Sunday, September 06, 2015

Zero One Thinking

Given the incredible power of computers, it boggles the mind that essentially they boil down to strings of instructions based on zeros and ones. Yes and No. Left and Right. Light and Dark. On and Off. Rationality is all about providing rules and process for deciding the optimal decision. But what is optimal? Most of my formal training has been in rational, logical, statistical, mathematical thinking. It has been a search for strategic mistakes and errors in thought. The study of making better decision. This is the way I have been taught to view Science. That if you can't state something in a way in which you are making a useful prediction, that can be proved wrong, it isn't Science. It may be beautiful. It may add value. But it isn't Science.

Obviously Scientists don't own language. People use the word 'Science' to mean various things. People who refer to themselves as Scientists mean various things. Lay people mean various things. It may simply be used interchangeably with knowledge/fact/rigour/systematic study. The definition I use when using the word comes from Karl Popper and 'Conjectures and Refutations'. Specifically a quote I love.

'These are men with bold ideas, but highly critical of their own ideas: they try to find whether their ideas are right by trying to find whether they are not perhaps wrong. They work with bold conjectures and severe attempts at refuting their own conjectures.' Karl Popper

Last night I watched Ex Machina. It sent my mind spinning, and is an awesome look at what intelligence actually is. One interesting part is the discussion of Hardware, Software and Wetware. Our minds are effectively ridiculously advanced computers, but computers that makes lots and lots of mistakes. We forget things. We struggle to focus. Our decisions depend on our moods. There is no right and wrong, there is just different. If a mistake is made, there is always a next decision that matters more. The computers we currently have are great at doing mundane boring things. We want to automate mundane boring things. We want computers at toll booths and cleaning toilets so that the people who were doing those tasks can spend the time visiting old age homes, calling their Moms and Dads, or Kuiering. A lot of out time is wasted on stuff that isn't interesting. Computers are great at boring. Interesting is where we rock, and interesting is wet. Interesting empowers rationality by adding emotion, relationships and context. Interesting removes the ability to generalise and opens the ability to learn.

Happiness may lie in decisions, but not in the way we think. Not in the Zero One Thinking. The making of the decision may be the interesting bit - the raw, messy, individual, connected, moment as things change.

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