Wednesday, January 10, 2007

[Book] The End of Science

Today I finished reading The End Of Science (Facing the Limits of Knowledge in the Twilight of the Scientific Age) and, even though it was written 10 years ago, it makes points which are still worth pondering.

Basically, the author posits (through numerous interviews with well known scientists) that most of the big science is already sorted out, and all that remains for today's scientists is application and fine-tuning within the frameworks laid out by such grand theories as Darwin's evolution, Einstein's general relativity, quantum mechanics, etc. He also states that a Theory of Everything simply isn't going to be found (not in any objectively measurable form anyway). Here's some more detail, in the author's own words.

That sounds pretty negative and, if it's true and if you're planning on being the next Einstein, it probably is. I must admit that it doesn't bug me too much, as computer science doesn't impact my daily life anywhere near as much as managing people. The complexity of software and hardware (or any of the physics and mathematics underlying them) is rarely the limiting factor in my work. Computers today still follow the same basic principles defined by Alan Turing back in 1936. There are plenty of people with far deeper knowledge and interest in computing theory than me, who continue to seek improvements to make computers more useful, but until that happens it's my job to use existing technology to help with real business problems.

More generally, there are plenty of unsolved societal problems which improvements in applied science can undoubtedly aid with, so there's no need for anyone who loves science, in any of its forms, to slip into a metaphysical funk :)