A science of Hamlet

Honestly, I don't geek out over computer science - mostly because the theory is beyond my grasp - but from one viewpoint it's certainly getting more interesting. Check out this commentary in Nature:

A... sophisticated narrative saysthat science is increasingly about information: its collection, organization and transformation. And if we view computer science as 'the systematic study of algorithmic processes that describe and transform information', then computing underpins science in a far more fundamental way. One can argue, as has George Djorgovski, that 'applied computer science is now playing the role which mathematics did from the seventeenth through the twentieth centuries: providing an orderly, formal framework and exploratory apparatus for other sciences.'

Why this shift? Of course, there is more information, as technology allows us to collect, store and share vastly more data than before. Equally significant is that science is becoming less reductionist and more integrative, as researchers attempt to study the collective behaviour of larger systems. To quote Richard Dawkins: 'If you want to understand life, don't think about vibrant, throbbing gels and oozes, think about information technology.'

Unless I'm imagining things -which is entirely possible - this is much the same broad theme running through the speculative science-as-information-as-paradox piece that recently appeared at the Edge.org.

As information theorists and scientists are discovering, and playwrights have long understood, information is a tricky thing. It can be sensible in its nonsense. A singular thought may defy logic, but can nonetheless be understood when summoned in language, which in my view is the summit of cognition.

The arts, literature and other creative endeavors also turn information into knowledge. They just make meaning differently. But saying something makes sense or is not false - as humans, we're really comfortable with not false - is far different from making affirmative, testable, falsifiable statements about the physical universe. 

So the suggestion that the basis for science is now information is no small matter. Will symbolic languages do paradox? Will science, like Hamlet's soliloquies, produce revelation?


Technorati: emergent, ontology, paradox, literary criticism