Thursday, June 19, 2008

The death of intuition

That was the intuitively chosen title of Ian Ayres book, but supercrunching techniques showed it to be a stupid name and changed it to Supercrunchers. The book has done well, so clearly intuition is dead right? Wrong! Some kinds of intuition have been slain, which is terribly sad for people like doctors and (primary school?) teachers, but this is actually a good thing.

Couldn't the story of the modern world be titled "The Death of Intuition"? Bertrand Russell's buddy Alfred North Whitehead said, "Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking"

Science's primary virtue is that it doesn't trust the intuitions of current bigshots (we think they're more likely to be right maybe). Once science really has something to say about some natural process, like, say, the appropriate orbit for a satellite, your intuition really is no longer required.

The past 300 years have not been kind to any number of treasured intuitions. The thing is though, that once a problem is solved there are plenty of more difficult ones lying around to keep smart people busy and supercrunching will be of limited use.

No comments: