In a recently released edition of the Journal of Field Archaeology, Brown Assistant Professor of Anthropology Parker VanValkenburgh and several colleagues detailed new research they conducted in the former Inca Empire in South America using drones, satellite imagery and proprietary online databases. Their results demonstrate that big data can provide archaeologists with a sweeping, big-picture view of the subjects they study on the ground — prompting new insights and new historical questions.
Using the data they collected, VanValkenburgh, Wernke and Saito created a comprehensive map of every known Spanish-founded colonial settlement, or reducción, stretching from Ecuador to Chile, allowing those who study the region to understand the ebb and flow of social life on a multi-country scale. (1)
People moving around. Like ants. Big Data will reveal things and details. Analysis will show patterns and will reveal motives. But it will never reveal anything for the baker who wakes up in the morning to bake bread. It will not show anything about the children playing in the dirt. Big Data will not show anything about a man dying and his wife crying next to him.
Big Data can show everything.
But at the same time they show nothing.
Why care about revealing new information for past civilizations? Will we be wiser if we know patterns which were not even consciously known even to the people at that era? Civilizations are not built on data, patterns or systems analysis. They are built on cries and laugher. They are built on blood and despair.
And Big Data will never show anything for these things.
Take a good look at the laptop running the analysis.
Scientists long assumed that new genes appear when evolution tinkers with old ones. There are studies suggesting that genes do not always evolve from existing ones, as biologists long supposed. Instead, some are fashioned from desolate stretches of the genome that do not code for any functional molecules. For example in the fish genomes, there are hints that this might be the case: the antifreeze protein — essential to the cod’s survival — has seemingly been built from scratch. (1)
In other news, a research group has discovered a novel cancer-driving mutation in the vast non-coding regions of the human cancer genome, also known as the ‘dark matter’ of human cancer DNA. (2)
Funny, but (philosophically) totally expected.
It is not the useful which produces something useful.
Look from a distance and you will see.
Everything is useless. Until they are useful in some way.
Everything is useful. Until they stop being such.
Stop defining something from its results.
And you will see light even in the deepest darkness…
Does a mass on a mammogram indicate breast cancer? Will Serbia be a member of the EU by 2025? Will there be more floods in Germany in five years’ time? The diagnoses and predictions made by doctors, scientists, and experts often have far-reaching consequences. And in many cases, it is only years later that it is possible to say which expert made the right call most often.
An interdisciplinary research team from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and the Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries has developed a simple new method that can be used to identify the best decision-makers from a group of experts without having to know whether their decisions — past or present — are correct or incorrect. “Providing that at least half of all decisions made within the group are correct — which is typically the case in expert groups — and that each person has made about 20 yes/no decisions, this method has proved to work very well,” says Max Wolf, researcher at the Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries and co-author of the study.
The method was developed on the basis of insights into collective intelligence. It rests on a simple assumption: Those individuals in a group of experts who make decisions that are most similar to the decisions of others also make the best decisions. For yes/no decisions, this assumption is easily confirmed by means of mathematical modeling. To test whether the method also works in real groups, the researchers analyzed published predictions and diagnoses made by various groups in different fields. (1)
Great method. Which also seems to work.
But should we trust it?
Be aware of the things which work.
Decisions of most people tend to be correct. But from when do “most of the people” reach the correct decision on any of the great philosophical questions? The truth is never revealed to the many. For even if that seems so now, at the end you will see that the path was wrong.
We strive for live.
We are afraid of death.
What is life?
What is death?
Trust not the many but the one man standing aside the crowd silent.
It is there that you will find the truth screaming…
About Children’s Philosophy: A series of articles that will show how small children answer the greatest philosophical questions of humanity. Philosophers need to question everything. And in order to do that, one must think as a child again!
One can find wisdom in crazy persons and in children. So that is what I did: I asked the greatest philosophical questions to a seven years old child. And the answers were amazing.
Some of them you can find in various posts hidden in Harmonia Philosophica (e.g. in the There is no death article). This is an attempt to gather the major answers of the child here.
Humans have been pondering on big questions of philosophy for thousands of years now. And yet, no definitive answers have been found. Harmonia Philosophica tries to guide humans to these questions by promoting non thinking and irrationality, for this is the only way to discard all dogmas and think freely. The child provided great input that helps us enhance our faith in the path we have taken.
A child thinks with no premises, no dogmas, no prior knowledge of things. In that way one can say that a child’s thought is more close to non-thinking than to thinking. This way of thinking can be a true revelation for a grown up who is too used to the things he or she already ‘knows’. True philosophers and scientists alike question everything.
Are you ready to stop thinking in order to think?
Let’s see what the child had to say…
EPISODE 1: Does death exist?
Truth puzzles are an invention of Harmonia Philosophica that helps someone formulate a ‘solution’ to the great philosophical questions of human mind. In these ‘puzzles’ you have all the basic elements of philosophy and all you have to do is connect them with lines or arrows to indicate their relationships. There are no rules on how to do that and that is the basic rule: there are no predefined rules on how to think!
One can read the Truth Puzzles article here to learn more about that method of philosophical investigation.
Details set aside, what is of interest here is that I have a Truth Puzzle to the child to complete.
The instructions were simple: My child, take that page and draw lines or arrows between these words.
An important note is that the child did not have English as its mother tongue so it was difficult for it to understand the words, let alone the fact that the child could not in any case be fully aware of the meaning of the words in the Truth Puzzle anyway due to its age.
After a minute the puzzle was completed. And the result was astounding.
What I saw was that…
The child had connected with lines all elements on the page except one: Death!
Besides the importance of the coincidence that the word Death was the only one omitted (Read the ‘There is no death‘ article for that), another important thing we should always keep in mind: There are no rules on how to think! I had thought that one should connect all elements I had written on the page, but the child showed me that this should not be the case!
Lesson learned: There are no rules on thinking! Question everything! Especially the things that you don’t!
That is how philosophy and science progress!
EPISODE 2: What is Being?
I once asked a child ‘What is Being?’.
I have the question written on a piece of paper and waited to see how this difficult philosophical question will be tackled by a seven-year old brain.
After a minute, the answer was handed back to be.
“What is Being?” – “A word”
To my astonishment the child answered that “Being” is a word. Thinking in a simple manner is and has always been a trait of wise men and women. And children. Yes, Being is a word. Perhaps the best answer to our great philosophical questions cannot be found through Logos but through the experience of life and existence itself.q
Lesson learned: Don’t think too much about questions that you yourself has invented. Question everything. Especially yourself!