Almost Every Company Falls Into This Thinking Trap
Shane Parrish
3539

This post would seem incomplete without two intriguing quotes — one from Jorge Luis Borges and another from Umberto Eco.

From Borges’ “On Exactitude In Science”:

“… In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast Map was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography.”

From Eco’s “On the Impossibility of Drawing a Map of the Empire on Scale 1 to 1":

“We would have to postulate an empire that achieves awareness of itself in a sort of transcendental apperception of its own categorial apparatus in action. But that would require the existence of a map endowed with self-awareness, and such a map (if it were even conceivable) would itself become the empire, while the former empire would cede its power to the map.”

In the context of AI, organizational maps become exceedingly interesting. As we trace all of the movements of the various forms of capital throughout organizations we essentially are able to measure and, to a certain extent map, the deployment of human intelligence in relation to the solving of various problems in the world without (aka “The Market”) and the world within (aka “The Organization”). If ever the map of these activities and the logic, psychology, and dynamical systems effects associated with them became self-aware we would indeed become servants of it.

I find myself creating abstract and admittedly insufficient maps of my own as I try to inhabit the conceptual worlds of yet greater intelligences. However the strangeness of the experience holds positively deviant perspective that is valuable if you are in the business of innovation. If this sounds at all strange to you then just realize that it is the natural distortion that occurs as you try to create an abstraction — a conceptual map — out of my abstraction of Borges’, Eco’s, and Parrish’s abstractions of realities which may, or may not, exist. A map of a map of a map of (un?)reality is bound to have its aberrations.