Saturday, 7 July 2012

Two heads are worse than one

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People say two heads are better than one - and assume therefore that the more heads applied to solving a problem, the better.

Get some kind of breaking-up-a problem-expert to break up a problem into its constituent parts, dish them out to lots of specialists, get someone who is some kind of recombining-expert to put together all these individual solutions...

Errr...

Doesn't work, does it? - unless you already know how to solve the problem and you are merely executing a solution (a solution come-up-with by one head).

One good head is better than any number of less-good heads - except for a few very rare (and typically unstable) partnerships.

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11 comments:

  1. Get some kind of breaking-up-a problem-expert to break up a problem into its constituent parts, dish them out to lots of specialists, get someone who is some kind of recombining-expert to put together all these individual solutions...

    This is, in essence, a description of systems engineering. And it does work for complex problems in which the solution is not previously known - though to be sure, the less you know up front about what the solution is, the more it's going to cost you to reach a viable solution.

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  2. @JP if it works (often it doesn't) then that is because of the quality of the responsible person involved. If the "recombining expert" happens to be a committee, then the project is doomed.

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  3. This is completely off-topic, my apologies, but I just ran into a scripture passage that hit me so hard, tears came to me. This is one of those passages which I have read past before but only recently took notice of it and grasped the meaning fully.

    I was going to write a long reflection about it, but decided against it. Things this deep cannot be understood through academic analysis, only through the heart, and I don't feel like sharing that online; at least not now.

    But I still thought that the passage relates to the concerns presented on this blog and I thought perhaps it might be good to share it.

    From 2 Corinthians 5:
    "Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

    Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

    Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

    So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

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  4. @FHL

    Thank you

    Here is the Authorized Version:

    2 Corinthians 5

    King James Version (KJV)

    5:1 For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

    2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:

    3 If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.

    4 For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.

    5 Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.

    6 Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:

    7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:)

    8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.

    9 Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.

    10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

    11 Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.

    12 For we commend not ourselves again unto you, but give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart.

    13 For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause.

    14 For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:

    15 And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.

    16 Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.

    17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

    18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;

    19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.

    20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.

    21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

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  5. Oh, thank you for that Dr. Charlton. I wonder, is there a specific reason you wished to share the KJV? I notice that the King James version seems to be much clearer than the NIV one that I used!

    I tend to read the NIV because I find it more poetic than the KJV (odd, I know, most would say the opposite) but, when in doubt, the KJV clears things up.

    "For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead" is much clearer in meaning than "For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died."

    "All died"? Did they? But "then were all dead" seems to imply a spiritual meaning.

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  6. @FHL "I wonder, is there a specific reason you wished to share the KJV?"

    Short answer: I believe the KJV (and its constituent precursors) was divinely inspired for the use of English speaking peoples (after the Reformation had put us into Schism) - by comparison the rest are just glosses or borrow their plumage from the KJV!

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  7. I feel the same sometimes. It seems that the KJV set a standard that is either followed or creates a noticeable absence. I tend to consider it a "safe" Bible, where I will use it to check on certain passages in the NIV for which I hold doubts as to their accurate translation. Plus, I miss the word "behold!" sometimes.

    There is also the issue of the existence of so many translations in the English language that I don't know whether it's a blessing or a curse. When I read I find myself flipping through three or four different versions just to check.

    Heh, sometimes I when I quote scripture online I create my own version by using one translation's wording as a basic structure while replacing certain words with those I find to be more accurate, changing the punctuation occasionally, and capitalizing the pronouns that refer to God. I'm not really sure if I should be doing that, but with 5 or 6 Bibles on my desk, it can be hard to choose just one...

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  8. "Two heads" can work well at the level of helping one to mull over a problem: think, discuss, reflect, discuss again and so on.

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  9. @dearieme - I realize that living in an isolation chamber is not usually a good method of problem solving - but as a rule the limits are set by the best person on the job.

    Two moderate people are worse than one good one. Or, combining people in groups does not yield a better creative result than either of them.

    However there are rare exceptions - Gilbert and Sullivan together were better than either individually. However, two is the maximum for this kind of synergy -certainly above two teams are exponentially less able to do top level work.

    (Note, there is a distinction between 'a team' (which is mediocre) and a leader plus counsellors - (which is the best model.))

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  10. George and Ira Gershwin.
    Rodgers and Hart.
    Waller and Razaf.

    "However, two is the maximum for this kind of synergy": indeed, I wouldn't dream of suggesting otherwise. But sometimes even master and apprentice may do better than master alone.

    N.B. The song-writing duos aren't quite what I had in mind, since each has a distinct role. But the pair in the think/discuss/reflect model doesn't typically have distinct roles, except that at some point one of them has to go off and do something. Doing makes different demands.

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  11. That passage from St Paul was very moving. I have to disagree about the KJV, however; I find it more "poetic" (which I'm taking to mean that I find it more aesthetically pleasing), but much less understandable, which I put down to the archaic grammar rather than faulty translation.

    For example, verse 4:

    For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.

    I confess the meaning of this is quite obscure to me, and left to my own devices I might never have arrived at the NIV version in my mind:

    For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.

    The important difference is that in the KJV, my first reading is the following: "not because we wish to be unclothed but clothed", which doesn't make much sense. There seems to be a presupposition that we want to be unclothed, which doesn't fit in the context; moreover, the "but" is also out of place, since it demands a negative in the preceding clause, but in my reading the negative has scope over both clauses (since it is placed before the "because/for that"): "not because we want to be unclothed, but (we want to be) clothed"(??). I can't get the reading "not because we want to be unclothed but (because we want to be) clothed", because in my grammar the stuff in parentheses must be explicit to get that reading.

    Only after I see the NIV do I realize what the actual meaning is: "because we do not wish to be unclothed, but clothed". In this version, the negative clearly has scope only over the first clause: "we do not wish to be unclothed", and so the "but" is appropriate, since the two clauses are contrastive: "we do not wish to be unclothed, but (we wish to be) clothed".

    I recognize the sentimental value attached to the KJV, but for myself at any rate, the syntax is simply too archaic to be readily understandable, and if the primary purpose of Scripture is to be understood, the KJV is no longer up to the task.

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