Fast vs slow learning LO22753

AM de Lange (
Tue, 28 Sep 1999 13:23:46 +0200

Replying to LO22719 --

Dear Organlearners

Winfried Dressler <> writes:
in reply to my:

>> creating + learning + believing + loving
>> creating x learning x believing x loving

>Am I right to read these equations as "content is quantitative"
>and "form is qualitative"?

Greetings Winfried,

Yes, very much so.

I deliberately suppressed the field (measure) in the these two
equations by using a Boolean Algebra, i.e, using the rules
1+1=1, 1+0=1, 0+0=0, 1x1=1, 1x0=1, 0x0=0,

Using the ordinary number system (called a field) with the
1+1=2, 1+0=1, 0+0=0, 1x1=1, 1x0=1, 0x0=0,
gives [0,1,2,3,4] as the range for CC and [0,1] as the range for FC.

I wrote this little piece especially for those with a specialised
knowledge of mathematics. I was worried that some fellow learners
would feel that we are forgetting that we are a team of learners. So
let us leave the mathematics to browse in wider circles.

>I have learnt to think of a rate of entropy production as a
>measure of content.

Yes, that is how I also think of it. Entropy production is affected
by force-flux pairs. Some intuitive ideas useful to perceive entropic
forces are "difference in qualities" and "tension in order". Some
intuitive ideas useful to perceive entropic fluxes are "transfer in
quantities" and "change in bulk". Some intuitive ideas useful to
preceive both together as an entropic force-flux pair are
"transaction" and "conversion".

But .....Winfried, is this "but" not really a remarkable thing in
view of the dialogue? It tells us that what has been written may
be closed in content, but definitely not in form. Some people
perceive most "but"s as a token of judgement. For me a "but"
is not criticism, but a token of more complexity to come. In your
language German it is "aber" and in my language Afrikaans it is
"maar". In all these languages the concept represented by "but"
ranges from the faintest of contrasts to absolute negation. It
does not only serve wholeness like the connective "and", but
also serves the other six essentialities such as liveness and

Even more fantastic about the "but" is that when there is no
change in entropy production, there is no "but". Since entropy
production itself is a change in entropy, the "but" points to a
change in the change of entropy. Senge's newest book is the
Dance of Change. It concerns the changes (which Senge calls
the "dance") of change. The "but" is but the token that we want
to "dance" in dialogue!!

[OK, I am able to start the paragraph I intended, but without a
"but". See how judgemental it now appears.] It will be too simple
to think of merely entropy production and not also any change in
entropy production.

As soon as we think of any change in entropy production (change
of change of entropy), we actually think of both content and form.
We may now seek those things which change the entropy
production other than entropic force-flux pairs. In other words, we
may seek those things which change the entropic force-flux pairs
themselves. These thing will then be the essences of form.

This task may seem far too technical or disciplinary for most fellow
learners, even with the help of the Primer on Entropy. By the way,
the Primer begins with the URL
So how can I articulate this task for fellow learners who knows
very little, if anything, of entropy? To shift the focus from content
to the essences of form, seek those things which change changes.

It is the same as to say: Seek those things which make a dance
of change! How? Blast your mind with a complex chaos so that
the essences of form may emerge. For example, take Senge's
newest book and make a list of all those things which he points
out as contributing to the "dance of change". Then, while in the
mood, take any other favourite book on your pet subject and
extend that list. Follow it up with other books and other subjects.
Keep on and on until your list has at least 5040 different entries.
(Splitters will easily reach the target and lumpers may fail to
even reach it.) With 25 entries per page you will have a list at least
200 pages long! Then page through the entire list while trying to
perceive something common to at least 720 entries. Whatever idea
then emerges is an essence of form.

Will some of you fellow learners not think that this is a fine example
of an esoteric task so common to academics? Perhaps it is. But
I can assure you that once you begin doing it, your experiences will
tell you something different. I did it about 10 years ago, using all
the volumes (several dozen) of my more than a century old Nineth
Edition (1879) of Encyclopedia Brittanica (EB). I wanted to see if I
could come up with something different than the seven essentialities
of creativity. I have discovered them in a totally different manner by
seeking correspondences between a material exmplar and an
abstract exemplar of creativity. I was not able to perceive another
articulation of them by letting the EB deluge my mind with entropy
production, although I still believe it is possible to do so.

Perhaps some of you fellow learners will think that I was crazy to
perform such an experiment on me. Perhaps I am still crazy. But
so is then all senior managers and executive directors of complex
organisations. They seeked and accepted these jobs in which they
are confronted hour after hour by changes and things CAUSING
these changes AS WELL AS changes of changes and things
AFFECTING these changes of changes. Should they take the time
and list all these things affecting the changes of changes, the list
of each will cover dozens of pages. Yet each one manage what
seems to be chaos for others. Why? Because each manager use
some patterns typical of this chaos and the order which emerge
from it.

The better managers are those who continiously modify through
self-learning these typical patterns so as to optimise their
management task. During this learning they use much deeper
patterns to modify the typical patterns appropiate to them.
Managers think much about these typical patterns since their
daily tasks depend on them, but less about these deeper patterns
since they are at the frontiers of cognition. It is as if managers do
not realise that their life task depends on these these "deeper
patterns". Yet to me it is rather the case that the authentic learning
of these "deeper patterns" happens very slowly because of the
complexity involved.

What are these "deeper patterns"?

Note that I use the word "affecting" rather than "causing" in the
second case. Jan Smuts, the father of holism who perceived
wholeness as the cause (mechanism) for the evolution of biological
species, used the words "force" and "cause". Unfortunately,
Prigogine with his studies (since 1948) on entropy production
came too late for Jan Smuts who died in 1950. Nevertheless,
Jan Smuts was a person who had to manage complex situations
most of his life. Read any biography on him just to get an idea of
the enormous rich picture which he had to manage -- attorney,
war general, benefactor, party leader, philospher, prime minister
and international statesman.

Jan Smuts looked at the deeper things of life so as not to retard
that kind of learning which already by necessity happens slowly.
Here is a wonderful example of what I mean. While studying law
at the university of Cambridge in the UK, he wrote many love letters
to the young girl Isie Krige who he left behind in South Africa -- the
woman who he later married for life. The following is an excerpt
from an early letter on his love for her:

"Is this the issue of mere chance? Is it chance that we lived for
such a long time only a few paces from each other without
getting acquainted and that we suddenly met some time ago and
that we felt a mutual liking? No, this is certainly not change. It is
our Heavenly Master who has brought this about, that we may
help each other onward on the path of holiness and love, and that
in loving each other we may learn to love Him more intensely.
Whatever the whispering tongue of the world may allege, let our
love never be romantic or sentimental, but the deep love of truth
which stickeths closer than a brother and is only purified, never
dissolved, by adversity."

>The strength is depicted in the form properties, the harness.
>Think of the suit of an astronaut. One little hole somewhere
>(one factor ) destroys the whole suit (FC ).

Winfried, it is a powerful metaphor for people who live in the
first world. Thank you. How about giving a metaphor for people
living in a third world? Please.

>Another issue:
>I cannot follow what you mean by the feedback loops - why 7 / 11
>such loops?

They (7 in the one case and 11 in the other case) result when
making all the posssible distinctive combinations between the
various levels. In fact, after having made these combinations, I
had a delightful mental excercise for an hour or so jotting down
the role which each of these 18 loops play, bringing form once
again in my own learning experiences.

>I am afraid that I still need to learn about learning, before
>learning about fast and slow learning.

Learning about fast and slow learning is one facet of learning
about learning. It is nothing to be afraid of.

I am afraid of something else which also concerns fast and
slow learning. I first became aware of it in 1977 while I had to
"lecture" (1976-79) chemistry to teachers who enroled for further
training in chemistry. I observed that in learning some new
concepts concerning chemistry, the minds of these teachers
were so rigid that one could plough a field with their minds.
They were not willing to learn these peculiar concepts because
they thought it would jeopardise their own subsequent teaching
of chemistry at school. Although I managed to help them to
soften their minds, it zapped a lot of our free energy.

What was so peculiar about these concepts? They all required
the teachers to take a much DEEPER look at chemistry, a look
which the school curriculum tried to avoid by cramming in as
much as possible concepts superficial in chemistry, concepts
which could be mastered fast by both rote learning or authentical
learning. The teachers wanted the university curriculum to
conform to this replacing of slow-to-learn concepts by
fast-to-learn concepts.

Later at the university of Pretoria I realised just how much the
situation has deteriorated. Since then, by comparing old and
recent text books in other subjects, I have become sure that
this "faster-for-slower" (mediocracy?) is not something peculiar
to chemistry. Perhaps the most compelling book which I have
read on this issue (if not something close to it), is
by Alan Bloom.
The author sees the failure to nurture self-knowledge (the
outcome of authentic learning) as the impoverishing of the
souls of today's students.

What surpise me is that even some consultants and facilitators
are willing to impoverish the souls of managers for some fast

>Where are the teachers of creativity and its emergents?

What a question!!!

Perhaps they are fast becoming an extinct species?

To be a teacher of creativity through authentic learning has
been for me like meandering on a highway full of rushing
traffic. The only difference is that there is not yet an
educational law which forbids it like the traffic laws do.
I expect to become a statistical datum of fatal accidents
any day.

Best wishes


At de Lange <> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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