Saturday, September 1, 2012

Being a scientist is being human

The figure below is roughly that from page 1045 of Russell and Norvig's Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach, 3rd edition.  It is a simple description of what it is to be human. (Of course it's oversimplified, it takes up less than a page!)  We look at the world with our senses and observe what it is like.  We have some idea of how the world evolves, what actions we can perform, and what our actions do.  We use a value system to decide what is best to do at any given moment.

A scientist does the same things.  S/he may simply put more effort into it, work harder and more carefully at it.  Scientists sense the world, perhaps with refined instruments.  We want to know what the world is like, perhaps in more detail than the man-on-the-street.  We want to know how the world  evolves, again, perhaps in more detail and on various scales.  As scientists we act, perhaps augmented by machinery.  Hopefully we use a more refined value system (see my blog of  21 Sept.  2010) whereas unaided humans have a simple network of drives and aversions.

We are all scientists.  To be an intelligent creature is to be a scientist.  As professional scientists we just work harder at it.  Scientism is in our inherent nature.

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