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Cherry-Picking and the Scientific Method (2013) [pdf] (cofc.edu)
31 points by pmoriarty 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 5 comments

>When you approach a problem, you should do it in a way that mirrors the scientific method.

I find this fascinating. We've had centuries of great scientists solving difficult problems but we don't really know how people perceive problems in the first place. It isn't a trivial skill: many people apparently can't see them. They become distressed when a contradiction between accepted ideas is pointed out and usually try to jump to a non-solution. Yet a few, e.g. Professors and PhD supervisors, can reliably identify subtle and important problems. Even if they can't solve them.

People adapt to their environment very quickly. This makes problems fade into the background. As a software developer, here's an interesting experiment:

Pick 100 bugfix commits from source control. Read each one and try to find bins for each bug. You may find that a very large fraction (often more than half) fit into a bin for which a very small change to tooling or process could prevent. That change hasn't made because having this type of bug is "normal"


Bret Victor's Inventing on Principle talks a fair bit about how the greats don't solve what are thought to be the pre-existing problems of their field, but find solutions for problems no-one else even realized was a problem.


The genius is a genius by the first look he casts on any object. Is his eye creative? – Emerson, Representative Men

(That seems related to Emerson's remark that though he didn't have a musical ear, he had musical eyes. I like that.)


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