Knowledge is just theory
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Knowledge is just theory

It's the curse of our mind to seek to understand a thing in its totality, but having to settle with a crude simplification in all things.

Our entire species is undertaking a process of unaided learning (to borrow the phrase from AI research) from the data we receive from the universe, in order to determine its patterns. All of our scientific theories and social and cultural paradigms of what is possible, are just patterns that we have uncovered with our limited senses and information, and processing power. They are by no means the ultimate truth. With dedicated hard work and building on those who came before you, you will likely be able to breach the limits of what we believe to be possible in just one lifetime - and find yourself in a new continent where you now make the rules.

The supreme task of a physicist is to arrive at those universal elementary laws from which the cosmos can be built up by pure deduction.

Richard Feynman

All models are false but some are useful.

George Box

Break the rules. Don't break the law, but break the rules.

Arnold Schwarzenegger. For him, it wasn't about the theories of science, it was about the 'rules' of what can be done in a person's life and career. This is entirely the same thing.

One way that's kind of a fun analogy to try to get some idea of what we're doing here to try to understand nature is to imagine that the gods are playing some great game like chess. Let's say a chess game. And you don't know the rules of the game, but you're allowed to look at the board from time to time, in a little corner, perhaps. And from these observations, you try to figure out what the rules are of the game, what [are] the rules of the pieces moving.

You might discover after a bit, for example, that when there's only one bishop around on the board, that the bishop maintains its color. Later on you might discover the law for the bishop is that it moves on a diagonal, which would explain the law that you understood before, that it maintains its color. And that would be analogous we discover one law and later find a deeper understanding of it.

Ah, then things can happen--everything's going good, you've got all the laws, it looks very good--and then all of a sudden some strange phenomenon occurs in some corner, so you begin to investigate that, to look for it. It's castling--something you didn't expect.

We're always, by the way, in a fundamental physics, always trying to investigate those things in which we don't understand the conclusions. We're not trying to all the time check our conclusions; after we've checked them enough, they're okay. The thing that doesn't fit is the thing that's most interesting--the part that doesn't go according to what you'd expect.

Also we can have revolutions in physics. After you've noticed that the bishops maintain their color and that they go along on the diagonals and so on, for such a long time, and everybody knows that that's true; then you suddenly discover one day in some chess game that the bishop doesn't maintain its color, it changes its color. Only later do you discover the new possibility that the bishop is captured and that a pawn went all the way down to the queen's end to produce a new bishop. That could happen, but you didn't know it.

And so it's very analogous to the way our laws are. They sometimes look positive, they keep on working, and all of a sudden, some little gimmick shows that they're wrong--and then we have to investigate the conditions under which this bishop changed color... happened... and so on... And gradually we learn the new rule that explains it more deeply.

Unlike the chess game, though... In the case of the chess game, the rules become more complicated as you go along, but in the physics when you discover new things, it becomes more simple. It appears on the whole to be more complicated, because we learn about a greater experience; that is, we learn about more particles and new things, and so the laws look complicated again. But if you realize that all of the time, what's kind of wonderful is that as we expand our experience into wilder and wilder regions of experience, every once in a while we have these integration in which everything is pulled together in a unification, which it turns out to be simpler than it looked before.

Challenge assumptions

  • Play with the very rules you have learned by experimenting and testing the boundaries.
  • Robert Greene, Mastery
  • In truth, anomalies themselves contain the richest information. They often reveal to us the flaws in our paradigms.
  • Robert Greene, Mastery

Build only with facts

  • Build only with facts, not theories or philosophies.
  • Anecdotes and chosen examples are not data
  • The plural of anecdote is data.
  • Richard Dawkins
    • Chosen examples are never serious evidence for any worthwhile generalisation.
  • As Bertram Russell said; "What are the facts?" This is what matters. Not the mythology and stories and philosophies you spin and string around them. For centuries at a time this has led people astray- from the medieval fetishisation of Aristotle, to the myths that tribes use to colour their vision today. People are extremely susceptible to moulding facts to fit their theories.
  • This is why skepticism is the foundation of science; it recognises this recurring issue in our logic, and is built on the use of observations to create theories which can be disproved by another observation at any time.
  • We must be careful when we start creating theories, which are fundamentally simplifications. We have to get down on the ground, see the complexity, disorder, and chaos of things with our own eyes, then very carefully piece together patterns.
  • With social media, it's become more difficult to identify cultural trends via following thought leaders as cultural influence has become more decentralised, though it still remains important.

Shift sources into academic articles

  • We all need to shift sources into academic articles
  • The 'everyday' media that we consume and that is supposed to keep people informed is nowhere near as reliable with facts as what we'd assume.
  • We have plenty of psychological weak points that opens the door for media to twist the truth en masse.
  • Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect works as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward-reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them. In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story-and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read with renewed interest as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about far-off Palestine than it was about the story you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know. That is the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. I’d point out it does not operate in other arenas of life. In ordinary life, if somebody consistently exaggerates or lies to you, you soon discount everything they say. In court, there is the legal doctrine of falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus , which means untruthful in one part, untruthful in all. But when it comes to the media, we believe against evidence that it is probably worth our time to read other parts of the paper. When, in fact, it almost certainly isn’t. The only possible explanation for our behavior is amnesia.
    • amusement the multiple errors in a story-and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read with renewed interest as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about far-off Palestine than it was about the story you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know. That is the Gell-MannTags: #universe, epistemologynesia effect. I’d point out it does not operate in other arenas of life. In ordinary life, if somebody consistently exaggerates or lies to you, you soon discount everything they say. In court, there is the legal doctrine of falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus , which means untruthful in one part, untruthful in all. But when it comes to the media, we believe against evidence that it is probably worth our time to read other parts of the paper. When, in fact, it almost certainly isn’t. The only possible explanation for our behavior isTags:: #universe, epistemologynesia.
  • Michael Crichton, the Murray Gell-Mann amnesia effect
  • I think I'd recommend getting the IBISWorld reports, keep up to date with scientific journals, then government reports (and perhaps private intelligence organisations like Stratfor), and finally be very selective with media outlets, and you're getting much better coverage.
  • Scientific studies are surely one of the best sources that we can read, but even they are carried out with flaws - funding and power influences data, which can be selectively gathered to imprint certain biases.

It’s like unsupervised machine learning

  • Richard Feynman, quoted in The Book of the Dead: Lives of the Justly Famous and the Undeservedly Obscure
    • We can imagine that this complicated array of moving things which constitutes "the world" is something like a great chess game being played by the gods, and we are observers of the game. We do not know what the rules of the game are; all we are allowed to do is to watch the playing. Of course, if we watch long enough, we may eventually catch on to a few of the rules. The rules of the game are what we mean by fundamental physics.
  • To use the language of computer science, we are as a species undergoing a centuries long, decentralised, collaborative process of unsupervised machine learning. We try to infer the hidden structures from the 'unlabelled' data that the universe provides.

The map is not the territory

Confusing the map and the territory is like going into a restaurant and eating the menu.

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