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Saturday, April 26, 2014

On the true nature of knowledge

@pickover suggests that these two books, in theory, contain the sum total of all human knowledge. "The Joy of Logic", he remarks (via @DavidFCox).


"What they teach you at Harvard Business School" + "What they don't teach you at Harvard Business School"


Why is this wrong? Because knowledge doesn't follow the laws of elementary arithmetic. Adding two lots of knowledge together doesn't give you twice as much knowledge. (Does anyone really think that teaching children creationism as well as evolution will double their education?)

Knowledge is like light. When you add two light beams together, you may sometimes get more light. But you may also get puzzling patches of darkness. This is called interference. In high-school physics we learn that this is because light is a wave. If the two waves are out of phase, they cancel each other out.

(Curiously, uncertainty is also like light. When you add two pieces of uncertainty together, you may get less uncertainty. This is called hedging. Works best when the uncertainty is out of phase.)


Obviously these two books are out of phase.


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