Blog Post

The true complexity of the world outstrips our ability to fully explain it

Posted to Gurteen Knowledge-Log by David Gurteen on 28 April 2019



The true complexity of the world outstrips our ability to fully explain it
WeblogGurteen Knowledge Log
Knowledge LetterAppears in the Gurteen Knowledge Letter issue: 226
Posted DateSunday 28 April 2019 18:51 GDT
Posted ByDavid Gurteen
PeopleDavid Weinberger

I have long been an admirer and follower of the work and thinking of David Weinberger ever since he was one of the authors of The ClueTrain Manifesto in 1999.

He still never fails to have an impact on me in his writing. Recently he wrote a Medium article entitled Machine Learning Widens the Gap Between Knowledge and Understanding.

It's a ten minute read but here is the jist.
We humans have long been under the impression that if we can just understand the immutable laws of how things happen, we'll be able to perfectly predict, plan for, and manage the future.

We have, therefore, made it our business to know how things happen by discovering the laws and models that govern our world.

Given how imperfect our knowledge has always been, this assumption has rested upon a deeper one.

Our unstated contract with the universe has been that if we work hard enough and think clearly enough, the universe will yield its secrets, for the universe is knowable, and thus, at least, somewhat pliable to our will.

But now that our new tools, especially machine learning and the internet, are bringing home to us the immensity of the data and information around us, we're beginning to accept that the true complexity of the world far outstrips the laws and models we devise to explain it.

Our newly capacious machines can get closer to understanding it than we can, and they, as machines, don't really understand anything at all.

David goes on to give some good examples, the bottom line, however, us that AI can discover relationships between things in the world that we humans will never be able to, given the size and complexity of the data, even though the AI software has no understanding of the world. In David's words:

"We need to give up our insistence on always understanding our world and how things happen in it."

A new world is dawning,

If you are interested in Knowledge Management, the Knowledge Café or the role of conversation in organizational life then you my be interested in this online book I am writing on Conversational Leadership
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