Wednesday, January 2, 2008

What have you changed your mind about?

Edge's World Question Center asks "What have you changed your mind about?" One of my favorite responders is Stewart Brand of the Whole Earth Catalog and, more recently, How Buildings Learn, who writes:

As a landlocked youth in Illinois I mooned over the yacht sales pictures in the back of sailboat books. I knew what I wanted — a gaff-rigged ketch! Wood, of course.... Well, I bought a sequence of wooden sailboats. Their gaff rigs couldn't sail to windward. Their leaky wood hulls and decks were a maintenance nightmare. I learned that the fiberglass hulls we'd all sneered at were superior in every way to wood....

The message finally got through. Good old stuff sucks....

The Precautionary Principle tells me I should worry about everything new because it might have hidden dangers. The handwringers should worry more about the old stuff. It's mostly crap. (New stuff is mostly crap too, of course. But the best new stuff is invariably better than the best old stuff.)

I was going to say that I'm in the process of changing my mind about snow (here in northwest Indiana we're well into our second foot and it's still coming), but I think that's just aging, not mind-changing.

1 comment:

Paul Botts said...

That's an interesting question they posed, to which a large fraction of the answers are actually attempts to push familiar political agendas, and/or amount to highly-intellectual versions of "the world is going to hell in a handbasket". But some of them are more interesting than that:

"The Wikipedia is impossible, but here it is."

Here's an interesting theory about the reason for persistent differences between the life patterns of men and women ("among males, the variance — the difference between the most and the least, the best and the worst — can be vast. So males are almost bound to be over-represented both at the bottom and at the top. I think of this as 'more dumbbells but more Nobels'...."):

A prominent researcher who had first predicted global cooling explains how and when the data changed his mind:
And Chris Anderson, author of "The Long Tail", says "I was a climate skeptic and now I'm a carbon zealot":

Michael Shermer, author of "Why Darwin Matters", has changed his mind about human nature:

Steven Pinker, one of whose books I recently read, has changed his mind about human evolution:
And his compatriot recently published that research about how "culture can change our genes":

A prominent psychologist sings my favorite song about statistical illiteracy:

A different perspective on the online-privacy debate including the recent Facebook controversy:

"biology is patently unequal"

"I've long considered myself as working at the boundary between physical science and computer science; I now believe that that boundary is a historical accident and does not really exist."

"the public may be cautious but is not reactionary."