Why Science is Wrong But Technology is Always Right
Scientists Continue to Apologize for The Strength of Their Method While Technologists Bath in Adoration Despite the Weakness of Theirs
I intend no disrespect to the author (Zat Rana) of the above linked article. It is a well written and crafted post that any medium author would be proud to call one of their own. That said it is also a classic example of the “explanation of science for the masses” piece, which I usually find misguided and unhelpful. Mostly, because articles like these always read as an apology of sorts. It is as if we (scientists) should be ashamed of the impressive successes of our method because we are so often proven wrong. My fear is that this only serves to reinforce the message that science is always proven wrong eventually, so don’t believe what they say today, as it will be wrong tomorrow. Ironically it is the exact opposite of the message the author intends. The “how science works” article has a well worn formula. In the protoyptical version, often but not always written by a scientist, the reader is given a brief history of the great ideas of science through the ages and shown how each of those ideas has been proven wrong with time. The author believes this historical perspective will show the science naive reader how scientific understanding has improved with time, and illustrate with real world examples the strength of the scientific method. I think that for a small subset of readers it does this successfully. Unfortunately that subset is made up of persons already pre-disposed to think that way about science (i.e. other scientists and highly educated professionals). The vast majority of readers that are not scientists and do not have such education or training do not see it that way. They see only the out of touch scientists who think they know something being shown the error of their ways over and over and over again. They think to themselves if has been that way in the past it must be the same way in the present. These scientists that think they know something today are just like the ones who thought they did back then, they are wrong now just like then.
Meanwhile this same subset of the population (the vast majority) are treated to an onslaught of puff pieces hyperventilating about the latest smart phone, or some (non-existent) AI “breakthrough”, or a “think piece” telling them how machines learning is going to “revolutionize” something or other. Never do we see the “How technology works” article explaining that there is no AI and maybe never can be, or describing how the term machine learning is made up of two words that when combined in that order results in a logical contradiction and something which is logically impossible, a learning machine. Machines can’t learn for if they did they would no longer be machines. Instead they hear the latest ridiculous thing said by 1970s mustachioed porn star Elon Musk (aka John Barrowman aka Captain Jack Harkness from the new Dr. Who) and they are told that they should listen and care for he is a modern day oracle. And when the latest and greatest technology is buggy and crashes and is only marginally “improved” over the last latest and greatest they are told it is their own fault for not being “tech savvy” enough. The next time one of my diagnostic tests fails to work I am going to try that line on the user of said test and see how far it gets me. “Sorry, you just aren’t science savvy enough to make it work.”
Science is often wrong because that is how science works and we get pilloried for it. Technology is often wrong even though it doesn’t have to be and should not be, and they get cheered. It’s f-ed up and if you can’t tell it is just a bit frustrating and annoying to me.