Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Technology and humanity

For a summer-time philosophy stretch, I recommend Robert Pirsig's classic novel, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The last time I read it must have been at least ten years ago, when I was deep into abstract theories of computation. Now I am reading it with new eyes. The book is largely about the boundary between abstract "explaining" and physical "experiencing," a boundary tied closely to "quality."

The book should be required reading for anyone who applies for the Department of Defense grant, Assessing Performance of Complex Organizations. This grant seeks "a method of assessing organizational performance that minimizes human input or intervention." Furthermore, "The resulting tool will account for [cultural] diversity as it is actually represented within the organization being modeled and assessed."

I am both thrilled and horrified by the thought of assessing, with as little human interaction as possible, multi-cultural organizational performance. I want to participate in this research agenda, partly to build the model that it seeks, but also to question the premise on which it is based.

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