Monday, June 28, 2010
  How, What, Who

Three types of knowledge: How, What, Who.

All three types are necessary, and everyone uses all three types all the time, but the dominant type strongly influences the form and the success of a culture.

= = = = =

How-ism is based on skills, on knowing the way. How to build, how to cook, how to repair, how to keep people happy, how to keep them under control. How-knowledge comes directly from the senses, tempered and conditioned by comparison and proportion, with a constant awareness of feedback and cycles. (Does this work better? How can I tell when it's better? When does it repeat?) How-knowledge can be passed with no words at all from mother to daughter, father to son, master to apprentice.

What-ism is based on facts, on knowing the data. What-knowledge requires language, symbols and formulas. You can acquire what-knowledge by reading or listening.

Who-ism is based on identity and quotation. Who-knowledge requires a strong sense of status, an up-to-date reading of comparative authority, and a tape-recorder mind. If the high-status person says "2+2=5" and wears Prada, we must say "2+2=5" and wear Prada. If the low-status person says "2+2=4" and wears J.C. Penney, we must mock "2+2=4" and discard everything with a J.C. Penney label.

= = = = =

In basic neurological terms, How belongs to both genders, What belongs to the male-type brain, and Who belongs to the female-type brain. [Caveat: this raw gender correlation is dramatically obvious in simple-minded people but somewhat submerged by other capabilities and shapings in smarter types.]

In chronological terms (again loose and overlapping!), America was dominated by How until WW2, by What from WW2 through 1990, and by Who since 1990.

= = = = =

The high point of How-ism in America was the era of invention from 1840 to 1920. Morse, Bell, Edison, Carver, Ford: all were How-ites, developing a vision based on a set of skills, and knowing how to turn the vision into a real device or method with some assistance from What-ish data and numbers. Ford was probably the purest Howite, since his best inventions were methods and social structures, not devices.

= = = = =

The high point of What-ism was clearly the Apollo moon shot, though Apollo 13 was famously saved by the ductape of How. And the final wild spin-out of What-ism is the recent stock market crime. I've been listening to the Congressional hearings and I'm struck by the total absence of any proportion, any comparison, any sense of cycles, even any curiosity among the conspirators. The investigators (especially the magnificent How-ite Elizabeth Warren) constantly ask questions like "Didn't you stop to think?" or "Didn't you wonder why this was happening?" or "Didn't you ask what's wrong with this picture?" And the Wall Street Mafiosi on the other side of the table simply DO NOT COMPUTE the questions. Their answers are synthetic and nakedly numerical: "Value Goal Credit Default Swap Senior Tranche ... Calculating ... Eight Three Dot Six." Obviously these biped enumeration modules were not programmed for pattern recognition or comparison or wonderment, except for "Which action brings me more money?"

= = = = =

Verbal Who-ism is the mark of the Royalist, the Catholic, the Communist. If the current King/Pope/Premier says "X", I know "X" is true and I will defend it to the death. If the Pretender to the Throne says "X", I know "X" is false and I will fight against it with all my energy. In most cases "X" is the same thing, which means the Who-ist defends and opposes the same idea at different times.

Visual Who-ism is the mark of the Paparazzi. A photographer who gets the right candid shot of Britney Spears can receive half a million dollars for one click of the shutter. Why is this one image so valuable? Because lots of people want to see Britney Spears. Why do lots of people want to see Britney Spears, when better-looking women can be seen on the streets of any city? Because "news" sources, working together with Britney's agents, have stirred up the buzz. This circular process makes a lot of money for a few people but contributes absolutely nothing to the progress of civilization. In fact, by monopolizing media channels that might otherwise carry a wider variety of entertainment and info, it displaces What and drives civilization backwards.

Who displaces both How and What on the verbal level. You can see this in any web forum. In Who-land, observation is illegal. You're not allowed to examine nature or events and draw a rational inductive conclusion. You're only allowed to quote a credentialed authority who belongs to Team A or Team B. If your quote is precisely accurate, the authority's own team will cheer and the opposing team will boo. If your quote is inaccurate or (horror of horrors!!!!) you cite nothing more than plain reality, you're out of the arena. Banned for life.

Newsreaders before 1990 were free to say something like "It appears that the protesters are trying to push back the police." You won't hear that today. Instead, you hear "Some say that the protesters etc." Everything must be a quotation or a citation, and the Team Membership of the citation must be clear. When a sentence starts with "Critics say..." you know the rest of the sentence will be the heretical view, the racist/sexist/homophobic/Halliburtonist view that you're required to mock and disdain.

Finally, when you apply Who to an area of life that should be treated exclusively with How and What, you get the Global Warming Conspiracy. For many millenia the How-ites have observed and understood the ups and downs of Earthly seasons by watching plants, animals, sun and moon. Around 1700 the Whatians made it possible to measure temperature reliably and record the numbers for future generations, thus helping us to understand the longer cycles, the hyper-seasons of the world. Since 1988 science has been replaced by money, power and peer review, the essence of Who. Any data that disagrees with Commissars Maurice Strong and James Hansen is Undata. It does not exist, and those who continue to use it are Unpersons, subject to Liquidation at any moment.

= = = = =

Sunday night, watching the oldies on WGN.... realize that 'Newhart' forms a perfect fable of How, What, Who. The show was made in the late '80s, the moment when Who was getting ready to kill off How and What. Old George the handyman is barely literate but knows how to fix anything, and functions perfectly in the small town's intricate social structure because it hasn't changed for generations. Middle-aged Dick the hotel owner writes books about home repair, functions well in New York literary circles, and always wrong-foots in local matters because he follows written rules. Young Stephanie the maid is an impossibly spoiled rich girl whose thoughts never stray from Status, Fashion and Her Own Perfect Beauty. Stephanie's boyfriend Michael is a TV producer, chafing at his low-status position in this Vermont backwater, literally whoring himself out to gain favor with Real Celebrities. Oddly enough, though the show was written by and for the What generation, old Howite George usually comes out ahead.

Labels: ,


<< Home

blogger hit counter
My Photo
Location: Spokane

Polistra was named after the original townsite of Manhattan (the one in Kansas). When I was growing up in Manhattan, I spent a lot of time exploring by foot, bike, and car. I discovered the ruins of an old mill along Wildcat Creek, and decided (inaccurately) that it was the remains of the original site of Polistra. Accurate or not, I've always liked the name, with its echoes of Poland (an under-appreciated friend of freedom) and stars. ==== The title icon is explained here. ==== Switchover: This 2007 entry marks a sharp change in worldview from neocon to pure populist. ===== The long illustrated story of Polistra's Dream is a time-travel fable, attempting to answer the dangerous revision of New Deal history propagated by Amity Shlaes. The Dream has 8 episodes, linked in a chain from the first. This entry explains the Shlaes connection.

My graphics products:

Free stuff at ShareCG

And some leftovers here.

March 2005 / April 2005 / May 2005 / June 2005 / July 2005 / August 2005 / September 2005 / October 2005 / November 2005 / December 2005 / January 2006 / February 2006 / March 2006 / April 2006 / May 2006 / June 2006 / July 2006 / August 2006 / September 2006 / October 2006 / November 2006 / December 2006 / January 2007 / February 2007 / March 2007 / April 2007 / May 2007 / June 2007 / July 2007 / August 2007 / September 2007 / October 2007 / November 2007 / December 2007 / January 2008 / February 2008 / March 2008 / April 2008 / May 2008 / June 2008 / July 2008 / August 2008 / September 2008 / October 2008 / November 2008 / December 2008 / January 2009 / February 2009 / March 2009 / April 2009 / May 2009 / June 2009 / July 2009 / August 2009 / September 2009 / October 2009 / November 2009 / December 2009 / January 2010 / February 2010 / March 2010 / April 2010 / May 2010 / June 2010 / July 2010 / August 2010 / September 2010 / October 2010 / November 2010 / December 2010 / January 2011 / February 2011 / March 2011 / April 2011 / May 2011 / June 2011 / July 2011 / August 2011 / September 2011 / October 2011 / November 2011 / December 2011 / January 2012 / February 2012 / March 2012 / April 2012 / May 2012 / June 2012 / July 2012 / August 2012 / September 2012 / October 2012 / November 2012 / December 2012 / January 2013 / February 2013 / March 2013 / April 2013 / May 2013 / June 2013 / July 2013 / August 2013 / September 2013 / October 2013 / November 2013 / December 2013 / January 2014 / February 2014 / March 2014 / April 2014 / May 2014 / June 2014 / July 2014 / August 2014 / September 2014 / October 2014 / November 2014 / December 2014 / January 2015 / February 2015 / March 2015 / April 2015 / May 2015 / June 2015 / July 2015 / August 2015 / September 2015 / October 2015 / November 2015 / December 2015 / January 2016 / February 2016 / March 2016 / April 2016 / May 2016 / June 2016 / July 2016 / August 2016 / September 2016 / October 2016 / November 2016 / December 2016 / January 2017 / February 2017 / March 2017 / April 2017 / May 2017 / June 2017 / July 2017 / August 2017 / September 2017 / October 2017 / November 2017 / December 2017 / January 2018 / February 2018 / March 2018 / April 2018 / May 2018 / June 2018 /

Major tags or subjects:

Carbon Cult
Constants and variables
Defensible spaces
Experiential education
From rights to duties
Grand Blueprint
Language updates
Natural law = Sharia law
Patient things

Powered by Blogger