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How to handle uncertainty in the analysis of complex situations? How to juggle a constellation of alternative hypotheses? How to derive actionable advice to offer a harried decisionmaker? Technologists and software developers, bless them, don't have the area expertise to build the tools that the specialist-analyst needs --- so the analyst had better learn to talk to the technologist.

Epistemology --- the study of knowledge itself --- is the true foundation of powerful information-handling tools. Substantive experts don't need to know the mathematics of uncertainty, but they do need to at least speak some of the language. Then they can guide the toolsmith-methodologist toward useful action. A basic vocabulary of these ideas is also a splendid way to lift a discussion up from the "yes it is" / "no it isn't" level to a higher-dimensional space --- where all sides can see how the uncertainties and alternatives balance out. Moreover, knowing something about the underpinnings of knowledge gives the thinker a new stock of metaphors ... and thereby enhances the ability to formulate and solve tough problems.

There are a host of disciplines that help wrestle down uncertainty, including:

This quick tour of the epistemological engine-room will help a captain pilot the ship of thought with more precision. A little understanding of how the machinery works will also assist in diagnosis and recovery when things go awry. The bottom line: clearer thinking about complex issues.

(The above snapshot of a work-in-progress is derived from a talk I gave today to a small class. More to come!)

Thursday, August 10, 2000 at 21:17:01 (EDT) = Datetag20000810

TopicThinking - TopicScience - TopicPhilosophy - TopicOrganizations

(correlates: Twitter Poetry, MinimaxStrategy, BooksToConsider, ...)