty to move your comment and the link to my blog site for the benefit of more eyeballs.

    • Hi Sharmistha,

      Such a pleasure welcoming you to my post.You are so right, knowledge can be addictive and as you rightly pointed out, our minds tend to flit like bees from flower to flower. But what is wrong in that? We may choose to just taste and skim over or we might decide to lower our anchor and delve deeper.So long as we enjoy the journey, both are okay to me.

      Cheers

      Shakti

      • Dear Shakti,

        Shubho Nabobarsho!

        Actually people close to me say its one of my vices, but i too try to learn about various things, in place of heading only in one direction. I love to learn about every thing that raises my curiosity. I listen to them, know that they are wise but really dont blame my mindset either.

        I read your sweet, kind offer in my blog. Thanks a lot, any help is an act of kindness to me. I tried to send you a mail but hotmail is either down or its nabobarsho mania, the accounts are not opening.

        I will send it tomorrow. any way, you have my email id here, i will send it from here.

        Thanks a million times again.
        God bless you and your loved ones through out the years to come.

        sharmishtha

      • dear shakti,

        i tried posting you an email from my gmail account (mydomainpvt@gmail.com) because my hotmail accounts are not opening still but it bounced back to me announcing permanent failure in delivery (shakti.ghosal@gmail.com).

        may be all email providers are malfunctioning.

        will try again tomorrow.

        with warmest wishes.
        sharmishtha

      • the email id was correct, i rechecked it afterwards, i have mailed so much and my habit being typing the email ids i rarely make mistake about them, 🙂

      • Hi Sharmistha,

        Of course your E Mail ID was correct and I did send you a short mail on that. I was waiting to receive your detailed response which you had earlier mentioned.

        Take care.

        Shakti

  4. Of course it is not so elementary, my dear Shakti!

    As is your wont, you have succeeded in kick-starting the ageing grey cells, which were otherwise lapsing into their customary state of deep hibernation.

    There are many issues that immediately come to mind. On the most basic plane, there is the question of what precisely constitutes data, information, and knowledge, all of which may be interconnected, but the differences between which go beyond mere semantics. Reams have already been written on this.

    Next – how do these three basic building blocks interface with more “human” attributes like wisdom, cognition, intuition, emotion, and above all – thought?

    It is worth reflecting on TS Eliot’s words:

    “Where is the Life we have lost in living?
    Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
    Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”

    You have referred to Artificial Intelligence, which has tended to become a rather loosely defined term. There has been considerable speculation, and a staple in science fiction, on whether computers will one day surpass mere humans, with all their weaknesses, faults, and foibles, and being devoid of human failings, begin to dominate the species homo-sapiens.

    The undoubtedly dazzling performance of Watson – the computer, not Sherlock Holmes sidekick – in the quiz game of Jeopardy was impressive, as was the chess prowess displayed by IBM’s Deep Blue computer. In terms of sheer performance in specific fields, it has been amply demonstrated that computers are already able to outdo humans.

    Are we to infer from this that computers are able to “think”? I, for one, don’t think so.

    The current generation of AI enabled supercomputers are certainly equipped to throw massive computing power at any problem. Such “brute force” computing can surely yield impressive results as was amply demonstrated by Deep Blue vanquishing Garry Kasparov. But we must remember that this monster was capable of evaluating 200 million positions per second, and that the heuristics were reputedly derived from an analysis of no fewer than 7,00,000 Grandmaster games.

    Similarly, IBM disclosed that “Watson can process 500 gigabytes, the equivalent of a million books, per second. IBM’s master inventor and senior consultant Tony Pearson estimated Watson’s hardware cost at about $3 million and with 80 TeraFLOPs would be placed 94th on the Top 500 Supercomputers list, and 49th in the Top 50 Supercomputers list. The content was stored in Watson’s RAM for the game because data stored on hard drives are too slow to access”.

    In my humble opinion, while undoubtedly dedicated special purpose super-computing giant machines like the above would continue to “evolve” and be able to outstrip the human brain in specific areas of performance, they would never be able to acquire certain traits that are uniquely associated with human thought processes and cognition. Some of these are:

    (1) Autonomous behaviour, or the capacity to function entirely without outside intervention or interference.
    (2) Ethics or morality. Can any computer, no matter how advanced or complex, ever develop this?
    (3) Religion and spirituality, which is inextricably intertwined with the above.
    (4) Emotions, empathy, and compassion.

    At best, it may be possible to program a machine to mimic the responses that may suggest the above characteristics, but it will never be the real McCoy! At the end of the day, these wondrous machines are created by man to extend his capabilities, and will remain dependent on whatever the programmer feeds in. They will remain, at best, prosthetic aids for the knowledge worker, and may even serve to alleviate the information overload and address what you term the “knowledge paradox”.

    The data crunching will doubtless become even more prodigious and awe-inspiring, the feats and accomplishments more astonishing, but even the smartest machine will remain vulnerable to the basic principle of computing – GIGO, or garbage in, garbage out!

    I am therefore encouraged to think that the human race is not about to be rendered redundant!

    Cheers!
    Viney Sahgal
    ( Lounge session group)

    • Dear Sir,

      As always, you are able to add so many facets and dimensions to my post that frankly it creates new vistas to reflect on.In this context T.S. Eliot’s words become even more relevant today.

      It is really not an issue of whether the human race would be rendered redundant or not. The fact is that a predominantly large part of the so called human thought processes and cognition are linked to the limbic system.Much of our emotions and emotional intelligence are controlled here which is an open system and is much influenced by external stimuli. This thus is much more linked to our survival instinct and so if we need to really develop new skills and knowledge, we literally need to rewire our circuitry as we unlearn ( extinguish) old circuits through focus and practise.If this is how it works for 90% + of our thoughts, cognition, vision and actions, this part could very easily be replicated by artificial intelligence. For the balance < 10% part needing intuition, who knows what the machines of the future would come up with to handle?

      I am once again taking the liberty to transfer your comments to my blog site for the benefit of greater eyeballs.

      Thank you Sir, for taking the time to give your comments here.

      Warm Regards

      Shakti Ghosal '74

  5. ( Copied from IIM Bangalore 82-84 forum)

    Hi Ghosal,
    Forwarding the views of my sister on your April musings.
    Keep them coming.
    Regards
    R.Sridhar

    Subject: FW: April musings of my friend Ghosal on Knowledge [SEC=UNCLASSIFIED]
    Date: Tue, 3 Apr 2012 11:50:25 +1000
    From: Chitra.Ramanadhan@ATO.gov.au
    To: ram_sridhar@hotmail.com

    Dear Cheedh

    As always interesting reading. Here are my views in relation to Ghosal’s musings:
    In my mind I classify knowledge as falling under different categories such as:
    – Vital knowledge to perform my duties/fulfil obligations. That is basically survival knowledge. Then come the following categories:
    – nice to know
    – totally irrelevant
    – not in a million years .

    Our life is too short to “know” everything there is to know. This is where you need organisation, ability to quickly sift through the deluge the information that we are bombarded with every minute of every day and glean the “pearls”, that are essential to us. Classification of such information and then prioritising them in their order of importance and relevance to our life (totally subjective) comes next. In that category, I would not even put the “nice to know category” information. Then comes the nice to know or other types of info. which will depend on our interests and propensity. For instance one would want to acquire info on other fields as opposed to information about others – i.e the gossip category.

    Interesting to read about Watson. Hasn’t there always been an Indian saying that what we know amounts to a handful of grain of sand as opposed to the whole world we don’t know about?

    It is when “vital” information to function in this world ( or more correctly in the world we have created for yourself) is being withheld by someone or something due to a power game or some other arbitrary measure that we need to protest – be it by our employer or our society/position/wealth and the ability to “buy” knowledge. Whereas if non essential knowledge is withheld from us, it might actually be a blessing in disguise, because as such the demand on our time is so great that they are actually taking off some of the load of us and doing us a favour. One thing needs to be made clear though – what is considered as essential knowledge by one person is not so for another person and so what one might spend a whole life in gleaning can be dismissed without a second thought by another.

    It is not as though we have this information deluge only in the present times – may be our ignorance is more widely understood and accepted these days – this problem was admitted to in our Vedas which is why in Kenopanishad there is a question asked by the disciple to his Guru – Guru please teach me that Knowledge, knowing which I will know everything. And the Guru’s answer is know thyself – and you will know everything.

    Knowledge according to our Vedas is Para vidya – essential knowledge or subjective knowledge and apara vidya – worldly or objective knowledge – (note apara in this contest does not mean non-essential knowledge). Even in those times they knew worldly or objective knowledge channels are infinite and impossible to be acquired even through several life times, but by knowing yourself you know everything, because the core or essence of everything is the same in one and all.

    I think our life’s mission should be to acquire that Para vidya rather than frustrating ourselves in acquiring apara vidya which is never ending, constantly changing and perishable any way. If we think we know something thoroughly and completely, taking for example the game Ghosal is talking about, someone can come later disprove it, improve upon it, change it and do better than us that our effort in acquiring that “knowledge” is completely wasted and even harmful in some instances!

    Swami Anubhavananda is visiting Melbourne so I’m busy morning and night with lectures which will continue into the weekend. I am at the moment extremely busy at work as well, so may not be able to get in touch with my usual regularity.

    Take care
    Love
    chitra

    • Thank you Sridhar for once again forwarding me the excellent response of your sister to my post.

      I would need to acknowledge Chitra for her excellent analysis of the differentiating between aspects of knowledge that is necessary and that which is not. I believe we spend a large part of our lives before we truly realise this. And Chitra’s commentary of “para vidya” and “apara vidya” is so relevant to our times and requires deep reflection. I loved the part of the Guru’s answer : ” know thyself – and you will know everything.”

      We are at that inflexion point in our civilisation when we need to gain back our own consciousness in the midst of a world hurtling and changing hues faster and faster.How we do this is best left to each one of us.

      As always, I am taking the liberty of taking Chitra’s comment on my blog site for the benefit of greater number of eyeballs which it deserves.

      Cheers my friend and have a great weekend.

      Shakti

  6. As usual, we follow a similar trajectory. My post tomorrow is eerily similar.
    Shakti, as you often do, you bring up some good points to ponder. When does the pursuit of knowledge itself become dehumanizing? For in that quest, may we ‘gain the world but lose our soul?’
    I also love this metaphor: “But does this not run contrary to our age old belief that to retain power, we need to keep the individual in a silo, fed with only ‘need to know” information and expertise?”
    Aloha for now.

    • Bela,

      Great thought there. Is there really a trade-off between knowledge and humanness? Do we really need to gain the world at the cost of our soul? Does it always have to be expansion or collapse?

      I believe there should be another path, may be not fully revealed to us at this point in time.. As we become “consciousness conscious” ( I had used this term in an earlier post!). I believe this quality could serve as a beacon.I believe this would serve us to take our inner qualities to the outer world as we start to appreciate the cyclical nature of all things.

      Take care Bela!

      Shakti

  7. Interesting Shakti, but inspite the fact that we can acquire knowledge everywhere and it evolves more and more one of the factor that I am always concerned of and hoping people not to forget is concerning the human itself to think critically, to be concerned not only for the innovations but also in our surroundings and environment.

  8. Some of the knowledge may be old wine in a new bottle. Porter and Prahalad did a good job of repackaging what was there and presenting it really well, for instance, as in their generic strategies and core competence. Some knowledge is new.

    But knowledge does not help beyond a point, and understanding, or realization is what an individual increasingly feels the need for- the reason for much of our dissatisfactions with life, or to put it positively, the search for meaning in life.

    • Great point, Rajendra.

      But is not understanding or realisation the difference between “information storage” aspect and the ” information application” aspect of knowledge ? If I understand you right, you are referring to the first aspect. So how do we improve the applicability? I believe this is the aspect which onleashes human intuition, creativity and energy, aligned as it becomes with human passion and vision, both outcomes of knowledge application within ourselves.

      What do you think?

      Cheers

      Shakti

  9. We are at that age where all info is documented and passed on to others through emails or brochures etc and you are supposed to do the reading up, figure out who to contact for FAQ’s & then deal with answers, however knowledge is best gained when you have a thorough understanding of what has been imparted to you. Being in HR, I have seen that employees benefit much more with semnars which is more focused towards knowledge imparted to them in easy to understand language rather than being just bombarded with brochures full of info (however relevant they are). Its best illustrated by the impact a face to face discussion with someone has in reality rather than just reading or following a blog online !!!!

    As far as the work scenario goes yes goals have to be achieved but a person needs to have their own space and creativity options too to achieve that goal and devise how they will reach that target, how they will present, that is very important.

    A poem in this context, I think it borders on the same theme of your blog here !!!

    The Little Boy
    By Helen Buckley

    Once a little boy went to school.
    He was quite a little boy
    And it was quite a big school.
    But when the little boy
    Found that he could go to his room
    By walking right in from the door outside
    He was happy;
    And the school did not seem
    Quite so big anymore.

    One morning
    When the little boy had been in school awhile,
    The teacher said:
    “Today we are going to make a picture.”
    “Good!” thought the little boy.
    He liked to make all kinds;
    Lions and tigers,
    Chickens and cows,
    Trains and boats;
    And he took out his box of crayons
    And began to draw.

    But the teacher said, “Wait!”
    “It is not time to begin!”
    And she waited until everyone looked ready.
    “Now,” said the teacher,
    “We are going to make flowers.”
    “Good!” thought the little boy,
    He liked to make beautiful ones
    With his pink and orange and blue crayons.
    But the teacher said “Wait!”
    “And I will show you how.”
    And it was red, with a green stem.
    “There,” said the teacher,
    “Now you may begin.”

    The little boy looked at his teacher’s flower
    Then he looked at his own flower.
    He liked his flower better than the teacher’s
    But he did not say this.
    He just turned his paper over,
    And made a flower like the teacher’s.
    It was red, with a green stem.

    On another day
    When the little boy had opened
    The door from the outside all by himself,
    The teacher said:
    “Today we are going to make something with clay.”
    “Good!” thought the little boy;
    He liked clay.
    He could make all kinds of things with clay:
    Snakes and snowmen,
    Elephants and mice,
    Cars and trucks
    And he began to pull and pinch
    His ball of clay.

    But the teacher said, “Wait!”
    “It is not time to begin!”
    And she waited until everyone looked ready.
    “Now,” said the teacher,
    “We are going to make a dish.”
    “Good!” thought the little boy,
    He liked to make dishes.
    And he began to make some
    That were all shapes and sizes.

    But the teacher said “Wait!”
    “And I will show you how.”
    And she showed everyone how to make
    One deep dish.
    “There,” said the teacher,
    “Now you may begin.”

    The little boy looked at the teacher’s dish;
    Then he looked at his own.
    He liked his better than the teacher’s
    But he did not say this.
    He just rolled his clay into a big ball again
    And made a dish like the teacher’s.
    It was a deep dish.

    And pretty soon
    The little boy learned to wait,
    And to watch
    And to make things just like the teacher.
    And pretty soon
    He didn’t make things of his own anymore.

    Then it happened
    That the little boy and his family
    Moved to another house,
    In another city,
    And the little boy
    Had to go to another school

    This school was even bigger
    Than the other one.
    And there was no door from the outside
    Into his room.
    He had to go up some big steps
    And walk down a long hall
    To get to his room.
    And the very first day
    He was there,
    The teacher said:
    “Today we are going to make a picture.”
    “Good!” thought the little boy.
    And he waited for the teacher
    To tell what to do.
    But the teacher didn’t say anything.
    She just walked around the room.

    When she came to the little boy
    She asked, “Don’t you want to make a picture?”
    “Yes,” said the lttle boy.
    “What are we going to make?”
    “I don’t know until you make it,” said the teacher.
    “How shall I make it?” asked the little boy.
    “Why, anyway you like,” said the teacher.
    “And any color?” asked the little boy.
    “Any color,” said the teacher.
    “If everyone made the same picture,
    And used the same colors,
    How would I know who made what,
    And which was which?”
    “I don’t know,” said the little boy.
    And he began to make a red flower with a green stem.

    • Hi MP,

      Thank you for your lovely response and the lovelier poem on how the regimentation learnt early in life, muzzles up our intrinsic creativity and approach. Is this not from, “Chicken Soup for the Soul”? I seem to have read it there some years back.

      I guess if we do not give ourself time to mull, play and shape the information into different forms and structures, we start living a life of regimentation as told us by others. As happened to that poor kid in your poem. I believe this is also the reason why the best creative bursts happen at a young age for all of us.When outside influences have not yet regimented our thinking and perceptions.

      Cheers

      Shakti

  10. Wonderful Shakti….Good to be here again…I believe where we are headed next is not through more sophisticated machines that think more complexly than we do. The answer to where we are headed lies to returning to our creative minds for it is the people and the businesses that can think outside the box that will move ahead. Data is becoming passe in the world we are creating, it is part of the old controlling structure now falling beneath its own weight. We are done with data for data’s sake. Now it is on to the new world where things are born outside the box. Back full circle to the simplicity in life wherein ‘meaning’ is our center point …Good one Shakti…

    • Hi VK,

      It is such a pleasure to have you here. You have created a tempting vision of returning back full circle to life’s simplicity and “meaning”. I do hope you are right. The fact remains that as the number of folks believing in a new world increases, so do the numbers who retain a vested interest in the old order.

      We may be done with data but for vast tracts of our economy, data remains the primary fuel. And methinks this would remain so for awhile. The clicking, whirring subteranean networks are increasingly able to operate and add economic value without human intervention. This in itself is contributing to the increasing disparity in the world. But more of that in another post.

      Thank you for your nice words, I truly appreciate.

      Cheers

      Shakti

      • Shakti…If you get a chance read a book by a wonderful and great mind Daniel Pink who wrote the book ‘A Whole New Mind’….I think you would find his concept on where we are headed interesting…..Blessings to you…..VK

  11. We are bombarded with information, Shakti. An endless stream of data from various sources takes over our time to observe, consider, reflect, investigate or question. We indulge in more, more, and more input and forget that the old donkey carrying the holy books is not holy.

    • Thanks Amy. I particularly like your metaphor about the old donkey carrying the holy books. Indulge we do but do we carry a vision or intention in that? And if not, what could be the reason for such a behaviour? I believe an answer to this question might just open the windows to clarity.

      You are such a support Amy as always!

      Cheers

      Shakti

  12. In America I fear we have lost our ability to think critically, as evidenced by the mess of our government and its operation. Where is the place for deep thinkers, critical thinkers in the information age. Do we dis-empower ourselves by relying more and more on information and less and less on our ability to parse out facts and draw conclusion by deduction? You raise some very interesting questions about knowledge and power in this regard. Thank you for your post.

    • Hi Stephanie,

      Thank you for your very considered and thoughtful comment. You are spot on when you say that decision making has got increasingly skewed towards aggrandising of information and lesser on deductive ability based on limited facts.So we have a feminine voiced SIRI residing inside the I Phone 4 and waiting for you to ask her to fetch any information you desire. This has become some kind of an information opium lulling us into mental inactivity.

      I am so glad you liked the post.

      Shakti

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