People I exchange e-mail with sometimes ask me about my educational background, so I am putting up this web page to help explain it. Another page on my academic interests covers some of the same territory from a different perspective.
To begin with, I will tell again the story I hand out whenever someone asks me what I majored in at university. It is the story of a search for fundamentals. I must admit that it's is a very whitewashed story, one that omits the all the nervous breakdowns and mentions only the academic disciplines I passed through.
To better begin the story, it helps to start with a subject that I have occasionally studied didn't formally enroll in after one (grade 11) course I took high school -- biology. (The teacher offered to give me an A in the course if I agreed not to take his grade 12 course the next year, and rather foolishly I let myself be bought off with the A rather than pursuing this interesting subject a bit further.)
Fundamental to all biology is the biology of the the cell, since biological organisms are made up of cells. I have on my bookshelves a very good book called "Molecular Cell Biology", but one cannot read it without a very good knowlege of chemistry, and almost every page deals with chemical reactions.
It seems that the fundamental basis of the discipline of biology is to be found in another discipline, chemistry. I did study chemistry at university, for a few semesters, and one of the best books I used was one called "Valency and Molecular Structure", which addressed the fundamentals of chemistry: the bonds that join molecules. But just as "Molecular Cell Biology" seemed to talk about chemistry on every page, "Valency and Molecular Structure" talked about physics on almost every page.
So it seems that the fundamental basis of chemistry is to be found in another discipline, physics, which I also studied for a few semesters. But again, books on physics seem to devote almost all of their space to the discussion of a more fundamental discipline, one that every physics student is required to study: mathematics.
Mathematics is not a well-unified discipline, but seems to be sharply divided into pure and applied mathematics. For physics, one need only study applied mathematics, and I was required to devote quite a bit of time and effort to learning that side of the discipline. But, as one might expect, applied mathematics is not at all a self-contained discipline -- it is heavily dependent on pure mathematics.
Although pure mathematicians often take a perverse pride in the uselessness of their discipline, it is in fact used to establish the fundamental validity of the methods taught as applied mathematics.
I have always been very interested in the applications of whatever I was learning, but when I realized that applied mathematics was but a part of a much larger and much more fundamental discipline, I found that I could not resist turning in that direction.
At this point I encountered a real problem. Some pure mathematicians seemed to believe that pure mathematics provided its own foundations, and did not rest on any more fundamental discipline, while others believed that the foundations of mathematics depended on something separate called formal logic. And indeed, most of the pure mathematics books begin with an introduction to logic.
Although there are formal logic courses given in mathematics departments, at the univerity I attended the most thorough study of formal logic was in the philosophy department. But once I began taking these courses, I soon discovered that the professors invoked other branches of philosophy to justify their approach. In particular, they repeated referred to the philosophy of language, and treated logic as an artificial language.
But when I took courses on the philosophy of language, it quickly became apparent that other disciplines were ahead of me. The philosophy of language made many references to the science of language, linguistics, and even though most philosophers knew little about actual human languages, it soon became clear to me that such knowledge was essential. So I turned to linguistics and ended up taking almost all the undergraduate linguistics courses and some graduate ones.
But again I found that the discipline I was studying was becoming increasingly dependent on some other discipline. Linguistics, the study of natural languages, was increasingly dependent on a new discipline called computer science, and formal models of natural language were now usually described by the methods used to define the new artificial languages used to program computers.
I began graduate studies intending to study human language using a computer, and ended up learning more about computers and their languages than about human language.
One might expect that my studies of computer science would again lead me to a new discipline, and indeed the foundations of computing are in another discipline. But here my path looped back on itself, because the fundamental basis of computer science is in the discipline that is wrongly called pure mathematics, something I had already studied.
New: Social Technology through Diagrams
New: Social Techs novel online
New: Social Technology Blog
New: Social Technology Wiki
The main Social Technology page.
Find Compatibles , the key page, with the real solution to all other problems explained
Technological Fantasies , a page about future technology
Social Tech a page about Social Technology, technology for social purposes. I think I was the first person to use this phrase on the Internet, quite a long time ago.
Roughly corresponding to these web pages are the following blogs :
Social Technology the main blog, hosted on this site, with posts imported from the following blogger.com blogs, which still exist and are useable.
Find Compatibles devoted to matching people with friends, lovers, jobs, places to live and so on, but doing so in ways that will actually work, using good math, good algorithms, good analysis.
Technological Fantasies devoted to future stuff, new ideas, things that might be invented or might happen, such as what is listed above and below.
Sex-Politics-Religion is a blog about these important topics, which I have been told should never be mentioned in polite conversation. Alright that advice does seem a bit dated, but many people are still told not to bring up these subjects around the dinner table.
I believe I was the first person on the Internet to use the phrase Social Technology -- years before the Web existed.
Those were the good old days, when the number of people using the net exceeed the amount of content on it, so that it was easy to start a discussion about such an upopular topic. Now things are different. There are so many web pages that the chances of anyone finding this page are low, even with good search engines like Google. Oh, well.
By Social Technology I mean the technology for organizing and maintaining human society. The example I had most firmly in mind is the subject of Find Compatibles , what I consider to be the key page, the one with the real solution to all other problems explained.
As I explained on my early mailing lists and later webpages, I find that social technology has hardly improved at all over the years. We still use representative democracy, exactly the same as it was used in the 18th century. By contrast, horse and buggy transporation has been replaced by automobiles and airplanes, enormous changes.
In the picture below you will see some 18th century technology, such as the ox-plow in the middle of the picture. How things have changed since then in agricultural technology. But we still use chance encounters, engagements and marriages to organize our home life and the raising of children.
I claim that great advances in social technology are not only possible but inevitable. I have written three novels about this, one preposterously long, 5000 pages, another merely very very long, 1500 pages. The third is short enough at 340 pages to be published some day. Maybe. The topic is still not interesting to most people. I will excerpt small parts of these novels on the web sometime, maybe even post the raw text for the larger two.
This site includes many pages dating from 1997 to 2008 which are quite out of date. They are included here partly to show the development of these ideas and partly to cover things the newer pages do not. There will be broken links where these pages referenced external sites. I've tried to fix up or maiintain all internal links, but some will probably have been missed. One may wish to look at an earlier version of this page , rather longer, and at an overview of most parts of what can be called a bigger project.
Type in this address to e-mail me. The image is interesting. See Status of Social Technology
Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009, Douglas Pardoe Wilson
I have used a series of e-mail address over the years, each of which eventually became out of date because of a change of Internet services or became almost useless because of spam. Eventually I stuck with a Yahoo address, but my inbox still fills up with spam and their spam filter still removes messages I wanted to see. So I have switched to a new e-mail service. Web spiders should not be able to find it, since it is hidden in a jpeg picture. I have also made it difficult to reach me. The picture is not a clickable link. To send me e-mail you must want to do so badly enough to type this address in. That is a nuisance, for which I do apologize, but I just don't want a lot of mail from people who do not care about what I have to say.