Monday, December 17, 2012

How We Forget, (an example)

The interesting topic today is superficially about a subject Jan Cox found  enthralling,  as indeed, he found all things he encountered or sought out, worth pursuing to understand how they work. I refer to cellular structure. 

The link below is to an article discussing a new approach to understanding the cell. This approach involves taking old but valuable words, and giving them new antithetical definitions. When this happens, especially at the rarified intellectual level, the loss in the possibilities of learning may outweigh any gains. At least in this article, and the part I will quote, there is an  awareness of the shift, though not the significance of it.

So from the article at this link,

we excerpt--

"What's new about our ontology is that it is created automatically from large datasets. In this way, we see not only what is already known, but also potentially new biological components and processes – the bases for new hypotheses," said Dutkowski.

Originally devised by philosophers attempting to explain the nature of existence, ontologies are now broadly used to encapsulate everything known about a subject in a hierarchy of terms and relationships. Intelligent information systems, such as iPhone's Siri, are built on ontologies to enable reasoning about the real world. Ontologies are also used by scientists to structure knowledge about subjects like taxonomy, anatomy and development, bioactive compounds, disease and clinical diagnosis.

The original purpose, the whole inquiry, denoted by the word ontology, is lost. 
How now should we inquire about existence per se?  Now instead of the edges, the source of existence itself, we mean, if we are a scientist, simply, that which is known about a topic. Any exploration must happen within a verbal framework.

This loss happened before the new approach outlined in the article to which we link. Still, this misuse of a valuable tool, the word, 'ontology', makes any recovery of the original purpose even more challenging. Insights are lost. Yes, the crucial insights must always be won again, by the individual knower. Yes words are a hindrance in real effort. Yet, it helps to be able to point, to have certain words. You never communicate to another, over any expanse of time, without -- words. Even if, as with the works of Jan Cox, what is being communicated, is the ways verbalizations can hinder, sincere effort.