Saturday, June 03, 2006

Eats Shrimp and Leaves

Punctuation can be critical. Johannes inserts a trailing "?" and a hyphenated "un" in the title of his post and is able to pack some heavy semantics (my interpretation at least) into a short name.

Presumably the "un" is meant to indicate that Liberty sponsoring an event in partnership with IIW is somehow out of character, and unlike what he would have expected of Liberty's organizational behaviour. It's either that or Liberty is super cool, like the Un-cola (or LID is, or whatever).

The final question mark is even more meaningful - it allows Johannes to imply a certain level of skepticism about the motives of Liberty (perhaps IIW as well) for taking this step (or perhaps questioning whether it is indeed unlike Liberty in the first place). All in all, a skilfully created title with multiple rich interpretations introduced by the punctuation (and not negated by the later support Johannes shows for the event in the body of his post I think).

So punctuation can be key, and not just in altering textual semantics. The evolutionary biologists Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldridge developed a theory of evolutionary change in which the normal state of affairs for sexually reproducing species is stasis, i.e. most of the time they are not evolving in any appreciable manner but merely coasting along. When change does occur, it happens quickly and unexpectedly - before the system once more settles back into the more typical state (different than before) of stasis. They labelled their theory "punctuated equilibria" to characterize this pattern of long periods of sameness punctuated by infrequent periods of upheaval.

I highly doubt that the outcome of the IIW/Liberty Identity Open Space event will be a converged identity metasystem (even were all the players to attend). We will not "evolve" to the metasystem in a single cataclysmic jump as the punctuated equilibria theorists would predict (were they to care). As useful a forum for discussion that "open spaces" might be, and as effective a co-ordinator Kaliya, it will take more than two days of whiteboarding and some socialization over cold shrimp at a reception for convergence (or even harmonization) to happen.

For identity evolution, the track on which we are moving is one of slow and gradual changes - this evolution enabled by greater understanding (both technical and organizational) between all organisms. The Vancouver event will be just one more step along this route.

I do hope no Creation Scientists attend IOS - they always cluster around the bar and you can never get a drink.

  1. I make allusions to 'progress' in a discussion of evolution. This is of course bad science. I console myself that I am not the first to rely on a flawed analogy in order to make a point.
  2. Is a hyphen punctuation? I chose to interpret it so.
  3. I've never actally met a Creation Scientist so their drinking habits are just a guess.

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