Monday, 10 February 2014


19. Levels of Invention

 The notion of scripts, discussed in item 13 of this blog, can be used to elaborate on the theory of invention discussed in the previous item, in an analysis of levels of invention. 

When self-service restaurants emerged, compared to service restaurants the order of nodes, and details of their functioning, were changed into: entry, food selection, paying, seating, eating, and leaving. If one does not know the new script, and assumes that of a service restaurant, one enters and sits, and will not get food. The altered sequence of activities has implications for the nodes. For example: Selection is no longer done from a menu but by picking up items on display.

In the item on invention I employed a cycle of generalization, differentiation, reciprocation, accommodation and consolidation. They can each be clarified in terms of scripts.

In generalization, i.e. application in a novel environment, an existing script is fed into a new superscript. Think of an existing product in a new user environment. A bicycle, for example, introduced to rough terrain, or to beaches. 

In differentiation, script structure and nodes are preserved but in one or more nodes a different selection of subscripts is made from existing repertoires. Bicycle tires need to be wide not to sink into soft soil. 

In reciprocation one borrows subscripts or entire nodes from other, outside scripts observed in the novel environment. Bamboo bicycles have recently been developed in Africa, to deal with local conditions. In Africa, bamboo is in ample supply, bamboo bicycles are very light, and can hence easily be carried across obstacles, in the heat, and due to easy speed there is less need for gears.

In accommodation, one tries to eliminate obstacles in existing script structure for realizing the potential or efficient use of new nodes, by changing the order of nodes or the nature of their connections. Bamboo frames cannot like steel frames be welded together, and require a novel technology for connecting and fixing parts of the frame.  

The logic also indicates hat there are different levels of novelty: a new selection of subscripts from an existing repertoire, or addition to the repertoire, or a whole new node with its repertoire, or architectural change of script structure. In invention one should also look at the superscript of the user into which the invention has to fit. What changes of that script would the user have to make to adopt the innovation? The more radical that change, the more difficult it will be to have the innovation accepted.

Cognitively, scripts are embodied in neural networks. Gerald Edelman’s ‘neural Darwinism’ seems a viable view of how embodied cognition could work, in terms of neural networks. They arise more or less by chance, in diverse, parallel and sometimes rival networks that compete (hence ‘Darwinism’) for reinforcement, according to the frequency, speed and continuity with which they are triggered, yielding easier passage of the thresholds (synapses) between neurons and a greater density of connections with other neuronal groups. New groups can arise from combinations between existing ones. The simultaneous ‘firing’ of neurons can lead to novel connections: ‘firing yields wiring’.

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