Four Pillars: On doubts and certainties

If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626)


One of my favourite quotes.

Before my blog went walkabout, I had been working on the next “recap” of Four Pillars, and taking somewhat more time than I had for the previous ones. The draft posts for that recap may never materialise.

So what I thought I’d do is to share what I was writing about, an emergent “Ten Principles for Constructing the Four Pillars”: but in a summarised form, while I go about restoring the rest of the blog.

I claim no ownership of these principles, they represent a melange of ideas collected from conversations I have had and books and articles I have read. Snowballs in passing. Other than Cluetrain, of course. Which was The Kernel.

  1. Don’t get too hung up with your own propaganda. Building an enterprise architecture for the 21st century around the Four Pillars concept is not going to be easy; there is much that is nascent and emergent about the technology, and much to be learnt through experimentation; balancing an open mind with a healthy dose of scepticism is what is needed.
  2. Markets are conversations, as the Cluetrain guys said.
  3. Conversations are based on relationships. No “sound of one hand clapping” zen koan-types make relationships.
  4. Relationships thrive on trust and integrity. Whatever you have with people you cannot trust or rely on, find another word for it. Unction of the serpentine kind.
  5. Trust is based on transparency and reliability. Not evidence. But on openness. It is OK to have faith. Past-predicts-the-future is at best about transactions, and fails every time something new comes along.
  6. Transparency and reliability are rooted in identity. Relationships are only built between people who know and understand and respect each other’s identity.
  7. Identity cannot flourish without respect for privacy and confidentiality. Many laws were created with this is mind; yet the risk remains that the same laws are subverted to destroy privacy, particularly in the name of “security”. Of information, of company, of market, even of state.
  8. Privacy of the individual, the client, the patient, the citizen is paramount. This is the First Law of [Four Pillars] Information. Which is why the Dick Hardts of this world are right.
  9. No information asset can be monetised if doing so breaks the First Law of Information. This is the Second Law of [Four Pillars] Information. Any attempt to enforce or build anew Intellectual Property Rights must adhere to the First and Second Laws. Any DRM system that focuses on the monetisation before the privacy is fundamentally and fatally flawed.
  10. Only the market, a community of individuals, can establish or amend laws like these. It cannot be done by individuals like me acting alone. Or even with the help of Grassy Knoll.

Please don’t take the principles above too seriously.They sound too pompous for me right now, but it’s late, I’ve just come back from a Clapton concert, and it may be me reverting to type. There is something there, something that needs working on. Maybe a lot of working on. But something’s there.

Why was I going down this Ten Principles route? Because I felt we needed a yardstick, a frame of reference, that could be used to help us make sense of the Blefuscudian discussions we appear to be having at present. Polarised arguments relating to net neutrality, to intellectual property, to digital rights management, to identity; polarised arguments involving everyone; the more important the argument, the more impassioned and extreme the arguments.

And it’s not just Calcutta being Confused.

We need simple independent yardsticks. Even if all ten of the principles above are jettisoned in toto, only to be replaced by n better ones, then this post has succeeded.

That’s what I was trying to do in the recap that never was. Which moved from the Sermon on the Mount through Justin Hawkins of the Darkness to end with Jerry Garcia. Who knows, I may get the chance to rewrite it one day.

In the meantime, please keep the comments coming, tear my post apart and help me learn.

5 thoughts on “Four Pillars: On doubts and certainties”

  1. Principle 6 supports my belief that trust in identity on the Internet is possibly the largest hurdle to fulfilling its potential. Principles 7 – 9 are actively being breached in Britain as we speak, I believe. Principle 10 I agree with, but it does need the ‘kernel’ to start with – which is what Cluetrain was, and what this post is. I wouldn’t call it pompous, I’d call it a start – let’s snowball away.

    Oh – I’m jealous about the Clapton concert, too …

  2. Number 11:

    It’s NOT about who you know;
    It’s NOT about what you know:

    It’s what you know about who you know that counts (and what they will do for you)

Let me know what you think

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