Changing their minds

The Edge Annual Question 2008: What have you changed your mind about? Why? has the answers up.

Marti Hearst appears from computational linguistics, saying that she no longer believes that computational analysis of language requires understanding language. (This is not a radical position in modern computational linguistics, by the way, although the position that all useful computational analyses of language can be done with shallow techniques remains radical and is probably getting more so at the moment.) Some others I’ve looked at are I stopped cheering for the Romans (James O’Donnell), The Internet (Douglas Rushkoff: I thought was a ridiculous idea, and that the Internet would shrug off business as easily as it did its original Defense Department minders.), Memory Storage (Joseph Ledoux: in 2000, a researcher in my lab, Karim Nader, did an experiment that convinced me, and many others, that our usual way of thinking was wrong. In a nutshell, what Karim showed was that each time a memory is used, it has to be restored as a new memory in order to be accessible later…), There is nothing to add to the standard interpretation of quantum mechanics (Carlo Rovelli) Good Old Stuff Sucks (Steward Brand) and We Are Alone [in the universe] (Martin Seligman). Confusingly, some are titled for the old rejected belief, and others for the new belief.

There’s lots more to go through and I want to keep adding them as I read, but that should be a fun sample and of course you can read them all yourself…

In general, the ones writing about their career field of expertise are more interesting than those who aren’t — I’m not terribly interested in Martin Sabbagh deciding, for example, that expertise is usually meaningless — and also ones from technology fields or debates I’m acquainted with. For example, Xeni Jardin doesn’t say a lot about moderating online communities that I haven’t seen Teresa Nielsen Hayden (who is, in fact, the unnamed moderator of Boing Boing’s comments section that Jardin refers to) write about (see, for example, Virtual panel participation and Moderation isn’t rocket science). But neither of those weaknesses is surprising: there’s still a lot of good stuff there.