Reductionism is great. The main problem is that by itself it tells us nothing new. Science depends on hypothesis generation, and reductionism says nothing about how to do that in a rational way, only how to test hypotheses rationally. For some reason the creative side of science -- and I use the word "creative" in the generative sense -- is never addressed by methodology in the same way falsifiability is:
We are at a stage of historical enlightenment where more and better reductionism is producing marginal returns. To be even less wrong, we might spend more time on the hypothesis generation side of the equation.
Agreed. Why would we believe a quark is not "emergent"? Could be turtles all the way down....
Emergence is NOT the sum of the parts.
I'm curious, Eliezer, what you think of Alex Ryan's and Cosma Shalizi's definitions/formalisms of emergence?
http://www.per.marine.csiro.au/staff/Fabio.Boschetti/papers/ITprimer.pdf http://arxiv.org/pdf/nlin/0609011 http://www.cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/thesis/single-spaced-thesis.pdf
The both seem to be claiming that emergence is more than you are, but that could be an illusion...
For me the key to leveling up is to question every assumption (often) and find sources of novelty regularly. I liken cognition to a hill-climbing search on the landscape of theories/models/maps that explain/predict reality. It’s easy to get stuck on peaks of local maximality. Injecting randomness creates a sort of Boltzmann machine of the mind and increases my chances of finding higher peaks.
But I have to be prepared to be more confused — and question more assumptions than I intended to — because chances are my new random placement on the landscape is initially lower than the local maximum I was on prior. This part is scary. People around me don’t understand what I’m saying initially because I necessarily need new words, new language, to describe the new landscape.
And rather than start totally afresh with a new lexicon, I notice it’s more productive (personally and in communication) to overload old terms and let them slowly blend into their new meanings. We all resist the strain, especially those who did not sign up for the jump through hyperspace. They use the hill-climbing techniques that incrementally achieve higher ground (logical deduction, reductionism) in order to deny that we are in new territory at all and “prove” every new claim as false. But unless we eliminate most or all of our old assumptions and embrace the new ones, these techniques will always yield inconsistency.
Thus, it seems like a good idea to resist the urge to bring to in the heavy logical artillery until it’s clear we are on the upslope. In practice what this means is adding more novelty — but not as much as last time. This is the Boltzmann technique of simulated annealing: start with a high degree of heat/randomness and turn it down slowly, all the while pounding away with the tools of logic and reduction.
More here: http://emergentfool.com/2010/03/07/science-2-0/