Two kinds of tales, one true and one false

More on truth and lies: 'There are two kinds of tales, one true and one false,' Socrates claims in Plato's Republic (trans A.D. Lindsay, 1935, London: Dent, p. 376). ‘The depth of consciousness created by the exercise of the arts of deception is the first arena for the practice of that dissimulation proper to the … Continue reading Two kinds of tales, one true and one false

The Ethics of Autonomous robots

Further to a recent post about the ethics of autonomous robots, it seems military robots are not the only kind that can kill, allbeit by 'mistake'. In Japan there are already robots that feed the elderly and baby-sitting robots in shopping centres. So who exactly should be held responsible when they go wrong? It's an … Continue reading The Ethics of Autonomous robots

How do we know what we think we know? (part 2)

How do we know the tide won't wash the beach away? A couple of years ago a local newspaper reported a certain beach-front resident claiming  "It's ridiculous to think this beach would ever get washed away by a king tide. I've lived here four months and it's just never happened." This is an example of … Continue reading How do we know what we think we know? (part 2)

Nipping and Biting: Characterising the Conflict between Science and Religion

Much of the supposed conflict between science and religion may well be imaginary, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any conflict. How then should this conflict be characterised? Gregory Bateson once noted the distinction in playful animals between the nip (playful) and the bite (serious). It’s clear that animals, including ourselves, can tell the difference, … Continue reading Nipping and Biting: Characterising the Conflict between Science and Religion

East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet…

Fourcultures has previously expressed frustration over the ubiquity of the fiction of 'Eastern' and 'Western' thought worlds. One antidote on offer is to read the excellent book The Shape of Ancient Thought. To get a little more up to date, another suggestion would be: Kapil Raj. Relocating Modern Science: Circulation and the Construction of Knowledge … Continue reading East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet…

Models, reality and the limits to growth

Fourcultures recently pointed out the contentious relationship between computer-driven models and the reality they claim to be modelling. More analysis of The Limits to Growth modelling  is now published in American Scientist journal. Charles A.S. Hall and John W. Day, Jr. 2009 Revisiting the Limits to Growth After Peak Oil American Scientist Vol 97 (May-June): … Continue reading Models, reality and the limits to growth

A Month of Resilience

This month Four Cultures is going to be considering Resilience and its connection with Grid-group Cultural Theory. By Resilience I mean the cross-disciplinary scientific approach inspired by the work of Canadian ecologist Buzz Holling, and promoted in a number of places, especially through the Resilience Alliance and through the Stockholm Resilience Centre. There's a video … Continue reading A Month of Resilience

Chaos theory and fourcultures

More on Chaos theory, evolution and fourcultures. Meika recently posted a piece about brain research, bias and chaos theory. And DK asked: How does chaos complicate or enrich evolutionary theory in biology? How does the nonlinearity that chaos features interact with mutation/drift/natural selection? Is there a canonical text (or at least something authoritative & comprehensive) … Continue reading Chaos theory and fourcultures

How do we know what we think we know? What the Density Classification Problem tells us

How can we know what the world is really like? We often hear fairly frank opinions about how things 'really' are. We probably make these kinds of claims ourselves from time to time: 'the fact is...', 'that's just the way it is...';  'you know what it's like...' But how do we know what we think … Continue reading How do we know what we think we know? What the Density Classification Problem tells us

The Four Cultures of Science Fiction

As a genre, sci-fi is par excellence concerned with culture. What would it be like to visit an alien world? How would its inhabitants operate, and how would they differ from us? In a way it's a kind of theoretical anthropology. Think of Ursula Le Guin's inquiry into a culture of hermaphrodites in The Left … Continue reading The Four Cultures of Science Fiction