Fat Steve's Blatherings

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Distributed Encyclopedic Synthesis Trumps CBS

    In his early novel Beyond This Horizon, in some ways his best and truest, Robert A. Heinlein created the profession of 'encyclopedic synthesist.'

    An encyclopedic synthesist was supposed to be a modern day Aristotle.  The requirement was a genius with a near perfect memory.  He would acquire a good knowledge of a great many fields -- not enough to compete with a specialist, but enough to understand the specialists' concerns and ideas.  Then the synthesist would pull together the ideas from these varying places and put them together, showing the specialist in, e. g., undersea construction how the expertise of the surgically implanted prosthesis designer was relevant to his concerns (because they both have to design fail-safe structures in a wet, corrosive environment).

    In his 1950 essay "Where To?", reprinted in The Worlds of Robert A. Heinlein and Expanded Universe, he wrote more about this.  We need, he said, a breakthrough in library science.  Knowledge is being generated at an exponentially increasing rate.  The answers we need are probably, so to speak, written on 3 by 5 cards.  But instead of being neatly filed and cross-indexed, they're dumped in heaps on the floor, with almost no indexing.  We need a new specialty that can find and connect these fragments of knowledge.

    The CBS story on the Bush memos is an illustration of real-world encyclopedic synthesis, and without needing geniuses.  "TankerKC", watched the "60 Minutes II" story and expressed doubts about the memos, in this post from Free Republic:

To: Howlin
WE NEED TO SEE THOSE MEMOS AGAIN!
They are not in the style that we used when I came in to the USAF. They looked like the style and format we started using about 12 years ago (1992). Our signature blocks were left justified, now they are right of center...like the ones they just showed.

Can we get a copy of those memos?


107 posted on 09/08/2004 5:19:00 PM PDT by TankerKC (R.I.P. Spc Trevor A. Win'E American Hero)


    Note, that was just 19 minutes after the broadcast ended posted just a few minutes after the segment had finished, while 60 Minutes Wednesday was still on (and a thanks to TankerKC for the error correction in the comments to my next post; I had the time zone of Free Republic wrong — St.O).

    Three hours, forty minutes later, this post went up:

To: Howlin
Howlin, every single one of these memos to file is in a proportionally spaced font, probably Palatino or Times New Roman.

In 1972 people used typewriters for this sort of thing, and typewriters used monospaced fonts.

The use of proportionally spaced fonts did not come into common use for office memos until the introduction of laser printers, word processing software, and personal computers. They were not widespread until the mid to late 90's. Before then, you needed typesetting equipment, and that wasn't used for personal memos to file. Even the Wang systems that were dominant in the mid 80's used monospaced fonts.

I am saying these documents are forgeries, run through a copier for 15 generations to make them look old.

This should be pursued aggressively.



47 posted on 09/08/2004 8:59:43 PM PDT by Buckhead


    Next morning, at 7:51 AM (CDT?), attorney Scott W. Johnson finished reading his e-mail and made a post on his Powerline blog:

The sixty-first minute

Today's big Boston Globe story on President Bush's Air National Guard service is based on memos to file from the personal records of the late Lieutenant Colonel Jerry B. Killian: "Bid cited to boost Bush in Guard."

The Globe story is itself based on last night's 60 Minutes report: "New questions on Bush Guard duty." The online version of the 60 Minutes story has links to the memos. Killian died in 1984; CBS states that it "consulted a handwriting analyst and document expert who believes the material is authentic." Readers Tom Mortensen and Liz MacDougald direct us to the FreeRepublic post and thread (see post no. 47) to this effect:

Every single one of the memos to file regarding Bush's failure to attend a physical and meet other requirements is in a proportionally spaced font, probably Palatine or Times New Roman. In 1972 people used typewriters for this sort of thing (especially in the military), and typewriters used mono-spaced fonts.

The use of proportionally spaced fonts did not come into common use for office memos until the introduction high-end word processing systems from Xerox and Wang, and later of laser printers, word processing software, and personal computers. They were not widespread until the mid to late 90's.

Before then, you needed typesetting equipment, and that wasn't used for personal memos to file. Even the Wang and other systems that were dominant in the mid 80's used mono-spaced fonts. I doubt the TANG had typesetting or high-end 1st generation word processing systems.

I am saying these documents are forgeries, run through a copier for 15 generations to make them look old. This should be pursued aggressively.



    Critical mass achieved, nuclear detonation followed; Mongol horde encounters enemy, horse archers let loose from all directions; killer bee hive aroused, intruder stung to death; torturers get ahold of victim, strap on wire jacket and begin death of a thousand cuts.  Whatever metaphor you choose, CBS was hit by multiple criticisms that it couldn't answer effectively (because they turned out to be true), and couldn't ignore the way they once would have (see my post Editing As Lying).  Over the course of the next twelve hours, Powerline added thirteen updates that made most of the points seen since, and persuasively argued that the documents were almost certainly frauds. 

    Today, Tony Blankley at The Washington Times sums is all up:

I like a good fish dinner, but I've never cared much for fishing, as I hate to see a noble creature in its death agony. Yet that is what we are observing. This week it is Dan Rather and CBS News, through their failed effort to prove the legitimacy of their forged Bush National Guard documents, who are being revealed as hapless, helpless victims of an anarchic, swarming, overwhelming Internet blog technology. Soon, other great news institutions inevitably will be revealed for their inadequate capacity to fully report the news.

(hat tip: Vodka Pundit).

    Blankley titled his article "A Revolution in News."  But it's really a revolution in encyclopedic synthesis.  We don't need geniuses to know a little about everything as coordinators of our efforts.  Moderately intelligent people, in touch with experts via the web, can do the synthesist job.

    Prediction: someone is going to create an organization that can do this regularly for purposes of innovation.  They are going to get stinking rich.  No one will be able to compete with them until they copy that organizational form.  Others will form organizations that do free lance problem solving, using the same framework.  They too will make money hand over fist.

    We are at the begining of the synthesist revolution, and it will affect all of our society.

SAUDIA ARABIA MUST BE DESTROYED!

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