A thought for the holidays

John McCreery (JLM@TWICS.COM)
Wed, 20 Dec 1995 10:15:13 +0900

Dear Friends,

The anthropological identity crisis--Who are we? Why are we
valuable? Why should anyone else pay for what we do?--is an issue
much on our minds these days. Scientists battle humanists. The
tenured cling to privilege in a tottering keep besieged by the
untenured, the adjunct, the collateral. Beyond the outer wall the
barbarians are on the way, ready to slaughter the hopes of all who
struggle to possess the ivory tower. In minds obsessed with the
battle at hand, new dark ages loom. In the spirit of the season, I offer
here a word of hope. The unsuspecting author is Nicholas
Negroponte, Director of the MIT Media Lab, writing in the January,
1996,WIRED, p. 204.

"Alan Kay, father of the personal computer (among other things),
likes to say that perspective is worth 50 points of IQ (it may be worth
more, Alan). Marvin Minsky, father of artificial intelligence, says
that you don't know something until you know it in more than
three ways. They are both quite right."

I ask you, now, what field to you know that offers a broader or
deeper perspective than classic American anthropology, with a
temporal range that stretches back into prehistory and a scope that
dares to embrace the whole of humanity worldwide? What field
makes it easier to see problems in more than three ways:
ecologically, historically, linguistically, critically, [add your favorite
adjective here]? And, as an advertising man I must add, what field
does more to endow its practitioners with the sheer romantic charisma of those
who have ventured beyond conventional boundaries in pursuit
of personal visions?

How easy it is to become obsessed with the trivia we know and the
petty bickering that plagues our lives. In the spirit of the season my
friends, let us lift up our eyes and our voices. We have great songs
to sing.

Peace on earth, good will to all.

John McCreery