[Humanist] 23.314 resistance to new ideas

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Wed Sep 23 07:02:27 CEST 2009

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 23, No. 314.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    Joris van Zundert <joris.van.zundert at gmail.com>          (102)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.312 why ideas don't catch on

  [2]   From:    Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>          (23)
        Subject: more on resistance to new ideas

        Date: Tue, 22 Sep 2009 11:34:51 +0200
        From: Joris van Zundert <joris.van.zundert at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.312 why ideas don't catch on
        In-Reply-To: <20090922060043.CCF143B10C at woodward.joyent.us>

Dear Willard,

Maybe somewhat over provocative put: I thought this was kind of standard
practice in academia? Isn't the whole sluggish peer system intended to stop
good ideas from getting adopted unless welcomed by establishment - certainly
in our field where the concept of 'proof' is still a hazardous contemplative
area to go? I have a rather Darwinian take on this: if ideas fit a
particular context they will eventually be adopted and maybe even practiced.
So ideas that find large response might not actually be the best ideas
(depending on your viewpoints and interests), but they certainly are most
fitting their environment.

The nice addition then is (in Darwinian sense) that ideas don't necessarily
go extinct when not meeting their proper context immediately. Like seeds
they may only be activated after numerous years. Until their time comes they
just wait with everlasting patience on the paper of some journal in some
forgotten corner of some library.

And for all other practical purposes, until the survival of the fittest idea
shows what actually is usable and of value, anyone doing research should
regard his ideas as fundamentally brilliant to further the discussion.

-- Joris

Mr. Joris J. van Zundert (MA)
Huygens Institute IT R&D Team
Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences

Contact information at http://snipurl.com/jvz_hi_en

        Date: Tue, 22 Sep 2009 16:13:26 +0100
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: more on resistance to new ideas
        In-Reply-To: <20090922060043.CCF143B10C at woodward.joyent.us>

Nothing particularly new, or surprising, but perhaps useful just the 
same: more from Pamela McCorduck, specifically addressing the resistance 
to AI, and so to new ideas in science, but applicable quite generally.

> What moves [science], what opens the universe for us, is a dogged
> pursuit by committed individuals of a hunch, a theory, a feeling. If
> this hunch runs against the prevailing beliefs, the theoretician can
> expect skepticism, even such penalties as being removed from
> committees or denied funds or a job. If lucky, our theoretician can
> at least expect attack. If unlucky, he or she will be ignored
> altogether. It takes an astonishing strength of personality or an
> unusual disregard for social approbation to be original in science,
> or anywhere else. More often than not, an astonishing strength of
> personality is a pain to put up with. As a consequence, scientific
> arguments transform themselves into feuds that are painful, comical,
> unedifying, but scientifically energizing. (Machines Who Think, p. 172)

Where are our feuds?


Willard McCarty, Professor of Humanities Computing,
King's College London, staff.cch.kcl.ac.uk/~wmccarty/;
Editor, Humanist, www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist;
Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, www.isr-journal.org.

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