The Power Of Explanation: How It Sheps The World And Drives Human Progress
The power of knowledge can be truly astounding.
With the right explanation at hand, puzzles can suddenly become much easier to solve and mysteries may not seem as mysterious anymore.
But explanations do more than just this – they are what builds the foundation of human knowledge and progress.
In The Beginning of Infinity, you’ll embark on a journey to explore how this process unfolds and how it leads to potentially infinite progress.
You’ll learn why your senses cannot predict the future, why jokes share similarities with our genes, and how ‘memes’ decide culture.
You’ll also experience firsthand the awe-inspiring power that comes with grasping knowledge – when all the pieces come together, you’ll certainly be taken aback.
Theory And Conjecture Are The Real Sources Of Knowledge, Not Just Experience
The Empiricist idea that knowledge is derived solely from sensory experience is clearly wrong.
Even though you may have seen the sun rise multiple times, basing your knowledge of whether it will rise tomorrow solely on this observation would lead to incorrect conclusions.
For instance, if the day was cloudy you would think that the sun was not rising, when in fact it was.
The truth is that our knowledge cannot just be obtained through experience; instead, theory and conjecture are vital in determining what we can learn about the world around us.
As an example, we can observe stars with our eyes but to understand what is happening deep inside them, we need to go beyond mere observations and build theories of how stars work.
These theories can then be tested by looking at what we find in nature – observing and experimenting – allowing us to confirm their validity.
This shows us that knowledge isn’t just derived from experience; instead, theories and conjectures play a huge role in how we come to understand the world around us.
The Fundamental Difference Between Biological Adaptations And Human Knowledge Is That Biological Adaptations Can Replicate Even When Dormant While Human Ideas Must Be Expressed To Spread
Genes and ideas are both capable of replicating themselves in order to spread.
Genes do this by passing from one generation to the next, while ideas replicate through expression in behavior or speech.
For example, if an organism has a gene which gives it a survival advantage (such as the ability to digest certain types of food), it then has a better chance of producing offspring with the same gene.
In turn, these offspring would be even more likely to have children who carry the same gene, thus causing it to spread and become more widespread.
Ideas replicate themselves through expression in language.
If someone has heard a funny joke and memorized it, they can then spread it by telling that joke to others, thus creating ‘copies’ of that joke which can be shared with even more people.
Similarly, long-lasting concepts such as scientific theories or religious beliefs are replicated through humans talking about and sharing those ideas.
In summary, genes and ideas both spread by replicating themselves in different ways, but their ultimate goal remains the same: to survive and pass on their information for as long as possible – and beyond!
Dynamic Cultures Are Dominated By Rational Memes, While Static Cultures Rely On Anti-Rational Memes For Maintenance
Cultures are typically defined by the memes that they contain.
Depending on whether those memes evolve over time or remain static, cultures are said to be either static or dynamic.
Static cultures will have ideas which either don’t change or which change so slowly that it may as well be imperceptible.
These cultures tend to have customs, laws and taboos which prevent any kind of movement away from the existing set of beliefs – this is because some of their values rely on the status quo remaining in place, meaning that any kind of criticism is usually suppressed.
This kind of enforced maintenance can lead to anti-rational memes dominating the culture.
Dynamic societies, on the other hand, are ones which are driven by rational thought and critical enquiry – this makes them more prone to change through the introduction of new ideas being discussed and passed between people.
A good example would be societies such as many in the developed world who use critical thinking and scientific methodologies in order to push forward certain aspects of their culture – such as debates around the origin our universe.
It may seem counter intuitive but these kinds of societies also tend to last longer than static ones due to their continued commitment to advancing knowledge and idea generation.
The Incremental Development Of Systems Of Knowledge And The Jump To Universality
Systems of knowledge can be compared to writing systems, in that they don’t just appear but develop incrementally over time.
Take the earliest writing system for example; it used stylized pictures – known as pictograms – to represent words and convey meaning.
The “◌” symbol might mean “sun”, and the “↥” symbol might stand for “tree”.
As scribes added more words to their writing system, they soon realized that rather than creating new pictograms, it was easier (and more efficient) to add new rules instead.
For example, if a word sounded like two other words in a row, then they could just write the pictograms of those two words to make the new one.
In English this would mean that you could express “treason” by writing it as “↥◌” (tree-sun).
This makes the writing system much improved as more words can be communicated without having to create more pictograms.
But what really allows systems of knowledge soar is when they make the jump to universality.
This happened with writing systems too – when someone developed the alphabet, suddenly symbols could be mixed together in any way so that each word or phrase could be expressed by combining them together in whatever way was necessary.
Such improvements cause an immediate increase in reach for a system of knowledge and opens up possibilities for creating even greater forms of knowledge and understanding!
The Inevitable Irrationality Of Joint Decision-Making: Kenneth Arrow’S Nobel Prize-Winning Insight
The economist Kenneth Arrow proved in 1951 that it is impossible for groups to make rational and democratic decisions about their preferences in a way that reflects the will of the people.
His theorem, which became known as Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem, revealed this impossibility by laying down five elementary principles necessary for groups to make such decisions.
One of these is the “no-dictator” principle.
It states that the preference of one individual should never be taken as the preference of a group – so if one person wants hamburgers but everyone else wants pizza, then the group’s preference cannot be for hamburgers either.
Another principle states that if all members of the group have identical preferences, then those same preferences must be shared by the group.
Despite these seemingly logical principles, it is actually impossible to define a group’s preferences in a way that satisfies them all.
This finding won Kenneth Arrow a Nobel Prize and proves once and for all that special care must be taken when making decisions in large groups.
While traditional decision-making may suggest weighing options with an existing set of choices, it overlooks the creation of new ones – something central to successful decision-making.
The Power Of Optimism: Taking Advantage Of What We Don’T Know Yet
Optimists understand that the future is unknowable.
This means that anything could be possible, no matter how ambitious the goal.
We don’t know what we have yet to discover, and this gives us hope that it is possible for us to reach new heights of progress.
The story of the prisoner making the promise to teach a horse to talk exemplifies this idea: he has no knowledge of how he could possibly do this, but still believes there is a chance he will find a way in the given amount of time.
In fact, even if he doesn’t manage to fulfill his promise, there might still be something else that could satisfy his captor – something unexpected but equally beneficial!
This concept is at the root of optimism; anything we try can potentially lead us towards incredible discoveries if we keep looking for them.
With an open mind and an open heart, miracles can happen!
The Power Of Human Knowledge Makes Us Significant On A Cosmic Scale
Understanding the enormous scale of the cosmos, it is easy to think humans are insignificant in the grand scheme.
However, it is our capabilities to create knowledge that can make us significant on a cosmic level.
Nearly all of the Earth’s biosphere was inhospitable to humans before we invented science and technology, allowing us to convert the planet into a place we could thrive.
It is our ability to create knowledge that gives humanity meaning on a cosmic scale.
We may appear puny compared to stellar explosions that occur in our universe but someday, our knowledge might allow us to colonize other solar systems or even prevent a stellar explosion if it threatened any human settlements.
Our collective understanding could potentially be used to exert influence right across what seems like an infinite space – this wouldn’t have been possible without creating knowledge first.
On an incredibly small scale we are able to observe particles of matter at subatomic levels, which shows us how powerful understanding can truly be.
It begins with us and has no limit on where it can take us if we persist in creating more knowledge over time.
The potential for humanity as a species is tremendous and exists beyond what anyone could grasp through looking up at stars alone
Quantum Theory States That Every Individual Universe Has Its Own Unique History
Quantum theory has revealed that our physical world can be broken down into multiple universes with differing histories.
We often think of the world as a single entity but according to quantum physics, the universe is far more complex than that – it’s a multiverse composed of an infinite number of universes which were initially identical to each other in terms of structure and physical laws.
But due to slight differences in space and time, these universes each have their own distinct timeline and history.
For instance, imagine two identical universes where both crews have access to a teleportation device.
In one universe, the transporter malfunctions leading to minor voltage surges in transported objects while the other remains unharmed.
This could cause some neural misfires leading passengers to spill coffee on one another which could spark any number of events and influence future histories!
Quantum theory states that this multitude of universes exist side by side within the same multiverse, each having its own unique past, present, and future.
Science Is Constantly Evolving, And The Future Is Unknowable
When Richard Feynman wrote “we are lucky to live in an age in which we are still making discoveries,” he overlooked the fact that scientific findings aren’t absolute truths.
At the end of the 19th century, many theories were viewed as fundamental and unchanging laws of nature.
Albert Michelson even predicted that “the possibility..
of new discoveries is exceedingly remote.”
However, this was debunked when Einstein made his revolutionary discoveries at the start of 20th century – showing that our best theories continuously evolve with time.
Today, scientists have two conflicting interpretations for reality: quantum mechanics and general relativity.
This demonstrates that all scientific understanding is unforeseeable; what Michelson would not have considered possible 100 years ago we now take for granted – like the expanding universe or parallel worlds.
Although it can be said that some scientific revolutions may come with future inventions or experiments, ultimately future discoveries will be impossible to fathom or predict due to their ever-evolving nature.
We must go forth with a sense of curiosity and a willingness to question in order for science to continue its march onward.
The final summary of The Beginning of Infinity is that human progress depends on the creation of knowledge and there is no limitation to this progress.
To overcome problems, the author advises being an optimist – believing that all existing evils are due to insufficient knowledge and with the right knowledge, all problems can be solved.
This open-mindedness itself leads to new ways of creating knowledge, so one must look at the bright side if they want to make progress.
Therefore, through this book we have been able to understand the importance of optimism when it comes to achieving an infinite amount of new knowledge!