April 25, 2002

This is a milestone for internet time group. In the last 24 hours, I have assembled and delivered a two-hour presentation on creating a new vision for learning at Hewlett Packard. Several dozen people attended the two-hour virtual session, as I walked them through 10 mb of powerpoint slides. It felt well-received. I’ve set up a follow-up site. I will be surprised if I can’t turn this into a continuing consulting engagement.

When I worked with omega, I claimed that I could probably function well as an executive vice president of a major bank, but that I was clearly unqualified to carry out the function of an assistant vice president. I don’t need no stinking details. McCoy: for god’s sake, jim, I’m an artist, not a functionary. This morning was a good taste of high-level guidance. In planning, I figured I could fall back on the role-model of chauncey gardner, uttering simple truisms and having my public take them as deep truth. Wag the dog!

Jim Laney, who lives in Kansas City but works for Devry in Chicago, called to talk about getting together. He joined Devry as a second career, after a full life in power & gas. They recently bought Keller, giving them both bachelors and masters degree programs. Jim is concerned about sales training, positioning the new program, and taking advantage of ideas as proposed by the Meta-Learning Lab. He’s going to check whether they can cough up $3,000 for me to spend the day while in Chicago.

Researchers have found that our bodies are gearing up to do something before we’re consciously aware of it, calling into question our assumptions about causality and free will.

This opens my mind to searching for other misinterpretations of the facts. When Wayne Hodgins and I met on Tuesday, I described Beyond eLearning. He guessed that our largest market will be among decision-makers. Few will want the whole deal but most will pay for something to answer their specific questions. Hence, we should be offering an index for problem-solvers. We’ll want something like Mortimer Adler’s Synopticon index for Encyclopædia Brittanica. In Wayne’s words, what’s important is the metadata. To get there, Ian and I would dream up decision-making scenarios. Maybe the glossary morphs into this. To return to my opening theme of looking for the illogical, it may simply be that the answer to most questions engaged by Wayne is “metadata.” Maybe human conversation is less purposeful that we surmise; it’s more like a dream state.

Think of a party where one guest’s meme is “there’s not enough time.” I’m pushing Pareto’s Law or taking the long-term view. Wayne’s recommending taxonomies and metadata. Someone new says they have a problem with their insurance company. Everyone offers his meme as the solution. How often is this what’s really going on? We are bouncing around randomly, misinterpreting the results as significant, creating patterns where we want to see them.

Wayne told me the geometry paradigm of lines, circles & vectors that has carried Autodesk since its founding is about to hit the wall. It’s as good as it gets. This is the end of the trail. The savior will be something called “Parametric Geometry.” It relies on parameters to describe objects, and parameters are (surprise, surprise) metadata.

So? Let’s take an object, say a shaft. You could describe a shaft by specifying its diameter, length, thickness, material, torque strength, and so forth. Similarly, you could describe a gear the same way. Tags could also relate this gear to that shaft and vice-versa. You could build entire smart assemblies. They could even learn from past designs that failed. Take this forward n steps and imagine an interactive template for designing, say, a house. Check off two-story, redwood, 3-bedroom, Eichler-style, Marin County building code, etc. Get a plan to react to, a cost, a bill of materials, whatever. Do what-if scenarios like a financial engineer manipulating an excel spreadsheet model. Smart objects eliminate the grunt work of engineers and builders.

Use the same approach to learning. Codify the process. Let the smart objects assemble themselves.

In Wayne’s worldTM, there are only two kinds of metadata: explicit and people (tacit). The goal is to connect the subjective metadata.

Wayne finds the New York Times Best Seller list worthless. Who are these people? If I can’t get a picture of who they are, why do I care what they think? Much more valuable would be a list of the favorite books of people in this room; something brought us together.

I need to remind Wayne about the book and send him info on the graphics folk.


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