Thursday, August 14, 2008

It’s The End, he tells ya!!

Dammit, but I don’t have time to essay how and why I believe this guy is wrong, wrong, WRONG!

Just to begin with, I think the kind of science he’s advocating is at the Skinnerian, behavioural psychology level of understanding, whereby it’s shown that a dog salivates because it sees a nice tasty Shmacko.

Having said that, I should add that Chris Anderson’s piece is a fascinating and challenging read nonetheless.

So please enjoy “The End of Theory: The Data Deluge Makes the Scientific Method Obsolete” by Chris Anderson (editor in chief of Wired magazine).

Just for a taste:

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 more we learn about biology, the further we find ourselves from a model that can explain it.

There is now a better way. Petabytes allow us to say: "Correlation is enough." We can stop looking for models. We can analyze the data without hypotheses about what it might show. We can throw the numbers into the biggest computing clusters the world has ever seen and let statistical algorithms find patterns where science cannot.

Heavens, isn’t formulating, testing and eventually discarding ‘models’ half the bloody fun?



Anonymous Anonymous said...

"But faced with massive data, this approach to science — hypothesize, model, test — is becoming obsolete."
It will only become obsolete when it ceases to be useful: pragmatism in the end trumps googlisation of petabytes of data. Ultimately science is by and for people who can use it. To use it they need hangers to hang it all on and hold it all together. Even Venter needs a conceptual framework for his discoveries.
The day the supercomputer produces that, it will be ready to design the next generation of supercomputers unaided. Perhaps even build them. Then we can all retire with our surfboards and guitars and leave them to it.
Oh and HAL... A bit more lime juice in my next Margharita please.

4/9/08 11:00 PM  
Blogger Jacob A. Stam said...

Thanks for your remarks, Anon., with which (if I had the time to essay on your thoughts (or, for that matter, Anderson's)) I'd by and large somewhat agree.

But I don't so I won't, and by the way HAL's a dog that just don't hunt.

5/9/08 1:00 AM  

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