April 8, 2018 H: Human-Centered Thinking (How it makes all our hard-won solutions incredible fails).
We know what human thought is—because that’s what us humans do—we think. We know what thought itself is, or, at least, I think we do. Most of us believe that other mammals think in a somewhat rudimentary way. We know that all living things, maybe are programed to react to our environment. But what do we mean when we say our thinking can be human-centered? How can us humans think in any other way?
One thing about humans is that we not only have a unique perspective on the world, but at a moments notice we can change that perspective. That behavior in itself makes us unique in the animal kingdom. The animals we truly believe are intelligent on the surface of the Earth are those that can, inspite of how things look, have some ability to change their perspective. For example: the way they look at their problems.
When a raven sees food it can’t get to through a hole, it fashions a tool to help pry the food out. So a change in perspective on a problem allows an animal to better survive.
A human who is not raised to be creative in their problem solving, their ability to change their perspective to solve their problems, is at great risk.
How does the idea of human-centered thinking apply to our approach to finding truths about the world scientifically? When we think that human ways of thinking are the only ways to think, then we miss all the other perspectives of our expanding universe.
1) When observing the behavior of a simple experiment like the expansion of an unstable droplet that may be analogous to the expansion of our own universe, we have to develop our mathematics to appreciate simpler behaviors before we address human-centered prejudices. A droplet does not behave based on our wants and needs, and, yet, much of our scientific approach to the mysteries of the universe are based in human prejudice.
2) John Archibald Wheeler and his grad students (who, years back, I met at a special event at Ga. Tech) came from a perspective that humans were the universe becoming aware of itself. This idea is also mirrored in the strong and weak anthropic theories of the universe. Shall we remind these quite revered (and properly so) scientists that, yes, because man exists, only a certain kind of universe with very special rules can exist. But what about all the other objects and behaviors that exist in our universe? All those things that came before us? All those little beings that react and think and feel? How have they modeled the universe? The universe is theirs too.
So, human-centered thinking occurs for us scientists when we refuse to have empathy for other systems that exist in and are part of the creative energy of our universe. Many times, more primitive systems will give us better clues to how our universe came about (than do more complex ones, systems that are more difficult to understand).
Yet, we continue to wonder about Schrodinger’s Cat (in a human-centered experiment, whether it is alive or dead). We want to objectify everything in a universe that is clearly subjective (if we keenly watch how simpler systems operate).
If we are so into the way us humans see things, then how can there be any objectivity in our sciences? The Double-Slit Experiment is designed to have two perspectives (two vastly different experimental setups) on the way tiny energy packets display themselves. Yet, when physicists analyze the experiment’s outcome (as a perfectly objective controlled experiment), they say that it proves that an energy packet can travel faster than light (which goes against Einstein’s strong proof that light particles travel through space at a terminal velocity). Kind of like saying Schrodinger’s Cat is both alive and dead at the same time. These are human-centered conclusions. We need to go back to the simpler boundaries of our universe to understand how these self-made paradoxes come about.
Humans deal in 100% realities most of the time, but the universe might not.
The scary part of human prejudice in science is that lay people pick up words like faster-than-light, dark energy, black holes, and quasars without really knowing what they mean. There are many Facebook groups out there that claim to be scientific, but none of those who seem fascinated by scientific terminology they don’t understand have yet to realize that to self-educate, they only need to open a textbook or browse the Internet to find definitions to scientific terms or answers to their questions, even if they are from a part of the world where they cannot afford a formal education.