Sunday’s post in the great “Epicurean Dealmaker” blog opens with a Richard Feynman quote, something that guarantees our attention, but it’s a great post in itself. In his comments to a Tim Harford article in the Financial Times – also worth the time, by the way – “Mr. Epicurean” highlights that science is increasingly about multidisciplinary collaboration, which brings its own set of pros and cons. The risk, simplifying the arguments a bit too much, is that scientists are becoming so specialized that nobody truly has a “bird’s eye” view of what’s being done – i.e. no one can question the collective idea because no one can know enough about each piece of the puzzle. And if the scientific method is all about questioning, what does that mean for the future of science? No easy answers, but the quest to achieve as much of a multidisciplinary knowledge as possible – as argued by Feynman in the introductory quote and by Charlie Munger repeatedly over the years – gains importance day by day.
Here’s a quote dear to our hearts: “the most important phrase in science is not ‘Eureka!’, it’s ‘that’s strange’… “
Richard Feynman at his best in this 49:37 video, “The Pleasure of Finding Things Out“. There’s a wealth of stuff on Feynman online, and we wouldn’t do him justice by trying to quickly compile some list today. If you don’t have 50 minutes readily available, jump to the last 7 minutes (starts at 42:54) – but come back someday for the rest. This last bit starts with pseudo science and “experts” – about how hard it is to really know something. It seems that smart, experienced people are extremely careful in the process of forming their views, opinions and “truths”. It continues with the need to keep an open mind – the need not to “marry” your ideas and frameworks. He says about physics: if it turns out that there’s one universal law, so be it. If it turns out that it’s a multitude of laws, so be it. It doesn’t matter, it’s important that nature reveals itself as it is, not as one group of scientists or another wants it to behave. Intellectual integrity: you must doubt, you must question even yourself. “When you doubt, you ask, and it gets a little harder to believe. I can live with doubting and not knowing. (…) I don’t feel frightened about not knowing things.” – that’s the spirit.
Great books and anti-libraries – About things you realize you don’t know and unread books.
Hammers and nails – About avoiding the trap of the “man with just a hammer”.
Edge.org’s question for 2011 – One of the best answers to their 2011 question is “independent thinking”.
Multidisciplinary approach and communication – Should we seek to be multidisciplinary or is it enough to build a multidisciplinary team?
Classics: Psychology of Human Misjudgment – Charlie Munger’s timeless speech (it can also be found in the more recent Munger link above).