One of the major effects of the existence of the Net is that it challenges the cartesian method and shatters the foundations of science. As the Net is still young and the traditions are old, comparatively, the effect is not yet clearly identified. But it is there already, and even if not named, it is like a secret ailment which manifests here and there, stronger and stronger.
That which provokes the disease is a lack of balance in the use of the various ingredients of the cartesian method. The disbalance is provoked by the effort to fit what is, what we understand and what we communicate about it into the mould of the era when the method has been invented. It just does not fit, therefore it overflows in unexpected ways.
What is. Better is to say what is more, compared with the time when the cartesian metod was invented. There is a new virtual world in the making. Huge quantities of structured data, alternative worlds evolved from seeds created by programmers, a whole new world of the Internet of Things in the making and, further away but really close though, an unification of the real world (defined as the one where Descartes lived and died) with these new, emerging ones.
The territory, suddenly, got much bigger.
What we understand. Better to say what we understand more than before. A huge body of scientific facts and discoveries which don’t quite fit ones with the others. Quantum mechanics with general Relativity has become an example for old boys and girls. We have models of the parts but we don’t understand C. Elegans with its 302 neurons. There is though a building understanding of the fact that we do understand much more, but the tools offer, each, only a limited point of view. There are looming suspicions that data alone (what is) has more to tell us than data filtered by a theory. We do understand, or starting to understand that semantics is only a tool itself, a map maker, not the territory of what is.
The many maps we have don’t fit, we understand.
What we communicate. Better is to say that we communicate today in unparalleled ways than before. But what we communicate is a very small, rigidly formatted part of what we understand. It is hard to communicate science, and the channel constraints are damaging the message.
We have so much to communicate and the semantic maps don’t serve well this purpose.
Going back at the time of the cartesian method, we see that it has been made as a tool for isolated minds and very limited data inflow. More than this, the cartesian method is a collection of prescriptions about how to better understand and how to better communicate the understanding, which makes the rational choice for those times, but an irrational one for our times:
- it privileges what we understand over what is,
- what we communicate over what we understand.
- Then it optimizes what we communicate for the situation of one human mind which lays down the output in a book.
The book is then supposed to be distributed and multiplied by means which are not of interest for the author, and then to hit other minds in an unidirectional way.
Descartes writes a book, then somebody else writes another book where he challenges or supports the ideas of a Dead Descartes Book, then yet another one writes a new book which contains references to the Dead Somebody Else Book. That’s the way of the science and Descartes proposed a wonderful path which ensures that the various Books are well written and contain Text as a sort of a program which can be easily debugged.
Descartes rules apply in an indiscriminate way to what is, what we understand and what we communicate about it.
Evidence and details in these two posts: