In assessing the question don’t we also need to look at other, probably failed and perhaps even “quackish discoveries” to get much meaning from the identification? What I’m wondering about here is, are we fully identifying what was really a good scientific insight or merely the winner of a bunch if creative theories/ideas from the time?
I think it would also be interesting to consider cases where ideas were initially too at odds with the existing state of knowledge and largely ignored but later rediscovered and found to have been insights that did lead to advances in knowledge—theoretical and applied.
That would be the companion volume to the one about “wrong theories and scientific facts we used to accept as true.”
Anyone know of such a book?
Tangent to the general discussion here I would be interested in hearing other’s opinions on a view I hold regarding the entire state of affair with online marketing techniques around tracking (both in terms of URL and geolocation).
I try to think about what we would do if marketing followed the same approach in the real world as in the virtual world (assume the costs were near zero). I would think most people would consider the real world actions to be a form of stalking and considered illegal.
Why treat it differently in the virtual world?
I certainly agree with the view on news (and wish some journalists and editors would take up the challenge of improving their industry). Without a better context, informed by the local aspects around any news story, it’s really difficult to come away with an informed understanding and view.
I am struck by one aspect of the latter idea, for understanding global society. It seems very western centered and so possibly could lead to unintentional biases.
I do realize that the alternative is a bit challenging, we can read important books from other cultural heritages but I suspect most will be limited as I am to those translated into English. That itself will introduce a slant that could be “western” biased as well.
Overall good advice and thanks for posting.
An intelligence that is not hindered by human shortcomings would just create the algorithm and run it without any intermediate language/compiler/debugger needed.
Is that a “There are 10 types of entities in the universe. Those the understand binary and those that don’t” type of statement ;-)
I did find the initial question interesting but suspect it will remain one debated a while—which is not a bad thing. Our existence is rather messy and tangled so ultimate truths or answers probably more transient than enduring.
And it probably did not hurt that the Romans saw the Greeks as “thinkers” and also spread their ideas westward (north?).
Two responses from skimming the essay. 1) I didn’t see much about culture in the comparison. Certainly the Chinese, and other Asian cultures of the time, were aware of things like gun power before Europeans. But when I think of things like science and how it relates/is interpreted by society I get the impression much depends on the application of the technology. 2) Relates to culture but is more about what lens we apply in viewing the progress. Many think Chinese Medicine is voodoo and BS and that view was I think largely pushed by a narrow vision from a European perspective. I think any fair assessment would say eastern medicine is not really inferior to western medicine—both have strengths and weaknesses. I would say both derive from science and a scientific method.
I suspect both these aspects, the underlying culture and the type of lens that culture imposes if one is not careful may have played a role in casting your question and the answers you tentatively find.
One of the ideas voiced seems to be that too many scientists (hard and soft) want to shortcut the work of actually studying the data and analyzing it. Put a bit more tersely, too many are lazy. I wonder how much that is driven by
1) the demands to publish (and the refereeing process) in academia and other research based organizations
2) Funding by NSF and similar public money grant program.
3) The general view that education and degrees are necessary for successful participation in a modern economy—particularly when most employment is within large corporate entities.
I also thought it a bit interesting that they mentioned confidence intervals as an alternative. The problem there, it seems, is that too many don’t understand what those really are. They see that their estimated value is within a 95% confidence interval and claim the probability that they estimate is correct is 95%. That is not what that statistic is saying.
I’ve not read the paper, but did just go to the link. One thing I would be interested in hearing from the community here on is Figure 1, Classes of intelligent systems.
I am a bit surprised that I don’t see any type of parallel references in the higher order levels to human related institutions. If we’re putting humans at the individual agent level it seems some of the existing human institutions might fit at the higher, information or task-oriented, level.
On thing that comes to mind for me here is the ability to identify points (for refutation or otherwise) than is often the case with prose.
In a sense I read that as a statement about decomposing a written argument that is not laid out as some formal logical argument (p1, p2, p3, … qed). I’m not entirely sure that is the case but rather more about the writers skills.
So one thought is which allows someone to most clearly articulate their reasoning—at least for the case where an argument is actually being made?
I did like the idea that we do think in “bullets” and these thoughts are not initially logically ordered—that follows from the first and second round of thinking I suspect.
I general I do like both bulleted and enumerated lists but am not sure they are generally the best style for blog entries—in that a poorly presented listing is as confusing as rambling prose. I think they are great for getting points defined and possibly very good for posts seeking to start a discussion about how they relate or where they might collectively lead if the author is looking for that type of feedback.
I also find it interesting—and true for me—that bold in a bullet list context does prompt me to jump on rather than finishing the bullet where as in prose that does not occur.
I don’t really follow the logic that certain cases of asymmetric information are bad from some general perspective and so the world/society better off if that asymmetry is reduced, therefore blackmail is good.
Blackmail is about privately benefiting from maintaining the condition of asymmetric information within whatever population is relevant.
I did like jimrandomh’s comment about norm differences, which then gets to the whole question about privacy rights, individual freedoms and other aspects of social life that need to be unraveled before one can say and given case of revealing the secret is a positive or negative.
As the project grows large enough, we should expect to be perpetually choking on one bottleneck or other.
I did understand that but was suggesting that the criteria as a mega project was really not about the costs—though fully expect a high costs to be associated with such effort. As you say, they cannot be easily be separated into more manageable sub-projects. Perhaps I can rephrase my though. Is the position that any and every project that costs $X or more necessarily has the type of complexity and non-separability?
If not then the ability to classify high cost projects should be useful—and point to alternative management requirements if all projects greater than $x still suffer from many of the same inefficiencies.
Each new stakeholder is a stupendous increase in the political complexity of the project, so much so that even at the smaller level of projects where we know the right answers about how to do them applying the right answers is often impossible because of the different interests at play.
Sure, and you run into whole problem of what exactly is the right answer as the different stakeholder are maximizing slightly different (and likely equally legitimate) criteria. That alone is not a bad or wrong thing. But the approach of limiting participation, in a way, seems exactly the same thing as chunking the project into manageable bites. But it’s not clear that can be done much better than disassembling the project into smaller, simpler and more manageable sub projects.
If so, limiting the stakeholders then the assessment of the project will always be one of partial failure. That would also drive various type of cost over run and time delays when such excluded stakeholders seek to influence the project from outside the management process.
It’s not clear to me that would be the optimal solution to all mega projects.
Plus one on that point.
In once sense though it seems a rejection of, what I will call, the S-Curve mentality. That would be the thinking all growth always plateaus (and it seems that is a dominant view in terms of economic growth there—developing economies can grow faster then developed economies so all these fast growers are doomed to the fate of Japan, Europe or the USA). That thinking can lead to acceptance rather than effort to overcome some current limitation/constraint.
Interesting. One think I would like to see more of mentioned here—but perhaps will have to dig for myself—would be about the structure of the project management. It seems one clear characteristic is complexity of the whole. While cost, and overall “size”, would clearly be well correlated. However I don’t think that is the critical feature. I would perhaps pose it as a separability issue. Can the overall whole be chunked out into bite-sized bits without too much coordination type work or not?
As more of a side thought, I wonder if anyone has done much in the way of spill-over type effects on these mega projects and if any categorization or characteristics are identifiable. We know there have been spillover from both the space program and military programs. Not sure about more commercial or government mega projects. But you would think all infrastructure type projects should benefit from some positive network externality effects.
I don’t try to make any “if you built it they will come” argument here. If any it would be a “people are pretty good at figuring out how to make lemonaide from a lemon” type “argument”. This kind of goes along with the too complex to manage well cases as well. We often will not know what the end benefits will be for many things—if the USA didn’t do the electrification project to get power to rural communities would we have the same type of communications networks we currently have? Worse? Better???
Of course this is not really about how to better manage such projects and it’s likely better managements would allow such aspects greater potentials and lessen any such affects.
Small edit to my own comment. I neglected to point out my comments and assessment were really about the what I understood to be the position of the paper under review and not about the analysis per se.
First, I did not get though the entire post. That said, some thoughts that occurred to me.
Under what conditions is does this generalize? I was trying to apply it to my world. If I am hiring part of the problem is not about hard skills but soft skill—and those will differ a bit based on what team the new person will be part of.
Good game theory always wins seems to have directed at the candidates but what happens when the game master (lack of a better term) has poor game theory or doesn’t think such behavior good? Again, from a corporate hiring standpoint that might be a real situation. In terms of consumers shopping around that might also apply (the average advertiser is a better game theorists than the average consumer). Do the conclusions still hold here?
Closely related to the first bullet, just what market settings were considered for the analysis.
I recall an old paper that asked if duopoly was more competitive than the standard atomistic competition in the Econ 101 pure competition model. That was largely driven by search costs and asymmetric information problems. Would theory here be complementary?
My gut reaction is there is some value and truth here but that it should not be taken too seriously. Consider it an area of consideration and element of a solution rather than a solution to any problem of getting the best out of the messy social institutions that mediate our activities and greatly influence the collective/aggregate results.
Extending that the legislation and law in general seems appropriate as well. I wonder if one contrasts and compares slice of time views of both common law regimes and statutory law regimes if there would be any differences.
I seem to work (and possible live) in such a setting ;-)
On one level I wonder how much we need to worry. The idea behind that comment is the problem we all face with the asymmetric nature of our knowledge when facing the future. The distinction here is not to say that sloppy planning and maintenance should be consider acceptable but that we can only avoid the spaghetti to some extent. This is not to suggest the author was suggesting that. Only saying we might want to think about where the margins of efficiency are.
I was also wondering if some of the innovations in graph theory might help manage decision-making in a spaghetti world. The idea of a programming language that can help refactor the spaghetti might use such tools.
The last (actually first but...) thought I had was “Hello Gordian Knot.”
I will second Hazard’s comments on the way to approach the reviews. Seems so obvious after you said it.
I am wondering what you were considered in terms of skills.
I think the general approach should work really well in some settings. I do wonder what the limits might be. For instance, I could probably use this approach well to learn how to write in a programming language, or how to weld or how to machine parts. I’m not sure it’s as helpful for, say, learning a new language.
Perhaps the distinction is between skill and knowledge?
My comment must necessary be something of an aside since I don’t know the Hamming problem. However, your statement “We are not designed to be rational” jumped out for me.
Is that to say something along the lines of rationality is not one of the characteristics that provided an evolutionary advantage for us ? Or would it mean rationality was a mutation of some “design” (and possibly one that was a good survival trait)?
Or is the correct understanding there something entirely different?
I had a could of thought, to follow, but in thinking on them the issue of separability seemed to come up. If we think of rationality as either a mental skill to develop or some type of trait that can be developed related to our decision making, and therefore actions can that truly be separated from all the other things that make up being human.
Are emotions and any part of our emotional responses part or rationality? The enemy of rationality (I think many people would consider emotional and rational as opposites—not sure about a more sophisticated view that is found here. Are there certain complementary aspects/elements?
Intuitive rationality (maybe something like Hayek’s idea of inarticulate knowledge)? Where does that fit?
Last is the issue of subjective values and recognizing other’s rationality. What limits would that place on observing rationality in others as well as assessing our own rationality.