Friday, July 11, 2008

Beme: The End Of Theory?

Google is conquering the online world without any use for theories about why people click where they click. Say goodbye to theories, say hello to massive amounts of data, applied mathematics, and the ability to tract behavior with unprecedented fidelity. As this Wired article contends, the trend of prediction-without-theory has the potential to permeate the sciences, replacing the time-honored scientific method.

So get ready for the United States of Google, right? Not so fast. As Philip Anderson explains in this Seed article, the nature of emergence ("which says that when a system becomes large and complex enough, its constituents self-organize into arrangements that one could never deduce a priori, even though the laws of physics are obeyed") prevents even the Google processors from cracking the most mysterious questions of science (like the emergence of consciousness). So what tools should we use when dealing with emergence? Theory and the time-honored tools of the scientific method.

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