Simon DeDeo on Good Explanations & Diseases of Epistemology

What makes a satisfying explanation? Understanding and prediction are two different goals at odds with one another — think fundamental physics versus artificial neural networks — and even what defines a “simple” explanation varies from one person to another. Held in a kind of ecosystemic balance, these diverse approaches to seeking knowledge keep each other honest…but the use of one kind of knowledge to the exclusion of all others leads to disastrous results. And in the 21st Century, the difference between good and bad explanations determines how society adapts as rapid change transforms the world most people took for granted — and sends humankind into the epistemic wilds  to find new stories that will help us navigate this brave new world.

This week we dive deep with SFI External Professor Simon DeDeo at Carnegie Mellon University to explore his research into intelligence and the search for understanding, bringing computational techniques to bear on the history of science, information processing at the scale of society, and how digital technologies and the coronavirus pandemic challenge humankind to think more carefully about the meaning that we seek, here on the edge of chaos…

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