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  1. #1
    The Eighth Colour Octarine's Avatar
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    Default Edge Q. '11 - What scientific concept would improve everybody's cognitive toolkit?

    The Edge foundation asks its members annually to answer a (generalised) question deemed to be important in today's society.
    http://edge.org/annual-question

    The previous questions have been:

    2010 : HOW IS THE INTERNET CHANGING THE WAY YOU THINK?
    2009 : WHAT WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING?
    2008 : WHAT HAVE YOU CHANGED YOUR MIND ABOUT? WHY?
    2007 : WHAT ARE YOU OPTIMISTIC ABOUT?
    2006 : WHAT IS YOUR DANGEROUS IDEA?
    2005 : WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IS TRUE EVEN THOUGH YOU CANNOT PROVE IT?
    2004 : WHAT'S YOUR LAW?
    2003 : WHAT ARE THE PRESSING SCIENTIFIC ISSUES FOR THE NATION AND THE WORLD, AND WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE ON HO?
    2002 : WHAT IS YOUR QUESTION? ... WHY?
    2001 : WHAT NOW ?
    2001 : WHAT QUESTIONS HAVE DISAPPEARED?
    2000 : WHAT IS TODAY'S MOST IMPORTANT UNREPORTED STORY?
    1999 : WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT INVENTION IN THE PAST TWO THOUSAND YEARS?
    1998 : WHAT QUESTIONS ARE YOU ASKING YOURSELF?

    With the answers to those questions being published in books since 2005.




    The Edge Question asked in 2011 was:

    What scientific concept would improve everybody's cognitive toolkit?

    The term 'scientific"is to be understood in a broad sense as the most reliable way of gaining knowledge about anything, whether it be the human spirit, the role of great people in history, or the structure of DNA. A "scientific concept" may come from philosophy, logic, economics, jurisprudence, or other analytic enterprises, as long as it is a rigorous conceptual tool that may be summed up succinctly (or "in a phrase") but has broad application to understanding the world.
    http://edge.org/annual-question/what...nitive-toolkit

    See the answers here:
    http://www.edge.org/q2011/q11_1.html




    I had planned on discussing this a while ago, but I never actually got around to finishing reading all the responses, because there are a lot of them...

    As you'd expect, the responses are mostly from the fields of interest of the respondents. Some you might already be familiar with, some should be common sense (but aren't) and some are quite novel or unexpected.
    The responses themselves aren't that long, it's just that there are a lot of them.

    I think it is worth reading few some of the responses each day and perhaps discuss any interesting ones here.

    Edit - I moved one of the examples I had quoted to a later post, for clarity.
    Last edited by Octarine; 07-24-2011 at 12:51 AM.

  2. #2
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    Very interesting link, thanks. Only read the first page of responses so far, but seen a lot of nice ideas already.

    Quote Originally Posted by Catbert View Post
    It makes you wonder about the precision in predicting others behaviour (including schemes such as MBTI), when we can sometimes have difficulty predicting precisely how ourselves will behave. It also makes you wonder why we act surprised when certain events occur...
    Well there's also the fact that in order to predict yourself, you have to predict the prediction you make of yourself, as it is part of yourself too. Hence there is an infinite regress of predictions, as in order to predict the prediction of yourself, you have to predict the prediction of the prediction etc.

    That applies to humans, computers, the entire universe, any object trying to predict itself. There's that, not being faster than the thing you are predicting, and the random behaviour of very small 'particles' of energy, adding up to the unpredictable side, but there's still a bigger, predictable side to it all.

    Then there's the whole, observing and analysing yourself means you can only observe yourself in the state of self-observation and self-analysis. I think that, along with self-bias, is why it's usually a lot better to take previous behaviour as the data for self-analysis.

  3. #3
    The Eighth Colour Octarine's Avatar
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    Did I scare everyone else of with the title?

    Edit - I moved the example from the first few pages to this post:

    RUDY RUCKER
    Mathematician, Computer Scientist; CyberPunk Pioneer; Novelist; Author, Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul

    The World is Unpredictable

    The media cast about for the proximate causes of life's windfalls and disasters. The public demands blocks against the bad and pipelines to the good. Legislators propose new regulations, fruitlessly dousing last year's fires, forever betting on yesterday's winning horses.

    A little-known truth: Every aspect of the world is fundamentally unpredictable. Computer scientists have long since proved this.

    How so? To predict an event is to know a shortcut for foreseeing the outcome in advance. A simple counting argument shows there aren't enough shortcuts to go around. Therefore most processes aren't predictable. A deeper argument plays on the fact that, if you could predict your actions, you could deliberately violate your predictions which means the predictions were wrong after all.

    We often suppose that unpredictability is caused by random inputs from higher spirits or from low-down quantum foam. But chaos theory and computer science tell us that non-random systems produce surprises on their own. The unexpected tornado, the cartoon safe that lands on Uncle George, the winning pull on a slot machine odd things pop out of a computation. The world can simultaneously be deterministic and unpredictable.

    In the physical world, the only way to learn tomorrow's weather in detail is to wait twenty-four hours and see even if nothing is random at all. The universe is computing tomorrow's weather as rapidly and as efficiently as possible any smaller model is inaccurate, and the smallest error is amplified into large effects.

    At a personal level, even if the world is as deterministic as a computer program, you still can't predict what you're going to do.
    This is because your prediction method would involve a mental simulation of you that produces its results slower than you. You can't think faster than you think. You can't stand on your own shoulders.

    It's a waste to chase the pipedream of a magical tiny theory that allows us to make quick and detailed calculations about the future. We can't predict and we can't control. To accept this can be a source of liberation and inner peace. We're part of the unfolding world, surfing the chaotic waves.
    It makes you wonder about the precision in predicting others behaviour (including schemes such as MBTI), when we can sometimes have difficulty predicting precisely how ourselves will behave. It also makes you wonder why we act surprised when certain events occur...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Catbert View Post
    Did I scare everyone else of with the title?

    When I read this yesterday it made no sense to me. The website layout is atrocious. I couldn't understand that these were responses to the question you posed in the topic subject line because for one, the question doesn't appear in any eye catching area. The responses themselves are also written in a haphazard way and had I not known the question, I would not have know what their purpose was. Finally you provided no background to the question. Who's asking this question? For what purpose? The high level of jargon certainly doesn't help. End result? tldr.

    But yes it is interesting. I'd like to see some vote buttons to pick the best answer ala stackoverflow.

  5. #5
    The Eighth Colour Octarine's Avatar
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    I agree the website leaves something to be desired and I've updated my original post to make it more clear.
    I should have also provided this link instead:
    http://edge.org/annual-question/what...nitive-toolkit

  6. #6

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    Read it. Liked it. Don't have time to respond atm. Hope to keep tabs over the next few days.

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