Monday, January 24, 2005

Introspection, Warts and All!

Introspector : the process of Introspection, to Introspect

I am a regular reader of, and decided to as a joke google the news for the term "introspector". Although it was, not found, looking for "introspect" and "introspection" got some interesting insights into how this term was being used in everyday journalism.

I found an interesting usage of the term to introspect that I kinda liked,
not the fluffy idea of just "looking at your mind", although this can apply to that as well.

It turns out that introspection is seen as some as a brutal honesty, a valuation of your own self with a bent on the negative. It means admitting mistakes, looking beyond the facade. It boils down to a skeptical approach. This allows you to be critical of yourself and promotes change when it does not cause paralysis and depression.

The point is that just looking at something is not enough, the reflection is just feeding you with data. You also need to process this information and feed the decision making process and eventually take concrete action upon it.

The Sunday Times of Malta writes
"We do lack, though, an ability to meditate about ourselves, to introspect. If there are mirrors on the walls of our conscience and consciousness, we do not look into them much"
That is an interesting observation, we lack this ability in general, and if we have it, we don't use it much. This implies that it is a tool or skill that has to be learned and is not something you are born with. I think that it is in some form a type of learned self criticism that some people carry on to the point of paralysis. It can be painful, but it not impossible. Any time you listen to critic from outside and then process this criticism, then you are going through a process of introspection. In fact, introspection is a form of taking the pain out of criticism, because you then internalize the external critic, and identify yourself with it, thus being able to see yourself from outside.

Now, Here is another one I liked because they connected introspection with the negative aspects, the warts.
"Jonathan Moyo, put it this way: ?ZANU PF needs to introspect a little and see itself warts and all. ...""
Now, here is the concept of brutal truth. Seeing your own failures and accepting them.

Then I decided to search for this expression, "see itself warts and all".

Now, Here is a definition of the role of journalism that uses that term, warts and all, and has a reference to a mirror.
"The role of journalism is to hold up a mirror to society so it can see itself, warts and all. The role of journalism is to shine a light on all sides of an issue as fairly and objectively as possible so people can make up their own minds."
Here is another one, about a guy who creates learning organizations
"I care about learning in organizations. I want to help organizations create processes, structures,
and cultures that support learning and change."
This is also an important factor in the introspector project, the aspect of learning.
He goes on "My work puts a mirror in front of the organization so that it can see itself, warts and all."
In the same page, Another reference to the mirror aspect, and warts.
"....we took people through a process of reflection and feedback that empowered them to learn and change"
I like that as well, the process of reflection and feedback makes an inanimate object come to life.

Now, we get to the light. What is the light that shines upon the introspector program itself? It is the light of the mind of the user of the software. So, the introspector is a tool to allow you to shine your mental light and see software, warts and all.

Here is an example of a somewhat mystical usage of the term introspection talking about a diagram of the four quadrants of spirituality :

"things like feelings, ideas, wishes, interior states, even things like mathematics and logic, none of which can be seen running around out there in the sensory world, but can only be accessed by looking within by introspection, awareness, contemplation, meditation, phenomenology, and so on. In figure 1, you can see a few representative items that you can be aware of if you introspect your own mind or awareness or experience things like sensations, feelings, images, symbols, concepts, and so on, none of which can be see in the exterior world."
That is kind interesting, talking about the expression of cultural inner values being expressed as magic. That has long been my belief that all these belief systems are externalizations of the inner beliefs of people.

Now, we turn to hits on the act of introspection.

It turns out that some people think that George Bush is capable of learning reflection.
"Last week was a week of introspection in Washington."
"Most notably, George W. Bush danced right up to ? but did not cross ? the line of admitting he might have actually made a mistake during his first term. "
?In a first-term press conference, [the president] said he could not remember any mistakes. Thursday, Bush was more reflective.

It can be that introspection is going to far, as pointed out in the

In fact, self-introspection almost becomes self-depreciation when the party says: ??One can take very good decisions, pass very correct political resolutions and give fine slogans. But unless party organizations exist and have live contacts with the masses, they will remain only on paper.??

Mike North writes in the chattanoogan, an article titled "In My Humble Opinion: Reflection, Introspection, Resolution And Execution"
"I use the last week of the year for reflection, introspection, and resolution. I encourage you to do the same. But how, practically speaking, does one go about such a process?

You can begin by starting the new year with a journal. Reflect upon the past year. Write down the joys, pain, successes and failures. Make a list of the people you love, and of those that you may not care for quite as much. Honestly assess where you are in your relationships and career or life goals. Keep the journal all year long. It will be invaluable come time to repeat the process next year.

The next step is introspection. Look at that list of failures. Were they your fault, or beyond your control? What could you have done differently? Do you deserve the credit for your successes? What about those people with whom you don't get along? Could you do more to get along with them? Are you where you want to be in life? If so, how do you prepare for the next step? If not, why not?

Be frank with yourself. Make note of the things that you know need improvement. The first part of any battle plan is a thorough analysis of the enemy, his strengths, and his weaknesses. This is no less important when the enemy is yourself.

Being totally honest with ourselves may be the hardest part of this process. We tend to rationalize. This tendency is the biggest obstacle to personal growth and improvement. The lack of self-discipline is a problem too, but even that is easier to correct if we'll admit that we're lazy sluggards totally lacking willpower."

Here is another example of reflection feeding decision :
“The book has come at the right time, when I am at an age (48 years) wherein I can reflect back about my own life and my work and also look forward to plan my future. I have a lot more time to think, take stock of my responsibilities and position myself in the art scenario.”

So, Reflection collects data. Introspection assigns semantics to them, resolutions are decisions made upon them, and the execution carries them out.
This reminds me of the scientific method, that of observation (reflection), hypothesis (introspection and resolution), Experimentation(Execution).


Now we get to the point of looking into the software. Software is some form of external expression of the inner thoughts of people. The introspector allows you reflect upon them. But in the end, the process of introspection, the assigning of values to this reflected data is work intensive. It requires a value system from the user. So the introspector learns to help the user evaluate the data collected from reflection. Then the decision making process kicks in, and the execution.

Looking at the entire program, not looking at just the surface allows you to really understand it. Looking at the data values used, looking at the documentation and specification about the various parts. Looking at the data structures, how they are used. All of this is planned as functionality of the introspector. Only when you have a single critical viewpoint from which you can observe the entire system will you also have a ground to stand on and be able to change it.

I hope that you find these examples as interesting and as instructive as I did.