“All Models are Wrong But Some Are Useful”

What does this quote mean? My interpretation of it is that because models generalise, they never get the full picture, thus cannot be fully accurate in regards to representation of real life. Take the Demographic Transition Model for instance. As it doesn’t take factors of migration into account and assumes all countries follow that path, it cannot be completely accurate as there are just too many factors that are involved in a countries development. I would say that models that have factors that are less subjective tend to be more accurate. This is because subjective factors such as emotions are harder to measure, thus hinder the interpretation of the results. For instance the Doxey Irridex which is scaled in emotion is not very accurate as emotions can vary from person to person.In the N.S, models tend to be fairly accurate as the information they are looking at is less subjective. For instance, when looking at number of cells, it is hard to interpret anything else than the specific number of cells. However those this mean models in N.S are correct? Well no, as both models in H.S and N.S assume certain things will happen and do not always take into account all the factors involved, they are both slightly fallacious.

So how can models be useful? Well in the H.S sometimes generalisations are useful, especially when you want to understand the behaviour of large groups of people. Take business for example. When a company wants to decide what kind of product to create, it is better to get information about people that is more general rather than those that are targeted a specific individuals. This is because the general information applies to more people, and as the business wants to sell as many products as possible, it is key that they find what most people want. Though this is a bit of a generalisation, this shows how generalisations in models can sometimes be useful.

 

TOK Post #10: Is Knowledge Possible Without the Group?

Image from WikiMedia Commons. Author: Ansonlobo

The question of the day is…

“Without the group to verify it, knowledge is not possible.” Discuss

And today we will discuss this claim in the context of Art.

To begin to dissect this question, we must ask ourselves, what is the role of the group in the production of knowledge in art? I would say it depends on the type of arts. There are some arts, such as painting and sculpting that are done mostly individually. As a result, the meaning of that piece of art is constructed by the artist alone. Even though others may not understand the meaning, it does not mean that there is none, thus the knowledge still exists. Albeit, personal and individual knowledge. In other forms of art such as Film and Dance, cooperation between multiple people is required. As all these people come together to create a meaning, it is impossible for just one person woking on that art to have the complete information. In this case, the knowledge is shared instead of personal.

As you can see, when I talk about knowledge, I mention two types. Personal and shared. Is knowledge not possible without the group. I would disagree if they are talking about personal knowledge. Personal knowledge can always exist as it only requires an individual to formulate. It doesn’t have to be correct, but wrong information is still information eh? Shared knowledge on the other hand, as the name implied, is not possible without the group. Not only because the knowledge has to be known my multiple people to be shared, but because without a consensus between those people, it cannot be considered knowledge.

In conclusion, the group is not required for verification if it is personal knowledge you are talking about, but for shared knowledge, you are gonna need a couple of folks.

 

TOK Post #9: Intro to Natural Sciences

One of the key attributes of Natural Science that distinguishes it from other areas of knowledge is the way knowledge in Natural Science is gained. As best said by Naomi Oreskes from this awesome Ted Talk (you should go watch it), science gains knowledge through “collective intelligence”. Unlike other AOK’s such as Arts and religions, the information from Science has been created through an accumulated effort. This is different from the Arts where the knowledge tends to be more personal, as it is more about personal expression. And unlike Religion, where the laws and principles don’t really change over a long period of time,  scientific knowledge is robust, meaning that it keeps on changing as new scientific discoveries are being made. Oreskes gives a good example of the result of this “collective knowledge”. Ever wonder why modern cars are so reliable? This is because of the decades of research and hardworking by scientists all around the world. These scientists bring their information together to build something better. Collective knowledge is applied to every product we have available in our modern world. The planes, TV’s, medicines, skyscraper of today are only possible because of the collective building of knowledge in science. Such collectiveness allows science to progress at an unprecedented rate as it has many people working to progress it.

Thanks to decades of aircraft advancement by millions of scientists, good thing we don’t need to fly in these things anymore!
Photograph from WikiMedia Commons, source is Hawaii State Archives. Photo was taken before 1922.

The interesting thing about Science is that out of all the Areas of Knowledge, Scientists are the most trusted. Why? Well I believe it is largely because it was and still is essential to our survival. Out of all the AOK’s science has been the most responsible for improving living standards. The invention of the lightbulb allowed better lighting and heating. Airplanes allowed travel faster than ever before. New medicines managed to save millions of lives and extend life expectancy by many times. These are all possible because of Science. Since there is no better method, at least for now, for making progress that is essential to our survival, people tend to trust it more than other AOKs. Though the Arts, history and ethics are great, they have not contributed as much to improving life for humans in the world. In order words, I believe people trust science because there is nothing else better to trust when it comes to improving life. With such a good credibility, science has become culturally accepted as the best and even only way to find truth.

But is that so? Definitely not. Scientists just like the rest of us, make mistakes. Assumptions could be made in scientific models that pull us away from a better understanding. Sometimes the methods may not be that accurate. For instance, by experimenting with a hypothesis, it is easy to ignore all other results.

So should we trust science? Well… yes but with a grain of salt. It’s done us some great things, but just beware that it does have it’s faults.

All in all, science unlike other AOK’s gains knowledge through a collective means. The results from science use people to trust it the most but science, just like everything in life, is far from perfect.

 

 

TOK Post #8: Meaningfulness of Knowledge in Art and Science

When we think of knowledgeable people we usually think of scientists. After all, they seem legitimate and all doing scientific research and wearing those sterilising white lab coats. And we believe this for good reason. Unlike other areas of knowledge, science can offer knowledge that is more direct. By direct, I mean the information is conveyed in a manner that it is not as interprativable compared to other areas of knowledge such as art. For example, since science information is sometimes empirical. For example the fact “your body is 75% water”. There are little ways you can interpret this fact differently. Since receivers of the information are literally spoon feed the information, it seems more accurate as there is a removal of personal influences, which is something that we all believe to hinder the accuracy of information. It is this lack of being to interpret the information that makes it seem so credible. Without this directness, interpretation might skew the truth from the fact.

Great! Well not quite. You see, though science to be great at telling us something valuable about the world, it can’t tell us everything. This is where the art comes in. You see, though arts are a lot less direct in the conveying of information compared to science, this ability to interpret it allows people to bring their personal experiences and influences, thus not only can receivers understand the art, they can feel it. The ability to feel the work emotionally is extremely beneficial as it opens new avenues of understanding. For instance, take a look at this painting based on WW2 allied Air Force base. Take a look at it for a second and note how it makes you feel.

Image from WikiMedia commons. Author: United States Air Force
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:NY_ANG_Runway_Alert.jpg

 

Its a beautiful painting. Does the bold blues and red colours which contrasting against the pale cold colours of the surroundings evoke a sense of independence and pride? (Especially if you’re American) Does the warm sunrise in the background convey the idea of hope? It is because we can feel these ideas, not only know them, that makes art work so powerful in conveying meaning.

All in all, science is great for direct non-intepreative information, but art is powerful because it can convey meaning through emotion.

 

 

 

 

Hong Kong Hiking CAS Trip Reflection: It Really Rocks!

Well, I’ll admit I couldn’t had be farther away from thrilled when they announced that the Bali CAS Trip, my 1st choice for a CAS trip, was canned due to the threat of a local volcano erupting.

Since me and many others had to stay behind in Hong Kong, I was put into the Hong Kong Hiking CAS trip.  Having done plenty of hikes in Hong Kong already, I was pessimistic at first. However, after the first hiking day, I found myself really enjoying the trip. Let’s just say, this CAS really rocked!

One of the most unique aspects of the trip was that we were in charge of planning the hike ourselves. That’s right…ourselves! Though I joined the planning stage a bit late due to the Bali trip cancellation, having done plenty of hikes in my time in AYP and Scouts I was able to contribute different ideas for hiking trails around Hong Kong. One of my favourite proposals was to hike to Sunset Peak in Lantau. I was longing to try a new hiking trail that had nice views and I knew that one had just that. (sorry lot’s of “thats” in that sentence). Unfortunately, we did not choose to go to sunset peak as due to it’s difficulty and duration.

The View from the Lion Rock hike.

Though disappointed, I learnt that it was important not to let your emotions and expectations hinder your planning and that it was necessary to consider the entire group when choosing a trip. In fact, I believe one of the greatest challenges during the planning was choosing the trip. This was because we all wanted to go on certain hikes, but we had to make sure that those hikes were suitable both difficulty, time and accessibility wise. With those 3 aspects in mind, my group and I choose a trail: Lion Rock.

495 Metres! Woo Hoo!

I was honestly excited because I wanted to go on a trail I had never been on. I have never been to Lion Rock but had always wanted to. During the hike, I had a great time as I got to spend time with my friends, make new ones, and enjoy some of the best scenery Hong Kong has to offer. One of the reasons for this good time was that the hike itself wasn’t that physically demanding for me, so I could really put my focus on enjoying the hike itself. Oh, and did I mention the view? As I stood atop Lion Rock, I could see most of Kowloon side, which was according to a sign 495 metres below. I especially loved how the rocks just overlooked the bustling city below. Seeing the beauty of Hong Kong in such a new perspective is something I will remember from this trip. One of the special things of Lion Rock is that it shows natural beauty can coexist in the middle of an urban environment. For me, taking in the breathtaking view was for sure one of the best parts of the hiking trip.

Another aspect of the trip I especially enjoyed was socialising with others.

My pals and I atop Lion Rock!

Through the hike, I managed to have a wonderful time with my friends as we cracked puns all throughout the trail. (We did this every hike!). The hike also allowed me to meet students from different grades, which I also enjoyed doing.

YEEEAAAAAA!!!

So, did this hike meet my expectations? Because of the new and breathtaking views I experienced, and the unforgettable socialising, I would say without a doubt: Of course!

All in all I must say I enjoyed the Lion Rock hike, and the entire HK Hiking Trip much more than I first expected. I’m now back at school and can’t help but miss my CAS week.

To end, let’s just say that this CAS week really ROCKED!

TOK Post #7: Having Faith

The definition of faith is having trust or confidence in something or someone. Now, that can be useful for many scenarios. For instance, faith is what drives you to take action for, anything really, in the first place. For instance, you wouldn’t come to school if you had no faith in the teacher’s ability to deliver the necessary knowledge required for your graduation.

But you see, theres a problem with faith as a way of knowing. In the paragraph above, notice how many times I used the word “you” or “your. You see, faith is heavily dependant on the individual, rather than a larger group of people. Why is this bad? Well, if you strongly believe in something, you might ignore all other facts provided by other people, even if those facts are more accurate than your beliefs. For instance, say there is a new scientific discovery that clearly contradicts a pre conceived notion , but most scientists are too confident in previous “fact”, thus they turn down the new discovery. This in turn slows down the progress of science.

This is why it’s best to not only use faith in the pursuit of knowledge. For the best, most accurate way of finding new knowledge, a bit of faith, but also other WOKs such as reasoning and imagination can help enhance the accuracy of any new knowledge found.

Seeing so many people believe in one thing heavily encourages you to think that it MUST be right. Photography from Wikimedia, author is Raegsoss

Another issue with faith is that it is heavily influenced by other people. You see, faith is very physcological as it deals with what people believe in. If a large group of people believe in the same thing, it further encourages an individual to follow the same idea because they might have faith in that since many people believe in something, it has to be right. Thus, this is faith in society. However, without other ways of knowing, such as reasoning to confirm such facts, it is impossible to fully know the full picture.

All in all, though  faith can be useful but because it is heavily dependant on what one believes and that it is easily influenced by others, it is best to use other AOK’s in conjunction with faith in the pursuit of knowledge. 

 

TOK Post #6: Imagine that Memory!

Remember the last time you forgot to bring your phone with you when you left the house? Or you remembered a fact differently than it actually was? Or that very moment in your life that happened but you have no memory of. (Come on, don’t try to imagine something you forgot, it’s not possible is it?)

Well, both our imagination and memory are flawed. We are human after all. But, no fear, the Areas of Knowledge are here! (terrible rhyme sorry)

But in all seriousness, lets talk about how AOK’s help us overcome the imperfections of memory and imagination.

First off,  scientific advancements in technology have greatly benefitted our memory. Before the time of paper, in order for information in a society to be retained, it had to be spread by word. Unfortunately, such means are inaccurate as people interrupt ideas in a slightly different way, thus overtime it skews the truth. With paper, one could make his/her ideas remain immortal. Simply, paper allowed the retainment of information directly from the speaker, thus reducing the interruption skew. Yes, there are still some interpretation errors, but it is greatly improved from spreading news by word of mouth. Now we have hard drives and micro SD cards that can keep an enormous amount of data in such a small space. Oh, and theres the internet, which is… well it’s got everything.

A micro chip the size of your thumbnail can store vast amounts of data. Photograph from publicdomainpibtures.net photograph taken by Petr Kratochvil

Thus, this shows how sci-tech can help us remember things since we can document them for reference later, wether it be tomorrow or 100 years from now. Technology makes memory significantly more accurate and easier for not only science, but pretty much every other AOK because information now can be documented.

One may believe that imagination has little place in science because science requires solid hard fact. True…, but imagination is helpful because it helps people understand the information much more clearly. For example, one can gain a deeper understanding of physics if they can imagine the forces in action. Since you can’t see physical forces (Ex: gravity), imagination of them is key to mastery of the science. This is why Albert Einstein once said:

From QuotesEverlasting on Flickr

 

But. Theres. Just. One. Problem. Oh no!

Emotion. In terms of imagining emotion, you have to have memory of when you experienced said emotion. For instance, remember when your girlfriend broke up with you. (I don’t cause I suck at this field of dating and whatever)

Let’s take the AOK of the arts for example, specifically music.

If you were to listen to a romantic song, you might remember that feeling of heartbreak, thus can better imagine the feelings of that person, thus better understanding  the message of that sad romantic song. In this case, memory and imagination of emotion is beneficial for understanding artwork. If you did not remember how any emotion felt like, joy, despair, heartbreak etc…. you might not be able to understand art to it’s full potential since art relies on emotion.

 

 

 

TOK Post #5: Is Validity Independent from Truth?

We can’t know anything for certain.

Science has always strived to find the most accurate, best way of describing the world around us. To do this, scientists would conduct experiments and see if the  results repeated themselves. If it did, and for enough times, it would be considered a fact. After all, if under controlled conditions, a result is repeated, it must be a fact of the universe. Right? However, just because results repeat themselves, it does not necessarily mean it’s true. It only means it has a high validity. The definition of truth means that the fact has to be in accordance with reality. But, how do we know? Sure scientific experiments can give us a good idea, but I doubt they are the best way of measuring and finding truth. This is because scientific experimentation methods keep on changing. A fact that might have been considered “true” in the 1800s might be proved as false due to the advancements in technology. Thus, we can never know if something is completely true. But only, we can only get closer and closer to knowing the true nature of reality. We can get pretty close to knowing the true nature of reality, but there will always be a bit of uncertainty. As a result, validity, at least in the scientific sense, can not be linked to truth, simply because truth (in it’s most complete form), is not possible to know.

Since the 1800s, we’ve come a long way in medical technology. Photograph from Pixabay by PublicDomainPictures.

But hey! Don’t get yourself down. Just because we can never know if something is true, doesn’t make the information we have useless. In fact, as long as facts get in better accordance with reality, they can be useful. For instance, in the field of medicine, research has been getting more precise and reliable. Thus, doctors are now able to save many more lives than before.

Though it is never possible to know the true nature of things, due to the methods we use to detect “truth”, this does not mean that the facts are completely true because we are limited by our technology when it comes to finding truth, but the facts are pretty close, thus can be useful.

 

 

TOK Post #4: Can you be more specific?

Image from PublicDomainPictures.net taken by Petter Griffin

All my textbooks (not that I read them that much) have very clear and use un-interperative language when describing content. This makes sense since they want to teach me the information in the most accurate way possible. Sometimes I get frustrated while reading and wished they had made the writing simpler. But, if they dumbed it down for me, would the information retain it’s same quality? Today we’ll be discussing wether the vagueness and ambiguity of language always limits the production of knowledge.

 

The answer of the question depends on what kind of knowledge is being produced. If the knowledge is meant only interpreted in one way, such as topics in the Natural Sciences, I believe it’s best to use language that leaves little room for one to guess the meaning of it. For instance, a writer might use metaphors/smilies to spice up his/her text. Using metaphors/smilies however, might give the reader the wrong idea of how something works. For instance, if I say “computers process information faster than human brains” you might get the impression that computers and biological brains operate in a similar way, which is completely untrue and does not help one learn about the way the brain works. Further emotive language might skew the way we view something. For example, if I described World War 2 to be a “blood spilling mess” rather than “a war in which many lost their lives”, you might feel more strongly about the violence of World War 2.

So yes, vague language can limit our understanding of knowledge. And because you need to understand knowledge to produce it, we can safely say… BE CLEAR IN YOUR SCIENTIFIC REPORTS SCIENTSISTS!

But thats not it…

I was about to stop writing and listen to some music when I realised… singers managed to convey their message using language that is, very interpretative.

You see sometimes being clear and using un-interperative language might actually hinder our understanding of knowledge. Knowledge that relates to emotion and senses is better described in more emotive terms, rather than direct ones. Because people can relate more to emotive terms, they get a better feeling of what the writer is feeling. Look at these two statements and tell me which one you have more feeling or sense towards.

Joe walked down a road, beside him cars passed releasing smoke with foul odour.

Joe walked down a road, beside him cars rattled pass spewing out dark and black smoke that made his lungs tight.

Which statement is better for understanding how Joe is feeling?

It is for this reason, interviews, poems and music are so important to understand when studying history. Sure, you can read a bunch of reports with stats that will give you the exact situation, but you won’t fully understand what happened if you do not understand how people felt during those times.

So in conclusion, be specific and clear when dealing with information that requires preciseness, but when trying to communicate emotion, it is best to use vague language. This means vagueness and ambiguity of language do help with the production of knowledge in some cases.