Monday, September 21, 2009

Academic Freedom, Creativity and Intellectual Performance

Is there anything more important for Universities and Colleges than improving their performance in the 3 basic disciplines: Research, Teaching and Administration?

Don't they already spend huge slabs of time, effort and money on exactly this? Or more exactly, reporting this?

Publicly funded institutions are required to account for their grants.
Private Universities have to make a convincing case to students and benefactors - usually by way of "League Tables".

Academic Freedom is basic to Research, as is "The Scientific Method" to most fields of study. (Post modernists aside).

So who applies The Scientific Method to the work of Academics, Researchers or Scientists?
Who actively seeks to answer:
What works in Academic Research & Creativity?
What institutions actively seek to identify "Their Best" in each of the 3 basic disciplines and the techniques used? None that I've come across.

In the way that the Australian Institute of Sports (AIS) seeks to do with Sports. Improve the selection, training, health and nutrition of athletes, the technique & methods of coaches and study the science of sports, training, coaching and athlete management & performance: physiological, psychological, mental and emotional.
Would you be surprised to know that Rest and Recreation are critical success factors?
Over training leads to poorer results and even illness (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome).

Every University I know has some Centre for bringing the latest theories of education & instruction to their teaching academics and for training those new to teaching... But not the area I'm discussing.

In the courses I've come across in the last 5 years, there is huge variability in instructor knowledge and use of the tools provided.  Providing training and support/help where needed to reduce the range is a simple, obvious step & relatively cheap - but not done. Universities I know of don't actively assess teaching delivery of all staff and work to improve performance and student outcomes.

Where do Academics find their Computing skills? Taught the basics, then left to their own devices is what I've observed. Shouldn't they be keen to learn new tools, techniques and processes to improve their performance in all fields? My direct experience is very few spend any effort in examining their use & performance with tools and technology. I've seen no institution do more than provide basic tools, and let individual schools & faculties create their own 'templates'.

My guess is they don't want to be dictated to. But how would you know unless it was formally researched?

Computing is a "Cognitive Amplifier" and a perfect fit for the work of Academics, the prototypical Knowledge Workers. (Should the field be called "Knowledge Engineering"?)

Proficiency in the "academic tools of trade" should be mandatory - like mechanics and plumbers being proficient with their tools. Especially new gadgets & techniques that radically increase productivity.

There is a systemic bias at work. What's the cause or reason?
I suspect Universities, organisationally and as individuals, confuse "Academic Freedom" with absolute freedom.

There is one academic that dared to ask & address what I think is the basic reflexive Academic Question... That his work is under valued & seldom applied is pretty much what I'd expect.

He started by asking the question:
What do Nobel Prize winners do differently?
So why isn't that a core discipline and activity of every University & College?
Applying their own Methodology to their own work... What could be so hard about that?

Books by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in Amazon

2009 Good Mentoring: Fostering Excellent Practice in Higher Education
    by Jeanne Nakamura, David J. Shernoff, Charles H. Hooker and M.C.
2008 Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.
2007 Everyday Creativity and New Views of Human Nature: Psychological,
Social, and Spiritual Perspectives
    by Ruth Richards and M.C.
2006 A Life Worth Living: Contributions to Positive Psychology
    by M.C. and Isabella Selega Csikszentmihalyi
2006 Experience Sampling Method: Measuring the Quality of Everyday Life
    by Joel M. Hektner, Jennifer A. Schmidt, and M.C.
2004 Good Business: Leadership, Flow, and the Making of Meaning
2003 Creativity and Development (Counterpoints)
    by R. Keith Sawyer, Vera John-Steiner, Seana Moran, and Robert J. Sternberg
2002 Flow: The Classic Work on How to Achieve Happiness [1991 repub]
2002 Good Work: When Excellence and Ethics Meet
    by Howard Gardner, M.C. and William Damon
2001 Becoming Adult: How Teenagers Prepare For The World Of Work
    by M.C. and Barbara Schneider
2000 Beyond Boredom and Anxiety: Experiencing Flow in Work and Play
1999 Flow in Sports: The keys to optimal experiences and performances
    by Susan Jackson and M.C.
1998 Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life
1997 Living Well: The Psychology of Everyday Life
1996 Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention
1994 FLOW - Living at the Peak of Your Abilities
1994 Changing the World: A Framework for the Study of Creativity
    by David Henry Feldman, M.C. and Howard Gardner
1993 The Evolving Self
1992 Flow: The Psychology of Happiness
1992 Optimal Experience: Psychological Studies of Flow in Consciousness
     by M.C. and Isabella Selega Csikszentmihalyi
1991 The Art of Seeing: An Interpretation of the Aesthetic Encounter
    by M.C. and Rick E. Robinson
1990 Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
1990 Television and the Quality of Life:
    How Viewing Shapes Everyday Experience
     by Robert William Kubey and M.C.
1986 Being Adolescent: Conflict And Growth In The Teenage Years
    by M.C. and Reed Larso
1981 The Meaning of Things: Domestic Symbols and the Self
    by M.C. and Eugene Halton
1979 The value of leisure:
    Towards a systematic analysis of leisure activities
    (Research paper/Research Group on Leisure and
     Cultural Development, University of Waterloo)
1976 The Creative Vision: Longitudinal Study of Problem Finding in Art
    by Jacob W. Getzels and M.C.
1974 FLOW: Studies of enjoyment

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Missing element of Economic Models

A piece I was sent, "The Quiet Coup"  by Simon Johnson in The Atlantic:

The crash has laid bare many unpleasant truths about the United States. One of the most alarming, says a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, is that the finance industry has effectively captured our government—a state of affairs that more typically describes emerging markets, and is at the center of many emerging-market crises. If the IMF’s staff could speak freely about the U.S., it would tell us what it tells all countries in this situation: recovery will fail unless we break the financial oligarchy that is blocking essential reform. And if we are to prevent a true depression, we’re running out of time.

I think it goes much deeper, I'm much less optimistic.

Summary: Henry Ford got it right when he consciously decided to pay his workers enough to afford his products. Forgetting this is Arrogance & Hubris.

The way we're heading, there is a real chance we won't just muddle through.
My scenario is the huge US Government debt causes the collapse of the US dollar causing rampant inflation there & elsewhere and the Chinese needing to break lose.

At which point, the Australian dollar, currently tied to the Chinese economy, goes into free-fall.
I don't know the timeframe.

Solutions without knowing the Root Cause?

Friends have talked to me about "Economists" and the apparent lack of solid Economic Theory.

I think a root cause is they, academic economists, don't understand what Money is.
Which means they don't model it well or properly, either statically or dynamically.

What's the impact of 'frictionless' trading with instantaneous communications, automatic trading systems and single global market? As a side effect of a single global market, I would've thought that arbitrage would be impossible with the lack of secondary or distant markets.

Frictionless, automatic trading results in infinite amounts of cash flowing infinitely quickly.
A really, really Bad Idea.

Only this is not monopoly money. It's Real Life with Real consequences.

Burning Other Peoples Money (OPM) to the ground will get even the most self-satisfied, complacent & apathetic electorate out and manning the barricades...
Or not - I get this sort of thing wrong more often than not.

Lack of Accountability or does effective control require Skin in the Game?

There's a common problem underlying CEO & Director Salaries and Financial Planners/Advisers:
  • There's wildly asymmetrical personal upside & downside.
    In fact a complete lack of downside.
    There is an inherent structural bias in the system.
    The feedback effects when control and assets are conjoint are missing.
Couple this with "Institutional Investors" and compulsory savings (Superannuation, 401(k), Pensions, ...)

All us worker drones are forced to pool our money (Anonymous Capital) husbanded by these Institutional Investors, but don't get a say in what they do or how they influence those big companies, directors and CEO's... That at least half of us work for.

"No Taxation without Representation"? might now be:

"No Investment without Responsibility"?

The Limits of Taxation

Where are Governments going with Tax?
How much of GDP will they

C. Northcote Parkinson made a bunch of Postulates in the 1950's & 60's:'s_Law

Notably, Parkinson postulated:
  • Work expands to fill the time available.
  • Expenditures rise to meet income.

Which nicely explains the on-going ratcheting up of Tax rates and Government Expenditure.

But what's the Limit? Where does it end?
Governments cannot tax more than 100% of GDP, in fact a lot less..

What are the Optimal Tax Rates under certain operating conditions & assumptions??

Too little Government investment in infrastructure, or "Common Wealth", and Commercial Output declines.

Too much taxation and available Customer Expenditure and Saved Capital declines, starving Enterprises of funds, reducing growth and leading to reduced tax collections.

That modelling should be a priority of Governments, Political Parties and Economists in every Democracy (and other type of Government).

The systemic and long-running misallocation of resources caused the implosion or collapse of the USSR.

No Country is immune - large, small, new, old, Democratic or not...
For more than half a century, the U.S.A. has been the global economic standard and its currency the defacto Global Standard - replacing the Gold Standard before.
But this is nothing written in stone to say it will always be thus.

Rather, these things do not stand still.
Just as "The Sun never set on the British Empire" in the Nineteenth Century and the British Pound reigned supreme, within 50 years the Empire was gone and Britian broke after World War II.

Maybe Parkinson predicted the current situation in 1960, or at least he foreshadowed it, as demonstrated in this review of his work:
INJELITANCE: A vital Parkinson contribution was his diagnosis of why certain organizations suddenly deteriorate: the rise to authority of individuals with unusually high combinations of incompetence and jealousy ("injelitance").
Perhaps permanent solutions to cyclic Economic Crises lies in better understanding backed by good Governance, rather than more regulation.