Learning to balance theory and evidence

I finally got around to taking a peek at this video of Clay Shirky’s presentation at the Supernova 2007 conference in June. It’s relatively short and Shirky is a good speaker. Like Jimmy Guterman, I was particularly taken with Shirky’s observation on AT&T’s reaction to a particular proposal: “They didn’t care that they’d seen it work in practice because they already knew it wouldn’t work in theory.”

How often do you see a theory blind believers to facts? Do you sense that the problem is becoming worse? The relationship between theory and evidence can be quite complex and failing to appreciate those complexities usually spells trouble. My own bias is toward the underlying methods and philosophy of modern science. You always have to be prepared for the ugly facts to kill your beautiful theories (thank you Thomas Huxley).

Clay Shirky, a Shinto Shrine, and the Sentence of the Year

By Jimmy Guterman

If, like me, you were unable to attend Supernova this year and you’re still kicking yourself, you can stop now. Conference organizer (and former Release 1.0 editor) Kevin Werbach has begun posting videos of the proceedings. I’ve only seen one so far, a dizzying presentation by Clay Shirky in which he likens the guardians of a Shinto shrine to the perl community…