Going Out of My Mind in Jandiayacu

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2 Responses

  1. Balloonatic Nuncle says:

    Scientific systems of thought and recording knowledge are fantastic, but they are only one of many ways of understanding and relating to the world. They work in certain fields, and are a good method for developing further understanding, but they often break down when several systems inter-relate under complicated conditions, which is why, despite all of the science world’s sophisticated models and measuring systems, we still lack mastery in our knowledge of things like the weather and how societies function. The human brain intuitively grasps this, which is one reason why we don’t always think rationally.

    An example from probability illustrates this: reverse fallacy. If a coin is tossed twenty times and lands on heads every single one, you might bet that it will land on heads again thinking it foolish to choose tails. According to the mathematics of the situation, there should be an equal chance of it landing on either, but your brain is telling you to go with experience. Explaining this to a mathematician, you might describe your choice in quasi-mystical terms—a preternatural “feeling” about what will happen next—and he/she will tell you that your thinking is irrational.

    But what happens next? The coin is tossed a twenty-first time and lands on heads again! Then a twenty-second! Hooray! The mathematician investigates and later discovers that there is a previously unseen bias in the coin or toss. It turns out that your “feeling” was totally justified, and, although your explanation of the bias was not scientific and rational, it still happened to be correct.

    And this indicates where and how research can work effectively. If the mathematician above insists on talking in terms of probability based on abstract mathematical concepts, then he/she will always find the gambler illogical in not realizing that there is an equal chance of heads and tails on the twenty-first coin-toss. Likewise, the gambler might consider the mathematician’s explanations too conceptual. However, if the mathematician is willing to listen to the gambler on the gambler’s terms, they can both push on to a deeper understanding of what is going on, i.e. a combination of forces in a more complex system than initially envisaged. Ultimately, they both approach and express the situation differently, but neither is wrong.

    Field research is likely to contain similar situations to the above. After all, scientific thinking suits societies with sophisticated instruments for taking objective measurements, long histories of writing through which these measurements can be recorded and the resources to dedicate professionals to the collection and analysis of data. If a society doesn’t have access to these things, they are likely to store and interpret information in a totally different way, one which is memorable, vivid, symbolic and combines different fields together. It is for the researcher to access, understand, admire and learn from these alternative systems of thought, and I think the writer here understands that point well.

    All the best going out of your mind, Mr Byrne.

  2. Balloonatic Nuncle says:

    P.S. Sorry, hope I didn’t give the wrong idea of reverse fallacy here. It is supposed to be a “fallacy” after all. Please think of it as a way into the point I am trying to make in this comment rather than an accurate description of the term, which is really supposed to highlight errors in gamblers’ thinking. I’m kind of twisting that idea to my own ends.

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