Five Things I Don’t Believe…

  1. That global warming is a big deal. It’s because of listening to the radio in the mid ’70’s and hearing all those stories from experts about how there wouldn’t be any oil in 1990. They made sense at the time, global warming makes sense now. But I don’t really believe it.
  2. That open source software is new and different. What puts me off is the hype about the whole Cathedral and Bazaar, Coase’s Penguin, Sand Pile & Power Laws, Economics of Networks, and Long Tail thing. It’s all what I think of as "Wired Thinking" (after the magazine) — it’s not entirely without merit, and it’s not completely stupid, but it has no sense of history and so it’s not nearly as smart or original or new as it thinks it is. Speaking of which….
  3. That quantum computing will ever amount to anything. Anything that features the word "entanglement" so prominently is more new age than physics. The EPR thought experiments were dreamed up 70 years ago. Nothing interesting came out of them in the first 60, so why should anything interesting come out of them now? This is a field driven by its cool-sounding name (remember "quantum chaos" anyone?), and it’s just possible enough that it could be important, complicated enough that it can be portrayed as cutting edge to likely patrons and smart-but-impressionable graduate students, and far enough out to be not easily disproved.  Speaking of which…
  4. That nanotechnology is new. Come on people, it’s just chemistry and engineering. All that talk of "self-assembly" is just a new word for "chemical reaction" but it sounds oh-so-edgy. Get over it.
  5. That the world is flat (in the Thomas Friedman sense of the world). This one really should not need saying. It’s clearly a case of what Daniel Davies calls "globollocks" but it seems to be taken as obviously true by a big section of the business community. ‘Nuff said.
  6. (Because no one expects the Spanish Inquisition). That whole idea of memes. Yes, I enjoyed Dawkin’s Selfish Gene, Dennett’s Consciousness Explained and Blackmore’s Consciousness, An Introduction. But I just don’t see what the idea of a meme adds to any discussion about anything at all. Really.

Why do I think I’m entering the "grumpy old bastard" phase of my life? Anyone else got any things they don’t believe?

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  1. I believe that, unfortunately, what passes for “nanotechnology” today is just chemistry, downsized. Yet, an imaginary “nanotechnology industry” has duped the American people, and the press, into believing that the government is actually funding nanotech.

  2. Now you’ve gone and coaxed nutters like me out of the closet. As someone who is quite ignorant about science, much of it seems like bunk to me. Some cases in point:
    – Medical science. Everything from medical research that is not based on animal/human testing is suspect. Correlation does not imply causation. Someone found a link between higher birth rates and storks flying overhead. Nuff said.
    – Astrophysics. Big bang? Pulleeze. Not enough evidence. Just because a theory is internally consistent doesn’t make it true, although I guess it matters little when a topic is indisputable by any standard other than internal consistency.
    – Anthropology. Big theories based on fragmentary evidence. Then they find another bone and change their minds… or worse, they don’t. (Neanderthals never existed but were merely early humans with iodine deficiency, anyone?)
    – Economics. (I know, it’s not really science.) Value-laden theorizing laced with some interesting insights. At best it provides one framework for looking at society.

  3. I don’t believe that you can count, Mr Whimsley 🙂
    Actually, I don’t think that global warming, quantum computing, nanotechnology or memes care what anyone thinks – they just are, or will be (although that argument gets a little convoluted for memes).
    Tom Friedman? – well, that’s another matter!

  4. Quantum computing may be a superposition of “just are” and “just ain’t” depending on how we measure it.

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