Unreal Nature

May 26, 2008


Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 7:39 am

From an interview of Alison Gopnik, Ph.D., Professor of Developmental Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley:

“… The tradition that comes from Carnap and Quine and other people says that the way science works is that we never start from scratch, we always have some sort of theory about what the world is like. But we also have enormous degrees of freedom in terms of how we can modify and revise and change our theories in the light of new evidence.

“When I looked at kids, that’s much more what babies look like. The idea is that the kids are not born as blank states — they are born with innate theories about how the world works. But unlike the Chomskian picture, they can and do revise pretty much anything in those theories in fundamental ways as they interact with the world and get more information and knowledge.

“The neurological evidence supports this view that early on you have massive flexibility. There is this enormous number of different things that could all happen and the connections and pruning of the nervous system are happening at a great pitch. What you have at the end, as an adult, is this lean mean machine. This machine that’s really good at doing things very quickly, and not having to sit and explode before deciding what to do. So I think the trade off is we lose flexibility and learning capacity as adults, but we gain in terms of automaticity and efficiency of implementing the things we’ve already learned.

“For scientists, it is important we don’t completely lose our flexibility because what we do is get ourselves back into that baby mode of simply exploring things for the sake of exploring them.”

“… going to the 7-11 with a two-year-old is like going to get a quart of milk with William Blake. It takes you four times as long, but you suddenly realize that this incredibly boring couple of blocks is actually full of riches and excitement, novelty, and things to look at and find out about.”

For photographers, too, it is “important we don’t completely lose our flexibility”; that we be willing to “simply explor[e] things for the sake of exploring them”. That we be willing to “modify and revise and change our theories in the light of new evidence” — about picture content as well as editing and processing techniques.




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