Penny for a thought

A good friend of mine sent me the following quote from Jack Canfield:

“Think of a car driving through the night.  The headlights only go a hundred to two hundred feet forward, and you can make it all the way [home] driving through the dark, because all you have to see is the next two hundred feet.  And that’s how life tends to unfold before us.  If we just trust that the next two hundred feet will unfold after that, and the next two hundred feet will unfold after that, your life will keep unfolding.  And it will eventually get you to the destination of whatever it is you truly want, [simply] because you want it.”

This was originally meant for a description on life, but I suspect there’s a technology analogy here. We do keep probing for new ways of doing things, we can’t actually see the world in ten years time, but we can see it tomorrow and we can make snap guesses or inferences about the next 100 yards just beyond the reach of the headlights. The success of this analogy will depend on whether you believe the ultimate destination is in our own hands and we can collectively, perhaps by the power of the crowd choose where we’re heading or is it already pre-ordained the to some optimal structure?

Perhaps a corollary of this is to ask if crowds can be influenced or does it have a mind of its own?

9 thoughts on “Penny for a thought

  1. on many technology topics as you know, i tend to think of apple. i think it is pre-ordained by some optimal structure. it is those who are able to see the structure that influence the crowds. that does sound rather contradictory, doesn’t it, but to me that describes apple. maybe i should say, it is those who are able to see the structure that influence the crowds for their own benefit.

    • Thanks for your comments Wynne.

      Before writing this I did believe in some pre-ordained way of the world that we would reach, I wrote about this in “Seeing the path of our inevitable arc”.

      The troubling question I have now hit is that some optimal way of the future (because we do eventually follow the optimal or best way) may not be as clear as I first thought. To use the word “best” or “optimal” requires qualification in that the technology we have has to actually be optimal to serve some purpose.

      As we change our technology changes and this changes us to, there’s a symbiotic relationship. So I suspect there’s an optimal technology for assuming we don’t change. If we do change then we may need a new technology.

      Today the scissors would be very difficult to beat in terms of design. We have scissors for children, scissors for hairdressers, for chefs and for cloths. I really can’t imagine scissors of the future looking much different. But of course if do evolve to have less fingers to become more optimal in the world we live in, then I guess we’ll also have to change the scissors we use too.

  2. Rhys,

    Great article to make one think early on a Sunday morning. Elements of the Allegory of the Cave (Plato/Socrates) and the English Luddites come to mind when I read this.

    The crowd can be and always will be manipulated- sometimes for the good and many times for evil. The problem is that the crowd generally are believing that it is good. However, with the dissemination of information available now at the rapid rate it comes through, most of the crowd now believe that they are more independent, more able to make better informed decisions and more able to act with impunity. But they don’t act this way, they still act as a crowd, only this time with more rapidity.

    The recent happenings in Northern Africa show how the crowd mentality has not changed- first Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen Libya and on it goes- which goes to prove your friends comment- none of these countries know what is outside the ray of the light but believe if they keep going they will get the right outcome. The major risks will not come from the purity of the march forward but from the opportunists who are standing outside of the crowd waiting to control the process for their own ends, be it economics, religious or idealism.

    • Thanks a lot for your debate Vic.

      I think with the huge movements in the Middle East and the technology that oils there growth, there is a risk of an over-dependence and over-trust be placed in the wisdom of the crowds. Here the spread of a message can easily reinforce its validity. You’re right about the unknown beyond the knowable light cone but I suspect it’s the fear of what they do know that drives them forward regardless. There may not be any fire outside of the frying pan.

      I liked your Allegory of the Cave and incredibly this reminded me of a story I just heard today:-
      A young magician started to work on a cruise ship with his pet parrot. The parrot would always give away the tricks saying things like, “he has a card up his sleeve” or “he has a dove in his pocket.” One day the ship sank and the magician and the parrot found themselves alone on a lifeboat. For a couple of days, they just sat there looking at each other. Finally, the parrot broke the silence and said, “Okay, I give up. What did you do with the ship?” (Attributable to http://www.pricelessparrots.com/parrot-jokes.htm).

  3. In the summer of 2007 in Verona Italy we went to the opera at the Arena. It rained on and off and the orchestra came and went without commencing the first Act. At around 11.3o pm the show was cancelled and around 2000 patrons were told in 4 languages (Italian first of course and English last) that they could go to ticket box number 7 and get a full cash refund. Group by group they raced out to line up at ticket box no 7. Being English speaking were at the end of the line/queue. We stayed there for 2 hours and hardly moved. So we peeled off the line and went to a nearby cafe for coffee and a snack and watched the queue progress slowly.

    We rejoined around 2.0am just as a spruiker, in Italian, was telling the approx 1000 left in the queue, that they had opened up another ticket box for refunds. As the Italians had already been served and gone and only the Germans French and English were left, the spruiker could not get through to them about the new refund point. Or more to the point no one wanted to give up their long held spot in the queue. Understanding, a little Italian I went up to the spruiker and asked him to speak slowly to explain to me what he was saying. I then grabbed my wife and ran off to the new refund outlet. We got there just ahead of the remaining 1000 who started with a trickle and soon became a stampede.

    The original refund outlet was deserted leaving the Italian officials scratching their heads at the phenomenum that had just occured.

    • That really must have been a frustrating wait. I hope you had your refund! I think your story also shows that crowd behaviour can be amplified by the conditioning (i.e. mood) of the people as in your earlier comments about north Africa.

  4. Actually it was fun. On holidays and all the time in the world. And yes through typical Italian organised chaos everybody got their money back.

    If you can picture the cash vans and the polizia and metropolitan running around like keystone cops, hand waving animatedly and officials standing around acting important, the scene was better than the opera woould have been.

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