Friday, November 25, 2005

A thought experiment, just for fun

I typically, for a brief dose of humor, will go to the Dilbert site some point in my day. As I browsed to the daily comic strip I noted a link to Scott Adam’s free e-book entitled God’s Debris. Here is a part of the introduction:

The central character in God’s Debris knows everything. Literally everything. This presented a challenge to me as a writer. When you consider all of the things that can be known, I don’t know much. My solution was to create smart-sounding answers using the skeptic’s creed:

The simplest explanation is usually right.

My experience tells me that in this complicated world the simplest explanation is usually dead wrong. But I’ve noticed that the simplest explanation usually sounds right and is far more convincing than any complicated explanation could hope to be. That’s good enough for my purposes here.

The simplest-explanation approach turned out to be more provocative than I expected. The simplest explanations for the Big Questions ended up connecting paths that don’t normally get connected. The description of reality in God’s Debris isn’t true, as far as I know, but it’s oddly compelling. Therein lies the thought experiment:

Try to figure out what’s wrong with the simplest explanations.

What I found interesting is that, at least, sounds very much like the "simple design principle" that is advocated, correctly in my view, by the Agile Extreme Programming methodology.

In addition to this, I also found of interest related to software development was a discussion of pattern recognition and usage. In the chapter, Science, the central character states:
Computers and rocket ships are examples of inventions, not of understanding," he said. "All that is needed to build machines is the knowledge that when one thing happens, another thing happens as a result. It’s an accumulation of simple patterns. A dog can learn patterns. There is no 'why' in those examples. We don’t understand why electricity travels. We don’t know why light travels at a constant speed forever. All we can do is observe and record patterns." (P. 22)
In any event, instead of getting my daily fix of humor I got much more, a jolt to my thinking about fundamental questions. That, in my possibly warped view of entertainment, is for more enjoyable. Moreover, perhaps the joke is on me since I do not know nearly as much as I foolishly thought.

No comments: