Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 33, No. 472. Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London Hosted by King's Digital Lab www.dhhumanist.org Submit to: firstname.lastname@example.org Date: 2019-12-09 01:08:20+00:00 From: Jim Rovira
Subject: Re: [Humanist] 33.467: failure & simplification I think Willard's genius consists in asking the best questions. C. M. Sperberg-McQueen's recent response to Willard's question about simplification has led my own thinking along these lines: Let's not worry about simplification, oversimplification, or complexity, and if they're getting things "right" or "wrong." Let's perhaps talk instead about kinds of pattern recognition: simplification draws with big lines in crayons while complexity draws with fine lines, textures, and shading. In other words, they paint different pictures allowing the viewer to focus on different kinds of patterns. My own belief is that the reality of most matters is infinitely complex, especially naturally occurring matters, so all levels of pattern recognition are simplifications. They only become "oversimplifications" when the kind of pattern recognition that we engage in leaves out significant meaningful detail *for our current purposes*. In other words, the question about simplification only applies to specific tasks or queries performed on the matter at hand. Are we oversimplifying *for the kind of information we want? * Now let me explore another avenue too briefly: suppose would could completely replicate a natural system in all of its complexity at all levels: say, completely manufacture a blade of grass from the subatomic level up? What would we have gained? I think that exercise would only demonstrate our mastery of the knowledge that we've already attained. Our real learning would take place over the course of numerous failed attempts. That's where I see the attempts to replicate a human brain going: we will never succeed. It is I think ridiculous to think we ever could. But I think what we learn through our failures might be instructive. And who knows? We may produce something useful in the end. It won't be a human brain, or even anything approaching one, but it might be something else we hadn't considered until we tried. Jim R _______________________________________________ Unsubscribe at: http://dhhumanist.org/Restricted List posts to: email@example.com List info and archives at at: http://dhhumanist.org Listmember interface at: http://dhhumanist.org/Restricted/ Subscribe at: http://dhhumanist.org/membership_form.php
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