I’m sure you’ve heard of Big Data and IoT (Internet of Things) by now. There is a current in computing now that is based on the economics of nearly unlimited resources for computational complexity including Cognitive Computing (AI + Machine Learning). From this, many are seeing the “end of science,” meaning, the truth is in the data and the scientific method is dead.Previously, a scientist may observe certain phenomena, come up with a theory and test it.He is a counter example.
Using algorithms from Topology (yeah, I studied topology in the 70’s) investigators can apply TDA (Topological Data Analysis) to investigate the SHAPE of very complex, very high-volume, very hi-dimensional data (1000’s of variables), deform it in various ways to see what its true nature is and find out what’s really going on. Traditional quantitative methods can only sample or reduce the variables using techniques like Principal Component Analysis (these variables don’t seem very important).
In one case, an organization did a retrospective analysis of every single trial and study on spinal cord injuries. What they found with TDA was that one and only one variable had a measurable effect on outcomes with patients presenting with SCI – maintaining normal blood pressure as soon as they hit the ambulance. No one had either seem or even contemplated this before.
Karl Popper was one of the most important and controversial philosophers of science of the 20th century. In “All Life is Problem Solving,” Popper claimed that “Science begins with problems. It attempts to solve them through bold, inventive theories. The great majority of theories are false and/or untestable. Valuable, testable theories will search for errors. We try to find errors and to eliminate them. This is science. It consists of wild, often irresponsible ideas that it places under the strict control of error correction.”
In other words, hypothesis precedes data. We decide what we want to test, and assemble the data to test it. This is the polar opposite of the data science emerging from big data.
So here’s my premise. Is Karl Popper over? Has computing killed the scientific method?