Tuesday, June 24, 2008

End of Theory, End of Models, End of the Fuel for Social Justice

I am announcing an end to social critique, at least as the most cutting edge and powerful means of social consciousness. Sure, there will still be millions who spout theories that see colonialism, racism, slavery, and aristocratic privilege as a causal circumstance for current social maladies. But these social theories will be a dialogue for those who can't afford the real analysis, which will be analysis provided by machines uninformed by academic social models. Howard Zinn, Marx, Zerzan, and the KKK are all antiquated preachers selling snake oil explanations of our world.

The person dedicating their life to social justice runs on a fuel of social models and historical interpretation. Social models and historical interpretations are now the backwater. Move the fiery indignation of this Anarchist, and that Marxist, over to the same shelf with the preacher who believes God created all life 4000 years ago. Continue to wave the red and black flags of countercultural dissent, but know your historical coherence is no longer a point of confidence.

All points of confidence come from giant computing processes such as Google. All else is a coherence of lies. The next steps for progress should be the removal of psychologists and social theorists from law enforcement and jurisprudence. Let the machines track the crime [like this], decide the guilty, and assign the sentence. Humans just intervene with their social models and pollute the process. After beta testing in the realm of law enforcement, move on to war and diplomacy.

Below are key concepts and phrases lifted from The End of Theory, and then a link to the article.

  • No semantic or causal analysis is required.

  • All models are wrong, and increasingly you can succeed without them.

  • It calls for an entirely different approach, one that requires us to lose the tether of data as something that can be visualized in its totality. It forces us to view data mathematically first and establish a context for it later.

"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? The point is they do it, and we can track and measure it with unprecedented fidelity. With enough data, the numbers speak for themselves."
The End of Theory: The Data Deluge Makes the Scientific Method Obsolete -Chris Anderson

1 comment:

The Serpent Lord said...

There is a conflict in science which cannot and should not be resolved: the conflict between ideas and evidence. Scientific method is very difficult to explain in simple terms because it is a spiraling interaction between ideas and evidence. In google search for example the search terms might be thought of as ideas and the results as the evidence. You can then use the search terms themselves as data, and do so recursively, but the conflict between whatever is used as an idea and whatever emerges as evidence at any given moment still drives the process.

Historically scientists seem to lean back and forth between emphasizing ideas or evidence, some even expecting to find an ultimate end in pure thought or observation. The best-known names in ancient greek philosophy favored logically coherent thought experiments to possibly illusory empirical data, but some of their equally accomplished though less famous contemporaries were grounded in empirical observation. Muslim scientists in the middle ages preferred the playful and personal impact of gathering empirical data and using that to revise or simplify existing theories, as did many of the european scientists of the renaissance.

But notice that these historical waves are observed by focusing on long stretches of slow progress. This is not the dynamic conflict that drives science but simply the ebb and flow of what is inherently an unstable process.

Today we are surfing a big wave of data which produces startling and interesting evidence every day. This is sometimes upsetting to an establishment which has become comfortable with popular ideas whose empirical basis is weak (psychoanalysis, political ideologies and their historical narratives, string theory, etc.) But it is very exciting if you are interested in things which are more easily modeled and analyzed with the help of machines than pure thought experiments (economics, ecology, biology, evolution, learning, engineering, software, etc.)

A generation ago we scratched nudy pictures on metal plaques and hurled them into space in case some alien scientists wanted to know about the genitalia of people who had nuked themselves out of existence on the third planet of some boring class G star. Now we are actively searching for their planets, and have a reasonably good chance of finding them by gathering and interpreting a huge amount of information. I think we would be well-advised to use these instruments to improve our self-understanding as well, rather than making our most important decisions based on theories rooted in the factory work, psuedoscience, scriptural interpretation, marketing campaigns and peculiar class-specific gender roles of previous centuries.