Am I the only baseball fan who was watching the managers more than the players…?
As 2016 hurries to a close, we will soon be looking at the annual litany of winners and losers. In Politics, Sports, Medicine, and the Economy. Some believe a discerning look will indisputably suggest the biggest winner will again be Math &Science. For evidence, just watch our poll takers, baseball managers, cancer centers, and investment managers crunching numbers with increasing sophistication.
When the USSR’s Sputnik beat us into space in 1957, Math &Science were given hurried new priority. Our schools and governments were expected to catch up fast. Of course this priority was in some ways around as early as the 18th C when America’s Founding Fathers were already caught up in the emerging Age of Enlightenment. That watershed in the West when Medieval thinking began to give way to Modern thought.
To put that another way, part of our American Exceptionalism comes from the philosophical assumption that whatever is “real” is real only when the empirical sciences can verify it [or Scientism]. In a hardscrabble frontier world, there would be far less room for theology, metaphysics or other “unscientific” habits from less informed times. Our own Benjamin Franklin was the personification of this hard-nosed, utilitarian worldview.
I don’t imagine CNN, Joe Maddon, Warren Buffet, or the Mayo Clinic call what they’re doing “scientism.” But that’s what it is. Today’s computers can instantly equip them with anything from the number of Latino voters in any county in the country, to the ERA of any Leftie vs any Rightie in the League, to the genetic predispositions of any Caucasian female over 65, to the trending price of oil in any market on the globe.
An infinity of big data like this becomes a kind of infinity all its own. Such fingertip access to an infinity of information means anyone in front of a screen today may theoretically call upon more actionable power than all the Pharaohs, Emperors and Generals in all of the years in all of human history.
Here’s the point.
Power like that, soon to be complemented with Artificial Intelligence, is laying upon the altar of humanity a chalice once dreamed fit for only gods and goddesses. Energized and linked by networks of super-computers, the growing number of scientistic practitioners is evolving into a virtually new gender. There is Man. There is Woman. Now an elite legion of super-deciders in almost every field of endeavor.
Feed them the right data and they are immediately in touch with which political ads to best use in downstate Ohio…which pinch hitter to call off the bench…which radiation protocols to order for which patients… which stocks to buy or sell in which trading markets….and, well, you name it and they have immediate access to the most scientistically accurate choices from which to decide!
Stark Trek? No, far more advanced. That series does, however, provide a kind of prototype for our scenario. Mr Spock. The walking, talking, unfeeling half-human virtually incapable of calling for the wrong choices. But wait, a better prototype might be the walking, talking, all-human virtuosos who now populate many of our college campuses, research labs, Silicon Valley start-ups, and basement geek-centers run by those bright kids who couldn’t make the football team and don’t care.
If such a scientistic age, by any other name, is really all around us, what might it mean? For free elections as we have patterned them? sports as we have known them? doctors and hospitals as we have understood them? and the complex world of global economics as we are just now trying to master? Will all these fields of endeavor become more efficient yet more esoteric to the average person? Will the sanctity of free will be eventually compromised by the determinism of stats? Will “they” become the world’s new governing elite? Will so much that is raw and real now, evolve into something more efficient yet less human?
I was thinking all this as I watched the two World Series managers looking down at all their stats in the dugout. Will the time come when super-deciders like them no longer feel it necessary to look up at the humans to whom those stats belong? I don’t believe that. On the other hand, maybe I don’t have enough data at my fingertips to know for sure….
Filed under: Uncategorized