The nature of science in 2051

Right now scientific questions are chosen for study in a largely autocratic way. Typically grants for research on particular questions come from federal funding agencies, and scientists competitively apply with the money going to the chosen researcher via a peer review process.

I suspect, as the tools of online science become increasingly available, the real questions people face in their day to day lives will be more readily answered. If you think about all the things you do and decisions you make in a day, many of them don’t have a strong empirical basis. How you wash the dishes or do laundry, what foods are healthy, what environment to maintain in your house, what common illness remedies work best, who knows, but these types of questions, the ones that occur to you as you go about your daily business, aren’t prioritized in the investigatory model we have now for science. I predict that scientific investigation as a whole, not just that that is government funded, will move substantially toward providing answers to questions of local importance.

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1 Response to The nature of science in 2051

  1. Dan Bruiger says:

    It is interesting to look at current science as an expression of “globalism” (both in cultural and economic terms), which could be viewed as an economic “theory of everything”. If globalism fails, as I believe it must, we could expect a turn of interest toward more local issues in every domain.

    At present, the “local importance” in scientific questions seems to be the personal importance to their investigators. This is not an official part of science as it stands, but part of the “autocratic” process you describe. In other words, the subjective dimension of science as a cognitive activity may be less downplayed in the future, when the effects of ignoring it have become clearer (e.g. ecological and economic collapse). The pretension to objectivity implies a timelessness and place-lessness that may give way to a more comfortable recognition of social goals of science. Hopefully, this will not demean its truth value, but will involve a more sophisticated understanding of the relation between truth and interest.

    I found your blog after listening to your talk given at the fqxi conference on “time”. I had submitted an essay to their last contest, titled “Is Reality Reducible to Thought?”.


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