amplify & dampen

You know how sometimes the universe seems to be trying to tell you something? I had one of those experiences the other day. I was looking through my notes from the ALE2011 conference keynote Dave Snowden gave. I wrote

You know things differently in ordered-systems compared to complex-adaptive-systems. In complex adaptive systems you need discipline, you need safe-to-fail probes. You won't know the effect the probes will have. If the probes have a good effect you need to amplify them. If the probes have a bad effect you need to dampen them. Your strategies for amplifying and damping need to be planned ahead of time.

A short while later I was reading Surfing the Edge of Chaos and I came across this on page 93

The olfactory cells, which provide mammals with their sense of smell, delicately tune receptors to dampen out familiar smells and rapidly amplify receptors with new smells. This is the way the brain is alerted to new dangers or opportunities.

There it was again, amplify & dampen. I was sure this was a theme Jerry Weinberg had written about somewhere but try as I might I couldn't track it down. About an hour or so later I spotted a small red notebook on my bookshelf. I hadn't looked at it in over a year but for some reason I decided to pick it up. On the second page I looked at I'd written the following quote from Quality Software Management, vol 3, Congruent Action on page 95

A basic law of perception is that we tend to minimize small differences (tendency toward assimilation) and to exaggerate appreciable differences (tendency toward contrast). Thus, our perceptions make the world more sharply differentiated than it is, and we're a lot more alike than we are different.