Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bachmannia, the Future, and Philosophy

Even if she turns out to be nuts, Bachmann suddenly leaping from nowhere to 24% in GOP voter polls – and seemingly-inevitable Romney dropping to 15, tied with Cain (with Paul behind them at 10 and the others in single digits) – pleased me, not just because she’s the head of the House Tea Party Caucus (with a libertarian co-writing her book) or because she genuinely seemed more alert than everyone else during the second GOP candidates debate but also just because it’s nice to know things are still unpredictable. 

And indeed, the future is often more fluid than we realize.  To wit:

•My philosopher/physicist/entrepreneur pal Bob Doyle from last December’s American Philosophical Association gathering in Boston (the first thing I ever tweeted about) would even argue that certain things – namely people – are radically unpredictable and has written a book defending the concept of free will (though I am a determinist, to the horror of some libertarians, not to mention, most likely, Bob).

•Here’s a visual reminder of the difference between L.A. today and a videogame depicting L.A. in 1947, in the form of a simultaneous walk through both (noted by Brett Ruiz), which should keep you humble about predicting what, say, New York City 2075 will look like.

Critical Review Vol. 22 No. 4 is entirely devoted to the issue of whether “experts” – even in principle – are likely to make better-than-random predictions about the political and social future, and it’s not so clear that they are, which is the sort of taboo, elite-smashing, narrative-complicating point that I think we as a civilization may need to get more brazen about making (I’m looking at you, academia and government and media and priesthood and...).

•Iceland did not see the anarchist/punk Best Party coming, but they’re still governing Reykjavik. 

•I feel a bit guilty picking on this philosophy writer, but the sheer banality of the opening paragraphs is a reminder how opaque the future is.

And speaking of philosophy, now I must dash to Williamsburg (I could get used to that place) to see the 7pm performance of the play Action Philosophers at Brick Theater, along with Bachmann’s eminently sane fellow Minnesotan Ali Kokmen.  He’s pals with the guy who wrote the original comic book, you know.  

1 comment:

Franklin said...

I've been rather heartened by the deflating of "experts" of late. There's Dan Gardner's books Future Babble and The Science of Fear, and I just started Tim Harford's Adapt: Why Success Always Stars With Failure, all of which make use of and popularize Philip Tetlock's extensive survey of fallacious "expert" opinion.