Posts Tagged ‘mental space’

How to Create Human Scale Tools: About Movers, Memories and Comparators

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

Humans are the most advanced toolmakers in nature. The main reason is that they are the less specialized organisms. They need tools to survive. People are also the most complex organisms in nature. This complexity makes it possible to invent new possibilities and to work with specialized tools and animals (horse, cow, hammer, car, computer).

All the time people have tried to make a better living by inventing new tools. If the basic needs were met (food, housing, health, safety), people got the time to get their emotional system into balance (love, self-esteem) and satisfy their imagination (play, explore, self-actualization).

At this moment, the amount of leisure-time to enjoy family life, relax, play and explore is going down. The number of people with heavy levels of stress is growing. The pressure on the emotions is increased by the current state of technology. The tools have overlapping functionality, take too much of the attention, do not communicate with each other and dominate the human being.  

Tools have to be integrated completely in the cognitive system of the human being. If a tool takes over a part of the sensory-motor system (glasses, hammer, car) the imagination has to learn a new way to create the outside world. In the end, after practicing, people become united with their hammer or their car. They are not aware that they are carrying their glasses. If people have to practice too long or the tool is constantly intervening in their workflow the emotions get involved. They get frustrated and angry.  

Tools were first invented to support basic human activities like talking, moving, looking,  hearing, remembering and learning.

In a later stage of development, the use of the tools generated a new space of exploration. In this space, new tools emerged.

The invention of symbols started the exploration of Mental Space. Program Languages, Telecommunication and especially the Internet has opened up a new space to explore, called Cyberspace. 

  • Advisor or Master

Advisors and masters involve the emotions. An advisor helps to make a choice or to set priorities. A master (e.g. a physician, teacher, manager) makes a choice for a person. The Cyberspace version of the master and the advisor is the Expert System. It uses advanced ways of pattern-recognition (e.g. Neural Networks).

  • Simulator

Simulators stimulate the imagination. Theaters and movies are examples of passive simulators.  Games are actively involving many people. The Cyberspace version of the active simulator is the Collaborative Computer Game. The passive form can be seen in the Movie and the Television-program.

  • Memory

A memory archives the results of an internal or external dialogue. In the beginning, human communication was only verbal. Important issues to remember were incorporated in stories that were told from one generation to the other. When people specialized their activities, they needed a method (bookkeeping) to keep track of all the transfers. People invented symbols and the external memory to do this.  The writing-symbols made it possible to share and exchange memories (letters, books) without talking. Writing enabled the movement of memories. The library was invented to store the external memories and protect them from fading away. Cyberspace is filled with the versions of static and moving memory called the Electronic Message (Email, Transaction) and the Database. 

  • Mover

Movers were the first tools used in human society. A mover is an extension of the muscles. The first generation was invented to help the human move in physical space. Examples are hammers, cows, horses, steam-machines, cars, bicycles and robots. The next generation supported the movement of symbols (e.g. moving numbers) in mental space. The Difference Engine of Charles Babbage was invented to automate the calculation of mathematical tables. The most advance version of the mover, the telecommunication network, enables the movement of external memory’s in cyberspace.

  • Sensor

Sensors transform and filter data. Glasses and hearing aids were invented to support people when they get old.  Humans looked at the stars and invented the telescope. In a later stage very advanced sensors were developed (Radio-telescope, MRI). They use complex statistical calculations to filter and transform the sampled data into pictures or sounds.

  • Comparator

Human survival and learning is based on comparing data and acting on the result. A comparator acts on an exception. To compare data a measurement instrument is needed and a agreement about the object of measure.

Human beings started to measure time and space a long time ago. It was needed to navigate and to predict the movement of the stars. In the first phase, the human body was used as a measure-instrument of space and the cycle of the sun and the moon as a measurement for time. The big problem with this approach was that every person and every place on earth came up with a different measurement and a different time. \

When the human networks started to connect, standardization on a global level became necessary.  The process of standardization of time and space took many ages. It needed numerous inventions in technology to support the process. The measure-instruments changed from mechanical devices (the clock) to software-devices.   

  • Servant (Operating System)

A servant coordinates the activities of sensors, comparators and memories. Servants take over repetitive patterns.  Humans find these activities boring (not imaginative). A servant has to act invisible (a black box).

When the use of a servant is prohibited, humans get frustrated. It has to be there all the time and do its job inconspicuous. With the help of the comparator and the sensor, the servant has to detect events and take appropriate action (coordinated movements, action patterns).

The big problem at this moment is the visibility and the interference of the servant in the human activity. People have to fill in the same form all the time. Processes stop in the middle of a company. The customer has to handover the data to the other processes. 

Humans do not like to be emotional involved in boring activities.  Therefore, the needs (their wishes) have to be defined in a very simple way. It must be possible to imagine the behavior of the complete system without knowing how the system is operating. 

A good example of a perfect servant is the central heating system. People define their needs (a temperature) and everything works. The temperature is a control variable that represents the performance of the total heating system. People are able to imagine the effect of adjusting the thermostat (a comparator) on the environment they live in. They do not need to know how the servant works. His behavior is hidden. The central heating system is a black box, loosely coupled with another invisible servant-system, the utility-system (gas, electricity).

The servant and its associates were in the first era of IT locked into the physical space of the general-purpose computer controlled by its general purpose operating System. The servants had to stay close together because of the speed of communication. The speed and the capacity of the telecommunication network is going up fast.  This makes it possible to distribute, specialize and connect Servants (now called Appliances).

How to Create the Perfect Need-Machine by Analyzing Personal Activity Patterns

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

In the approach of Taylor and Ford, the employees and customers are treated as programmable machines.  The focus was on a perfect coordination of the senses, the muscles and the production system (the assembly line).  The emotions and the imagination were neglected.

In mass customization, the emotions are involved. In customer innovation, the imagination is imperative. In a demand oriented system all the parts of the human cognitive system have to play a role in a coherent and balanced way.

The human body acts on its environment with messages and action-patterns. The incoming and outgoing messages are observed by the senses and transformed to an internal format. The internal communication system sends the messages to the appropriate place in the body. The emotions are always looking for danger. They want to control the priority of the actions to make it possible for the body to react immediately. The imagination creates an image of the outside world and helps the body to generate scenario’s to improve its action-patterns. 

The senses are the connection to the physical outside world. They shield the human being from the enormous amount of signals that are trying to enter the body. They filter incoming data and transform the data in a standard internal format. When the senses detect an event, it is evaluated by the emotions. If the event is not important, nothing happens. It the event is unusual it becomes aware in the conscious. Events that are highly repeating are not noticed after some time. An internal program (an action-pattern) automates the handling of the event.

The muscles act in physical space. They acquire an enormous amount of reaction-patterns by repeated practicing. Humans learn from their failures. When the senses detect an event, many appropriate patterns are located and enabled. 

When the patterns enter mental space, they change into models. Complicated patterns are compressed into models. Humans use all kinds of compression techniques to make the world compact and therefore more understandable. Static models (e.g. an organization contains employees) compress the world in wholes (nouns) and parts (attributes). They create identities. Dynamic models (the employee sells a product) compress causal chains (event, actor, result). They make it possible to reason.

Models behave the same way as sensors do in physical space. They shield the mental space of the human being from the enormous amount of ideas that the imagination is producing.

The emotions act on hostile and friendly forces. They shield the body from physical injuries (avoiding pain) and take care of the self re-production process of the body (looking for food and a sexual partner).

The emotional system determines the amount of resources that is allocated to the evaluation and the search for adequate action patterns. If an event is dangerous, all resources in the body are used. The body reacts without thinking and uses a biological inherited and fast pattern (fight, flight, freeze, the primary emotions). If there is enough time to react, the emotional system evaluates its preferences and enables the preferred actions-patterns.

If the preferences are related to a long-term perspective, they enter mental space and the human has a choice to make. In the evaluation of long-term preferences, the other plays an important role. People want to take care of the other (family, friends, children), are afraid to get in to a conflict (dominance, status) and want to be praised by the other for what they are accomplishing.

Humans imagine (by creating pictures connected with feelings) what events they like to happen (a wish). When they are pessimistic, they imagine what events they do not want to happen (a fear).  The imagination is the innovative part of the human mental space that generates all kinds of new connections (ideas). The imagination is also the most free to play with new ideas. People can simulate and practice in their imagination without getting into trouble. The imagination produces the idea of the identity.

The imagination uses visual metaphors to create an understandable world. On the lowest level the metaphors are connect to the action patterns. The image of a cup is connected to picking up the cup, holding the cup and moving the cup. New structures are blended with old familiar structures.

Many metaphors make use of the human understanding of technology.  Freud based his theory of the unconsciousness on his understanding of the steam-machine (“I am steamed up with emotions”). Many theories of the mind are based on the metaphor of the computer. People always relate new phenomena to something they already understand. They sometimes do this (in the eyes of others) in very strange ways.  A skilful teacher knows this and tries to find the bridge (the right metaphor, a story) between his world and the world of the student.

In the human body, all the sub-systems (e.g. the services, the organs) are connected by shared communication-channels. There are fast (the nervous system) and slow reacting shared channels (the endocrine system). All the sub-systems use specific messenger-molecules to communicate their actions and act on incoming messengers.  Messengers materialize with every thought we create and with every emotion we feel. When a messenger enters the boundary of a sub-system, (e.g. a cell) it triggers messengers that are specific for that sub-system.

The action patterns make the muscles move according to a movements-plan that is stored in memory. The movement-plans of the muscles enable people to walk, to work (using tools) and to talk. In this last case, people communicate their intentions. The human communication contains a complicated mix of signals that are related to the emotions (e.g. visual expressions, gestures), the patterns (assertions) and the imagination (visual images, ideas).

People resist change. The patterns they have acquired control their behavior and determine their potential. People do not want to change their patterns dramatically. They want to acquire new patterns (by doing) without noticing the change. Only a major event (a critical moment), mostly with negative impact, can have a radical effect. If this event happens it takes a very long time to recover and get into harmony again. When people have to adjust their patterns too often, they experience stress and on the long run get sick.

If people cannot adjust their patterns, they have to involve the other parts of the cognitive system. When they involve the emotions, they have to set priorities and make a choice. People do not like making choices. They are incapable of evaluating all the possibilities. They can also make use of the senses and look at the real opportunities in the outside world. People are almost incapable of doing this because their imagination produces the images it wants to see. If the imagination really faces the facts, the identity is attacked. It feels powerless and unable to control his path of destiny. The last possibility a human has is to adjust the imagination. He has to realize that the possibilities he imagined were just illusions.

If everything stays the same, people get bored. They hope that an event will occur that relates to their wishes. People are the most satisfied if their environment produces just enough change (a challenge) they can cope with. They want a balance between the will (what they want, the imagination, variation) and their capabilities (what they are able to do, predictability, the patterns, their skills).

In a perfect demand oriented economy, a supplier has to provide a challenge to the customer. To provide this challenge the supplier has to understand the wishes and the fears (the imagination) of the customer, his behavior (the patterns) and the balance between the two parts. If the customer is out of balance the supplier has to help the customer to acquire new patterns (learning), help him to make a choice (advice) or show him the real opportunities (scenario’s) taking care of the customers identity.  

It is very difficult for a supplier to get accurate information. Most people are unable to make their behavioral patterns conscious. When people are asked about their opinion (an aspect of the emotions), they often do not want to offend the other and give proper answers. People only want to share their most secret wishes with people they trust (partner, family, friends). Correct information about the customer can only be acquired by carefully observing and analyzing the activities of the customer (what he is doing).  It is completely impossible for a company to observe the activities of all their customers. The only one who can do this is the customer himself.

Customers can observe their activities if they were able to gather personal activity-patterns, get the opportunity to analyze their behavior, and share their activity-patterns with others to get an advice. Most of the needed data is somewhere already available (patient records, buying behavior, payments etc) or can be made available by making connections to the tools the consumer is using in his personal- and work-environment (Emails, Content). The only thing that has to happen is that companies and government agencies make these patterns, which are most of the time privately owned by the customer, available.

It can be envisioned that all personal data is kept in a private space. Only the customer (the owner) can make the data available to others. This approach would prevent many problems in the current situation (e.g. spam).

The last step in a perfect rational demand oriented system is reached when the personal activity-patterns are automatically transformed in standardized need-messages that are sent out to appropriate providers.