Re: Algorithmic Revolution?

From: <>
Date: Thu, 21 Nov 2002 12:40:52 -0700

RS wrote on one level how the algorithmic revolution
was "epistemological". I objected to this partly. let me
quote the dictionary defn of epistemology

epistemology-- the branch of philosophy that deals with
the nature and theory of knowledge.

now in newtons time, science was seen as a branch of philosophy.
however in modern times, philosophy has become somewhat disconnected
from science and followed its own course. so to me to label a genuine
scientific paradigm shift "epistemological" seems to downplay its
significance somewhat as a little too abstract. the scientific revolution
is not merely about a different way of seeing the universe, but a different
way of interacting with it. (experimental method, etc.)

this is exactly
the way in which I insist the "algorithmic revolution" be interpreted
as I outlined.. not "merely" a shift in the way
we view the world. (unfortunately
"paradigm shift" terminology sometimes implies a merely conceptual,
subjective shift in view, partly due to kuhns perspective, but a
paradigm shift means much more than a mere psychological rearrangement.)

next, RS defines the clockwork metaphor in terms of the newtonian
revolution. this is very reasonable and there is a high correlation.
however I would argue the clockwork paradigm is ongoing. the
clockwork universe involved multiple new ways of seeing the
world. one of them, indeed, was newtonian mathematical laws
for physics, gravitation, etcetera. another was determinism,
ala the famous laplacian quote re: atoms as billiard balls.

however another was simply, "universe as mechanistic". the clock is a
machine. the clock metaphor proposes the universe runs like a kind
of automated machine subject to mathematical/physical laws.

lets be very careful to define "clockwork universe metaphor" in terms
of the accurate history of its origination, not from our modern point
of view. note that in the middle ages, prior to
the newtonian revolution, the previous paradigm for the concept
of "force" was something sometimes involving supernatural aspects.
the world was presumed to be set in motion by god & influenced
by various spirits, entities, etcetera in ways not fully conceivable.
this is what the clockwork metaphor replaced.

the "universe as mechanistic" theme from the clockwork metaphor
persists to this day. einsteins relativistic theory involved the
consideration at clocks in moving frames.
when physicists analyze particle dynamics,
or even search for a TOE as we are here, I would say the clockwork
metaphor is still alive. its still ticking, so to speak.. wink

again, let me contrast the algorithmic metaphor for the universe
with the clockwork one. even in newtons time, the idea was
that the universe ran **like** a clock. it was a metaphor. but
the zuse-fredkin-wolfram idea of the universe is that the
universe evolves not merely **as** a computation, but that it
**is** a computation.

therefore, imho the algorithmic metaphor
is actually more than a metaphor, more than the clockwork model
was a metaphor. its not merely a paradigm shift I would say, its
something more. its a new model, a new system, a new framework.
its comparable to newtons discovery
of the law of gravitation if the program can be successfully
carried out.

is the algorithmic idea incorrect? someday we will probably
notice that it has its deficiencies just as the clockwork idea
did, but we will not discard it entirely, just as we have
not discarded the clockwork universe idea.

so imho to say the clockwork metaphor for reality is "wrong",
is (uh) wrong. imho its a simplistic/facile rejection of a
still-legitimate paradigm.
Received on Thu Nov 21 2002 - 14:54:50 PST

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