14.0417 backward-downward hypnotic search

From: by way of Willard McCarty (willard@lists.village.Virginia.EDU)
Date: 10/25/00

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 417.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
             Date: Wed, 25 Oct 2000 20:10:02 +0100
             From: "Osher Doctorow" <osher@ix.netcom.com>
             Subject: Backward-downward hypnotic search with a little night 
    music (BDHSLNM)
    I have an idea.  Hypnotize a humanist A and a mathematician or theoretical
    physicist B.  Tell the humanist that he will learn quantitative thinking
    almost instantly and tell B that he will learn the humanities almost
    instantly.  Turn them loose in the library.   A will go to B's section and
    start at the top - the most difficult mathematics/physics in the library.  B
    will do likewise with A's humanities.  They will discovery shortly that they
    do not know everything almost instantly, so they will back up a tiny step
    and study the next backward step which leads to or implies the most
    difficult step (e.g., the previous theorem or page or theory).  Continuing
    this way, A will learn maths or physics backwards completely, B will learn
    humanities completely, but of course both learn them by a reverse process.
    Neither A nor B need go all the way backwards - have them stop when they
    seem to make sense and report that they understand what they are doing.  My
    question is then, why cannot we use the above idea with humanities and/or
    quantitative computers.  "Tell them" that they know everything about one or
    both fields, instruct them to back up one small step if they do not
    understand the most difficult questions which we pose (the method of backing
    up being analogous to the above).  Not only will they learn and isolate
    methodological primitives (if we do it right), but they will bridge the gap
    between humanities and science/mathematics and computers.  Right or wrong?
    (Notice that we have not contradicted Socrates, since the computers are
    essentially defining and learning backwards.)

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