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  • Reality lives in the details

    Posted by TM Lutas on August 24th, 2013 (All posts by )

    Sometimes you come across a comment that passingly mentions a central truth that you just want to climb up on a roof and shout it out to the world. That! Pay attention to that!

    Trent Telenko comments on his own excellent post:

    Reality lives in the details.
    You have to know enough of the details to know what is vital and to be able to use good judgement as to which histories are worthwhile and which are regurgitated pap.
    No one has bothered to do that with MacArthur’s South West Pacific Area, especially as it relates to the proposed invasion of Japan.

    Yes, reality lives in the details and we are living in a world that both has more of those details available and has fewer of those details capturing our attention. We leave important details unexamined and fixate on the exciting but unimportant details of celebrity and titillation.

    What makes the situation supremely frustrating is that it doesn’t have to be that way. Computers are both becoming cheaper and more powerful. We’re deploying new technologies such as the Semantic Web to fix it but the progress is agonizingly slow.

    Faster please


    11 Responses to “Reality lives in the details”

    1. Michael Kennedy Says:

      I was assured there would be no math.

    2. T.K. Tortch Says:

      “Yes, reality lives in the details and we are living in a world that both has more of those details available and has fewer of those details capturing our attention.

      Has it ever been different, other than (probably) the degree of distraction towards the trivial? When Carnegie and others started building libraries, weren’t the masses supposed to avail themselves of what was on offer?

      Actually, they did – but not to the degree and scope as public library boosters hoped. But life was tougher then, and folks could be excused for just taking it easy after a hard day’s work. It’s ironic that as Westerner’s lives have gotten easier, in terms of physical toil, and the ease of access to information and knowledge exponential’d, it seems that people are less capable of dealing with, using, or learning from facts outside their experience and expectation. Or maybe they just lack the desire. Even though the truth is out there – and it is! – if you don’t care to know, you won’t.

    3. Bill Brandt Says:

      How one interprets the facts is critical.

      And sometime the smallest seemingly insignificant things turn out to be important.

      Saw an interesting program on British WW2 photo interpreters – film brought back by recon Spitfires. One retired interpreter said that many tines the shadows cast by the object were more useful information than the object themselves.

      Talking about the V2 he said that the shadow it cast told them how tall it was.

      Who wouldda thunk it?

    4. Michael Kennedy Says:

      “Talking about the V2 he said that the shadow it cast told them how tall it was.”

      I wonder how many college kids would understand the calculation ? Eratosthenes knew the calculation and was able to comput the circumference of the earth with less than 2% error.

      Eratosthenes calculated the circumference of the Earth without leaving Egypt. Eratosthenes knew that, on the summer solstice, at local noon in the Ancient Egyptian city of Swenet (known in Greek as Syene, and in the modern day as Aswan) on the Tropic of Cancer, the sun would appear at the zenith, directly overhead (he had been told that the shadow of someone looking down a deep well would block the reflection of the Sun at noon). Using a gnomon, he measured the sun’s angle of elevation at noon on the solstice in his hometown of Alexandria, and found it to be 1/50th of a circle (7°12′) south of the zenith.

      I was struck by the interview of U of Wisconsin students waiting in line to hear Obama after the first debate. A large majority believed that he should be able to use his teleprompter in a debate. What happened to logical thinking among students ?

    5. Mrs. Davis Says:

      I was assured there would be no logic.

    6. Bill Brandt Says:

      That is a good question Michael – I would say logic disappeared about the same time “political correctness” appeared.

      But speaking of details my original Army MOS was intelligence gathering – and I was astounded at how much information a person can unwittingly offer with seemingly innocuous statements.

      Or by seeing visible things that would escape 98% of observers. But are significant.

    7. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      “On the contrary, Watson, you can see everything. You fail, however, to reason from what you see.” ~Sherlock Holmes

    8. PenGun Says:

      Actually, as we have access to pretty well all of human knowledge the rules of the game have changed.

      The semantic web is just a more interconnected, the internet as a database, web of structure. Certainly a step forward.

      In the old days we had access to a much more limited knowledge base, my massive collection of Scientific American, which I eventually tossed, was one of mine. When you have access to a limited amount of data logic is king. Linear reasoning would yield useful results. Now we are swimming in data a different approach is needed.

      It’s a gestalt method I use that just takes all data as opinion and looks for correlations. Even lies fall to this way of dealing with data as they are not internally consistent. You need to analyze your data and logic is very useful here but what you really need is useful data and logic is not always the best way of acquiring it.

    9. Trent Telenko Says:

      >>It’s a gestalt method I use that just takes all data as opinion and looks for correlations.

      There are patterns in the data if your mind is open to them. I just had a really interesting one pop out last night.

      I refer to this as “Meeting Capt. Obvious.”

      The Capt. shows up and does a very good blind-side wack with the “clue by four.” As I lay on the ground afterwards, I keep wondering why I missed that obvious pattern all these years.

    10. PenGun Says:

      The cluestick, an advanced form of a LART indeed.

    11. TMLutas Says:

      PenGun – Linear reasoning still yields useful results in identical and even similar conditions. Logic is just as useful as before. The problem of scaling up to deal with larger starting sets of data is real and different techniques do improve on previous techniques of application that have scaling issues. I’m nit picky on this because the body piles of the 20th century have a significant underlying commonality that a lot of the perpetrators seem to have tossed logic out the window. Messing with that seems to have significant negative externalities that pop out in non-obvious places.