Bob Poekert's Web-Log

Jan 12, 2017

Epistemology

I got into a discussion about epistemology on twitter (this is a lot more fun than it sounds), and that made me want to write down my epistemological framework. So here it is, in five bullet points:

  • There is a black box ultimate reality, but we have no way to directly observe it
  • We have indirect observations that we get through our senses, augmented with tools we make
  • Since the only tools/senses we have to observe reality are contaminated with humanness, and the thinking tools we might try to use to minimize the contamination are also contaminated with humanness, we can't say anything about ultimate reality
  • The job of science is to make models that take observations of the present and the past and predict observations they weren't given
  • There are two quality metrics for models: accuracy and usefulness. Accuracy is the inverse of the difference between predictions and observations (eg: RMSE). Usefulness is the number of times someone asks the model for a prediction for something other than to test the model.

This is influenced by American Pragmatism (Dewey, William James, Popper, Rorty) and statistics (especially George E P Box).