Iain Cameron's Diary
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2005-09-15 - 6:55 a.m.

Steve is back from Frankfurt where he had to work hard on the ideas he is putting into practice on the Global Automotive Quality Standard . I have had my basic ideas about the data we should start to collect for the Learning Grid (I have been waiting for this idea to appear) - this is the commission he has given me - and I am waiting for his response from Steve. As I see it, the key point is that the shift in attitudes we are hoping to bring about has to be large (this has been highlighted by the research report we got from the Observatory on Monday) . The first thing we have to show is that the activities that we are promoting do in fact change the attitudes of the participants and how and why this change happens.

Following the lengthy chat with Peter yesterday, I dug out various bits of research to send him today - several of them were done by Geof Mason - a researcher I have a very high regard for. Getting this material together took me to the economic papers page on the dti site. Consequently I downloaded a new paper about the globalisation of RnD and the link to the UK national targets for increasing the amount of money companies need to spend on this activity. One of the basic reasons for spending money on the LG at all is to help generate the workforce that will do a lot of this research.. If the staff arent there to do the work then with the globalization of RnD the work will be done somewhere else. And the staff wont be there if people with the right skills and qualifications canít be recruited - so with the LG we are intervening with 11-14 year olds to shift attitudes.

I sent the new dti report to Viv with a few thoughts about the relevance to the emerging West Midlands auto RnD strategy. This is also one of my chargeable projects just now.

Peterís OIM software is going to underpin the LG and we talked about the advantages of building up cumulative experience in using this knowledge management software - as we have done with the Automotive College, the Auto Academy Formula Student Project and will do with the LG all using the same software to integrate knowledge and information . Hopefully with each application has and will benefit from the lessons learned by predecessor applications. This is nothing other than common sense - the trouble is isnít common.

The point is - the Japanese are good at this way of working, I mentioned to Steve that the head of Toyota has called in one of his subordinates and told him that he has to halve the price differential between the hybrid powered vehicle and its diesel powered equivalent. We marveled at the brilliance of how Toyota do project definition - so simple and so focused - the complexity is in the execution not in the goal.

I mentioned to Peter that Steve and I had been looking at Paul Omerodís ideas about why learning doesnít happen too often in public sector projects. Paulís answer is that you can disguise failure as success in the public sector and often find it convenient to do so - but in a market situation this is much less easy as you tend to go bankrupt. It transpired that Peter knows Paul O which is excellent news. Paulí basic idea is to do with chaos theory and what in the trade is known as sensitivity to initial conditions - or the butterfly effect. Projects in the public sector are vulnerable to the butterfly effect - thatís why they often fail.

Obviously in using Peterís software iteratively - doing what we call the Demming Loop - Plan Do Check Act - we are trying to counteract the butterfly effect. Who knows. One of the other tools to deploy is something called Extreme Project Management.

Phil at dti sent me his monthly summary and I sent it on Adrian at the Observatory - I think Adrian, Phil , Stephen and I need to make a kind of analysts club. Phil has a PRS.

The Philosophical Disenfranchisement of Art by Arthur C Danto has arrived. In the Preface ACD talks about his famous idea - the discovery of the art-world - that whether Brillo boxes are art or just old rubbish depends on the ideas and beliefs of those who establish the climate of opinion. However ACD has another very important point to make as his foundation for this book.

A few years later he goes into a gallery and sees a piece which amounts to a pile of philosophy books on a table. This strikes ACD because thatís what he has in his house - a pile of those books on a table. ACD realises that this piece of conceptual art has revealed a fundamental truth about what the art-world has become - it has become a place where philosophy and art go hand in hand - the book is a set of essays which explore the consequences of this insight.

Usefully Peter is moving in the same direction - I gave him the CD of 10SS yesterday and he came up with the idea that we put it up on the KK site within a wiki framuework. He has got hold of the software that is used for wikipoedia and so we hope to be doing a wiki evolution on the 10SS - a treatment I happen to think they merit - so the 10SS can be embedded in a philosophical software environment.

Danto has a final article where he plays with Darwinism and artists - for example would it be possible to breed selectively to generate artistic genii? This is a redhot reflection in my view - straight out of BNW and Huxís juxtaposition of the artistic Savage and the scientific civilization. Suppose a few generations on they decide that the civilization needs a bit of creativity to liven it up - would this be achievable?

Danto thinks that the big issue with art-today is the freedom which both the artists and their interpreters have claimed. The big question that nags ACD is whether art makes a difference to the unfolding of society - to cultural evolution. He is drawn to the conclusion that perhaps it doesnít - Audenís conclusion that poetry in all its history didnít save the life of one jew in the Holocaust. Interestingly the Japanese donít agree and they worry that their culture isnít creative enough - my own view is that they have this wrong..

ACD believes that we are now at the point where anything can be art - what is important is the reasoning offered for why the latest whatever is indeed art. His vision is that the next step will be the emergence of an agreed super-theory of what it is for things to be or not to be art - this super-theory will stabilise the domain and in a sense art will stop being at all important.

My current cut into all this arises from digging into the Plathery. It is just obvious that the Plath ouevre is art - everyone agrees about that - it really is poetry. Equally some of the best bits were written by an author who was in some sort of terminal condition. You can argue about whose fault (if anyoneís) that condition was - maybe it was just biochemistry - but the evidence of really reliable witnesses at the time suggest that the creator was in a serious state.

In this context I want to use an idea from ecology - the idea of sustainability. We need to look for sustainable creativity - an ecology of art production which is relatively stable - compared with Plathery which obviously wasnít. So there is a project - which trawls through the last 400 years or so looking for artists who lasted into old age and produced excellent work for decades. Rembrandt, Monet , Picasso, Haydn and possibly Miles come to mind. I think Beethoven lasted fairly well but his last years donít seem to have been that happy. Tippet kept going for a long while and his 5th SQ is certainly a cracker - and Elliot Carter is a good example of long distance creativity. This is just a first pass - but it seems to me that this is a genuinely scientific approach to creativity - we know that creativity can be lethal and some of the most engaging stuff is produced at that margin. But some good stuff isnít - and it is the ecology of the artists of long duration that we ought to look a carefully - sustainable creativity. Part of the ecology of sutainable creativity will include the art-world.

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