Controlling Instincts 2: Qalam – The anthropological perspective

As mentioned in the first part, the Controlling Instinct model posits the existence of  a basic instinct that bridges the gap between animal instinct (DNA engraved instincts) and human instincts (brain evolved instincts). This instinct facilitates the development of advanced cognitive powers characteristics of humans. In the evolution ladder, this instinct appeared with the a specific hominoid species that resulted in the emergence of the sapiens.

Does science support this position?

Anthropological Perspective

In anthropology, there is ample evidence that something happened, few hundred thousand years ago, that developed the brain of the homo species which resulted in the emergence of the thinking species. Most theories attributes this jump to the discovery of cooking by fire. Eating cooked food, especially meat, helped divert most of the digestion energy to the other organs of the body especially the brain. Providing such increased energy to the brain allowed it to create a bigger organ that was able to develop new synapses other species do not have. The brain has the ability to develop beyond the norm.

However, this sudden supply of energy did not create the qalam, that is the ability to develop knowledge and dynamic cognitive powers. Another factor had to play a complementary role. This factor is the premature delivery of babies, compared to other species. Homo sapien’s brain continue it development outside the womb while all other species are born with almost matured brain. Harari calls this “homo sapiens are born with half baked brain”. This means the brain continues growing and developing following triggers by sensory observations and experiences of the real world.

Here is the explanation. The increased size of the brain created a problem and a solution. The female hominoids with an evolved DNA responsible for the enlarged brain could not deliver the mature fetus because their womb and cervix could not handle the passage of such enlarged and advanced partially developed brain like other species. As anthropologists puts it, most mother died upon delivery, few weaker mothers dropped their fetus prematurely. Few of these premature babies survived but they needed to complete the development of their brain outside the womb.  Neurologists, as will be presented in the next section, say that the complete development of the brain takes around 3 years after birth to form the necessary neurons and the interconnecting sybapses. This means, the brain was growing and being developed while the baby/toddler is experiencing real life interactions through their 6 senses (5 being the known senses while the 6th is the emotional experience). This interaction at such an early stage allowed the brain to create new synapses that other species did not posses. One outcome of this evolutionary development is having a superior plasticity of the brain that let it grow based on sensual experiences at a level no other species could achieve. This is the qalam.

So, in anthropology, there are ample evidence that something happened that shifted a specific species from being owners of slow developing brain to incredibly flexible and adaptable brain that continuously change based on sensual incentive.

Next, neuroscience perspective.

Related References

Harari, Yuval Noah; Vintage (2014). Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.

Wolpoff, M. H.; Spuhler, J. N.; Smith, F. H.; Radovcic, J.; Pope, G.; Frayer, D. W.; Eckhardt, R.; Clark, G. (1988). “Modern Human Origins”. Science241 (4867): 772–74.


Control Instincts – 1 : the beginnings

Controlling Instincts (CI) is a term I coined that defines the behavior of an individual in every day life.

I started thinking about this concept in 1998. Ever since, my perception evolves with every new field I study, with every interaction I have and with every new scientific field that emerges..

My initial ideas were influenced by the works of Tofler and the likes who looked at evolution as a movement from agrarian mentality to industrial then Information Age, as well as, by the new field of positivity psychology that looks at human psyche through constructive lens.

Recently, my last iteration was influenced by 4 fields of knowledge Which I have been researching in depth since 2011. Some of them are emerging sciences, like neuroscience and quantum physics. Others are well rooted, like anthropology and religion. In addition, I am constantly influence by numerous individuals and concepts that I face day after day.

I feel my brain has switch its cognitive power to try to reflect and analyze every act I face on a daily basis to synthesize a new branch of the CI model and add value. This means, the idea is a dynamic concept that continually evolve with every incident I face.

I have interacted with many thinkers trying to find ways to refine it. I have interacted with many laypersons to validate my discoveries and to minimize any blind spots in my argument. Moreover, I have applied the model in different fields of life with a considerable success. I applied it in management, leadership, education, politics, virtual collaboration, child upbringing, to name a few.

I was planning to put all my findings in a doctoral research which unfortunately, due to a personal disaster, I had to drop it. More about this in due time.

So, this CI model gives me a good tool to look and understand people and life and it helps me to cruise my life smoothly despite turmoils. Above all, it allowed me to make a living by using its parameters in many of the projects I have undertaken since 1999. With a good level of success I may add. I feel now is the time to share my ideas with the world instead of keeping it to myself because I stopped looking for money.

In a nutshell

The CI posts that humans has two (maybe more) groups of instincts. The two basic groups are the animal instincts and the human instincts. We are born with the animal instincts (like drive for survival, eating, having sex, etc…) that are built in our genes at birth. Then we develop the human instincts as we grow. Like guilt feeling, curiosity, bravery, fear, abstract conceptions etc… Psychology terms them as subconscience drivers.

In my model, the animal instincts are engraved in the DNA, while human instincts are developed in the brain as we grow. Some human instincts are so rooted in the conscience they appear to be unchangeable while some animal instincts, or DNA instincts, could be masked by human instincts to eliminate its effect. For example, fasting is a mechanism to curb or tame the animal instinct of hunger. While gluttony is a human instinct that amplifies the same hunger instinct.

The Qalam

There is one basic instinct that triggers the creation of human instincts and evolve them to become the human cognitive power. I cannot classify it as an animal instinct because animals don’t have it although it acts like one. This instict drives the development of all future human instincts. I like to call this instinct the “qalam”.

ZQalam is an instinct that differentiates us from animals. Basically, This “qalam” is (I believe) is a DNA based instinct that triggers brain activity that drives our curiosity and give us the instinct of the need to discover. It converts observed experiences into knowledge, abstract and or emotions in a very complex interrelated mental, cognitive and brain activities.

At the moment, I cannot tell when this kicks in in our life. But there are many studies that hints that the first 3 years of the life of a baby has a tremendous effect on who she becomes. It could happen sometime early in that phase of our life. This qalam is the instinct that makes the child recognize communication and then develop the ability to talk and comprehend. It is the instinct that makes the toddlers ask “the why” at an early stage of their being. It makes them formulate a way to interact with their parents and surroundings. It is the instinct that makes them human.

Do animals have this instinct? Maybe some has it in a primitive form. I yet need to find out.

The qalam drives the human to develop further human instincts. Like appreciation of time, role in a society, being dependent, independent or interdependent, the feelings and emotions that drive and formulate individual’s habits and attitude. All of these start at a very early stage of life. (I have done research that shows the experience babies face in the first few months will impact their eating instincts and their feeling of security).Further observations made me realize that most of the instincts we practice in adulthood are attributed to values little toddlers were exposed to in early ages. So, the social and cultural experience exposed to toddlers at early age go through the filter of the qalam instinct to form the human instincts that control the attitude of an adult.There has been many studies that talk about the impact of the first three years of a child. Some scientists are adamant that the impact of these 3 years is everlasting. Others argue against it. I agree with both. I will explain why in a due time.

Next: why humans have the qalam instinct? Are there any scientific proof to that? Anthropology, neurosciences and the theory of evolution provide some answers.

Triad and Religion: The Lenses

This is a continuation of the Triads I have been working on. Influenced by the ideas of Shahroue, I tend to look at religion through two different lenses that give two different perspectives about religion. One lens is the lens of beliefs based on human interpretation of the religion. The second lens is the lens of our today’s knowledge of the universe based on scientific discoveries.

For example: Satan is mentioned in many religions as the advocate of evil and the archenemy of God that drives us at a subconscious level to send us to hell. This is based on the first lens. If I want to use the second lens, I would use recent discoveries in psychology, sociology and neuroscience to say that Satan is the inner controlling instincts that drive us to do what we do not believe it is right. In psychology, this is the Id. So, in this lens mapping exercise, the Stan of religion is the ego of sciences.

Accepting this premise, re-reading religious beliefs would result in a new understanding of religion that matches sciences discoveries. This will be addressed in another post about the 2nd Lens interpretations of religion.

One note: Id, Ego and Super-Ego is a triad… are they related to my triad? Another thinking exercise.

Controlling Instincts: Middle East Politics

I had a great TEDx talk about my Controlling Instincts. I tried to show how the concept impacts “Organizational Personality” and “Educational Dynamics”. In this post, I will try to apply some of these ideas to the politics in the Middle East.

If we look at the Middle Eastern countries up until the start of the Arab Spring, we recognize that there were three types of governments: the Royal Monarchies (Morocco, Jordan, Gulf States), the Military Regimes (Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Syria) and the democratically elected government (Lebanon and Iraq).

If I want to apply the controlling instincts concepts to countries, and create “Country Personalities”, I can understand many of the dynamics of what is happening there.

The military mentality belongs to the Industrial instincts: structure, mass production, norm for all, one objectives. The majority of the population that stayed in their country and did not emigrate belong to the agrarian instincts group: family/tribe based, possession oriented, follow the norm mentality and so on.

The military regime created what I will call “tamed tension”. Most revolutionary political parties (Communists, Baath, Greens in Libya) aim at moving the country to the industry age. This means replacing agrarian instincts with industrial instincts. However, they failed to make the real change, because in my opinion religion influence was dominant. Something similar to the demise of communism in Europe. But this is another post. So, the military regimes created a “fear” driven society disguised by “the big family mentality” through the creation of ONE party that governs the country by thought monitoring means. I think it was a brilliantly vicious plot. Since agrarian instincts cherish solidarity and dying in defend of the brother, the military regimes brilliantly used the Palestinian cause as the glue that gives the “big family” its identity, cause and survivability through living for the cause and readiness to die for its solidarity. They had controlled media, controlled education and strong vicious intelligence services that assumed the role of monitoring their thought. Brilliant vicious concept that worked well until 2010.

So, the presence of the military regime was a means of imposing industrial instincts on a community that is driven by agrarian instincts. There was a tamed tension but the agrarian instincts survived.

[side note: many individuals left the country during the military era… I suspect that the majority of those who immigrated were industrial in nature… but now I am wondering: were they knowledgian in nature?? Worth a research.]

Obviously, the monarchies follow the rules of the agrarian instincts. This matches their own people drive. This is why the monarchies are experiencing a relative calm in this turmoil period of history. The only skirmishes are caused by “industrially driven parties” who are miscalculating the dynamics.

As I outlined in an earlier post, the present Egyptian revolution is the only turmoil where the knowledgian factors are playing a major role. All other Spring Revolutions are caused by Agrarian-Industrial tension. The Egyptian is Agrarian (assumed by the Islamists), Industrial (played by the Military Government) and Knowledgian (assumed by the Wikipedian lead by Wael Ghoneim) tension. We need to keep an eye on it.

The Syrian Revolution is bit more complicated. Most of the revolutionists on the ground are agrarian in nature. They are revolting because the modern media (FaceBook, Internet, Saltallite,…) made the strong glue keeping them united (the Palestenian Cause) melt. They recognized that their government is not fighting for the cause (leaving Lebanon, staying silent when Israel hit Syrian targets, staying neutral in 2006 Israeli war on Lebanon, etc…) In previous eras, the Syrian population would never hear stories like this because the government media would twist it. But now, in the modern media age, these truths are well known and spread among the Syrian. So, the glue that kept them together became weak, consequently made the people revolt. This is why I believe the Syrian case is another agrarian-industrial tension and Knowledgians are not playing any rule, so far. Similar analogy could be extrapolated to the Tunisian, Libyan and Yemeni examples.

I feel great when the small pieces of facts add up to the big picture.

[Another side note: The Arab population are famous for believing in the Conspiracy Theory. They were right. But the conspiracy was not plotted by Israel and the Capitalists… but by themsleves on themselves. Worth a thought].



Privacy, West and East

This week LAK12 topic is privacy and learning analytics. Erik Duval presentation made me contemplate on some Privacy ideas.

First, you need to know that I was born in Lebanon, lived all over the world then decided to finish my professional life in Canada. So, I have that cultural mix in me where I continuously shift my values between eastern and western connotations. Something like wearing the right clothes: pajamas to sleep and T-shirt/Pants to go to work. I will call it “value attire”.

Erik asked the question: What you worry about?

Trying to reflect on a good answer made me recognize that my answer depends on the set of “value attire” I refer to.

My Eastern value attire would answer: nothing. There is nothing to hide. I lived my life sharing everything about me and I expressed my opinion freely. I had nothing to hide. Even others were not offended if we were “politically incorrect” and attacked them. Personal judgement is part of life and it never forced anybody to shunt their ideas, identity and expression.

My Western value attire would answer: I am worried that I will be considered an “alien” and lose the privilege of being a “westerner” that I  value.

This made recognize that I am forced to have two faces: the real me who wants to be open and express my feeling the way they are without worrying about my image or my identity. The me who accepts criticism and do not consider them to be politically incorrect.

The other face is the one the forces me to hide my true feeling and shut up because I still do not know what is politically correct or not.

Then it hit me: does the western culture promote privacy because people need an environment where they can be themselves on their own without anyone else judging them?

At this stage I started analyzing further with no prove: do people in the privacy of their home think differently than outside that privacy? Why and how they developed this attitude? Is it education that “programmed” students at early age to react to life in a way that they are not? using two different attire values? What they value in their own privacy is different than the values they express outside? Is this why privacy is so important? More questions than answers.

But to me, I made peace with my privacy rules: I am open and I have nothing to hide. My ideas and thoughts are to be shared with the world openly with no restrictions. And at point, if I am politically incorrect, I will look for the root cause/reasons/values that made me react in that way and eradicate it at the root so it comes out naturally in a politically correct manner without having to sugar coat it unnecessarily.

Other questions that comes to my mind:

– how much lawyer have to do with this privacy culture? Are they promoting it for their own benefit?

– I noticed that the eastern culture has far more wars among themselves than western mentality countries. Does privacy have anything to do with it?

Community of Practice

I have met Etienne Wenger in 2000 when we were working on creating the LINC (Learning International Network Consortium) with Prof. Dick Larson in MIT. He introduced his Community of Practice to us as a group and I was fascinated with it (although I just comprehended it fully!). We had a nice chat especially about my Controlling Instincts theories which, somehow, complemented his theory. I do not remember whether I felt he accepted it because I was proud of myself or he dismissed it and I chose to ignore the fact. Few years later, I met him again at a conference held by University of Alberta… and to my amazement, he did not remember me although he remembered the project. It was an understandable shock.
Anyways, I read and reflected on his Community of Practice sporadically over the years until I was forced to study it as part of my doctoral studies. It was an optional topic that I opted to choose for I thought I could finish it quickly. To my amazement, it was a transformational experience. I saw it through a totally new eyes. Then I started seeing the world in a totally new eyes as well. I saw it as a complex field of circles. People who walk into the circle learn new language… they understand things in a way that people outside the circle cannot understand. Now, when I talk with someone, I try to figure out which circle he belongs to, I reflect to figure out if I know the paradigm of that circle, then I start using his terms. If I do not relate to his circle, I shut up, listen attentively and just nod. When I have a chance, I try to translate the conversation to terms I can relate to.

An Epiphany that has many applications.

One intimidate application is another epiphany I got when I was watching Gardner video (see it below). I related very quickly to his ideas. I am in his circle. Yet, in his talk, he hinted that many reputable theorists rejected his ideas. How can anyone reject Gardner’s ideas? They are so logical and natural. Then it hit me when he said: “my work in neuroscience influenced me”. Using CoP, he belongs to two circles: psychology and neurosciences. I can bet $100 that those who are opposing him are well versed in psychology, but not neuroscience… or some other circles I am not aware of… an epiphany: Wenger ideas could be applied here as well… What a great idea this “Community of Practice” is…

Another application: the above two experiences, the Wenger and Gardner, had an influence on a doctoral assignment I had to submit. It is simple: create a concept map about the relationships of the Learning Theories. However, based on the above two experiences, and based on my interaction with other doctoral students, I discovered that most educational studies classify and categories learning theory based on psychological paradigm (that is the Community of Psychological Practice). I thought: maybe I should come up with a new model that classify learning theories based on the Community of Practice of its curator… In this way, I will have an effective tool to understand where the theorist is coming from, what values and vocabulary they use, the connotations behind their words and, above all, understand in a better way those who criticize the theory.

What a week.

Below is a partial and an initial map I came up with which requires further analysis and compilations (click to enlarge):

Ah, I was almost going to forget Gardner’s video (it is long, but worth watching if you are interested in the background around Multiple Intelligences):

Lifelong Learning

I see that present core values of traditional educational paradigm are based on socio-economical needs rather than on learner’s actualities. Toffler in 1989 mentioned that education is influenced by the mass production mentality of the industry. Bloom’s taxonomy, which is the corner stone, foundation, walls and every brick of the educational system, we discover it was based on military concepts and mentality. Check Pickard 2007, p. 45.

The scream of changing the educational paradigms is paramount-ing. Read the works of Tapscott, Taylor and Katz. What should we change?

There are many suggestive reforms around the world. Some driven by the UN, others drive by the EU commission. Even the World Hank has set its own educational framework. They all have different models, parameters and motives and recommendations. However, they all have one thing in common: they promote lifelong learning.

What is lifelong learning? We will disagree with the answer. Personally, I like how Lambs puts it. He says that the core of lifelong learning is for teachers to “promote the examination of students’ own assumptions and beliefs and thus to think more deeply” (Lamb, 2011, p.68).

The new educational paradigm should prepare individuals to think for themselves, challenge their own beliefs, be ready to change when they find their believes are not suitable anymore. This is the best reform we can offer. It works. Ask me for the proof if you are interested.

So, yes, educators should facilitate learners to reach new frontiers in their learning. And this should start at a very early age… before high school, even before toddler age… it should be included with the breast feeding… You don’t believe me? Read Bruer. If you’re interested, ask me why I believe in this.

If you are interested to know more, read some of the following:

Council of European Union. (2011). Notices from European Union institutions, bodies, offices and agencies: Council conclusions on the role of education and training in the implementation of the ‘Europe 2020’ strategy. Europe: Council of European Union. Obtained from: Accessed on 12 Dec 2011.

Katz, R. (1999). Dancing with the devil : information technology and the new competition in higher education. San Francisco, Calif: Jpssey-Bass.

Lamb, R. (2011). Lifelong Learning Institutes: The Next Challnge. LLI Review, 61-10.

OECD (2009), “Lifelong Learning”, in OECD, Education Today 2009: The OECD Perspective, OECD Publishing.

Pickard, M. (2007). The new bloom’s taxonomy: an overview for family and consumer sciences. Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences Education, Vol. 25, No. 1, Spring/Summer 2007.

Tapscott, D. & Willaims, A. (2010). Innovating the 21st-Century University: It’s Time! EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 45, no. 1 (January/February 2010): 16-29.

Taylor, M. (April 26, 2009) End the University as We Know It. The New York Times, 26 April 2009. [Website]: Accessed on 3 Dec 2011.

The World Bank. 2003. Lifelong learning in the global knowledge economy: challenges for developing countries. Obtained from: Washington, DC:The World Bank. Accessed on 3 Dec 2011.

Tofler, A. (1989). The third wave. New York : Bantam Books.

Learning: Disposable Knowledge and Learning

I was in the middle of the following discussion that ignited in the Mobile Learning Course. The Professor wrote:

In reviewing the blog posts, I came across some interesting comments. Some of which I am bringing into the class for further discussion:

Anas’ comments to Brandy’s post read

“Hi Brandy, like you, I am still researching and checking all Apps as much as possible. I haven’t made my mind what would be really useful. So far, I find myself heavily attached to Media Apps (Movies and news). I use the How To apps (cooking, do it yourself) a lot. Those help me get things done quickly but I do not retain the information. For example, I can cook the best disk from Betty Crockers App, but I cannot repeat it unless I have the app next to me. Is this learning? Don’t you agree that these small devices are forcing us to redefine the term “learning”.

Good post. Thank you.”

What is learning in this respect? Has retention been relegated to rote learning and therefore dated? Does the fact that most of the information we need are available on the mobile device, in our hands or the computer hard disk at home, prevent us from retaining knowledge? Where do you think the future of mobile learning could lead to when we consider what is retained and what is not? When can we apply the “sixth sense” as provided by our mobile devices and when are we allowed not to? Can we ask our job interviewer to wait while we contact our mobile device for a response to his/her question?

Here is my answer:

Yes, definition of learning needs to be modified.

According to earlier work of Clifton and Buckingham, and recently by Robinson, we have certain talents and strengths that in many cases ignored by the educational systems. Very few individuals align their talent to the requirement of education. These individuals become high academic achievers. The majority have talents that does not match the educational requirements. These individuals are forced to learn things they do not feel comfortable with. Those students memories the information and rarely convert them to knowledge or apply them. Consequently, due to modern knowledge tools, they can use mobile devices to learn on demand. We do not have to retain them for they are readily accessible. Does this mean we stop learning? No! Because we have tendency to learn concepts related to our talents with no problems. We will continue learning them. It is those we do not like, or have talent to do, we capture them through the knowledge tool and dispose them when not needed. This is good. Developing such an attitude will help to endorse change instantaneously. It will increase the human ability to evolve. I like to call this “disposable knowledge”!

Detect language » Arabic

CI: What is the “Controlling Instinct”?

I keep using the term: “Controlling Instinct” in my blogs. What is it?

I have coined the term. I am not aware that it was used before in the same context I am using it. It is popular in the sense that a person should control his instincts. In my context, it means the set of values that instinctively control us. These are values that we build up in our subconscious, without recognized that, and it becomes the drivers of our action, understanding of the world around us and controls our communication, reaction, and the day to day decision making. In many cases, it controlls our passion and drive us to think emotionally rather than intellectually.

For example, tale the concept of “family”. It is simple, universal and understood clearly by all. Its basic connotation is “the people I feel I belong to and who can make me feel safe and who I can trust”. However, the actual meaning and definition of the word differs largely between one person and another. For those who do well in the educational system, family means the immediate direct family: Parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts and children. For another person who lived in an agrarian setting, it will mean the extended family that includes all the tribe. With the younger generation, it is forming a new meaning: the set of friends on the Internet.

In my premises, most controlling instincts are developed through observance and not through education. Education will play a role as well. But mostly, the person can recognize the education created instincts. The actual controlling instincts is not recognized in an individual. For example, the idea of “Time”. Education explain to us the value and meaning of time. Encourage us to be on time. Forces us to adhere to deadlines. Still, Time has a deeper controling instinct. For an industrialist, time is fixed and nonstopable. To an agrarian person, time is flexible and repeatable. So, an industrialist student, will understand the time presented in education. To the agrarian, time presented in education is a challenge and an obstacle in achieving as expected in education.

Most of our controlling instincts are built at an early age. Younger than 8 years. I believe that the ability of kids to learn is far superior than adults. There are many reasons for that. Mainly neurological. A baby learns by trial and error and observation. They try to internalize the world around them. A red flame is harmful. A sour lemon tastes strangely. All of these experiences become controlling instincts. If the family laughs when the child touches flames this makes the kid think that harming himself is good, and we have a masochist. If the parents does not allow the toddler to look at a girls body, but permits looking and male bodies, the boy become gay. And so on. We learn by observing behavior. And these observation generate our controlling instincts.

So far, I am able to group the translation of the meaning of a value-set into three groups: those who were living in an agrarian background, those who were living in an industrial background and those who were brought up in the Internet Age.

CI: Wikipedian Controlling Instincts

I have talked before about my experience with Wikipedia. As well, I mentioned in a couple of previous posts (here and here) that the Middle Eastern Revolutions should not be considered a FaceBook revolution, but a Wikipedian Revolution.

In this post, I will outline some terms that reflects the controlling instincts of a Wikipedian:

  • Stubbing: the drive to contribute
  • Idling: Make use if Idle Time
  • Tolerance: accepting difference
  • Collaboration: work with others without expecting return
  • Non-personification: can work with strangers
  • Contribution: sense of giving
  • Vim: taking initiative
  • copyleft: does not believe in copyright. Believes ideas are contributors to other bigger ideas and it does not matter who started it
  • manytasking: can work on more than one task at the same time.
  • Everchanging: change world around him is the norm.

I am still working on the right choice of words. And I will explain them in another post.

Politics: The Syrian Revolution is not a FaceBook Revolution

The Syrian revolution has reached a critical mass needed for its success… but it is not a FaceBook revolution. The people administering their FaceBook pages do not show any type of a Wikipedian nor Facebookian mentality or attitude. They still use the same methods of the traditional revolutionary thought that focuses on history, religion, sympathy, guilt feeling, traditional tribal feelings etc.

The young people on the streets might have that kind or mentality. But you cannot tell because the communication from inside the activists are controlled and limited. My gut feeling tells me that the Wikipedian/Facebookian in Syria, if any, would be in the larger cities like Damascus and Allepo. But neither of these two places have moved effectively on the ground.

All I wish is the the Syrian people get their freedom to soar. They might need another generation to get to where Egyptians are now, but it is worth the wait.

Wiki Controlling Insticts – part 1: Me and Wael Ghoneim

Summary: Revolutions is sweeping the Arab world. They are all tagged as the FaceBook revolutions. I agree. FaceBook was a key instrument that created the critical mass required to make the change. in Tunisia, Libya, Yemen and Syria. But not in  Egypt. The Egyptian revolution is a Wikipedia Revolution on FaceBook. This is the first part of the story.

Wael Ghoneim from TEDFirst, let me brag: I am proud that I have had direct contact with Wael Ghoneim, the leader of the young revolution.

Last year, I was part of Google’s Health Speaks project that donates to charity based on translating Wikipedia Health articles from English to another language. I joined the Arabic project. Except for me, all the participants were Egyptians. I was amazed how chaotically organized they were. I say it is a positive note. You could not figure out who is who. People come and go. One person start an article yet someone else would finish it. In any academic book, this is chaotic. Yet, they were able to score the highest charity donation. Through chaos, they mobilized each other to successfully achieve their goal .Just like I imagine the bees work. A lot of chaotic incomprehensible buzz that results in the sweetest honey.

Later, during the revolution, I had a sense that the young faction leading the revolution were working in a similar spirit. I did not relate my sense to reality until Wael made his TED speech and mentioned “Like Wikipedia”.  It stroke me. Wikipedians have a different “mental paradigm” that make them so chaotic, yet so productive. That is when my thesis on “Wikipedian Controlling Instincts” came from! Later about this, for now, let me focus on my brag.

When the relationship between my sense and reality established, I jumped to my Gmail to see if Wael was involved in the Google Health Speaks projects. I did a quick search on the name, and found our 5 threads from Wael in my gmail archive. Unfortunately, I used to delete the old email, if I did not, I would have found more. But the important thing is that I had interactions with him… I had interactions with the Wael… it is a starnge feeling! Feel or pride… it is like saying I shock the hand of Martin Luther King… not once, but five times… even more!

Back to reality. My ego is full enough. When I made this discovery, I went back to the surviving Google Health Speak emails and went throught them. I was amazed to discover that most of the participants in the project were active in inducing and participating the revolution! Amazing. The spirit of working in a google-wikipedia environment is the same spirit that prevailed among the youth of the Egyptian revolution. Not necessarily the same spirit that has driven the other revolution. Somehow different. I will address my observations in another blog. For now, let me enjoy the feeling that I had an interaction with Wael Ghoneim and the other young Egyptian revolutionaries, through a connectivist-like approach.

I leave you with Wael’s TED presentation:

Detect language » Arabic

Wikipedia revisited

After almost one year of quitting wikipedia editing, I returned with two projects I had on mind: creating a portal for Canada and another one for Education. Not just create the portal but write relevant articles to enrich the Arabic version. I completed the Canada Portal which got the “excellent article” tag. To achieve this, I had to write more than 100 related article. The education portal is in the same route. The wealth of knowledge and insight I developed myself is massive.

In the process, as usual, I evolved. I learned to aim at creating neutral and unbiased avoiding being influenced by opinionated individuals. I became a neutral person in the world of opinionated and biased world. It is refreshing to stand to become a bystander in the middle of useless and wasted argumentative world.

Knowledge, Talent and Intelligence

In my last article, I mentioned that learning is the process of creating knowledge through personalizing information. Then I touched on talent and intelligence. This morning, I was thinking if the created knowledge persevere. I though not. Then, I started thinking about knowledge on demand which is creating the knowledge as needed and discarding it when it is not! This lead me to think: what is the knowledge that is retained. Reflecting on myself, I discovered that I retain the knowledge that interests me. I discard the other. Then I thought what interests me. I concluded that my talent (set of strengths) and the set of my intelligence (according to MI) determines my interest. Then I recognized that my values and controling instincts have roles to play. This made me come up with the following theory:

Learning is the process of converting information to knowledge. Retaining knowledge is another process that relates to intelligence and talent. It requires a name. Applying the retained knowledge requires a third process (that needs to be named!). Consistently applying the knowledge is the geniusity!

Data > Information > Knowledge > *retained knowledge* > *applied knowledge* > *the knowledge becomes controlling*

This theory needs more work. I need to find terms for the missing names from the literature. I need to relate talent/intelligence/values to it. I need more readings.

Dialogue about Subways and Mac’s

The below is a dicussion that happened around my “Subways and Mac’s” post on another blog. I thought to copy it over here for the records. Oxana commented:

Anas, I like your analogy. It shows some of your goals you are striving to achieve. Did you think of the “counter”/delivery people? Who will serve your course, you alone or other tutors ? Are you aiming to franchise it and give other people to run it with consistent quality and outcome? Cheers

Then Doug posted:

Anas: Its a daydream because like Oxana pointed out the servers will be in control. As you must realize the objectives and outcome system is to satisty government requirements and once the funding is in place the who knows what the assessment process will provide. Teachers like MDs are controlled by a government bureaucracy. Just calculate how much is paid to institutional Presidents for X universities in Alberta…why not have X-y and put the money into back into teaching and instruction? have fun Doug
PS its all about the beef.

Then I replied:

@Oxana: (1) no servers. Learners pick and choose. There will be the cooks who are usually invisible that prepare the material, and support staff who keeps cleaning stuff and answering odd questions. (2) no franchise. It GNU based.

@Doug: (1) Servers will never be in control. Look at our course, are our Facilitators in Control? They just ensure we adhere to goals and give us support if we ask for it. Beyond that, they are almost invisible… right? (2) This is the beauty of dreaming: You don’t have to worry about what would go wrong. I understand where you come from about regulated studies. This is why I believe there must be other “restaurants” to cater for these cases. I, myself, will always avoid creating online courses for them, although in my heart, I am sure we can use the Subway method as well… but it is headache… and as Dawnn suggested in her video, I want to be happy!

Wikipedia Reflections

I have decided to stop contributing to Wikipedia for a while to reflect on the experience. I have contributed to more than 700 articles (120 of them of my creation) through 4000 edit. When I started my vacation, I wanted to evaluate this experience. Here are my findings although I haven’t reached decisions about yet:

1- It kills time. Literally. Contributing to it makes time goes so quickly that you feel your life is passing by without noticing. I do not know if this is something good or bad.
2- Working with Wikipedia requires different type of mindset: unownership. You must contribute elegantly and professionally, however, you should not have a feeling that you own your work. You continuously defend the accuracy of your work. You do it, to ensure factual reality and not because it is your work. It is a new thinking that will require more understanding and research!
3- The Arab wikipedians are still in their infancy. They are not able to comprehend this new paradigm. Most articles contributed are useless. Still focuses on TV programs and football or nationalistic knowledge. While serious knowledge articles are ignored and many cases opposed. This is an interesting phenomena that is worth analyzing.
4- The Arab contributors to the Wikipedia feel proud by proofing others wrong. They just delete articles for the silliest reasons because they lack the maturity to investigate if there is validity and because, I believe, they feel proud with the number of cases they prove others are wrong! In my case, 20 articles were deleted and reinstated. THis shows that the decision of deleting them was wrong in the first place.
5- I have decided to limit my contribution to Wikipedia to 2-hours idle time (i.e. the collective minutes between actual work.) In addition, I want to make an effort to create a larger arab team to cotribute to the Arabic wikipedia.

more to come…

Wikipedia… again

I am falling in love with Wikipedia… I am finding very fulffilling… I am averaging 5 articles per day between English, Arabic and French sites… it is great…

Besides its ease of use, the magnificent concept of just write anything, how other interact with my sites and how those little bots work to fix my errors and to populate my site with categories, language translations, correct common spelling and grammar mistakes are thrilling… I love it…

Why I am feeling this? This will be another blog… for now, I am enjoying my contribution to the knowledge of the world… and I am impressed with myself for I am able to take a neutral stand even in areas that I have strong opinion… magnificent


I have spent 3 hours writing an article about the genealogy of my family on Wikipedia… I was hoping that we can collaborate with relatives from all over the world to rediscover our roots…. in less than 10 minutes, my article was removed by TheEgyptian because family references are not permitted on Wikipedia… this made me furious at the beginning because it was a total waste of my time. But after drinking a cup of coffee, I was really impressed how fast the Wikipedians ensure that the content of their website is accurate.

Simply: Impressive.

Now, I am investing sometime installing TikiWiki on this site to permit our family members to create their own Wiki pages and enrich our family tree.