Gedankenexperiment: The ethos behind the OpenGardens blog and the inspiration of Jacob Bronowski


One of the advantages of blogging is: I get to express the full potential of my thinking which often spans multiple domains. And I also get to meet some very intelligent people who often know me from reading my blog, which is great fun.

Recently, when I was nominated by the world economic forum for the future of the Internet and I attended their event at Dubai, I met someone who had read my blog…

She started off by saying how much she enjoyed reading the OpenGardens blog and then added that it was a ‘weird and interesting blog’.

The ‘interesting’ bit was nice .. but I asked her what she meant by ‘weird’.

Her response was: The blog spans many areas. On one hand, there is a deep coverage of Internet and Mobility but also some very unusual topics which one may not expect with technology. Ex: Human Rights, Comics and even Maori Love songs

So, that’s what she meant by ‘weird’…

Since the mind behind this strange concoction of a blog is mine :) , I thought I should explain the ethos behind the OpenGardens blog. Thus, this post is based on my discussions with her trying to explain the thinking behind this blog.

Some initial ideas:

• I believe in Open networks (especially the Internet). This often brings me in intellectual contradiction to the established Mobile industry.

• I am interested in areas which span domains (ex Mobile Web 2.0 spanning the Internet and Mobility, Smart Grids spanning Internet, Mobility and Power grids) etc.

• I am interested in Open Innovation i.e. clearly my business also benefits when I put out new ideas and interact with other readers globally and these ideas get refined. And I am not alone. Some of the most insightful bloggers like my good friend Martin Sauter also are believes in Open innovation as a motivation for blogging.

Furthermore, I am not a journalist. A journalist is a generalist and normally does not bring his own views. Thus, the journalist often brings two differing views and allows the reader to make their judgement (as opposed to indicating their own view).

Although the blog leans more to an analyst, the blog is not strictly an analyst blog.

Rather, it is a specific type of analysis .. summarised by a word I use often i.e. the German word Gedankenexperiment. A Gedankenexperiment is a ‘thought experiment’ i.e. ‘what if’ scenario… the best example of this is from Einstein when he asked ‘What would the world look like if he travelled on a beam of light’

I think there are three styles of thinkers:

The first is the Believer i.e. people of faith .. who often at some point have to suspend reason.

The other extreme is the critic/sceptic. James Randi is an example of a critic i.e. someone who takes a totally fact based view and adds value by his criticism (but does not produce much independent work of his own).

Between these two extremes is what I call the ‘scientist’ i.e. someone who uses a rational foundation but also has the imagination to conduct a ‘thought experiment’ (which is what I am trying to do with the OpenGardens blog).

This means that the blog takes a stand/position based on an intellectual foundation. It may not always be correct but I hope that it extends the body of knowledge based on a rational foundation and provides insights.

And the thinking may span domains.

One example of this approach is from Jim Berkland who claims to accurately predict earthquakes based on ‘Lost pet ads’ in local newspapers which he has monitored over many years (the theory being that pets sense impending earthquakes and flee homes before an earthquake – which is reflected in the lost pets ads). Although, the results may not be accepted by the mainstream scientific community, I think that they are based on empirical observations and data and add value.

Apart from an intellectual curiosity which I gained from my father, the blog is also based on my readings / admiration for the thoughts of Jacob Bronowski. While Jacob Bronowski was popular well before I was born, I think his ideas are timeless and I have seen no one else who can seamlessly blend arts, science and maths and explain it all with such simplicity, humility and humanity through his books and documentaries.

If you are interested in this, you should read ‘The common sense of science‘ – interesting comments on Amazon! And also see The Ascent of Man and it is indeed a pity that Jacob Bronowski died within a year of producing the Ascent of man

I leave you with some quotes from Bronowski.

1) Man is unique not because he does science, and his is unique not because he does art, but because science and art equally are expressions of his marvellous plasticity of mind.

2) It is important that students bring a certain ragamuffin, barefoot irreverence to their studies; they are not here to worship what is known, but to question it.

In any case, I hope that this post provided you with insights about the mind behind this blog!