Right, so I’m starting a new blog. Why is that?
Considering that I’m a lazy person, why should I bother?
Turns out that, as always, when I engage on something that costs me considerable effort, I have more than one motivation:
First, I’m in the process of testing my own ideas about the world, human nature and other trivia. I’m trying to create a coherent discourse, and see if the result is still a heap of disorganised junk or not. That means writing, a lot of writing, and a blog is a good way to make writing a stable part of your own routine: it is good exercise, at the very least.
Second, while I am trying to write for my “off-line”, more scholarly project(s), I come across lots of ideas that don’t really fit with my current subject, but may well find their own place in the future, so the plan is to write them as blog posts, leave them relatively disorganised in their own little page, and possibly pick them up at a later time.
Third, of course, if my own views will attract some interest, it would be personally gratifying.
It’s also possible that I have other, less conscious reasons, but I’m satisfied that the list above is a reasonably complete description of my motivations.
Next: what would I write about? I don’t know, but I suppose it will reflect my own interests:
I have an education on neurobiology, work as a software developer, play a little guitar, get excited about politics and about human stupidity (yes, the latter two subjects are linked). I also have lots of fun just thinking, so you may expect some sort of philosophical discussions on the subjects above, along with whatever else catches my attention.
Another fixation that I have is about premises: I think most intellectual mistakes, most interpersonal trouble, and in general, many human problems arise because we usually overlook premises. In fact, I’ve waited a long time before writing this because I wanted to be able to give a fairly honest account of the premises that underlie my own thought processes, so to clarify them in the initial post.
This is what I’ve figured out so far:
- I believe that reality exists, and that it’s unique. If I jump, I won’t escape into the outer space, but will naturally fall back down. If I want to get inside my house, I’d better make sure the door is open before I try. I also believe that the same statements apply to all other people on planet earth. So that settles it: reality exists and applies to everyone and everything in the same way.
- Things get more complex when I think of what I know of this reality, or what knowledge is. To me, all of my knowledge can be seen as a collection of models of reality, and every model of reality that I may hold is shaped and defined on the basis of its purpose. For example, I use an essentially Newtonian model of the physical world that, despite the well-known fact that Newtonian physics doesn’t work neither at cosmological nor microscopic scales, it is still good enough because its purpose is to allow me to interact with the world without breaking things and bumping on every obstacle. On the other hand, if I need to design a wireless network in the office, I may use a different model that includes some elements of electromagnetism and other awkward non-Newtonian stuff.
In short, I see a model as a symbolic description that reduces the relevant elements of reality to corresponding equivalence classes, and links them with causal connections. It allows simplifying the business of making predictions without having to take into account the whole complexity of the universe.
When I say that the whole of my knowledge is a model, I mean that I have many different models at my disposal, that I use one or the other according to my current purpose, and that every single bit of usable information that I process belongs to one of the models that I “know”. That’s right: when I stop and search for the keys of my front door, I do this because I’ve seen that the door is closed, that is, some light stimulated my retina, and somehow this was recognised as my own front door, and a closed door. See the model in there? I didn’t see the single photons, I saw my own door.
- Still about my beliefs: if knowledge is always a model, then all knowledge is false. OK, this seems a bold statement, a little explanation is due: all models are, by definition, a simplified, symbolic description of their object, or, if you wish, an approximation. Hence, they contain some error, they are never, nor try to be, entirely true. But of course, some models are better than others, because even if none of them is error-free, some will still make more reliable predictions than others. Hence, an important part of my discourse is about how good a given model is, and on the importance of striving to constantly improve the models that I use.
- This leads to science, as science works in a very similar ways. Important parts of scientific effort are aimed to refine existing models, and when this is not possible, to create new models that allow overcome the known limitations of the pre-existing ones. Science doesn’t claim absolute truth, it claims to generate knowledge by using information collected from reality (evidence) and use it to build models of reality that are as accurate and as fit for purpose as possible.
- Finally, I believe that this process of constant refinement and occasional re-invention of reality representations (models) is inherently good and that it is what makes my own life worth living. In other words, my ultimate motivator is an insatiable hunger for knowledge: I just can’t get enough of it.
So, in conclusion, I’ve managed to expose another motivation of my writing: I get pleasure by exploring and refining my own understandings, I believe that doing so is inherently good and therefore I think that, if my own knowledge is of some value, it is also a good idea to share it.
If you’ve managed to read all of the above then there is a chance that you may find the rest of this blog interesting, or at least amusing. Otherwise, well, it’s too bad, and irrelevant, ’cause you’re not reading this, right?