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    nmw 20:46:50 on 2016/12/30 Permalink
    Tags: binary logic, , certainty, , don't know, , , , , , linguistics, , modal logic, modal verb, modal verbs, mode, modes, , natural science, , , , , , , , , , , three state logic, , , , ,   

    The Rationality of Uncertainty 

    When I was learning science in high school, I was mesmerized by the notion that scientific facts were true, myths were false, and there were still things that needed to be „figured out“. I was very impressed by the way computers were all about 1’s and 0’s (it wasn’t until much later that I learned computers didn’t actually divide truth and falsehood quite that neatly). Several years ago, I made a graphic image that shows the difference between the way it appears that humans think vs. the way it appears that computers think.

    Note that I didn’t label which side represents human thinking vs. computer thinking. What we usually experience when we use computers is either TRUE or FALSE – we are not normally aware that there is actually a „DON’T KNOW“ state in between those two extremes. About a decade ago, I was very adamant about three-state logics.

    Several decades ago, when I was just embarking on dissertation research (which was never finished, but that story is beyond the scope of this article), I was very adamant about something called „modal logic“ – a field in philosophy (and linguistics) which focuses on human modes of thought (such as „knowing“ vs. „believing“). Since humans often make references to such modes, I was hoping to unlock a hidden treasure behind such concepts. Yet they remain elusive to me to this day, even though I may quite often be heard to utter something like „I think…“ or „I believe…“ or indeed many such modes (usually using so-called „modal verbs“).

    I think the less room we allow for such modalities – the smaller the amount of space we make for cases in which we acknowledge that we really don’t know, the more likely we are to make mistakes / errors.

    Statisticians might be very cool to acknowledge „type 1“ and „type 2“ errors without even batting an eyelash, but for most regular folks it makes a world of difference whether we want X, whether we fear Y, whether we hope or wish or whatever.

    Such very human modes of thought are rampant in our everyday lives and thinking, yet they are not given very much (or even any) room in the computer world. When there is no room whatsoever for „maybe“, then I predict the algorithms processing the data will probably be wrong.

     
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    nmw 11:24:52 on 2016/05/01 Permalink
    Tags: , certainty, , , , dialectics, disinform, disinformation, , , factual, , fictional, fictions, , , , interview, interviewing, interviews, misinform, , , , , , , , sense-unmaking, , , , ,   

    Sense-Making vs. Sense-Unmaking 

    One widely acclaimed methodology in information science is Dervin’s “Sense Making Methodolgy” (SMM). It is very similar to the way people often think about “storytelling”:

    Because communication is embodied and learned in impositional and constraining structures (families, communities, cultures, societies), SMM assumes that most spontaneous communication is, in fact, not spontaneous. Rather, spontaneity in communication invites habitual repetition of hegemony and habitus. Interrupting this usual-ness requires a different kind of interviewing — one based on verbs rather than nouns; one that allows for articulation time and conscientizing; one that gives individuals safety for expressing what they “really” think, feel, do, imagine; one that gives informants freedom to be variable, to be sometimes clear and sometimes muddled; sometimes very cognitive, sometimes emotional, sometimes both at the same time.

    — [ INTERVIEWING AS DIALECTICAL PRACTICE:
    SENSE-MAKING METHODOLOGY AS EXEMPLAR by © 2008, Brenda Dervin, School of Communication, Ohio State University, USA , page 13 ]

    In Professor Dervin’s approach, information is seen as the act of reducing uncertainty. The opposite — increasing uncertainty — would therefore be interpreted as something like misinformation or disinformation.

    Yet what if we — for example — remove the certainty that God exists? What if people believe a myth to be certainly true, and we remove that notion of truth?

    According to Dervin’s views, we would have robbed them the happiness of being confident that their beliefs are true — and in increasing their uncertainty, they would feel less well-informed.

     
  • Profile photo of nmw

    nmw 11:02:27 on 2015/04/27 Permalink
    Tags: absolute, absolutes, , certainty, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   

    Neither Not at All Nor Completely 

    I often make fun of people who say things like “that is so true“… but I must admit: there appears to be nothing more true than the fact that throughout our entire existence we can experience nothing beyond some limits — the extremes of which are not included — namely: We must live our entire life spans in between “not at all” and “completely”. This is one thing my father has incessantly hammered home: There is no 100%. And likewise: There is no 0%. Of anything. Of any proposition. There are no absolutes. Somewhere in that list, I took over — because it is my father who still keeps searching for absolutes; I am the one who has given up on that idea.

    Existence is a funny thing. We must always co-exist. If the other half doesn’t exist, then neither do we. We are always also everything that we are not.

    I could keep going on entertaining you with philosophical aphorisms, but that is not what I wanted to write about. Firstly, I needed to say what I said first of all. Beyond that, I also want to talk about language again.

    In a sense, language is that other thing. We use it. It’s a technology, just like phones or shoes or a hammer. We grab pieces of it, throw it around, bang it against walls, build other stuff with it… but it is no more a part of us than our own genes are. Oh, wait a minute… — It is a little bit a part of us, isn’t it? It is a little bit the air we breathe. Wait. What was that?

    Wittgenstein was definitely onto something — well, not 100%, but pretty much. As I write these words, I give them meaning. As you read them, you also give them meaning (and I sure hope you give them more or less the same meaning as I do). We hammer away at expressions. We knock them around, sometimes we bend them out of shape, stretch them, give them new meanings. That’s life. 😀

     
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