Tuesday, April 03, 2012

We Think Like Our Fields

Have lunch with economists and they'll talk about the decision making processes and equilibriums of everything from politics to sports. Computer scientists worry about the misuse of information. Systems people create policies that look like computer programs. Mathematicians internally create models of society and derive consequences from it. I find myself treating the world as one large computational process. Isn't it?

It's not just academics, I've seen the same kind of thinking from lawyers, doctors and business owners. In one sense this isn't a bad thing. It's hard to reason about the world and using our tools and talents to makes sense of it all helps us cope with society. We all have our own religion whether it be spiritual or scientific. 

The problem comes when we just hang with our own, in our social networks both in person and online. We start believing that everyone else thinks the same way we do. Then we have difficulty working with people outside our community and that just isolates us even more. 


  1. Working strictly with like-minded specialists has the immense practical advantage that no-one will raise Robinson Jeffers' trick / stupid / awkward question:


    Why must the careful gifts
       of good men

    Narrow the lives and erode
      the souls of people, as trader's

    Whiskey unravels a run of savages?

    Conversely, to the degree that a person or a discipline evolves working and/or provisional answers to Jeffers' question, then transdisciplinary enterprise becomes easier, even natural.

  2. One of Lance's best posts, EVER.

  3. Dear Google and Dear Lance,
    *After* I've signed in with my Google account (typing my password again even though I'm logged into Gmail on another tab), I am required to solve two Captchas to "Prove that [I am] not a robot"? And then my comment will be visible after *approval*? Wow. This blog must get a lot of troll comments (like this one ;)

    1. The spammers are a bigger issue than the trollers.

  4. Lance's post is classic largely because it is exceptionally well-timed. Most researchers appreciate — younger researchers especially — that if we regard STEM capabilities as akin to a wingsuit, and the 21st century as a process akin to Grinding the Crack …

    … then right now, in the year 2012, we have arrived at frame 00:33 … which is a seriously committing frame, eh?

    SAIL! :)

  5. I like this post a lot. This thinking is much needed given the large number of non-communicating islands we have created within science and the distance we have inserted to the rest of society

  6. I do not see any problem. The polytope get tighter and tighter around established ideas, phrasing problems in more uniform language, that creates more uniform thinking. That is perfect for the communication and optimization, but terrible for singularities, which define revolutions (say, in science). Overall, the world become boring automaton without surprise or free will. And part of this culture is due to enforced believe in P \ne NP - forget about creativity - there is non. And since we do not understand outsiders - they have to die- either mentally, if they find another job, or physically, if they are not agree in looking one.