You can look at my home page for more information, but the short answer is that I'm a dilettante who likes thinking about a variety of subjects. I like to think of myself as a systems-level thinker, more concerned with the big picture than with the details. Current interests include politics, community formation, and social interface design. Plus books, of course.
[Bonus post that I wrote at the airport last night]
I liked this quote from Emotional Design:
"Cooperation relies on trust. For a team to work effectively each individual needs to be able to count on team members to behave as expected. Establishing trust is complex, but it involves, among other things, implicit and explicit promises, then clear attempts to deliver, and, moreover, evidence. When someone fails to deliver as expected, whether or not trust is violated depends upon the situation and upon where the blame falls." (p.140)
This would seem to be the team equivalent of cognitive subroutines. I can imagine that analogous negotiation and trust-building is happening within the swirl of our subconscious as we navigate through the world. Stereotypes that seem to work well get reinforced, and encoded into cognitive subroutines. Assumptions that prove to be wrong are trusted less the next time, with more restrictions placed on their activation conditions.
It's interesting to me because it provides an obvious extension of the cognitive subroutines theory to interpersonal interactions, at least in a team sense. I've talked about team building before (and actually say something very similar to Norman's quote), and part of what I think makes a good team is that we can offload tasks onto other people; as I put it in that post, "my teammates trust me to deal with fixing the bugs; once it's reported to me, they forget about it and move on." A team can achieve more than the sum of its parts because each can farm out processing to others who are in a better position to handle a given situation.
It's the cognitive equivalent of labor specialization. If I'm good at software, and my coworker isn't, then it makes sense for them to ask me to perform a software task that they need to do, because I'll do it in far less time than them. In return, my coworker who is better in lab may run an experiment for me. Both of us stick to what we're good at, and we can leverage our expertise to make everybody more productive and efficient.
The other analogy that I like is that if we treat the brain as a set of cognitive subroutines that can call each other, then there's no reason not to think of other people as subroutines that we can also call upon. When we first start working with another person, we don't quite know what their API is or what their capabilities are, but as we learn to trust and respect them, we can learn to call upon them with little more overhead than we do a subroutine in our own head. It's kind of a bizarre concept, but it's the first step in the steps towards a Global Brain if it works.
posted at: 18:46 by Eric Nehrlich | path: /rants/people | permanent link to this entry | Comment on livejournal
New York City, March 13
I took the red-eye flight out of San Francisco. Normally, it's not too big a deal for me because I can sleep on planes, but for some reason, I had a hard time sleeping this time around. Probably because I gloated to a coworker that I could sleep on planes. I did sleep for most of the flight, but mostly in 45 minute chunks or so. And, of course, the flight was only 4.5 hours, so I probably only got about 4 hours of sleep all told.
But I arrived, got my checked bag, and then navigated the subway system to the East Village. And, even better, the scheme that the guy I'm subletting from had cooked up to get me the keys worked out fine, which was the thing I was most worried about. So I'm crashing at this place near Tompkins Square Park in the East Village. It's a tiny place, but, hey, it's bigger and yet cheaper than a hotel room.
The first thing I did was crash for another three hours of sleep, dragging myself out of bed at 12:30 to at least make an attempt to get myself onto New York time. I grabbed lunch at Rai Rai Ken, a ramen house that I'd read about in the New York Times travel section, and then went looking for the East Village Safari. I was, alas, unable to locate them, and so I was on my own for the afternoon.
First order of business: actually get a NYC map and/or guidebook. I'd meant to before I left, but had run out of time. I knew there was this awesomely huge used bookstore somewhere near where I was, but I couldn't remember where. So I walked into a Barnes and Noble, picked up a guidebook, found the address of the Strand bookstore, and then went there to buy a guidebook. While poking around their New York guidebook section, I happened to see a New York Access guide, which is edited by Richard Saul Wurman. I really liked Wurman's book, Information Architects, so I was curious what the guidebook was like. It seemed to have a decent breakdown of the city, and good maps, and it was only $5 used, so I got it. Whee!
From there, I wandered up to Union Square and hung out there in the sun reading the guidebook, while I tried to figure out what I wanted to do this afternoon. I didn't have any brilliant thoughts, so I figured I'd just wander through Greenwich Village and Soho, because that's always fun. I don't think I'd ever been in Soho during the day before - it's fabulous. I loved browsing at moss, even though everything there was outrageously out of my price range. I was particularly amused by the "Internal Rolex" bracelet that I saw, designed by Leon Gilliam Ransmeier, which is a Rolex replica, wrapped in leather so that it is totally useless as a timepiece, and is merely a watch-shaped bracelet.
The other store I liked was Room and Board, which had a bunch of interesting furniture. They looked like an intermediate level between Ikea and Design Within Reach, which is where I aspire to be. I didn't see much that would really work at my place, except for the Gallery leaning shelves, which I liked a lot. If I were ready to drop $1000 on bookshelves, I'd lean towards those, because I think they'd look good at my place.
And then I was tired of walking, so I saw a cafe that advertised Wifi access and bought a mocha. Alas, my computer can't find a wireless network in range, so I don't know what's going on. But I figured I'd at least type up my notes so far. For kicks. Of course, this isn't the deep thinking that I'm supposed to be doing. I'm not sure when I'll get to that. I think my current plan is to hit a museum or other touristy thing in the morning/early afternoon, spend a couple hours each afternoon writing, and then head out to dinner with a friend, or to a club or show or something. Yeah. Something like that. We'll see how it goes.
(later) After leaving the cafe, I wandered a bit more in SoHo, and saw a big building with a bunch of mannequins inside in a hella cool layout. With no clue what it was, I went inside, because I was curious. Turned out that it was the Prada flagship store, designed by Rem Koolhaas. Very neat layout. I didn't even look at the clothes, though, because, well, that would be ridiculous.
And then I was exhausted, and returned to my room via the subway. At the airport, I got the one week unlimited ride for the subway for situations such as this, where it wasn't _that_ far to walk (maybe a mile and a half), and it would have been hard to justify paying $2 to avoid that walk. But with an unlimited card, I could take the subway without guilt, and be less cranky when I got back. And the subway stop was near a bagel place, so now I've got bagels for breakfast.
I'll venture out in a bit for dinner and maybe see if I can find a decent bar or club in the area. But I figured I'd get this posted just to see how this works - I haven't found a Wifi access point yet, so I'm going to try posting this via a USB connection to my host's computer (and yes, I tried just taking his internet cable and plugging in, but it didn't want to talk to me, probably something to do with not being registered with his ISP. Whee!
posted at: 18:46 by Eric Nehrlich | path: /journal/events/nyc | permanent link to this entry | Comment on livejournal