Monday, April 27, 2015

Great Point By Donald Campbell On Simultaneous Invention

I've written about simultaneous invention before. This is from Donald Campbell in the book Evolutionary Epistemology, Rationality, and the Society of Knowledge (p71, 1987):

"A major empirical achievement of the sociology of science is the evidence of the ubiquity of simultaneous invention. If many scientists are trying variations on the same corpus of current scientific knowledge, and if their trials are being edited by the same stable external reality, then the selected variants are apt to be similar, the same discovery encountered independently by numerous workers. This process is no more mysterious than that all of a set of blind rats, each starting with quite different patterns of initial responses, learn the same maze pattern, under the maze's common editorship of the varied response repertoires. Their learning is actually their independent invention or discovery of the same response pattern. In doubly reflexively appropriateness, the theory of natural selection was itself multiply independently invented, not only by Wallace but by many others. Moreover, the ubiquity of independent invention in science has itself been independently discovered."
Here's a piece that Campbell wrote wrote for Interdisciplinary Collaboration: An Emerging Cognitive Science [sample PDF]:
"Rather than praying, 'May I be a competent and well-read X-ologist, may I keep up with the literature in my field,' a scholar will pray, 'Make me a novel fish-scale. Let my pattern of inevitably incomplete competence cover areas neglected by others.' Each scholar would then try to have a pattern of journal subscriptions unique to his or her department, university, or profession. Noting that the scholar and a colleague were reading the same set of journals, the scholar would feel guilty and vow to drop one of these in favor of some other. Recognizing that the interdisciplinary links in the collaborative web of knowledge are the weakest, the scholar would give up some in-group journal in favor of an out-group one. The scholar would feel guilty if he or she did not cut attendance at in-group conventions to attend relevant out-group ones, and so forth."
It's good to read widely.

1 comment:

whydibuy said...

Sure, lots of things will be discovered sooner or later based to the march of technology and understanding. Its said of Einstein that he was maybe 50 years ahead of his time but advances in technology and astronomy made the discovering of the laws of relativity inevitable. He was just the first to put the pieces together.