Thursday, December 31, 2009

Monday, December 28, 2009

Michael Shermer on 'Magical Thinking'

"Science doesn’t come naturally, because it requires additional cognitive steps, beyond just the basic pattern-seeking, pattern-connecting, connecting the dots behavior we all do that’s known as superstitious thinking. This is what I call “patternicity” (in “How We Believe”), the tendency to find meaningful patterns in random noise. Now, sometimes patterns are real and sometimes they’re not. And we make two kinds of errors. A Type 1 error, which is a false positive: you think the pattern is real, and it turns out it’s not; and a Type 2: you think the pattern’s not real, and it turns out to be real. So let’s take an example. Think of our selves back in a Paleolithic environment, in a dangerous world, and there’s a rustle in the grass. Is it the wind, or is it a dangerous predator? Well, you make a Type 1 error and you think, well, it’s probably a predator, so I’ve got to move away and be cautious, and it turns out it’s just the wind. There there’s no harm. That doesn’t take a big investment of energy. But if you make a Type 2 error and you say it’s just the wind and it turns out it’s a dangerous predator and you stand there and become lunch, you’re now taken out of the gene pool.

So I’m arguing that there is a natural selection for: “Just assume all patterns are real, and operate accordingly”. And of course, that’s just magical thinking. That’s association learning, that’s just connecting A to B and assuming there’s always a connection."

-- Michael Shermer

What does simulation want?

Simulation and Its Discontents
Sherry Turkle

"Over the past twenty years, the technologies of simulation and visualization have changed our ways of looking at the world. In Simulation and Its Discontents, Sherry Turkle examines the now dominant medium of our working lives and finds that simulation has become its own sensibility. We hear it in Turkle's description of architecture students who no longer design with a pencil, of science and engineering students who admit that computer models seem more "real" than experiments in physical laboratories.

Echoing architect Louis Kahn's famous question, "What does a brick want?", Turkle asks, "What does simulation want?" Simulations want, even demand, immersion, and the benefits are clear. Architects create buildings unimaginable before virtual design; scientists determine the structure of molecules by manipulating them in virtual space; physicians practice anatomy on digitized humans. But immersed in simulation, we are vulnerable. There are losses as well as gains. Older scientists describe a younger generation as "drunk with code." Young scientists, engineers, and designers, full citizens of the virtual, scramble to capture their mentors' tacit knowledge of buildings and bodies. From both sides of a generational divide, there is anxiety that in simulation, something important is slipping away."


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Bruno Dicolla

Many people believe that they are attracted by God, or by Nature, when they are only repelled by man. ~William Ralph Inge

Monday, December 7, 2009