I am on Walkabout.

In Berkeley, not Alice Springs.

The Songlines

I am dedicating my full attention this quarter. Everything that interests me is complex and mysterious. I decided to invest my time to understanding the network I inhabit.

Hence, the Walkabout.

Bruce Chatwin describes Walkabouts in The Songlines.

The basic idea that Chatwin posits is that language started as song, and the aboriginal Dreamtime sings the land into existence. A key concept of aboriginal culture is that the aboriginals and the land are one. By singing the land, the land itself exists; you see the tree, the rock, the path, the land. What are we if not defined by our environment? And in one of the harshest environments on Earth one of our oldest civilizations became literally as one with the country. (Wikipedia)

Adolescents Aborigines learn through Walkabouts. They travel the land for years until the music of nature plays naturally for them.

In ways, this is a play within a play. This morning Aaron and I were talking about how people learn in a disruptive world. The idea arose that “old stuff” retains lots of value. I read Chatwin years ago. Explaining the Walkabout to Aaron refreshed those neurons. Relearning something you once knew but forgot is as valuable as learning it in the first place.

This relates to a project I’m working on sporadically: Important Stuff. Wisdom, once the province of dead-tree media, is now carried by strings of bits. Books last for years. Now electronic flows and streams nourish our intellects, replacing books and stocks as our prime sources. Important electronic information gets lost below the fold and is downstream somewhere before we get to it.

I’m setting up an online museum of sorts, categorized into topics that interest me:

Cycles, Networks, Design,

Knowledge, Unmanagement, Mind,

Happiness, Culture, Complexity,

Learning, Radical Management, Reference


I envision a set of links, descriptions, and opinions that are Louvre quality and impact. This is an outgrowth of favored link lists I published in the early days of the web when finding stuff was a bitch. Look at my current Important Stuff page. Help me add great ones to the collection. Help me think of the best way to open and maintain something like this. What sort of wiki are we looking at? Thanks.

This will become my most heavily trafficked page, for it’s where folks who care can generate the most value, both learning what’s there and using it as a learning program for others.

Hey, vendors: want to sponsor this? What am I offered for 100,000 totally fresh leads who have management interests?


On my Walkabout, I intend to visit the old Important Stuff page and cull out the vestiges of the 19th and 20th century. I feel strongly about some of the documents and media I’ve selected. I’d like to explain why each is significant in writing. This one’s for karma. The net’s been very, very good to Jay. I want to return the favor.

Helping other people is one pathway to happiness and satisfaction. This week I’ve been getting my jollies from suggesting many disciplines, sources, approaches, and more to others.

goodideasI have a feeling that a breakthrough is hiding right around the corner. “The Adjacent Possible.” That’s what Steve Johnson calls the situation where new concepts from different disciplines are ready to be hooked together to create an innovation. Then five guys invent the television the same week.

Our Adjacent Possible combines unleashing human potential from industrial slavery, exponential progress, friction-free scalability, and the “anything goes” spirit that accompanies the wild card of Complexity. What can you make of that?

I’m not big on exercise, so I’m taking on Gedankenexperiments (mind games, a favorite of Schrodinger and Einstein). You start with a comfy chair, a blank sheet of paper, and a glass of wine. (Try this. It always works.)

I was pondering the nexus of learning+complexity at midday. Complexity = unpredictability. Not much explicit there. So don’t workers need a higher proportion of tacit skills than back in the days when everything wasn’t yet connected to everything else and we believed in a clockwork universe? Nobody learns tacit skills in the classroom; they learn them while confronting reality. JSB says you have to “marinate” in them. Experience and practice are the teachers.

Isn’t this analogous to Daniel Kahneman’s notion of System 1 (the emotional brain) and System 2 (the rational neocortex)? The tacit realm lives in System 1. Both are nonverbal pattern-matchers. System 2 uses logic; it’s explicit; you can describe its reasoning in words.

I’ve been promoting investigation into legitimizing emotion in the workplace (“Emotional Business“). Maybe this is another way to talk about learning tacit info.

Does this distinction make sense?



Posts like these Walkabout notes, beta and speculative, show up on the Internet Time Blog. This one won’t appear on jaycross.com, my professional blog that has a bit more polished.

When you see something on this site, assume it’s beta. Hell’s bells, everything’s beta, isn’t it?

Also, please email me or comment with your observations. I publish drafts and incomplete ideas because I’d like your help making them more useful.