From the introduction:
In an edited excerpt from his new book, Too Big to Know, David Weinberger explains how the massive amounts of data necessary to deal with complex phenomena exceed any single brain’s ability to grasp, yet networked science rolls on.
Well, it is a highly entertaining excerpt, with passages like:
For example, the biological system of an organism is complex beyond imagining. Even the simplest element of life, a cell, is itself a system. A new science called systems biology studies the ways in which external stimuli send signals across the cell membrane. Some stimuli provoke relatively simple responses, but others cause cascades of reactions. These signals cannot be understood in isolation from one another. The overall picture of interactions even of a single cell is more than a human being made out of those cells can understand. In 2002, when Hiroaki Kitano wrote a cover story on systems biology for Science magazine — a formal recognition of the growing importance of this young field — he said: “The major reason it is gaining renewed interest today is that progress in molecular biology … enables us to collect comprehensive datasets on system performance and gain information on the underlying molecules.” Of course, the only reason we’re able to collect comprehensive datasets is that computers have gotten so big and powerful. Systems biology simply was not possible in the Age of Books.
Weinberger slips twix and tween philosophy of science, epistemology, various aspects of biology and computational science. Not to mention with the odd bald faced assertion such as: “…the biological system of an organism is complex beyond imagining.” At one time that could have been said about the atom. I think some progress has been made on understanding that last item, or so physicists claim.
Don’t get me wrong, I have a copy on order and look forward to reading it.
But, no single reader will be able to discover all the factual errors and leaps of logic in Too Big to Know. Perhaps a website or wiki, Too Big to Correct?