One advantage – perhaps a somewhat subtle one – of a customer-driven focus is that it aids a certain type of proactivity. When we’re at our best, we don’t wait for external pressures. We are internally driven to improve our services, adding benefits and features, before we have to. We lower prices and increase value for customers before we have to. We invent before we have to. These investments are motivated by customer focus rather than by reaction to competition. We think this approach earns more trust with customers and drives rapid improvements in customer experience – importantly – even in those areas where we are already the leader.
What happens if we spend all day exposed to the extremes of life, to a steady stream of the most improbable events, and try to run ordinary lives in a background hum of superlatives? What happens when the extraordinary becomes ordinary?
The good news may be that it cultivates in us an expanded sense of what is possible for humans, and for human life, and so expand us. The bad news may be that this insatiable appetite for supe-superlatives leads to dissatisfaction with anything ordinary.
I’d like to think that redefining the ordinary means that the base level of comparison lifts higher. As long as we aren’t chasing after a unicorn, and that the ‘new’ ordinary is achievable in some way, this is OK.
But the idea of having people who are taking money being able to explain why they’re doing what they’re doing is not a bad idea. The idea that publically funded science should have some measure of “I’m doing it because, and this is where it might end up being useful,” strikes me as being perfectly reasonable. I think it’ll actually make for better science, too, because it’s very easy in academic science to end up working on projects that are just little extensions of previously known stuff, and that’s sort of a waste of time.
If you are only skeptical, then no new ideas make it through to you. You never learn anything new. You become a crotchety old person convinced that nonsense is ruling the world. (There is, of course, much data to support you.) But every now and then, maybe once in a hundred cases, a new idea turns out to be on the mark, valid and wonderful. If you are too much in the habit of being skeptical about everything, you are going to miss or resent it, and either way you will be standing in the way of understanding and progress.
On the other hand, if you are open to the point of gullibility and have not an ounce of skeptical sense in you, then you cannot distinguish the useful as from the worthless ones. If all ideas have equal validity then you are lost, because then, it seems to me, no ideas have any validity at all. Some ideas are better than others. The machinery for distinguishing them is an essential tool in dealing with the world and especially in dealing with the future. And it is precisely the mix of these two modes of thought that is central to the success of science.
“Sometimes organisations have a misplaced feeling that they don’t want their name to be attached to data that is out there unless it’s perfect. Data is never perfect. There are always errors. If someone has a dataset on their machine in their office and they are using it to make decisions, they should release it and just be honest about the situation.”
I saw Raymond Tallis speak at an event last year, and noted down a phrase which I suddenly came upon today (yay for Notes on the iPhone).
He is so well-read it’s genuinely humbling; not only is he a doctor and clinical scientist, he is a poet, philosopher, cultural critic and humanist – in fact he was flagged as one of the leading polymaths of our time by More Intelligent Life.
I managed to dig up a really interesting essay he wrote 5 years ago on art and music that is well worth your time. These passages particularly stood out – he mentioned the Aristotle quote that day, which was how I managed to find it online.
We may translate the mismatch between experience and the idea of it – as a result of which we somehow do not experience our experiences – as a disconnection between content and form. The content is the actual experience, with all the sense data served up by the accidents of the moment; and the form is the idea of experience. In a truly realised work of art, in contrast with our lives, form and content are in harmony, like the recto and verso of a single sheet of paper.
This is most easily illustrated by music, which, for the present discussion, we may think of as the paradigm art. (As Walter Pater famously said, ‘all art aspires to the condition of music’ (9).) Think of the relationship between sound and idea – or form – in the experience of a melody. Each note is fully present as an actual physical event and yet is manifestly part of a larger whole, of an idea. There is no conflict between the form or idea of the music and its actual instants. Our moments of listening are imbued with a sense of what is to come and what has passed. The form to which the music conforms – that ties what has gone and what is to come with each other and with what is present – shines through its individual moments. There is both movement and stasis; in Aristotelian terms, the unfolding sound realises form as ‘the unmoving moved’.