WE DON'T KNOW WHAT WE DON'T KNOW AND WE CAN'T PREDICT ITsteemCreated with Sketch.

in science •  11 months ago

MULTIPLICATIVE DIFFICULTY

HYPOTHESIS

How can we predict things? What does trying to predict the 25th impact of a billiard ball tell us about the nature of the universe and the limits of our predictive powers?

ANTITHESIS

The short answer is that our predictive powers are severely limited. Michael Berry proved with mathematics that to calculate the first impact of a billiard ball is quite straightforward; the second bounce is a bit more difficult to predict, but still doable; whereas the 56th impact could be predicted but only if you took into account every atom in the known universe. And this is only considering inanimate objects without free will!


Billiard balls are inanimate, not endowed with free will, and yet we still cannot predict their path very far into the future. Image from Pixabay

THESIS

Of course, we still have to predict things. For example, we have to predict what will happen if we turn down a job offer, or move to a different city, or decide to go to a party. But we should all recognize just how limited our powers of prediction are, and we should all keep journals of how inaccurate our predictions are.


Our predictions, however inaccurate or uninformed, have great consequences. Image from Pixabay

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