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Humanist Archives: Oct. 17, 2019, 4:23 a.m. Humanist 33.323 - being heuristical and disciplinary

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 33, No. 323.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
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        Date: 2019-10-17 03:17:53+00:00
        From: Tim Smithers 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 33.317: being heuristical

Dear Willard,

To Gigerenzer's heuristic as "incomplete...  but useful," and your
adding in of Simon's "bounded rationality," we could, I think, usefully
add Simon's satisficing.

 From Wikipedia  we

    Satisficing is a decision-making strategy or cognitive
    heuristic that entails searching through the available
    alternatives until an acceptability threshold is met.

Simon further observed (again from the Wikipedia page)

    that "decision makers can satisfice either by finding
    optimum solutions for a simplified world, or by finding
    satisfactory solutions for a more realistic world.  Neither
    approach, in general, dominates the other, and both have
    continued to co-exist in the world of management science."

When building models we do one or the other.  Good modelling
requires us to know which one we are attempting.

Turning to your second arriving first post.  Interdisciplinary
has always seemed to me to be an oxymoron.  All scholarship
needs discipline.  Between disciplines suggests
not-disciplined.  But, if you are disciplined, albeit in a new
way, you can't be not-disciplined, nor, therefore, between
disciplines.  If the Digital Humanities needs a term here,
then it seems to me multi-disciplinary is better than
interdisciplinary.  (Successfully bringing together different
disciplines, in my experience, needs plenty of helping

Treading yet further where perhaps I ought not.  The
Humanities are, I would gently suggest, the collection of
disciplines concerned with all the ways and consequences of
being Human.  Digital Humanities could then cover two things:
the study of all the digital ways and consequences of being
Human; and, using digital approaches and techniques to study
all the ways and consequences of being Human.  I would say
Digital Humanities should mean both these.

What's given?  New kinds of ways of knowing and understanding
being Human, and new ways of studying all the ways of being
Human.  Digital Humanities expands the Humanities.  Sort of
like Computational Fluid Dynamics expands Fluid Dynamics, but
in a much broader sense.  Or perhaps like AI expands Cognitive
Science, if you take AI to be the investigation of
intelligence by trying to create it in the artificial.

In this sense the Digital Humanities are ready for anything
that the Humanities are ready for, and some more.

Best regards,


> On 15 Oct 2019, at 08:59, Humanist  wrote:
>                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 33, No. 317.
>            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                   Hosted by King's Digital Lab
>                       www.dhhumanist.org
>                Submit to: humanist@dhhumanist.org
>        Date: 2019-10-14 07:47:59+00:00
>        From: Willard McCarty 
>        Subject: being heuristical
> Forgive me for yielding to the overpowering temptation to jump in with a
> suggestion following my own question.
> In "Fast and frugal heuristics: The tools of bounded rationality" (in
> Blackwell Handbook of Judgment and Decision Making, ed. Koehler and
> Harvey), psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer cites Einstein's use of the
> originally Greek term 'heuristic' to mean an idea that is incomplete,
> due to the limits of our knowledge, but useful. Gigerenzer goes on to
> comment that,
>> The advent of computer programming gave heuristics a new prominence.
>> It became clear that most problems of any importance are
>> computationally intractable, that is, we do not know the optimal
>> solution, nor a method for how to find it. This holds even for
>> well-defined problems such as chess, the classic computer game
>> Tetris, and the traveling salesman problem.... The same uncertainty
>> holds for less well-structured problems, such as which job offer to
>> accept, what stocks to invest in, and whom to marry. When optimal
>> solutions are out of reach, we are not paralyzed to inaction or
>> doomed to failure. We can use heuristics to discover good solutions.
>> (pp. 62-3)
> The phrase "incomplete... but useful" is what struck a chord, for
> modelling (which is what we do) is by definition exactly that, at least
> when done well. This is too broad a scope to demarcate a field, of
> course, but add to this a limitation as one of the "sciences of the
> artificial" (Herbert Simon's phrase, like "bounded rationality"), might
> we have something to go on?
> Yours,
> WM
> --
> Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/),
> Professor emeritus, Department of Digital Humanities, King's College
> London; Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews
> (www.tandfonline.com/loi/yisr20) and Humanist (www.dhhumanist.org)

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