Hello Cruel World
Monday, August 18, 2003
Some thoughts on Karl Popper, Faith & The Kid
A small submission for Matrix Essays - may not get put up
Apparently the name in the Matrix of "The Kid" from Animatrix seen in Matrix: Reloaded is Karl Michael Popper. (Haven't seen Animatrix, but his story's been discussed on the Matrix Essays site)
To me, *Popper's main contribution to scientific thinking was the principle that you don't take up an idea (hypothesis) then set yourself up to defend it against all comers.
You take your idea and try to think of all the things that might disprove it, then work out how to test them.
Of course, you need to have a few arguments buttressing why you think it is true.
My image is holding an eggshell: Too tightly & it's crushed; too lightly & it's blown off or rolls off your palm.
[For some of the consequences of both this idea and Heisenberg's, and the dangers of too much faith (dogmatism, whether religious, political or economic), see this excerpt from "Knowledge or
Certainty", an episode of "The Ascent of Man" series (1973 BBC, PBS) by Jacob Bronowski www.ronrecord.com/Quotes/bronowski.html
[ Archived here if that link fails. ( Review) Also available as a 2nd-hand book & (on DVD- highly recommended.]
This recalls the worry some people have with the zealotry and faith of Morpheus. How much belief is too much? Jim Jones' followers mass murder and suicide, the Japanese Aum cult sarin gas attack, suicide bombings & suchlike were presumably seen as necessary means to ends by their perpetrators.
In standard plots, those who hold on to their beliefs through many difficulties are only rewarded if their faith is in the hero/protagonist. The dedicated followers of those opposing them are either just killed in numbers, or in non-action stories, seen as stupid or greedy or prejudiced. In what we usually think of as real Real Life, we don't have that infallible ability to pick which is the hero like we usually do in books or movies. (The followers of each One will now surely email in to say s/he/it is The Truth (Le Vrai), which pretty much makes my point.)
With philosophical debates of course, it's a lot trickier to do the testing, e.g. many people reckon that there are reliable reports of communication or influences from an afterlife; many don't. Some medically revived people have come back with reports of something (they often reflect whichever was the society's idea of a life after death), but the great majority don't -- Australia's famous example is Kerry Packer. Almost no-one would have grown up in a society that didn't have an opinion on the subject, so it's very difficult to get a disinterested viewpoint.
Presumably The Kid's "Leap of Faith" in Animatrix is putting his belief to the ultimate test -- unfortunately there may not be a way of communicating his discovery, which is surely one of the vital parts for humanity of the quest.
Maybe The Kid is going to 'come back' to his family & friends as proof of his theory? (More a Lazarus than a Jesus.)
* He spent some years in New Zealand - yet another one that slipped through Australasian fingers.
Reply from Tom (the Good One)
Interesting. On falsifiability . . . You may want to also consider this:
it is sort of funny to refer to the topic of falsifiability within a story about the Matrix -- the question of whether or not you are in a Matrix (also known as the "Brain in a Vat Problem" in philosophy) is itself generally considered non-falsifiable. That is, there is no way to conclusively prove that you are NOT in a simulated reality at this moment. Because it is non-falsifiable, Popper would probably say that the question of whether you are in a Matrix is not a suitable investigation for science :-).
The Kid's action proves, in retrospect, that he WAS in a simulated reality, though.
Popper also had the idea (I think) that it is easy to falsify something through example (one black dog proves "all dogs are brown" false), but impossible to prove something true through examples (no number of brown dogs can prove "all dogs are brown" to be true).
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