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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Long Now: the future of scientific methods

Kevin Kelly, editor-at-large of Wired, former publisher of the Whole Earth Catalog, was invited by Stewart Brand's Long Now Foundation last year to give a talk in San Francisco. Brand, creator of Whole Earth and MIT Media Lab groupie, started Long Now in an effort to shift humanity's thinking to consider the impact of our actions now will have on the next 10,000 years. (It's Isaac Asimov's overrated Foundation series made real.)

From the talk, in which Kelly predicts changes in scientific methods we will see in the next hundred years [emphasis added]:

I'm willing to bet the scientific method 400 years from now will differ from today's understanding of science more than today's science method differs from the proto-science used 400 years ago... I offer the following as possible near-term advances in the evolution of the scientific method.

Triple Blind Experiments – In a double blind experiment neither researcher nor subject are aware of the controls, but both are aware of the experiment. In a triple blind experiment all participants are blind to the controls and to the very fact of the experiment itself.
Multiple Hypothesis Matrix – Instead of proposing a series of single hypothesis, in which each hypothesis is falsified and discarded until one theory finally passes and is verified, a matrix of many hypothesis scenarios are proposed and managed simultaneously. An experiment travels through the matrix of multiple hypothesis, some of which are partially right and partially wrong.
Wiki-Science – The average number of authors per paper continues to rise. With massive collaborations, the numbers will boom. Experiments involving thousands of investigators collaborating on a "paper" will commonplace. The paper is ongoing, and never finished... Responsibilities for errors will be hard to pin down. Wiki-science will often be the first word on a new area. Some researchers will specialize in refining ideas first proposed by wiki-science.


Blogger Kate on Fri Feb 16, 07:46:00 AM:
Don't the first two names of these predictions sound like they belong to the lexicon of the sexual revolution of the sixties and seventies? And try to imagine what a wiki-relationship is, or better still, a wiki-marriage. Wiki-divorce settlement, anyone?