I’m working my way through a couple of texts and a travel piece, but I wanted to briefly comment on this blog post by Techiavellian. Whether you know what a denial of service attack is or you don’t, he makes a couple of important points about the way we argue in the digital age.
I won’t repeat Techiavellian’s basic point – he describes the ways that argument happens on the Internet pretty powerfully, and he identifies the potential pitfalls as well. What I think is particularly interesting is that I think he identifies what happens when Kuhn’s paradigm shift happens in ways that I hadn’t thought about before.
After all, that accumulation of data that happens when a scientific paradigm shift occurs has to come from somewhere, and Kuhn assumed it came from science itself, as the weight of information that contradicted the initial paradigm eventually came to help scientists realize that they needed to work from a new theoretical foundation.
I remember how my own mind felt blown when I first encountered Kuhn’s magnum opus, and I thought about how maybe science’s claim to preeminence felt a bit less based in a clear, unbiased view of the data presented to it and more in the human desire to hang on to an explanation that works. The bit of a blow to scientific egos felt like something we could weather, and indeed most scientists I know acknowledged some awareness that Kuhn was onto an explanation of sorts, even if it left blanks.
What I didn’t get (thanks Techiavellian!) is that perhaps this process has gradually eroded our cultural confidence in expertise in general, in ways that have led to things like the election of a president who seems to believe that he knows all things in his gut, like a god, or Jabba the Hut. Maybe this explains the general failure among all of us to believe the experts (or at least give them a good listen), unless our life happens to be in their hands, like an airplane pilot or a raft guide or a heart surgeon.
If this erosion works like a DOS attack, then, as Techiavellian argues, where does the answer lie? Do we develop better filters? Identify known sources of bad information and eliminate them? Or is there a better solution, one that doesn’t involve defense or offense but openness?
When you figure it out please let me know…in the meantime I’ll just be here guiding my raft…