Monday, May 28, 2012

How Intellect is Revolutionized

Sometimes existing theories and comprehension change drastically. Some call this phenomenon a paradigm shift. Thomas Kuhn, a philosopher of science studied revolutionary change(s) in science, and clarified what happens when a paradigm shift occurs. Last Tuesday we had our discussion concerning this paradigm shift, based on The Structure of Scientific Revolution by Thomas Kuhn, and Imagine Worlds by Freeman Dyson.

An important notion in The Structure of Scientific Revolution is that a paradigm shift is born from not necessarily the accumulating new facts that have never been tested before, but from the reconstruction of existing concepts. For instance Niklas Luhmann identifies does not change the word: communication in his Social Systems Theory although his definition of it is much more emphasized and detailed than the usual definition. Luhmann did not create something nonexistent, but changed existent intellectual circumstances.

Like so, a paradigm shift is the reconstruction or the reexamination of the current intellect. That is why a scientific revolution did not only occur in the Copernican Revolution in the 16th and the 17th century, but has been occurring continuously as long as science was existent. We tend think that what is written in science textbooks are unarguable, but in reality, scientific research had, and currently has, many inconsistencies. These inconsistencies leave possibilities of what can become paradigm shifts.

So our question was: is paradigm shift a progression, or an evolution? We define progression as an improvement, where positive feedback occurs. On the other hand, evolution has more of a “conversion” nuance, where the change may not always be for the greater good. It is definite that many paradigm shifts occur, but we have yet to know if they are either improvements, or just mere conversion, or change. What do you think?

The next notion we focused on was as Kuhn suggests, and as history suggests, paradigm shifts, or scientific revolutions are triggered not usually by experienced “experts” in each field, but surprisingly by new comers that have little recognition. This is because the new comers approach existing intellect, which have become traditional to experts, from their philosophies of science. Because new comers do not use traditional approaches, they are more capable of finding holes in common theory, causing paradigm shifts, compared to the bug-fixing-like frontier research experts do.
Finally, we discussed on how to drive our research in SFC as new comers in each field. As all students taking this course are undergraduates, we have very limited time in order to produce new insights in science, design, etc. For new comers like us, while we cannot revolutionize preexisting intellect, we can change the tools to give new insights. For example, when using the microscope, we see new, different insights and data not because we changed the subject we see, but because we changed how we saw it. This is the significance to letting us, undergraduates become researchers, innovate the intellectual frontier.


For the second part of the class, we studied Deb Roy in his famous presentation: The birth of a word, in order to see ways to how to see preexisting data from a completely new perspective, and innovate the intellectual frontier. Roy saw the usual family life in a house, and how the baby learned and acquired words by taking the world’s longest home-video ever, and tracking every word and every movement of every person. Although we may not have the ability or the resources to do something as creative as Deb Roy, this presentation gave us great implication for our research.

We also viewed some more videos students have filmed and edited. Keep in mind that most of them experienced editing and filming videos for the first time. We hope this experience gives us insights on new ways to view preexisting subjects.


Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolution, University of Chicago Press, 1962

Freeman Dyson, Imagined Worlds, Harvard University Press, 1997

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