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Gut feel

Posted by daniel on January 6, 2005 at 8:46 AM PST

What do you believe is true?

The World Question Center has asked scientists and science minded
people What do you
believe is true even though you can't prove it
. As Alan Kay
writes in his answer, "Guessing in science is done all the time, and
the difference between what is real and what is true is not a big
factor in the guessing stage, but makes all the difference
epistemologically later in the process."

Kay's answer talks about the guess he "made in 1966 about objects
not that one could build everything from objects that could be proved
mathematically but that using objects would be a much better way to
represent most things. This is not very provable, but like the
Internet, now has quite a body of evidence that suggests this was a
good guess. Another guess [..] is that what is special about the
computer is analogous to and an advance on what was special about
writing and then printing. It's not about automating past forms that
has the big impact, but as McLuhan pointed out, when you are able to
change the nature of representation and argumentation, those who learn
these new ways will wind up to be qualtitatively different and better
thinkers, and this will (usually) help advance our limited conceptions
of civilization."

Check out the answers from the 120 people surveyed. Esther Dyson
answers " I think modern life has fundamentally and paradoxically
changed our sense of time. Even as we live longer, we seem to think
shorter. Is it because we cram more into each hour? Or because the
next person over seems to cram more into each hour?"

Keith Devlin answered "following Descartes, I can prove to myself that
I exist, but I can't prove it to anyone else. Even to those who know
me well there is always the possibility, however remote, that I am
merely a figment of their imagination." As a recovering Mathematician,
I think that Devlin has demonstrated something I know but can not
prove: when you pose a perfectly reasonable question to a
Mathematician they will tend to frame a response that is correct but
responds to a question that interests them more than the one they were
posed. After arguing "that proof is, in practical terms, an
unachievable ideal," he concludes "you have to take a common sense
approach to proof