the scientific method

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Evidence-Based Technical Analysis: Applying the Scientific Method and Statistical Inference to Trading Signals by David Aronson

Albert Einstein, Andrew Wiles, asset allocation, availability heuristic, backtesting, Black Swan, butter production in bangladesh, buy and hold, capital asset pricing model, cognitive dissonance, compound rate of return, computerized trading, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, distributed generation, Elliott wave, en.wikipedia.org, feminist movement, hindsight bias, index fund, invention of the telescope, invisible hand, Long Term Capital Management, mental accounting, meta analysis, meta-analysis, p-value, pattern recognition, Paul Samuelson, Ponzi scheme, price anchoring, price stability, quantitative trading / quantitative finance, Ralph Nelson Elliott, random walk, retrograde motion, revision control, risk tolerance, risk-adjusted returns, riskless arbitrage, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Sharpe ratio, short selling, source of truth, statistical model, stocks for the long run, systematic trading, the scientific method, transfer pricing, unbiased observer, yield curve, Yogi Berra

Part Two demonstrates one approach to EBTA: testing of 6,402 binary buy/sell rules on the S&P 500 on 25 years of historical data. The rules are evaluated for statistical significance using tests designed to cope with the problem of data-mining bias. Evidence-Based Technical Analysis: Applying the Scientific Method and Statistical Inference to Trading Signals by David R. Aronson Copyright © 2007 David R. Aronson PA RT I Methodological, Psychological, Philosophical, and Statistical Foundations Evidence-Based Technical Analysis: Applying the Scientific Method and Statistical Inference to Trading Signals by David R. Aronson Copyright © 2007 David R. Aronson CHAPTER 1 Objective Rules and Their Evaluation T his chapter introduces the notion of objective binary signaling rules and a methodology for their rigorous evaluation.

Because the mind is predisposed to the perception of order and adept at inventing stories that explain why that order exists, it is not at all mysterious that the pioneers of TA would find patterns and trends in price charts and then invent theories about why such patterns should occur. Methods more rigorous than visual analysis and intuition are needed to find the exploitable order that may exist in financial market fluctuations. THE ANTIDOTE TO ILLUSORY KNOWLEDGE: THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD This chapter examined many ways we can be fooled into adopting erroneous knowledge. The best antidote ever invented for this problem is the scientific method, the subject of the next chapter. Evidence-Based Technical Analysis: Applying the Scientific Method and Statistical Inference to Trading Signals by David R. Aronson Copyright © 2007 David R. Aronson CHAPTER 3 The Scientific Method and Technical Analysis T A’s central problem is erroneous knowledge. As it is traditionally practiced, much of TA is a body of dogma and myth, founded on faith and anecdote.

Though some rules will be useful on a stand-alone basis, the complexity and randomness of financial markets make it likely that most TESTABLE NO Subjective YES RIGOROUS EVALUATION EBTA Objective NO Value Unknown EBTA YES Objective Valuable YES SIGNIFICANT FIGURE 3.16 Subsets of Technical Analysis. NO Objective No Value The Scientific Method and Technical Analysis 163 rules will add value when used in combination with other rules to form complex rules. Evidence-based technical analysis (EBTA) refers to subsets (3) and (4)—objective TA that has been back tested and subjected to statistical analysis. Given the preceding discussion, the categorization of TA is illustrated in Figure 3.16. The next three chapters discuss the application of statistical analysis to back-test results. Evidence-Based Technical Analysis: Applying the Scientific Method and Statistical Inference to Trading Signals by David R. Aronson Copyright © 2007 David R. Aronson CHAPTER 4 Statistical Analysis S tatistics is the science of data.1 In the late nineteenth century, renowned British scientist and author H.G.


pages: 317 words: 97,824

Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes by Maria Konnikova

Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, availability heuristic, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, dark matter, delayed gratification, fear of failure, feminist movement, functional fixedness, Lao Tzu, pre–internet, Richard Feynman, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Walter Mischel

It has contours that inevitably were seen before in earlier problems and will certainly repeat again, broader principles that can apply to other moments that may not even seem at first glance related. Less, in that it is stripped of any accompanying emotion and conjecture—all elements that are deemed extraneous to clarity of thought—and made as objective as a nonscientific reality could ever be. The result: the crime as an object of strict scientific inquiry, to be approached by the principles of the scientific method. Its servant: the human mind. What Is the Scientific Method of Thought? When we think of the scientific method, we tend to think of an experimenter in his laboratory, probably holding a test tube and wearing a white coat, who follows a series of steps that runs something like this: make some observations about a phenomenon; create a hypothesis to explain those observations; design an experiment to test the hypothesis; run the experiment; see if the results match your expectations; rework your hypothesis if you must; lather, rinse, and repeat.

For an integrated discussion of the mind, its evolution, and its natural abilities, there are few better sources than Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate and How the Mind Works. Chapter One: The Scientific Method of the Mind For the history of Sherlock Holmes and the background of the Conan Doyle stories and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s life, I’ve drawn heavily on several sources: Leslie Klinger’s The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes; Andrew Lycett’s The Man Who Created Sherlock Holmes; and John Lellenerg, Daniel Stashower, and Charles Foley’s Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters. While the latter two form a compendium of information on Conan Doyle’s life, the former is the single best source on the background for and various interpretations of the Holmes canon. For a taste of early psychology, I recommend William James’s classic text, The Principles of Psychology. For a discussion of the scientific method and its history, Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10013, USA Photograph credits: Page here (bottom left): United States Government here (bottom right): Wikimichels (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0) here (bottom left): Biophilia curiosus (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0) here (bottom right): Brandon Motz (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0) British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available on request from the British Library ISBN 978 0 85786 724 7 Export ISBN 978 0 85786 725 4 eISBN 978 0 85786 726 1 Typeset in Minion Pro Designed by Francesca Belanger To Geoff Choice of attention—to pay attention to this and ignore that—is to the inner life what choice of action is to the outer. In both cases man is responsible for his choice and must accept the consequences. As Ortega y Gasset said: “Tell me to what you pay attention, and I will tell you who you are.” —W. H. AUDEN CONTENTS Prelude PART ONE UNDERSTANDING (YOURSELF) CHAPTER ONE The Scientific Method of the Mind CHAPTER TWO The Brain Attic: What Is It and What’s in There? PART TWO FROM OBSERVATION TO IMAGINATION CHAPTER THREE Stocking the Brain Attic: The Power of Observation CHAPTER FOUR Exploring the Brain Attic: The Value of Creativity and Imagination PART THREE THE ART OF DEDUCTION CHAPTER FIVE Navigating the Brain Attic: Deduction from the Facts CHAPTER SIX Maintaining the Brain Attic: Education Never Stops PART FOUR THE SCIENCE AND ART OF SELF-KNOWLEDGE CHAPTER SEVEN The Dynamic Attic: Putting It All Together CHAPTER EIGHT We’re Only Human Postlude Acknowledgments Further Reading Index Prelude When I was little, my dad used to read us Sherlock Holmes stories before bed.


The Ecotechnic Future: Envisioning a Post-Peak World by John Michael Greer

back-to-the-land, Black Swan, clean water, Community Supported Agriculture, David Strachan, deindustrialization, European colonialism, Extropian, failed state, feminist movement, financial innovation, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, George Santayana, hydrogen economy, hygiene hypothesis, illegal immigration, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of agriculture, mass immigration, McMansion, oil shale / tar sands, peak oil, post-industrial society, Project for a New American Century, Ray Kurzweil, Stewart Brand, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, upwardly mobile, Whole Earth Catalog, Y2K

That leaves science as process, or the scientific method: that elegantly simple fusion of practical logic and applied mathematics that was birthed in the 17th century and gave birth in turn to the modern world. This is the dimension that needs saving ahead of anything else, since without it science cannot be done at all. Ironically, it is also the most vulnerable of the three, since few laypeople have any exposure to it. Lovelock’s dream of scientific Holy Writ simply reflects current reality: science as product has eclipsed science as process, so that people outside the scientific professions are taught to accept scientific doctrines on faith, rather than being encouraged to practice science themselves. If professional science faces extinction, there’s a real chance that it could take the scientific method with it to its grave.

As the age of cheap abundant energy comes to an end, and the reach of our sciences and technologies scales back to fit the realities of life in a world of hard ecological limits, the overblown ­fantasies 213 214 T he E cotechnic F u t u re that encouraged people to make science carry their ­cravings for transcendence are likely to give way. If the scientific method survives the social consequences of that loss of faith, it could still bring immense benefits to future societies. A useful comparison can be made between the scientific method and the greatest intellectual achievement of the civilization ancestral to ours, the logic devised by ancient Greek philosophers and systematized by Aristotle in the books of his Organon.5 By the time Roman civilization began to come apart, logic formed the core of the dominant intellectual movement of the ancient world: the schools of classical philosophy.

When modern Western cultures first began to take shape, in turn, Aristotle’s logic was still on hand and its influence pervaded the new ethos of science; it’s hardly an accident that Francis Bacon titled his groundbreaking ­essay on scientific method Novum Organum, “the New Organon.” The scientific method could be handed to the future in the same way by some newer Organon. (For that matter, a readable translation of Aristotle’s own Organon would be well worth passing to future societies, which will probably find logic just as useful as the founders of our civilization did.) Science could also be passed on Science in a more immediately useful form, though, by teaching the scientific method to people who have good reason to practice it straight through the twilight years of the industrial age. There are any number of ways that this could be done, but the one that likely offers the largest gains for the future draws on the ecological principles central to this book. appropriate ecology The challenge of saving science has been made much worse by the way scientific research has become intertwined with a sprawling and expensive system of institutions and technologies.


pages: 404 words: 134,430

Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time by Michael Shermer

Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, anesthesia awareness, anthropic principle, butterfly effect, cognitive dissonance, complexity theory, conceptual framework, correlation does not imply causation, cosmological principle, discovery of DNA, false memory syndrome, Gary Taubes, invention of the wheel, Isaac Newton, laissez-faire capitalism, Laplace demon, life extension, moral panic, Murray Gell-Mann, out of africa, Richard Feynman, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Silicon Valley, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions

Science and Skepticism Skepticism is a vital part of science, which I define as a set of methods designed to describe and interpret observed or inferred phenomena, past or present, and aimed at building a testable body of knowledge open to rejection or confirmation. In other words, science is a specific way of analyzing information with the goal of testing claims. Defining the scientific method is not so simple, as philosopher of science and Nobel laureate Sir Peter Medawar observed: "Ask a scientist what he conceives the scientific method to be and he will adopt an expression that is at once solemn and shifty-eyed: solemn, because he feels he ought to declare an opinion; shifty-eyed, because he is wondering how to conceal the fact that he has no opinion to declare" (1969, p. 11). A sizable literature exists on the scientific method, but there is little consensus among authors. This does not mean that scientists do not know what they are doing. Doing and explaining may be two different things. However, scientists agree that the following elements are involved in thinking scientifically: Induction: Forming a hypothesis by drawing general conclusions from existing data.

As Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington noted, "For the truth of the conclusions of science, observation is the supreme court of appeal" (1958, p. 9). Through the scientific method, we may form the following generalizations: Hypothesis: A testable statement accounting for a set of observations. Theory: A well-supported and well-tested hypothesis or set of hypotheses. Fact: A conclusion confirmed to such an extent that it would be reasonable to offer provisional agreement. A theory may be contrasted with a construct: a nontestable statement to account for a set of observations.The living organisms on Earth may be accounted for by the statement "God made them" or the statement "They evolved." The first statement is a construct, the second a theory. Most biologists would even call evolution a fact. Through the scientific method, we aim for objectivity: basing conclusions on external validation.

This second section begins by offering a very general definition: "Science is devoted to formulating and testing naturalistic explanations for natural phenomena. It is a process for systematically collecting and recording data about the physical world, then categorizing and studying the collected data in an effort to infer the principles of nature that best explain the observed phenomena." Next, the scientific method is discussed, beginning with the collection of "facts," the data of the world. "The grist for the mill of scientific inquiry is an ever increasing body of observations that give information about underlying 'facts.' Facts are the properties of natural phenomena. The scientific method involves the rigorous, methodical testing of principles that might present a naturalistic explanation for those facts" (p. 23). Based on well-established facts, testable hypotheses are formed. The process of testing "leads scientists to accord a special dignity to those hypotheses that accumulate substantial observational or experimental support."


pages: 467 words: 114,570

Pathfinders: The Golden Age of Arabic Science by Jim Al-Khalili

agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, Andrew Wiles, Book of Ingenious Devices, colonial rule, Commentariolus, Dmitri Mendeleev, Eratosthenes, Henri Poincaré, invention of the printing press, invention of the telescope, invention of the wheel, Isaac Newton, Islamic Golden Age, Johannes Kepler, Joseph Schumpeter, Kickstarter, liberation theology, retrograde motion, scientific worldview, Silicon Valley, Simon Singh, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, the scientific method, Thomas Malthus, trade route, William of Occam

At the opposite extreme, we can all agree that the alchemical magic and spells of the ancients are not part of science. The question is where we draw the line in the work of Jābir ibn Hayyān. This is where we appeal to the quite clear definition of the scientific method: it is the investigation of phenomena, acquiring of new knowledge, and correcting and integrating previous knowledge, based on the gathering of data through observation and measurement. Wherever it is being practised, that is where real science is being done. So was Jābir doing real science? Not quite. Some of the ingredients of the scientific method were not yet in place. But I am more than happy to refer to him as a scientist. What is more, he was the very first of the great scientists of the golden age, even though he did not live to see the creation of al-Ma’mūn’s great academy in Baghdad, the place where we see the golden age truly beginning.

This does not mean that my mind is closed to the possibility of something better coming along in the future to replace it; it is just that I think it highly unlikely that natural selection is wrong given the overwhelming evidence in its favour, both logical and empirical. As commonly defined, the scientific method is the approach to investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge, based on the gathering of data through observation and measurement, followed by the formulation and testing of hypotheses to explain the data. It is often still claimed that the modern scientific method was not established until the Renaissance by Francis Bacon in his work Novum Organum (1620) and by Descartes in his treatise Discours de la Méthode (1637). But there is no doubt that Ibn al-Haytham, along with al-Rāzi and al-Bīrūni, whom we shall meet in the next chapter, arrived there much earlier. For Ibn al-Haytham, the supremacy of the scientific method, valuing meticulous and painstaking experimentation and the careful recording of results, became central to his research.

How much science, for instance, did the Arabs actually know? How important were the contributions of Persian culture, Greek philosophy and Indian mathematics? How and why did scientific scholarship flourish under the patronage of certain rulers? And, possibly most interestingly, why and when did this golden era come to an end? As a practising scientist and a humanist, I believe that what is referred to as the ‘scientific method’, and the knowledge that humanity has gained from rational science, gives us far more than just ‘one way of viewing the world’. Progress, through reason and rationality, is by definition a good thing; knowledge and enlightenment are always better than ignorance. Growing up in Iraq, I learnt at school about such great thinkers as Ibn Sīna (Avicenna), al-Kindi and Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen), not as remote figures in history but as my intellectual ancestors.


pages: 198 words: 57,703

The World According to Physics by Jim Al-Khalili

accounting loophole / creative accounting, Albert Einstein, butterfly effect, clockwork universe, cognitive dissonance, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, dark matter, double helix, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, germ theory of disease, gravity well, Internet of things, Isaac Newton, Murray Gell-Mann, publish or perish, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, Stephen Hawking, supercomputer in your pocket, the scientific method

We strive for tenure and promotion, to compete for funding, meet project deadlines, ‘publish or perish’, and work hard to gain the respect of our peers and the approbation of our superiors. And yet, part of our training in the scientific method is to develop humility and honesty in research to enable us to act against our baser instincts. We learn not to be blinded by our desires or misled by our biases and vested interests. It is sometimes hard to see this if you focus on individuals—and there have been a number of well-documented examples of fraud and corruption in scientific research. But, as research communities, we have built-in corrective procedures, such as the peer review of scientific papers (and yes, I know this is not an ideal way to evaluate research), and we rigorously train young scientists in the ethical and responsible conduct of research. This means that the scientific method is, by its very nature, self-correcting. It demands repeatability and the continued honest and critical assessment of ideas.

My quest to find answers to these questions has led to a life spent studying physics. I have some answers to my questions now; others I am still searching for. Some people turn to religion or some other ideology or belief system to find answers to life’s mysteries. But for me, there is no substitute for the careful hypothesising, testing, and deducing of facts about the world that are the hallmark of the scientific method. The understanding we have gained through science—and physics in particular—of how the world is made up and how it works is, in my view, not just one of many equally valid ways of reaching the ‘truth’ about reality. It is the only reliable way we have. No doubt many people never fell in love with physics, as I did. Perhaps they were turned off from studying science because they decided, or perhaps were told by others, that it is a hard—or a geeky—subject.

But through rational analysis and careful observation—a painstaking process of testing and building up scientific evidence, rather than accepting stories and explanations with blind faith—we can now claim with a high degree of confidence that we know quite a lot about our universe. We can also now say with confidence that what mysteries remain need not be attributed to the supernatural. They are phenomena we have yet to understand—and which we hopefully will understand one day through reason, rational enquiry, and, yes … physics. Contrary to what some people might argue, the scientific method is not just another way of looking at the world, nor is it just another cultural ideology or belief system. It is the way we learn about nature through trial and error, through experimentation and observation, through being prepared to replace ideas that turn out to be wrong or incomplete with better ones, and through seeing patterns in nature and beauty in the mathematical equations that describe these patterns.


pages: 446 words: 578

The end of history and the last man by Francis Fukuyama

affirmative action, anti-communist, Ayatollah Khomeini, Berlin Wall, Bonfire of the Vanities, business cycle, centre right, cuban missile crisis, deindustrialization, Deng Xiaoping, Donald Trump, European colonialism, Exxon Valdez, F. W. de Klerk, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, full employment, Gini coefficient, Gunnar Myrdal, Hernando de Soto, income inequality, Isaac Newton, Joan Didion, joint-stock company, Joseph Schumpeter, kremlinology, land reform, liberal world order, liberation theology, life extension, linear programming, long peace, means of production, Mikhail Gorbachev, Nelson Mandela, New Journalism, nuclear winter, old-boy network, open economy, post-industrial society, RAND corporation, Ronald Reagan, Socratic dialogue, strikebreaker, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, zero-sum game

But a qualitative change occurred in the relationship of scientific knowledge to the historical process with the rise of modern natural science, that is, from the discovery of the scientific method by men like Descartes, Bacon, and Spinoza in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The possibility of mastering nature opened up by modern natural science was not a universal feature of all societies, but had to be invented at a certain point in history by certain Europeans. However, once having been invented, the scientific method became a universal possession of rational man, potentially accessible to everyone regardless of differences in culture or nationality. Discovery of the scientific method created a fundamental, non-cyclical division of historical time into periods before and after. And once discovered, the progressive and continuous unfolding of modern natural science has provided a directional Mechanism for explaining many aspects of subsequent historical development.

If, however, our assumptions about the interrelationships between modern natural science and modern social organization are correct, then such “mixed” outcomes would not be viable for long: for without the destruction or rejection of the scientific method itself, modern natural science would eventually reproduce itself and force the recreation of many aspects of the modern, rational social world as well. So let us consider the question: Is it possible for mankind as a whole to reverse the directionality of history through the rejection or loss of the scientific method? This problem can be broken down into two parts: first, can modern natural science be deliberately rejected by existing societies; and second, can a global cataclysm result in the involuntary loss of modern natural science? The deliberate rejection of technology and a rationalized society has been suggested by any number of groups in modern times, from the Romantics of the early nineteenth century, to the hippie movement of the 1960s, to Ayatollah Khomeini and Islamic fundamentalism.

And yet, people in all ages have taken the non-economic step of risking their lives and their livelihoods to fight for democratic rights. There is no democracy without democrats, that is, without a specifically Democratic Man that desires and shapes democracy even as he is shaped by it. A Universal History based on the progressive unfolding of modern natural science can, moreover, make sense only of the past four hundred or so years of human history, dating from the discovery of the scientific method in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Yet neither the scientific method nor the liberation of human desire that drove subsequent efforts to conquer nature and bend it to human purposes sprang ex nihilo from the pens of Descartes or Bacon. A fuller Universal History, even one that based itself in large measure on modern natural science, would have to understand the pre-modern origins of science, and of the desire that lay behind the desire of Economic Man.


pages: 476 words: 132,042

What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly

Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, Buckminster Fuller, c2.com, carbon-based life, Cass Sunstein, charter city, Clayton Christensen, cloud computing, computer vision, Danny Hillis, dematerialisation, demographic transition, double entry bookkeeping, Douglas Engelbart, en.wikipedia.org, Exxon Valdez, George Gilder, gravity well, hive mind, Howard Rheingold, interchangeable parts, invention of air conditioning, invention of writing, Isaac Newton, Jaron Lanier, Joan Didion, John Conway, John Markoff, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, knowledge economy, Lao Tzu, life extension, Louis Daguerre, Marshall McLuhan, megacity, meta analysis, meta-analysis, new economy, off grid, out of africa, performance metric, personalized medicine, phenotype, Picturephone, planetary scale, RAND corporation, random walk, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, refrigerator car, Richard Florida, Rubik’s Cube, Silicon Valley, silicon-based life, Skype, speech recognition, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Stewart Brand, Ted Kaczynski, the built environment, the scientific method, Thomas Malthus, Vernor Vinge, wealth creators, Whole Earth Catalog, Y2K

The second invention, writing, changed the speed of learning in humans by easing the transmission of ideas across territories and across time. Solutions could be archived and transmitted on durable paper. This vastly accelerated humanity’s evolution. The third transition is science, or rather, the structure of the scientific method. This is the invention that enables greater invention. Instead of depending on random hit or miss, or trial and error, the scientific method methodically explores the cosmos and systematically delivers novel ideas. It has accelerated discovery a thousandfold, if not a millionfold. The evolution of the scientific method is responsible for the exponential rise in progress we now enjoy. Without a doubt science has uncovered possibilities—and new ways of finding them—that neither biological nor cultural evolution could have invented alone. But at the same time, the technium has also accelerated the speed of human biological evolution.

Libraries, catalogs, cross-referencing, dictionaries, concordances, and the publishing of minute observations all blossomed, producing a new level of informational ubiquity—to the extent that today we don’t even notice that printing covers our visual landscape. The scientific method followed printing as a more refined way to deal with the exploding amount of information humans were generating. Via peer-reviewed correspondence and, later, journals, science offered a method of extracting reliable information, testing it, and then linking it to a growing body of other tested, interlinked facts. This newly ordered information—what we call science—could then be used to restructure the organization of matter. It birthed new materials, new processes for making stuff, new tools, and new perspectives. When the scientific method was applied to craft, we invented mass production of interchangeable parts, the assembly line, efficiency, and specialization.

By the 18th century, science had launched the Industrial Revolution, and progress was noticeable in the growing spread of cities, increasing longevity and literacy, and the acceleration of future discoveries. But there is a puzzle. The necessary ingredients of the scientific method are conceptual and fairly low tech: a way to record, catalog, and communicate written evidence and the time to experiment. Why didn’t the Greeks invent it? Or the Egyptians? A time traveler from today could journey back to that era and set up the scientific method in ancient Alexandria or Athens without much trouble. But would it catch on? Maybe not. Science is costly for an individual. Sharing results is of marginal benefit if you are chiefly seeking a better tool for today. Therefore, the benefits of science are neither apparent nor immediate for individuals.


pages: 294 words: 96,661

The Fourth Age: Smart Robots, Conscious Computers, and the Future of Humanity by Byron Reese

agricultural Revolution, AI winter, artificial general intelligence, basic income, Buckminster Fuller, business cycle, business process, Claude Shannon: information theory, clean water, cognitive bias, computer age, crowdsourcing, dark matter, Elon Musk, Eratosthenes, estate planning, financial independence, first square of the chessboard, first square of the chessboard / second half of the chessboard, full employment, Hans Rosling, income inequality, invention of agriculture, invention of movable type, invention of the printing press, invention of writing, Isaac Newton, Islamic Golden Age, James Hargreaves, job automation, Johannes Kepler, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, lateral thinking, life extension, Louis Pasteur, low skilled workers, manufacturing employment, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, Mary Lou Jepsen, Moravec's paradox, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, pattern recognition, profit motive, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, Rodney Brooks, Sam Altman, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Skype, spinning jenny, Stephen Hawking, Steve Wozniak, Steven Pinker, strong AI, technological singularity, telepresence, telepresence robot, The Future of Employment, the scientific method, Turing machine, Turing test, universal basic income, Von Neumann architecture, Wall-E, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, women in the workforce, working poor, Works Progress Administration, Y Combinator

In 1620, Sir Francis Bacon published a book called Novum Organum (The New Method), which is regarded as the beginning of what we now call the scientific method. Bacon emphasized the firsthand study of nature along with careful observations and the recording of data. From that data, and only from that data, should one draw conclusions. While this isn’t exactly how we think of the scientific method today, Bacon was important because he proposed a way to systematize the acquisition of knowledge through observation. That’s a big idea, a world-changing idea. For up until this time, progress came in fits and starts, as the wheel was both literally and metaphorically reinvented again and again. With the scientific method, the data and conclusions that one person collects can later be used by others to advance knowledge further.

Today’s scientific method is a set of agreed-upon techniques for acquiring knowledge, and then distributing that knowledge in such a way that others can corroborate and build on top of it. It applies only to objects or phenomena of which measurement can be made. Objective measurement is essential because it allows others to reproduce a researcher’s findings, or, as is often the case, to be unable to reproduce them. The scientific method required affordable printing to work properly, which is probably why it wasn’t developed earlier in human history, and why science advanced ever faster as the cost of printing fell. The ancients had many extraordinary technological breakthroughs, but since they lacked the technology and a process for publishing and disseminating information about them, they were quickly forgotten. One example is the Antikythera mechanism, a two-thousand-year-old Greek mechanical device (a computer really) that was used to forecast astronomical positions and calculate when eclipses would occur.

That’s how technology advances: by making incremental improvements on work done by others, a process Isaac Newton described as seeing further by standing on the shoulders of giants. In 1687, Newton, on whose shoulders we still stand, published Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, which describes the laws of motion and gravitation. In just a few formulas, Newton showed that even the planets themselves obey straightforward, mechanistic laws. It would be an oversimplification to give all the credit for our rapid technological advance to the scientific method. That was simply the last piece of a complex puzzle. As I’ve already pointed out, we had to have, among other things, imagination, a sense of time, and writing. In addition, we needed much more; to that list we might well add a low-cost way to distribute knowledge, widespread literacy, the rule of law, nonconfiscatory taxation, individual liberty, and a culture that promoted risk taking.


pages: 416 words: 106,582

This Will Make You Smarter: 150 New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking by John Brockman

23andMe, Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, banking crisis, Barry Marshall: ulcers, Benoit Mandelbrot, Berlin Wall, biofilm, Black Swan, butterfly effect, Cass Sunstein, cloud computing, congestion charging, correlation does not imply causation, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, dark matter, data acquisition, David Brooks, delayed gratification, Emanuel Derman, epigenetics, Exxon Valdez, Flash crash, Flynn Effect, hive mind, impulse control, information retrieval, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Isaac Newton, Jaron Lanier, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, lifelogging, mandelbrot fractal, market design, Mars Rover, Marshall McLuhan, microbiome, Murray Gell-Mann, Nicholas Carr, open economy, Pierre-Simon Laplace, place-making, placebo effect, pre–internet, QWERTY keyboard, random walk, randomized controlled trial, rent control, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, Richard Thaler, Satyajit Das, Schrödinger's Cat, security theater, selection bias, Silicon Valley, Stanford marshmallow experiment, stem cell, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, the scientific method, Thorstein Veblen, Turing complete, Turing machine, twin studies, Vilfredo Pareto, Walter Mischel, Whole Earth Catalog, WikiLeaks, zero-sum game

The people in this book lead some of the hottest fields; in these pages they are just giving you little wisps of what they are working on. But I hope you’ll be struck not only by how freewheeling they are willing to be, but also by the undertone of modesty. Several of the essays in this book emphasize that we see the world in deeply imperfect ways, and that our knowledge is partial. They have respect for the scientific method and the group enterprise precisely because the stock of our own individual reason is small. Amid all the charms to follow, that mixture of humility and daring is the most unusual and important. Preface: The Edge Question JOHN BROCKMAN Publisher and editor, Edge In 1981 I founded the Reality Club. Through 1996, the club held its meetings in Chinese restaurants, artists’ lofts, the boardrooms of investment-banking firms, ballrooms, museums, and living rooms, among other venues.

The Controlled Experiment Timo Hannay Managing director, Digital Science, Macmillan Publishers Ltd. The scientific concept that most people would do well to understand and exploit is the one that almost defines science itself: the controlled experiment. When they are required to make a decision, the instinctive response of most nonscientists is to introspect, or perhaps call a meeting. The scientific method dictates that wherever possible we should instead conduct a suitable controlled experiment. The superiority of the latter approach is demonstrated not only by the fact that science has uncovered so much about the world but also, and even more powerfully, by the fact that such a lot of it—the Copernican Principle, evolution by natural selection, general relativity, quantum mechanics—is so mind-bendingly counterintuitive.

It becomes a matter of failing forward. Science itself is learning how to better exploit negative results. Due to the problems of costly distribution, most negative results have not been shared, thus limiting their potential to speed learning for others. But increasingly published negative results (which include experiments that succeed in showing no effects) are becoming another essential tool in the scientific method. Wrapped up in the idea of embracing failure is the related notion of breaking things to make them better—particularly complex things. Often the only way to improve a complex system is to probe its limits by forcing it to fail in various ways. Software, among the most complex things we make, is usually tested for quality by employing engineers to systematically find ways to crash it.


pages: 733 words: 179,391

Adaptive Markets: Financial Evolution at the Speed of Thought by Andrew W. Lo

"Robert Solow", Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, algorithmic trading, Andrei Shleifer, Arthur Eddington, Asian financial crisis, asset allocation, asset-backed security, backtesting, bank run, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, Bernie Madoff, bitcoin, Bonfire of the Vanities, bonus culture, break the buck, Brownian motion, business cycle, business process, butterfly effect, buy and hold, capital asset pricing model, Captain Sullenberger Hudson, Carmen Reinhart, collapse of Lehman Brothers, collateralized debt obligation, commoditize, computerized trading, corporate governance, creative destruction, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, cryptocurrency, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, delayed gratification, Diane Coyle, diversification, diversified portfolio, double helix, easy for humans, difficult for computers, Ernest Rutherford, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, experimental economics, experimental subject, Fall of the Berlin Wall, financial deregulation, financial innovation, financial intermediation, fixed income, Flash crash, Fractional reserve banking, framing effect, Gordon Gekko, greed is good, Hans Rosling, Henri Poincaré, high net worth, housing crisis, incomplete markets, index fund, interest rate derivative, invention of the telegraph, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, job satisfaction, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Meriwether, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Rogoff, London Interbank Offered Rate, Long Term Capital Management, longitudinal study, loss aversion, Louis Pasteur, mandelbrot fractal, margin call, Mark Zuckerberg, market fundamentalism, martingale, merger arbitrage, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Milgram experiment, money market fund, moral hazard, Myron Scholes, Nick Leeson, old-boy network, out of africa, p-value, paper trading, passive investing, Paul Lévy, Paul Samuelson, Ponzi scheme, predatory finance, prediction markets, price discovery process, profit maximization, profit motive, quantitative hedge fund, quantitative trading / quantitative finance, RAND corporation, random walk, randomized controlled trial, Renaissance Technologies, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, risk tolerance, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Sam Peltzman, Shai Danziger, short selling, sovereign wealth fund, Stanford marshmallow experiment, Stanford prison experiment, statistical arbitrage, Steven Pinker, stochastic process, stocks for the long run, survivorship bias, Thales and the olive presses, The Great Moderation, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, theory of mind, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, Tobin tax, too big to fail, transaction costs, Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, ultimatum game, Upton Sinclair, US Airways Flight 1549, Walter Mischel, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, WikiLeaks, Yogi Berra, zero-sum game

People with bad narratives need a superior counternarrative to become better predictors. This solution has two parts: first, we must find a superior narrative; and second, we need to adopt it. Fortunately, we have an excellent technique to find superior narratives at hand: the scientific method. However, there’s no single cut-and-dried recipe for the scientific method. A field biologist would find the methods of the macroeconomist bizarre, and vice versa—in fact, these differences drive much of the infighting between the sciences, and through the hallowed halls of academia. Nevertheless, for most forms of scientific inquiry, we can break the scientific method down into four phases. First, we gather the empirical evidence. (This is especially difficult in economics, which historically has had either too little data, as in macroeconomics, or overwhelming oceans of data, as in financial economics.)

Third, we make predictions with this hypothesis, which in the fourth and final phase are tested experimentally. Unlike other ways of determining good narratives, for example, in a court of law, it’s very important in the scientific method that the hypothesis can be visibly proved wrong. And precisely because of the competitive nature of academic science, many people will try to do just that. If the hypothesis holds up under this onslaught, repeatedly verified in study after study, and continues to make good predictions, we can move the hypothesis from the status of a candidate narrative to that of a theory, which is as close as the scientific method will allow us to get to a fact, otherwise known as a good narrative. Once we come up with a good narrative, it still takes a certain degree of courage to adopt it. Like Neo in the science-fiction movie The Matrix—who’s offered a choice between the blue pill (which will keep him in his fantasy world) and the red pill (which will awaken him to reality)—we have to decide to take the red pill before we can truly break free of our cherished beliefs, some of which we’ve held for decades.

Economics has many 24 • Chapter 1 intricate theories, as complex as any within physics, but we can hardly put an entire economy in a laboratory and conduct experiments on it. As a result, economists have to rely on complicated statistical tests, looking for clear theoretical signals amidst the noise of reality, and we’re often frustrated in our attempts. But sometimes, we get lucky and come across “natural experiments” in the raw data, where just one factor has changed in exactly the spot we happen to be interested in. Then we can use the scientific method directly, by comparing the baseline situation, the control group, versus the changed situation, the experimental group. Fama and company found such a natural experiment in the stock market, and it’s a particularly elegant one. FFJR looked at the impact of a stock split on the price of the stock. A two-for-one stock split gives shareholders two new shares of stock in exchange for one old share.


The Data Revolution: Big Data, Open Data, Data Infrastructures and Their Consequences by Rob Kitchin

Bayesian statistics, business intelligence, business process, cellular automata, Celtic Tiger, cloud computing, collateralized debt obligation, conceptual framework, congestion charging, corporate governance, correlation does not imply causation, crowdsourcing, discrete time, disruptive innovation, George Gilder, Google Earth, Infrastructure as a Service, Internet Archive, Internet of things, invisible hand, knowledge economy, late capitalism, lifelogging, linked data, longitudinal study, Masdar, means of production, Nate Silver, natural language processing, openstreetmap, pattern recognition, platform as a service, recommendation engine, RFID, semantic web, sentiment analysis, slashdot, smart cities, Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia, smart grid, smart meter, software as a service, statistical model, supply-chain management, the scientific method, The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, transaction costs

In some academic domains there is little evidence of paradigms operating, notably in many social sciences, such as sociology and human geography where there is a diverse set of philosophical approaches employed (e.g., positivism, phenomenology, structuralism, poststructuralism, etc.), with these various theoretical camps providing competing views on how best to make sense of the world. In other domains, such as the sciences, there is more unity around a scientific method, underpinned by hypothesis testing to verify or falsify theories. That is not to say, however, that how the scientific method is conceived and deployed does not periodically shift, or that there are few competing theories with respect to explaining particular phenomena (theories about phenomena can differ while sharing the same wider approach to scientific endeavour). Jim Gray, for example (as detailed in Hey et al. 2009), charts the evolution of science through four paradigms, the fourth of which he argues is in its infancy but is the result of the unfolding data revolution (see Table 8.1).

Such data-ist claims underpin much of the hype about big data within the business community, and they are generally expressed through an empiricist framing – that with enough volume, data can speak for themselves. Such empiricism is best embodied in the claims of Chris Anderson (2008), former editor-in-chief at Wired magazine, whose rallying call that big data signal ‘the end of theory’ struck a chord with many commentators. In a provocative piece, Anderson argues that ‘the data deluge makes the scientific method obsolete’; that the patterns and relationships contained within big data inherently produce meaningful and insightful knowledge about social, political and economic processes and complex phenomena. He argues: There is now a better way. Petabytes allow us to say: ‘Correlation is enough.’ We can stop looking for models. We can analyze the data without hypotheses about what it might show. We can throw the numbers into the biggest computing clusters the world has ever seen and let statistical algorithms find patterns where science cannot...

Likewise, Lazer et al. (2009: 10–11) call for collaboration between ‘computationally literate social scientists and socially literate computer scientists’ (2009: 10–11), and with respect to business, Minelli et al. (2013) contend that data science teams should be coupled with business process experts to leverage appropriate insights (see also Table 9.1). Data-driven science Rather than being rooted in empiricism, data-driven science seeks to hold to the tenets of the scientific method, but is more open to using a hybrid combination of abductive, inductive and deductive approaches to advance the understanding of a phenomenon. It differs from the traditional, experimental deductive design in that it seeks to generate hypotheses and insights ‘born from the data’ rather than ‘born from the theory’ (Kelling et al. 2009: 613). In other words, it seeks to incorporate a mode of induction into the research design, though explanation through induction is not the intended end point (as with empiricist approaches).


pages: 405 words: 117,219

In Our Own Image: Savior or Destroyer? The History and Future of Artificial Intelligence by George Zarkadakis

3D printing, Ada Lovelace, agricultural Revolution, Airbnb, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, animal electricity, anthropic principle, Asperger Syndrome, autonomous vehicles, barriers to entry, battle of ideas, Berlin Wall, bioinformatics, British Empire, business process, carbon-based life, cellular automata, Claude Shannon: information theory, combinatorial explosion, complexity theory, continuous integration, Conway's Game of Life, cosmological principle, dark matter, dematerialisation, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, Edward Snowden, epigenetics, Flash crash, Google Glasses, Gödel, Escher, Bach, income inequality, index card, industrial robot, Internet of things, invention of agriculture, invention of the steam engine, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jacquard loom, Jacques de Vaucanson, James Watt: steam engine, job automation, John von Neumann, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, Kickstarter, liberal capitalism, lifelogging, millennium bug, Moravec's paradox, natural language processing, Norbert Wiener, off grid, On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, packet switching, pattern recognition, Paul Erdős, post-industrial society, prediction markets, Ray Kurzweil, Rodney Brooks, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, social intelligence, speech recognition, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, strong AI, technological singularity, The Coming Technological Singularity, The Future of Employment, the scientific method, theory of mind, Turing complete, Turing machine, Turing test, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, Vernor Vinge, Von Neumann architecture, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, Y2K

The laws of nature With Galileo Galilei (1564–1642) in Italy and Francis Bacon (1561–1626) in England, Europe was ushered into the glorious era of scientific discovery by the late sixteenth century. Empiricism and the scientific method took over from mysticism. It was a historical watershed without precedence. Our species has been making observations of the natural world since prehistoric times. Effects were linked to causes. Causality in nature was evident, but not understood. Well into the early seventeenth century, natural phenomena were still attributed by many thinking people to supernatural causes. Divine providence was assumed to pull invisible strings behind every manifestation of nature. The scientific method provided an alternative, revolutionary way of understanding causality in nature. Instead of simply believing, one was now compelled to justify that belief by experimentation.

Although the scientists of HBP, as well as the politicians who fund them, seem to be convinced that their approach is infallible, they are up against a deep philosophical problem regarding the mind, which is known, rather prosaically, as ‘the hard problem’. Australian philosopher David Chalmers has defined the hard problem of consciousness by distinguishing it from ‘easier’ problems that could be explained by examining brain functions: for example, memory, attention or language. These ‘easier’ problems are by no means easy. The HBP project is going to keep itself very busy trying to solve them by applying the scientific method. But Chalmers made the point that there is a certain problem that cannot be explained by a purely materialistic view of the brain. This is the problem of subjective experience, sometimes called qualia. Take, for instance, the ‘redness’ of red wine. The colour we call ‘red’ is an electromagnetic wave radiation with a wavelength between 620 and 740 nanometres. Although science can measure this wavelength with precision it has nothing to say about its ‘redness’, or why this particular wavelength appears to most of us to have a subjective quality we call ‘red’.

Qualia are thus beyond the scope of science and, according to Chalmers, that is the ‘hard problem’ of consciousness. At the root of the hard problem that Chalmers, Nagel and others describe lies the Cartesian concept of subjectivity and its clash with the objective methods of reductionist science. Ever since Descartes separated the world of knowledge into two magisteria11 – science and religion – science evolved and triumphed by following a specific methodology called the scientific method, which we touched upon earlier. This method uses experiment as its main tool in posing questions and discovering truths about the material world. Experiments are objective, at least in principle. As we have seen, they are repeatable and can be verified by many independent experimenters. Their outcomes are therefore independent of their observers.12 To achieve this, experiments break down complex natural phenomena into smaller parts, on the assumption that if one is able to understand the parts one can also understand the whole, a process called reductionism.


pages: 278 words: 83,468

The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries

3D printing, barriers to entry, call centre, Clayton Christensen, clean water, cloud computing, commoditize, Computer Numeric Control, continuous integration, corporate governance, disruptive innovation, experimental subject, Frederick Winslow Taylor, Lean Startup, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Metcalfe’s law, minimum viable product, Mitch Kapor, Network effects, payday loans, Peter Thiel, pets.com, Ponzi scheme, pull request, risk tolerance, selection bias, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, six sigma, skunkworks, stealth mode startup, Steve Jobs, the scientific method, Toyota Production System, transaction costs

I call this the “just do it” school of entrepreneurship after Nike’s famous slogan.1 Unfortunately, if the plan is to see what happens, a team is guaranteed to succeed—at seeing what happens—but won’t necessarily gain validated learning. This is one of the most important lessons of the scientific method: if you cannot fail, you cannot learn. FROM ALCHEMY TO SCIENCE The Lean Startup methodology reconceives a startup’s efforts as experiments that test its strategy to see which parts are brilliant and which are crazy. A true experiment follows the scientific method. It begins with a clear hypothesis that makes predictions about what is supposed to happen. It then tests those predictions empirically. Just as scientific experimentation is informed by theory, startup experimentation is guided by the startup’s vision. The goal of every startup experiment is to discover how to build a sustainable business around that vision.

In the modern economy, almost any product that can be imagined can be built. The more pertinent questions are “Should this product be built?” and “Can we build a sustainable business around this set of products and services?” To answer those questions, we need a method for systematically breaking down a business plan into its component parts and testing each part empirically. In other words, we need the scientific method. In the Lean Startup model, every product, every feature, every marketing campaign—everything a startup does—is understood to be an experiment designed to achieve validated learning. This experimental approach works across industries and sectors, as we’ll see in Chapter 4. 4 EXPERIMENT I come across many startups that are struggling to answer the following questions: Which customer opinions should we listen to, if any?

We will walk through a complete turn of the Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop, discussing each of the components in detail. The purpose of Part One was to explore the importance of learning as the measure of progress for a startup. As I hope is evident by now, by focusing our energies on validated learning, we can avoid much of the waste that plagues startups today. As in lean manufacturing, learning where and when to invest energy results in saving time and money. To apply the scientific method to a startup, we need to identify which hypotheses to test. I call the riskiest elements of a startup’s plan, the parts on which everything depends, leap-of-faith assumptions. The two most important assumptions are the value hypothesis and the growth hypothesis. These give rise to tuning variables that control a startup’s engine of growth. Each iteration of a startup is an attempt to rev this engine to see if it will turn.


pages: 492 words: 118,882

The Blockchain Alternative: Rethinking Macroeconomic Policy and Economic Theory by Kariappa Bheemaiah

accounting loophole / creative accounting, Ada Lovelace, Airbnb, algorithmic trading, asset allocation, autonomous vehicles, balance sheet recession, bank run, banks create money, Basel III, basic income, Ben Bernanke: helicopter money, bitcoin, blockchain, Bretton Woods, business cycle, business process, call centre, capital controls, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, cashless society, cellular automata, central bank independence, Claude Shannon: information theory, cloud computing, cognitive dissonance, collateralized debt obligation, commoditize, complexity theory, constrained optimization, corporate governance, creative destruction, credit crunch, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, David Graeber, deskilling, Diane Coyle, discrete time, disruptive innovation, distributed ledger, diversification, double entry bookkeeping, Ethereum, ethereum blockchain, fiat currency, financial innovation, financial intermediation, Flash crash, floating exchange rates, Fractional reserve banking, full employment, George Akerlof, illegal immigration, income inequality, income per capita, inflation targeting, information asymmetry, interest rate derivative, inventory management, invisible hand, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, John von Neumann, joint-stock company, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Arrow, Kenneth Rogoff, Kevin Kelly, knowledge economy, large denomination, liquidity trap, London Whale, low skilled workers, M-Pesa, Marc Andreessen, market bubble, market fundamentalism, Mexican peso crisis / tequila crisis, MITM: man-in-the-middle, money market fund, money: store of value / unit of account / medium of exchange, mortgage debt, natural language processing, Network effects, new economy, Nikolai Kondratiev, offshore financial centre, packet switching, Pareto efficiency, pattern recognition, peer-to-peer lending, Ponzi scheme, precariat, pre–internet, price mechanism, price stability, private sector deleveraging, profit maximization, QR code, quantitative easing, quantitative trading / quantitative finance, Ray Kurzweil, Real Time Gross Settlement, rent control, rent-seeking, Satoshi Nakamoto, Satyajit Das, savings glut, seigniorage, Silicon Valley, Skype, smart contracts, software as a service, software is eating the world, speech recognition, statistical model, Stephen Hawking, supply-chain management, technology bubble, The Chicago School, The Future of Employment, The Great Moderation, the market place, The Nature of the Firm, the payments system, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, too big to fail, trade liberalization, transaction costs, Turing machine, Turing test, universal basic income, Von Neumann architecture, Washington Consensus

The brain is constantly updating its cognitive map, or belief system, based on new information. As new ideas take hold, older beliefs are upgraded or discarded. Economics maybe an old discipline of study, but science shows us that we can still teach an old dog new tricks. Economic Entropy versus Economic Equilibrium Technology is generally studied as per the scientific method since science is the creative engine of technology. The scientific method was best described by the philosopher Karl Popper, who stated that any science should be scrutinized by decisive experimentation to determine a scientific law. As per this method, also known as Popperian falsifiability, the empirical truth of any scientific law cannot be verified beyond a shadow of a doubt and cannot be known with absolute certainty. They can only be falsified by testing - Even a single failed test is enough to falsify and no number of conforming instances is sufficient to verify.

What is more surprising is the fact that this tendency to separate bitcoin from blockchain is a repeat of what happened when the Internet first came into existence. As banks try to harness the power of the blockchain by creating private blockchains, we find ourselves witnessing the same execution of events as when private companies tried to create intranets instead of simply using the Internet. Whether you are a fan of the bitcoin or the blockchain or both, having a nuanced or biased view on the subject needs to be developed using the scientific method. This is a new technology that has been in existence for less than a decade. But what it represents is a change in our perception of trust along with a change in the organization of authority from traditional hierarchical systems to network-centric flat systems. It allows us to redefine how money and currency derive their actual value and forces us to think about the rebalancing of power on a global socioeconomic scale.

It is being done in order to look at the conversation from a much-needed different point of view. This is because, first, we already have TBTF. So from an investigative perspective, it makes sense to explore the other extreme. Second, although Kashkari pushes for ending TBTF,14 his arguments are grounded in legislation and are challenged by others who base their statements on past laurels. Hence, Kashkari’s hypotheses need to be tested via the scientific method. Third, as it will be shown in the next sections of this chapter, the fragmentation is already underway, with and without the blessings of regulators. With these tasks in hindsight, we can now go about the challenge of understanding the fragmenting of an industry. To help us understand whether there are structural benefits to the fragmentation, we will need to see if this has occurred in the past in other sectors, as this provides us with some frame of reference.


pages: 270 words: 71,659

The Right Side of History by Ben Shapiro

Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Filter Bubble, illegal immigration, income inequality, Internet Archive, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, labor-force participation, longitudinal study, means of production, Peace of Westphalia, Ronald Reagan, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas L Friedman, white picket fence, women in the workforce

Pythagoras’s philosophy led him to mathematics, an attempt to uncover the supposedly perfect harmony of the cosmos. And that led him to the Pythagorean theorem, among other discoveries.15 Plato and Aristotle both believed in the notion of objective truth as well. But Plato and Aristotle disagreed with regard to what constituted objective truth: the Forms, or knowledge of the physical world. In the end, this disagreement would wind up creating the basis for the scientific method: deduction would present human beings with a scientific hypothesis; facts presented by empirical evidence would become the basis for judging that theory; the hypothesis would then be accepted or rejected or changed. Aristotle’s establishment of logical rigor with regard to empirical observation would provide the basis for all further scientific thought. THE CREATION OF REASON-BASED GOVERNMENT Finally, the Greeks gave us the roots of democracy.

As theology professor Ernest Fortin suggests, Aquinas believes that “between the truths of Revelation and the knowledge acquired by the sole use of reason and experience there is a distinction but there can be no fundamental disagreement.”23 Aquinas’s faith in human reason—and his faith that human reason would not be able to tear down the revelation of God—led to a consonance that would blossom into the scientific revolution. The development of Western science was rooted in the notion that man’s task was to celebrate God through knowledge of His creation. Contrary to the propaganda of a postmodern atheist movement, nearly every great scientist up until the age of Darwinism was religious. The Scholastic movement produced the earliest roots of the scientific method, all the way up through the discovery by Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543) of a heliocentric solar system.24 Perhaps the greatest exponent of the Scholastic method was Roger Bacon (1219–1292), a Franciscan friar who devoted himself to understanding the natural world. Like Aquinas, Bacon was a devoted Aristotelian who suggested gathering facts before coming to conclusions. He wrote fulsomely on optics, alchemy, and astronomy; he suggested revising the Julian calendar, which he found obtuse; he even set down the first European formula for gunpowder.

Bacon wanted to turn the pursuit of knowledge toward “the benefit and use of men . . . for the glory of the Creator and the relief of man’s estate.”9 In tones that remind us of those of today’s modern social scientists, Bacon also suggested the use of science to determine the best mode of governance and ethics.10 Unlike modern social scientists, however, Bacon took his cue for governance and ethics from the Judeo-Christian tradition. While Bacon upheld the importance of the scientific method and a belief in the pure value of innovation to better the material lives of human beings, Bacon was no atheist. He derided the notion of a Godless universe in harsh terms, suggesting that while “a little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism, depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion.”11 Bacon wrote this prayer in Novum Organum: “let none be alarmed at the objection of the arts and sciences becoming depraved to malevolent or luxurious purposes and the like, for the same can be said of every worldly good: talent, courage, strength, beauty, riches, light itself, and the rest.


Science...For Her! by Megan Amram

Albert Einstein, blood diamonds, butterfly effect, crowdsourcing, dark matter, Dmitri Mendeleev, double helix, Google Glasses, Isaac Newton, Kickstarter, Mark Zuckerberg, pez dispenser, Schrödinger's Cat, Steve Jobs, Ted Kaczynski, the scientific method, Wall-E, wikimedia commons

More like he’s “below” it—six feet below it! * * * WHITNEY HOUSTON . . . DIES! This “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” singer should have been singing “I Wanna Die in Some Tubby!” Because she died in a bathtub! The Scientific Method * * * If you’re looking for a fun way to practice your chemistry, you’ve come on the right face! Use that one with boys! :) The only way to really grasp chemistry is to get hands-on. You’re not going to learn it just by reading about it or drinking a bottle of wine and kissing your gymnastics coach in the locker room. The scientific method is a process by which scientists try to test hypotheses. I’ve adapted some classic experiments to better fit a woman’s lifestyle. Classic Science Experiments . . . for Her! * * * If you need to make chemistry more fun than I’ve already made it (just add Cosmos!

• Healthy Cookin’ • Paula Deen’s Health-Food Cookbook • Household Chemicals • Household-Chemical Cocktails • Acids & Bases & Tigers & Lions, Oh My! • Alcohols • Bad Adjectives to Use at a Wine Tasting • The Science of Chemistry ;) • Sexiest Molecules • Who Wore It Best? Molecules Edition • The Periodic Table of the Elements • Periodic Table Settings • The Period! Ick! Table • Carb-On Feel the Noise! • The Scientific Method • Classic Science Experiments . . . for Her! • Science . . . for Her . . . for Lesbos! • Quiz: Why Did You Decide to Become a Lesbian? • Bondage!!!! ;) • Gases, Gases, Everywhere, but Not a Drop to Stink! • Nuclear Chemistry • Most Embarrassing Moments: Meltdown Edition • Air Pollution • Most Romantic Places to See Smog • Famous Chemists • Marie Curie vs. Marie Claire Physics “Let’s Get Physics, Y’all!”

Love you, girls! Chemistry Introduction Food & Cooking—Yum Yum! Healthy Cookin’ Paula Deen’s Health-Food Cookbook A Lady on the Streets, but a Scientist Also on the Streets! Household Chemicals Acids & Bases & Tigers & Lions, Oh My! Alcohols The Science of Chemistry ;) Sexiest Molecules Who Wore It Best? The Periodic Table of the Elements The Period! Ick! Table Carb-On Feel the Noise! The Scientific Method Science . . . for Her . . . for Lesbos! Quiz: Why Did You Decide to Become a Lesbian? Bondage!!!! ;) Gases, Gases, Everywhere, but Not a Drop to Stink! Nuclear Chemistry Air Pollution Famous Chemists Chemistry Recap Introduction You’re back! OMG I’ve missed you so much, baby girl!!! I know we promised to keep in touch over the chapter break, I’m honestly so sorry I didn’t write or call or anything.


pages: 281 words: 79,958

Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives by Michael Specter

23andMe, agricultural Revolution, Anne Wojcicki, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Asilomar, carbon footprint, Cass Sunstein, clean water, Drosophila, food miles, invention of gunpowder, out of africa, personalized medicine, placebo effect, profit motive, randomized controlled trial, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, Ronald Reagan, Simon Singh, Skype, stem cell, Ted Kaczynski, the scientific method, Thomas Malthus, twin studies, Upton Sinclair, X Prize

INTRODUCTION Ten years ago, while walking through Harvard Yard, I saw a student wearing a button that said “Progressives against Scientism.” I had no idea what that meant, so I asked him. Sci entism, he explained, is the misguided belief that scientists can solve problems that nature can’t. He reeled off a series of technologies that demonstrated the destructiveness of what he called the “scientific method approach” to life: genetically modified foods, dams, nuclear power plants, and pharmaceuticals all made the list. We talked for a few minutes, then I thanked him and walked away. I didn’t understand how science might be responsible for the many scars humanity has inflicted upon the world, but students have odd intellectual infatuations, and I let it slip from my mind. Over the next few years, while traveling in America and abroad, I kept running into different versions of that student, people who were convinced that, largely in the name of science, we had trespassed on nature’s ground.

I kept putting it off, though. Some of the delay was due simply to procrastination. But there was another, more important reason for my hesitation: I had assumed these nagging glimpses of irrationality were aberrations, tiny pockets of doubt. Authority may be flawed, and science often fails to fulfill its promises. Nonetheless, I was convinced that people would come around to realizing that the “scientific method approach”—the disciplined and dispassionate search for knowledge—has been the crowning intellectual achievement of humanity. I guess I was in my own kind of denial, because even as things got worse I kept assuring myself that reason would prevail and a book like this would not be necessary. Finally, a couple of years ago, I was invited to dinner at the home of a prominent, well-read, and worldly woman.

Oprah Winfrey, for one, has often provided a forum for McCarthy on her show, but she intends to do more: in early 2009, Winfrey’s production company announced that it had hired McCarthy to host a syndicated talk show and write a blog, providing two new platforms from which she can preach her message of scientific illiteracy and fear. This antipathy toward the ideas of progress and scientific discovery represents a fundamental shift in the way we approach the world in the twenty-first century. More than at any time since Francis Bacon invented what we have come to regard as the scientific method (and Galileo began to put it to use), Americans fear science at least as fully as we embrace it. It is a sentiment that has turned our electrifying age of biological adventure into one of doubt and denial. There have always been people who are afraid of the future, of course—Luddites, ignorant of the possibilities of life on this planet and determined to remain that way. No amount of data will convince climate denialists that humans have caused the rapid, devastating warming of the earth.


pages: 297 words: 83,651

The Twittering Machine by Richard Seymour

4chan, anti-communist, augmented reality, Bernie Sanders, Cal Newport, Cass Sunstein, Chelsea Manning, citizen journalism, colonial rule, correlation does not imply causation, credit crunch, crowdsourcing, don't be evil, Donald Trump, Elon Musk, Erik Brynjolfsson, Filter Bubble, Google Chrome, Google Earth, hive mind, informal economy, Internet of things, invention of movable type, invention of writing, Jaron Lanier, Jony Ive, Kevin Kelly, knowledge economy, late capitalism, liberal capitalism, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Mohammed Bouazizi, moral panic, move fast and break things, move fast and break things, Network effects, new economy, packet switching, patent troll, Philip Mirowski, post scarcity, post-industrial society, RAND corporation, Rat Park, rent-seeking, replication crisis, sentiment analysis, Shoshana Zuboff, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, smart cities, Snapchat, Steve Jobs, Stewart Brand, Stuxnet, TaskRabbit, technoutopianism, the scientific method, Tim Cook: Apple, undersea cable, upwardly mobile, white flight, Whole Earth Catalog, WikiLeaks

It doesn’t particularly matter to the platforms what the frenzy is about: the point is to generate data, one of the most profitable raw materials yet discovered. As in the financial markets, volatility adds value. The more chaos, the better. IV. From print capitalism to platform capitalism, the apostles of ‘big data’ see in this story nothing but human progress. The triumph of data heralds the end of ideology, the end of theory and even the end of the scientific method, according to former editor-in-chief of Wired, Chris Anderson.9 From now on, they say, rather than conducting experiments or generating theories to understand our world, we can learn everything from mammoth data-sets. For those in need of a progressive-sounding pitch, the advantage of making markets massively more legible is that it spells an end to market mysticism. We no longer have to believe, as neo-liberal economist Friedrich Hayek did, that only markets left to their own devices could really know what people want.10 Now the data platforms know us better than we know ourselves, and they can help companies shape and create markets in real time.

By turning company processes into readable electronic text, it would replace unscientific management techniques, hunches and intuitions with the brute force of facts. Google boss Eric Schmidt, exulting in the revolutionary potential of data, described it as ‘so powerful that nation-states will fight over how much data matters’.55 In an excitable piece for Wired, former editor Chris Anderson enthused that such a scale of data collection would soon render theory and even the scientific method obsolete: ‘with enough data, the numbers speak for themselves’.56 The bonus of big data is omniscience: ‘a full digital copy of our physical universe’, as scientists Carlo Ratti and Dirk Helbing put it.57 We will be able to see all of existence as a stream of electronic writing. And for a while, it was even possible to believe this, if one set aside just how much of the physical universe is unknown and potentially unknowable.

Google, unwilling to concede that its own work implied a theory, simply developed a model for extrapolating from correlations established by the sheer bulk of data. They never tried to work out what the causal relationship was between search terms and the outbreak of flu, because that was a theoretical problem. Ironically, because they were only interested in what worked, their method stopped working. Big data is no substitute for the scientific method. Far from having the magical cure, the pioneers of data extraction and analysis have contributed to today’s degraded ecologies of information and research. VI. If our existing language could adequately account for the rapid degradation of information, we might know what a solution could look like. In shooting the messenger, however, ‘post-truth’ theorists are depriving themselves of some of the ways in which they could make sense of this situation.


pages: 357 words: 110,072

Trick or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts About Alternative Medicine by Edzard Ernst, Simon Singh

animal electricity, Barry Marshall: ulcers, Berlin Wall, correlation does not imply causation, false memory syndrome, Florence Nightingale: pie chart, germ theory of disease, John Snow's cholera map, Louis Pasteur, meta analysis, meta-analysis, placebo effect, profit motive, publication bias, randomized controlled trial, Ronald Reagan, Simon Singh, The Design of Experiments, the scientific method

Second, which disease are we applying it to? Third, what is meant by effective? In order to address these questions properly, we have divided the book into six chapters. Chapter 1 provides an introduction to the scientific method. It explains how scientists, by experimenting and observing, can determine whether or not a particular therapy is effective. Every conclusion we reach in the rest of this book depends on the scientific method and on an unbiased analysis of the best medical research available. So, by first explaining how science works, we hope to increase your confidence in our subsequent conclusions. Chapter 2 shows how the scientific method can be applied to acupuncture, one of the most established, most tested and most widely used alternative therapies. As well as examining the numerous scientific trials that have been conducted on acupuncture, this chapter will also look at its ancient origins in the East, how it migrated to the West and how it is practised today.

The second warning is that all the truths in this book are based on science, because Hippocrates was absolutely correct when he said that science begets knowledge. Everything we know about the universe, from the components of an atom to the number of galaxies, is thanks to science, and every medical breakthrough, from the development of antiseptics to the eradication of smallpox, has been built upon scientific foundations. Of course, science is not perfect. Scientists will readily admit that they do not know everything, but nevertheless the scientific method is without doubt the best mechanism for getting to the truth. If you are a reader who is sceptical about the power of science, then we kindly request that you at least read Chapter 1. By the end of that first chapter, you should be sufficiently convinced about the value of scientific method that you will consider accepting the conclusions in the rest of the book. It could be, however, that you refuse to acknowledge that science is the best way to decide whether or not an alternative therapy works.

It might be that you are so close-minded that you will stick to your worldview regardless of what science has to say. You might have an unwavering belief that all alternative medicine is rubbish, or you might adamantly hold the opposite view, that alternative medicine offers a panacea for all our aches, pains and diseases. In either case, this is not the book for you. There is no point in even reading the first chapter if you are not prepared to consider the possibility that the scientific method can act as the arbiter of truth. In fact, if you have already made up your mind about alternative medicine, then it would be sensible for you to return this book to the bookshop and ask for a refund. Why on Earth would you want to hear about the conclusions of thousands of research studies when you already have all the answers? But our hope is that you will be sufficiently open-minded to want to read further. 1 How Do You Determine the Truth?


pages: 200 words: 60,987

The Invention of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution, and the Birth of America by Steven Johnson

Albert Einstein, conceptual framework, Copley Medal, Danny Hillis, discovery of DNA, Edmond Halley, Edward Lloyd's coffeehouse, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Kevin Kelly, planetary scale, side project, South Sea Bubble, stem cell, Stewart Brand, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, zero-sum game

Those who drank coffee instead of alcohol began the day alert and stimulated, rather than relaxed and mildly inebriated, and the quality and quantity of their work improved. . . . Western Europe began to emerge from an alcoholic haze that had lasted for centuries. Emerging from that centuries-long bender, armed with a belief in the scientific method and the conviction, inherited from Newtonian physics, that simple laws could be unearthed beneath complex behavior, the networked, caffeinated minds of the eighteenth century found themselves in a universe that was ripe for discovery. The everyday world was teeming with mysterious phenomena—air, fire, animals, plants, rocks, weather—that had never before been probed with the conceptual tools of the scientific method. This sense of terra incognita also helps explain why Priestley could be so innovative in so many different disciplines, and why Enlightenment culture in general spawned so many distinct paradigm shifts.

(We have names like “Renaissance” precisely to mark exactly how extreme the transformation is.) Priestley was a key participant in one of these cultural-phase transitions, what was described self-consciously at the time, by Kant and others, as the Enlightenment, a term that embraces both the widening of political and religious possibility in eighteenth-century Europe and the extensive application of the scientific method to problems that had previously been shrouded in darkness. There were literally dozens of paradigm shifts in distinct fields during Priestley’s lifetime, watershed moments of sudden progress where new rules and frameworks of understanding emerged. Priestley alone was a transformative figure in four of them: chemistry, electricity, politics, and faith. Each paradigm shift on its own has its own internally consistent narrative that describes its path, explaining how we came to understand something like the single-fluid theory: a litany of hunches, experiments, published papers, and popularizations.

We tend to talk about the history of ideas in terms of individual genius and broader cultural categories—the spirit of the age, the paradigm of research. But ideas happen in specific physical environments as well, environments that bring their own distinct pressures, opportunities, limitations, and happy accidents to the evolution of human understanding. Take Joseph Priestley out of Enlightenment culture, and deprive him of the scientific method, and his legendary streak no doubt disappears, or turns into something radically different. But take Priestley out of Meadow Lane, and deprive him of his hours at the brewery, and you would likely get a different story as well. Ideas are situated in another kind of environment as well: the information network. Theoretically, it is possible to imagine good ideas happening in a vacuum—a lone Inuit scientist conjuring up breathtaking discoveries in his igloo, and then keeping them to himself.


pages: 523 words: 61,179

Human + Machine: Reimagining Work in the Age of AI by Paul R. Daugherty, H. James Wilson

3D printing, AI winter, algorithmic trading, Amazon Mechanical Turk, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, blockchain, business process, call centre, carbon footprint, cloud computing, computer vision, correlation does not imply causation, crowdsourcing, digital twin, disintermediation, Douglas Hofstadter, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, friendly AI, future of work, industrial robot, Internet of things, inventory management, iterative process, Jeff Bezos, job automation, job satisfaction, knowledge worker, Lyft, natural language processing, personalized medicine, precision agriculture, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, RFID, ride hailing / ride sharing, risk tolerance, Rodney Brooks, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, sensor fusion, sentiment analysis, Shoshana Zuboff, Silicon Valley, software as a service, speech recognition, telepresence, telepresence robot, text mining, the scientific method, uber lyft

The Augmented Researcher: How Science Works in the Age of AI First, we need to step back to understand some basic principles. The scientific method is perhaps the most well-understood, widely deployed process in the world. Over centuries, it has come to be defined as a series of discrete, reproducible steps. First, ask questions and make observations. Next, devise hypotheses. After that, design an experiment to test predictions based on the hypotheses. Then, of course, run tests and collect data. Finally, develop generalized theories. As a process, the scientific method can be visualized cyclically. All that data and those general theories lead to more observation and further research, getting the ball rolling all over again. Because the scientific method’s steps are so clear-cut, it’s no surprise that there are opportunities for artificial intelligence to change the shape of the process itself.

The researchers were able to examine their own observational data on those drugs from a year prior and then look at the records to see what the interactions were a year later. There, in their own records, was validation of a causal connection, hidden in plain sight. “It was the first time that I know of that machines discovered new medical knowledge,” says Hill. “Straight from the data. There was no human involved in this discovery.”7 GNS Healthcare is showing that it’s possible, when AI is injected into the hypothesis phase of the scientific method, to find previously hidden correlations and causations. Moreover, use of the technology can result in dramatic cost savings. In one recent success, GNS was able to reverse-engineer—without using a hypothesis or preexisting assumptions—PCSK9, a class of drug that reduces bad cholesterol in the bloodstream. It took seventy years to discover PCSK9 and tens of billions of dollars over decades.


pages: 147 words: 39,910

The Great Mental Models: General Thinking Concepts by Shane Parrish

Albert Einstein, Atul Gawande, Barry Marshall: ulcers, bitcoin, Black Swan, colonial rule, correlation coefficient, correlation does not imply causation, cuban missile crisis, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, dark matter, delayed gratification, feminist movement, index fund, Isaac Newton, Jane Jacobs, mandelbrot fractal, Pierre-Simon Laplace, Ponzi scheme, Richard Feynman, statistical model, stem cell, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, the map is not the territory, the scientific method, Thomas Bayes, Torches of Freedom

Essentially, they were looking for the foundational knowledge that would not change and that we could build everything else on, from our ethical systems to our social structures. First principles thinking doesn’t have to be quite so grand. When we do it, we aren’t necessarily looking for absolute truths. Millennia of epistemological inquiry have shown us that these are hard to come by, and the scientific method has demonstrated that knowledge can only be built when we are actively trying to falsify it (see Supporting Idea: Falsifiability). Rather, first principles thinking identifies the elements that are, in the context of any given situation, non-reducible. First principles do not provide a checklist of things that will always be true; our knowledge of first principles changes as we understand more.

A better way to answer the “who would win” question is through a remarkable ability of the human brain—the ability to conduct a detailed thought experiment. Its chief value is that it lets us do things in our heads we cannot do in real life, and so explore situations from more angles than we can physically examine and test for. Thought experiments are more than daydreaming. They require the same rigor as a traditional experiment in order to be useful. Much like the scientific method, a thought experiment generally has the following steps: Ask a question Conduct background research Construct hypothesis Test with (thought) experiments Analyze outcomes and draw conclusions Compare to hypothesis and adjust accordingly (new question, etc.) In the James/Allen experiment above, we started with a question: Who would win in a game of basketball? If you didn’t already know who those people were, finding out would have been a necessary piece of background research.

If Y happened instead of X, what would the outcome have been? Would the outcome have been the same? As popular—and generally useful—as counter- and semi-factuals are, they are also the areas of thought experiment with which we need to use the most caution. Why? Because history is what we call a chaotic system. A small change in the beginning conditions can cause a very different outcome down the line. This is where the rigor of the scientific method is indispensable if we want to draw conclusions that are actually useful. The Trolley Experiment Thought experiments are often used to explore ethical and moral issues. When you are dealing with questions of life and death it is obviously not recommended to kill a bunch of people in order to determine the most ethical course of action. This then is where a thought experiment is also extremely valuable.


Super Thinking: The Big Book of Mental Models by Gabriel Weinberg, Lauren McCann

affirmative action, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Airbnb, Albert Einstein, anti-pattern, Anton Chekhov, autonomous vehicles, bank run, barriers to entry, Bayesian statistics, Bernie Madoff, Bernie Sanders, Black Swan, Broken windows theory, business process, butterfly effect, Cal Newport, Clayton Christensen, cognitive dissonance, commoditize, correlation does not imply causation, crowdsourcing, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Attenborough, delayed gratification, deliberate practice, discounted cash flows, disruptive innovation, Donald Trump, Douglas Hofstadter, Edward Lorenz: Chaos theory, Edward Snowden, effective altruism, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, experimental subject, fear of failure, feminist movement, Filter Bubble, framing effect, friendly fire, fundamental attribution error, Gödel, Escher, Bach, hindsight bias, housing crisis, Ignaz Semmelweis: hand washing, illegal immigration, income inequality, information asymmetry, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, John Nash: game theory, lateral thinking, loss aversion, Louis Pasteur, Lyft, mail merge, Mark Zuckerberg, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Metcalfe’s law, Milgram experiment, minimum viable product, moral hazard, mutually assured destruction, Nash equilibrium, Network effects, nuclear winter, offshore financial centre, p-value, Parkinson's law, Paul Graham, peak oil, Peter Thiel, phenotype, Pierre-Simon Laplace, placebo effect, Potemkin village, prediction markets, premature optimization, price anchoring, principal–agent problem, publication bias, recommendation engine, remote working, replication crisis, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, Richard Thaler, ride hailing / ride sharing, Robert Metcalfe, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, school choice, Schrödinger's Cat, selection bias, Shai Danziger, side project, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, speech recognition, statistical model, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Pinker, survivorship bias, The Present Situation in Quantum Mechanics, the scientific method, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, transaction costs, uber lyft, ultimatum game, uranium enrichment, urban planning, Vilfredo Pareto, wikimedia commons

That’s because as the company grows, what is required of its executives changes, moving initially from building a product (design, creation, etc.) to building a company (managing people, defining structure, etc.), to building a sustainable business (financial models, managing managers, etc.). In such a rapidly changing environment, you need a method for adapting quickly. Luckily, science gives us such a mental model for making sure we stay among the “fittest”: the scientific method. Formally, the scientific method is a rigorous cycle of making observations, formulating hypotheses, testing them, analyzing data, and developing new theories. But you can also apply it simply by embracing an experimental mindset. The most successful (and adaptive) people and organizations are constantly refining how they work and what they work on to be more effective. As an example, think about your own productivity tools and methods.

The same mindset can be applied to other areas of your life, such as the all-important one of diet and exercise. What type of exercise program can you really stick to? What can you change in your diet or daily routines to make you eat healthier? When a scientific mindset is applied continuously via experimentation, you will improve your chances of being the fittest (some pun intended). Natural selection and the scientific method are just the start. There are a host of natural laws that can help you understand the changes unfolding around you as well as how to adapt to them and even shape them. This chapter highlights many of these natural super models that can help you be more adaptive and manage change. DON’T FIGHT NATURE At some point you have likely heard someone paraphrase Isaac Newton’s first law of motion, often referred to as the law of inertia: “An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”

Being adaptable like this helps you in good times and bad. On the positive side, you can make better decisions with your life and career; on the negative side, you can be more resilient when setbacks and unfortunate events occur, and even help limit their negative effects. KEY TAKEAWAYS Adopt an experimental mindset, looking for opportunities to run experiments and apply the scientific method wherever possible. Respect inertia: create or join healthy flywheels; avoid strategy taxes and trying to enact change in high-inertia situations unless you have a tactical advantage such as discovery of a catalyst and a lot of potential energy. When enacting change, think deeply about how to reach critical mass and how you will navigate the technology adoption life cycle.


pages: 299 words: 98,943

Immortality: The Quest to Live Forever and How It Drives Civilization by Stephen Cave

Albert Einstein, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, back-to-the-land, clean water, double helix, George Santayana, invention of the printing press, Isaac Newton, Lao Tzu, life extension, planetary scale, Ray Kurzweil, stem cell, technoutopianism, the scientific method

Its practitioners developed life-extension techniques that are now, over two thousand years later, continuing to prosper: meditation, breathing exercises, the gentle gymnastics of tai chi and qigong, and the consumption of tea, ginseng and many other herbs and minerals. One of its core texts, known as The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon, remains the central source for Chinese traditional medicine. Until well into the Renaissance in Europe, there was no distinction between chemistry and alchemy or scientist and wizard. What we now see as the rigors of the scientific method, the antithesis of all superstition, emerged only slowly from the alchemical quest for immortality. Many of the great figures at the dawn of the scientific age, such as Robert Boyle and even Sir Isaac Newton, were steeped in alchemical teachings—Newton himself saw his contributions to alchemy as more important than his discoveries in physics. As the successes of the new evidence-based methods rapidly grew, faith in ancient wisdom and the occult eventually declined.

Usually this magic stuff is a gift from God or gods; it might be equated with the soul or spirit, like the Egyptian ka; and it separates absolutely the living from the nonliving—men from mud, birds from rocks. But the pioneering philosophers and early scientists of the Enlightenment challenged this view, arguing that living things were natural phenomena, obeying the same rules that governed all matter. By careful study, they argued, we could understand those rules. To the founders of the scientific method, from René Descartes to Nicolas de Condorcet, man was a machine. Therefore just as a good watchmaker could ensure that a watch continues to run perfectly, so the physicians would one day be able to keep humans in perfect working order indefinitely. By the time Condorcet was writing in the late eighteenth century, this link between science, progress and indefinitely extended lifespans was well established.

If Condorcet, who died in the upheavals of the French Revolution, had lived longer, he would have witnessed something like the progress he described. Life expectancy in the France of his day, as in most of the rest of the world, was around thirty years. These people—your great-great-great-great-great-grandparents—lived in a world of grand cities and gunpowder, yet still their life expectancy was little better than that of cavemen. By the end of the nineteenth century, life expectancy had made the significant leap to over forty, as the scientific method began to be applied to questions of public hygiene and the practice of medicine. But then came the real breakthrough: if we fast-forward just a few more generations, children born at the end of the twentieth century in France, as in most of the Western world, could expect to live to over eighty years of age. That is, in one century, life expectancy doubled. This is one of the most extraordinary achievements in history—without which there is a high chance that neither I nor you, dear reader, would be here.


pages: 1,758 words: 342,766

Code Complete (Developer Best Practices) by Steve McConnell

Ada Lovelace, Albert Einstein, Buckminster Fuller, call centre, continuous integration, data acquisition, database schema, don't repeat yourself, Donald Knuth, fault tolerance, Grace Hopper, haute cuisine, if you see hoof prints, think horses—not zebras, index card, inventory management, iterative process, Larry Wall, loose coupling, Menlo Park, Perl 6, place-making, premature optimization, revision control, Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, slashdot, sorting algorithm, statistical model, Tacoma Narrows Bridge, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Turing machine, web application

Even better, the effective programmers who debug in one-twentieth the time used by the ineffective programmers aren't randomly guessing about how to fix the program. They're using the scientific method—that is, the process of discovery and demonstration necessary for scientific investigation. The Scientific Method of Debugging Here are the steps you go through when you use the classic scientific method: Gather data through repeatable experiments. Form a hypothesis that accounts for the relevant data. Design an experiment to prove or disprove the hypothesis. Prove or disprove the hypothesis. Repeat as needed. The scientific method has many parallels in debugging. Here's an effective approach for finding a defect: Stabilize the error. Locate the source of the error (the "fault"). Gather the data that produces the defect.

Analyze the data that has been gathered, and form a hypothesis about the defect. Determine how to prove or disprove the hypothesis, either by testing the program or by examining the code. Prove or disprove the hypothesis by using the procedure identified in 2(c). Fix the defect. Test the fix. Look for similar errors. The first step is similar to the scientific method's first step in that it relies on repeatability. The defect is easier to diagnose if you can stabilize it—that is, make it occur reliably. The second step uses the steps of the scientific method. You gather the test data that divulged the defect, analyze the data that has been produced, and form a hypothesis about the source of the error. You then design a test case or an inspection to evaluate the hypothesis, and you either declare success (regarding proving your hypothesis) or renew your efforts, as appropriate.

Add a unit test that exposes the defect. Look for similar defects. General Approach to Debugging Do you use debugging as an opportunity to learn more about your program, mistakes, code quality, and problem-solving approach? Do you avoid the trial-and-error, superstitious approach to debugging? Do you assume that errors are your fault? Do you use the scientific method to stabilize intermittent errors? Do you use the scientific method to find defects? Rather than using the same approach every time, do you use several different techniques to find defects? Do you verify that the fix is correct? Do you use compiler warning messages, execution profiling, a test framework, scaffolding, and interactive debugging? Additional Resources cc2e.com/2375 The following resources also address debugging: Agans, David J.


pages: 257 words: 77,030

A Manual for Creating Atheists by Peter Boghossian

Cass Sunstein, Filter Bubble, Henri Poincaré, Mahatma Gandhi, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Ray Kurzweil, selection bias, Socratic dialogue, stem cell, the scientific method

“You have faith in science.” “But if faith in God requires independent scientific confirmation, what about the colossal faith our new atheists place in science itself?” —John Haught, God and the New Atheism (2008, p. 45) “Whether they admit to it or not, scientists have faith. It is, obviously, a rational faith that stems from their trust in the scientific method to reveal natural truth. But it is faith nonetheless. Scientists have faith that, based upon past successes, the scientific method will uncover natural truths yet to be discovered. They conduct experiments and make observations without knowing if they will discover something truly new, but they trust that if anything has yet to be discovered in the natural world, science will discover it. That’s faith, and it’s faith that mirrors the rational faith of religious individuals; one that is based on past successes, rationality, and personal experience.”

Epistemic relativism is either coupled with the idea that any process one uses to form beliefs is either just as good as any other process—a kind of epistemic egalitarianism—or with the idea that processes cannot be judged because one process is always judged by another process. In the latter case, there would thus be no basis for a reliable epistemological comparison. For example, let’s say people in society A prefer to use the Koran to come to knowledge and to understand reality, while people in society B prefer to use the scientific method. For the epistemological relativist these are just different ways to know the world. If a person uses the scientific method in an attempt to lawfully align his beliefs with reality, then he’d judge any other process—like using the Koran—to be not just inferior, but foolish. By extension, the same is true for the person who starts with the Koran. If one starts with the premises that the Koran is a perfect book and it is the best way to understand reality, then by this standard any other process will be judged to be inferior and misguided.


pages: 692 words: 127,032

Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America by Shawn Lawrence Otto

affirmative action, Albert Einstein, anthropic principle, Berlin Wall, Brownian motion, carbon footprint, Cepheid variable, clean water, Climategate, Climatic Research Unit, cognitive dissonance, Columbine, commoditize, cosmological constant, crowdsourcing, cuban missile crisis, Dean Kamen, desegregation, different worldview, double helix, energy security, Exxon Valdez, fudge factor, ghettoisation, global pandemic, Harlow Shapley and Heber Curtis, Harvard Computers: women astronomers, informal economy, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Louis Pasteur, mutually assured destruction, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Saturday Night Live, shareholder value, sharing economy, smart grid, Solar eclipse in 1919, stem cell, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, transaction costs, University of East Anglia, War on Poverty, white flight, Winter of Discontent, working poor, yellow journalism, zero-sum game

It is filled with objects and processes that exist independently of us and our beliefs about them. 2. The goal of science is to create descriptions of reality that are independent of us and our opinions or beliefs. We call these descriptions knowledge. 3. To create this knowledge, we use the scientific method, which is a collection of several techniques, including observation, hypothesizing, induction, experimentation, unique prediction, recording, and critical peer review. These techniques have evolved over time and will likely continue to evolve. 4. Like our senses, the scientific method is fallible and often leads us astray. But it is the best method we have come up with so far, and it has proven to be very powerful. The religious right took issue with these claims when they conflicted with dogma or a literal reading of the Bible.

Inevitably this is uncomfortable, because the process compels us to give up, alter, or somehow intellectually sequester many comforting notions, notions that are often profoundly powerful because they are our most deeply rooted and awestruck explanations about the wonders of creation, the specialness of our identities, our history, and the possibility that our spirits may somehow live on after death. THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD How do we create knowledge? There is no one “scientific method”; rather, there is a collection of strategies that have proven effective in answering our questions about how things in nature really work. How do plants grow? What is stuff made of? How do viruses work? Why are montane voles promiscuous while prairie voles are loyal lifelong mates? The process usually begins with a question about something, and that suggests a strategy for making and recording observations and measurements.

Gaining these powers? What is life? Is life an unbroken chain of genetic code, running down through the generations, endlessly recombining in new forms? Is it software? When does it become an individual with rights? Where do we draw the legal line? The moral line? Can we draw a line at all? Is that the right way to be thinking about it? In each of the above cases, new knowledge was gained by applying the scientific method of making careful observations and recording the data, then testing and drawing conclusions based on the results instead of on assumptions or beliefs, and then publishing those for others to review and attempt to disprove if they can. The knowledge gained through this incredible process gives us new power over the physical world, the power to assist or prevent pregnancy, but it also forces us to reevaluate intuitive assumptions and to refine and in some cases redefine the meanings of words and values we thought we understood.


pages: 460 words: 107,712

A Devil's Chaplain: Selected Writings by Richard Dawkins

Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, Buckminster Fuller, butterfly effect, Claude Shannon: information theory, complexity theory, Desert Island Discs, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, epigenetics, experimental subject, Fellow of the Royal Society, gravity well, Necker cube, out of africa, phenotype, placebo effect, random walk, Richard Feynman, Silicon Valley, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, the scientific method

The reader’s knowing chuckle is out before he realizes that actually he is in no position to respond knowingly to that ‘even’. Medawar has become a sort of chief spokesman for ‘The Scientist’ in the modern world. He takes a less doleful view of the human predicament than is fashionable, believing that hands are for solving problems rather than for wringing. He regards the scientific method – in the right hands – as our most powerful tool for ‘finding out what is wrong with [the world] and then taking steps to put it right’. As for the scientific method itself, Medawar has a good deal to tell us, and he is well qualified to do so. Not that being a Nobel Prize-winner and a close associate of Karl Popper is in itself an indication that one will talk sense: far from it when you think of others in that category. But Medawar not only is a Nobel Prize-winner, he seems like a Nobel Prize-winner; he is everything we think a Nobel Prize-winner ought to be.

This has never struck me as a particularly profound or wise remark,1 but it comes into its own in the special case where the little learning is in philosophy (as it often is). A scientist who has the temerity to utter the t-word (‘true’) is likely to encounter a form of philosophical heckling which goes something like this: There is no absolute truth. You are committing an act of personal faith when you claim that the scientific method, including mathematics and logic, is the privileged road to truth. Other cultures might believe that truth is to be found in a rabbit’s entrails, or the ravings of a prophet up a pole. It is only your personal faith in science that leads you to favour your brand of truth. That strand of half-baked philosophy goes by the name of cultural relativism. It is one aspect of the Fashionable Nonsense detected by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont,12 or the Higher Superstition of Paul Gross and Norman Levitt.13 The feminist version is ably exposed by Daphne Patai and Noretta Koertge, authors of Professing Feminism: Cautionary Tales from the Strange World of Women’s Studies:14 Women’s Studies students are now being taught that logic is a tool of domination … the standard norms and methods of scientific inquiry are sexist because they are incompatible with ‘women’s ways of knowing’ … These ‘subjectivist’ women see the methods of logic, analysis and abstraction as ‘alien territory belonging to men’ and ‘value intuition as a safer and more fruitful approach to truth’.

Those of us who have renounced one or another of the three ‘great’ monotheistic religions have, until now, moderated our language for reasons of politeness. Christians, Jews and Muslims are sincere in their beliefs and in what they find holy. We have respected that, even as we have disagreed with it. The late Douglas Adams put it with his customary good humour, in an impromptu speech in 199892 (slightly abridged): Now, the invention of the scientific method is, I’m sure we’ll all agree, the most powerful intellectual idea, the most powerful framework for thinking and investigating and understanding and challenging the world around us that there is, and it rests on the premise that any idea is there to be attacked. If it withstands the attack then it lives to fight another day, and if it doesn’t withstand the attack then down it goes. Religion doesn’t seem to work like that.


pages: 378 words: 107,957

Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything About Race, Gender, and Identity―and Why This Harms Everybody by Helen Pluckrose, James A. Lindsay

affirmative action, Albert Einstein, barriers to entry, battle of ideas, centre right, cognitive dissonance, colonial rule, conceptual framework, desegregation, Donald Trump, equal pay for equal work, European colonialism, feminist movement, germ theory of disease, Isaac Newton, late capitalism, meta analysis, meta-analysis, moral panic, neurotypical, phenotype, sexual politics, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, transatlantic slave trade, white flight, women in the workforce

At the end of the sixteenth century, treatises against atheism also began to appear, which clearly suggests that disbelief in God had begun to circulate. During the seventeenth century, medicine and anatomy, which had previously been modeled on the knowledge of the ancient Greeks, underwent a revolution and knowledge of the body advanced rapidly. The Scientific Revolution was the result of widespread questioning of received wisdom and the rapid proliferation of different kinds of knowledge production. The development of the scientific method in the nineteenth century was centered on skepticism and the need for increasingly rigorous testing and falsification. Beyond cynical “skepticism,” the postmodernists had concerns about the deaths of authenticity and meaning in modern society that also carried considerable weight, especially with French Theorists. These concerns were especially acutely expressed by Jean Baudrillard. For Baudrillard, whose nihilistic despair at the loss of the “real” drew heavily on the work of French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, all realities had become mere simulations (imitations of real-world phenomena and systems) and simulacra (“copies” of things without an original).7 Baudrillard described three levels of simulacra: associated with the premodern, modern, and postmodern.

Knowledge, truth, meaning, and morality are therefore, according to postmodernist thinking, culturally constructed and relative products of individual cultures, none of which possess the necessary tools or terms to evaluate the others. At the heart of the postmodern turn is a reaction to and rejection of modernism and modernity.18 According to Enlightenment thinking, objective reality can be known through more or less reliable methods. Knowledge about objective reality produced by the scientific method enabled us to build modernity and permits us to continue doing so. For postmodernism, by contrast, reality is ultimately the product of our socialization and lived experiences, as constructed by systems of language. The sociologist Steven Seidman, who coined the term “the postmodern turn,” recognized the profundity of this change in 1994: “A broad social and cultural shift is taking place in Western societies.

Rather than seeing objective truth as something that exists and that can be provisionally known (or approximated) through processes such as experimentation, falsification, and defeasibility—as Enlightenment, modernist, and scientific thought would have it—postmodern approaches to knowledge inflate a small, almost banal kernel of truth—that we are limited in our ability to know and must express knowledge through language, concepts and categories—to insist that all claims to truth are value-laden constructs of culture. This is called cultural constructivism or social constructivism. The scientific method, in particular, is not seen as a better way of producing and legitimizing knowledge than any other, but as one cultural approach among many, as corrupted by biased reasoning as any other. Cultural constructivism is not the belief that reality is literally created by cultural beliefs—it doesn’t argue, for instance, that when we erroneously believed the Sun went around the Earth, our beliefs had any influence over the solar system and its dynamics.


pages: 261 words: 86,261

The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: The Best Short Works of Richard P. Feynman by Richard P. Feynman, Jeffrey Robbins

Albert Einstein, Brownian motion, impulse control, index card, John von Neumann, Murray Gell-Mann, pattern recognition, Pepto Bismol, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, scientific worldview, the scientific method

Penology, prison reform–to understand why people do crimes; look at the world–we understand it more and more with our modern understanding of these things. More about education, more about crime; the scores on the tests are going down and there’s more people in prison; young people are committing crimes, we just don’t understand it at all. It just isn’t working, to discover things about these things by using the scientific method in the type of imitation which they are using now. Now whether the scientific method would work in these fields if we knew how to do it, I don’t know. It’s particularly weak in this way. There may be some other method. For example, to listen to the ideas of the past and the experience of people for a long time might be a good idea. It’s only a good idea not to pay attention to the past when you have another independent source of information that you’ve decided to follow.

So you begin by being uncertain as to what the answer is. This is very, very important, so important that I would like to delay that aspect, and talk about that still further along in my speech. The question of doubt and uncertainty is what is necessary to begin; for if you already know the answer there is no need to gather any evidence about it. Well, being uncertain, the next thing is to look for evidence, and the scientific method is to begin with trials. But another way and a very important one that should not be neglected and that is very vital is to put together ideas to try to enforce a logical consistency among the various things that you know. It is a very valuable thing to try to connect this, what you know, with that, that you know, and try to find out if they are consistent. And the more activity in the direction of trying to put together the ideas of different directions, the better it is.

And, although you may gain some temporary fame and excitement, you will not gain a good reputation as a scientist if you haven’t tried to be very careful in this kind of work. And it’s this type of integrity, this kind of care not to fool yourself, that is missing to a large extent in much of the research in Cargo Cult Science. A great deal of their difficulty is, of course, the difficulty of the subject and the inapplicability of the scientific method to the subject. Nevertheless, it should be remarked that this is not the only difficulty. That’s why the planes don’t land–but they don’t land. We have learned a lot from experience about how to handle some of the ways we fool ourselves. One example: Millikan measured the charge on an electron by an experiment with falling oil drops and got an answer which we now know not to be quite right.


pages: 393 words: 115,217

Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries by Safi Bahcall

accounting loophole / creative accounting, Albert Einstein, Apple II, Apple's 1984 Super Bowl advert, Astronomia nova, British Empire, Cass Sunstein, Charles Lindbergh, Clayton Christensen, cognitive bias, creative destruction, disruptive innovation, diversified portfolio, double helix, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, Edmond Halley, Gary Taubes, hypertext link, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, Jony Ive, knowledge economy, lone genius, Louis Pasteur, Mark Zuckerberg, Menlo Park, Mother of all demos, Murray Gell-Mann, PageRank, Peter Thiel, Philip Mirowski, Pierre-Simon Laplace, prediction markets, pre–internet, Ralph Waldo Emerson, RAND corporation, random walk, Richard Feynman, Richard Thaler, side project, Silicon Valley, six sigma, Solar eclipse in 1919, stem cell, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, Tim Cook: Apple, tulip mania, Wall-E, wikimedia commons, yield management

Philanthropy and private industry could not be relied upon to fund the basic research that is “the pacemaker of technological progress,” essential for national security, economic growth, and the fight against disease. The report outlined the architecture of a new national research system. Within days of its publication, Bush’s report was hailed across the major news outlets. The New York Times, however, questioned its conclusions and patiently explained the nature of science to Bush (and his 41 MD and PhD coauthors): “The scientific method is always the same, whether it deals with radar or disease. Dr. Bush’s report ignores this fact.” The Times concluded by suggesting a better model: “Soviet Russia has approached this task more realistically.” BusinessWeek, in any event, which approvingly described Bush as “a practical businessman as well as a scholar,” stated that Endless Frontier was “epoch-making” and “must-reading for American businessmen.”

That journey culminated in a new idea: underlying everything we see are universal truths that can be determined through measurement and experiment. In other words, laws of nature. We take that idea for granted today. But for all human history up to that time, religious authorities or divine rulers or great-man philosophers decreed what was true and what was false. The idea that truth could be revealed to anyone was radical. Subversive. Its champions were often dismissed as unhinged. That idea, now known by its more modern name, the scientific method, is arguably the mother of all loonshots. The Chinese and Mughal emperors discovered the same lesson that surprised so many of their industrial descendants centuries later: missing loonshots can be fatal. LOONSHOT NURSERIES IN INDUSTRY AND HISTORY This book has been about creating conditions that encourage loonshots inside organizations. We can answer Needham’s question—why Europe, and not China or India or anywhere else for that matter—by looking at how those principles apply between organizations.

We’ll see why Tycho Brahe succeeded, and why his equal and predecessor in China, five centuries earlier, came so close but didn’t. We’ll see why Western Europe became the flourishing loonshot nursery of its time—and what that means for nations today, who wish to avoid the fate of those ancient empires. Let’s start by taking a closer look at that mother of all loonshots. EIGHT MINUTES THAT CHANGED THE WORLD The path to the idea of laws of nature—and the scientific method for revealing those laws—mirrored, for good reason, the path to heliocentrism: the notion that the earth moves around the sun rather than the other way around. If divine rulers could be wrong about the most elementary questions of heaven and earth, then we needed a new way to define and seek truth. The heliocentric idea first appeared in the fourth century BC, then periodically resurfaced, and was quashed, sometimes brutally, for nearly two thousand years.


pages: 523 words: 112,185

Doing Data Science: Straight Talk From the Frontline by Cathy O'Neil, Rachel Schutt

Amazon Mechanical Turk, augmented reality, Augustin-Louis Cauchy, barriers to entry, Bayesian statistics, bioinformatics, computer vision, correlation does not imply causation, crowdsourcing, distributed generation, Edward Snowden, Emanuel Derman, fault tolerance, Filter Bubble, finite state, Firefox, game design, Google Glasses, index card, information retrieval, iterative process, John Harrison: Longitude, Khan Academy, Kickstarter, Mars Rover, Nate Silver, natural language processing, Netflix Prize, p-value, pattern recognition, performance metric, personalized medicine, pull request, recommendation engine, rent-seeking, selection bias, Silicon Valley, speech recognition, statistical model, stochastic process, text mining, the scientific method, The Wisdom of Crowds, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, X Prize

Let’s revise or at least add an overlay to make clear that the data scientist needs to be involved in this process throughout, meaning they are involved in the actual coding as well as in the higher-level process, as shown in Figure 2-3. Figure 2-3. The data scientist is involved in every part of this process Connection to the Scientific Method We can think of the data science process as an extension of or variation of the scientific method: Ask a question. Do background research. Construct a hypothesis. Test your hypothesis by doing an experiment. Analyze your data and draw a conclusion. Communicate your results. In both the data science process and the scientific method, not every problem requires one to go through all the steps, but almost all problems can be solved with some combination of the stages. For example, if your end goal is a data visualization (which itself could be thought of as a data product), it’s possible you might not do any machine learning or statistical modeling, but you’d want to get all the way to a clean dataset, do some exploratory analysis, and then create the visualization.

Even if you’ve used the terms statistical model or mathematical model for years, is it even clear to yourself and to the people you’re talking to what you mean? What makes a model a model? Also, while we’re asking fundamental questions like this, what’s the difference between a statistical model and a machine learning algorithm? Before we dive deeply into that, let’s add a bit of context with this deliberately provocative Wired magazine piece, “The End of Theory: The Data Deluge Makes the Scientific Method Obsolete,” published in 2008 by Chris Anderson, then editor-in-chief. Anderson equates massive amounts of data to complete information and argues no models are necessary and “correlation is enough”; e.g., that in the context of massive amounts of data, “they [Google] don’t have to settle for models at all.” Really? We don’t think so, and we don’t think you’ll think so either by the end of the book.

So the science in data science is—given raw data, constraints, and a problem statement—how to navigate through that maze and make the best choices. Every design choice you make can be formulated as an hypothesis, against which you will use rigorous testing and experimentation to either validate or refute. This process, whereby one formulates a well-defined hypothesis and then tests it, might rise to the level of a science in certain cases. Specifically, the scientific method is adopted in data science as follows: You hold on to your existing best performer. Once you have a new idea to prototype, set up an experiment wherein the two best models compete. Rinse and repeat (while not overfitting). Classifiers This section focuses on the process of choosing a classifier. Classification involves mapping your data points into a finite set of labels or the probability of a given label or labels.


pages: 202 words: 58,823

Willful: How We Choose What We Do by Richard Robb

activist fund / activist shareholder / activist investor, Alvin Roth, Asian financial crisis, asset-backed security, Bernie Madoff, capital asset pricing model, cognitive bias, collapse of Lehman Brothers, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, delayed gratification, diversification, diversified portfolio, effective altruism, endowment effect, Eratosthenes, experimental subject, family office, George Akerlof, index fund, information asymmetry, job satisfaction, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, lake wobegon effect, loss aversion, market bubble, market clearing, money market fund, Pareto efficiency, Paul Samuelson, Peter Singer: altruism, principal–agent problem, profit maximization, profit motive, Richard Thaler, Silicon Valley, sovereign wealth fund, survivorship bias, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, transaction costs, ultimatum game

This faith may have been reinforced by a personal experience in which alternative medicine seemed to work. Conviction in modern medicine goes together with an opposite constellation of beliefs: scientific evidence is the highest standard, and the system that generates this evidence and delivers therapies to patients can be trusted. And the third person, who believes events are in divine hands, might rely on the experience of previously answered prayers. She rejects the scientific method because she believes that God works in mysterious ways. The diversity of opinion in the world is astonishingly vast—far vaster than we would expect if everyone used beliefs merely as instruments to maximize results. Rather than formulating hypotheses, then checking them against empirical evidence to ensure we adopt only the most accurate ones, we pick beliefs that appeal to us. Each of us grounds our beliefs in other beliefs we already hold and favors experiential knowledge over equally valid knowledge gained secondhand.

How Beliefs Are Formed The American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce outlined four routes to adopting a belief: 1. A new belief X is consistent with the things one already knows. 2. An authority to which one has committed says that X is so. 3. X is the style of thing that one is inclined to believe. In Peirce’s words, X is “agreeable to reason.” 4. A new belief X, when subjected to the scientific method, corresponds to data in the world.3 Loosely speaking, beliefs formed according to the first three routes allow us to build a coherent identity. Acting on settled beliefs, even ones that run contrary to empirical evidence, is not irrational but for-itself. In Repetition, Kierkegaard asks, “What would life be if there were no repetition? Who could want to be a tablet on which time writes something new every instant?”

But many did not: the richer the family head becomes, the less interested she is in digging into the technical details that a person on the spot needs to know and that earned the fortune in the first place. And the larger family offices grow, the more they adopt the controls typical of institutional investors. Applying Peirce’s rules, we can see why institutional investors hesitated to buy low-priced, complex, illiquid bonds. The fourth, purposeful rule—one applies the scientific method; the belief corresponds to data in the world—couldn’t justify these investments. There were no data on similar events because nothing like this had ever happened before. Many looked to the Great Depression for precedent, but conditions were so different back then (asset-backed securities hadn’t even been invented) that it couldn’t provide much guidance. The rules I’ve categorized as for-itself—those that deal with acting in character —would have been equally useless: 1.A new belief X is consistent with the things one already knows.


pages: 398 words: 100,679

The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World From Scratch by Lewis Dartnell

agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, clean water, Dava Sobel, decarbonisation, discovery of penicillin, Dmitri Mendeleev, global village, Haber-Bosch Process, invention of movable type, invention of radio, invention of writing, iterative process, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, lone genius, low earth orbit, mass immigration, nuclear winter, off grid, Richard Feynman, technology bubble, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, trade route

The exploitation of knowledge and scientific principles is the essence of technology, and as we’ll see in this book, the practices of scientific research and technological development are inextricably intertwined. Inspired by Feynman, I’d argue that the best way to help survivors of the Fall is not to create a comprehensive record of all knowledge, but to provide a guide to the basics, adapted to their likely circumstances, as well as a blueprint of the techniques necessary to rediscover crucial understanding for themselves—the powerful knowledge-generation machinery that is the scientific method. The key to preserving civilization is to provide a condensed seed that will readily unpack to yield the entire expansive tree of knowledge, rather than attempting to document the colossal tree itself. Which fragments, to paraphrase T. S. Eliot, are best shored against our ruins? The value of such a book is potentially enormous. What might have happened in our own history if the classical civilizations had left condensed seeds of their accumulated knowledge?

But at what point does a technologically progressing civilization reach a peak beyond which further advance brings diminishing returns? Perhaps a recovering civilization will reach equilibrium at a certain technological level, neither advancing further nor regressing, once it has achieved a stable economy, comfortable population size, and the ability to draw sustainably on natural resources. THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD This book is of course not a complete compendium of all the information you would need to rebuild your world from scratch. A great deal of material has necessarily been left out. We’ve mostly focused on inorganic chemistry, useful for making agricultural fertilizers or industrial reagents, rather than the synthesis or transformations of organic molecules. Organic chemistry has become increasingly important over the past century: processing the fractions of crude oil, purifying and modifying natural pharmaceutical compounds into more potent versions, synthesizing pesticides and herbicides for more reliable food production, and creating a whole new domain of materials with properties unlike anything we find in nature: plastics.

But rather than using water itself as the fluid, you’ll realize that mercury expands far more uniformly for an accurate thermometer. For thermometers capable of operating at temperatures beyond the boiling point of mercury, for use in a kiln or furnace, for example, you will need to exploit other physical phenomena. Your investigations of electricity, for instance, will reveal that the resistance of a wire often increases with temperature. THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD—CONTINUED This, then, is the fundamental process for devising reliable means for measurement of any attribute. As the recovering civilization discovers strange new phenomena of nature, new fields of scientific research emerge. Means of isolating the properties of these phenomena and translating them into something that can be reliably measured must be devised before they can begin to be understood and exploited for technological applications.


pages: 322 words: 107,576

Bad Science by Ben Goldacre

Asperger Syndrome, correlation does not imply causation, experimental subject, hygiene hypothesis, Ignaz Semmelweis: hand washing, John Snow's cholera map, Louis Pasteur, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Nelson Mandela, offshore financial centre, p-value, placebo effect, publication bias, Richard Feynman, risk tolerance, Ronald Reagan, selection bias, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), the scientific method, urban planning

When they start to write about serious issues like MMR, you can see that this is what people in the media really think science is about. The next stop on our journey is inevitably going to be statistics, because this is one area that causes unique problems for the media. But first, we need to go on a brief diversion. 13 Why Clever People Believe Stupid Things The real purpose of the scientific method is to make sure nature hasn’t misled you into thinking you know something you actually don’t know. Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Why do we have statistics, why do we measure things, and why do we count? If the scientific method has any authority—or as I prefer to think of it, ‘value’—it is because it represents a systematic approach; but this is valuable only because the alternatives can be misleading. When we reason informally—call it intuition, if you like—we use rules of thumb which simplify problems for the sake of efficiency.

There is a moral and financial issue here too: randomising your patients properly doesn’t cost money. Blinding your patients to whether they had the active treatment or the placebo doesn’t cost money. Overall, doing research robustly and fairly does not necessarily require more money, it simply requires that you think before you start. The only people to blame for the flaws in these studies are the people who performed them. In some cases they will be people who turn their backs on the scientific method as a ‘flawed paradigm’; and yet it seems their great new paradigm is simply ‘unfair tests’. These patterns are reflected throughout the alternative therapy literature. In general, the studies which are flawed tend to be the ones that favour homeopathy, or any other alternative therapy; and the well-performed studies, where every controllable source of bias and error is excluded, tend to show that the treatments are no better than placebo.

Garrow read McKeith’s book closely, as have I. These ‘clinical trials’ seemed to be a few anecdotes about how incredibly well her patients felt after seeing her. No controls, no placebo, no attempt to quantify or measure improvements. So Garrow made a modest proposal in a fairly obscure medical newsletter. I am quoting it in its entirety, partly because it is a rather elegantly written exposition of the scientific method by an eminent academic authority on the science of nutrition, but mainly because I want you to see how politely he stated his case: I also am a clinical nutritionist, and I believe that many of the statements in this book are wrong. My hypothesis is that any benefits which Dr McKeith has observed in her patients who take her living food powder have nothing to do with their enzyme content.


pages: 486 words: 148,485

Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error by Kathryn Schulz

affirmative action, anti-communist, banking crisis, Bernie Madoff, car-free, Cass Sunstein, cognitive dissonance, colonial rule, conceptual framework, cosmological constant, cuban missile crisis, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, dark matter, desegregation, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, lake wobegon effect, longitudinal study, mandatory minimum, Pierre-Simon Laplace, Ronald Reagan, six sigma, stem cell, Steven Pinker, Tenerife airport disaster, the scientific method, The Wisdom of Crowds, theory of mind, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, trade route

This idea began to emerge during the Scientific Revolution, through that era’s hallmark development, the scientific method. It is a measure of the method’s success (and its simplicity, in theory if not in practice) that, some 400 years later, virtually every reader of this book will have learned it in junior high school. The gist of the scientific method is that observations lead to hypotheses (which must be testable), which are then subjected to experiments (whose results must be reproducible). If all goes well, the outcome is a theory, a logically consistent, empirically tested explanation for a natural phenomenon. As an ideal of intellectual inquiry and a strategy for the advancement of knowledge, the scientific method is essentially a monument to the utility of error. Most of us gravitate toward trying to verify our beliefs, to the extent that we bother investigating their validity at all.

., Official Guide Book: New York World’s Fair 1939: The World of Tomorrow (Exposition Publications, 1939), 2. error’s “grosser forms.” Sully, 186. Ralph Linton. Ralph Linton, “Error in Anthropology,” in Jastrow, ed., 298. that era’s hallmark development, the scientific method. Systematic methods for inquiring into the natural world have been around for ages: ancient Greek naturalists practiced a form of empiricism, and medieval Muslim scientists developed a method of inquiry that relied on experimentation to weigh competing hypotheses. But the scientific method as we understand it today was introduced to the world through the work of Francis Bacon in his 1620 Novum Organum, and René Descartes in his 1637 Discourse on the Method. Whether or not this method has ever been practiced as such (that is, to what extent scientists, especially as individuals, seek to replicate experiments and falsify hypotheses) is an open question, as Thomas Kuhn made abundantly clear in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.


pages: 396 words: 117,149

The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World by Pedro Domingos

Albert Einstein, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Arthur Eddington, basic income, Bayesian statistics, Benoit Mandelbrot, bioinformatics, Black Swan, Brownian motion, cellular automata, Claude Shannon: information theory, combinatorial explosion, computer vision, constrained optimization, correlation does not imply causation, creative destruction, crowdsourcing, Danny Hillis, data is the new oil, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, Erik Brynjolfsson, experimental subject, Filter Bubble, future of work, global village, Google Glasses, Gödel, Escher, Bach, information retrieval, job automation, John Markoff, John Snow's cholera map, John von Neumann, Joseph Schumpeter, Kevin Kelly, lone genius, mandelbrot fractal, Mark Zuckerberg, Moneyball by Michael Lewis explains big data, Narrative Science, Nate Silver, natural language processing, Netflix Prize, Network effects, NP-complete, off grid, P = NP, PageRank, pattern recognition, phenotype, planetary scale, pre–internet, random walk, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, Richard Feynman, scientific worldview, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, social intelligence, speech recognition, Stanford marshmallow experiment, statistical model, Stephen Hawking, Steven Levy, Steven Pinker, superintelligent machines, the scientific method, The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, theory of mind, Thomas Bayes, transaction costs, Turing machine, Turing test, Vernor Vinge, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, white flight, zero-sum game

While the first company’s experts write a thousand rules to predict what its customers want, the second company’s algorithms learn billions of rules, a whole set of them for each individual customer. It’s about as fair as spears against machine guns. Machine learning is a cool new technology, but that’s not why businesses embrace it. They embrace it because they have no choice. Supercharging the scientific method Machine learning is the scientific method on steroids. It follows the same process of generating, testing, and discarding or refining hypotheses. But while a scientist may spend his or her whole life coming up with and testing a few hundred hypotheses, a machine-learning system can do the same in a fraction of a second. Machine learning automates discovery. It’s no surprise, then, that it’s revolutionizing science as much as it’s revolutionizing business.

But the debate really took off during the Enlightenment, with a trio of great thinkers on each side: Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz were the leading rationalists; Locke, Berkeley, and Hume were their empiricist counterparts. Trusting in their powers of reasoning, the rationalists concocted theories of the universe that—to put it gently—did not stand the test of time, but they also invented fundamental mathematical techniques like calculus and analytical geometry. The empiricists were altogether more practical, and their influence is everywhere from the scientific method to the Constitution of the United States. David Hume was the greatest of the empiricists and the greatest English-speaking philosopher of all time. Thinkers like Adam Smith and Charles Darwin count him among their key influences. You could also say he’s the patron saint of the symbolists. He was born in Scotland in 1711 and spent most of his life in eighteenth-century Edinburgh, a prosperous city full of intellectual ferment.

Accuracy you can believe in In practice, Valiant-style analysis tends to be very pessimistic and to call for more data than you have. So how do you decide whether to believe what a learner tells you? Simple: you don’t believe anything until you’ve verified it on data that the learner didn’t see. If the patterns the learner hypothesized also hold true on new data, you can be pretty confident that they’re real. Otherwise you know the learner overfit. This is just the scientific method applied to machine learning: it’s not enough for a new theory to explain past evidence because it’s easy to concoct a theory that does that; the theory must also make new predictions, and you only accept it after they’ve been experimentally verified. (And even then only provisionally, because future evidence could still falsify it.) Einstein’s general relativity was only widely accepted once Arthur Eddington empirically confirmed its prediction that the sun bends the light of distant stars.


pages: 397 words: 110,130

Smarter Than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Minds for the Better by Clive Thompson

4chan, A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, augmented reality, barriers to entry, Benjamin Mako Hill, butterfly effect, citizen journalism, Claude Shannon: information theory, conceptual framework, corporate governance, crowdsourcing, Deng Xiaoping, discovery of penicillin, disruptive innovation, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, drone strike, Edward Glaeser, Edward Thorp, en.wikipedia.org, experimental subject, Filter Bubble, Freestyle chess, Galaxy Zoo, Google Earth, Google Glasses, Gunnar Myrdal, Henri Poincaré, hindsight bias, hive mind, Howard Rheingold, information retrieval, iterative process, jimmy wales, Kevin Kelly, Khan Academy, knowledge worker, lifelogging, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, Menlo Park, Netflix Prize, Nicholas Carr, Panopticon Jeremy Bentham, patent troll, pattern recognition, pre–internet, Richard Feynman, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, Rubik’s Cube, sentiment analysis, Silicon Valley, Skype, Snapchat, Socratic dialogue, spaced repetition, superconnector, telepresence, telepresence robot, The Nature of the Firm, the scientific method, The Wisdom of Crowds, theory of mind, transaction costs, Vannevar Bush, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, WikiLeaks, X Prize, éminence grise

Steinkuehler now argues that video games are one of the best modern conduits to teach kids about the scientific method—why and how it works. As she points out, many kids hate science because it’s taught as a set of facts. Indeed, that’s how most adults see science: a bunch of guys in lab coats solemnly delivering information about How the World Works. But science isn’t about facts. It’s about the quest for facts—the process by which we hash through confusing thickets of ignorance. It’s dynamic, argumentative, collaborative, competitive, filled with flashes of crazy excitement and hours of drudgework, and driven by ego: our desire to be the one who figures it out, at least for now. Viewed this way, the scientific method is deeply relevant to everyday life, because it describes how to approach and solve problems.

It turns out a group of the teenagers had built Excel spreadsheets into which they dumped all the information they’d gathered about how each boss behaved: what magical potions and weapons wounded it the most, what counterattacks the boss would employ, and how much damage each attack would cause. Like many video games, Lineage is quite numeric—each attack shows a number toting up the damage done. After carefully collecting all their data, the teenagers used Excel to build a mathematical model that explained how the boss worked. Then they’d use the model to predict which attacks would be most likely to beat him. That’s when it hit Steinkuehler: the kids were using the scientific method. They’d think of a hypothesis, like “This boss is really susceptible to fire spells.” They’d collect evidence to see if the hypothesis was correct. If it wasn’t, they’d improve it until their hypothesis accounted for the observed data. “My head was spinning,” she tells me. When she met up with one of the kids, she asked him, “Do you realize that what you’re doing is the essence of science?”

Viewed this way, the scientific method is deeply relevant to everyday life, because it describes how to approach and solve problems. But in school, students are rarely asked to actually use the scientific method. Games, Steinkuehler says, are an ideal native environment for teaching the power of scientific rigor. If science seeks to uncover the invisible rules that govern the world around us, video games are simulated worlds with invisible rule sets just waiting to be uncovered. Teachers should bring games into the classroom, she argues, so they can use them to help explain how science works. These are fighting words. Educationally, video games are derided as a supreme waste of time and a detriment to literacy, sucking up teenagers’ hours that could be devoted to reading or presumably more productive hobbies. These concerns can be valid, as I can attest; I’ve played video games avidly for thirty years and am painfully aware how compulsive they can become.


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The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail-But Some Don't by Nate Silver

"Robert Solow", airport security, availability heuristic, Bayesian statistics, Benoit Mandelbrot, Berlin Wall, Bernie Madoff, big-box store, Black Swan, Broken windows theory, business cycle, buy and hold, Carmen Reinhart, Claude Shannon: information theory, Climategate, Climatic Research Unit, cognitive dissonance, collapse of Lehman Brothers, collateralized debt obligation, complexity theory, computer age, correlation does not imply causation, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, cuban missile crisis, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, diversification, Donald Trump, Edmond Halley, Edward Lorenz: Chaos theory, en.wikipedia.org, equity premium, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, everywhere but in the productivity statistics, fear of failure, Fellow of the Royal Society, Freestyle chess, fudge factor, George Akerlof, global pandemic, haute cuisine, Henri Poincaré, high batting average, housing crisis, income per capita, index fund, information asymmetry, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Internet Archive, invention of the printing press, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, John Nash: game theory, John von Neumann, Kenneth Rogoff, knowledge economy, Laplace demon, locking in a profit, Loma Prieta earthquake, market bubble, Mikhail Gorbachev, Moneyball by Michael Lewis explains big data, Monroe Doctrine, mortgage debt, Nate Silver, negative equity, new economy, Norbert Wiener, PageRank, pattern recognition, pets.com, Pierre-Simon Laplace, prediction markets, Productivity paradox, random walk, Richard Thaler, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Rodney Brooks, Ronald Reagan, Saturday Night Live, savings glut, security theater, short selling, Skype, statistical model, Steven Pinker, The Great Moderation, The Market for Lemons, the scientific method, The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Bayes, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, too big to fail, transaction costs, transfer pricing, University of East Anglia, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, wikimedia commons

Nickerson, “Null Hypothesis Significance Testing: A Review of an Old and Continuing Controversy,” Psychological Methods, 5, 2 (2000), pp. 241–301. http://203.64.159.11/richman/plogxx/gallery/17/%E9%AB%98%E7%B5%B1%E5%A0%B1%E5%91%8A.pdf. 62. Andrew Gelman and Cosma Tohilla Shalizi, “Philosophy and the Practice of Bayesian Statistics,” British Journal of Mathematical and Statistical Psychology, pp. 1–31, January 11, 2012. http://www.stat.columbia.edu/~gelman/research/published/philosophy.pdf. 63. Although there are several different formulations of the steps in the scientific method, this version is mostly drawn from “APPENDIX E: Introduction to the Scientific Method,” University of Rochester. http://teacher.pas.rochester.edu/phy_labs/appendixe/appendixe.html. 64. Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, Kindle edition). 65. Jacob Cohen, “The Earth Is Round (p<.05),” American Psychologist, 49, 12 (December 1994), pp. 997–1003. http://ist-socrates.berkeley.edu/~maccoun/PP279_Cohen1.pdf. 66.

The Promise and Pitfalls of “Big Data” The fashionable term now is “Big Data.” IBM estimates that we are generating 2.5 quintillion bytes of data each day, more than 90 percent of which was created in the last two years.36 This exponential growth in information is sometimes seen as a cure-all, as computers were in the 1970s. Chris Anderson, the editor of Wired magazine, wrote in 2008 that the sheer volume of data would obviate the need for theory, and even the scientific method.37 This is an emphatically pro-science and pro-technology book, and I think of it as a very optimistic one. But it argues that these views are badly mistaken. The numbers have no way of speaking for themselves. We speak for them. We imbue them with meaning. Like Caesar, we may construe them in self-serving ways that are detached from their objective reality. Data-driven predictions can succeed—and they can fail.

(The problem with Fisher’s notion of hypothesis testing is not with having hypotheses but with the way Fisher recommends that we test them.)62 In fact, this is critical to what Voulgaris does. Everyone can see the statistical patterns, and they are soon reflected in the betting line. The question is whether they represent signal or noise. Voulgaris forms hypotheses from his basketball knowledge so that he might tell the difference more quickly and more accurately. Voulgaris’s approach to betting basketball is one of the purer distillations of the scientific method that you’re likely to find (figure 8-7). He observes the world and asks questions: why are the Cleveland Cavaliers so frequently going over on the total? He then gathers information on the problem, and formulates a hypothesis: the Cavaliers are going over because Ricky Davis is in a contract year and is trying to play at a fast pace to improve his statistics. The difference between what Voulgaris does and what a physicist or biologist might do is that he demarcates his predictions by placing bets on them, whereas a scientist would hope to validate her prediction by conducting an experiment.


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Erwin Schrodinger and the Quantum Revolution by John Gribbin

Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, All science is either physics or stamp collecting, Arthur Eddington, British Empire, Brownian motion, double helix, Drosophila, Edmond Halley, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, Henri Poincaré, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, lateral thinking, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, Solar eclipse in 1919, The Present Situation in Quantum Mechanics, the scientific method, trade route, upwardly mobile

That notion of “sure experiments and demonstrated arguments” is the basis of science. Of course, the person who is usually credited with developing the scientific method, and in particular with doing experiments with falling bodies, is Galileo Galilei (1564–1642)—although as it happens Galileo himself did not drop objects from the Leaning Tower of Pisa. He did experiments with balls rolling down inclined planes, and also interpreted the famous Leaning Tower experiment, actually carried out by a rival trying to disprove Galileo’s claim that a light object and a heavy object dropped at the same time would hit the ground together. Where, though, did Galileo learn the scientific method? He was certainly capable of working it out for himself; but if he needed any prodding in the right direction, he definitely got it.

Right at the beginning of the seventeenth century, the English physician and scientist1 William Gilbert (1544–1603) published a treatise on magnetism, De magnete, in which he not only gave a description of magnetic phenomena that was unsurpassed for two hundred years, but extended the understanding derived from his laboratory studies to explain the Earth’s magnetic field—a significant step out into the cosmos at that time. Gilbert also spelled out the basis of what became the scientific method: testing hypotheses by experiment and observation, and rejecting any ideas which do not stand up to those tests. Bizarre though it may seem to us, even in Gilbert’s day it was still common for philosophers to try to settle arguments about what we would regard as scientific matters—such as whether a heavy object falls faster than a lighter object—literally by argument, rather than by doing experiments.


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Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger, Kenneth Cukier

23andMe, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, airport security, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, big data - Walmart - Pop Tarts, Black Swan, book scanning, business intelligence, business process, call centre, cloud computing, computer age, correlation does not imply causation, dark matter, double entry bookkeeping, Eratosthenes, Erik Brynjolfsson, game design, IBM and the Holocaust, index card, informal economy, intangible asset, Internet of things, invention of the printing press, Jeff Bezos, Joi Ito, lifelogging, Louis Pasteur, Mark Zuckerberg, Menlo Park, Moneyball by Michael Lewis explains big data, Nate Silver, natural language processing, Netflix Prize, Network effects, obamacare, optical character recognition, PageRank, paypal mafia, performance metric, Peter Thiel, post-materialism, random walk, recommendation engine, self-driving car, sentiment analysis, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, smart grid, smart meter, social graph, speech recognition, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, the scientific method, The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Davenport, Turing test, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!

For much of history, humankind’s highest achievements arose from conquering the world by measuring it. The quest for exactitude began in Europe in the middle of the thirteenth century, when astronomers and scholars took on the ever more precise quantification of time and space—“the measure of reality,” in the words of the historian Alfred Crosby. If one could measure a phenomenon, the implicit belief was, one could understand it. Later, measurement was tied to the scientific method of observation and explanation: the ability to quantify, record, and present reproducible results. “To measure is to know,” pronounced Lord Kelvin. It became a basis of authority. “Knowledge is power,” instructed Francis Bacon. In parallel, mathematicians, and what later became actuaries and accountants, developed methods that made possible the accurate collection, recording, and management of data.

In the future, our understanding will be driven more by the abundance of data rather than by hypotheses. These hypotheses have often been derived from theories of the natural or the social sciences, which in turn help explain and/or predict the world around us. As we transition from a hypothesis-driven world to a data-driven world, we may be tempted to think that we also no longer need theories. In 2008 Wired magazine’s editor-in-chief Chris Anderson trumpeted that “the data deluge makes the scientific method obsolete.” In a cover story called “The Petabyte Age,” he proclaimed that it amounted to nothing short of “the end of theory.” The traditional process of scientific discovery—of a hypothesis that is tested against reality using a model of underlying causalities—is on its way out, Anderson argued, replaced by statistical analysis of pure correlations that is devoid of theory. To support his argument, Anderson described how quantum physics has become an almost purely theoretical field, because experiments are too expensive, too complex, and too large to be feasible.

., “Machine Learning for the New York City Power Grid,” IEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence 34, no. 2 (2012), pp. 328–345 (http://hdl.handle.net/1721.1/68634). [>] Messiness of the term “service box”—This list comes from Rudin et al., “21st-Century Data Miners Meet 19th-Century Electrical Cables.” Rudin quotation—From interview with Cukier, March 2012. [>] Anderson’s views—Chris Anderson, “The End of Theory: The Data Deluge Makes the Scientific Method Obsolete,” Wired, June 2008 (http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/magazine/16-07/pb_theory/). [>] Anderson’s backpedal—National Public Radio, “Search and Destroy,” July 18, 2008 (http://www.onthemedia.org/2008/jul/18/search-and-destroy/transcript/). [>] On choices influencing our analysis—danah boyd and Kate Crawford. “Six Provocations for Big Data,” paper presented at Oxford Internet Institute’s “A Decade in Internet Time: Symposium on the Dynamics of the Internet and Society,” September 21, 2011 (http://ssrn.com/abstract=1926431). 5.


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The Burning Answer: The Solar Revolution: A Quest for Sustainable Power by Keith Barnham

Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, carbon footprint, credit crunch, decarbonisation, distributed generation, en.wikipedia.org, energy security, Ernest Rutherford, hydraulic fracturing, hydrogen economy, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Kickstarter, Naomi Klein, off grid, oil shale / tar sands, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, Silicon Valley, Stephen Hawking, the scientific method, uranium enrichment, wikimedia commons

It took two decades of dedicated effort by research students and research associates at Imperial, staff at QuantaSol and JDSU, and collaborators at Sheffield University, IMEM Parma, CIP Ipswich and IQE Europe to develop the cell, and the nanostructures, using the scientific method. To produce output power from sunlight with 42.5 per cent efficiency, each electron (and each positron) has to experience a mere five jumps between valence and conduction bands, three of which are assisted by photons. Developing that cell with the scientific method, a restricted amount of funding and no national solar cell laboratory to help was a challenge. By contrast, every electron involved in photosynthesis has ten jumps between far more complex systems than valence and conduction bands. Every electron also has two jumps assisted by photons in extremely complex photosystems.

That, surely, would make this CPV system economically viable in desert regions. Before examining the two options for converting carbon dioxide extracted from the air to produce solar fuels, I will give a simplified physicist’s overview of the very complicated chemistry that nature found to solve this problem. As far as we know, she found the solution by chance. With her example before us, and using the ingenuity of the scientific method rather than the random process of evolution, we can surely find a way to make direct air capture ‘economically viable’. What is photosynthesis? The best way to approach this extremely complex subject is by describing Joseph Priestley’s observations, which were fundamental to understanding photosynthesis. Priestley was one of a number of famous scientists and technologists who lived in Birmingham in the eighteenth century at the start of the Industrial Revolution.

Then, hundreds of millions of years later, this oxygen was needed when the most advanced form of life started burning the fossilised remains of the plants, algae and bacteria which had decayed deep underground, with potentially disastrous consequences. What can we learn from photosynthesis? This very simplified overview of photosynthesis should still enable us to learn some important lessons. First, if nature found such a complicated way to extract carbon dioxide from the air and turn it into plant fuel by chance, application of the scientific method will surely find a simpler and quicker way. Second, the two approaches to artificial photosynthesis that we will meet have taken inspiration from nature, but mimic it to different extents. Third, photosynthesis in plants directly produces a solar fuel, a carbohydrate, which the leaf needs to grow. Any artificial photosynthesis approach we discover can produce a solar fuel we can use directly.


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Giving the Devil His Due: Reflections of a Scientific Humanist by Michael Shermer

Alfred Russel Wallace, anthropic principle, anti-communist, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, Boycotts of Israel, Chelsea Manning, clean water, clockwork universe, cognitive dissonance, Colonization of Mars, Columbine, cosmological constant, cosmological principle, creative destruction, dark matter, Donald Trump, Edward Snowden, Elon Musk, Flynn Effect, germ theory of disease, gun show loophole, Hans Rosling, hedonic treadmill, helicopter parent, hindsight bias, illegal immigration, income inequality, invisible hand, Johannes Kepler, Joseph Schumpeter, laissez-faire capitalism, Laplace demon, luminiferous ether, McMansion, means of production, mega-rich, Menlo Park, moral hazard, moral panic, More Guns, Less Crime, Peter Singer: altruism, phenotype, positional goods, race to the bottom, Richard Feynman, Ronald Coase, Silicon Valley, Skype, social intelligence, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, transaction costs, WikiLeaks, working poor, Yogi Berra

James Flynn hits the mark on this point when he writes, “I know of no alternative to the scientific method to maximize accumulation of truth about the physical world and the causes of human behavior. If scholars are to debate this issue, do we not want the best evidence possible – and this can only come from science.” What if it turns out that the primary cause of racial differences in IQ is the environment but, due to academic censorship of sensitive topics, the only people doing research in this area are those who believe that all such differences are to be found in our genes? Where is the environmental refutation to the genetic conjecture? “There will be bad science on both sides of the debate,” Flynn admits. But “The only antidote I know for that is to use the scientific method as scrupulously as possible.” By way of example, Flynn says he discovered his eponymous effect – the “Flynn Effect” that IQ points have been increasing on average about three points every ten years for almost a century9 – by reading Arthur Jensen’s research on IQ and “g” (the general intelligence factor), which no one else noticed because of their reluctance to give any credence to Jensen’s work as a result of his association with the genetic position on racial differences in IQ.

Flynn’s courage and integrity go even further when he argues, “Moreover, research into this question should not be forbidden. This is so, no matter what the outcome of the race and IQ debate, that is, no matter whether the evidence eventually dictates a genetically caused deficit of nil or 5 or 10 or 20 IQ points.” That principle – the freedom to participate in the dialogue that the philosopher Karl Popper called “conjecture and refutation” – is at the heart of both the scientific method and the political process.7 The reason we need critical feedback from others is that our brains come equipped with a set of cognitive heuristics – or rules of thumb, or shortcuts – that help us navigate through the buzzing blurring confusion of information coming in through our senses. These heuristics are also known as cognitive biases because they often distort our percepts to fit preconceived concepts, and they are part of a larger process called “motivated reasoning,” in which no matter what belief system is in place – religious, political, economic, or social – they shape how we interpret information that comes through our senses and motivate us to reason our way to finding the world to be precisely the way we wish it were.

Many of the founding fathers of the United States, for example, such as Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, and John Adams, were either practicing scientists or were trained in the sciences, although at the time they would have considered themselves experimental or natural philosophers, as the term scientist wasn’t coined until 1840 and did not come into common use until the 1860s.13 They deliberately adapted the scientific method of gathering data, running experiments, and testing hypotheses to their construction of the nation. Their understanding of the provisional nature of findings led them to develop a political system in which doubt and disputation were the centerpieces of a functional polity. They thought of political governance as a problem-solving technology rather than as a power-grabbing opportunity. They thought of democracy in the same way that they thought of science – as a method, not an ideology.


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The Panic Virus: The True Story Behind the Vaccine-Autism Controversy by Seth Mnookin

Albert Einstein, British Empire, Cass Sunstein, cognitive dissonance, correlation does not imply causation, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, en.wikipedia.org, illegal immigration, index card, Isaac Newton, loss aversion, meta analysis, meta-analysis, mouse model, neurotypical, pattern recognition, placebo effect, Richard Thaler, Saturday Night Live, selection bias, Solar eclipse in 1919, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions

The success of such a gambit depended on the public’s misunderstanding of the approach scientists rely on to understand the world. The steps of the scientific method are the same whether you’re a sixth grader prepping for a science fair or a physicist proposing a new framework for the universe: Observations lead to hypotheses, hypotheses are tested by experimentation, results are analyzed, conclusions are submitted for publication, and the whole process undergoes peer review. (To be fair, for a typical twelve-year-old, “publication and peer review” usually means “write it up on a piece of poster board and appeal to your teacher for a good grade.”) It’s a formula so central to the very definition of science that it’s easy to assume it has been accepted as gospel throughout history. That, however, is not the case. The scientific method is actually a relatively new construct, the product of several millennia worth of arguments about the merits of purely hypothetical analysis versus the observation of the world outside ourselves.

Until the authors of a given theory have provided a detailed explanation of exactly how they got their results, they’re essentially telling the rest of the world to accept their conclusions on faith—which puts them back on the side of the ideologues who define “truth” as whatever they happen to believe at the moment. This emphasis on disproving what your colleagues had previously believed to be accurate can make listening in on scientific debates feel a little like eavesdropping on a newly divorced couple arguing over child visitation rights. The realities of the scientific method also present an uncomfortable challenge for anyone tasked with explaining to the public why this inherent open-endedness doesn’t negate the high degree of certainty that accompanies widely accepted conclusions. The combination of ambiguity and authority implicit in science is hard enough to understand if you are sitting across the table from a scientist; it is an exponentially more challenging point to convey when filtered through media outlets that eschew nuance and depth in favor of attention-grabbing declarations. 35 A Special Master is someone who has been granted the authority to carry out a course of action designated by a court.

They also show why two reasonable, intelligent people who disagree can be equally certain that the evidence supports their understanding of the “facts.” It’s at this point that confirmation bias, the granddaddy of all cognitive biases, kicks into action—which is to say, it’s at the precise moment when we should be looking for reasons that we might be wrong that we begin to overvalue any indication that points to our being right. (This is part of the reason the scientific method can be so hard to grasp, and so hard to adhere to: It goes against our makeup to try to find ways to punch holes in our own arguments.) Misapprehensions about medicine are particularly vulnerable to the effects of confirmation bias, because the process by which a given intervention works is so often contra-logical: It makes no intuitive sense that rebreaking a bone would help a fracture to heal or that using chemotherapy to kill living tissue would help a person survive cancer.


The Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect by Judea Pearl, Dana Mackenzie

affirmative action, Albert Einstein, Asilomar, Bayesian statistics, computer age, computer vision, correlation coefficient, correlation does not imply causation, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, Edmond Halley, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, experimental subject, Isaac Newton, iterative process, John Snow's cholera map, Loebner Prize, loose coupling, Louis Pasteur, Menlo Park, pattern recognition, Paul Erdős, personalized medicine, Pierre-Simon Laplace, placebo effect, prisoner's dilemma, probability theory / Blaise Pascal / Pierre de Fermat, randomized controlled trial, selection bias, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, speech recognition, statistical model, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, strong AI, The Design of Experiments, the scientific method, Thomas Bayes, Turing test

., the probability that the next ball would end up at some specified location on the table). Second, Bayes assumed that L is determined mechanically by shooting a billiard ball from a greater distance, say L*. In this way he bestowed objectivity onto P(L) and transformed the problem into one where prior probabilities are estimable from data, as we see in the teahouse and cancer test examples. In many ways, Bayes’s rule is a distillation of the scientific method. The textbook description of the scientific method goes something like this: (1) formulate a hypothesis, (2) deduce a testable consequence of the hypothesis, (3) perform an experiment and collect evidence, and (4) update your belief in the hypothesis. Usually the textbooks deal with simple yes-or-no tests and updates; the evidence either confirms or refutes the hypothesis. But life and science are never so simple!

Wright, to his great credit, understood the enormous stakes and stated in no uncertain terms, “In treating the model-free approach (3) as preferred alternative… Karlin et al. are urging not merely a change in method, but an abandonment of the purpose of path analysis and evaluation of the relative importance of varying causes. There can be no such analysis without a model. Their advice to anyone with an urge to make such an evaluation is to repress it and do something else.” Wright understood that he was defending the very essence of the scientific method and the interpretation of data. I would give the same advice today to big-data, model-free enthusiasts. Of course, it is okay to tease out all the information that the data can provide, but let’s ask how far this will get us. It will never get us beyond the first rung of the Ladder of Causation, and it will never answer even as simple a question as “What is the relative importance of various causes?”

Lind established, as conclusively as anybody could at that time, that a diet of citrus fruit prevented sailors from developing this dread disease. By the early 1800s, scurvy had become a problem of the past for the British navy, as all its ships took to the seas with an adequate supply of citrus fruit. This is usually the point at which history books end the story, celebrating a great triumph of the scientific method. It seems very surprising, then, that this completely preventable disease made an unexpected comeback a century later, when British expeditions started to explore the polar regions. The British Arctic Expedition of 1875, the Jackson-Harmsworth Expedition to the Arctic in 1894, and most notably the two expeditions of Robert Falcon Scott to Antarctica in 1903 and 1911 all suffered greatly from scurvy.


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The Visual Miscellaneum: A Colorful Guide to the World's Most Consequential Trivia by David McCandless

Desert Island Discs, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the scientific method

So when someone “speaks the truth”, what they are saying is actually an assemblage of their cultural background, their schooling, and the thoughts and opinions they’ve absorbed from their environment. In a way, you could say that their culture is speaking them. For that reason, in postmodern times, it becomes more accurate and safer to assemble truth with the help of other people, rather than just decide it independently. A clear example of this is the scientific method. Any scientist can do an experiment and declare a discovery about the world. But teams of other scientists must verify or “peer-review” that truth before it’s safe to accept it. The truth here has been assembled by many people. The truth has become social. All the time, though, there is an understanding that even this final “truth” may well just be temporary or convenient, a place-holder to be changed or binned later on.


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The Ghost Map: A Street, an Epidemic and the Hidden Power of Urban Networks. by Steven Johnson

call centre, clean water, correlation does not imply causation, creative destruction, Dean Kamen, digital map, double helix, edge city, germ theory of disease, global pandemic, Google Earth, Jane Jacobs, John Nash: game theory, John Snow's cholera map, lone genius, Louis Pasteur, mass immigration, megacity, mutually assured destruction, New Urbanism, nuclear winter, pattern recognition, peak oil, side project, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, the scientific method, trade route, unbiased observer, working poor

And indeed, one British doctor, Thomas Latta, hit upon this precise cure in 1832, months after the first outbreak, injecting salty water into the veins of the victims. Latta’s approach differed from the modern treatment only in terms of quantity: liters of water are necessary to ensure a full recovery. Tragically, Latta’s insight was lost in the swarming mass of cholera cures that emerged in the subsequent decades. Despite all the technological advances of the Industrial Age, Victorian medicine was hardly a triumph of the scientific method. Reading through the newspapers and medical journals of the day, what stands out is not just the breadth of remedies proposed, but the breadth of people involved in the discussion: surgeons, nurses, patent medicine quacks, public-health authorities, armchair chemists, all writing the Times and the Globe (or buying classified advertising there) with news of the dependable cure they had concocted.

The London Epidemiological Society had been formed only four years before, with Snow as a founding member. The basic technique of population statistics—measuring the incidence of a given phenomenon (disease, crime, poverty) as a percentage of overall population size—had entered the mainstream of scientific and medical thought only in the previous two decades. Epidemiology as a science was still in its infancy, and many of its basic principles had yet to be established. At the same time, the scientific method rarely intersected with the development and testing of new treatments and medicines. When you read through that endless stream of quack cholera cures published in the daily papers, what strikes you most is not that they are all, almost without exception, based on anecdotal evidence. What’s striking is that they never apologize for this shortcoming. They never pause to say, “Of course, this is all based on anecdotal evidence, but hear me out.”

The first is to embrace—as a matter of philosophy and public policy—the insights of science, in particular the fields that descend from the great Darwinian revolution that began only a matter of years after Snow’s death: genetics, evolutionary theory, environmental science. Our safety depends on being able to predict the evolutionary path that viruses and bacteria will take in the coming decades, just as safety in Snow’s day depended on the rational application of the scientific method to public-health matters. Superstition, then and now, is not just a threat to the truth. It’s also a threat to national security. The second is to commit ourselves anew to the kinds of public-health systems that developed in the wake of the Broad Street outbreak, both in the developed world and the developing: clean water supplies, sanitary waste-removal and recycling systems, early vaccination programs, disease detection and mapping programs.


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The End of Theory: Financial Crises, the Failure of Economics, and the Sweep of Human Interaction by Richard Bookstaber

"Robert Solow", asset allocation, bank run, bitcoin, business cycle, butterfly effect, buy and hold, capital asset pricing model, cellular automata, collateralized debt obligation, conceptual framework, constrained optimization, Craig Reynolds: boids flock, credit crunch, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, dark matter, disintermediation, Edward Lorenz: Chaos theory, epigenetics, feminist movement, financial innovation, fixed income, Flash crash, Henri Poincaré, information asymmetry, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, John Conway, John Meriwether, John von Neumann, Joseph Schumpeter, Long Term Capital Management, margin call, market clearing, market microstructure, money market fund, Paul Samuelson, Pierre-Simon Laplace, Piper Alpha, Ponzi scheme, quantitative trading / quantitative finance, railway mania, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Richard Feynman, risk/return, Saturday Night Live, self-driving car, sovereign wealth fund, the map is not the territory, The Predators' Ball, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, too big to fail, transaction costs, tulip mania, Turing machine, Turing test, yield curve

He believed that if economics could not explain market crises and “detect and exhibit every kind of periodic fluctuation,” then it was not a complete theory.17 The inquiry into the causes of phenomena as complex as commercial crises could not approach the rigor or mathematical purity of a science unless Jevons purged this subject of all traces of human emotion, unless he assumed—even if he could not prove—that some physical cause was acting on events others might describe as socially driven. Without some observable natural phenomenon to serve as causal agent, commercial crises threatened to become uninterpretable, limiting the claim of economics to be a science. Because Jevons patterned his economic methods after the scientific methods used for studying the natural world, he looked for a natural phenomenon as the anchor for his study of otherwise unexplainable crises. This led him to theorize that sunspots were the culprit.18 He was determined to link sunspot periodicity to the periodicity of commercial crises. And Britain had certainly been subject to them, most recently the 1845–1850 railway mania bubble, which, like all bubbles, did not end well.

You can do all sorts of gymnastics to find a set of stable preferences to encompass this, but I can point to any number of other context-driven preferences, and by the time you adjust to take all of them into account you have left economics in the dust; you have a model of the human psyche. If this dynamic is inevitable, then we have lost an essential part of what is necessary for economics to appeal to the scientific method. Economics operates as if we are like MGonz, like a “goddamn robot,” and it will present a reasonable view of our behavior and preferences if we live in such a contextless world. The fact of humanity is an impediment. That characteristic might not matter in the short term or in a stable world, but times of crisis are not such a world. So we get back to the point that in using crises as the crucible we find limitations to the standard economics approach. 6 Human Experience and Radical Uncertainty During the war in Iraq, then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld referred, somewhat indecorously, to “unknown unknowns” when describing U.S. operations strategy.

Jevons accepted Walras as an ally and promised to spread the news of his Elements of Pure Economics, though in the end he did so only halfheartedly. 17. Jevons and Foxwell (1884), 4. 18. A treatment of Jevons’ interest in crises and his pursuit of sunspots as the explanation is in Poovey (2008), especially 275–83. 19. His reasoning in considering sunspots has a logical structure that echoes in the scientific methods of economics even today. He wrote (Jevons and Foxwell 1884, 194–95): It is a well-known principle of mechanics that the effects of a periodically varying cause are themselves periodic, and usually go through their phases in periods of time equal to those of the cause. There is no doubt that the energy poured upon the earth’s surface in the form of sunbeams is the principal agent in maintaining life here.


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Intertwingled: Information Changes Everything by Peter Morville

A Pattern Language, Airbnb, Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, augmented reality, Bernie Madoff, Black Swan, business process, Cass Sunstein, cognitive dissonance, collective bargaining, disruptive innovation, index card, information retrieval, Internet of things, Isaac Newton, iterative process, Jane Jacobs, John Markoff, Lean Startup, Lyft, minimum viable product, Mother of all demos, Nelson Mandela, Paul Graham, peer-to-peer, RFID, Richard Thaler, ride hailing / ride sharing, Schrödinger's Cat, self-driving car, semantic web, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, source of truth, Steve Jobs, Stewart Brand, Ted Nelson, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, the scientific method, The Wisdom of Crowds, theory of mind, uber lyft, urban planning, urban sprawl, Vannevar Bush, zero-sum game

Also, it was a less hectic meeting, and the group was receptive to change. This collaboration took time and was messy. We’d pick a road in the fork only to loop back around. But this process improved quality enormously. By creating a safe space-time in which actions and decisions aren’t binding, we defused self-justification for a while. Of course, we often lack the luxury of space-time. This limits collaboration and the scientific method. When thorny questions arise, folks love to suggest A/B testing. Sometimes that’s a great idea, but often the complexity and connectedness of the system make it unfeasible. It’s difficult to isolate variables, and we can’t always judge long term efficacy based upon the initial response. Users adapt to change over time. Also, creating dual designs that integrate into the whole takes a lot of effort.

So it’s naïve to inquire which way is better. Better for whom? Better in which contexts? Better for what purposes? These are the questions we must ask. Not so long ago, our ways of knowing were different. Before the printing press, we relied heavily upon personal experience and our senses, using evidence and induction to find the truth. In time, we extended our senses with instruments and formalized trial-and-error as the scientific method. We added to our empirical ways with deduction, using reason and logic to mathematically prove the truth. To absorb second-hand knowledge, we had to do it in person. Cultural wisdom was embodied in rituals, habits, laws, and myths. Power, authority, and trust were centered in the community. Today most knowledge is second-hand, and we don’t even know where it comes from. Access to massive amounts of conflicting information from myriad sources creates filter failure.


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On the Future: Prospects for Humanity by Martin J. Rees

23andMe, 3D printing, air freight, Alfred Russel Wallace, Asilomar, autonomous vehicles, Benoit Mandelbrot, blockchain, cryptocurrency, cuban missile crisis, dark matter, decarbonisation, demographic transition, distributed ledger, double helix, effective altruism, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, global village, Hyperloop, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Internet of things, Jeff Bezos, job automation, Johannes Kepler, John Conway, life extension, mandelbrot fractal, mass immigration, megacity, nuclear winter, pattern recognition, quantitative hedge fund, Ray Kurzweil, Rodney Brooks, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, smart grid, speech recognition, Stanford marshmallow experiment, Stanislav Petrov, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, Stuxnet, supervolcano, technological singularity, the scientific method, Tunguska event, uranium enrichment, Walter Mischel, Yogi Berra

A favourite cartoon of my engineering friends shows two beavers looking up at a vast hydroelectric dam. One beaver says to the other: ‘I didn’t actually build it, but it’s based on my idea’. And I like to remind my theorist colleagues that the Swedish engineer Gideon Sundback, who invented the zipper, made a bigger intellectual leap than most of us ever will. Scientists are widely believed to follow a distinctive procedure that’s described as the scientific method. This belief should be laid to rest. It would be truer to say that scientists follow the same rational style of reasoning as lawyers or detectives in categorising phenomena and assessing evidence. A related (and indeed damaging) misperception is the widespread presumption that there is something especially ‘elite’ about the quality of their thought. ‘Academic ability’ is one facet of the far wider concept of intellectual ability—possessed in equal measure by the best journalists, lawyers, engineers, and politicians.

Parts of this section first appeared in Martin J. Rees, “Cosmology and the Mulitverse, in Universe or Multiverse, ed. Bernard Carr (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007). 11.  John Polkinghorne, Science and Theology (London: SPCK/Fortress Press, 1995). CHAPTER 5. CONCLUSIONS   1.  E. O. Wilson, Letters to a Young Scientist (New York: Liveright, 2014).   2.  Karl Popper’s key work on the scientific method is The Logic of Scientific Discovery (London: Routledge, 1959)—a translation of the original German version published in 1934. In the intervening years, Popper enhanced his reputation with his deeply impressive contribution to political theory: The Open Society and Its Enemies.   3.  P. Medawar, The Hope of Progress (Garden City, NY: Anchor Press, 1973), 69.   4.  T. S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962).   5.  


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What's Your Future Worth?: Using Present Value to Make Better Decisions by Peter Neuwirth

backtesting, big-box store, Black Swan, collective bargaining, discounted cash flows, en.wikipedia.org, Long Term Capital Management, Rubik’s Cube, Skype, the scientific method

All econometric models, and much of the projections that economists (and those who would use Big Data to predict the future) make, are based on the philosophical principle of “induction,” specifically that the accumulation of empirical data will allow us to form better and better theories about how the world works and that these theories can then be used to make predictions to be tested by subsequent observations. It is the basis for the scientific method that we all learned about in school and many of us use regularly in our daily lives. In no way do I want to say that the scientific method is wrong or that induction is not a powerful and useful tool, but in my view when such a tool is available we must be careful not to try to overgeneralize its applicability and use it for purposes for which it was never intended. As Taleb points out, econometrics and economic modeling in general is particularly ill suited to the use of induction.27 Why?


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The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis by Jeremy Rifkin

agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, animal electricity, back-to-the-land, British Empire, carbon footprint, collaborative economy, death of newspapers, delayed gratification, distributed generation, en.wikipedia.org, energy security, feminist movement, global village, hedonic treadmill, hydrogen economy, illegal immigration, income inequality, income per capita, interchangeable parts, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Internet Archive, invention of movable type, invention of the steam engine, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Mahatma Gandhi, Marshall McLuhan, means of production, megacity, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Milgram experiment, Nelson Mandela, new economy, New Urbanism, Norbert Wiener, off grid, out of africa, Peace of Westphalia, peak oil, peer-to-peer, planetary scale, scientific worldview, Simon Kuznets, Skype, smart grid, smart meter, social intelligence, supply-chain management, surplus humans, the medium is the message, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, theory of mind, transaction costs, upwardly mobile, uranium enrichment, working poor, World Values Survey

Still, many of us have difficulty accepting the idea of reality as the collective understandings we create about the world around us by dint of the relationships we enter. That’s in large part because we were weaned on the “scientific method,” which informed us that objective reality exists and human beings are capable of knowing it by becoming detached observers—the exact opposite of the embodied approach to reality. Francis Bacon, the pre-Enlightenment English philosopher, wrote of a new way to understand and order reality in his master work, the Novum Organum. Bacon outlined what would later be called the scientific method. Impatient with the ancient Greek approach to science with its emphasis on the “why” of things, Bacon turned his attention to the “how” of things. The Greeks, he wrote, had not “adduced a single experiment which tends to relieve and benefit the condition of man.”29 Bacon was far more interested in harnessing nature for productive ends than merely contemplating the reason for its existence.

In this sense, collaborative learning transforms the classroom into a laboratory for empathic expression which, in turn, enriches the educational process. TEACHING EMPATHIC SCIENCE If we were going to look for ground zero in the teaching of the conventional Enlightenment model of classroom education, it would be the inculcation of the scientific method—an approach to learning that has been nearly deified in the centuries that have followed the European Enlightenment. Children are introduced to the scientific method in middle school and informed that it is the only accurate process by which to gather knowledge and learn about the real world around us. Students are instructed that the best way to investigate phenomena and discover truths is by objective observation. A premium is put on dispassionate neutrality. The objective approach to analyzing phenomena assumes that the world is made up of objects that can be analyzed in isolation, independent of the larger wholes of which they are a part.

The Greeks, he wrote, had not “adduced a single experiment which tends to relieve and benefit the condition of man.”29 Bacon was far more interested in harnessing nature for productive ends than merely contemplating the reason for its existence. Bacon’s method, which was heavily influenced by the new ideas about “perspective” that were revolutionizing art, is based on the idea that the only way to know reality is to remove oneself and create a neutral barrier so that a disembodied mind can observe and make value-free judgments about its workings. Bacon was convinced that the scientific method was a powerful new mental tool that would allow the human mind to “conquer and subdue” nature and “shake her to her foundations.” The goal of the new science, said Bacon, was to “establish and extend the power of dominion of the human race itself over the universe.”30 Bacon and the rationalist philosophers who followed him believed that nature is little more than a storehouse of valuable resources and that the only relationship that counted was the exercise of power over it.


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Everything Is Obvious: *Once You Know the Answer by Duncan J. Watts

active measures, affirmative action, Albert Einstein, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Black Swan, business cycle, butterfly effect, Carmen Reinhart, Cass Sunstein, clockwork universe, cognitive dissonance, coherent worldview, collapse of Lehman Brothers, complexity theory, correlation does not imply causation, crowdsourcing, death of newspapers, discovery of DNA, East Village, easy for humans, difficult for computers, edge city, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, framing effect, Geoffrey West, Santa Fe Institute, George Santayana, happiness index / gross national happiness, high batting average, hindsight bias, illegal immigration, industrial cluster, interest rate swap, invention of the printing press, invention of the telescope, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jane Jacobs, Jeff Bezos, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Rogoff, lake wobegon effect, Laplace demon, Long Term Capital Management, loss aversion, medical malpractice, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Milgram experiment, natural language processing, Netflix Prize, Network effects, oil shock, packet switching, pattern recognition, performance metric, phenotype, Pierre-Simon Laplace, planetary scale, prediction markets, pre–internet, RAND corporation, random walk, RFID, school choice, Silicon Valley, social intelligence, statistical model, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, supply-chain management, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, the scientific method, The Wisdom of Crowds, too big to fail, Toyota Production System, ultimatum game, urban planning, Vincenzo Peruggia: Mona Lisa, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, X Prize

But as frustrating as it can be for physics students, the consistency with which our commonsense physics fails us has one great advantage for human civilization: It forces us to do science. In science, we accept that if we want to learn how the world works, we need to test our theories with careful observations and experiments, and then trust the data no matter what our intuition says. And as laborious as it can be, the scientific method is responsible for essentially all the gains in understanding the natural world that humanity has made over the past few centuries. But when it comes to the human world, where our unaided intuition is so much better than it is in physics, we rarely feel the need to use the scientific method. Why is it, for example, that most social groups are so homogeneous in terms of race, education level, and even gender? Why do some things become popular and not others? How much does the media influence society? Is more choice better or worse?

Most working scientists regard Ockham’s razor with something close to reverence—Albert Einstein, for example, once claimed that a theory “ought to be as simple as possible, and no simpler”—and the history of science would seem to justify this reverence, filled as it is with examples of complex and unwieldy ideas being swept away by simpler, more elegant formulations. What is perhaps less appreciated about the history of science is that it is also filled with examples of initially simple and elegant formulations becoming increasingly more complex and inelegant as they struggle to bear the burden of empirical evidence. Arguably, in fact, it is the capacity of the scientific method to pursue explanatory power, even at the cost of theoretical elegance and parsimony, where its real strength lies. 17. For Berlin’s full analysis of the differences between science and history, and the impossibility of remaking the latter in the image of the former, see Berlin (1960). 18. See Gaddis (2002) for a warning about the perils of generalizing, and also some examples of doing just that. 19.


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Big Bang by Simon Singh

Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, All science is either physics or stamp collecting, Andrew Wiles, anthropic principle, Arthur Eddington, Astronomia nova, Brownian motion, carbon-based life, Cepheid variable, Chance favours the prepared mind, Commentariolus, Copley Medal, cosmic abundance, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, cosmological principle, dark matter, Dava Sobel, Defenestration of Prague, discovery of penicillin, Dmitri Mendeleev, Edmond Halley, Edward Charles Pickering, Eratosthenes, Ernest Rutherford, Erwin Freundlich, Fellow of the Royal Society, fudge factor, Hans Lippershey, Harlow Shapley and Heber Curtis, Harvard Computers: women astronomers, Henri Poincaré, horn antenna, if you see hoof prints, think horses—not zebras, Index librorum prohibitorum, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, Karl Jansky, Kickstarter, Louis Daguerre, Louis Pasteur, luminiferous ether, Magellanic Cloud, Murray Gell-Mann, music of the spheres, Olbers’ paradox, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, Paul Erdős, retrograde motion, Richard Feynman, scientific mainstream, Simon Singh, Solar eclipse in 1919, Stephen Hawking, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, unbiased observer, Wilhelm Olbers, William of Occam

The Big Bang model of the universe was developed over the last hundred years, and this was only possible because twentieth-century breakthroughs were built upon a foundation of astronomy constructed in previous centuries. In turn, these theories and observations of the sky were set within a scientific framework that had been assiduously crafted over two millennia. Going back even further, the scientific method as a path to objective truth about the material world could start to blossom only when the role of myths and folklore had begun to decline. All in all, the roots of the Big Bang model and the desire for a scientific theory of the universe can be traced right back to the decline of the ancient mythological view of the world. From Giant Creators to Greek Philosophers According to a Chinese creation myth that dates to 600 BC, Phan Ku the Giant Creator emerged from an egg and proceeded to create the world by using a chisel to carve valleys and mountains from the landscape.

When the planet is closer to the Sun the radius vector is short, but this is compensated by its greater speed, which means that it covers more of the ellipse’s circumference in a fixed time. When the planet is far from the Sun the radius vector is much longer, but it has a slower speed so it covers a smaller section of the circumference in the same time. Kepler’s ellipses provided a complete and accurate vision of our Solar System. His conclusions were a triumph for science and the scientific method, the result of combining observation, theory and mathematics. He first published his breakthrough in 1609 in a huge treatise entitled Astronomia nova, which detailed eight years of meticulous work, including numerous lines of investigation that led only to dead ends. He asked the reader to bear with him: ‘If thou art bored with this wearisome method of calculation, take pity on me who had to go through with at least seventy repetitions of it, at a very great loss of time.’

One student who saw Lemaître upon his return from hearing the Pope’s address to the Academy recalled him ‘storming into class…his usual jocularity entirely missing’. Lemaître was determined to discourage the Pope from making proclamations about cosmology, partly to halt the embarrassment that was being caused to supporters of the Big Bang, but also to avoid any potential difficulties for the Church. If the Pope—caught up as he was by his enthusiasm for the Big Bang model—were to endorse the scientific method and utilise it to support the Catholic Church, then this policy might rebound if new scientific discoveries contradicted Biblical teachings. Lemaître contacted Daniel O’Connell, director of the Vatican Observatory and the Pope’s science advisor, and suggested that together they try to persuade the Pope to keep quiet on cosmology. The Pope was surprisingly compliant and agreed to the request—the Big Bang would no longer be a matter suitable for Papal addresses.


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The Invention of Science: A New History of the Scientific Revolution by David Wootton

agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, British Empire, clockwork universe, Commentariolus, commoditize, conceptual framework, Dava Sobel, double entry bookkeeping, double helix, en.wikipedia.org, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, fudge factor, germ theory of disease, Google X / Alphabet X, Hans Lippershey, interchangeable parts, invention of gunpowder, invention of the steam engine, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Jacques de Vaucanson, James Watt: steam engine, Johannes Kepler, John Harrison: Longitude, knowledge economy, lateral thinking, lone genius, Mercator projection, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, Philip Mirowski, placebo effect, QWERTY keyboard, Republic of Letters, social intelligence, spice trade, spinning jenny, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions

Chesne, Joseph du. The Practise of Chymicall, and Hermeticall Physicke. Trans. T Timme. London: T Creede, 1605. Child, William. Wittgenstein. London: Routledge, 2011. Christianson, John Robert. On Tycho’s Island: Tycho Brahe, Science and Culture in the Sixteenth Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. Christie, Thony. ‘Nobody Invented the Scientific Method’. 29 August 2012. http://thonyc.wordpress.com/2012/08/29/nobody-invented-the-scientific-method/ (accessed 10 December 2014). Cicero, Marcus Tullius. De natura deorum: Academica. Ed. H Rackham. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1933. Cieslak-Golonka, Maria and Bruno Morten. ‘The Women Scientists of Bologna’. American Scientist 88 (2000): 68–73. Ciliberto, Michele and Nicholas Mann (eds.). Giordano Bruno, 1583–1585: The English Experience.

The most striking example of this approach in action is Steven Shapin and Simon Schaffer’s Leviathan and the Air-pump (1985), generally acknowledged as the most influential work in the discipline since Thomas Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions.xlix The new history of science offered, in Steven Shapin’s phrase, a social history of truth.l Scientific method, it was now argued, kept changing, so that there was no such thing as the scientific method: a famous book by Paul Feyerabend was entitled Against Method,li its catchphrase ‘Anything goes’; it was followed by Farewell to Reason.78 Some philosophers and nearly all anthropologists agreed: standards of rationality were, they insisted, local and highly variable.79 But we must reject the Wittgensteinian notion that truth is simply consensus, a notion incompatible with an understanding of one of the fundamental things science does, which is to show that a consensus view must be abandoned when it is at odds with the evidence.lii The classic text here is Galileo’s ‘Letter to Christina of Lorraine’ (1615) in defence of Copernicanism.

As Kuhn rightly put it, ‘Scientific development is like Darwinian evolution, a process driven from behind rather than pulled toward some fixed goal towards which it grows ever closer.’54 §9 The problem with the relativists is that they explain bad science and good science, phrenology and nuclear physics, in exactly the same way – advocates of ‘the strong programme’ explicitly insist on this equivalence.xxv The problem with the realists is that they assume there is nothing peculiar about the method and structure of science. According to them the scientific method is somehow natural, like walking, not artificial, like a watch. This book will look, I trust, realist to relativists and relativist to realists: that is how it is meant to look. It stands in the tradition of Kuhn’s 1991 lecture ‘The Trouble with the Historical Philosophy of Science’. There Kuhn criticized the relativists (who had taken much of their inspiration from his own work), saying that their mistake was taking the traditional view of scientific knowledge too much for granted.


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Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat by Bee Wilson

Albert Einstein, British Empire, Fellow of the Royal Society, haute cuisine, Kitchen Debate, lateral thinking, Louis Pasteur, refrigerator car, sexual politics, the scientific method, Upton Sinclair, Wall-E

People in this second group are more likely to think that what they are doing is scientific, the idea being that the more we can measure and pin cooking down, the more like science it will be. Both groups are probably deluding themselves. Artistic cooks do far more measuring than they admit. And cooking-by-numbers cooks are much less scientific than they pretend. Cooking by numbers is based on a subtle misunderstanding of the scientific method. The popular view of “science” is one of unswerving formulas and a set of final answers. In this reading, scientific cooking would be able to come up, once and for all, with the definitive formula for, say, bechamel sauce: how many grams of flour, butter, and milk, the exact temperature at which it should cook, the diameter of the pan, the precise number of seconds for which it should simmer and the number of revolutions of your whisk as it cooks: cooking by numbers.

It is striking how often cooks and chefs who are otherwise wedded to the numbers game do not quantify the salt content in a recipe. Nathan Myhrvold in Modernist Cuisine weighs everything, gram for gram, even water, yet advises that salt is “to taste.” Similarly, Heston Blumenthal measures the dry-matter content in his potatoes but does not measure the salt and pepper in his signature mashed potatoes. This underscores the point that no kitchen formula can ever be definitive. The scientific method is far more open-ended than is generally allowed. It is not a dogmatic set of numbers but a process of forming and testing conjectures based on experience using controlled experiments, which then throw up new conjectures. The process of cooking supper every night can certainly be understood in this light. My experience tells me that lemon and Parmesan taste delicious together, particularly in a pasta sauce.

The first time you make a dish you may need to follow the numbers fairly closely, which can help to “abbreviate the romantic but lengthy learning process one might characterize as ‘guess, feel, botch, puzzle, try again and try to remember what you did.’” By the second or third time, the numbers are less important because you have started to trust your own senses. After all, Rodgers remarks, you do not need to measure “the exact amount of sugar or milk you add to your coffee or tea.” Numbers, therefore, are crucial, but never the whole story. There is a world outside of measuring in the kitchen. Part of the scientific method is accepting that not everything is within the domain of science. I am fond enough of my measuring devices—there’s a quiet contentment in peering at that classic Pyrex measuring cup trying to see if stock for a pilaf has reached the 600 ml mark; or watching the dial swing around on a candy thermometer when making fudge; or using a tape measure to verify the diameter of biscotti dough. I even use my iPhone as a kitchen timer.


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Under the Knife: A History of Surgery in 28 Remarkable Operations by Arnold van de Laar Laproscopic Surgeon

Albert Einstein, Ayatollah Khomeini, clean water, Ignaz Semmelweis: hand washing, Louis Pasteur, placebo effect, the scientific method, wikimedia commons

A diagnosis of ileus is more probable if a CT scan shows possible indications of the disease, but less probable if the patient displays no symptoms and even less probable if a surgeon sees no reason to operate. Then Karl Popper introduced the principle of falsifiability and the scientific method. He stated that the truth cannot be discovered. We can only develop a theory of the truth, and then only if we observe one crucial condition: the theory must be formulated in such a way that it can be refuted. This became the basis of all modern medical science. In daily clinical practice, the scientific method works as follows: a clear treatment plan is set in motion for a patient as quickly as possible, based on a working diagnosis. That working diagnosis is based on a falsifiable theory of reality. If the treatment does not have the desired effect, the working diagnosis must be critically reviewed.

For example, that the patient had been suffering from diarrhoea for a week before the inflammation occurred, which makes the diagnosis less likely. What lies behind this mutual lack of understanding is a philosophical distinction between deduction and induction, two ways of discovering the truth through logic. Historically, the deductive is older than the inductive method, but both were replaced in the philosophy of science by the scientific method, developed by Karl Popper in 1934. During the Middle Ages, it was widely believed that human knowledge had already reached its zenith in the golden age of classical antiquity. Doctors and surgeons therefore based their work uncritically on the wisdom of the Greek philosopher Aristotle and the Roman gladiator physician Galen, two men who, with hindsight, did not stand out as providing their theses with a solid foundation in fact.


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The Startup Way: Making Entrepreneurship a Fundamental Discipline of Every Enterprise by Eric Ries

activist fund / activist shareholder / activist investor, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Airbnb, autonomous vehicles, barriers to entry, basic income, Ben Horowitz, Black-Scholes formula, call centre, centralized clearinghouse, Clayton Christensen, cognitive dissonance, connected car, corporate governance, DevOps, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, fault tolerance, Frederick Winslow Taylor, global supply chain, index card, Jeff Bezos, Kickstarter, Lean Startup, loss aversion, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, means of production, minimum viable product, moral hazard, move fast and break things, move fast and break things, obamacare, peer-to-peer, place-making, rent-seeking, Richard Florida, Sam Altman, Sand Hill Road, secular stagnation, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, six sigma, skunkworks, Steve Jobs, the scientific method, time value of money, Toyota Production System, Uber for X, universal basic income, web of trust, Y Combinator

On a regular schedule (cadence), make a decision about whether to make a change in strategy (pivot) or stay the course (persevere). As we discussed in Chapter 3, every startup is first and foremost about vision. The goal of Lean Startup is to find the fastest possible path to realizing this vision. The specifics of how to arrive at the answers will, of course, look different for each project but will follow the same basic steps, employing the scientific method to systematically break down the plan into its component parts through rapid experimentation. LEAN STARTUP AT THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION In August of 2013, President Obama announced that he was in search of a better way to hold colleges and universities accountable for their performance in serving students. If you are the parent of a college-age or near-college-age kid, you’ve probably looked at a few lists—the best colleges in your state or the best ones for the majors your child is interested in.

Most corporate projects lack this level of accountability. Our goal as leaders should be: If a project fails, it’s on the project founder. The entrepreneur didn’t deliver the results. He or she allowed it to die — not some higher-up manager. Taking responsibility for that failure is harder in the short term, but failing with honor is a skill.9 And it takes advantage of the most important lesson of the scientific method: If you can’t fail, you can’t learn. Experimenting rapidly, teams learn for themselves what’s important, and the lessons teams learn—about customers, about the market, about themselves—are much more profound than they would be otherwise. And many failed projects—think back to Amazon’s Fire phone from Chapter 1—lay the foundation for future successes. 5. The ability to solve heterogeneous problems with speed and agility There are certain problems that, when they arise, require the whole organization to reinvent itself to solve them, like a massive product recall or some other highly visible crisis.

Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers and Challengers (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2010). 10. fastcompany.com/​3068931/​why-this-ceo-appointed-an-employee-to-change-dumb-company-rules. CHAPTER 7 1. Also along for the ride, doing a lot of critical and difficult legwork were Aubrey Smith, Tony Campbell, Marilyn Gorman, and Steve Liguori. 2. playbook.cio.gov/. 3. inc.com/​steve-blank/​key-to-success-getting-out-of-building.html. 4. Students of the scientific method may be concerned that we are not teaching teams the importance of a falsifiable hypothesis. It’s true that I generally save this bit of theory for a more advanced session, but keep in mind that startup arrogance actually works in our favor here. The idea that every single person on the planet will love my product is the ultimate in easily falsified hypotheses. 5. davidgcohen.com/​2011/​08/​28/​the-mentor-manifesto/. 6.


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Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future by Paul Mason

Alfred Russel Wallace, bank run, banking crisis, banks create money, Basel III, basic income, Bernie Madoff, Bill Gates: Altair 8800, bitcoin, Branko Milanovic, Bretton Woods, BRICs, British Empire, business cycle, business process, butterfly effect, call centre, capital controls, Cesare Marchetti: Marchetti’s constant, Claude Shannon: information theory, collaborative economy, collective bargaining, Corn Laws, corporate social responsibility, creative destruction, credit crunch, currency manipulation / currency intervention, currency peg, David Graeber, deglobalization, deindustrialization, deskilling, discovery of the americas, Downton Abbey, drone strike, en.wikipedia.org, energy security, eurozone crisis, factory automation, financial repression, Firefox, Fractional reserve banking, Frederick Winslow Taylor, full employment, future of work, game design, income inequality, inflation targeting, informal economy, information asymmetry, intangible asset, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Internet of things, job automation, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Arrow, Kevin Kelly, Kickstarter, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, late capitalism, low skilled workers, market clearing, means of production, Metcalfe's law, microservices, money: store of value / unit of account / medium of exchange, mortgage debt, Network effects, new economy, Norbert Wiener, Occupy movement, oil shale / tar sands, oil shock, Paul Samuelson, payday loans, Pearl River Delta, post-industrial society, precariat, price mechanism, profit motive, quantitative easing, race to the bottom, RAND corporation, rent-seeking, reserve currency, RFID, Richard Stallman, Robert Gordon, Robert Metcalfe, secular stagnation, sharing economy, Stewart Brand, structural adjustment programs, supply-chain management, The Future of Employment, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Transnistria, union organizing, universal basic income, urban decay, urban planning, Vilfredo Pareto, wages for housework, WikiLeaks, women in the workforce

We want to know why, during a million repetitions of their normal lifecycles, small variations can emerge and then, suddenly, massive change. Theories allow us to describe the reality we can’t see. And they allow us to predict. All forms of economics accept the need for theory. But the difficulty of finding one, and confronting its implications, led economics in the late nineteenth century to retreat from the scientific method. Q: Why can’t I ‘see’ value, surplus value and labour time? If they don’t show up in the accounts of companies, and professional economists don’t acknowledge them, aren’t they just a mental construct? A: A more sophisticated way of putting it would be to say, as the Cambridge economist Joan Robinson did in the 1960s, that the labour-theory is ‘metaphysical’ – a mental construct whose existence could never be disproved.

After that, there was a demographic shock: too few workers for the land, which raised their wages and made the old feudal obligation system impossible to enforce. The labour shortage also made technological innovation necessary. The new technologies that underpinned the rise of merchant capitalism were the ones that stimulated commerce (printing and accountancy), the creation of tradable wealth (mining, the compass and fast ships) and productivity (mathematics and the scientific method). Present throughout the whole process is something that looks incidental to the old system – money and credit – but which is destined to become the basis of the new system. Many laws and customs are actually shaped around ignoring money; in high feudalism credit is seen as sinful. So when money and credit burst through the boundaries and create a market system, it feels like a revolution.

A combination of all these factors took a set of people who had been persecuted or marginalized under feudalism – humanists, scientists, craftsmen, lawyers, radical preachers and bohemian playwrights like Shakespeare – and put them at the head of a social transformation. At key moments, though tentatively at first, the state switched from hindering the change to promoting it. There won’t be exact parallels in the transition to postcapitalism but the rough parallels are there. The thing that is corroding capitalism, barely rationalized by mainstream economics, is information. The equivalent of the printing press and the scientific method is information technology and its spillover into all other forms of technology, from genetics to healthcare to agriculture to the movies. The modern equivalent of the long stagnation of late feudalism is the stalled fifth Kondratieff cycle, where instead of rapidly automating work out of existence, we are reduced to creating bullshit jobs on low pay, and many economies are stagnating. The equivalent of the new source of free wealth?


pages: 227 words: 62,177

Numbers Rule Your World: The Hidden Influence of Probability and Statistics on Everything You Do by Kaiser Fung

American Society of Civil Engineers: Report Card, Andrew Wiles, Bernie Madoff, Black Swan, business cycle, call centre, correlation does not imply causation, cross-subsidies, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, edge city, Emanuel Derman, facts on the ground, fixed income, Gary Taubes, John Snow's cholera map, moral hazard, p-value, pattern recognition, profit motive, Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, statistical model, the scientific method, traveling salesman

If reasonable people could not ascertain the source of unfairness even after a test item showed a difference between groups, there was no reasonable basis on which to accuse test developers of malpractice. The problem of false alarms demonstrated that some group differences were not caused by test developers but by differential ability, elevating the need to untangle the two factors. Henceforth, the mere existence of a racial gap should not automatically implicate item writers in the creation of unfair tests. While the initial foray into the scientific method turned out bad science, it nevertheless produced some good data, paving the way to rampant technical progress. By 1987, Anrig could turn his back on the Golden Rule procedure because the team at ETS had achieved the breakthrough needed to unravel the two factors. Simply put, the key insight was to compare like with like. The statisticians learned not to carelessly lump together examinees with varying levels of ability.

If Rosenthal chose to absorb a higher false-positive rate—as much as one in a hundred is typical—he could reduce the chance of a false negative, which is the failure to expose dishonest store owners. This explains why he could reject the no-fraud hypothesis for western Canada as well, even though the odds of 1 in 2.3 million were higher.) The Power of Being Impossible Statistical thinking is absolutely central to the scientific method, which requires theories to generate testable hypotheses. Statisticians have created a robust framework for judging whether there is sufficient evidence to support a given hypothesis. This framework is known as statistical testing, also called hypothesis testing or significance testing. See De Veaux’s textbook Stats: Data and Models for a typically fluent introduction to this vast subject.


pages: 230 words: 61,702

The Internet of Us: Knowing More and Understanding Less in the Age of Big Data by Michael P. Lynch

Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Amazon Mechanical Turk, big data - Walmart - Pop Tarts, bitcoin, Cass Sunstein, Claude Shannon: information theory, crowdsourcing, Edward Snowden, Firefox, Google Glasses, hive mind, income inequality, Internet of things, John von Neumann, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Nate Silver, new economy, Panopticon Jeremy Bentham, patient HM, prediction markets, RFID, sharing economy, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, the scientific method, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, WikiLeaks

One of the lessons of previous chapters is that big data and our digital form of life, while sometimes making it easier to be a responsible and reasonable believer, often makes it harder as well—while at the same time setting up conditions that make reasonable belief more important than ever before. The same thing could be said for understanding—except even more so. And that’s important, because understanding is what keeps the “human” in what I earlier called the digital human. The End of Theory? In 2008, Chris Anderson, then editor of Wired, wrote a controversial and widely cited editorial called “The End of Theory: The Data Deluge Makes the Scientific Method Obsolete.” Anderson claimed that what we are now calling big data analytics was overthrowing traditional ways of doing science: This is a world where massive amounts of data and applied mathematics replace every other tool that might be brought to bear. Out with every theory of human behavior, from linguistics to sociology. Forget taxonomy, ontology, and psychology. Who knows why people do what they do?

., 75 dictionaries, 21–22 digital form of life, xviii, 3–20 as abstract and depersonalized, 41–50 caveats about, 184–88 as a construction, 70–74, 83–86, 187 defined, 10 limitations of, 16 understanding in, 153–78 see also Internet of Us digital groups, 118–19 digital knowledge: caveats about, 184–88 dependence on, xvi–xviii, 5, 12, 21–26, 31, 36, 179 distribution of, 113 education and, 148–54 full and equal participation in, 146 as interconnective, 184–88 international access rates for, 135, 144–45 massive proliferation of, 8, 11–12, 32, 56, 128 network of, 111–32 as power, 9, 98–99, 186 ready accessibility of, 3–4, 23, 30, 42, 56, 113–16, 135–36, 141, 149, 153, 180 speed of, 23, 29–30, 42, 135 using alternative sources to, 21–23 see also Google-knowing dinosaurs, 66 discursive knowledge, 169 “divided line” graph of knowledge, 126 DNA identification techniques, 93–94 Dreyfus, Hubert, 168, 171 drugs: abilities changed by, 173 SIM life compared to, 77 Duke University, 152 earthquakes, emotional epicenters of, 160–61 eavesdropping, 101 Ebola, 16 economy, 111, 162 as digitally dependent, 7–8, 9 free-market, 145 full and equal participation in, 146 globalization of, 139, 142 of knowledge, 138–45 manufacturing in, 138–39 prediction markets in, 122–23 education: cheapening of, 152–53 crisis in, 149–50 as epistemic resource, 143, 145 information technology and, 148–54 old model of, 151–52 U.S. hegemony in, 149 education bubble, 149, 152 education systems, 35–36 edX, 150 Einstein, Albert, 175, 177 elections, 120–23 emails, 81 emotion, reasoning vs., 51–55 “End of Theory, The: The Data Deluge Makes the Scientific Method Obsolete” (Anderson), 156–57 Enlightenment, 33–34, 58–59 environment: interacting with, 174 receptive tracking of, 27–30, 131 “environmental luck,” 203 epilepsy, 168 epistêmê, 14, 170, 172 epistemic economy, 147–48 epistemic equality, 138–48, 150, 187 epistemic inclusivity, 135–36 epistemic inequality, 142–48, 201 epistemic injustice, 146–48, 201 epistemic principles, 14, 47, 50, 55, 57, 60 as democratic, 62, 135–36 epistemic resources, 143–45 epistemic trust, 195 epistemology, defined, see epistemic principles Epistemology and Cognition (Goldman), 194 Essay concerning Human Understanding, An (Locke), 35 ethical values: changes in, 53–54 democratic, 58 and fragmentation, 44 technology and, xvii, 6, 89–90 “eureka” moment, 176, 177 Eurocentrism, 162 Euthyphro (Plato), 165–66, 172 evangelicals, 47–49 evidence, in change of belief, 54–55 expectations: in changing of social constructs, 72–73 conclusions colored by, 29–30, 160 theoretical, 159 of truth, 79–80 experience: as foundation for knowledge, 127, 131 in hands-on movements, 173–74 illusion and reality in, 18–19 procedural knowledge in, 172–73 understanding through, 16, 173–74 experts, expertise: knowledge based on, 15, 35–38, 120, 139–40 outsourcing of, 141–42 in predicting, 122–23 in problem solving, 137 understanding and, 170–71 explanation, 165–67, 182 extended mind hypothesis, 115 fabric metaphor, for structure of beliefs, 129 Facebook, xvii, 8, 24, 43, 72, 124 hegemony of, 146 as simulacrum, 16 tracking by, 105 fact-checking, 46–47, 56, 85, 130 falsehoods, 77–83 “fast thinking” processes, 29–30 FBI, data searched by, 99 fiction, 79–80 fingerprints, 93 FISA, see Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act fishbowls, digital life compared to, 91 Fishburne, Laurence, 18–19 Flanagan, Owen, 73–74 Floridi, Luciano, 10, 69–71 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA; 1978), 88 court of, 99, 109 form of life: defined, 10 philosophy in, 17–18 Forms (Platonic), 126 foundationalism, Cartesian, 126–29, 131 Fox News, 43 fragmentation: of reason, 148 threat of, 4, 41–63 Freebase, 151 freedom of choice, autonomy of decision vs., 102 French Revolution, 58 Freud, Sigmund, 184 Fricker, Miranda, 146–48, 201 Galileo, 34, 68 Galton, Francis, 120 games, gaming, 20, 191 gatekeeping, 128, 134, 146 gender, 162 in marriage, 53–54, 72 in problem solving, 137 Georgetown University, 77–78 Gilbert, Margaret, 117–19, 200 Glass, Ira, 78 Glaucon, 54 Glauconian reasoning, 54–55, 56–58 global economy, 139, 142, 152 global warming, 56, 100, 124, 144, 185, 198 Goldberg, Sandy, 115 Goldman, Alvin, 194 Google, 5, 23, 30, 113, 128, 130, 135, 163, 174, 182, 203 business model of, 9 data collection and tracking by, 90, 155–56, 158, 161 as hypothetical “guy,” 24 monopolization by, 145–46 propaganda disseminated on, 66 in reinforcement of one’s own beliefs, 56 Google Complete, 155 Google Flu Trends, 158, 183 Google Glass, 149, 186 Google-knowing, xvi, 21–40, 25 defined, 23 limitations of, 174, 180 reliance on, 6–7, 23, 25–26, 30–31, 36, 113, 116, 153, 163, 179–80 Google Maps, 116 Google Street View, 23 Gordon, Lewis, 148 gorilla suit experiment, 30 government: autonomy limited by, 109 closed politics of, 144–45 data mining and analysis used by, 9, 90–91, 93, 104, 107 online manipulation used by, 81 purpose of, 38 transparency of, 137–38 Greece, classical philosophy of, 13, 47, 166–67, 171–72 Grimm, Stephen, 164 Guardian, 81 Gulf of Mexico, oil spill in, 118 H1N1 flu outbreak, tracking of, 158 Haidt, Jonathan, 51–54, 56, 57, 60, 196–97 Halpern, Sue, 106 Harvard Law Review, 89 Hazlett, Allan, 49 HBO GO, 145 Heidegger, Martin, 177 Hemingway, Mark, 46 Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS), 61 Hippocrates, 13 hive-mind, 4, 136 HM (patient), 168–69 Hobbes, Thomas, 38, 109 holiness, logical debate over, 166–67 homosexuality, changing attitudes toward, 53–54 Houla massacre, 83 Howe, Jeff, 136 Huffington Post, 43 human dignity: autonomy and, 58, 59–60 information technology as threat to, 187 interconnectedness and, 184–88 privacy and, 101–9 human rights, 54, 60 digital equality as, 142–48 protection of, 145 Hume, David, 48 hyperconnectivity, 184–88 identity: digital reshaping of, 73–74 manufactured online, 80–81 “scrubbing” of, 74 illegal searches, 93 illusion, distinguishing truth from, 67–74 incidental data collection, 95–96, 99 inclusivity, 135–37 income inequality, 142 inference, 29, 60, 172 information: accuracy and reliability of, 14, 27–30, 39–40, 44–45 collected pools of, 95–100, 107–9 distribution vs. creation of, 24 immediate, unlimited access to, 3–4, 23, 30, 42, 56, 113–16, 135–36, 141, 149, 153, 180 as interconnective, 184–88 vs. knowledge, 14 sorting and filtering of, 12, 26–29, 44–45, 127–28 information age, 111 information analysis, techniques of, 8–9 information cascades, 36, 66, 121 defined, 32 information coordination problem, 38–39, 56 information “glut,” 9–10, 44 information privacy, 94–100 and autonomy, 102–7 information sharing, coordination in, 4–5 information technology: costs of, 145 data trail in, 9 democratization through, 133–38, 148 devices and platforms of, xvii–xviii, 3, 7–8, 10, 41–43, 69, 70, 77–78, 90–91, 106–7, 144, 148–49, 156, 180, 185–87 disquieting questions about, 6 in education, 148–54 experience vs., 173–74 hypothetical loss of, 5 paradox of, 6, 12, 179 pool of data in, 95–100 surveillance and, 89–109 typified and dephysicalized objects in, 69 unequal distribution of, 144–45 see also Internet of Things information theory, 12 infosphere: defined, 10 feedback loop of social constructs in, 72–73 network of, 180 pollution of, 148 vastness of, 128 InnoCentive, 136–37, 141 institutions, cooperative, 60–61 intellectual labor, 139–40 International Telecommunications Union, 135 Internet: author’s experiment in circumventing, 21–24, 25, 35 in challenges to reasonableness, 41–63 changes wrought by, xv–xviii, 6–7, 10–11, 23, 180, 184–88 as a construction, 69 cost and profit debate over, 145 as epistemic resource, 143–45 expectations of, 80–83 as force for cohesion and democracy, 55–63 freedom both limited and enhanced by, 92–93 international rates of access to, 135, 144–45 monopolization and hegemony in, 145–46 as network, 111–13 “third wave” of, 7 see also World Wide Web; specific applications Internet of Everything, 184 Internet of Things: blurring of online and offline in, 71 defined, 7–8 integration of, 10 shared economy in, 140–41 threat from, 107, 153, 184–88 Internet of Us, digital form of life as, 10, 39, 73, 83–86, 106, 179–88 interracial marriage, 54 interrogation techniques, 105 In the Plex (Levy), 5–6 Intrade, 122–23, 136 intuition, 15, 51–53 iPhone, production of, 77–78, 80, 139, 144 IQ, 52 Iraq, 83 Iraq War, 137 ISIS, 128 isolation, polarization and, 42–43 I think, I exist, 127 James, William, 11 Jefferson, Thomas, 143 Jeppesen, Lars Bo, 137 joint commitments, defined, 117–18 journalism, truth and, 84 judgment, 51–55, 57 collective vs. individual, 117, 120–25 justice, 54 “just so” stories, 27–28 Kahneman, Daniel, 29, 51 Kant, Immanuel, 34, 58–60, 62, 85 Kitcher, Philip, 182 knowing-which, as term, 171 knowledge: in big data revolution, 87–190 changing structure of, 125–32 common, 117–19 defined and explained, xvii, 12–17 democratization of, 133–38 digital, see digital knowledge; Google-knowing distribution of, 134–35, 138, 141 diverse forms of, 130 economy of, 138–45 hyperconnectivity of, 184–88 individual vs. aggregate, 120–24 information vs., 14 Internet revolution in, xv–xviii minimal definition of, 14–15 as networked, 111–32 new aspects in old problems of, 1–86, 90 personal observation in, 33–35 political economy of, 133–54 as power, 9, 98–99, 133, 185–86 practical vs. theoretical, 169, 172 procedural, 167–74 recording and storage of, 127–28 reliability of sources of, 14, 27–31, 39–40, 44–45, 114–16 as a resource, 38–39 shared cognitive process in attainment of, 114–25 three forms of, 15–17 three simple points about, 14–17 truth and, 19, 126 understanding vs. other forms of, 6, 16–17, 90, 154, 155–73, 181 value and importance of, 12–13 knowledge-based education, 61 Kodak camera, 89 Koran, 48, 61 Kornblith, Hilary, 194 Krakauer, John, 169 Kuhn, Thomas, 159–60 Lakhani, Karim, 137 Larissa, Greece, 13, 15, 182 Leonhardt, David, 122–23 Levy, Steven, 5–6 liberals, 43 libraries, 22, 134, 153–54 of Alexandria, 8 digital form of life compared to, xvi, 17, 20, 44–45, 56, 63, 128 as epistemic resource, 145 Google treated as, 24 “Library of Babel” (Borges), 17 “Lies, Damned Lies, and ‘Fact-Checking’: The Liberal Media’s Latest Attempt to Control the Discourse” (Hemingway), 46 Lifespan of a Fact, The (D’Agata), 79 literacy, 35, 134 literal artifacts: defined, 69 social artifacts and, 71, 72 lobectomy, 168 Locke, John, 33–36, 39, 60, 67–70, 85, 127, 143 “Locke’s command,” 33–34 London Underground, mapping of, 112–13 machines, control by, 116 “mainstream” media, 32 censorship of, 66 majority rule, 120 manipulation: data mining and, 97, 104–6 of expectations, 80–82 persuasion and, 55, 57–58, 81–83, 86 manuals, 22 manufacturing, 138–39 maps, 21–22 marine chronometer, 137 marketing: bots in, 82 Glauconian, 58 targeted, 9, 90, 91, 105 marriage: changing attitudes toward, 53–54 civil vs. religious, 58–59 as social construct, 72 martial arts, 170 mass, as primary quality, 68 Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), 150–53 mathematics, in data analysis, 160, 161 Matrix, The, 18–19, 75 Mayer-Schönberger, Viktor, 8, 158–59 measles vaccine, 7, 124 Mechanical Turk, 136, 141 media, 134 diversity in, 42 opinion affected by, 53 sensationalist, 77 memory: accessing of, 114, 115 in educational models, 152 loss of, 168–69 superceded by information technology, xv–xvi, 3, 4, 6, 94, 149 trust in, 28, 33 Meno, 13 merchandising, online vs. brick and mortar, 70 Mercier, Hugo, 54 metrics, 112 Milner, Brenda, 168–69 mirror drawing experiment, 169 misinformation, 6–7, 31–32 in support of moral truth, 78–80, 82 mob mentality, 32–33 MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), 150–53 moral dumbfounding, 52 morality, moral values, xvii, 6, 44, 53–54, 195 “Moses Illusion,” 29–30 motor acuity, mastery of, 170–71, 173 motor skills, 167–74 Murray, Charles J., 147 music, as dephysicalized object, 69–70 Nagel, Thomas, 84 naming, identification by, 94 narrative license, truth and falsehood in, 78–79 National Endowment for the Humanities, 61 National Science Foundation, 61 Nature, 158, 161 Netflix, 69, 145 Net neutrality, defined, 145 netography, 112–13 of knowledge, 125–32 networked age, 111 networks, 111–32 collective knowledge of, 116–25, 180 knowledge reshaped and altered by, 125–32, 133, 140 in problem solving, 136 use of term, 111–12 neural system, 26 neural transplants, 3, 5 Neurath, Otto, 128–29 neuromedia, 3–5, 12, 17–19, 113–14, 132, 149, 168, 180–82, 184 limitations of, 174 as threat to education, 153–54 Newton, Isaac, 175 New Yorker, 25, 26 New York Times, 122, 174 Nietzsche, Friedrich, 111 Nobel laureates, 149 noble lie, 83, 86 nonfiction, 79–80 NPR, 78, 80 NSA: alleged privacy abuses by, 98–100, 138 data mining by, 9, 91, 95–96, 108, 167 proposed limitations on, 109 Ntrepid, 81 nuclear weapons technology, xvii nullius in verba (take nobody’s word for it), 34 Obama, Barack, 7, 100 administration, 109 objectivity, objective truth, 45, 74 as anchor for belief, 131 in constructed world, 83–86 as foundation for knowledge, 127 observation, 49, 60 affected by expectations, 159–60 behavior affected by, 91, 97 “oceanic feeling,” 184 “offlife,” 70 OkCupid, 157 “onlife,” 70 online identity creation, 73–74 online ranking, 119–21, 136 open access research sharing sites, 135–36 open society: closed politics vs., 144–45 values of, 41–43, 62 open source software, 135 Operation Earnest Voice, 81 Operation Ivy, ix opinion: knowledge vs., 13, 14, 126 in online ranking, 119–20 persuasion and, 50–51 truth as constructed by, 85–86 optical illusions, 67 Oracle of Delphi, 16–17, 171 Outcome-Based Education (OBE), 61–62 ownership, changing concept of, 73 ox, experiment on weight of, 120 Oxford, 168 Page, Larry, 5–6 Panopticon, 91, 92, 97 perception: acuity of, 173 distinguishing truth in, 67–74 expectations and, 159–60 misleading, 29–30, 67 as relative, 67–68 perceptual incongruity, 159–60 personal freedom, 101 persuasion, 50–51, 54–55, 56–58 by bots, 82 phone books, 22 phone data collection, 95, 108 photography: privacy and, 89, 93 sexually-explicit, 99 photo-sharing, manipulation in, 82–83 Plato, 13–14, 16–17, 54, 59, 83, 126, 165–67 polarization, 7 herd mentality in, 66 isolated tribes in, 43–46 politics, 162, 196 accessibility in, 23 activism in, 66, 67 bias in, 43–46 closed, 144–45 elections in, 120–23 of knowledge, 133–54 opposition to critical thinking in, 61–62 persuasion in, 57–58, 82–83 power in, 86, 133 prediction market in, 122–23 Politifact, 46 Popper, Karl, 41–43 Postman, L.


Logically Fallacious: The Ultimate Collection of Over 300 Logical Fallacies (Academic Edition) by Bo Bennett

Black Swan, butterfly effect, clean water, cognitive bias, correlation does not imply causation, Donald Trump, equal pay for equal work, Richard Feynman, side project, statistical model, the scientific method

Tip: The example above is a version of Pascal’s Wager. I thoroughly examine (i.e. rip apart) this argument at http://www.relationshipwithreason.com/articles/philosophy/14-pascal-s-wager-the-epitome-of-irrational-rationalism Least Plausible Hypothesis Description: Choosing more unreasonable explanations for phenomena over more defensible ones. In judging the validity of hypotheses or conclusions from an observation, the scientific method relies upon the Principle of Parsimony, also known as Occam’s Razor, which states, all things being equal, the simplest explanation of a phenomenon that requires the fewest assumptions is the preferred explanation until it can be disproved. This is very similar to the far-fetched hypothesis, but the hypotheses are generally more within reason (i.e. no leprechauns involved). Logical Form: Hypothesis X is used to explain Y, but hypothesis X is the least plausible.

Explanation: Sam knows nothing about quantum physics, so really cannot respond. Depak did expanded on his assertion here, relied on the argument by gibberish in order to make what sounded like scientific claims, which in fact, were not. According to everything we know about quantum physics, information cannot travel faster than light – otherwise it could create a time travel paradox. Exception: Making a scientific claim about quantum physics, using the scientific method, is not fallacious. Tip: Pick up an introductory book to quantum physics, it is not only a fascinating subject, but you will be well prepared to ask the right questions and expose this fallacy when used. Questionable Cause cum hoc ergo propter hoc (also known as: ignoring a common cause, neglecting a common cause, confusing correlation and causation, confusing cause and effect, false cause, third cause, juxtaposition [form of], reversing causality/wrong direction [form of]) Description: Concluding that one thing caused another, simply because they are regularly associated.


pages: 406 words: 115,719

The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes

Albert Einstein, British Empire, cuban missile crisis, epigenetics, Everything should be made as simple as possible, Gary Taubes, Isaac Newton, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microbiome, phenotype, pre–internet, Ralph Nader, RAND corporation, randomized controlled trial, selection bias, the new new thing, the scientific method, Works Progress Administration

One danger here, of course, is that once we insist or pretend that we know the answer based on premature or incomplete evidence (even if we’re pushed against our will to take such stands), we’re likely to continue to insist we’re right, even when evidence accumulates to the contrary. This is a risk in any human endeavor. When Francis Bacon pioneered the scientific method almost four hundred years ago, he was hoping to create a methodology of critical or rational thinking that would minimize this all-too-human characteristic of avoiding evidence that disagrees with any preconceptions we might have formed.*1 Without rigorous tests, as many as necessary, beliefs and preconceptions will persevere because it’s always easier to believe that a single test has been flawed, or even a few of them, than it is to accept that our belief had been incorrect. The scientific method protects against this tendency; it does not eradicate it. — In 1969, John Yudkin discussed this conflict in the context of nutrition research and, specifically, the challenges of establishing reliable knowledge about sugar and chronic disease.

” *6 In May 1976, when the Public Relations Society of America awarded its Silver Anvil Award to the Sugar Association and Byoir and Associates for the advertising campaign in defense of sugar, the society emphasized the campaign’s “ability to stem the flow of reckless commentary” about sugar, and singled out the conclusions of the SCOGS report as an accomplishment that would make it “unlikely that sugar will be subject to legislative restriction in coming years.” CHAPTER 9 WHAT THEY DIDN’T KNOW I wish there were some formal courses in medical school on Medical Ignorance; textbooks as well, although they would have to be very heavy volumes. LEWIS THOMAS, “Medicine as a Very Old Profession,” 1985 Over the past four hundred years, thinking on the scientific method has distilled the concept down to two words: “hypothesis” and “test.” If we want to establish reliable knowledge—that what we think is true really is—this is the process that must be followed. In the words of the philosopher of science Karl Popper, “The method of science is the method of bold conjectures and ingenious and severe attempts to refute them.” The bold conjectures are the hypotheses, and they are the relatively easy part of science.


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Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines by Richard Heinberg, James Howard (frw) Kunstler

addicted to oil, anti-communist, Asilomar, back-to-the-land, clean water, Community Supported Agriculture, deindustrialization, delayed gratification, demographic transition, ending welfare as we know it, energy transition, Fractional reserve banking, greed is good, Haber-Bosch Process, happiness index / gross national happiness, income inequality, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), land reform, means of production, oil shale / tar sands, peak oil, plutocrats, Plutocrats, reserve currency, ride hailing / ride sharing, Ronald Reagan, the built environment, the scientific method, Thomas Malthus, too big to fail, urban planning

(Quantum physicist Wolfgang Pauli, who was known for his abhorrence of sloppy thinking, once famously commented that another scientist’s work was “not even wrong.”) Grammar and logic give us the basis for making comprehensible statements about the world; linking logic with empirical evidence helps us formulate true statements and recognize when statements are false. This, again, is a long-standing practice: millennia before the scientific method was codified, people relied on feedback between language and sensory data to develop an accurate understanding of the world. Are the salmon running yet? Let’s go look. However, not all possible statements could be checked empirically. If someone said, “These berries taste good,” that was at least a matter for investigation, even if everyone didn’t agree. But the situation was more complicated if someone said, “The volcano smokes — that must be because the gods are angry; and if the gods are angry it must be because we haven’t provided enough sacrifices.”

, “What happens to us when we die?”, or “What is the greatest good?” Yet however strong the temptation to engage in it, magical thinking when tied to religion failed to provide much practical help in industry or commerce. As these limits came to be appreciated, and as industry and commerce expanded, philosophers and students of nature began to construct the formalized system of inquiry known as the scientific method. Here was a way to obtain verifiable knowledge of the physical world; better still, it was knowledge that could often be used to practical effect. The method came to hand at a propitious time: wealth was flowing to Europe from the rest of the world due to colonization and slavery; meanwhile the development of metallurgy and simple heat engines had proceeded to the point where the energy of fossil fuels could be put to widespread use.


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How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson

A. Roger Ekirch, Ada Lovelace, big-box store, British Empire, butterfly effect, clean water, crowdsourcing, cuban missile crisis, Danny Hillis, germ theory of disease, Hans Lippershey, Ignaz Semmelweis: hand washing, indoor plumbing, interchangeable parts, invention of air conditioning, invention of the printing press, invention of the telescope, inventory management, Jacquard loom, John Snow's cholera map, Kevin Kelly, Live Aid, lone genius, Louis Pasteur, low earth orbit, Marshall McLuhan, mass immigration, megacity, Menlo Park, Murano, Venice glass, planetary scale, refrigerator car, Richard Feynman, Silicon Valley, Skype, Steve Jobs, Stewart Brand, the scientific method, transcontinental railway, Upton Sinclair, walkable city, women in the workforce

I should mention one additional element of the book’s focus: The “we” in this book, and in its title, is largely the “we” of North Americans and Europeans. The story of how China or Brazil got to now would be a different one, and every bit as interesting. But the European/North American story, while finite in its scope, is nonetheless of wider relevance because certain critical experiences—the rise of the scientific method, industrialization—happened in Europe first, and have now spread across the world. (Why they happened in Europe first is of course one of the most interesting questions of all, but it’s not one this book tries to answer.) Those enchanted objects of everyday life—those lightbulbs and lenses and audio recordings—are now a part of life just about everywhere on the planet; telling the story of the past thousand years from their perspective should be of interest no matter where you happen to live.

This is the strange parallel history of Gutenberg’s invention. It has long been associated with the scientific revolution, for several reasons. Pamphlets and treatises from alleged heretics like Galileo could circulate ideas outside the censorious limits of the Church, ultimately undermining its authority; at the same time, the system of citation and reference that evolved in the decades after Gutenberg’s Bible became an essential tool in applying the scientific method. But Gutenberg’s creation advanced the march of science in another, less familiar way: it expanded possibilities of lens design, of glass itself. For the first time, the peculiar physical properties of silicon dioxide were not just being harnessed to let us see things that we could already see with our own eyes; we could now see things that transcended the natural limits of human vision.


pages: 206 words: 70,924

The Rise of the Quants: Marschak, Sharpe, Black, Scholes and Merton by Colin Read

"Robert Solow", Albert Einstein, Bayesian statistics, Black-Scholes formula, Bretton Woods, Brownian motion, business cycle, capital asset pricing model, collateralized debt obligation, correlation coefficient, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, discovery of penicillin, discrete time, Emanuel Derman, en.wikipedia.org, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, financial innovation, fixed income, floating exchange rates, full employment, Henri Poincaré, implied volatility, index fund, Isaac Newton, John Meriwether, John von Neumann, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Arrow, Long Term Capital Management, Louis Bachelier, margin call, market clearing, martingale, means of production, moral hazard, Myron Scholes, Paul Samuelson, price stability, principal–agent problem, quantitative trading / quantitative finance, RAND corporation, random walk, risk tolerance, risk/return, Ronald Reagan, shareholder value, Sharpe ratio, short selling, stochastic process, Thales and the olive presses, Thales of Miletus, The Chicago School, the scientific method, too big to fail, transaction costs, tulip mania, Works Progress Administration, yield curve

Indeed, my appreciation for technical analysis came from my university studies toward a Bachelor of Science degree in physics, followed immediately by a PhD in economics. However, as I began to teach economics and finance, I realized that the analytic tools of physics that so pervaded modern economics have strayed too far from explaining this important dimension of human financial decision-making. To better understand the interplay between the scientific method, economics, human behavior, and public policy, I continued with my studies toward a Master of Accountancy in taxation, an MBA, and a Juris Doctor of Law. As I taught the economics of intertemporal choice, the role of money and financial instruments, and the structure of the banking and financial intermediaries, I recognized that my students had become increasingly fascinated with investment banking and Wall Street.

First, the development of the mean and variance characterization of returns, then the use of William Sharpe’s CAPM to determine the risk-adjusted value of individual securities, and then, finally, the BlackScholes equation for the pricing of derivatives, in both the static form, and in the more dynamic context developed by Robert Merton, in just a couple of decades endowed personal finance with the tools necessary to create a science out of an art form. With the confidence, or sometimes perhaps with the false confidence, of the scientific method, finance developed rapidly. Soon, finance became a top industry, and even constituted one out of every three dollars of profit in the USA by 2006. The era of financial theory, and its integration into financial markets, had arrived. And the academic world took notice. Nobel Prizes are now granted to financial theory discoveries almost as often as to the rest 179 180 The Rise of the Quants of the study of economics.


pages: 281 words: 71,242

World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech by Franklin Foer

artificial general intelligence, back-to-the-land, Berlin Wall, big data - Walmart - Pop Tarts, big-box store, Buckminster Fuller, citizen journalism, Colonization of Mars, computer age, creative destruction, crowdsourcing, data is the new oil, don't be evil, Donald Trump, Double Irish / Dutch Sandwich, Douglas Engelbart, Edward Snowden, Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Elon Musk, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Filter Bubble, global village, Google Glasses, Haight Ashbury, hive mind, income inequality, intangible asset, Jeff Bezos, job automation, John Markoff, Kevin Kelly, knowledge economy, Law of Accelerating Returns, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, means of production, move fast and break things, move fast and break things, new economy, New Journalism, Norbert Wiener, offshore financial centre, PageRank, Peace of Westphalia, Peter Thiel, planetary scale, Ray Kurzweil, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Singularitarianism, software is eating the world, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, strong AI, supply-chain management, the medium is the message, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas L Friedman, Thorstein Veblen, Upton Sinclair, Vernor Vinge, Whole Earth Catalog, yellow journalism

Their machines assimilated all the lessons of past searches, using these learnings to more precisely deliver the desired results. For the entirety of human existence, the creation of knowledge was a slog of trial and error. Humans would dream up theories of how the world worked, then would examine the evidence to see whether their hypotheses survived or crashed upon their exposure to reality. Algorithms upend the scientific method—the patterns emerge from the data, from correlations, unguided by hypotheses. They remove humans from the whole process of inquiry. Writing in Wired, Chris Anderson argued: “We can stop looking for models. We can analyze the data without hypotheses about what it might show. We can throw the numbers into the biggest computing clusters the world has ever seen and let statistical algorithms find patterns where science cannot.”

He explained how automation of white-collar jobs: James Gleick, The Information (Pantheon, 2011), 93. The essence of the algorithm is entirely uncomplicated: John MacCormick, Nine Algorithms That Changed the Future (Princeton University Press, 2012), 3–4. “We can stop looking for models. We can analyze the data without hypotheses”: Chris Anderson, “The End of Theory: The Data Deluge Makes the Scientific Method Obsolete,” Wired, June 23, 2008. Walmart’s algorithms found that people desperately buy strawberry Pop-Tarts: Constance L. Hays, “What Wal-Mart Knows About Customers’ Habits,” New York Times, November 14, 2004. Sweeney conducted a study that found that users with African American names: Latanya Sweeney, “Discrimination in Online Ad Delivery,” Communications of the ACM 56, no. 5 (May 2013): 44–54.


pages: 746 words: 239,969

Green Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

double helix, gravity well, means of production, oil shale / tar sands, phenotype, skunkworks, the scientific method

“Your science is a set of values,” Ann said. “The goal of your kind of science is the establishment of laws, of regularities, of exactness and certainty. You want things explained. You want to answer the whys, all the way back to the big bang. You’re a reductionist. Parsimony and elegance and economy are values for you, and if you can make things simpler that’s a real achievement, right?” “But that’s the scientific method itself,” Sax objected. “It’s not just me, it’s how nature itself works. Physics. You do it yourself.” “There are human values imbedded in physics.” “I’m not so sure.” He held out a hand to stop her for a second. “I’m not saying there are no values in science. But matter and energy do what they do. If you want to talk about values, better just to talk about them. They arise out of facts somehow, sure.

Down there, even more dramatically than on Mars, there was no plan. He needed a science of history, but unfortunately there was no such thing. History is Lamarckian, Arkady used to say, a notion that was ominously suggestive given the pseudospeciation caused by the unequal distribution of the gerontological treatments; but it was no real help. Psychology, sociology, anthropology, they were all suspect. The scientific method could not be applied to human beings in any way that yielded useful information. It was the fact-value problem stated in a different way; human reality could only be explained in terms of values. And values were very resistant to scientific analysis: Isolation of factors for study, falsifiable hypotheses, repeatable experiments— the entire apparatus as practiced in lab physics simply could not be brought to bear.

It was a real science; it had discovered, there among the contingency and disorder, some valid general principles of evolution— development, adaptation, complexification, and many more specific principles as well, confirmed by the various subdisciplines. What he needed were similar principles influencing human history. The little reading he did in historiography was not encouraging; it was either a sad imitation of the scientific method, or art pure and simple. About every decade a new historical explanation revised all that had come before, but clearly revisionism held pleasures that had nothing to do with the actual justice of the case being made. Sociobiology and bioethics were more promising, but they tended to explain things best when working on evolutionary time scales, and he wanted something for the past hundred years, and the next hundred.


pages: 428 words: 121,717

Warnings by Richard A. Clarke

active measures, Albert Einstein, algorithmic trading, anti-communist, artificial general intelligence, Asilomar, Asilomar Conference on Recombinant DNA, Bernie Madoff, cognitive bias, collateralized debt obligation, complexity theory, corporate governance, cuban missile crisis, data acquisition, discovery of penicillin, double helix, Elon Musk, failed state, financial thriller, fixed income, Flash crash, forensic accounting, friendly AI, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Internet of things, James Watt: steam engine, Jeff Bezos, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, knowledge worker, Maui Hawaii, megacity, Mikhail Gorbachev, money market fund, mouse model, Nate Silver, new economy, Nicholas Carr, nuclear winter, pattern recognition, personalized medicine, phenotype, Ponzi scheme, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, risk tolerance, Ronald Reagan, Sam Altman, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, smart grid, statistical model, Stephen Hawking, Stuxnet, technological singularity, The Future of Employment, the scientific method, The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, Tunguska event, uranium enrichment, Vernor Vinge, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, women in the workforce, Y2K

They have the self-confidence to be first but not the arrogance that would interfere with their understanding of the nuances of the data. *QUESTIONERS: Most Cassandras tend to disbelieve anything that has not been empirically derived and repeatedly tested. They also tend to doubt their own work initially, especially when it predicts disaster. This characteristic is more than just a belief in the scientific method. Rather, they challenge what is generally accepted until it is proven to their satisfaction. They are the philosophical descendants of Pyrrho of Elis, a philosopher in ancient Greece who accompanied Alexander the Great to India. There Pyrrho learned from Indian philosophers who challenged everything. Pyrrho’s teachings influenced another Greek philosopher who taught that all beliefs and assumptions should be challenged, that doubt, skepticism, and disbelief are healthy.

The result is a nonlinear, more exponential increase in the rate of ice melt and sea-level rise when global temperatures are pushed beyond a particular threshold. Why would the IPCC not focus on the effects of melting polar ice? Hansen believes that “scientific reticence,” i.e., restraint in coming to a controversial conclusion, is hindering communication with the public about the dangers of global warming. Policy makers need to recognize that, he said. “Scientific reticence may be a consequence of the scientific method. Success in science depends on objective skepticism. Caution, if not reticence, has its merits.” He allowed that reticence at the IPCC “is probably a necessary characteristic, given that the IPCC document is produced as a consensus among most nations in the world and represents the views of thousands of scientists.” Rather than getting everyone to a consensus with something as complicated as the dynamics of future sea level rise, they may have just punted and said that it’s just “too poorly understood.”

At least, as he observed, one government has acted by slightly opening its treasury, enough to map many of the possible asteroid threats. No government, however, has acted to give Earth a comprehensive defense system that can rapidly spring into action to deflect a large and threatening object, were one to be found. Morrison himself exhibits many of the traits of a Cassandra. He is a renowned expert, uses the scientific method, and is data driven. He was the first to see something and say something about it, loudly. Although a government employee, he influenced the system to get Congress to tell his agency what to do. He has not experienced the criticism of his colleagues as overtly as others. No one doubts that he’s right, but some have other priorities. People don’t want their projects derailed, especially by preparing for an unlikely catastrophe.


pages: 1,073 words: 314,528

Strategy: A History by Lawrence Freedman

Albert Einstein, anti-communist, Anton Chekhov, Ayatollah Khomeini, barriers to entry, battle of ideas, Black Swan, British Empire, business process, butterfly effect, centre right, Charles Lindbergh, circulation of elites, cognitive dissonance, coherent worldview, collective bargaining, complexity theory, conceptual framework, corporate raider, correlation does not imply causation, creative destruction, cuban missile crisis, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, defense in depth, desegregation, Edward Lorenz: Chaos theory, en.wikipedia.org, endogenous growth, endowment effect, Ford paid five dollars a day, framing effect, Frederick Winslow Taylor, Gordon Gekko, greed is good, information retrieval, interchangeable parts, invisible hand, John Nash: game theory, John von Neumann, Kenneth Arrow, lateral thinking, linear programming, loose coupling, loss aversion, Mahatma Gandhi, means of production, mental accounting, Murray Gell-Mann, mutually assured destruction, Nash equilibrium, Nelson Mandela, Norbert Wiener, Norman Mailer, oil shock, Pareto efficiency, performance metric, Philip Mirowski, prisoner's dilemma, profit maximization, race to the bottom, Ralph Nader, RAND corporation, Richard Thaler, road to serfdom, Ronald Reagan, Rosa Parks, shareholder value, social intelligence, Steven Pinker, strikebreaker, The Chicago School, The Myth of the Rational Market, the scientific method, theory of mind, Thomas Davenport, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Torches of Freedom, Toyota Production System, transaction costs, ultimatum game, unemployed young men, Upton Sinclair, urban sprawl, Vilfredo Pareto, War on Poverty, women in the workforce, Yogi Berra, zero-sum game

His reliance on mathematical principles led to him to offer proofs on how armies might constitute themselves and move forward, according to distances from their starting base and enemy objective. The approach can be discerned from his definition of strategy as “all enemy movements out of the enemy’s cannon range or range of vision,” so that tactics covered what happened within that range.10 His observations on tactics were considered to have merit, but much to his chagrin his description of the “new war system” was ignored by Prussian generals. Whatever the scientific method might bring to the battlefield, when it came to deciding on the moment, form, and conduct of battle, much would depend on the general’s own judgment—perhaps more a matter of character, insight, and intuition than careful calculation and planning. When battle was joined, the theory could say little because of the many variables in play. At that point, war became an art form. Strategy could be considered a matter of science, in the sense of being systematic, empirically based, and logically developed, covering all those things that could be planned in advance and were subject to calculation.

In particular “a science like economics” could show the way to a “genuine analytical method.”7 The idea that the resolution of strategic problems depended on intellect and analysis rather than character and intuition fit in with the trend to subject all human decisions to the dictates of rationality and the application of science. It was given more urgency by the potentially catastrophic consequences of misjudgment in the nuclear age. The scientific method as a means of interpreting large amounts of disparate data had proved itself in Britain in the Second World War. It first made a mark when used to determine the best way to employ radar in air defense. As one of the key figures in the British program noted, the methodology used was closer to classical economics than physics, although economists were not directly engaged.8 During the course of the war, operations research—as the new field came to be known—made major strides in support of actual operations, including working out the safest arrangement for convoys in the face of submarine attack or choosing targets for air raids.9 Mathematicians and physicists made more of an impact in the United States, notably those who became involved in the Manhattan Project, the organization which had led to the production of the first atomic bomb.

Conflict was not a means of resolving problems; it was the problem to be resolved. Dewey decided not to go to the 1904 Congress to which Weber had been invited and so the two did not meet (although he met James at Harvard). Weber would have been aware of Dewey’s work because of the overlap, at least in some core themes, with his own. They were on similar tracks in their appreciation of the scientific method, their focus on the relationship of thought to action, and their stress on the need to judge actions by consequence as much as intent. There were also crucial differences between the two. While Dewey did not take seriously attempts to separate fact from value, Weber insisted upon it. While Dewey saw democracy as inclusive and participatory, for Weber the value of democracy was as a means of electing a proper leader from a wide pool and ensuring a degree of accountability.


pages: 274 words: 75,846

The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding From You by Eli Pariser

A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, A Pattern Language, Amazon Web Services, augmented reality, back-to-the-land, Black Swan, borderless world, Build a better mousetrap, Cass Sunstein, citizen journalism, cloud computing, cognitive dissonance, crowdsourcing, Danny Hillis, data acquisition, disintermediation, don't be evil, Filter Bubble, Flash crash, fundamental attribution error, global village, Haight Ashbury, Internet of things, Isaac Newton, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Bezos, jimmy wales, Kevin Kelly, knowledge worker, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, megacity, Metcalfe’s law, Netflix Prize, new economy, PageRank, paypal mafia, Peter Thiel, recommendation engine, RFID, Robert Metcalfe, sentiment analysis, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, social graph, social software, social web, speech recognition, Startup school, statistical model, stem cell, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, technoutopianism, the scientific method, urban planning, Whole Earth Catalog, WikiLeaks, Y Combinator

Karl Popper, one of the preeminent philosophers of science, made it his life’s mission to try to sort out the problem of induction, as it came to be known. While the optimistic thinkers of the late 1800s looked at the history of science and saw a journey toward truth, Popper preferred to focus on the wreckage along the side of the road—the abundance of failed theories and ideas that were perfectly consistent with the scientific method and yet horribly wrong. After all, the Ptolemaic universe, with the earth in the center and the sun and planets revolving around it, survived an awful lot of mathematical scrutiny and scientific observation. Popper posed his problem in a slightly different way: Just because you’ve only ever seen white swans doesn’t mean that all swans are white. What you have to look for is the black swan, the counterexample that proves the theory wrong.

hl=en. 201 better and better: Nikki Tait, “Google to translate European patent claims,” Financial Times, Nov. 29, 2010, accessed Feb. 9, 2010, www.ft.com/cms/s/0/02f71b76-fbce-11df-b79a-00144feab49a.html. 202 “what to do with them”: Danny Sullivan, phone interview with author, Sept. 10, 2010. 202 “flash crash”: Graham Bowley, “Stock Swing Still Baffles, with an Ominous Tone,” New York Times, Aug. 22, 2010, accessed Feb. 8, 2010, www.nytimes.com/2010/08/23/business/23flash.html. 202 provocative article in Wired: Chris Anderson, “The End of Theory: The Data Deluge Makes the Scientific Method Obsolete,” Wired, June 23, 2008, accessed Feb. 10, 2010, http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/magazine/16-07/pb_theory. 203 greatest achievement of human technology: Hillis quoted in Jennifer Riskin, Genesis Redux: Essays in the History and Philosophy of Artificial Life (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), 200. 204 “advertiser-funded media”: Marisol LeBron, “ ‘Migracorridos’: Another Failed Anti-immigration Campaign,” North American Congress of Latin America, Mar. 17, 2009, accessed Dec. 17, 2010, https://nacla.org/node/5625. 205 characters using the companies’ products throughout: Mary McNamara, “Television Review: ‘The Jensen Project,’ ” Los Angeles Times, July 16, 2010, accessed Dec. 17, 2010, http://articles.latimes. com/2010/jul/16/entertainment/la-et-jensen-project-20100716. 205 product-placement hooks throughout: Jenni Miller, “Hansel and Gretel in 3D?


pages: 272 words: 76,089

Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium by Carl Sagan

addicted to oil, Albert Einstein, anti-communist, clean water, cosmic abundance, dark matter, demographic transition, Exxon Valdez, F. W. de Klerk, germ theory of disease, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of agriculture, invention of radio, invention of the telegraph, invention of the telephone, Isaac Newton, Mikhail Gorbachev, Nelson Mandela, pattern recognition, planetary scale, prisoner's dilemma, profit motive, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ronald Reagan, stem cell, the scientific method, Thomas Malthus, zero-sum game

Suppose further that what is required to prevent or mitigate the catastrophe is expensive: expensive in fiscal and intellectual resources, but also in challenging our way of thinking—that is, politically expensive. At what point do the pol-icymakers have to take the scientific prophets seriously? There are ways to assess the validity of the modern prophecies—because in the methods of science, there is an error-correcting procedure, a set of rules that have repeatedly worked well, sometimes called the scientific method. There are a number of tenets (I've outlined some of them in my book The Demon-Haunted World): Arguments from authority carry little weight ("Because I said so" isn't good enough); quantitative prediction is an extremely good way to sift useful ideas from nonsense; the methods of analysis must yield other results fully consistent with what else we know about the Universe; vigorous debate is a healthy sign; the same conclusions have to be drawn independently by competent competing scientific groups for an idea to be taken seriously; and so on.

No matter how stringent the protections of the people might be in constitutions or common law, there would always be a temptation, Jefferson thought, for the powerful, the wealthy, and the unscrupulous to undermine the ideal of government run by and for ordinary citizens. The antidote is vigorous support for the expression of unpopular views, widespread literacy, substantive debate, a common familiarity with critical thinking, and skepticism of pronouncements of those in authority—which are all also central to the scientific method. * After outlining traditional Christian views of women from patristic times to the Reformation, the Australian philosopher John Passmore (Man's Responsibility for Nature: Ecological Problems and Western Traditions [New York: Scrib-ner's, 1974]) concludes that Kinder, Kiiche, Kircher "as a description of the role of women is not an invention of Hitler's, but a typical Christian slogan." 252 • Billions and Billions THE REVELATIONS OF SCIENCE Every branch of science has made stunning advances in the twentieth century.


pages: 366 words: 76,476

Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One's Looking) by Christian Rudder

4chan, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, bitcoin, cloud computing, correlation does not imply causation, crowdsourcing, cuban missile crisis, Donald Trump, Edward Snowden, en.wikipedia.org, Frank Gehry, Howard Zinn, Jaron Lanier, John Markoff, John Snow's cholera map, lifelogging, Mahatma Gandhi, Mikhail Gorbachev, Nate Silver, Nelson Mandela, new economy, obamacare, Occupy movement, p-value, pre–internet, race to the bottom, selection bias, Snapchat, social graph, Solar eclipse in 1919, Steve Jobs, the scientific method

Roll it a bunch of times, you get the distribution, you get the average—and that defines the die right there. You know the shape only through aggregation. What’s more, reduction and repetition are fundamental to the long history of science, not just data science and not just computer science, but capital-S Science, the ageless human enterprise. Experiments are built upon reducing a process to a single, manageable facet. The scientific method needs a control, and you can’t get it without cutting complexity to the bald core and saying this, this, is what matters. Only once you’ve simplified the question can you test it over and over again. Whether at a lab bench or a laptop, most of the knowledge we possess was acquired like this, by reduction. So here, we’ve boiled humanity down to numbers rather than, say, anecdotes. In my mind—and this takes nothing away from Malcolm Gladwell—I see this book as the opposite of outliers.

Hers was “… wear bras?”). Then when I checked a few weeks later, I myself saw something different: “… wear high heels?” Since it was the most recent result, that’s what ended up in the book. As interesting a tool as it is, the black box of Google’s autocomplete (and Google Trends, for that matter) is an example of one of the worst things about today’s data science—its opaqueness. Corroboration, so important to the scientific method, is difficult, because so much information is proprietary (and here OkCupid is as guilty as anyone). Even as most social media companies trumpet the hugeness and potential of their data, the bulk of it has stayed off-limits to the larger world. Data sets currently move through the research community like yeti—I have a bunch of interesting stuff but I can’t say from where; I heard someone at Temple has tons of Amazon reviews; I think L has a scrape of Facebook.


pages: 280 words: 74,559

Fully Automated Luxury Communism by Aaron Bastani

"Robert Solow", autonomous vehicles, banking crisis, basic income, Berlin Wall, Bernie Sanders, Bretton Woods, capital controls, cashless society, central bank independence, collapse of Lehman Brothers, computer age, computer vision, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, decarbonisation, dematerialisation, Donald Trump, double helix, Elon Musk, energy transition, Erik Brynjolfsson, financial independence, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, future of work, G4S, housing crisis, income inequality, industrial robot, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Internet of things, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Jeff Bezos, job automation, John Markoff, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, Joseph Schumpeter, Kevin Kelly, Kuiper Belt, land reform, liberal capitalism, low earth orbit, low skilled workers, M-Pesa, market fundamentalism, means of production, mobile money, more computing power than Apollo, new economy, off grid, pattern recognition, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, post scarcity, post-work, price mechanism, price stability, private space industry, Productivity paradox, profit motive, race to the bottom, RFID, rising living standards, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, sensor fusion, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, Slavoj Žižek, stem cell, Stewart Brand, technoutopianism, the built environment, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, transatlantic slave trade, Travis Kalanick, universal basic income, V2 rocket, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, Whole Earth Catalog, working-age population

As it was applied to tools, processes and products, the notion of technology as a distinct field began to emerge. By the 1870s it was this relationship between knowledge and technology which drove what Drucker labelled the ‘Productivity Revolution’. The father of this revolution was Frederick Taylor, an American mechanical engineer and pioneer in scientific management. Until Taylor, whose professional life took off in the 1880s, the scientific method had never been applied to the study of work in order to maximise output. Yet within a few short decades this became a dogma – massively expanding productivity and improving the standard of living for the average worker. After the rise of ‘Taylorism’, at least according to Drucker, value became more about the continued refinement and application of information than about labour, land or capital.

Those words, particularly the last, could have been applied far beyond the shores of Hobbes’s England. Besides the issue of war in both his homeland and abroad – relative constants prior to the twentieth century but particularly severe in the 1640s – his was also a world absent of modern medicine and where adult men rarely lived beyond forty. By the mid-1800s, however, that had changed as the application of the scientific method to healthcare and hygiene saw the mortality rate of infants and children sharply decline. Previously high fertility rates, combined with more children surviving to adulthood, inevitably meant unprecedented population growth among those countries at the forefront of the Second Disruption. The implications of this were profound. While it took hundreds of thousands of years for the world’s human population to reach 1 billion by 1800, it would only be another hundred and twenty before it doubled once more.


pages: 462 words: 129,022

People, Power, and Profits: Progressive Capitalism for an Age of Discontent by Joseph E. Stiglitz

"Robert Solow", affirmative action, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, barriers to entry, basic income, battle of ideas, Berlin Wall, Bernie Madoff, Bernie Sanders, business cycle, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, carried interest, central bank independence, clean water, collective bargaining, corporate governance, corporate social responsibility, creative destruction, Credit Default Swap, crony capitalism, deglobalization, deindustrialization, disintermediation, diversified portfolio, Donald Trump, Edward Snowden, Elon Musk, Erik Brynjolfsson, Fall of the Berlin Wall, financial deregulation, financial innovation, financial intermediation, Firefox, Fractional reserve banking, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, full employment, George Akerlof, gig economy, global supply chain, greed is good, income inequality, information asymmetry, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jean Tirole, Jeff Bezos, job automation, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John von Neumann, Joseph Schumpeter, labor-force participation, late fees, low skilled workers, Mark Zuckerberg, market fundamentalism, mass incarceration, meta analysis, meta-analysis, minimum wage unemployment, moral hazard, new economy, New Urbanism, obamacare, patent troll, Paul Samuelson, pension reform, Peter Thiel, postindustrial economy, price discrimination, principal–agent problem, profit maximization, purchasing power parity, race to the bottom, Ralph Nader, rent-seeking, Richard Thaler, Robert Bork, Robert Gordon, Robert Mercer, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Reagan, secular stagnation, self-driving car, shareholder value, Shoshana Zuboff, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, South China Sea, sovereign wealth fund, speech recognition, Steve Jobs, The Chicago School, The Future of Employment, The Great Moderation, the market place, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, too big to fail, trade liberalization, transaction costs, trickle-down economics, two-sided market, universal basic income, Unsafe at Any Speed, Upton Sinclair, uranium enrichment, War on Poverty, working-age population

It’s true that academics almost universally teach that climate change is real, and many cast doubts about supply-side economics. Universities also do not give equal weight to theories that the world is flat, to the phlogiston theories in chemistry, or to gold bugs in economics. There are some ideas that deservedly do not receive equal weight in higher education.34 It would be malpractice to teach outdated ideas that have been repeatedly disproved by the scientific method. So far, the universities have withstood the siege. But one can only imagine what will happen to America’s economy and our standing in the world were Trump and the others waging this war to succeed. Our position in the vanguard of innovation would quickly recede. Already, others are taking advantage of Trump’s anti-immigrant and anti-science stance: Canada and Australia, for instance, are actively trying to recruit talented students and create research institutions and laboratories to provide viable alternatives to those of Silicon Valley.

We (or at least most of us) believe in equality, not complete equality, but far more than that characterized by today’s economy. We especially believe in equality of opportunity and justice, and in democracy—not the one dollar one vote system that we have become but the one person one vote system that we learned about in school. We believe in tolerance, letting others do as they please as long as they don’t harm others. We believe in science and technology, and the scientific method—keys to understanding the universe and the increase in our standards of living. We believe that we can use reason and deliberation, too, to figure out how to better arrange the affairs of society, to create better social and economic institutions that, in turn, have not only increased our material well-being, but created a society in which diverse individuals are better able to work together, to achieve far more than they could working alone.

See Stephen Broadberry, Bruce Campbell, Alexander Klein, Mark Overton, and Bas van Leeuwen, British Economic Growth, 1270–1870 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015). 18.A critical aspect of the scientific process entails repeated verification of the results, and clarity about the scientific precision and certainty with which various results have been established. Science itself is thus a social enterprise: we know and believe what we do because of the collective efforts of thousands of individuals, all operating within the discipline provided by the scientific method. 19.Each of these concepts is complex and subtle, and the terms are often abused. Feudal lords might claim to invoke a rule of law as they abused the serfs that worked for them; so too for slave owners in the South, who used the “law” to force the return of escaped slaves. (See Eric Foner, Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015]).


Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values by Robert M. Pirsig

Albert Einstein, always be closing, Henri Poincaré, Isaac Newton, Lao Tzu, Parkinson's law, the scientific method

And suppose this child is fed intravenously and otherwise attended to and kept alive for eighteen years in this state of existence. The question is then asked: Does this eighteen-year-old person have a thought in his head? If so, where does it come from? How does he get it? Hume would have answered that the eighteen-year-old had no thoughts whatsoever, and in giving this answer would have defined himself as an empiricist, one who believes all knowledge is derived exclusively from the senses. The scientific method of experimentation is carefully controlled empiricism. Common sense today is empiricism, since an overwhelming majority would agree with Hume, even though in other cultures and other times a majority might have differed. The first problem of empiricism, if empiricism is believed, concerns the nature of “substance.” If all our knowledge comes from sensory data, what exactly is this substance which is supposed to give off the sensory data itself?

As we move off under the big trees Chris waves and he smiles and waves back. The desert road winds through rocky gorges and hills. This is the driest country yet. I want to talk now about truth traps and muscle traps and then stop this Chautauqua for today. Truth traps are concerned with data that are apprehended and are within the boxcars of the train. For the most part these data are properly handled by conventional dualistic logic and the scientific method talked about earlier, back just after Miles City. But there’s one trap that isn’t the truth trap of yes-no logic. Yes and no-this or that-one or zero. On the basis of this elementary two-term discrimination, all human knowledge is built up. The demonstration of this is the computer memory which stores all its knowledge in the form of binary information. It contains ones and zeros, that’s all.

Aristotle attacked this belief, saying that the dialectic was only suitable for some purposes to enquire into men’s beliefs, to arrive at truths about eternal forms of things, known as Ideas, which were fixed and unchanging and constituted reality for Plato. Aristotle said there is also the method of science, or “physical” method, which observes physical facts and arrives at truths about substances, which undergo change. This duality of form and substance and the scientific method of arriving at facts about substances were central to Aristotle’s philosophy. Thus the dethronement of dialectic from what Socrates and Plato held it to be was absolutely essential for Aristotle, and “dialectic” was and still is a fulcrum word. Phćdrus guessed that Aristotle’s diminution of dialectic, from Plato’s sole method of arriving at truth to a “counterpart of rhetoric,” might be as infuriating to modern Platonists as it would have been to Plato.


pages: 741 words: 199,502

Human Diversity: The Biology of Gender, Race, and Class by Charles Murray

23andMe, affirmative action, Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, Asperger Syndrome, assortative mating, basic income, bioinformatics, Cass Sunstein, correlation coefficient, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, double helix, Drosophila, epigenetics, equal pay for equal work, European colonialism, feminist movement, glass ceiling, Gunnar Myrdal, income inequality, Kenneth Arrow, labor-force participation, longitudinal study, meta analysis, meta-analysis, out of africa, p-value, phenotype, publication bias, quantitative hedge fund, randomized controlled trial, replication crisis, Richard Thaler, risk tolerance, school vouchers, Scientific racism, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), Silicon Valley, social intelligence, statistical model, Steven Pinker, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, theory of mind, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, twin studies, universal basic income, working-age population

“Man, who will learn how to move rivers and mountains, how to build peoples’ palaces on the peaks of Mont Blanc and at the bottom of the Atlantic, will not only be able to add to his own life richness, brilliancy and intensity, but also a dynamic quality of the highest degree.”6 Elsewhere, the pioneers of the new discipline of sociology had less extreme ambitions, but they drew from the same optimism about the power of the scientific method applied to human behavior. “Our main objective,” Émile Durkheim wrote of sociology, “is to extend the scope of scientific rationalism to cover human behavior.” Causes and effects could be spelled out, he continued, and they in turn “can then be transformed into rules of action for the future.”7 The constraints of inborn human nature? “These individual natures are merely the indeterminate material that the social factor molds and transforms.”8 At the beginning of the twentieth century, the application of the scientific method to human malleability was extended to another new discipline, psychology. Behaviorism, founded by John B. Watson, took the blank slate to its ultimate expression.9 Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I’ll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select—doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief, and yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors.10 By the 1940s, behaviorism had become a major field within academic psychology departments, with B.

The first is whether events in early childhood change methylation patterns and whether such patterns are reversible. I find Mitchell’s skepticism convincing, but this aspect of the research is being conducted using methods that lend themselves to rigorous examination. The more ambitious claims of the enthusiasts are currently unwarranted, but if the enthusiasts are right they will eventually be able to make their case via the scientific method. The second issue is whether environmentally induced changes in methylation are passed on to the next generation. The scientifically interpretable evidence for this is mostly from work with C. elegans (a worm about one millimeter long) and D. melanogaster (the fruit fly), which seems a long way from proving that it happens in humans. But some evidence of intergenerational transmission has also come from laboratory versions of the house mouse, a mammal, which strikes closer to home.81 The most widely publicized of these was the finding in the early 2000s that feeding pregnant mice extra vitamins during pregnancy altered the coat color and disease susceptibility of newborn mice and that the effects lasted for two generations.82 At the end of 2018, a team of 10 geneticists, mostly at Cambridge University, published their finding that the methylation marks on the transposable elements thought to be involved were not transmitted to the next generation.83 In an interview with The Scientist, Dirk Schübeler, a molecular geneticist who was not involved in the study, called the analysis “an enormous technical tour de force.”

“It may be a reflection on human nature,” Madison famously wrote, “that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?”5 During the nineteenth century, unsentimental realism about human nature lost ground to a strange mix of idealism and rationalism that pursued extravagant goals. Karl Marx outdid all the rest with his grand theoretical application of the scientific method (as Marx saw it) to human malleability, blending history, sociology, economics, and politics into a utopian vision of what could be accomplished given the right economic and institutional structures. The Communists who came to power in Russia didn’t think it was just theory; they thought it would work miracles. “Communist life will not be formed blindly, like coral islands, but will be built consciously, will be tested by thought, will be directed and corrected,” Leon Trotsky wrote in 1924.


pages: 369 words: 80,355

Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren't the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room by David Weinberger

airport security, Alfred Russel Wallace, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Berlin Wall, Black Swan, book scanning, Cass Sunstein, commoditize, corporate social responsibility, crowdsourcing, Danny Hillis, David Brooks, Debian, double entry bookkeeping, double helix, en.wikipedia.org, Exxon Valdez, Fall of the Berlin Wall, future of journalism, Galaxy Zoo, Hacker Ethic, Haight Ashbury, hive mind, Howard Rheingold, invention of the telegraph, jimmy wales, Johannes Kepler, John Harrison: Longitude, Kevin Kelly, linked data, Netflix Prize, New Journalism, Nicholas Carr, Norbert Wiener, openstreetmap, P = NP, Pluto: dwarf planet, profit motive, Ralph Waldo Emerson, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, Republic of Letters, RFID, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, semantic web, slashdot, social graph, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, technological singularity, Ted Nelson, the scientific method, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas Malthus, Whole Earth Catalog, X Prize

Mary Poovey cites the invention in Italy of double-entry bookkeeping, which in the sixteenth century provided a process by which ledger entries could be proved accurate to anyone who, regardless of status, followed the proper procedure. 11 But most historians look to the seventeenth century, when the philosopher and statesman Francis Bacon, seeking to put knowledge on a more certain basis, invented the scientific method. Like Aristotle, he sought knowledge of universals.12 But he proposed getting to them through careful experiments on particulars. For example, when Bacon wanted to find out how much a liquid expands when it becomes a gas, he filled a one-ounce vial with alcohol, capped it with a bladder, heated the alcohol until the bladder filled, and then measured how much liquid was left.13 From this experiment on particulars, he was able to propose a theory that applied universally to heated liquids.

Some NPR listeners undoubtedly are to this day drinking an extra cup of coffee because a single experiment had an unexpected result. Thousands of babies grew up listening to cloying New Age renditions of Mozart’s works because a statistically insignificant, nonrepresentative sample of college kids did marginally better at a narrowly defined task under poorly controlled circumstances. That’s how science too often is taken up by our culture. Of course, science itself doesn’t work this way. The scientific method enables us to test hypotheses by isolating the causes of effects through carefully controlled, repeatable experiments. That’s true for much of day-to-day science carried out in labs and workshops around the world. Even in scientific disciplines that are more theoretical or observational than experimental—evolutionary biology, for example—science has been a careful and conservative practice, patiently trying to tie facts together into theories that make sense of them.


The Armchair Economist: Economics and Everyday Life by Steven E. Landsburg

Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, business cycle, diversified portfolio, first-price auction, German hyperinflation, Golden Gate Park, information asymmetry, invisible hand, Kenneth Arrow, means of production, price discrimination, profit maximization, Ralph Nader, random walk, Ronald Coase, Sam Peltzman, sealed-bid auction, second-price auction, second-price sealed-bid, statistical model, the scientific method, Unsafe at Any Speed

He proposed retaining the economist to study what makes teams punt. 211 212 THE PITFALLS OF SCIENCE The commissioner summoned the economist, who went home with a large retainer check and a mandate to discover the causes of punting. Many hours later (he billed by the hour) the answer was at hand. Volumes of computer printouts left no doubt: Punting nearly always takes place on the fourth down. But the economist was trained in the scientific method and knew that describing the past is less impressive than predicting the future. So before contacting the commissioner, he put his model to the acid test. He attended several football games and predicted in advance that all punting would take place on fourth down. When his predictions proved accurate, he knew he had made a genuine scientific discovery. The commissioner, however, was not paying for pure science.

As environmentalism becomes increasingly like an intrusive state religion, we dissenters become increasingly prickly about suggestions that we suffer from some kind of aberration. The naive environmentalism of my daughter's preschool is a force-fed potpourri of myth, superstition, and ritual that has 223 224 THE PITFALLS OF RELIGION much in common with the least reputable varieties of religious Fundamentalism. The antidote to bad religion is good science. The antidote to astrology is the scientific method, the antidote to naive creationism is evolutionary biology, and the antidote to naive environmentalism is economics. Economics is the science of competing preferences. Environmentalism goes beyond science when it elevates matters of preference to matters of morality. A proposal to pave a wilderness and put up a parking lot is an occasion for conflict between those who prefer wilderness and those who prefer convenient parking.


pages: 296 words: 86,188

Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong-And the New Research That's Rewriting the Story by Angela Saini

Albert Einstein, demographic transition, Drosophila, feminist movement, gender pay gap, meta analysis, meta-analysis, mouse model, out of africa, place-making, scientific mainstream, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, women in the workforce

But whether or not it sits easily with us, we can’t ignore biology either. If biological differences exist, we can’t help but want to know. More than that, if we want to build a fairer society, we need to be able to understand these gaps and accommodate them. The problem is that answers in science aren’t everything they seem. When we turn to scientists for resolution, we assume they will be neutral. We think the scientific method can’t be biased or loaded against women. But we’re wrong. The puzzle of why there are so few women in the sciences is crucial to understanding why, not because it tells us something about what women are capable of but because it explains why science has failed to rid us of the gender stereotypes and dangerous myths we’ve been laboring under for centuries. Women are so grossly underrepresented in modern science because, for most of history, they were treated as intellectual inferiors and deliberately excluded from it.

Christian models for female behavior and virtue were challenged. “Darwin created a space where women could say that maybe the Garden of Eden didn’t happen. . .and this was huge. You cannot overestimate how important Adam and Eve were in terms of constraining and shaping people’s ideas about women.” Although not a scientist herself, through Darwin’s work Gamble realized just how devastating the scientific method could be. If humans were descended from lesser creatures, the same as all other life on earth, then it made no sense for women to be confined to the home or subservient to men. These obviously weren’t the rules in the rest of the animal kingdom. “It would be unnatural for women to sit around and be totally dependent on men,” Hamlin tells me. The story of women could be rewritten. In reality of course, for all the latent revolutionary power in his ideas, Darwin himself never believed that women were the intellectual equals of men.


pages: 246 words: 81,625

On Intelligence by Jeff Hawkins, Sandra Blakeslee

airport security, Albert Einstein, computer age, conceptual framework, Johannes Kepler, Necker cube, pattern recognition, Paul Erdős, Ray Kurzweil, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, speech recognition, superintelligent machines, the scientific method, Thomas Bayes, Turing machine, Turing test

Natural vision, experienced as patterns entering the brain, flows like a river. Vision is more like a song than a painting. Many vision researchers ignore saccades and the rapidly changing patterns of vision. Working with anesthetized animals, they study how vision occurs when an unconscious animal fixates on a point. In doing so, they're taking away the time dimension. There's nothing wrong with that in principle; eliminating variables is a core element of the scientific method. But they're throwing away a central component of vision, what it actually consists of. Time needs a central place in a neuroscientific account of vision. With hearing, we're used to thinking about sound's temporal aspect. It is intuitively obvious to us that sounds, spoken language, and music change over time. You can't listen to a song all at once any more than you can hear a spoken sentence instantaneously.

If my theory of intelligence is right, we cannot rid people of their propensity to think in stereotypes, because stereotypes are how the cortex works. Stereotyping is an inherent feature of the brain. The way to eliminate the harm caused by stereotypes is to teach our children to recognize false stereotypes, to be empathetic, and to be skeptical. We need to promote these critical-thinking skills in addition to instilling the best values we know. Skepticism, the heart of the scientific method, is the only way we know how to ferret out fact from fiction. * * * By now, I hope I have convinced you that mind is just a label of what the brain does. It isn't a separate thing that manipulates or coexists with the cells in the brain. Neurons are just cells. There is no mystical force that makes individual nerve cells or collections of nerve cells behave in ways that differ from what they would normally do.


pages: 288 words: 81,253

Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke

banking crisis, Bernie Madoff, Cass Sunstein, cognitive bias, cognitive dissonance, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, delayed gratification, Donald Trump, en.wikipedia.org, endowment effect, Estimating the Reproducibility of Psychological Science, Filter Bubble, hindsight bias, Jean Tirole, John Nash: game theory, John von Neumann, loss aversion, market design, mutually assured destruction, Nate Silver, p-value, phenotype, prediction markets, Richard Feynman, ride hailing / ride sharing, Stanford marshmallow experiment, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, urban planning, Walter Mischel, Yogi Berra, zero-sum game

As the authors of the BBS paper recognized, “Even research communities of highly intelligent and well-meaning individuals can fall prey to confirmation bias, as IQ is positively correlated with the number of reasons people find to support their own side in an argument.” That’s how robust these biases are. We see that even judges and scientists succumb to these biases. We shouldn’t feel bad, whatever our situation, about admitting that we also need help. Second, groups with diverse viewpoints are the best protection against confirmatory thought. Peer review, the gold standard that epitomizes the open-mindedness and hypothesis testing of the scientific method, “offers much less protection against error when the community of peers is politically homogeneous.” In other words, the opinions of group members aren’t much help if it is a group of clones. Experimental studies cited in the BBS paper found that confirmation bias led reviewers “to work extra hard to find flaws with papers whose conclusions they dislike, and to be more permissive about methodological issues when they endorse the conclusions.”

Experts engaging in traditional peer review, providing their opinion on whether an experimental result would replicate, were right 58% of the time. A betting market in which the traders were the exact same experts and those experts had money on the line predicted correctly 71% of the time. A lot of people were surprised to learn that the expert opinion expressed as a bet was more accurate than expert opinion expressed through peer review, since peer review is considered a rock-solid foundation of the scientific method. Of course, this result shouldn’t be surprising to readers of this book. We know that scientists are dedicated to truthseeking and take peer review seriously. Arguably, there is already an implied betting element in the scientific process, in that researchers and peer reviewers have a reputational stake in the quality of their review. But we know that scientists, like judges—and like us—are human and subject to these patterns of confirmatory thought.


pages: 301 words: 85,263

New Dark Age: Technology and the End of the Future by James Bridle

AI winter, Airbnb, Alfred Russel Wallace, Automated Insights, autonomous vehicles, back-to-the-land, Benoit Mandelbrot, Bernie Sanders, bitcoin, British Empire, Brownian motion, Buckminster Fuller, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, carbon footprint, cognitive bias, cognitive dissonance, combinatorial explosion, computer vision, congestion charging, cryptocurrency, data is the new oil, Donald Trump, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Hofstadter, drone strike, Edward Snowden, fear of failure, Flash crash, Google Earth, Haber-Bosch Process, hive mind, income inequality, informal economy, Internet of things, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, Julian Assange, Kickstarter, late capitalism, lone genius, mandelbrot fractal, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Minecraft, mutually assured destruction, natural language processing, Network effects, oil shock, p-value, pattern recognition, peak oil, recommendation engine, road to serfdom, Robert Mercer, Ronald Reagan, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, Skype, social graph, sorting algorithm, South China Sea, speech recognition, Spread Networks laid a new fibre optics cable between New York and Chicago, stem cell, Stuxnet, technoutopianism, the built environment, the scientific method, Uber for X, undersea cable, University of East Anglia, uranium enrichment, Vannevar Bush, WikiLeaks

b.Rate of decline over 10-year periods. c.Adjusting for 5-year delay in spending impact. Data from Jack W. Scannell, Alex Blanckley, Helen Boldon and Brian Warrington, ‘Diagnosing the decline in pharmaceutical R&D efficiency’, Nature Reviews Drug Discovery 11, 191–200 (March 2012). One of the places in which it has become increasingly evident that the reliance on vast amounts of data alone is harmful to the scientific method is in pharmacological research. Over the past sixty years, despite the huge growth of the pharmacological industry, and the concomitant investment in drug discovery, the rate at which new drugs are made available has actually fallen when compared to the amount of money spent on research – and it has fallen consistently and measurably. The number of new drugs approved per billion US dollars spent on research and development has halved every nine years since 1950.

In turn, students have developed techniques – such as ‘Rogeting’, named for the thesaurus, which involves carefully substituting synonyms for words in the original text – in order to fool the algorithms. An arms race develops between writer and machine, with the latest plagiarism detectors employing neural networks to winkle out uncommon words and phrases that might point towards manipulation. But neither plagiarism nor outright fraud suffice to account for a larger crisis within science: replicability. Replication is a cornerstone of the scientific method: it requires that any experiment be repeatable by another group of independent researchers. But in reality, very few experiments are replicated – and the more that are, the more fail the test. At the University of Virginia’s Center for Open Science, an initiative called the Reproducibility Project has, since 2011, tried to replicate the findings of five landmark cancer studies: to take the same experimental setup, rerun the experiments, and get the same results.


pages: 790 words: 150,875

Civilization: The West and the Rest by Niall Ferguson

Admiral Zheng, agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, Andrei Shleifer, Atahualpa, Ayatollah Khomeini, Berlin Wall, BRICs, British Empire, business cycle, clean water, collective bargaining, colonial rule, conceptual framework, Copley Medal, corporate governance, creative destruction, credit crunch, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, Dean Kamen, delayed gratification, Deng Xiaoping, discovery of the americas, Dissolution of the Soviet Union, European colonialism, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Francisco Pizarro, full employment, Hans Lippershey, haute couture, Hernando de Soto, income inequality, invention of movable type, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, joint-stock company, Joseph Schumpeter, Kickstarter, Kitchen Debate, land reform, land tenure, liberal capitalism, Louis Pasteur, Mahatma Gandhi, market bubble, Martin Wolf, mass immigration, means of production, megacity, Mikhail Gorbachev, new economy, Pearl River Delta, Pierre-Simon Laplace, probability theory / Blaise Pascal / Pierre de Fermat, profit maximization, purchasing power parity, quantitative easing, rent-seeking, reserve currency, road to serfdom, Ronald Reagan, savings glut, Scramble for Africa, Silicon Valley, South China Sea, sovereign wealth fund, special economic zone, spice trade, spinning jenny, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, The Great Moderation, the market place, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, total factor productivity, trade route, transaction costs, transatlantic slave trade, undersea cable, upwardly mobile, uranium enrichment, wage slave, Washington Consensus, women in the workforce, World Values Survey

It comes in many variants – medieval English individualism, humanism and the Protestant ethic – and it has been sought everywhere from the wills of English farmers to the account books of Mediterranean merchants and the rules of etiquette of royal courts. In The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, David Landes made the cultural case by arguing that Western Europe led the world in developing autonomous intellectual inquiry, the scientific method of verification and the rationalization of research and its diffusion. Yet even he allowed that something more was required for that mode of operation to flourish: financial intermediaries and good government.26 The key, it becomes ever more apparent, lies with institutions. Institutions are, of course, in some sense the products of culture. But, because they formalize a set of norms, institutions are often the things that keep a culture honest, determining how far it is conducive to good behaviour rather than bad.

That the struggle between radical Islam and Western civilization can be caricatured as ‘Jihad vs McWorld’ speaks volumes.91 In reality, the core values of Western civilization are directly threatened by the brand of Islam espoused by terrorists like Muktar Said Ibrahim, derived as it is from the teachings of the nineteenth-century Wahhabist Sayyid Jamal al-Din and the Muslim Brotherhood leaders Hassan al-Banna and Sayyid Qutb.92 The separation of church and state, the scientific method, the rule of law and the very idea of a free society – including relatively recent Western principles like the equality of the sexes and the legality of homosexual acts – all these things are openly repudiated by the Islamists. Estimates of the Muslim population of West European countries vary widely. According to one estimate the total population has risen from around 10 million in 1990 to 17 million in 2010.93 As a share of national populations, Muslim communities range in size from as much as 9.8 per cent in France to as little as 0.2 per cent in Portugal.94 Such figures seem to belie the warnings of some scholars of a future ‘Eurabia’ – a continent Islamicized by the end of the twenty-first century.

But what this means is that Western modes of operation are not in decline but are flourishing nearly everywhere, with only a few remaining pockets of resistance. A growing number of Resterners are sleeping, showering, dressing, working, playing, eating, drinking and travelling like Westerners.61 Moreover, as we have seen, Western civilization is more than just one thing; it is a package. It is about political pluralism (multiple states and multiple authorities) as well as capitalism; it is about the freedom of thought as well as the scientific method; it is about the rule of law and property rights as well as democracy. Even today, the West still has more of these institutional advantages than the Rest. The Chinese do not have political competition. The Iranians do not have freedom of conscience. They get to vote in Russia, but the rule of law there is a sham. In none of these countries is there a free press. These differences may explain why, for example, all three countries lag behind Western countries in qualitative indices that measure ‘national innovative development’ and ‘national innovation capacity’.62 Of course Western civilization is far from flawless.


pages: 560 words: 158,238

Fifty Degrees Below by Kim Stanley Robinson

airport security, bioinformatics, Burning Man, clean water, Donner party, full employment, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invisible hand, iterative process, means of production, minimum wage unemployment, North Sea oil, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Richard Feynman, statistical model, Stephen Hawking, the scientific method

Their usual lunchtime special ran parallel to Route 66 east for a while, then back around the curve of the Potomac and west back to NSF. They ran at talking speed, which for this group meant about an eight-minute mile pace. A lot of the talking came from Edgardo, riffing on one thing or another. He liked to make connections; he liked to question things. He didn’t believe in anything. Even the scientific method was to him a kind of ad hoc survival attempt, a not-very–successful concoction of emergency coping mechanisms. Which belief did not, however, keep him from working maniacally on every project thrown his way, nor from partying late almost every night at various Latin venues. He was from Buenos Aires originally, and this, he said, explained everything about him. “All of us porteños are the same.”

Social Science Experiment in Elective Politics (SSEEP) (notes by Edgardo Alfonso, for Diane Chang, the Vanderwal committee, and the National Science Board) The experiment is designed to ask, if the scientific community were to propose a platform of political goals based on scientific principles, how would it be formulated, and what would the platform say? In other words, what goals for improvement in society and government might follow logically from the aggregate of scientific findings and the application of the scientific method to the problem of change? The platform could conceivably take the form of the “Contract with America” adopted by the Republican Party before the 1994 election (a kind of list of Things To Do): “Contract with Humanity” “Contract with the Children” “Contract with the Generations to Come” commitment to inventing a sustainable culture (Permaculture, first iteration —what science is for) Some kind of underlying macro-goal or foundational axiom set might have to be synthesized from the particulars of scientific practice and the composite standard model of physical reality expressed by the various disciplines. 1) One axiom or goal might be some form of the “Greatest good for the greatest number” rubric.

MEANWHILE, IN THE MIDST OF ALL this, science itself proceeded in its usual manner; which is to say, very slowly. Anna Quibler liked it that way. Take a problem, break it down into parts (analyze), quantify whatever parts you could, see if what you learned suggested anything about causes and effects; then see if this suggested anything about long-term plans, and tangible things to do. She did not believe in revolution of any kind, and only trusted the mass application of the scientific method to get any real-world results. “One step at a time,” she would say to her team in bioinformatics, or Nick’s math group at school, or the National Science Board; and she hoped that as long as chaos did not erupt worldwide, one step at a time would eventually get them to some tolerable state. Of course there were all the hysterical operatics of “history” to distract people from this method and its incremental successes.


pages: 543 words: 147,357

Them And Us: Politics, Greed And Inequality - Why We Need A Fair Society by Will Hutton

Andrei Shleifer, asset-backed security, bank run, banking crisis, Benoit Mandelbrot, Berlin Wall, Bernie Madoff, Big bang: deregulation of the City of London, Blythe Masters, Boris Johnson, Bretton Woods, business cycle, capital controls, carbon footprint, Carmen Reinhart, Cass Sunstein, centre right, choice architecture, cloud computing, collective bargaining, conceptual framework, Corn Laws, corporate governance, creative destruction, credit crunch, Credit Default Swap, debt deflation, decarbonisation, Deng Xiaoping, discovery of DNA, discovery of the americas, discrete time, diversification, double helix, Edward Glaeser, financial deregulation, financial innovation, financial intermediation, first-past-the-post, floating exchange rates, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, Frank Levy and Richard Murnane: The New Division of Labor, full employment, George Akerlof, Gini coefficient, global supply chain, Growth in a Time of Debt, Hyman Minsky, I think there is a world market for maybe five computers, income inequality, inflation targeting, interest rate swap, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Dyson, James Watt: steam engine, joint-stock company, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Rogoff, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, labour market flexibility, liberal capitalism, light touch regulation, Long Term Capital Management, Louis Pasteur, low cost airline, low-wage service sector, mandelbrot fractal, margin call, market fundamentalism, Martin Wolf, mass immigration, means of production, Mikhail Gorbachev, millennium bug, money market fund, moral hazard, moral panic, mortgage debt, Myron Scholes, Neil Kinnock, new economy, Northern Rock, offshore financial centre, open economy, plutocrats, Plutocrats, price discrimination, private sector deleveraging, purchasing power parity, quantitative easing, race to the bottom, railway mania, random walk, rent-seeking, reserve currency, Richard Thaler, Right to Buy, rising living standards, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Reagan, Rory Sutherland, Satyajit Das, shareholder value, short selling, Silicon Valley, Skype, South Sea Bubble, Steve Jobs, The Market for Lemons, the market place, The Myth of the Rational Market, the payments system, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, too big to fail, unpaid internship, value at risk, Vilfredo Pareto, Washington Consensus, wealth creators, working poor, zero-sum game, éminence grise

., only 23 true GPTs have ever been invented, and 15 of them have appeared in the last 550 years.10 Moreover, the pace is accelerating. Nine GPTs – the internal combustion engine, electricity, the motor vehicle, the airplane, mass production, the computer, lean production, the internet and biotechnology – have been developed over the last 125 years. The movement to a scientific culture and the adoption of the scientific method since the Enlightenment have allowed systematic formulation of the principles underlying GPTs and the creation of a common knowledge base that grows cumulatively – thereby opening the path for the creation of new GPTs. There is every reason to believe that the number will double again in the next 125 years, as technologies build on each other at an exponential rate. Instead of an exhaustive account of each, I will discuss a sample.

James Watt, Josiah Wedgwood and George Stephenson were all non-conformists. Before 1829, dissenters were all prohibited from joining Parliament, the military or the civil service. Wedgwood typified the new breed: ‘everything yields to experiment’, he said, as he restlessly integrated art, industry and the latest technological processes. Britain had become an open-access society in every way, celebrating Newton’s mechanics and the scientific method that produced it but also welcoming the influence of thinkers from outside the mainstream.4 The country was locked into a virtuous circle. The threat of ossification The contrast between Britain’s embrace of the new in the first half of the nineteenth century and the resistance elsewhere is striking. Between 1825 and 1855, Russia built just one railway line. In the Habsburg Empire, the first railway was built only in 1835, and very few were permitted until the mid-1850s.

Education should be about much more than doing well in international test comparisons, achieving world-class grades, closing the achievement gap or possessing the skills to compete and be employable – the linear, learning-based discourse in which the case for education and training is usually cast. Gardner argues that there are five distinct sets of mental capabilities that are necessary for future progress. The first is what he dubs the ‘disciplined mind’ – the mind that can work with subject matter in any discipline to uncover laws, truths or insights via a systematic, disciplined process, be it the scientific method or a historian quarrying away in the archives to make empathetic sense of the past and the present. Gardner then makes the case for the ‘creative’, the ‘synthesising’, the ‘respectful’ and the ‘ethical’ mind. Synthesising minds are needed to marshal disparate information from the multiplicity of new sources, while creative minds challenge received wisdom and authority to make new breakthroughs.


pages: 795 words: 215,529

Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman by James Gleick

Albert Einstein, American ideology, Arthur Eddington, Brownian motion, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, Ernest Rutherford, gravity well, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, Menlo Park, Murray Gell-Mann, mutually assured destruction, Norbert Wiener, Norman Mailer, pattern recognition, Pepto Bismol, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, Ronald Reagan, Rubik’s Cube, Sand Hill Road, Schrödinger's Cat, sexual politics, Stephen Hawking, Steven Levy, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, uranium enrichment

“I was interested in this: they keep arguing that it is possible. And that’s true. It is possible. They do not appreciate that the problem is not to demonstrate whether it’s possible or not but whether it’s going on or not.” How could one evaluate miracle cures or astrological forecasts or telekinetic victories at the roulette wheel? By subjecting them to the scientific method. Look for people who recovered from leukemia without having prayed. Place sheets of glass between the psychic and the roulette table. “If it’s not a miracle,” he said, “the scientific method will destroy it.” It was essential to understand coincidence and probability. It was noteworthy that flying-saucer lore involved a considerably greater variety of saucer than of creature: “orange balls of light, blue spheres which bounce on the floor, gray fogs which disappear, gossamer-like streams which evaporate into the air, thin, round flat things out of which objects come with funny shapes that are something like a human being.”

Colleges that adopted the red books dropped them a few years later: the texts proved too difficult for their intended readers. Instead, professors and working physicists found Feynman’s three volumes reshaping their own conception of their subject. They were more than just authoritative. A physicist, citing one of many celebrated passages, would dryly pay homage to “Book II, Chapter 41, Verse 6.” Authoritative, too, were Feynman’s views of quantum mechanics, of the scientific method, of the relations between science and religion, of the role of beauty and uncertainty in the creation of knowledge. His comments on such subjects were mostly expressed offhand in technical contexts, but also in two slim models of science writing, again distilled from lectures: The Character of Physical Law and QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter. Feynman was widely quoted by scientists and science writers (although he seldom submitted to interviews).

The doctors could see lesions healing and lungs clearing. A year after that, the study of streptomycin as an antitubercular agent had become the most extensive research project ever devoted to a drug and a disease. Researchers were treating more than one thousand patients. In 1947 streptomycin was released to the public. Streptomycin’s discovery, like penicillin’s a few years earlier, had been delayed by medicine’s slow embrace of the scientific method. Physicians had just begun to comprehend the power of controlled experiments repeated thousands of times. The use of statistics to uncover any but the grossest phenomena remained alien. The doctor who first isolated the culture he named Streptomyces griseus, by cultivating some organisms swabbed from the throat of a chicken, had seen the same microbes in a soil sample in 1915 and had recognized even then that they had a tendency to kill disease-causing bacteria.


pages: 356 words: 95,647

Sun in a Bottle: The Strange History of Fusion and the Science of Wishful Thinking by Charles Seife

Albert Einstein, anti-communist, Brownian motion, correlation does not imply causation, Dmitri Mendeleev, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, Gary Taubes, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, Mikhail Gorbachev, Norman Macrae, Project Plowshare, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, the scientific method, Yom Kippur War

And that means that scientists, sometimes subtly and sometimes unsubtly, occasionally try to wrestle the scientific narrative in the wrong direction. Like the mythmakers of old, they try to craft nature in their image. The true power of science comes from its ability to withstand the wishful thinking of the humans who craft its stories. Individual scientists err. They deceive themselves—and they can deceive others. They might even lie or cheat in an attempt to win fame or glory or immortality. But the whole point of the scientific method is to try to insulate the scientific story from the whims and frailties of the scientists who write it. The mechanisms of science are, essentially, protection against wishful thinking. This protection takes many forms, but the strongest come from the scientific community itself. Published scientific research is peer reviewed and vetted by rivals to ensure that its authors have made no obvious mistakes.

The scientific community demands that experiments be repeatable, and if any question arises about the validity of an important experiment, scientists will clamor to have a second group verify the result with a different piece of equipment. And if there’s a hint of incompetence or fraud, the community will howl for the blood of the malefactors. It can be brutal, but this is the way science protects itself from the dishonesty, the stupidity, or the human failures of an individual scientist. This is what makes science seem so inhuman. The scientific method has no sympathy for wishful thinking. This can be hard on even the most brilliant scientists. As they practice their craft, they are forced to renounce some of their beliefs, no matter how deeply held they might be. If they err—as they almost certainly will—they must admit that they have deceived themselves. They have to do it publicly and without regard for their fragile human egos. They must eviscerate themselves on the altar of science.


pages: 336 words: 92,056

The Battery: How Portable Power Sparked a Technological Revolution by Henry Schlesinger

Albert Einstein, animal electricity, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, British Empire, Copley Medal, Fellow of the Royal Society, index card, invention of the telegraph, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Livingstone, I presume, Menlo Park, Metcalfe’s law, popular electronics, Ralph Waldo Emerson, RFID, Robert Metcalfe, Stephen Hawking, Thales of Miletus, the scientific method, Thomas Davenport, transcontinental railway, Upton Sinclair, Vannevar Bush, Yogi Berra

THE BEAUTY OF GILBERT’S EFFORTS—indeed, all scientific work—was that nearly anyone with time and resources could duplicate any of his experiments and achieve pretty much the same results. Unlike the dubious work of alchemists or innovations by tradesmen, which were largely conducted in secret, Gilbert’s brand of science was freely shared and open to challenges. A better theory backed up by a credible experiment could displace even the most fundamental of Gilbert’s conclusions. The scientific method would even have a profound effect on alchemy. By the time De Magnete was published, the secretive endeavor, which uncomfortably merged the technical and the mystical, had already moved beyond its traditional wasted efforts of transmutation or eternal life toward legitimate medicine. Gilbert and the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century served to push it even further away from magic and mysticism toward experimentation and respectability.

Some other, far more likely, explanation must be the reason. So the controversy began. Given the participants, it was an odd debate. Galvani, the anatomist, had ventured into physics, while Volta, the physicist, was crossing over into anatomy. Cultured Europe, in which science was very much salonfähig, quickly began to line up on both sides of the issue. Volta, for his part, was a strict adherent to the scientific method. Using a methodology very much like Franklin’s disassembling of a Leyden jar, he discovered that electrical fluid generated in the frog experiment was a product of the sum of its parts rather than a single piece. In a series of experiments, he systematically substituted various components of Galvani’s original experiment and soon found the secret resided not in the frog, but in the two dissimilar metals.


pages: 369 words: 90,630

Mindwise: Why We Misunderstand What Others Think, Believe, Feel, and Want by Nicholas Epley

affirmative action, airport security, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Cass Sunstein, crowdsourcing, cuban missile crisis, drone strike, friendly fire, invisible hand, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Milgram experiment, payday loans, Peter Singer: altruism, pirate software, Richard Thaler, school choice, social intelligence, the scientific method, theory of mind

Only at the rare times when it is stretched beyond its limits, or is proven to be profoundly mistaken, does its existence come back into view. ON MY MIND My goal is to bring what I think is your brain’s greatest ability out of the shadows and into the light of scientific inspection. Like thousands of other psychologists at research universities around the world, I use the basic principles of the scientific method to understand why you think, act, and feel as you do. More specifically, I conduct experiments that test your sixth sense to learn exactly how, and how well, you reason about the thoughts, motives, attitudes, beliefs, and emotions of others. This ability is one of your brain’s greatest because it allows you to achieve one of the most important goals in any human life: connecting, deeply and honestly, with other human beings.

The biggest gender differences are biological: men have penises and women have vaginas, and, yes, research confirms that most men throw a baseball faster and farther than most women.21 The gender differences that most strongly capture our imagination and define our genders, however, are psychological: women are communal, emotional, relational, and think mainly about others, whereas men are independent, logical, spatial, and think mainly about sex. Scientists also love to talk about psychological gender differences, in part because the scientific method—just like our senses—uses methods that detect differences between groups rather than similarities. Consider the largest single study of gender preferences ever conducted in psychology, a survey of 10,047 men and women (ages twenty to twenty-five) from 37 cultures. These men and women were asked to rate the importance of thirteen attributes in a romantic partner (from 0, meaning it’s unimportant, to 3, meaning it’s indispensable).


pages: 335 words: 95,280

The Greatest Story Ever Told—So Far by Lawrence M. Krauss

Albert Einstein, complexity theory, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, dark matter, Ernest Rutherford, Isaac Newton, Magellanic Cloud, Murray Gell-Mann, RAND corporation, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, the scientific method

Everything about our evolutionary history has primed our minds to be comfortable with concepts that helped us survive, such as the natural teleological tendency children have to assume objects exist to serve a goal, and the broader tendency to anthropomorphize, to assign agency to lifeless objects, because clearly it is better to mistake an inert object for a threat than a threat for an inert object. Evolution didn’t prepare our minds to appreciate long or short timescales or short or huge distances that we cannot experience directly. So it is no wonder that some of the remarkable discoveries of the scientific method, such as evolution and quantum mechanics, are nonintuitive at best, and can draw most of us well outside our myopic comfort zone. This is also what makes the greatest story ever told so worth telling. The best stories challenge us. They cause us to see ourselves differently, to realign our picture of ourselves and our place in the cosmos. This is not only true for the greatest literature, music, and art.

Plato further argues that this is what those who would act rationally should strive for, in both public and private life—seeking the “good” by focusing on reason and truth. He suggests that we can only do so by exploring the realities that underlie the world of our direct experience, rather than by exploring the illusions of a reality that we might want to exist. Only through rational examination of what is real, and not by faith alone, is rational action—or good—possible. Today, Plato’s vision of “pure thought” has been replaced by the scientific method, which, based on both reason and experiment, allows us to discover the underlying realities of the world. Rational action in public and private life now requires a basis in both reason and empirical investigation, and it often requires a departure from the solipsistic world of our direct experience. This principle is the source of most of my own public activism in opposition to government policies based on ideology rather than evidence, and it is also probably why I respond so negatively to the concept of the “sacred”—implying as it does some idea or admonition that is off-limits to public questioning, exploration, discussion, and sometimes ridicule.


pages: 420 words: 98,309

Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts by Carol Tavris, Elliot Aronson

Ayatollah Khomeini, cognitive dissonance, cuban missile crisis, desegregation, Donald Trump, false memory syndrome, fear of failure, Lao Tzu, longitudinal study, medical malpractice, medical residency, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Milgram experiment, moral panic, Nelson Mandela, placebo effect, psychological pricing, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, social intelligence, telemarketer, the scientific method, trade route, transcontinental railway, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!

For example, cognitive and behavioral methods are the psychological treatments of choice for panic attacks, depression, eating disorders, insomnia, chronic anger, and other emotional disorders. These methods are often as effective or more effective than medication.5 In contrast, most psychiatrists, who have medical degrees, learn about medicine and medication, but they rarely learn much about the scientific method or even about basic research in psychology. Throughout the twentieth century, they were generally practitioners of Freudian psychoanalysis or one of its offshoots; you needed an MD to be admitted to a psychoanalytic training institute. As the popularity of psychoanalysis declined and the biomedical model of disorder gained the upper hand, most psychiatrists began treating patients with medication rather than any form of talk therapy.

No one is suggesting that U.N. observers disturb the privacy of the therapeutic encounter, or that all therapists should start doing their own research. An understanding of how to think scientifically may not aid therapists in the subjective process of helping a client who is searching for answers to existential questions. But it matters profoundly when therapists claim expertise and certainty in domains in which unverified clinical opinion can ruin lives. The scientific method consists of the use of procedures designed to show not that our predictions and hypotheses are right, but that they might be wrong. Scientific reasoning is useful to anyone in any job because it makes us face the possibility, even the dire reality, that we were mistaken. It forces us to confront our self-justifications and put them on public display for others to puncture. At its core, therefore, science is a form of arrogance control.


pages: 1,737 words: 491,616

Rationality: From AI to Zombies by Eliezer Yudkowsky

Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, anthropic principle, anti-pattern, anti-work, Arthur Eddington, artificial general intelligence, availability heuristic, Bayesian statistics, Berlin Wall, Build a better mousetrap, Cass Sunstein, cellular automata, cognitive bias, cognitive dissonance, correlation does not imply causation, cosmological constant, creative destruction, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, dematerialisation, different worldview, discovery of DNA, Douglas Hofstadter, Drosophila, effective altruism, experimental subject, Extropian, friendly AI, fundamental attribution error, Gödel, Escher, Bach, hindsight bias, index card, index fund, Isaac Newton, John Conway, John von Neumann, Long Term Capital Management, Louis Pasteur, mental accounting, meta analysis, meta-analysis, money market fund, Nash equilibrium, Necker cube, NP-complete, P = NP, pattern recognition, Paul Graham, Peter Thiel, Pierre-Simon Laplace, placebo effect, planetary scale, prediction markets, random walk, Ray Kurzweil, reversible computing, Richard Feynman, risk tolerance, Rubik’s Cube, Saturday Night Live, Schrödinger's Cat, scientific mainstream, scientific worldview, sensible shoes, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Singularitarianism, Solar eclipse in 1919, speech recognition, statistical model, Steven Pinker, strong AI, technological singularity, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, the map is not the territory, the scientific method, Turing complete, Turing machine, ultimatum game, X Prize, Y Combinator, zero-sum game

“It means the trick didn’t work. Once I broke ritual by that single misstep, the power did not linger, but vanished instantly; the heap of paperclips and the pile of dollar bills no longer went empty at the same time.” “You actually tried this?” asks Mark. “Yes,” I say, “I actually performed the experiment, to verify that the outcome matched my theoretical prediction. I have a sentimental fondness for the scientific method, even when it seems absurd. Besides, what if I’d been wrong?” “If it had worked,” says Mark, “you would have been guilty of counterfeiting! Imagine if everyone did that; the economy would collapse! Everyone would have billions of dollars of currency, yet there would be nothing for money to buy!” “Not at all,” I reply. “By that same logic whereby adding another paperclip to the heap creates another dollar bill, creating another dollar bill would create an additional dollar’s worth of goods and services.”

Indeed, as the man thought upon the Great Idea more and more, he realized that it was not just a great idea, but the most wonderful idea ever. The Great Idea would unravel the mysteries of the universe, supersede the authority of the corrupt and error-ridden Establishment, confer nigh-magical powers upon its wielders, feed the hungry, heal the sick, make the whole world a better place, etc., etc., etc. The man was Francis Bacon, his Great Idea was the scientific method, and he was the only crackpot in all history to claim that level of benefit to humanity and turn out to be completely right. (Bacon didn’t singlehandedly invent science, of course, but he did contribute, and may have been the first to realize the power.) That’s the problem with deciding that you’ll never admire anything that much: Some ideas really are that good. Though no one has fulfilled claims more audacious than Bacon’s; at least, not yet.

On the other hand, Popper’s idea that there is only falsification and no such thing as confirmation turns out to be incorrect. Bayes’s Theorem shows that falsification is very strong evidence compared to confirmation, but falsification is still probabilistic in nature; it is not governed by fundamentally different rules from confirmation, as Popper argued. So we find that many phenomena in the cognitive sciences, plus the statistical methods used by scientists, plus the scientific method itself, are all turning out to be special cases of Bayes’s Theorem. Hence the Bayesian revolution. * * * Having introduced Bayes’s Theorem explicitly, we can explicitly discuss its components. We’ll start with P(A|X). If you ever find yourself getting confused about what’s A and what’s X in Bayes’s Theorem, start with P(A|X) on the left side of the equation; that’s the simplest part to interpret.


pages: 108 words: 28,348

Code Simplicity by Max Kanat-Alexander

don't repeat yourself, premature optimization, the scientific method

This knowledge must have some sort of organization. It has to be put into categories, the various pieces have to be correctly related to each other in terms of importance, etc. A science must contain general truths or basic laws. A science must tell you how to do something in the physical universe. It must be somehow applicable in work or in life. Usually, a science is discovered and proven through the scientific method, which involves observation of the physical universe, making a theory about how the universe works, performing experiments to verify your theory, and showing that the same experiment works everywhere to demonstrate that the theory is a general truth and not just a coincidence or something that worked just for you. In the world of software, we have lots of knowledge; it’s been collected in books, and it has even been somewhat organized.


pages: 100 words: 28,911

A Short Guide to a Long Life by David B. Agus

Danny Hillis, Ignaz Semmelweis: hand washing, lifelogging, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Murray Gell-Mann, personalized medicine, placebo effect, risk tolerance, the scientific method

And even when I suggest something that comes with a price, such as paying for a DNA screening test, there’s often an inexpensive, if not totally free, alternative (see Rule 19), which can be even more informative and useful. When I went on the Dr. Oz Show in the fall of 2012, I was billed as the most controversial doctor in America. But I think I’m the absolute opposite. I won’t endorse anything that’s not backed by well-controlled clinical trials—studies that live up to the rigors of the scientific method. In that regard, I’m one of the most conservative of doctors in America. People tend to label certain things as aggressive or, conversely, mainstream. Many individuals think taking aspirin and statins on a daily basis is aggressive but taking vitamins is mainstream. But the data tell a totally different story, painting a picture in which aspirin and statins can significantly reduce your risk of death (what scientists call “all cause mortality”) while vitamins and supplements may raise your risk for a variety of illnesses, including cancer.


pages: 416 words: 100,130

New Power: How Power Works in Our Hyperconnected World--And How to Make It Work for You by Jeremy Heimans, Henry Timms

"side hustle", 3D printing, 4chan, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Airbnb, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, battle of ideas, Benjamin Mako Hill, bitcoin, blockchain, British Empire, Chris Wanstrath, Columbine, Corn Laws, crowdsourcing, David Attenborough, Donald Trump, Elon Musk, Ferguson, Missouri, future of work, game design, gig economy, hiring and firing, IKEA effect, income inequality, informal economy, job satisfaction, Jony Ive, Kibera, Kickstarter, Lean Startup, Lyft, Mark Zuckerberg, Minecraft, Network effects, new economy, Nicholas Carr, obamacare, Occupy movement, profit motive, race to the bottom, ride hailing / ride sharing, rolodex, Saturday Night Live, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, six sigma, Snapchat, social web, TaskRabbit, the scientific method, transaction costs, Travis Kalanick, Uber and Lyft, uber lyft, upwardly mobile, web application, WikiLeaks

What was behind this big divide were two very different ways of thinking. The first group had what we call old power values. They came from a world with clear boundaries between “us” and “them,” where only the lab-coated and credentialed were equipped to solve the mysteries of the cosmos. As one leading scientist explained, the resistance to open innovation “is really intrinsic, the history of the scientific method goes against it…In our training, trying to solve problems in the scientific method was: I take in all this information, I synthesize it, I do analysis and I come to some conclusion and so to reach out to other people to solve it, it’s like cheating!” This group believed deeply in the value of expertise. Their own identities grew out of a tradition that venerated individual moments of genius. Archimedes leaping from his bath.


pages: 417 words: 103,458

The Intelligence Trap: Revolutionise Your Thinking and Make Wiser Decisions by David Robson

active measures, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, Atul Gawande, availability heuristic, cognitive bias, corporate governance, correlation coefficient, cuban missile crisis, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, dark matter, deliberate practice, dematerialisation, Donald Trump, Flynn Effect, framing effect, fundamental attribution error, illegal immigration, Isaac Newton, job satisfaction, knowledge economy, lone genius, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Nelson Mandela, obamacare, pattern recognition, price anchoring, Richard Feynman, risk tolerance, Silicon Valley, social intelligence, Steve Jobs, the scientific method, theory of mind, traveling salesman, ultimatum game, Y2K, Yom Kippur War

A good scientist should leave no stone uncovered before reaching a conclusion – but Terman turned a blind eye to data that might have contradicted his own preconceptions. He was so sure of the genetic nature of intelligence that he neglected to hunt for talented children in poorer neighbourhoods. And he must have known that meddling in his subjects’ lives would skew the results, but he often offered financial support and professional recommendations to his Termites, boosting their chances of success. He was neglecting the most basic (tacit) knowledge of the scientific method, which even the most inexperienced undergraduate should take for granted. This is not to mention his troubling political leanings. Terman’s interest in social engineering led him to join the Human Betterment Foundation – a group that called for the compulsory sterilisation of those showing undesirable qualities.58 Moreover, when reading Terman’s early papers, it is shocking how easily he dismissed the intellectual potential of African Americans and Hispanics, based on a mere handful of case-studies.

Available at Public Domain Review, https://publicdomainreview.org/collections/sir-arthur-conan-doyle-interview-1927/. 5 Eby, M. (21 March 2012), ‘Hocus Pocus’, Paris Review blog, https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2012/03/21/hocus-pocus/. 6 Tversky, A. and Kahneman, D. (1974), ‘Judgment under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases’, Science, 185, 1124?31. 7 For an accessible description of this argument, see Stanovich, K.E. (2009), ‘Rational and Irrational Thought: The Thinking That IQ Tests Miss’, Scientific American Mind, 20(6), 34?9. 8 There is good evidence, for instance, that children naturally reject information if it contradicts ‘common sense’ theories of the world, and they need to learn the scientific method from the people they trust. So a child growing up in an environment that rejects science will naturally adopt those views, regardless of their intelligence. Bloom, P. and Weisberg, D.S. (2007), ‘Childhood Origins of Adult Resistance to Science’, Science, 316(5827), 996–7. 9 ‘Knowledge projection from an island of false beliefs might explain the phenomenon of otherwise intelligent people who get caught in a domain-specific web of falsity that, because of projection tendencies, they cannot escape.


pages: 370 words: 97,138

Beyond: Our Future in Space by Chris Impey

3D printing, Admiral Zheng, Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, AltaVista, Berlin Wall, Buckminster Fuller, butterfly effect, California gold rush, carbon-based life, Charles Lindbergh, Colonization of Mars, cosmic abundance, crowdsourcing, cuban missile crisis, dark matter, discovery of DNA, Doomsday Clock, Edward Snowden, Elon Musk, Eratosthenes, Haight Ashbury, Hyperloop, I think there is a world market for maybe five computers, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, Kickstarter, life extension, low earth orbit, Mahatma Gandhi, Marc Andreessen, Mars Rover, mutually assured destruction, Oculus Rift, operation paperclip, out of africa, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, phenotype, private space industry, purchasing power parity, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, RFID, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, risk tolerance, Rubik’s Cube, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Searching for Interstellar Communications, Silicon Valley, skunkworks, Skype, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, supervolcano, technological singularity, telepresence, telerobotics, the medium is the message, the scientific method, theory of mind, There's no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home - Ken Olsen, wikimedia commons, X Prize, Yogi Berra

But the baby specifically gave the experimenter a duck if the experimenter had drawn the relatively rare yellow ducks from the box. The baby knew it was unlikely for the experimenter to draw mostly ducks, so the experimenter’s behavior indicated a preference for ducks. Babies aren’t doing experiments or crunching statistics in the self-conscious way that adults do, but they’re unconsciously processing information in a way that parallels the scientific method. The next level of development involves play. When children say, “Let’s pretend,” they conjure up alternative worlds and populate them with imaginary friends. As we all know, these imaginary worlds can be very elaborate. Such behavior is uniquely human. Jane Goodall only spotted a few examples of pretend play in many hours of observing the Gombe chimpanzees in Tanzania, while it would be trivial to note this behavior in any four-year-old.

They undulate and turn, like a carpet that’s weaving itself. It seems chaotic, but suddenly the tendrils form spirals and complex geometric shapes. Then, just as suddenly, the patterns disappear. I stare, transfixed. 12 Journey to the Stars _______________________ Home Away from Home “Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future,” according to Danish physicist Niels Bohr.1 Prediction is a core part of the scientific method. At a grainy level, scientists predict the outcome of an experiment or a measurement. At a big-picture level, scientists learn about our world by extrapolating laws of nature or predicting how they will operate in unfamiliar situations. It’s easy to cherry-pick predictions that make the prognosticator look foolish in hindsight. A classic example is that of Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, who said in 1943: “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”


pages: 385 words: 98,015

Einstein's Unfinished Revolution: The Search for What Lies Beyond the Quantum by Lee Smolin

Albert Einstein, Brownian motion, Claude Shannon: information theory, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, Ernest Rutherford, Isaac Newton, Jane Jacobs, Jaron Lanier, John von Neumann, Murray Gell-Mann, mutually assured destruction, Richard Feynman, Richard Florida, Schrödinger's Cat, Stephen Hawking, the scientific method, Turing machine

Nor is it any longer possible to ask whether or not these particles exist in space and time objectively. . . . When we speak of the picture of nature in the exact science of our age, we do not mean a picture of nature so much as a picture of our relationships with nature. . . . Science no longer confronts nature as an objective observer, but sees itself as an actor in this interplay between man and nature. The scientific method of analyzing, explaining and classifying has become conscious of its limitations, which arise out of the fact that by its intervention science alters and refashions the object of investigation. In other words, method and object can no longer be separated. . . . [T]he different intuitive pictures which we use to describe atomic systems, although fully adequate for given experiments, are nevertheless mutually exclusive.

It would be fortunate indeed if we already have among our library of ideas the answer to how to complete Einstein’s twin revolutions. But if we don’t, I have no doubt our descendants will, so long as we keep the great adventure of science alive. EPILOGUE/REVOLUTIONS Note to Self The truth is out there. —THE X-FILES Never, never, never, never, never give up. —DAVID GROSS Einstein told us that we scientists are opportunists who are willing to break the rules and bend the scientific method to our purpose of discovering how nature works. Each scientist is like an entrepreneur, who has a certain amount of capital to invest; for a theoretical physicist that capital consists mainly of time and attention. The most important decisions we make are what problems we work on and which approaches we choose. Which new paper do we study, to which conferences do we travel, and, once there, to which talks do we listen?


Data and the City by Rob Kitchin,Tracey P. Lauriault,Gavin McArdle

A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, bike sharing scheme, bitcoin, blockchain, Bretton Woods, Chelsea Manning, citizen journalism, Claude Shannon: information theory, clean water, cloud computing, complexity theory, conceptual framework, corporate governance, correlation does not imply causation, create, read, update, delete, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, dematerialisation, digital map, distributed ledger, fault tolerance, fiat currency, Filter Bubble, floating exchange rates, global value chain, Google Earth, hive mind, Internet of things, Kickstarter, knowledge economy, lifelogging, linked data, loose coupling, new economy, New Urbanism, Nicholas Carr, open economy, openstreetmap, packet switching, pattern recognition, performance metric, place-making, RAND corporation, RFID, Richard Florida, ride hailing / ride sharing, semantic web, sentiment analysis, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Skype, smart cities, Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia, smart contracts, smart grid, smart meter, social graph, software studies, statistical model, TaskRabbit, text mining, The Chicago School, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, the market place, the medium is the message, the scientific method, Toyota Production System, urban planning, urban sprawl, web application

In the end, insights in the workings of the city as a complex system should be combined with such normative discussions: what kind of city do we want to live in, and what do we make of these changes brought about by the various assemblages that employ software and urban data to manage urban life in new ways? A new science of cities should therefore contribute to our understanding of cities in addressing these kinds of questions as well. References Allwinkle, S. and Cruickshank, P. (2011) ‘Creating smart-er cities: an overview’, Journal of Urban Technology 18(2): 1–16. Anderson, C. (2008) ‘The end of theory: The data deluge makes the scientific method obsolete’, Wired magazine online, 23 June, available at: www.wired.com/2008/06/ pb-theory/. Auge, M. (1995) Non-places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity. London: Verso. Batty, M. (2013a) Urban Informatics and Big Data. A Report to the ESRC Expert Group. London: CASA, UCL, available from: www.spatialcomplexity.info/files/2015/07/ Urban-Informatics-and-Big-Data.pdf [accessed 24 November 2016].

These kinds of integration are as important as the search for pattern in such data and as the big data revolution proceeds it is increasingly clear that the pronouncements on the end of theory, made so vociferously by commentators such as Anderson (2008), are not being borne out in any sense. The need to approach big data with clear theory has never been more important. References Anderson, C. (2008) ‘The end of theory: the data deluge makes the scientific method obsolete’, Wired Magazine 16-07, 23 June, available from: http://archive.wired.com/ science/discoveries/magazine/16-07/pb_theory [accessed 24 November 2016]. Batty, M. (2013) The New Science of Cities. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Batty, M. (2014) ‘Can it happen again? Planning support, Lee’s requiem and the rise of the smart cities movement’, Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design 41(3): 388–391.


pages: 104 words: 30,990

The Centrist Manifesto by Charles Wheelan

2013 Report for America's Infrastructure - American Society of Civil Engineers - 19 March 2013, affirmative action, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, American Society of Civil Engineers: Report Card, Bernie Madoff, Bretton Woods, centre right, clean water, creative destruction, David Brooks, delayed gratification, demand response, Home mortgage interest deduction, housing crisis, income inequality, invisible hand, obamacare, profit maximization, Ralph Nader, rent-seeking, Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, Ronald Reagan, Ronald Reagan: Tear down this wall, stem cell, the scientific method, transcontinental railway, Walter Mischel

The American Society of Civil Engineers has estimated that the United States needs to spend two trillion dollars just to fix the roads, bridges, and rail lines we have—let alone expand things that will be necessary to support the world’s most vibrant economy over the next century, such as airport capacity and high-speed rail.4 As the British news magazine The Economist noted recently in a report on America’s transport infrastructure, “America, despite its wealth and strength, often seems to be falling apart.”5 We have done nothing to address climate change, other than cling to the delusional hope that it is not happening. This lack of action is particularly disturbing because there are ample other reasons besides global warming to wean us from our excessive dependence on fossil fuels. In fact, the climate change “debate” is a sad example of the triumph of a self-interested, faith-based argument over common sense and the scientific method. Our “human capital”—the reservoir of skills that we need to prosper in a modern economy—is stagnant. The U.S. high school dropout rate is about the same as it was thirty years ago, despite the fact that dropping out of high school is essentially an economic death warrant in the twenty-first-century economy. The United States has always had far more college graduates than the rest of the world, going all the way back to 1862, when Abraham Lincoln and Congress set aside federal land to create the land grant universities.


pages: 107 words: 33,799

The Meaning of It All by Richard P. Feynman

means of production, Murray Gell-Mann, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, the scientific method

In order to answer a question like that, one would have to gather all cases in which prayers had been given in the favor of Mother Seaton for the cures of various people, in various states of disease. They would then have to compare the success of the cure of these people with the average cure of people for whom such prayers were not made, and so forth. It’s an honest, straightforward way to do it, and there is nothing dishonest and nothing sacriligious about it, because if it’s a miracle, it will hold up. And if it’s not a miracle, the scientific method will destroy it. The people who study medicine and try to cure people are interested in every method that they can find. And they have developed clinical techniques in which (all these problems are very difficult) they are trying all kinds of medicines too, and the woman got better. She also had chicken pox just before she got better. Has that got anything to do with it? So there is a definite clinical way to test what it is that might have something to do with it—by making comparisons and so forth.


pages: 379 words: 109,612

Is the Internet Changing the Way You Think?: The Net's Impact on Our Minds and Future by John Brockman

A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, Albert Einstein, AltaVista, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Asperger Syndrome, availability heuristic, Benoit Mandelbrot, biofilm, Black Swan, British Empire, conceptual framework, corporate governance, Danny Hillis, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, Emanuel Derman, epigenetics, Flynn Effect, Frank Gehry, Google Earth, hive mind, Howard Rheingold, index card, information retrieval, Internet Archive, invention of writing, Jane Jacobs, Jaron Lanier, John Markoff, Kevin Kelly, lifelogging, lone genius, loss aversion, mandelbrot fractal, Marc Andreessen, Marshall McLuhan, Menlo Park, meta analysis, meta-analysis, New Journalism, Nicholas Carr, out of africa, Paul Samuelson, peer-to-peer, Ponzi scheme, pre–internet, Richard Feynman, Rodney Brooks, Ronald Reagan, Schrödinger's Cat, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, SETI@home, Silicon Valley, Skype, slashdot, smart grid, social graph, social software, social web, Stephen Hawking, Steve Wozniak, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, Ted Nelson, telepresence, the medium is the message, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, theory of mind, trade route, upwardly mobile, Vernor Vinge, Whole Earth Catalog, X Prize

The beneficiaries of the system in which making things public was a privileged activity—academics, politicians, reporters, doctors—will complain about the way the new abundance of public thought upends the old order, but those complaints are like keening at a wake: The change they are protesting is already in the past. The real action is elsewhere. The Internet’s primary effect on how we think will reveal itself only when it affects the cultural milieu of thought, not just the behavior of individual users. The members of the Invisible College did not live to see the full flowering of the scientific method, and we will not live to see what use humanity makes of a medium for sharing that is cheap, instant, and global (both in the sense of “comes from everyone” and in the sense of “goes everywhere”). We are, however, the people who are setting the earliest patterns for this medium. Our fate won’t matter much, but the norms we set will. Given what we have today, the Internet might be seen as the Invisible High School, with a modicum of educational material in an ocean of narcissism and social obsessions.

Which, of course, is why it is rare—though intriguingly (and I think all to the good) not totally impossible—to find trained scientists who believe in biblical creationism or who doubt that global warming is a real and dangerous phenomenon. When I reflect on how I go about my intellectual work these days, I see that the Internet has changed it dramatically, but what has changed is the execution process (and hence, on some occasions, the conclusions I reach or the way I present them), not the underlying thinking process. I would hope for humanity’s future that the same is true for all my fellow highly trained specialists. The scientific method for reaching conclusions has served us well for many generations, leading to a length and quality of life for most of us that was beyond the imagination of our ancestors. If that way of thinking were to be replaced by a blind “wisdom of the crowd” approach, which the Internet offers, then we are likely in for real trouble. For wisdom of the crowd—like its best-known exemplar, Google search—gives you the mostly best answer most of the time.


pages: 397 words: 109,631

Mindware: Tools for Smart Thinking by Richard E. Nisbett

affirmative action, Albert Einstein, availability heuristic, big-box store, Cass Sunstein, choice architecture, cognitive dissonance, correlation coefficient, correlation does not imply causation, cosmological constant, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, dark matter, endowment effect, experimental subject, feminist movement, fixed income, fundamental attribution error, glass ceiling, Henri Poincaré, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Isaac Newton, job satisfaction, Kickstarter, lake wobegon effect, libertarian paternalism, longitudinal study, loss aversion, low skilled workers, Menlo Park, meta analysis, meta-analysis, quantitative easing, Richard Thaler, Ronald Reagan, selection bias, Shai Danziger, Socratic dialogue, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, William of Occam, Zipcar

Statistics is usually taught in such a way that people can see only that it applies to data of particular, rather limited types. What’s needed is what’s provided in this book—namely the ability to code events and objects in such a way that rough-and-ready versions of statistical principles can be applied to them. The book also presents the most important concepts of microeconomics and decision theory, the basic principles of the scientific method as they apply to solving everyday problems, the basic concepts of formal logic, the much less familiar principles of dialectical reasoning, and some of the most important concepts developed by philosophers who study how scientists as well as ordinary folks think (or should think). 4. The concepts in the book can be triangulated to understand a given problem from many perspectives. For example, a particularly serious error in everyday life is gross overgeneralization from a small number of observations of a person, object, or event.

P is a condition requiring Q, or, differently put, P is a sufficient condition for Q. In contrast to deductive logic, inductive reasoning is a “bottom-up” type of reasoning. Observations are collected that suggest or support some conclusion. One type of inductive reasoning consists of observing facts and reaching a general conclusion about facts of their particular kind. This book is full of different types of inductive reasoning. The scientific method nearly always involves—in fact often is completely dependent on—inductive reasoning of one kind or another. All of the types of inductive reasoning in this book are inductively valid, but their conclusions are not deductively valid, merely probable. On the basis of observation and calculation we induce that the mean of the population of some events is X plus or minus Y standard deviations.


pages: 371 words: 108,317

The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future by Kevin Kelly

A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, AI winter, Airbnb, Albert Einstein, Amazon Web Services, augmented reality, bank run, barriers to entry, Baxter: Rethink Robotics, bitcoin, blockchain, book scanning, Brewster Kahle, Burning Man, cloud computing, commoditize, computer age, connected car, crowdsourcing, dark matter, dematerialisation, Downton Abbey, Edward Snowden, Elon Musk, Filter Bubble, Freestyle chess, game design, Google Glasses, hive mind, Howard Rheingold, index card, indoor plumbing, industrial robot, Internet Archive, Internet of things, invention of movable type, invisible hand, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Bezos, job automation, John Markoff, Kevin Kelly, Kickstarter, lifelogging, linked data, Lyft, M-Pesa, Marc Andreessen, Marshall McLuhan, means of production, megacity, Minecraft, Mitch Kapor, multi-sided market, natural language processing, Netflix Prize, Network effects, new economy, Nicholas Carr, old-boy network, peer-to-peer, peer-to-peer lending, personalized medicine, placebo effect, planetary scale, postindustrial economy, recommendation engine, RFID, ride hailing / ride sharing, Rodney Brooks, self-driving car, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, slashdot, Snapchat, social graph, social web, software is eating the world, speech recognition, Stephen Hawking, Steven Levy, Ted Nelson, the scientific method, transport as a service, two-sided market, Uber for X, uber lyft, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, Whole Earth Review, zero-sum game

Nothing is finished. Nothing is done. This never-ending change is the pivotal axis of the modern world. Constant flux means more than simply “things will be different.” It means processes—the engines of flux—are now more important than products. Our greatest invention in the past 200 years was not a particular gadget or tool but the invention of the scientific process itself. Once we invented the scientific method, we could immediately create thousands of other amazing things we could have never discovered any other way. This methodical process of constant change and improvement was a million times better than inventing any particular product, because the process generated a million new products over the centuries since we invented it. Get the ongoing process right and it will keep generating ongoing benefits.

The proofs are not understandable by humans alone so it is necessary to trust a cascade of algorithms, and this demands new skills in knowing when to trust these creations. Dealing with alien intelligences will require similar skills, and a further broadening of ourselves. An embedded AI will change how we do science. Really intelligent instruments will speed and alter our measurements; really huge sets of constant real-time data will speed and alter our model making; really smart documents will speed and alter our acceptance of when we “know” something. The scientific method is a way of knowing, but it has been based on how humans know. Once we add a new kind of intelligence into this method, science will have to know, and progress, according to the criteria of new minds. At that point everything changes. AI could just as well stand for “alien intelligence.” We have no certainty we’ll contact extraterrestrial beings from one of the billion earthlike planets in the sky in the next 200 years, but we have almost 100 percent certainty that we’ll manufacture an alien intelligence by then.


pages: 433 words: 106,048

The End of Illness by David B. Agus

Danny Hillis, discovery of penicillin, double helix, epigenetics, germ theory of disease, Google Earth, impulse control, information retrieval, longitudinal study, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microbiome, Murray Gell-Mann, pattern recognition, Pepto Bismol, personalized medicine, randomized controlled trial, risk tolerance, Steve Jobs, the scientific method

The reason for this has everything to do with demographics and the genetics of ethnicity. The Rochester community is heavily populated with German and Norwegian Americans who tend to marry and procreate within their community, thus maintaining a steady gene pool. Hence, their ancestry’s genetics will be vastly different from that of a homogenous community elsewhere. The meaning of studies performed will be different depending on the group studied, even when the rigors of the scientific method are employed to generate a “randomized” group of participants. So the next time you read an eye-popping headline about a health-related study revealing something “new” (especially those that tend to be alarmist), look behind that headline to see where the study was done and who participated in it. Does it reflect you and your genomic ancestry? You just might find that you can ignore those findings, as they won’t apply to you and your library of personal metrics.

But despite its role in many of the body’s vital functions, we must be careful about making broad statements about vitamin D and its link (“associations”) to various illnesses and disease. Despite thousands of studies, there’s not a lot of strong research showing consistent benefits from vitamin D supplementation; and here, semantics again comes into play. “Studies” should mean large, controlled, double-blind, randomized trials that honor the scientific method. That doesn’t always happen, especially with regard to vitamin D. Performing a true study on vitamin D’s potential benefit, which should theoretically result in reliable conclusions, is nearly impossible since vitamin D cannot be controlled in any given person. First, we have the stumbling block of dealing with a vitamin that can be obtained naturally from sunlight and certain foods such as wild salmon and fortified milk and cereals.


pages: 407 words: 104,622

The Man Who Solved the Market: How Jim Simons Launched the Quant Revolution by Gregory Zuckerman

affirmative action, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Albert Einstein, Andrew Wiles, automated trading system, backtesting, Bayesian statistics, beat the dealer, Benoit Mandelbrot, Berlin Wall, Bernie Madoff, blockchain, Brownian motion, butter production in bangladesh, buy and hold, buy low sell high, Claude Shannon: information theory, computer age, computerized trading, Credit Default Swap, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, diversified portfolio, Donald Trump, Edward Thorp, Elon Musk, Emanuel Derman, endowment effect, Flash crash, George Gilder, Gordon Gekko, illegal immigration, index card, index fund, Isaac Newton, John Meriwether, John Nash: game theory, John von Neumann, Loma Prieta earthquake, Long Term Capital Management, loss aversion, Louis Bachelier, mandelbrot fractal, margin call, Mark Zuckerberg, More Guns, Less Crime, Myron Scholes, Naomi Klein, natural language processing, obamacare, p-value, pattern recognition, Peter Thiel, Ponzi scheme, prediction markets, quantitative hedge fund, quantitative trading / quantitative finance, random walk, Renaissance Technologies, Richard Thaler, Robert Mercer, Ronald Reagan, self-driving car, Sharpe ratio, Silicon Valley, sovereign wealth fund, speech recognition, statistical arbitrage, statistical model, Steve Jobs, stochastic process, the scientific method, Thomas Bayes, transaction costs, Turing machine

Berlekamp listened to the advice politely, as usual, before telling Simons it would be best to let the model run the show and avoid adjusting algorithms they had worked so hard to perfect. “Okay, go back to what you were doing,” Simons said. A bit later, as gold shot even higher, he phoned again: “It went up more, Elwyn!” Berlekamp was baffled. It was Simons who had pushed to develop a computerized trading system free of human involvement, and it was Simons who wanted to rely on the scientific method, testing overlooked anomalies rather than using crude charts or gut instinct. Berlekamp, Laufer, and the rest of the team had worked diligently to remove humans from the trading loop as much as possible. Now Simons was saying he had a good feeling about gold prices and wanted to tweak the system? “Jim believed the fund should be managed systematically, but he was fussing around when he had time, five to ten hours a week, trading gold or copper, thinking he was learning something,” Berlekamp says.

In June 2019, Renaissance managed a combined $65 billion, making it one of the largest hedge-fund firms in the world, and sometimes represented as much as 5 percent of daily stock-market trading volume, not including high-frequency traders. The firm’s success is a useful reminder of the predictability of human behavior. Renaissance studies the past because it is reasonably confident investors will make similar decisions in the future. At the same time, staffers embrace the scientific method to combat cognitive and emotional biases, suggesting there’s value to this philosophical approach when tackling challenging problems of all kinds. They propose hypotheses and then test, measure, and adjust their theories, trying to let data, not intuition and instinct, guide them. “The approach is scientific,” Simons says. “We use very rigorous statistical approaches to determine what we think is underlying.”13 Another lesson of the Renaissance experience is that there are more factors and variables influencing financial markets and individual investments than most realize or can deduce.


pages: 370 words: 107,983

Rage Inside the Machine: The Prejudice of Algorithms, and How to Stop the Internet Making Bigots of Us All by Robert Elliott Smith

Ada Lovelace, affirmative action, AI winter, Alfred Russel Wallace, Amazon Mechanical Turk, animal electricity, autonomous vehicles, Black Swan, British Empire, cellular automata, citizen journalism, Claude Shannon: information theory, combinatorial explosion, corporate personhood, correlation coefficient, crowdsourcing, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, desegregation, discovery of DNA, Douglas Hofstadter, Elon Musk, Fellow of the Royal Society, feminist movement, Filter Bubble, Flash crash, Gerolamo Cardano, gig economy, Gödel, Escher, Bach, invention of the wheel, invisible hand, Jacquard loom, Jacques de Vaucanson, John Harrison: Longitude, John von Neumann, Kenneth Arrow, low skilled workers, Mark Zuckerberg, mass immigration, meta analysis, meta-analysis, mutually assured destruction, natural language processing, new economy, On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, p-value, pattern recognition, Paul Samuelson, performance metric, Pierre-Simon Laplace, precariat, profit maximization, profit motive, Silicon Valley, social intelligence, statistical model, Stephen Hawking, stochastic process, telemarketer, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, The Future of Employment, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, theory of mind, Thomas Bayes, Thomas Malthus, traveling salesman, Turing machine, Turing test, twin studies, Vilfredo Pareto, Von Neumann architecture, women in the workforce

Llull went off to live in the mountains and prepare himself for his sacred duty, and after nearly a decade of mulling over the problem, he returned to civilization intent on fulfilling his mission via an intellectual assault. He determined to travel to Tunisia, meet with the most learned scholars of the Muslim world, and persuade them to establish a Parliament of Faiths, where the relative merits of Christianity and Islam could be rationally debated, to what Llull saw as an obvious end. Though Francis Bacon wouldn’t formalize the scientific method until 300 years later, Llull’s idea of a rational argument over spirituality is an important scientific precursor. It is an idea whose appearance may have been particularly fomented by the monotheistic, Abrahamic tradition Ramon was steeped in. In earlier animist and polytheistic religions, many of the awful and inexplicable things that happened to people were laid at the door of capricious gods or spirits.

But rather than write Darwin a letter, she published her own book, The Sexes throughout Nature, as a response in 1875. In it, she critiques not only Darwin, but Herbert Spencer as well, highlighting that balance and cooperation were key features of evolution rather than just struggle and savage rivalry. In particular, she criticized Darwin for basing his theory on the ‘time-honored assumption that the male is the normal type of his species’. Blackwell believed both men employed a tainted version of the scientific method, one that embraced a solely masculine viewpoint, adding that while Spencer scientifically ‘subtracts from the female’, Darwin scientifically ‘adds to the male’. Blackwell’s radical theories were brought to light over a century later when feminist scientists, such as anthropologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, wrote in her 1999 book Mother Nature: For a handful of nineteeth-century women intellectuals, however, evolutionary theory was just too important to ignore.


pages: 335 words: 111,405

B Is for Bauhaus, Y Is for YouTube: Designing the Modern World From a to Z by Deyan Sudjic

3D printing, additive manufacturing, Albert Einstein, Berlin Wall, Boris Johnson, Buckminster Fuller, call centre, carbon footprint, clean water, dematerialisation, deskilling, edge city, Elon Musk, Frank Gehry, Guggenheim Bilbao, illegal immigration, James Dyson, Jane Jacobs, Kitchen Debate, light touch regulation, market design, megastructure, moral panic, New Urbanism, place-making, QWERTY keyboard, Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, the scientific method, University of East Anglia, urban renewal, urban sprawl, young professional

This is the law. Clearly it was a law that left a mark on Sullivan’s most famous employee, Frank Lloyd Wright, and its traces are visible in the architect Louis Kahn’s mystical injunction to architects to ask of a brick what it wants to be, a perception that shaped his scheme for Bangladesh’s Parliament building and the Kimbell Art Museum in Texas. Using the metaphor of the machine, and the analogy of the scientific method, the modernists purported to eliminate the sentimental and the irrational from their work. They tried to make design as objective a process as possible. They created a language for design characterized by simplified forms and smooth surfaces that seemed to suggest mechanical production. The rhetorical message carried by design became as important as its substance. As a propagandist Le Corbusier had the brilliant insight to describe the house as a machine for living in.

Putting modernity down to Walter Gropius’s Bauhaus manifesto from 1919, with its expressionist woodcut cover and its William Morris-influenced ideas about the unity of all the arts, design and architecture, or even to Adolf Loos’s writings in the Vienna newspapers in the years after 1900, is to miss the impact of the industrialization of the previous 200 years, of the enlightenment and the invention of the scientific method. Modernism was used in a derogatory sense as early as 1737, when Jonathan Swift branded those who abused contemporary language as ‘modernists’. The critic and architectural historian Joseph Rykwert takes an imaginative leap, claiming, convincingly, that ‘modern’, as it relates to design, is a concept that begins at least 250 years ago, with the separation of architecture from what were once called the other arts.


pages: 799 words: 187,221

Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson

Ada Lovelace, Albert Einstein, Bonfire of the Vanities, Commentariolus, crowdsourcing, double entry bookkeeping, double helix, en.wikipedia.org, game design, iterative process, lone genius, New Journalism, Steve Jobs, the scientific method, urban planning, wikimedia commons

They will say that because I have no book learning I cannot properly express what I desire to describe—but they do not know that my subjects require experience rather than the words of others.17 Thus was Leonardo spared from being trained to accept dusty Scholasticism or the medieval dogmas that had accumulated in the centuries since the decline of classical science and original thinking. His lack of reverence for authority and his willingness to challenge received wisdom would lead him to craft an empirical approach for understanding nature that foreshadowed the scientific method developed more than a century later by Bacon and Galileo. His method was rooted in experiment, curiosity, and the ability to marvel at phenomena that the rest of us rarely pause to ponder after we’ve outgrown our wonder years. To that was added an intense desire and ability to observe the wonders of nature. He pushed himself to perceive shapes and shadows with wondrous precision. He was particularly good at apprehending movement, from the motions of a flapping wing to the emotions flickering across a face.

Leonardo broke with this tradition by basing his science primarily on observations, then discerning patterns, and then testing their validity through more observations and experiments. Dozens of times in his notebook he wrote some variation of the phrase “this can be proved by experiment” and then proceeded to describe a real-world demonstration of his thinking. Foreshadowing what would become the scientific method, he even prescribed how experiments must be repeated and varied to assure their validity: “Before you make a general rule of this case, test it two or three times and observe whether the tests produce the same effects.”7 He was aided by his ingenuity, which enabled him to devise all sorts of contraptions and clever methods for exploring a phenomenon. For example, when he was studying the human heart around 1510, he came up with the hypothesis that blood swirled into eddies when it was pumped from the heart to the aorta, and that was what caused the valves to close properly; he then devised a glass device that he could use to confirm his theory with an experiment (see chapter 27).

“Galileo, born 112 years after Leonardo, is usually credited with being the first to develop this kind of rigorous empirical approach and is often hailed as the father of modern science,” the historian Fritjof Capra wrote. “There can be no doubt that this honor would have been bestowed on Leonardo da Vinci had he published his scientific writings during his lifetime, or had his Notebooks been widely studied soon after his death.”12 That goes a step too far, I think. Leonardo did not invent the scientific method, nor did Aristotle or Alhazen or Galileo or any Bacon. But his uncanny abilities to engage in the dialogue between experience and theory made him a prime example of how acute observations, fanatic curiosity, experimental testing, a willingness to question dogma, and the ability to discern patterns across disciplines can lead to great leaps in human understanding. PATTERNS AND ANALOGIES In lieu of possessing abstract mathematical tools to extract theoretical laws from nature, the way Copernicus and Galileo and Newton later did, Leonardo relied on a more rudimentary method: he was able to see patterns in nature, and he theorized by making analogies.


pages: 194 words: 36,223

Smart and Gets Things Done: Joel Spolsky's Concise Guide to Finding the Best Technical Talent by Joel Spolsky

Build a better mousetrap, David Heinemeier Hansson, knowledge worker, linear programming, nuclear winter, Ruby on Rails, Sand Hill Road, Silicon Valley, sorting algorithm, Superbowl ad, the scientific method, type inference, unpaid internship

I looked at everything he said through rose-colored glasses. I wound up saying Hire even though he was a crappy candidate. You know what? Everybody else who interviewed him said No Hire. So: don’t listen to recruiters; don’t ask around about the person before you interview them; and never, ever talk to the other interviewers about the candidate until you’ve both made your decisions independently. That’s the scientific method. The introduction phase of the interview is intended to put the candidate at ease. I ask them if they had a nice flight. I spend about thirty seconds telling the person who I am and how the interview will work. I always reassure candidates that we are interested in how they go about solving problems, not the actual answer. Part two is a question about some recent project that the candidate worked on.


pages: 434 words: 117,327

Can It Happen Here?: Authoritarianism in America by Cass R. Sunstein

active measures, affirmative action, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, airline deregulation, anti-communist, anti-globalists, availability heuristic, business cycle, Cass Sunstein, David Brooks, Donald Trump, Edward Snowden, Estimating the Reproducibility of Psychological Science, failed state, Filter Bubble, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, ghettoisation, illegal immigration, immigration reform, Isaac Newton, job automation, Joseph Schumpeter, Long Term Capital Management, Nate Silver, Network effects, New Journalism, night-watchman state, obamacare, Potemkin village, random walk, Richard Thaler, road to serfdom, Ronald Reagan, the scientific method, War on Poverty, WikiLeaks, World Values Survey

Only if Y is significantly more likely to happen in the presence of X than in its absence can we say that X caused Y. It is not an exaggeration to say that without considering counterfactuals (or, as they are sometimes called, potential outcomes), statements about causality, and hence scientifically valid explanations, are impossible (Morgan and Winship 2014). It is for this reason that experiments are so important to the scientific method, because in an experiment you can systematically vary X (the “treatment”) and then directly observe the causal effect on Y. In much of social science, however, true experiments are impossible: the US can’t invade half of Iraq and not the other half to see which approach works out better; the Federal Reserve can’t set the interest rate at one level for a year and then rerun history with a different rate to measure the causal effect on inflation; and companies can’t hire two CEOs who get to run different instances of the same company to see who is more successful.

In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the scientific world was undergoing transformative changes, in no small part because new instruments and methods were allowing scientists to observe and quantify phenomena that had previously been ephemeral. As is the case today with “big data” transforming once-sleepy areas of social science, public interest in the sciences was extremely high—scientists like Humphry Davy, a celebrated chemist, inventor of the Davy safety lamp, and fierce advocate of the scientific method, occupied almost celebrity status—but so was public skepticism. In effect, science was claiming for itself areas of human knowledge—like the size of the universe and the nature of the elements—that had for hundreds of years been the province of religion and poetry. The traditional arbiters of truth found their status increasingly challenged by a new breed of experts who brought with them methods—and a level of self-assurance in their answers—that the old guard naturally found deeply threatening.


Chasing the Moon: The People, the Politics, and the Promise That Launched America Into the Space Age by Robert Stone, Alan Andres

affirmative action, Albert Einstein, anti-communist, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Charles Lindbergh, cuban missile crisis, desegregation, feminist movement, invention of the telephone, low earth orbit, more computing power than Apollo, New Journalism, Norman Mailer, operation paperclip, out of africa, RAND corporation, Ronald Reagan, the scientific method, traveling salesman, Works Progress Administration

Besides scientific works by Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud and literature by Bertolt Brecht and Thomas Mann, the Nazis had also consigned many classic works of science fiction to the bonfires. As he read the news and talked with acquaintances, Ley was alarmed as things he had long opposed were gradually accepted as part of everyday life: a cult of loyalty and blind patriotism, militarism, anti-globalism, superstition, and pseudoscience. While Germany touted its reputation for excellence in the sciences, Ley observed how politics had begun to encroach on the scientific method, and positions formerly held by Jewish scientists were filled by less qualified opportunists. His friend Fritz Lang had already fled Germany, and Ley decided he had no other choice but to do the same. He would pretend to leave for a brief vacation in England but knew it likely he would not return home for years. Members of both the British Interplanetary Society and the American Rocket Society—the new, more serious-sounding name of the American Interplanetary Society—came to Ley’s aid by securing him a visa and writing letters of support.

Its curvy and cornerless exterior was a single concrete wall broken by a repetitive honeycomb pattern; inside, sunlight filtering through hundreds of stained-glass panels cast the towering interior in an eerie cobalt blue. Visitors described the environment as futuristic or otherworldly. But more often it was described as “cathedral-like.” The Hall of Science at the 1964 New York World’s Fair celebrated knowledge of the natural world, the scientific method, and their applications as the nation moved into a highly technological future. It was a secular cathedral dedicated to disciplines many in government, business, and academia believed would define the nation during the decades to come. Unlike the many corporate pavilions, which promoted Coca-Cola, General Motors, Ford, IBM, and other firms, the Hall of Science was one of the few structures to remain after the fair closed in 1965.


pages: 407 words: 116,726

Infinite Powers: How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe by Steven Strogatz

Albert Einstein, Asperger Syndrome, Astronomia nova, Bernie Sanders, clockwork universe, complexity theory, cosmological principle, Dava Sobel, double helix, Edmond Halley, Eratosthenes, four colour theorem, fudge factor, Henri Poincaré, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Islamic Golden Age, Johannes Kepler, John Harrison: Longitude, Khan Academy, Laplace demon, lone genius, music of the spheres, pattern recognition, Paul Erdős, Pierre-Simon Laplace, precision agriculture, retrograde motion, Richard Feynman, Socratic dialogue, Solar eclipse in 1919, Steve Jobs, the rule of 72, the scientific method

He wrote it in Italian rather than Latin so that it could be understood by anyone and arranged for it to be smuggled out to Holland, where it was published in 1638. Its radical insights helped launch the scientific revolution and brought humanity to the cusp of discovering the secret of the universe: that the great book of nature is written in calculus. Falling, Rolling, and the Law of Odd Numbers Galileo was the first practitioner of the scientific method. Rather than quoting authorities or philosophizing from an armchair, he interrogated nature through meticulous observations, ingenious experiments, and elegant mathematical models. His approach led him to many remarkable discoveries. One of the simplest and most surprising is this: The odd numbers 1, 3, 5, 7, and so forth are hiding in how things fall. Before Galileo, Aristotle had proposed that heavy objects fall because they are seeking their natural place at the center of the cosmos.

See derivatives Raytheon Company, 263–64 reductionist thinking, 280 refraction, of light, 114–16, 114 religion and spirituality AlphaInfinity, 292–93, 294 Aristotle and, 60–61 calculus as God’s language, vii–viii, ix, xix, 295–97 cosmology and, 63–64 differential equations, 72 God. see God “God’s book,” 294 Newton’s influence on, 239 See also Church, the Renaissance, xix, 50, 59, 92 retrograde motion, 61–62, 61, 62 Riddle of the Wall, 8–9, 8, 21–25 Riemann, Bernhard, 290 rigid bodies, 278 rule of 72, 137 rule of logs, 132–33 Russell, Bertrand, 16 S Sanders, Bernie, 130–31 satellites, 76, 299–300 Saturn, 278 Schrödinger, Erwin, 22 science ideal conditions, 69–71 physics. see xPhysics planetary motion, 78–81 the scientific method, 66 scientific notation, 128–31 scientific revolution, 50, 63, 66, 87, 92, 124, 227, 272 second derivatives, 258 sectors, 83–84 self-regeneration property, 157–59 Shepard, Alan, 238 Shrek (movie), 50, 51, 53, 53 sine law of refraction, 115–117, 209 sine waves Chladni patterns, 259–60 day length example, 156–59 derivatives and, 256–59 heat flow, 250–52 overview of, 108–12, 109 string theory, 252–56 x-rays and, 267 slope changing rate of, 149–54 equation for, 147, 147, 207, 208 optimization problems, 104–5 problems concerning, 144–46 of a ramp, 142 Smith, Barnabas, 187 smooth curves, 153 Snell, Willebrord, 115 Snell’s law, 115–117, 209 Somayaji, Nilakantha, 193 soup example, 243–44 space-time, 248, 287–88, 299–300 speed, xx, 68, 141–42, 175 Spencer, Percy, 264, 328n262 spheres.


pages: 859 words: 204,092

When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Rise of the Middle Kingdom by Martin Jacques

Admiral Zheng, Asian financial crisis, Berlin Wall, Bob Geldof, Bretton Woods, BRICs, British Empire, credit crunch, Dava Sobel, deindustrialization, Deng Xiaoping, deskilling, discovery of the americas, Doha Development Round, energy security, European colonialism, failed state, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, global reserve currency, global supply chain, illegal immigration, income per capita, invention of gunpowder, James Watt: steam engine, joint-stock company, Kenneth Rogoff, land reform, land tenure, lateral thinking, Malacca Straits, Martin Wolf, Naomi Klein, Nelson Mandela, new economy, New Urbanism, one-China policy, open economy, Pearl River Delta, pension reform, price stability, purchasing power parity, reserve currency, rising living standards, Ronald Reagan, Scramble for Africa, Silicon Valley, South China Sea, sovereign wealth fund, special drawing rights, special economic zone, spinning jenny, Spread Networks laid a new fibre optics cable between New York and Chicago, the scientific method, Thomas L Friedman, trade liberalization, urban planning, Washington Consensus, Westphalian system, Xiaogang Anhui farmers, zero-sum game

It is accepted that Western drugs are superior for diseases like cancer, but even when these are used, people will generally revert to Chinese medicines subsequently.104 The contrast between Chinese and Western medicine eloquently sums up the difference between civilizational wisdom and scientific knowledge. Chinese medicine, rather like the world’s cuisines, is a product of thousands of years of trial and error, of the everyday experience and resourcefulness of hundreds of millions of people and their interaction with their plant environment; Western medicine is a rigorous product of the scientific method and the invention and refining of chemicals. With the exception of those fundamentalists of the scientific method who believe that they enjoy a monopoly of true knowledge, there is a widespread and growing acceptance in the West that medicinal palliatives and cures derived from civilizational experience are a valid and important part of medicine, even if we do not understand, at least as yet, how the great majority of them actually work. THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE WEST The purpose of this chapter has been to explore the ways in which Chinese global hegemony is likely to grow over the next half-century.

Even the Renaissance and the Reformation, two great efflorescences of European life, were, as their names suggest, couched in terms of the past, despite the fact that they contained much that was forward-looking and novel.1 Scholars of Renaissance Europe believed that the learning of classical antiquity was being restored even while they were busy transforming the very manner in which people understood history.2 From the sixteenth century, this retrospective way of thinking gradually began to subside, not just in Europe but also in China, India, Japan and the Islamic world, though the process has been best chronicled in Europe. The growth of scientific knowledge, the expanding influence of the scientific method, the spread of secularism, and the burgeoning importance of the market and commerce slowly eroded the idea that the present and the future were little more than replays of the past. From the late eighteenth century, a fundamentally different outlook began to take root with the arrival of modernity. Instead of the present being lived as the past, it became increasingly orientated towards the future.


pages: 124 words: 40,697

The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking, Leonard Mlodinow

airport security, Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, anthropic principle, Arthur Eddington, Buckminster Fuller, conceptual framework, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, dark matter, fudge factor, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, John Conway, John von Neumann, luminiferous ether, Mercator projection, Richard Feynman, Stephen Hawking, Thales of Miletus, the scientific method, Turing machine

The Ionian idea that the universe is not human-centered was a milestone in our understanding of the cosmos, but it was an idea that would be dropped and not picked up again, or commonly accepted, until Galileo, almost twenty centuries later. As insightful as some of their speculations about nature were, most of the ideas of the ancient Greeks would not pass muster as valid science in modern times. For one, because the Greeks had not invented the scientific method, their theories were not developed with the goal of experimental verification. So if one scholar claimed an atom moved in a straight line until it collided with a second atom and another scholar claimed it moved in a straight line until it bumped into a cyclops, there was no objective way to settle the argument. Also, there was no clear distinction between human and physical laws. In the fifth century BC, for instance, Anaximander wrote that all things arise from a primary substance, and return to it, lest they “pay fine and penalty for their iniquity.”


pages: 130 words: 43,665

Powerful: Teams, Leaders and the Culture of Freedom and Responsibility by Patty McCord

call centre, future of work, job satisfaction, late fees, Silicon Valley, Skype, the scientific method, women in the workforce

I mean, you’d listen to him and you’d just about be in a trance; he was so eloquent and so convincing. But he was almost always wrong. We set a standard at Netflix that people should develop their opinions by probing into facts and by listening with an open mind to fact-based arguments they didn’t agree with. This flowed naturally from the fact that most of the early employees were mathematicians and engineers. They lived and breathed the scientific method, which is all about discovering facts and then adjusting one’s understanding of the problem and the way to solve it. As the company grew, we consciously cultivated that obsession with being fact driven and scientific—all around the company, not just in engineering. You don’t need a company founded on engineering in order to widely instill this ethic. Note that I say “fact driven,” not “data driven.”


pages: 138 words: 40,525

This Is Not a Drill: An Extinction Rebellion Handbook by Extinction Rebellion

3D printing, autonomous vehicles, banks create money, bitcoin, blockchain, Buckminster Fuller, car-free, carbon footprint, clean water, Colonization of Mars, crowdsourcing, David Attenborough, David Graeber, decarbonisation, deindustrialization, Donald Trump, Elon Musk, Ethereum, ethereum blockchain, feminist movement, full employment, gig economy, global pandemic, ice-free Arctic, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), job automation, mass immigration, Peter Thiel, place-making, quantitative easing, Ray Kurzweil, Sam Altman, smart grid, supply-chain management, the scientific method, union organizing, urban sprawl, wealth creators

In our top-ten list of planetary threats, our statement included charts of global data on the oceans, forests, freshwater resources, vertebrate species and atmospheric carbon and temperature. We concluded that, with one exception, conditions have worsened since 1992. As retired NASA scientist James Hansen writes in Storms of My Grandchildren, scientists tend to be reticent in communicating the implications of their findings, a result perhaps of their adherence to the scientific method. ‘Caution has its merits,’ he wrote, ‘but we may live to rue our reticence if it serves to lock in future disasters.’ We scientists have been frustrated and even in despair over the many years of inaction, but we will continue to speak out, telling the truth about what we all need to do to protect life on planet Earth. A new network, the Alliance of World Scientists, is growing in the wake of this second warning.


pages: 420 words: 124,202

The Most Powerful Idea in the World: A Story of Steam, Industry, and Invention by William Rosen

"Robert Solow", Albert Einstein, All science is either physics or stamp collecting, barriers to entry, collective bargaining, computer age, Copley Medal, creative destruction, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, decarbonisation, delayed gratification, Fellow of the Royal Society, Flynn Effect, fudge factor, full employment, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Islamic Golden Age, iterative process, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, Joseph Schumpeter, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, knowledge economy, moral hazard, Network effects, Panopticon Jeremy Bentham, Paul Samuelson, Peace of Westphalia, Peter Singer: altruism, QWERTY keyboard, Ralph Waldo Emerson, rent-seeking, Ronald Coase, Simon Kuznets, spinning jenny, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, transaction costs, transcontinental railway, zero-sum game, éminence grise

Coke’s motivation was not, needless to say, a longing to see steam engines decorating the English countryside, but rather a desire to see it filled with English craftsmen. A high level of craftsmanship alone, however, wasn’t going to result in anything like Newcomen’s engine, much less Rocket; artisans can be—frequently are—ingenious without being innovative. Craftsmanship needed to be married to a new way of thinking, one not yet known as the “scientific” method. Luckily for history, a culture of observation, experimentation, and innovation was being cultivated in England at exactly the same moment that Coke was advocating for her artisans. Luckily for historians, its patron saint was not only Coke’s contemporary, but his professional, political, and even romantic rival. THE MAN WHO DIED in April 1626 with the titles Baron Verulam and Viscount St.

Suffice it to say that before Bacon, the gold standard in inquiry was essentially contemplative and syllogistic; truth could be discovered by comparing opposing ideas. Afterward—particularly after he wrote Novum Organum, in 1622, in which he famously stated his belief that the compass, the printing press, and gunpowder had changed history more than any empire or religion—truth was something extracted from nature using the tools of observation and experiment. He didn’t, as is sometimes suggested, invent the scientific method; he had too feeble a handle on hypotheses, and especially mathematics, to do so. But what he did understand about the scientific enterprise was profoundly important for the wave of inventions that would inundate the world a century after his death. He knew that to be self-sustaining, both science and invention needed to be social enterprises, depending utterly on the free flow of information among investigators.


pages: 320 words: 87,853

The Black Box Society: The Secret Algorithms That Control Money and Information by Frank Pasquale

Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, algorithmic trading, Amazon Mechanical Turk, American Legislative Exchange Council, asset-backed security, Atul Gawande, bank run, barriers to entry, basic income, Berlin Wall, Bernie Madoff, Black Swan, bonus culture, Brian Krebs, business cycle, call centre, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, Chelsea Manning, Chuck Templeton: OpenTable:, cloud computing, collateralized debt obligation, computerized markets, corporate governance, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, Debian, don't be evil, drone strike, Edward Snowden, en.wikipedia.org, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Filter Bubble, financial innovation, financial thriller, fixed income, Flash crash, full employment, Goldman Sachs: Vampire Squid, Google Earth, Hernando de Soto, High speed trading, hiring and firing, housing crisis, informal economy, information asymmetry, information retrieval, interest rate swap, Internet of things, invisible hand, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Bezos, job automation, Julian Assange, Kevin Kelly, knowledge worker, Kodak vs Instagram, kremlinology, late fees, London Interbank Offered Rate, London Whale, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, mobile money, moral hazard, new economy, Nicholas Carr, offshore financial centre, PageRank, pattern recognition, Philip Mirowski, precariat, profit maximization, profit motive, quantitative easing, race to the bottom, recommendation engine, regulatory arbitrage, risk-adjusted returns, Satyajit Das, search engine result page, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Snapchat, social intelligence, Spread Networks laid a new fibre optics cable between New York and Chicago, statistical arbitrage, statistical model, Steven Levy, the scientific method, too big to fail, transaction costs, two-sided market, universal basic income, Upton Sinclair, value at risk, WikiLeaks, zero-sum game

One attorney at the Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project (now the New Economy Project) called subprime lending a systematic “equity stripping” targeted at minorities— even if they were longtime homeowners.124 Subtle but persistent racism, arising out of implicit bias or other factors, may have influenced past terms of credit, and it’s much harder to keep up on a loan at 15 percent interest than one at 5 percent.125 Late payments will be more likely, and then will be fed into present credit scoring models as neutral, objective, nonracial indicia of reliability and creditworthiness.126 Far from liberating individuals to be judged on their character rather than their color, credit scores in scenarios like these launder past practices of discrimination into a black-boxed score, immune from scrutiny.127 Continuing unease about black box scoring reflects long-standing anxiety about misapplications of natural science methods to the social realm.128 A civil engineer might use data from a thousand bridges to estimate which one might next collapse; now fi nancial engineers scrutinize millions of transactions to predict consumer defaults. But unlike the engineer, whose studies do nothing to the bridges she examines, a credit scoring system increases the chance of a consumer defaulting once it labels him a risk and prices a loan accordingly. Moreover, the “science” of secret scoring does not adopt a key safeguard of the scientific method: publicly testable generalizations and observations.129 As long as the analytics are secret, they will remain an opaque and troubling form of social sorting. Bias can embed itself in other self-reinforcing cycles based on ostensibly “objective” data. Police in the past may have watched certain 42 THE BLACK BOX SOCIETY neighborhoods more closely than others. Thus it’s not surprising if such neighborhoods account for a disproportionate share of the overall number of crimes recorded, even if crime rates are identical across neighborhoods, because they happen to be where the police were looking.

mod=googlenews _wsj; Christopher Ingraham, “Wal- Mart Has a Lower Acceptance Rate than Harvard,” Washington Post, Mar. 28, 2014, at http://www.washingtonpost .com /blogs / wonkblog /wp /2014 /03 /28 /wal -mart -has -a -lower -acceptance -rate -than -harvard /. 98. Barbara Ehrenreich, “Time Theft,” New Internationalist Magazine, November 2, 2002, http://www.newint.org/features/2002/11/01/women /. 99. O’Connell, “Test for Dwindling Retail Jobs Spawns a Culture of Cheating.” 100. Chris Anderson, “The End of Theory: The Data Deluge Makes the Scientific Method Obsolete,” Wired, June 23, 2008, http://www.wired.com /science/discoveries/magazine/16-07/pb_theory. 101. Ibid. 236 NOTES TO PAGES 37–40 102. Charles Tilly, Why?: What Happens When Persons Give Reasons (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008). 103. Omer Tene and Jules Polonetsky, “A Theory of Creepy: Technology, Privacy and Shifting Social Norms,” Yale Journal of Law and Technology 16 (2014): 59–102. 104.


pages: 414 words: 121,243

What's Left?: How Liberals Lost Their Way by Nick Cohen

anti-communist, Ayatollah Khomeini, Berlin Wall, Boycotts of Israel, British Empire, centre right, Etonian, failed state, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Farzad Bazoft, feminist movement, haute couture, kremlinology, liberal world order, light touch regulation, mass immigration, moral hazard, Naomi Klein, plutocrats, Plutocrats, post-industrial society, profit motive, Ralph Nader, road to serfdom, Ronald Reagan, Scientific racism, sensible shoes, the scientific method, union organizing, upwardly mobile, Yom Kippur War

Each separate cultural group was playing its own ‘language game’, to use the phrase the postmodernists took from Wittgenstein, and only players in the game, whether feminists or Holocaust deniers, could determine whether what was being said was right or wrong. As epistemic relativism infected leftish intellectual life, all the old universal criteria, including human rights, the search for truth and the scientific method, became suspect instruments of elite oppression and Western cultural imperialism. Joseph de Maistre, an eighteenth-century reactionary philosopher, who hated the Enlightenment and its revolutions, dismissed the rights of man by saying: ‘There is no such thing in the world as man. In my life I have seen Frenchmen, Italians, Russians … But as for man, I declare I’ve never encountered him.’

Each wave of ultra-rightists asserted that the armies of the democracies will be no match for warriors ready to kill and be killed on the orders of a charismatic leader. Nationalist, fascist and Islamist alike believed that a ‘rootless, arrogant, greedy, decadent, frivolous cosmopolitanism’ drove the trading cities of the democracies. They all condemned Western thought for upholding the cold and specialized reasoning of the scientific method rather than the holistic mysteries of tribe and church. They all believed that the citizens of the democracies were bourgeois cowards; too selfishly fearful for their personal safety to risk a confrontation. The messianic worship of pure blood and the idolization of blood sacrifices are at the root of fascism, and it is an enormous mistake to ennoble the fascist critique of ‘corrupt’ and ‘hypocritical’ democracies by pretending it is just an extension of the ordinary arguments and confrontations of democratic debate.


pages: 351 words: 123,876

Beautiful Testing: Leading Professionals Reveal How They Improve Software (Theory in Practice) by Adam Goucher, Tim Riley

Albert Einstein, barriers to entry, Black Swan, call centre, continuous integration, Debian, Donald Knuth, en.wikipedia.org, Firefox, Grace Hopper, index card, Isaac Newton, natural language processing, p-value, performance metric, revision control, six sigma, software as a service, software patent, the scientific method, Therac-25, Valgrind, web application

Although we can find examples of this principle being applied in structured programming, object-oriented design (OOD), and design patterns, beauty and simplicity aren’t yet common considerations in bug management or QA test design. In this chapter we discuss how to manage bugs and measure test case effectiveness. We hope you will find this approach to be more beautiful, simple, and true than the more common haphazard QA approaches, which often stray from the scientific method and rely a bit too much on luck. 67 Bug Management The following sections explain bug management. The First Bug Found The Smithsonian National Museum of American History has part of an engineering notebook on display. The notebook’s terse handwritten notes bring to light some arcane details of the operation of Harvard University’s Mark II electromechanical computer. Page 92 of this notebook, shown in Figure 6-1, displays typical engineering notes from September 9, 1947: 1525 Started Mult+Adder Test. 1545 Relay # 70 Panel F (moth) in relay.

Bugjuicer bug search BUG MANAGEMENT AND TEST CASE EFFECTIVENESS 75 Tags If the user finds bugs upstream or in the distribution database that are particularly relevant to his problem (bug or metabug), he can apply tags to these bugs (Figure 6-6) so they can be tracked together in a “tag cloud” or “tag set” (Figure 6-7). FIGURE 6-6. Bugjuicer tag set FIGURE 6-7. Tagged defect sets (tag clouds) 76 CHAPTER SIX Tagged Defect Sets (Tag Clouds): Why? Defect reports often contain multiple hypotheses describing theoretical root causes. But when a defect is closed, the validated root cause should be highlighted. If the developer and QA engineers have followed the scientific method, a closed defect should reference the following: • The code base the defect resides in • The hypothesized root cause • A description of the fix and/or a link to the source code patch • A test case proving that the root cause of the defect has indeed been fixed It is also useful to include test cases that disprove or eliminate alternative hypothesized root causes. As Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes character would put it, “When you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”


pages: 148 words: 45,249

Losing Earth: A Recent History by Nathaniel Rich

Dissolution of the Soviet Union, energy security, ice-free Arctic, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), James Watt: steam engine, mass immigration, Mikhail Gorbachev, oil shale / tar sands, planetary scale, Ronald Reagan, spinning jenny, the scientific method

If we vote correctly, eat vegan, and commute by bicycle, are we excused the occasional airplane ticket, the laptop, the elevators, year-round strawberries, trash collection, refrigerators, Wi-Fi, modern health care, and every other civilized activity that we take for granted? What is the appropriate calculus? How do we begin to make sense of our own complicity, however reluctant, in this nightmare? I know that I’m complicit; my hands drip crude. Hell is murky. In the United States of America, where a growing percentage of the public regards the scientific method as vaguely sacrilegious, if not blasphemous, spiritual leaders have been divided on the significance of climate change. But the most eloquent attempt to articulate a moral vision of the issue has come from Pope Francis, in his second encyclical, Laudato si’, “On Care for Our Common Home.” He borrows one of his central insights from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the “Green Patriarch,” the spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians.


pages: 420 words: 130,714

Science in the Soul: Selected Writings of a Passionate Rationalist by Richard Dawkins

agricultural Revolution, Alfred Russel Wallace, anthropic principle, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Boris Johnson, David Attenborough, Donald Trump, double helix, Drosophila, epigenetics, Fellow of the Royal Society, Google Earth, John Harrison: Longitude, Kickstarter, lone genius, Mahatma Gandhi, mental accounting, Necker cube, nuclear winter, out of africa, p-value, phenotype, place-making, placebo effect, random walk, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Feynman, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Wozniak, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, twin studies

Readers of The God Delusion in particular will recognize some of the themes, argument and illustrations presented, but I make no apology for these echoes; they fully merit recapitulation as a demonstration par excellence of the scientific lens applied to the cultural phenomenon. Here we see a patient, careful teasing out of the ‘why’ of faith and practice, showing the power of Darwinian natural selection as an explanatory tool, even – perhaps especially; certainly fittingly – when applied to belief systems that deny its efficacy. And one sentence sings out to me from this piece to epitomize the scientific method as practised by Dawkins, the demanding rigour of his approach to investigation: ‘I am much more wedded to the general idea that the question should be properly put than I am to any particular answer.’ From a carefully refined question to a brisk and definitive answer: the next piece (also originally a lecture) disposes of the contention that ‘belief’ in science is itself a form of religion by reasserting the foundations of evidence, honesty and verifiability on which scientific investigation is based.

So why this section? It’s always been a puzzle to me, and indeed something of an irritation, to read this or that interview or profile and find the writer saying something along the lines that ‘Richard Dawkins is of course a very clever man but has no sense of humour’ or ‘the trouble with atheists is, they have no sense of humour’. This is so blatantly wrong that it seems justifiable – and in harmony with the scientific method – to offer a little evidence. Exhibits A–G here, chosen to reflect Richard Dawkins’ own heroes of comic writing as well as his own considerable talent in its practice, range from pitch-perfect pastiche to prodigal inventiveness to the pithiest of ironies. All have in common the wit and linguistic agility that run through so much of the material in this book; here that seam of gold hits the surface.


pages: 436 words: 141,321

Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness by Frederic Laloux, Ken Wilber

Albert Einstein, augmented reality, blue-collar work, Buckminster Fuller, call centre, carbon footprint, conceptual framework, corporate social responsibility, crowdsourcing, different worldview, failed state, future of work, hiring and firing, index card, interchangeable parts, invisible hand, job satisfaction, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Kenneth Rogoff, meta analysis, meta-analysis, pattern recognition, post-industrial society, quantitative trading / quantitative finance, randomized controlled trial, selection bias, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, the market place, the scientific method, Tony Hsieh, zero-sum game

“Social Darwinism”—the notion of the survival of the fittest applied to all aspects of human existence as well—began to insidiously invade all the humanities, ethics, and politics of humans, including the two major new economic systems, capitalism and socialism. Scientific materialism—the idea that all phenomena in the universe (including consciousness, culture, and creativity) could be reduced to material atoms and their interactions, which could be known only by the scientific method—and the generally liberal politics that accompanied such beliefs, set the stage for the next three centuries. Until the 1960s, when not only the reign of scientific materialism was challenged (as being itself largely a cultural construction, not some deified access to universal truths), but also all of the remaining indignities of the Mythic-religious era (some of which were addressed by Modernism, and some of which were exacerbated by it)—indignities such as, overall, the oppression of women and other minorities, the toxic despoliation of nature and the environment, the lack of evenly applied civil rights, the general reign of materialism itself—all were aggressively attacked, and attempted to be remedied, by Postmodernism.

To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete. Richard Buckminster Fuller Aristotle, the great Greek philosopher and scientist, proclaimed in a treatise written in 350 BC that women have fewer teeth than men.1 Today we know this is nonsense. But for almost 2,000 years, it was accepted wisdom in the Western World. Then one day, someone had the most revolutionary of ideas: let’s count! The scientific method—formulating a hypothesis and then testing it—is so deeply ingrained in our thinking that we find it hard to conceive that intelligent people would blindly trust authority and not put assumptions to the test. We could be forgiven for thinking that, perhaps, people simply weren’t that smart back then! But before we judge them too harshly, let’s ask ourselves: could future generations be similarly amused about us?


pages: 461 words: 128,421

The Myth of the Rational Market: A History of Risk, Reward, and Delusion on Wall Street by Justin Fox

activist fund / activist shareholder / activist investor, Albert Einstein, Andrei Shleifer, asset allocation, asset-backed security, bank run, beat the dealer, Benoit Mandelbrot, Black-Scholes formula, Bretton Woods, Brownian motion, business cycle, buy and hold, capital asset pricing model, card file, Cass Sunstein, collateralized debt obligation, complexity theory, corporate governance, corporate raider, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, discovery of the americas, diversification, diversified portfolio, Edward Glaeser, Edward Thorp, endowment effect, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, experimental economics, financial innovation, Financial Instability Hypothesis, fixed income, floating exchange rates, George Akerlof, Henri Poincaré, Hyman Minsky, implied volatility, impulse control, index arbitrage, index card, index fund, information asymmetry, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, John Meriwether, John Nash: game theory, John von Neumann, joint-stock company, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Arrow, libertarian paternalism, linear programming, Long Term Capital Management, Louis Bachelier, mandelbrot fractal, market bubble, market design, Myron Scholes, New Journalism, Nikolai Kondratiev, Paul Lévy, Paul Samuelson, pension reform, performance metric, Ponzi scheme, prediction markets, pushing on a string, quantitative trading / quantitative finance, Ralph Nader, RAND corporation, random walk, Richard Thaler, risk/return, road to serfdom, Robert Bork, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, rolodex, Ronald Reagan, shareholder value, Sharpe ratio, short selling, side project, Silicon Valley, Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits, South Sea Bubble, statistical model, stocks for the long run, The Chicago School, The Myth of the Rational Market, The Predators' Ball, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas L Friedman, Thorstein Veblen, Tobin tax, transaction costs, tulip mania, value at risk, Vanguard fund, Vilfredo Pareto, volatility smile, Yogi Berra

“These fundamentalist paradigms, in the hands of a sensitive and informed analyst, did seem to work,” Samuelson said.15 Cootner became a ringleader of the random walkers, compiling an influential 1964 book of writings on the subject that included the first English translation of Bachelier’s doctoral thesis. But as his commodity trading indicated, Cootner never believed market movements were entirely random. “My model is perfectly compatible with much of what I interpret Wall Street chart reading to be all about,” he told a financial journalist in the mid-1960s. “Like the Indian folk doctors who discovered tranquilizers, the Wall Street witch doctors, without benefit of the scientific method, have produced something with their magic, even if they can’t tell you what it is or how it works.”16 As a scientist, Cootner figured he could beat the witch doctors. At one speech in the 1960s, a Wall Streeter introduced him with the standard anti-economist crack, “If you’re so smart, why aren’t you rich?” To which Cootner reputedly replied, “If you’re so rich, why aren’t you smart?”17 This summed up the MIT attitude.

For several decades the discipline had separated microeconomics, which was about selfish, rational people interacting in perfect markets, from macroeconomics, which was built around simple hydraulic models not based on any consistent theory of human behavior. It was an awkward coexistence, and it was probably inevitable that one day a mathematically inclined graduate student in economics would apply the elegant formulas he was learning in micro class to the inelegant problems of the business cycle. It was also perhaps inevitable that this would happen at Carnegie Tech’s Graduate School of Industrial Administration, that pioneer in imposing the scientific method on matters of money and human behavior. Economics maverick Herbert Simon was the instigator, in a backward sort of way. He had argued, decades before Kahneman and Tversky, that because people don’t have unlimited time and brain-power to devote to decision making they take shortcuts and follow rules of thumb. Humans don’t “optimize,” as the mathematical economists of the day theorized, but “satisfice” (a blending of “satisfy” and “suffice”).


Year 501 by Noam Chomsky

"Robert Solow", anti-communist, Bartolomé de las Casas, Berlin Wall, Bolshevik threat, Bretton Woods, British Empire, business cycle, capital controls, colonial rule, corporate governance, cuban missile crisis, declining real wages, Deng Xiaoping, deskilling, Dissolution of the Soviet Union, European colonialism, experimental subject, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Howard Zinn, invisible hand, land reform, land tenure, long peace, mass incarceration, means of production, Monroe Doctrine, non-tariff barriers, offshore financial centre, plutocrats, Plutocrats, price stability, Ralph Nader, Ralph Waldo Emerson, RAND corporation, Ronald Reagan, Simon Kuznets, strikebreaker, structural adjustment programs, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade liberalization, trickle-down economics, union organizing, War on Poverty, working poor

Chapter 9 The Burden of Responsibility 1. Irrational Disdain As the US proceeded to “assume, out of self-interest, responsibility for the welfare of the world capitalist system” after World War II, it also extended the “experiments in pragmatism” that it had been conducting in its narrower domains to “accelerate the process of national growth and save much waste” (Gerald Haines, Ulysses Weatherby). One striking feature of the “scientific methods of development” designed for our wards is what Hans Schmidt calls the “irrational disdain for the agricultural experience of local peasants.” This was the source of “a series of disastrous failures” as US experts attempted to apply “the latest developments in scientific agriculture” to their Haitian testing area—as always, sincerely believing that they were doing good while (by the sheerest accident) benefiting US corporations.

Max Allen, curator of one of the world’s leading textile museums, observes that “In most Northern-hemisphere traditional societies, the most impressive man-made artifacts are not made by men at all, but by women,” namely textile products, which “are certainly artistic,” though not regarded as “art” by Western tradition. They are assigned to the category of crafts, not art. The fact that the artistic traditions extending over thousands of years are “women’s work,” may contribute to these dubious interpretations, Allen suggests.4 The “suspicious” will not fail to observe that, however ruinous to Liberia, the “scientific methods of development” offer many benefits to the western corporate sector, perhaps well beyond the usual beneficiaries, agribusiness and petrochemicals. As the variety of crops is reduced, and disease and blight become an increasing threat, genetic engineering may have to come to the rescue with artificially designed crops, offering the rising biotech industries alluring prospects for growth and profit Following standard doctrine, US experts advised Liberia to convert farmland to plantation cash crops (which, incidentally, also happens to benefit US corporations).


Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Kimmerer

back-to-the-land, clean water, commoditize, double helix, invisible hand, music of the spheres, oil shale / tar sands, p-value, Pepto Bismol, Potemkin village, scientific worldview, the built environment, the scientific method

“It’s the grass that will teach you,” I advised, “so you have to get to know it.” I took her out to our restored sweetgrass meadows and it was love at first sniff. It didn’t take her long to recognize Sweetgrass after that. It was as if the plant wanted her to find it. Together we designed experiments to compare the effects of the two harvesting methods the basket makers had explained. Laurie’s education so far was full of the scientific method, but I wanted her to live out a slightly different style of research. To me, an experiment is a kind of conversation with plants: I have a question for them, but since we don’t speak the same language, I can’t ask them directly and they won’t answer verbally. But plants can be eloquent in their physical responses and behaviors. Plants answer questions by the way they live, by their responses to change; you just need to learn how to ask.

They’ve been so conditioned to be skeptical of even the hardest of hard data that bending their minds toward theories that are verified without the expected graphs or equations is tough. Couple that with the unblinking assumption that science has cornered the market on truth and there’s not much room for discussion. Undeterred, we carried on. The basket makers had given us the prerequisites of the scientific method: observation, pattern, and a testable hypothesis. That sounded like science to me. So we began by setting up experimental plots in the meadows to ask the plants the question “Do these two different harvest methods contribute to decline?” And then we tried to detect their answer. We chose dense sweetgrass stands where the population had been restored rather than compromising native stands where pickers were active.


pages: 170 words: 49,193

The People vs Tech: How the Internet Is Killing Democracy (And How We Save It) by Jamie Bartlett

Ada Lovelace, Airbnb, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Andrew Keen, autonomous vehicles, barriers to entry, basic income, Bernie Sanders, bitcoin, blockchain, Boris Johnson, central bank independence, Chelsea Manning, cloud computing, computer vision, creative destruction, cryptocurrency, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, Dominic Cummings, Donald Trump, Edward Snowden, Elon Musk, Filter Bubble, future of work, gig economy, global village, Google bus, hive mind, Howard Rheingold, information retrieval, Internet of things, Jeff Bezos, job automation, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, Julian Assange, manufacturing employment, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, Menlo Park, meta analysis, meta-analysis, mittelstand, move fast and break things, move fast and break things, Network effects, Nicholas Carr, off grid, Panopticon Jeremy Bentham, payday loans, Peter Thiel, prediction markets, QR code, ransomware, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, Renaissance Technologies, ride hailing / ride sharing, Robert Mercer, Ross Ulbricht, Sam Altman, Satoshi Nakamoto, Second Machine Age, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, Silicon Valley startup, smart cities, smart contracts, smart meter, Snapchat, Stanford prison experiment, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, strong AI, TaskRabbit, technological singularity, technoutopianism, Ted Kaczynski, the medium is the message, the scientific method, The Spirit Level, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, theory of mind, too big to fail, ultimatum game, universal basic income, WikiLeaks, World Values Survey, Y Combinator

It started off dreadfully bad but improved slightly with each game, and within 40 days of constant self-play it had become so strong that it thrashed the original AlphaGo 100–0. Go is now firmly in the category of ‘games that humans will never win against machines again’. Most people in Silicon Valley agree that machine learning is the next big thing, although some are more optimistic than others. Tesla and SpaceX boss Elon Musk recently said that AI is like ‘summoning the demon’, while others have compared its significance to the ‘scientific method, on steroids’, the invention of penicillin and even electricity. Andrew Ng, former chief scientist at Baidu, reckons that there isn’t a single industry that won’t shortly be ‘transformed’. AIs are starting to outperform humans in a small-but-quietly-growing number of narrow tasks. Over the last year alone inroads have been made into things such as driving, bricklaying, fruit-picking, burger-flipping, banking, trading and automated stock-taking.


pages: 197 words: 49,296

The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis by Christiana Figueres, Tom Rivett-Carnac

3D printing, Airbnb, autonomous vehicles, Berlin Wall, carbon footprint, clean water, David Attenborough, decarbonisation, dematerialisation, Donald Trump, en.wikipedia.org, F. W. de Klerk, Fall of the Berlin Wall, income inequality, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Internet of things, Jeff Bezos, job automation, Lyft, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Wolf, mass immigration, Nelson Mandela, new economy, ride hailing / ride sharing, self-driving car, smart grid, sovereign wealth fund, the scientific method, trade route, uber lyft, urban planning, urban sprawl, Yogi Berra

A recent analysis by MIT shows that on Twitter lies spread on average six times faster than truth, and that truth never reaches the same level of penetration.22 Social media is an engine for the production and dissemination of lies. This fact has serious consequences for our society and in particular for our ability to come together to deal with complicated long-term threats like the climate crisis. In this “post-truth era,” the undermining of science now has currency. The fabric of the scientific method is fraying. Objectivity is under attack. Some political leaders have chosen to part company with objective reality. The rise of social media has afforded these leaders ample opportunity to obscure facts. This move toward subjectivity creates a breeding ground for oppression and tyranny. We all have an urgent responsibility to recognize and defend such an attack on truth because if it persists, our small window of opportunity to turn back the tide on the climate crisis will be lost forever.


Masters of Mankind by Noam Chomsky

affirmative action, American Legislative Exchange Council, Berlin Wall, failed state, God and Mammon, income inequality, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), land reform, Martin Wolf, means of production, Nelson Mandela, nuremberg principles, offshore financial centre, oil shale / tar sands, Paul Samuelson, plutocrats, Plutocrats, profit maximization, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Silicon Valley, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, too big to fail, union organizing, urban renewal, War on Poverty, Washington Consensus, Westphalian system

History is interpreted by “selves rather than minds,” and “no scientific method can compel a self to cease from engaging in whatever rationalization of interest may seem plausible to it.” We must search for truth but anticipate error, and always retain a tolerance for other perceptions and conclusions. We must not “ever despair of an adequate scientific method mitigating ideological conflicts in history, but must, on the other hand, recognize the limits of its power” (“Ideology and the Scientific Method,” 1953; Nature and Destiny, II, 220ff.). The same holds of “the struggle for justice,” which is “as profound a revelation of the possibilities and limits of historical existence as the quest for truth.” Here too, the Christian faith teaches us that “History moves towards the realization of the Kingdom [of God] but yet the judgment of God is upon every new realization,” upon “the evil, which taints all (human) achievements” (Nature and Destiny, II, 244, 286).


pages: 161 words: 52,058

The Art of Corporate Success: The Story of Schlumberger by Ken Auletta

Albert Einstein, Bretton Woods, George Gilder, job satisfaction, offshore financial centre, oil shale / tar sands, oil shock, Ronald Reagan, the scientific method, union organizing

The other was that the budding “New Left,” theoretically in favor of “workers’ control” and the free flow of information it implies, ardently championed a one-man control that, however charmingly eccentric, was ultimately tyrannical and mystifying. The dichotomy between rhetoric and reality, it could be said, has a protracted history in French political thought. Descartes, the 17th-century French philosopher, divorced his commitment to the scientific method from his commitment to Roman Catholicism, proclaiming his dualism with these memorable words: “I think, therefore I am.” Down through the years French politics—left or right—has developed a well-deserved reputation for hyperbole. Like many people on the French left, Riboud sees himself as having a kind of moral mission, and thus has a propensity for symbolic battles. While conservatives tend to reflexively side with military regimes, Mitterrand and Riboud instinctively side with governments that proclaim their devotion to “the masses.”


pages: 209 words: 53,175

The Psychology of Money: Timeless Lessons on Wealth, Greed, and Happiness by Morgan Housel

"side hustle", airport security, Amazon Web Services, Bernie Madoff, business cycle, computer age, coronavirus, discounted cash flows, diversification, diversified portfolio, Donald Trump, financial independence, Hans Rosling, Hyman Minsky, income inequality, index fund, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, Joseph Schumpeter, knowledge worker, labor-force participation, Long Term Capital Management, margin call, Mark Zuckerberg, new economy, Paul Graham, payday loans, Ponzi scheme, quantitative easing, Renaissance Technologies, Richard Feynman, risk tolerance, risk-adjusted returns, Robert Gordon, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Reagan, Stephen Hawking, Steven Levy, stocks for the long run, the scientific method, traffic fines, Vanguard fund, working-age population

Take a short example. Ali Hajaji’s son was sick. Elders in his Yemeni village proposed a folk remedy: shove the tip of a burning stick through his son’s chest to drain the sickness from his body. After the procedure, Hajaji told The New York Times: “When you have no money, and your son is sick, you’ll believe anything.”⁶⁴ Medicine predates useful medicine by thousands of years. Before the scientific method and the discovery of germs there was blood-letting, starvation therapy, cutting holes in your body to let the evils out, and other treatments that did nothing but hasten your demise. It seems crazy. But if you desperately need a solution and a good one isn’t known or readily available to you, the path of least resistance is toward Hajaji’s reasoning: willing to believe anything. Not just try anything, but believe it.


pages: 490 words: 150,172

The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance by Henry Petroski

business climate, Douglas Hofstadter, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Khartoum Gordon, Menlo Park, On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, Ralph Waldo Emerson, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thorstein Veblen

There are now a few pencils among the books and literary material in the Thoreau alcove in the library, but their method of manufacture seems to be more mysterious than that of any of Henry David Thoreau’s literary works. While it may be excusable that Thoreau’s pencil engineering is seldom emphasized relative to his other achievements, there is no excuse for ignoring engineering in our culture generally. Yet it is rare to find generalizations about engineering qua engineering that are the equivalent of the scientific method or to find universal insights about engineering that have the ring of Archimedes’ “Eureka!” Great engineers have seldom left articulate generalizations or insights in ink; they have usually only sketched them in pencil, to be fleshed out in state-of-the-art structures and machines. Yet even as the state of the art is constantly evolving and developing, there are deep underlying similarities in what the first engineers or those described by Vitruvius did and what today’s engineers still do.

Conté could make a quantum leap in thinking about how to fashion a pencil lead out of graphite dust and clay because he was already familiar with the way those materials combined to produce excellent crucibles, broken fragments of which incidentally might act as marking stones, or so Conté might have noted in his tinkering in the laboratory. The laboratory is really the modern workshop. And modern engineering results when the scientific method is united with experience with the tools and products of craftsmen. While it would emerge more slowly in Britain and America, modern engineering, in spirit if not in name, would come to play a more and more active role in turning the craft tradition into modern technology, with its base of research and development. And in the century following Conté this transformation would take place in virtually every aspect of technological life from common pencil making to monumental bridge building.


pages: 487 words: 151,810

The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement by David Brooks

Albert Einstein, asset allocation, assortative mating, Atul Gawande, Bernie Madoff, business process, Cass Sunstein, choice architecture, clean water, creative destruction, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Brooks, delayed gratification, deliberate practice, disintermediation, Donald Trump, Douglas Hofstadter, Emanuel Derman, en.wikipedia.org, fear of failure, financial deregulation, financial independence, Flynn Effect, George Akerlof, Henri Poincaré, hiring and firing, impulse control, invisible hand, Joseph Schumpeter, labor-force participation, longitudinal study, loss aversion, medical residency, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Monroe Doctrine, Paul Samuelson, Richard Thaler, risk tolerance, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, school vouchers, six sigma, social intelligence, Stanford marshmallow experiment, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, The Spirit Level, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thorstein Veblen, transaction costs, Walter Mischel, young professional

Great investigators began to dissect and understand their world. The metaphor, “the world is a machine,” began to replace the metaphor, “the world is a living organism.” Society was often seen as a clock with millions of moving pieces, and God was the Divine Clock-maker, the author of an exquisitely rational universe. Great figures like Francis Bacon and René Descartes helped create a different way of thinking—the scientific method. Descartes aimed to begin human understanding anew. He would start from scratch and work logically and consciously through every proposition to see, step by step, what was true and certain. He would rebuild human understanding on a logical foundation. In this scientific age, the mind could not, Bacon urged, be “left to take its own course, but guided at every step.” What was needed was a “sure plan” and a new reliable methodology.

Problems must be broken down into their discrete parts. He must proceed consciously and methodically, beginning with the simplest element of the problem and then proceeding step by step toward the complex. He must develop a scientific language that will avoid the vagueness and confusion of ordinary language. The aim of the whole method is to arrive at certain lawlike generalizations about human behavior—to arrive at certainty and truth. The scientific method brought rigor to where there had once been guesswork and intuition. In the realm of physics, chemistry, biology, and the other natural sciences, the results were awesome to behold. Inevitably, rationalist techniques were applied to the science of organizing society, so that progress in the social realm could be as impressive as progress in the scientific one. The philosophies of the French Enlightenment compiled a great encyclopedia, trying to organize all human knowledge in one reference book.


pages: 467 words: 154,960

Trend Following: How Great Traders Make Millions in Up or Down Markets by Michael W. Covel

Albert Einstein, Atul Gawande, backtesting, beat the dealer, Bernie Madoff, Black Swan, buy and hold, buy low sell high, capital asset pricing model, Clayton Christensen, commodity trading advisor, computerized trading, correlation coefficient, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, delayed gratification, deliberate practice, diversification, diversified portfolio, Edward Thorp, Elliott wave, Emanuel Derman, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, Everything should be made as simple as possible, fiat currency, fixed income, game design, hindsight bias, housing crisis, index fund, Isaac Newton, John Meriwether, John Nash: game theory, linear programming, Long Term Capital Management, mandelbrot fractal, margin call, market bubble, market fundamentalism, market microstructure, mental accounting, money market fund, Myron Scholes, Nash equilibrium, new economy, Nick Leeson, Ponzi scheme, prediction markets, random walk, Renaissance Technologies, Richard Feynman, risk tolerance, risk-adjusted returns, risk/return, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, shareholder value, Sharpe ratio, short selling, South Sea Bubble, Stephen Hawking, survivorship bias, systematic trading, the scientific method, Thomas L Friedman, too big to fail, transaction costs, upwardly mobile, value at risk, Vanguard fund, William of Occam, zero-sum game

FAQ #3: Insight on Computers and Cur ve Fitting Larry Hite has said that a computer can’t get up on the wrong side of the bed in the morning, which is why he relies on computers for his decision making and for his implementation of his trading rules: “If your boyfriend or girlfriend breaks up with you, you’ll feel one way; if you get engaged, you’ll feel another way.”34 Hite said he would much rather have one smart guy working on a lone Macintosh than a team of well-paid timekeepers with an army of supercomputers. At the same time, however, Hite was adamant that the real key to using computers successfully was the thinking that went into the computer code. When someone asked why even go the computer route if people power is so important. Hite responded: “[B]ecause it works—it’s countable and replicable. I’m a great fan of the scientific method. And the other things are not scientific. If I give you the algorithms, you should be able to get the same results I did. That to me means a great deal.”35 Whales only get harpooned when they come to the surface, and turtles can only move forward when they stick their neck out, but investors face risk no matter what they do. Charles A. Jaffe However, challenges go along with back testing.

Of course, in the real world, markets are both efficient and inefficient, some more than others. In the real world, there are traders who do beat the market by a wide margin, and many of them are trend followers. After word 289 What accounts for the patience, discipline, and commitment to long-term success as a trend follower? It might ultimately be about making a profit, but it is also an understanding and keen appreciation for the scientific method. Just as scientists start with a hypothesis, trend followers start with a certain view of the world. Their divergent view sees the world in trends. Facing the reality of any market environment head on is the philosophical foundation of trend following. Yet, if the approach is that simple (and profitable), then why does trend following continue to be ignored or confused by so-called bright and market-wise people?


pages: 852 words: 157,181

The Origins of the British by Stephen Oppenheimer

active measures, agricultural Revolution, British Empire, Eratosthenes, gravity well, mass immigration, out of africa, phenotype, the scientific method, trade route

Undetected borrowing distorts both kinds of language tree (comparative and lexico-statistical) and is probably the main underlying reason for structural differences between them. So, what to do? There are basic differences between the disciplines of archaeology and linguistics on the one hand, and sciences such as geology and biology on the other. In their attitude to the scientific method, some linguists seem to misunderstand the meaning of, or are unable to accept, uncertainty. They interpret the scientific method as implying authority, rigour and certainty, while scientists accept that, in many situations, comparisons have to be made using measurements that have some degree of error and theories of classification with a degree of uncertainty. A statistical approach has to be used to handle such uncertainty. Unlike disagreements between academic authorities, there are standard methods of dealing with sources of observational error and of uncertainty.


pages: 444 words: 151,136

Endless Money: The Moral Hazards of Socialism by William Baker, Addison Wiggin

Andy Kessler, asset allocation, backtesting, bank run, banking crisis, Berlin Wall, Bernie Madoff, Black Swan, Branko Milanovic, break the buck, Bretton Woods, BRICs, business climate, business cycle, capital asset pricing model, commoditize, corporate governance, correlation does not imply causation, credit crunch, Credit Default Swap, crony capitalism, cuban missile crisis, currency manipulation / currency intervention, debt deflation, Elliott wave, en.wikipedia.org, Fall of the Berlin Wall, feminist movement, fiat currency, fixed income, floating exchange rates, Fractional reserve banking, full employment, German hyperinflation, housing crisis, income inequality, index fund, inflation targeting, Joseph Schumpeter, Kickstarter, laissez-faire capitalism, land reform, liquidity trap, Long Term Capital Management, McMansion, mega-rich, money market fund, moral hazard, mortgage tax deduction, naked short selling, negative equity, offshore financial centre, Ponzi scheme, price stability, pushing on a string, quantitative easing, RAND corporation, rent control, reserve currency, riskless arbitrage, Ronald Reagan, school vouchers, seigniorage, short selling, Silicon Valley, six sigma, statistical arbitrage, statistical model, Steve Jobs, stocks for the long run, The Great Moderation, the scientific method, time value of money, too big to fail, upwardly mobile, War on Poverty, Yogi Berra, young professional

To solve the debt crisis we have issued more debt. To reverse the damage from reckless lending, we have showered money on risky banks, stunting competitive gains that would have been realized by smaller prudent institutions. The academic and investment community has intellectually bought into theories of interest rate manipulation based upon signals gleaned from the quicksand of near-term economic statistics. Although proven by the scientific methods of economics, somehow the chain of desired short-term outcomes generated through this central planning has a side effect of producing long waves of debt accumulation. While we were still in the long wave of debt accumulation relative to national income that stretched from the early 1950s to 2008, it was impossible for anyone to refute the case for such a system. Academic studies reinforced the view that inflationary money growth was beneficial and optimal, and importantly, they did not anticipate a financial meltdown.

Knowing that a leverage problem develops over a long stretch of time and that it involves human psychology, the reality is that such a regression will never exist. In fact, it’s impossible, for if it did, all humans would be machines that never strayed far from a straight line, and there would neither have been business cycles nor hyperinflation and great depressions. Interestingly, the logic that flows from this is that under a monetary system anchored firmly by gold, man’s weaknesses are counteracted. Oddly, the scientific method so honored by economists is the enabler of outrageous and risky behavior. Entranced by mathematics and caught in the headlights of the coming credit implosion, Bernanke believed that papering over a debt problem with more loans and guarantees Spitting into the Wind 119 would be effective. According to Cassidy, he told a visitor to his office in August, and maintained through Labor Day, “A lot can still go wrong, but at least I can see a path that will bring us out of this entire episode relatively intact.”5 In the speech, he posits a parable wherein a modern alchemist invents a way to produce unlimited amounts of gold at no cost.


pages: 1,132 words: 156,379

The Ape That Understood the Universe: How the Mind and Culture Evolve by Steve Stewart-Williams

Albert Einstein, battle of ideas, carbon-based life, David Attenborough, European colonialism, feminist movement, financial independence, gender pay gap, invisible hand, Jeff Bezos, Menlo Park, meta analysis, meta-analysis, moral panic, out of africa, Paul Graham, phenotype, post-industrial society, Richard Feynman, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, theory of mind, twin studies

Scientists propose competing theories about the nature of the universe (variation), and then cull those theories that don’t match what they see in the world and in the lab (selection). Thus, Aristotelian physics was replaced by Newtonian physics, which in turn was replaced by Einsteinian relativity. At each step, the earlier theory was displaced from the population of scientific ideas when a new, upstart theory matched our observations more closely. In effect, the scientific method establishes a struggle for existence among theories, which results ultimately in the survival of the fittest theories: those that best explain the facts. The end result is that our theories evolve – step by slow step – toward greater and greater accuracy. One minute, we’re talking about God creating the world and all life in six days; the next, we’re talking about the Big Bangand evolution by natural selection, and trying to figure out how to reconcile relativity theory with quantum mechanics.

Again, though, this isn’t inevitable. Over the last several centuries, we’ve slowly pieced together cultural mechanisms that reliably favor truth over catchiness. These include critical thinking, careful observation, peer review, open discussion, independent replication, and the rejection of authority, tradition, and revelation as reliable sources of knowledge. Taken together, these habits and tactics constitute the scientific method. In a sense, science is a system of selectively breeding accurate memes. In the “wild,” there’s no guarantee that accurate memes will do better than inaccurate ones. But in the carefully controlled memetic ecosystem of science, we can and do breed memes for closer and closer correspondence to truth. In this way and many others, memetic evolution is no longer entirely beyond our control. Our genes and our memes have created a creature that, to some extent, can seize control of its memetic destiny.


pages: 513 words: 152,381

The Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity by Toby Ord

3D printing, agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, artificial general intelligence, Asilomar, Asilomar Conference on Recombinant DNA, availability heuristic, Columbian Exchange, computer vision, cosmological constant, cuban missile crisis, decarbonisation, defense in depth, delayed gratification, demographic transition, Doomsday Clock, Drosophila, effective altruism, Elon Musk, Ernest Rutherford, global pandemic, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Mark Zuckerberg, mass immigration, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Mikhail Gorbachev, mutually assured destruction, Nash equilibrium, Norbert Wiener, nuclear winter, p-value, Peter Singer: altruism, planetary scale, race to the bottom, RAND corporation, Ronald Reagan, self-driving car, Stanislav Petrov, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, supervolcano, survivorship bias, the scientific method, uranium enrichment

The places around the world where agriculture was independently developed, marked with how many years ago this occurred. The next great transition was the Scientific Revolution.16 Early forms of science had been practiced since ancient times, and the seeds of empiricism can be found in the work of medieval scholars in the Islamic world and Europe.17 But it was only about 400 years ago that humanity developed the scientific method and saw scientific progress take off.18 This helped replace a reliance on received authorities with careful observation of the natural world, seeking simple and testable explanations for what we saw. The ability to test and discard bad explanations helped us break free from dogma, and allowed for the first time the systematic creation of knowledge about the workings of nature. Some of our new-found knowledge could be harnessed to improve the world around us.

The Roman Empire reached a similar size shortly after, with most people in the world living in one of these two civilizations. 15 Like agriculture, each was independently developed in multiple places across the world. 16 Other scholars sometimes include this revolution under the name of the Enlightenment, or bundle it together with the Industrial Revolution. 17 Important scholars include Ibn al-Haytham (c. 965–1040 CE), whose use of experimental methods in optics was a major influence on Robert Grosseteste and Roger Bacon in the thirteenth century. And the roots of the idea of unlimited incremental improvements in our understanding can be seen in Seneca’s Natural Questions, written in 65 CE (Seneca, 1972) (see p. 49). 18 Francis Bacon’s Novum Organum (1620) is the canonical exposition of the scientific method, and is a convenient dating for the Scientific Revolution. There is substantial debate over why earlier advances outside Europe did not lead to the sustained knowledge-creation we have seen since the seventeenth century. See, for example, Sivin (1982). 19 Because only a tiny proportion of organisms became fossil fuels, the energy within the entire global supply of fossil fuels is not millions of years’ worth of solar energy.


pages: 353 words: 355

The Long Boom: A Vision for the Coming Age of Prosperity by Peter Schwartz, Peter Leyden, Joel Hyatt

American ideology, Asian financial crisis, Berlin Wall, centre right, computer age, crony capitalism, cross-subsidies, Deng Xiaoping, Dissolution of the Soviet Union, European colonialism, Fall of the Berlin Wall, financial innovation, hydrogen economy, industrial cluster, informal economy, intangible asset, Just-in-time delivery, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, life extension, market bubble, mass immigration, megacity, Mikhail Gorbachev, Nelson Mandela, new economy, oil shock, open borders, Productivity paradox, QR code, Ronald Reagan, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs, the scientific method, upwardly mobile, Washington Consensus, Y2K

Much of their spare time is spent working on collective software projects. The Net has become the means of unifying this network of techies. It is the tool through which these people self-organize. There has long been a code of honor on the Internet to share ideas for the greater good. When the Internet was little more than an academic medium, this code of honor simply continued the tradition of the scientific method. In science, those who make a discovery are obligated to share the results and to explain clearly how they arrived at their conclusions, so that the entire scientific community can subject The GREAT EwftbleR 29 the discovery to rigorous analysis. If the discovery passes that scrutiny, it becomes common intellectual property, and everyone gets to reap the benefits. This mentality is not due to some socialistic impulse but is the best way that science can move forward.


Trend Commandments: Trading for Exceptional Returns by Michael W. Covel

Albert Einstein, Bernie Madoff, Black Swan, business cycle, buy and hold, commodity trading advisor, correlation coefficient, delayed gratification, diversified portfolio, en.wikipedia.org, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, family office, full employment, Lao Tzu, Long Term Capital Management, market bubble, market microstructure, Mikhail Gorbachev, moral hazard, Myron Scholes, Nick Leeson, oil shock, Ponzi scheme, prediction markets, quantitative trading / quantitative finance, random walk, Sharpe ratio, systematic trading, the scientific method, transaction costs, tulip mania, upwardly mobile, Y2K, zero-sum game

As we draw out a ball it becomes part of the track record, and we put it back in the bag, but there is no guarantee that the balls will come out in the same order in the future.1 Science “Do you have a clear sense of probabilities and payoffs?” Did you answer “no?” If so, you need to figure it out, and fast. For example, trader Jim Simons (arguably a closeted trend trader—he does not identify as one), worth about $8.5 billion, has said that the advantage scientists brought to the trading table was not their computing or math skills, but their ability to think scientifically. That means the scientific method is in play: 1. Define the question/theory. 2. Gather information and resources (observe). 3. Form hypothesis. 4. Perform experiment and collect data. 5. Analyze data. 6. Interpret data and draw conclusions that serve as a starting point for new hypothesis. 7. Publish results. 8. Retest (frequently done by other scientists). Understanding trend trading is like crime scene investigation (CSI).


pages: 226 words: 59,080

Economics Rules: The Rights and Wrongs of the Dismal Science by Dani Rodrik

airline deregulation, Albert Einstein, bank run, barriers to entry, Bretton Woods, business cycle, butterfly effect, capital controls, Carmen Reinhart, central bank independence, collective bargaining, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, distributed generation, Donald Davies, Edward Glaeser, endogenous growth, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, Everything should be made as simple as possible, Fellow of the Royal Society, financial deregulation, financial innovation, floating exchange rates, fudge factor, full employment, George Akerlof, Gini coefficient, Growth in a Time of Debt, income inequality, inflation targeting, informal economy, information asymmetry, invisible hand, Jean Tirole, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Arrow, Kenneth Rogoff, labor-force participation, liquidity trap, loss aversion, low skilled workers, market design, market fundamentalism, minimum wage unemployment, oil shock, open economy, Pareto efficiency, Paul Samuelson, price stability, prisoner's dilemma, profit maximization, quantitative easing, randomized controlled trial, rent control, rent-seeking, Richard Thaler, risk/return, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, school vouchers, South Sea Bubble, spectrum auction, The Market for Lemons, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas Malthus, trade liberalization, trade route, ultimatum game, University of East Anglia, unorthodox policies, Vilfredo Pareto, Washington Consensus, white flight

The paradox in these cases is that reducing one’s freedom of action can make one better off, defying the usual economic dictum that more choice is always better than less. But the paradox is only an illusion. What is a paradox for one class of models is often readily comprehensible within another class of models. Scientific Progress, One Model at a Time Ask an economist what makes economics a science, and the reply is likely to be, “It’s a science because we work with the scientific method: we build hypotheses and then test them. When a theory fails the test, we discard it and either replace it or come up with an improved version. Ultimately, economics advances by developing theories that better explain the world.” This is a nice story, but it bears little relationship to what economists do in practice and how the field really makes progress.# For one thing, much of economists’ work departs significantly from the hypothetico-deductive mold according to which hypotheses are first formulated and then confronted with real-world evidence.


pages: 204 words: 58,565

Keeping Up With the Quants: Your Guide to Understanding and Using Analytics by Thomas H. Davenport, Jinho Kim

Black-Scholes formula, business intelligence, business process, call centre, computer age, correlation coefficient, correlation does not imply causation, Credit Default Swap, en.wikipedia.org, feminist movement, Florence Nightingale: pie chart, forensic accounting, global supply chain, Hans Rosling, hypertext link, invention of the telescope, inventory management, Jeff Bezos, Johannes Kepler, longitudinal study, margin call, Moneyball by Michael Lewis explains big data, Myron Scholes, Netflix Prize, p-value, performance metric, publish or perish, quantitative hedge fund, random walk, Renaissance Technologies, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, self-driving car, sentiment analysis, six sigma, Skype, statistical model, supply-chain management, text mining, the scientific method, Thomas Davenport

The review of previous findings can suggest any of the following: What kind of story could we tell? Does it involve prediction, reporting, an experiment, a survey? What kind of data are we likely to want to look for? How have variables been defined before? What types of analyses are we likely to perform? How could we tell the story in an interesting way that is likely to get results, and different from past stories? One of the key attributes of quantitative analysis (and of the scientific method more broadly) is that it draws on previous research and findings. For example, searching thorough the problem-related knowledge appearing in books, reports, and articles is very important in getting to the bottom of the problem. It may help to identify relevant variables and any association among the identified variables. A complete review of any of the previous findings is a must in any given quantitative analysis.


The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World by Iain McGilchrist

Albert Einstein, Asperger Syndrome, Benoit Mandelbrot, Berlin Wall, cognitive bias,