When you’re wrong, you’re wrong ?

   Posted by: Bricoleur   in cybernetics, Theories & Models

This entry is part 5 of 3 in the series Seeing Red
Your first time here? Welcome, I'm glad you've dropped in.... David Soul (aka Bricoleur)
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I was listening to an interesting , albeit very unstructured, discussion  on the radio the other day and one of the participants finally burst out: “Your model is simply wrong.” As if THAT settled the whole matter. Well I’m sorry, but that was not ‘game, set and match’ at all. However,  in the “interest of time,” the host stepped in and moved the discussion to another important matter of the day.

Of course, any “properly constructed” model (and I’ll just sidestep the problem that those words entail for now), is of course neither “right” nor “wrong” – it is simply “more” or “less” useful.  At best it can be extremely useful,  it certainly can’t be “right.”  This, of course, is fodder for those who would halt all progress on the basis that we must wait until we get “the model right.”

I think Isaac Asimov had one of the best responses to this sloppy thinking when he described this incident:

“The young specialist in English Lit, … lectured me severely on the fact that in every century people have thought they understood the Universe at last, and in every century they were proved to be wrong. It follows that the one thing we can say about our modern ‘knowledge’ is that it is wrong.

… My answer to him was, “… when people thought the Earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the Earth was spherical they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the Earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the Earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.”

— Isaac Asimov

What makes me see red is that, in general,  our primary and secondary education left out any thinking of models – and as a society we continue to suffer for it. Worse, there is no attempt that I can see to address this fundamental shortcoming.

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Tags: cybernetics, model, models

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