Moulton Lava

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Monday, June 03, 2013

STEM vs Law

While the recent case of Florida's Pine County School District pitted one or more jurisdictions of Florida's local or state constabulary against Bartow High School's distinguished honor student, Kiera Wilmot, it's an instance of a larger and more significant battle between STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) vs. Law.

This has indeed been a "teachable moment" in many ways, but from my perspective, it's a "teachable moment" in a way that most people wouldn't have anticipated.

The Rule of Law has been around for some 4000 years. One might say it's a "time-proven method" for managing human societies.

The STEM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) are much more modern.

One of the remarkable discoveries from the STEM disciplines is Chaos Theory, which technically begins with Sir Isaac Newton and Joseph-Louis Lagrange, but languishes until Henri Poincaré, Edward Lorenz, and Benoit Mandelbrot complete the theoretical work. James Gleick then popularizes the work in his lucid account, Chaos: Making a New Science, written for a general audience.

The main discovery — and it's an astonishing one — is that rule-driven systems are mathematically chaotic. The 4000-year old belief that the Rule of Law neatly maps onto the secular concept of "Law and Order" turns out to be one of the oldest and most tragic misconceptions in the annals of human history. "Law and Order" is also the name of a popular series on NBC that is now in endless reruns on the TNT Cable Channel, where the advertising slogan is, "We Know Drama."

Every child knows that rules define games (for which there is a well established Game Theory, dating back to the work of John von Neumann, Oskar Morgenstern, and John Forbes Nash).

Drama, in turn, is a generalized game. And there is a corresponding extension of Game Theory to Drama Theory.

Drama Theory is a subset of Chaos Theory. Indeed, drama is our favorite flavor of mathematical chaos because we can follow the story, step by step, remaining in thrall and suspense, without being able to foresee the outcome.

In the wake of a breach of expectations, there arises a ritual process that Anthropologist, Victor Turner, calls Liminal Social Drama.

And that's where we are in this story: Liminal Social Drama, with characteristic features that Victor Turner teases out and labels with technical terms like Liminality, Communitas, Ritual, and Anti-Structure.

So what is the "teachable moment" here?

It's the revelation originally hinted at in Genesis 2:17, later reified by Augustine of Hippo (who labeled it "Original Sin"), and which is now known as "Humankind's Original Logic Error" (HOLE). It's the revelation that the Rule of Law isn't what it's cracked up to be. Or to use a modern term from street language, the Rule of Law is "cracked" and those who still cling to it literally have a "HOLE" in their head. The Lawmaking and Law Enforcing "tribe" are committing both a mathematical atrocity and a human atrocity that departs from everything we know today from modern Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (where Science includes Anthropology, Sociology, Psychology, and Criminology).

Oh, and incidentally, Theology had it right all along. But now it's no longer a religious article of faith. Now it's also a rigorously demonstrated finding from the STEM disciplines.

And that's the lesson to be learned in this "teachable moment" in what I expect will continue to be an epic battle of biblical proportions, pitting STEM vs. Lawfare.

If I had been in Kiera Wilmot's shoes, having just been banned from school (note that Banishment is the subject of the very first law of the original Code of Hammurabi), I would have invoked the second law of Hammurabi's Code and simply tell the Lawfare characters in this shreklisch drama to "Go jump in the lake."

3 Comments:

Blogger Unknown said...

>>The main discovery — and it's an astonishing one — is that rule-driven systems are mathematically chaotic.<<<

No that's not what math says. What math of chaos says is that in any system of finite rules, there will be things occurring that the rules do not adequately capture.

STEM itself is a "rule driven system". And it itself is subject to chaos. So the difference between STEM based systems and "Law" based systems really is more on the source of the rules and not the system of rules themselves.

as for Drama being involved in Chaos theory - that's pretty much a stretch. In fact what saved Wilmot was not STEM, but rather the capriciousness of Drama: Another person though now in a position of power, recognizing an injustice taking place and being able to do something about it.

However you offer no alternative to rules based systems. Is a school like Pine County, expected to allow students to do as they wish regardless of the consequences to others simply because having rules about behavior cannot be comprehensive?

that's silly. It basically then leaves the outcomes of every situation up to the personal prejudices, circumstances and beliefs of which ever authority the student interacts with in any moment.

You want chaos, that's chaose

4:38 AM  
Blogger Moulton said...

The alternative to rule-driven chaos has been known (by different names) for some 3500 years.

The modern name, from the 20th Century culture of Mathematical Systems Theory, is Cybernetics.

See The Cybernetic Age.

To understand Cybernetic Systems Theory, one needs to exercise both Math-Logical Intelligence and what Howard Gardner now calls the Ninth Intelligence in his catalog of multiple faculties of intelligence.

6:19 AM  
Blogger Moulton said...

The article on the Ninth Intelligence can now be found here:

The Ninth Intelligence

See also:

Pattern Recognition Intelligence

12:03 PM  

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