The Dialogue of K & the Kings of Silicon Valley

The dialogue recorded below occurred during the opening months of the year 2013. My friend K informed me that the conversation took place on the last remaining patch of neutral ground in Silicon Valley. K was sitting in the corner booth of a retro burger joint on the intersection of Blossom Road and Meridian Avenue near San Jose. While he waited for his order to arrive, five guys walked in all at once. K recognized them immediately and watched in disbelief as the most powerful men in Silicon Valley took their places in the booth across from where he was sat.

Mr A, was a tall thin man, wearing a black turtleneck, his face covered in salt and pepper stubble. He was sitting next to Mr G, a middle aged man wearing peculiar spectacles and staring off into the middle distance with inexplicable intensity. Mr M was an elderly gentleman, sitting quietly, inspecting the menu with a look that danced somewhere between disgust and disappointment. Mr S, who sat directly opposite Mr A was a youthful looking Korean gentleman. Sitting very upright, he stared fixedly across the table at Mr A. Mr F was the last to take his place in the booth. None of the other men acknowledged his arrival. A waitress came by after a long silence and the first of many rounds of coffees was ordered. K tells me that it would be impossible to recount everything he had overheard that day and into that long night. But as these men sat and discussed the future of the human race over burgers, fries and piping hot slices of apple pie, my friend K sat in front of his half eaten burger and listened. What I am going to share with you now, is just one part of that epic. An excerpt that I have decided to publish under the heading: ‘The Dialogue of K & the Kings of Silicon Valley’ I hope that I have paid due respect to those men and to my dear friend K in this recital.

The Dialogue of K & the Kings of Silicon Valley

The waitress came around again with a pot of jet black coffee. She was waved off by all but Mr S and Mr G who signalled that he would like a top-up. While the waitress leant across the table with her pot of coffee Mr A picked up where he had left off in his dialogue with Mr M.

‘So you finally, realize the importance of the mobile platform, too bad you are five years too late’. Mr A was looking smug and Mr M chagrined by the insult. At that point Mr G interjects so as to break the tension.

‘You know it is an interesting topic. I had a question put to me recently by one of the board members. The guy knows nothing about technology and was complaining about how the website he was trying to look at was different on his phone compared to his PC’. Mr G was waving his spoon around and heaping sugar into his black coffee while he spoke. ‘It got me thinking, that the current shift towards hand held mobile devices is just the newest development in the way the human race communicate. And that it was kind of interesting to see all of these old websites trying to adapt.’ Mr G finished tipping his fifth heaped teaspoon of sugar into his coffee and began stirring it erratically. ‘You see, it’s all about the medium. Before there were mobile devices people advertised on standard websites. Before that there was just TV, newspapers, magazines, flyers, handbills, billboards or radio. And before that they would have people shouting in the street. My point being that if you give someone a medium, they will try and use it to sell something.’ At this point Mr M broke in.

‘I am not sure what you are driving at. Surely it couldn’t have come to you as a surprise that mobile phones and tablets are the dominant advertising medium of the moment.’

‘Ah, yes. But just as you say, they are the dominant medium of this very moment. But not necessarily of the next moment.’ Mr G was grinning into his sickly sweet coffee. ‘You see, we have created a new medium, each of us has contributed in our own way towards creating that new medium. Now what my half-witted friend allowed me to realize is that, even though it is important for business to advertise effectively via not only standard websites but now also mobile websites. Soon there will be new mediums, possibly ones that become of even greater importance than anything in the e-mobile environment.’ Mr S cleared his throat abruptly before addressing Mr G.

‘I feel that you are overstating the likely hood of such an advance taking place. I do however accept your logic. But this does not change the fact that our current priority is to communicate optimally via the mediums currently at our disposal. On this point I feel you are being too critical of your board member, as he was right to express frustration at any website not taking into account the medium by which the vast majority of its viewers will be accessing it.’ All heads immediately turned towards, Mr G who was not the least taken aback and sitting ready with a response.

‘You raised some salient points to which I will not debate. But I will say that I can easily imagine a world where any one of us here at this table could be in the position of M over there. Any one of us could fail to capitalize on the next great change in the dialectic of communication. Today it’s phones, tomorrow glasses, after that my friend the board member, might not be complaining about why his website doesn’t work properly on his mobile device, but rather why his favourite websites crummy advertisements are keeping him up all night in his dreams.’ Before Mr M could protest at having been used as an example Mr F cut in.

‘That’s a scary thought, but I agree with Mr S, we are going to be dealing with mobile technology for a long time yet. I can personally vouch for the necessity of having your site be available to the e-mobile environment. My own greatest success was to fuse social networking and e-mobile technology. That success has been extremely profitable for nearly everyone at this table.’ Mr F finished specking and was met by hostile, looks. Mr M was first to speak.

‘You F were just lucky. I don’t even know why you are here. Mr G and his cronies, or the next teenager with some spare time on their hands are likely to come up with the next social fad and you won’t even be a blip in history.’ Mr A was smirking to himself and Mr G holding back convulsive laughter. ‘What Mr S was saying, was that it is important that when launching websites, people need to be mindful that they are working with new mediums of communication. They should try and be engaged in the development of that new medium. Equally as engaged as those they are expecting to view it.’ Mr S listened politely, but gave no sign that he agreed with what was being said. ‘You see back when we were first working with the internet commercially, most of the people involved were technical. They weren’t interested in communicating with people effectively. But to steal a phrase from Mr G, the dialectic of the internet turned it into a much more immersive place wherein communications has become extremely effective.’ Mr A broke in.

‘By communication, you mean advertisement I take it.’ His face contorted into a cynical pout.

‘Yes I suppose’, Mr M continued. ‘What I am trying to get at is that e-mobile is still going through its development stage. The dialectic is continuing. People are finding better ways of communicating with one another through mobile devices. And it’s only a matter of time before browsing on the internet is just as effective a marketing platform as it is when viewed from a desktop.’ Mr G sighed into his plate of soiled napkins and apple pie crumbs.

‘Everything comes down to money and marketing in the end with you lot doesn’t it. I thought we could keep things conceptual. Your right though. Most of my browsing is done via the phone these days, but I wouldn’t buy anything from an e-commerce website on my phone because it has taken years for me to become comfortable with doing it on a desktop. Never the less I would still expect that any ecommerce website to let me browse their store on my phone even if I wait until I am at a desktop to make the purchase. We are definitely in an awkward crossover stage, which is going to become even more difficult as people are forced to not only launch websites that work on desktops, but also phone, tables, spectacles, watches and anything else we haven’t thought of making yet. But what I was trying to say before was that if Joe Blo, wants to make a website his consideration shouldn’t be: I need to create a website that is compatible with e-mobile devices. It should be: I need to have something to communicate that can be shared effectively via every medium available to me at this time.’ Mr A broke in at that point.

‘You really do get worked up over the obvious don’t you?’

‘Oh, go try and patent another rectangle A.’ Retorted Mr G.

At that point the waitress came back around to their table with another pot of tar black coffee and asked if anyone would like another order. Mr S ordered a fresh round of coffees for the table and a slice of pecan pie for himself. My friend K continued listening in still silence on into the night. As if a single sound from his booth, the slightest clink of his coffee-cup might frighten this strange scene out of existence.


Regarding the representation of Forms & Ideas.

This is a little article intended as an appendices to a report relating to a large process diagram. It was never used, but I still feel it is interesting as a standalone piece. Enjoy !

Process Map SLR

These notes, which I purposely include here only as an appendices to the primary article. Will I hope be an aid to anyone who, not finding the prospect of reading a page or four of explanatory notes too offensive. Would like to gain some insight beyond that attainable by a mere glance at the attached diagram.

The concepts of thought employed in the creation of this diagram are here expressed in two parts. The first part relates to common misapprehensions, derived from the unconscious application of outmoded methods of thought. The second part relates to the application of a quasi-holistic methodology in my representation of processes.

First Part: A Common Misapprehension.

If with our first step we are to succeed in setting the rhythm for a full enquiry, it must be taken without misapprehension. With a full awareness that in constructing these static mechanical systems, we actively disregard the social nature of all human activity systems. Meaning that our systems, once set into being are bound to become socially animated. Indeed we should imagine that the individual elements of any diagram such as this are already crawling–seemingly at will across the paper; at all times interacting with one another; transmitting information; setting off chemical reactions; exchanging material; consuming one another; attracting and repelling one another.
My goal here is not to take a biological analogy too far, but rather to make clear that for any system that contains a sociological element, these kinds of interactions are ineradicable. Not only are they ineradicable, but to human cognition they largely intractable. This fact playing one part in the formation of what is commonly referred to as our subjective point of view. Or as expressed far more clearly by Marx,

‘It is not the consciousness of man that determines his existence–rather, it is his social existence that determines his consciousness’.

This constant motion, degradation and change (flux), a phenomena not limited to the sociological sphere of enquiry, has been from time immemorial a source of intense consternation. The first to articulate the concept being Heraclitus, famous for his remark that,

‘Everything is an exchange for fire, and fire for everything’.

Since that time, men such as Plato and Aristotle endeavoured to not only curb this constant change, but to halt it completely. Plato’s extreme views in this regard can be seen expressed in his Laws,

‘Any change whatever except the change of an evil thing, is the greatest of all treacherous dangers that can befall a thing – wether it is a change of season, or of wind… or of the character of the soul’.

We cannot for one moment doubt the influence of men like Plato on contemporary society. Platonic idealism, specifically the methodological essentialist portion of his doctrine, has unbeknownst to many, become an intuitive part of the way we think. This has come about due simply to the fact that, it was and is, for many of the architects of our society, their intellectual bedrock (remember our quote from Marx just a moment ago).

Through the flux of nature, the incomprehensible mix and rush of atoms that form ‘us’ and in turn, our own natures, our social systems, our notions, institutions and processes. We are faced, like Heraclitus and Plato, with a question as to how we should make sense of the resulting Forms and Ideas. These constructs, which have for whatever reason, coalesce from this ‘exchange of fire for fire’. The classical method of understanding these phenomena is through the mostly tacit application of Platonic methodological essentialism. The modern method as employed by me through my creation of the attached diagram, involves perceiving phenomena not as procession of derivative forms – as do essentialists. But rather as parts of a stratified holarchy of sub-wholes.

fig a

In discussing methodological essentialism I will briefly set out its main tenants, before describing how my diagram, in being an idealised form cannot be a true representation of reality. I will then conclude by explaining how when we disregard the reverse logic of essentialism, this really shouldn’t matter at all.

The Platonic view of Forms and Ideas can be summed up briefly by way of a simple analogy, phrased rather nicely by Karl Popper,

‘As a child may look upon his father, seeing in him an ideal, a unique model, a god-like personification of his own aspiration; the embodiment of perfection, of wisdom, of stability, glory and virtue; the power which created him before his world began; which now preserves and sustains him and in ‘virtue’ of which he exists; so Plato looks upon the Forms and Ideas’.

Plato believed that those things in flux, those things found to be in nature, must be the children of some perfect form. His ultimate expression of this idea is his Republic. An attempt to stabilize the world he lived in and create a static island, a ‘state’, within a world set on fire by unremittent change. This attempt was largely a failure, but has as a result of the influence of Oligarchies such as the one to which Plato belonged, remained a motive force within the circles of social engineers and politicians ever since.

You may by now be questioning how this relates at all to the boardroom. Or how it relates to the way modern people think or indeed to my diagram. The link is a simple one and can be illustrated with the aid of a well-known idiomatic phrase: ‘a camel is a horse designed by committee’.
At this point you may very well be raising an eyebrow or two, but let’s first analyse the root of this common saying. The implication is that, there exists in the mind of the speaker an a priori essence of what constitutes a horse. This essence is then used to judge the level of deviation from the ideal horse as is manifest in the derivative form of a camel. I assume at this point your eyebrow(s) should be lowering and your brow furrowing, as you grapple with that apparent tautology. What we are seeing here is that the speaker has tacitly expressed themselves in the manor of a platonic idealist. They have implied a duality between the ideal form of a horse and the lesser form (as assumedly fits the purposes of the committee) of a camel. This kind of thought process is also the root of the concept that our ideas are more perfect than any actual form they may eventually take. The inherent negativity of this manner of thinking should be clear.
The second law of thermodynamic may declare that entropy must increase, but it does not state that the resulting forms are in anyway better or worse than those that precede them. This is ‘meaning’ that we have superimposed over nature and it is an entirely negative outlook, with no practical use.

In relation to the attached diagram I have heard numerous people remark that, ‘yes, this is the way it should be, but it in reality it isn’t like that’. Here we see the same Platonic mode of thought expressed in slightly different terms. This is unfortunately due to a misunderstanding of my method. I have not set out to create an idealized form in a platonic sense – but if that is the way you choose to look at it, that is exactly what it is. I have instead attempted to take from the holarchy a cross-sectional sample, which although only a representation can then be used to diagnose, to rearrange, restructure or analyse the underlying systems. This process is a form of piecemeal analysis. And as a result of its piecemeal nature, is completely neutral in outlook and entirely amenable to a scientific outlook.
So those people who view diagrams like these as mere representations of ideal forms are technically incorrect. They are in fact representations of subsystem, presented in a level of detail that is restricted by the limits of our perception and level of interest; by the upper and lower bounds, beyond which irreducible complexity bares in upon us.

fig b

As promised I will now explain why my representation of dynamic processes in a static form remains valid. In doing so we will have embarked upon our second step, where we should I hope, be marching to the same rhythm if not in the same direction.

Second Part: A Quasi-holistic Methodology .

Sir Karl Popper described the fallacy inherent in holistic thought as follows:

‘If we wish to study a thing, we are bound to select certain aspects of it. It is not possible for us to observe or to describe a whole piece of the world, or a whole piece of nature; in fact, not even the smallest whole piece may be so described, since all description is necessarily selective.’

Heinrich Gomperz exemplifies for us Poppers criticism:

‘…point out that a piece of the world, such as a sparrow nervously fluttering about, may be described by the following  widely different propositions, each corresponding to a different aspect of it: ‘This bird is flying!’ – ‘There goes a sparrow!’ – ‘Look, here is an animal!’ – ‘Something is moving here.’ – ‘Energy is being transformed here!’ – ‘This is no case of perpetual motion.’ – ‘The poor thing is frightened!’ It is clear that it can never be the task of science to attempt the compilation of such a list, which is necessarily infinite.’

With that said it may not be clear how any analyst can give just-cause for contriving recommendations derived from  holistic thought. Poppers destruction of holism seems at first glance to remove all pretence for the analysis of a system  as a whole. In reality this criticism simply defines for us the limits within which holistic thought can be utilized, while still remaining logically consistent. Any methodology that fails to give due credence to the intractable nature of the  concept ‘whole’, is destroyed by poppers criticism. But a methodology that does acknowledge the difficulties expressed  therein must abandon any allusion toward being truly holistic.

The above expresses for me, a warning which should be kept in mind whenever we attempt to aggregate or to generalize systems in a holistic fashion. The method I have described above is no exception to this rule and should it err, would consequently be destroyed by the statements of Gomperz and Popper. But as I shall show and indeed have already shown, my approach to representing forms and ideas does give due credence to the intractable nature of the concept whole, as does it abandon any allusion toward being ‘truly holistic’.

Firstly, we have acknowledged that, it is merely for practical reasons that we are forced to generalize in our representations. When looking at them, we should do so with an understanding that, as Mill once said;

and ‘the Laws of the phenomena of society are, and can be, nothing but the laws of the actions and passions of human beings’, that is to say, ‘the laws of individual human nature. Men are not, when brought together, converted into any other substance…’.

It is important that the sentiments of this statement be born in mind during the analysis of any system that contains a sociological element. And as such applies just as much to a robotic production-line as it does an office environment; it does not however currently apply to physical phenomena such as stars or nebula, though the footprints of our passions can still be seen on the Moon, Venus, Mars and beyond the limits of our solar system. So with luck it may be just a matter of time. An rational outlook does tend towards the universal, a negative outlook to the colloquial.

Secondly and in conclusion – when we address a problem, or we analyse a system in a piecemeal fashion, the holistic nature of reality is a secondary issue. Holism may or may not be an acceptable method of looking at reality; it may or may not have shaken off the cobwebs of essentials or Hegel. It does however provide a practical method for modelling systems that are, when viewed as a whole, incomprehensible. But when they are examined in the manner in which I have demonstrated here, they become extremely practicable.
Our aims should not be that of methodological essentialism; to reduce these enormous constellations to their essences. What practical purpose should that serve? Instead we should attempt to describe how the system behaves in a given context. By doing this we make informed decisions when attempting to achieve our desires.
With the word ‘desire’, we see here that sociology remains the catalyst to all forms of enquiry. We omit it in our static representations for practical reasons, but we should not forget it’s influence. If we do, we risk making fools of ourselves when we inevitably ask the question, where did we go wrong, why did we fail.

Bertrand Russell, 1967. A History of Western Philosophy.  Edition. Simon & Schuster/Touchstone.
Karl Sir Popper, 2011. The Open Society and Its Enemies (Routledge Classics).  Edition. Routledge.
Karl Sir Popper, 2002. The Poverty of Historicism (Routledge Classics).  Edition. Routledge.

A druggy, a mother, a daughter, a wounded animal.

Just as I’m leaving the platform at Frankston train station, this woman attempted to jump the ticketing gate as I was walking through it. She got her leg caught as the gate closed behind me. Then head-butted me in the back and face planted the concrete with a dull thud.

I turned around defensively, trying to figure out who had just dove into my back. And found this 40 something woman in a tracksuit-suit sprawled across the ground.

‘What was that about’ I asked the woman on the ground, but not really speaking to anyone in particular.

I looked around to see if anyone else had seen what had happened. In the meantime some old woman rushed over and helped her up. Dragging her off the ground by one arm.

A Metro staff member rushed over, asking frantically what had happened. I was still standing there watching, feeling marginally involved.

‘I’m alright, I’m alright, it just my finger’. The woman held up a finger bent backwards at a horrific 90 degree angle.

Obviously not, I thought to myself as she brushed off the ticket inspector and old woman. The ticket inspector bid her to please come with him and sit down. But as soon as she realised that he was wearing a uniform she was gone. She ran away holding her finger to her chest, leaving her shopping bags on the ground where they had fallen. One of the bags contained a pair of dirty looking trainers.

‘What are you doing’ I asked the ticket inspector.

‘Huh, what do you mean’ he still looked frantic.

‘Her finger was broken, you should have grabbed her or run after her’ I wasn’t sure why I was saying this.

‘What could I do, she ran off’. He was watching her still running down the exit ramp out of the station.

‘She fell over because she tried to jump the gate’ I said blankly, glancing back and forth between the inspector and the direction the woman had run.

‘Oh she jumped the gate’ he repeated what I had said as if to confirm it with me.

At this point another commuter shouted out from behind the gates, ‘she didn’t have a ticket, she tried to jump the gate’.

‘Yeah, she ran off because she didn’t have a ticket’. I added, now speaking to nobody in particular again.

Seeing as the protagonist had departed and people just seemed to be repeating themselves and one another, I walked off down the ramp.

Stepping out onto the wet streets of Frankston, I looked around trying to catch sight of the woman in her tracksuit-suit. She had disappeared, but I could see her in my mind’s eye quickly shuffling towards the hospital. Or had she slipped into one of the greasy fast food joints, around the counter and down some rabbit hole of urban malaise. More likely she was just running around in abject fear desperately looking for a familiar face.

Pick a card, any card.

I have always been the kind of person who asks ‘why’, until the conversation ends at the point where everyone in the room has to admit that they don’t know. So when you have a conversation with someone about their faith, assuming they are reasonable people, eventually you will distil the issue down to one core question, ‘Is there a God’. I hold that there is no way of knowing if there is a God or not, but that there is a reasonable answer.

Most people at this point, unless they feel like embarrassing themselves by resorting to ‘miracles’ involving credulous people or faces burnt into slices of toast, will make one of the following responses. Either they will attest to personal experience of the divine. This is a form of solipsism and the basis of what Hume referred to as ‘religious emotion’. It’s kind of funny to hear people resorting to this kind of argument when you know that the most compelling proponents of ‘religious emotion’ where also the men who struck the most brutal blows to the traditional conception of religion and the basis of organized religion! I refer you to Hume’s essay on Miracles for a rather sound destruction of the concept.

The other most likely response regarding the possible existence of God is that they will say, ‘well it makes sense to me for X reason that there should be a God, so I believe that there is’. Here we run into a wealth of shonky logic – honestly the amount of wasted paper and ink used in this pursuit is beyond all conception. And yet, though I have searched high and low I have not found one good reason based on logic that can prove the existence of any God, let alone a God that addresses the following herd of elephants in the room:
Elephant A) If God or some creative force exists, from what we know; there is no reason that this being need be anything more than a race of creatures marginally more technologically advanced that us.
Elephant B) assuming that there is life on other planets, which when one looks at the scale of the universe it is inconceivable that there would not be, how does a Judeo-Christian God fit in when we must consider that innumerable numbers of such civilizations a likely to have burst into life and expired long before the earth was even formed. Is Jesus just the saviour of humans; is your God just the God of humans; how do you rationalize what seems like a form of speciesism?
Elephant C) If there is an ultimate God, who created that God? This leads to the argument that God is the expression of all good things, in which case he must exist, as existence is one of the good things. An argument that is cute in its childish rational, but falls down when you realise that if something doesn’t exist it cannot have any conceptions, let alone an a priori conception of what you or any other humans think is ‘good’.

You could validate your choice regarding the existence of a God using any one of the arguments I just mentioned. My response would in each case be to ask you ‘why’ until you had to admit that your choice was completely arbitrary. But you would of course say that my choice to not believe was also arbitrary, but you would be wrong. If I had have lived in the time of Hume I would have said that I simply didn’t know, because there was not enough information, perhaps I like Hume would have fallen back on religious emotion. But relating back to Elephants A, the probability that any God would be anything like that depicted in the bible or any other religious text seems extremely limited. We can also see from Elephant B that even if there is a God, the probability that any God that does exist is concerned with the colloquial concerns of life on our particular planet is infinitesimally small.

It’s as if we took 50,000 decks of cards, combined them, removed all of the aces but one, blind folded each other and then asked one another, ‘do you believe you will pick out the final ace of spades?’, any rational person would without any thought figure out the probability and say ‘it’s doubtful’. Yet when the probability game is played with the issue of God, some people, after they have placed the card back into the deck and removed their blindfold, say ‘yes I picked the ace of spades, I just know it’.
And it is upon the strength of this assumption that the edifices of religion have been built. It is the initial lie to ones self that allows these constructs to float atop a void as if they were resting on concrete.

As far as I am concerned if you cannot even prove that your belief in God is anything other than an arbitrary choice, there is no need to consider religion in any detail. You have already admitted that your religion, whatever it may be, is just another tower of lies built atop a credulous guess. Positive or negative externalities may emanate from these towers but they are reaching out beyond the scope of logical consistency, they are ivory monoliths built to praise solipsism; they are rattling bone antenna transmitting a hyper-reality, which bleeds into your life and makes you feel vindicated in your delusions.

Organised religions are organic constructs, the termite mounds of the psychological landscape. They are evidently a part of being human, but that doesn’t mean that they have any basis in absolute truth.

To be religious is to be human. I can accept that. But I can also accept that this, along with everything else most likely means nothing.

Or as Hume put it,

‘When I shall be dead, the principles of which I am composed will still perform their part in the universe, and will be equally useful in the grand fabric, as when they composed this individual creature. The difference to the whole will be no greater betwixt my being in a chamber and in the open air. The one change is of more importance to me than the other; but not more so to the universe.’

This criticism applies equally to any organised group who choose to express their faith communally. Be that a faith in a supreme-being, an ultimate purpose or the lack thereof.

David Hume, 2005. On Suicide (Penguin Great Ideas).  Edition. Penguin Books.
David Hume, 2008. An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding (Oxford World’s Classics). New Ed. / Edition. Oxford University Press, USA.