Substance and form

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The existential dilemma — the paradox — of form and substance was first adverted to in Otto Büchstein’s now largely forgotten tragicomic opera La Vittoria della Forma sulla Sostanza (often performed, if performed at all, in German, as Die Eroberung der Form durch Substanz).

The modern world is blighted by the comforting embrace of tickable boxes, checkable checklists, and auditable trails, all of which give their comfort by taking the easy road: rather than evaluate the qualities of your organisation, tally up its countable dimensions, however superficial they are.

There is a logic to this: the power of big data is their emergent properties: you can extract from a mass of data qualities you can’t see from individual instances. That one kettle goes on at 4:30 in the afternoon signifies nothing in particular; that fourteen million do tells you it’s half time in the football.

This is a correlation, though, not causation, and it won’t flow the other way. Just because you put the kettle on at 4:30 doesn’t mean you were watching the football, however likely it might seem. Probability is an is, not an ought.

Hume: you cannot derive an “ought” from an “is”.

The JC: you cannot derive an “is” from an “ought”.

Substance Form
Lord Denning The doctrine of precedent
Heuristics Algorithms
Structuring internal audit
Legal Compliance
Anything fun or interesting in the world HR, COO, Management consultant, middle management

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