Friday, December 26, 2014

Simplification

A recent paper in Nature and Communications that demonstrates that wave-particle duality and the uncertainty principle in Physics can be explained by the same fundamental theoretical constructs, is instructive at multiple levels. First, incentives in the scientific and academic world has long been skewed toward the ability to publish – and often this means repackaging old wine in a new bottle. And, second, educational systems world over have missed a trick – learning the “established theories,” is a sheer waste of time for the next generation. In Physics, Medicine and Economics, most established theories are known to be wrong – as they do not explain observations or provide complex explanations that cannot be tested.

Engineering progress – largely based on empirical approximations of incorrect theories – does not necessarily mean that the knowledge content of humans is increasing. In some sense, it is the opposite. Educational institutions strive to drill complexity into the heads of budding engineers and doctors – draining any innate creativity. In effect, Universities manufacture zombies and automatons, steeped in tradition and the status-quo, unable to question or even think beyond what is in the text books. The idea that text books could be wrong is a major shock to the “educated,” as they have invested most of their lives learning what has been written down. But, writing something down and perpetuating it across generations, does not necessarily mean that it is correct. Modern technologies allow more rapid propagation of ignorance.

Simplification has to be the fundamental building block of knowledge creation in a world, mired in complexity and misaligned incentives.