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PHD-DESIGN  February 2015

PHD-DESIGN February 2015

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Subject:

How did we come to be abductive?

From:

Bob Este <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

PhD-Design - This list is for discussion of PhD studies and related research in Design <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 18 Feb 2015 22:28:33 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Dear all:

I've been reading and reflecting upon the recent exchanges about 
abduction, etc., and will not here apologize at either the beginning of 
this message or its conclusion for "too many words" or "fanciful notions".

What is offered here is, I trust, in keeping with the exploratory spirit 
and intent of Peirce /et al/.

It is also my hope that what is offered here may be somewhat helpful for 
some of our list members' deliberations and reflections.

Allow me to start as follows:  upon what bases do any of us make any 
determination that we are "on the right track", that we are "moving 
forward", that we "get it", that we are "beginning to understand" 
whatever confronts us, that things are "becoming increasingly clear" 
with regard to taking on what we see as good questions or challenges?

Or, if we are moved to think in a somewhat different manner, that we are 
"the authority" ... ?

That is, how do we know these things?

Alternatively, when and how do we know that little or none of the 
aforementioned is taking place -- that is, how do we know when we might 
usefully suspend judgment and revisit and reconsider what we have begun 
to think or assume, or decide to seek additional evidence and clues, or 
to learn what such additional evidence and clues might consist of -- or, 
to develop alternative tentative explanations, or take (at least one) 
"sober second look"?

This assumes, of course, that we have the luxuries of time, space and 
other resources, to do these things -- that nobody is bearing down on 
us, /right now, /and aims to have us for dinner.

So -- when and how do we develop plausible inferences? When and how do 
we tentatively deduce one thing or another to be more likely than 
another and (from what we can tell) will likely be more or less 
consistently so, for the time being -- or, to frame "n" hypotheses that 
we can attempt to test, perhaps in parallel or in seriatim or in 
iterative loops, with better and better instruments, and aim to disprove?

Assuming, of course, that we have the above-mentioned luxuries to do 
these things? That we aren't under such pressure that we are quite 
literally sprinting for our lives, with the hot breath of a predator on 
our necks?

When and how do we dig as deeply as we can to review the evidence before 
us, to explore and reflect upon not only our suppositions but what we 
think we can reliably identify as the vague shapes of our presuppositons 
-- and from this, if we ever get to such a vantage point, what we might 
learn about how they came to be formed in the first place, and 
established so as to be reasonably reliable, knowable, and useful?

If, indeed, they are?

And, if it turns out that we aren't crashing through the undergrowth, 
desperately trying to save our skins, it seems we also work -- and work 
quite diligently and with incomparable applications of energy -- to 
establish reliable and testable and (what we claim to be) reliable ways 
of reasoning.

 From what we hope is a reasonably trustworthy foundation of reliable 
knowing and reasoning, it seems our common assumption is:  we learn, we 
continue to learn, we are critical of self and others about such 
learning, and we do our best to carry out learning in any field of 
endeavour in the most reliable and trustworthy and secure ways we can 
muster, test, re-test, share and know.

So it seems we have learned, more or less, how to work together to 
accomplish these things. To do the best we possibly can with regard to 
our learning for the betterment of the human endeavour, we collaborate 
in what we tentatively agree are adaptive learning organizations of our 
own creation.

 From the bushes around us and the trees overhead, our fellows scream 
loudly in agreement, encouragement, and alarm -- and by virtue of their 
voices and actions, most work to both advance and preserve the group, 
and divert the attacker.

They, like you, know how to instantly assess the chances of life and 
death, of success and failure, and primarily through subliminal means, 
the instant relativity and case-by-case balancing of both.

We repeatedly test and implement what we think is the reliability of our 
ways of seeing, understanding and doing these things.

We establish what we test and re-test and tentatively claim (for lack of 
a better way of putting it) is a "reliable reliability" of these ways of 
both individually and collectively thinking, learning and acting.

And so, to keep the predators at a safe distance and provide ourselves 
and our fellows with adaptive advantages, it seems we have learned that 
these essential elements must be successfully blended. We have 
discovered that our mutual survival depends on the success of such 
blends. And our individual lives, and the successes and longevity of our 
communities, depend on them.

We tend to agree that abduction -- reasoning to the best explanation 
(CSP) -- is one of the better ways we have of both developing and 
reliably implementing a "reliable reliability" of thinking, learning, 
adapting and acting in such circumstances.

Abduction may be one the best ways of achieving "reliable reliability" 
that we have come up with so far. And, if this is so -- a question appears.

How did our ancient ancestors develop the ability to abduct, and then 
successfully pass that ability on to later generations -- in other 
words, to develop that "reliable reliability" and, presumably, some 
capacity to improve it?

I recall very briefly reading a story a while ago -- perhaps 24 months 
ago now; it could be longer (I must apologize profusely for not having 
set things up at the time to be able to cite this properly).

The story was about of the discovery of the skull of one of our 
progenitors on what was to eventually be the African Savannah, and is 
today some millions of years old.

That little skull which presumably contained the "neural network stuff" 
that had not only allowed that individual to survive into adulthood, but 
had perhaps allowed reproduction before being placed onto a dinner 
platter, featured puncture holes that lined up perfectly with the sharp 
fossilized canines of the nearby skull and jaws of a large predatory 
cat, now also long gone, presumed to have preyed upon our progenitors -- 
and, in particular, this unfortunate individual.

What a lovely evocative story about plausible life, survival and death 
-- it appears to appear from the world of what we take to be reliable 
ancient evidence!

So, we can ask:  what timely consequences of that "neural network stuff" 
(that eventually found its way into either the predatory cat's digestive 
tract, or the clean-up bacteria of the time, and most likely both) 
allowed adaptive capacities to be passed on to us?

The plausible dinner scenario can suggest an answer:  reproduction to 
create, and perhaps have quite a literal a hand in raising younger 
individuals, offspring who might be sufficiently lucky and well-endowed 
(from the perspective of meta-adaptive mental capacities) and communally 
supported well enough to /not/ make the same mistake of being yet 
another dinner -- and to be able to successfully pass those capabilities 
(and the metacapacity for the improvement and development of later ones) 
on to later, and then later, generations.

An interesting scenario. The benefactors would include us -- as in:  
you, and me. All of us.

True that this didn't happen yesterday, but:  also very much the case 
that -- here we are.

Unbroken chains and all that. And most probably, all of us are the 
result of countless numbers of such chains.

So:  what was the most valuable, the most significant constellation of 
capabilities passed on from one generation to the next?

Could thinking about this question illuminate the "core" of what we have 
(relatively recently) come to denote as "abduction"?

E.g., figuring out how to make the best decisions under /any/ 
circumstances, whether the most secure and pleasant and safe, or the 
most urgent and threatening and pressing -- and pass that successful 
"figuring" on to fellows and to later generations who could live to see 
another day? And improve that figuring for the ones after that? And 
then, after that, to do perhaps even better?

Critics might leap upon this little speculative story with spectacular 
verve and energy comparable to that of the cat that sunk its razor-sharp 
fangs into the skull of our presumed ancestor, crushing the last sparks 
of life from that hapless individual.

But, in all seriousness, how do /you/ think it might be that we humans 
came to be, more or less, successfully abductive -- under what pathways 
and flows of conditions did we, collectively, come to reason, somewhat 
reliably (it seems), to the best explanation?

And, how did we usefully come to explore this thing we now hold up 
before us, that we turn and examine from side to side in the gleaming 
light, and that we claim is something that could help us understand our 
own "reliable reliability" of learning and knowing?

Could this help explain how we have come to engage in what we claim to 
know of as "design"?

Just some late night thoughts ...

Best wishes to all,

Bob Este, Ph.D
Owner and CEO
VectorRDI Ltd.
Cochrane, Alberta, Canada








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