Not an obvious conclusion, I’ll agree. However, Chris Anderson, editor of Wired, presents the argument like this: as all sorts of data accumulate into a vast ocean of petabytes, our ability to synthesize it all into elegant theories and laws will disappear. The story is the cover of this month’s issue of Wired but I came across it in a newsletter from The Edge, a group of thinkers trying to promote a “third culture” of online intellectual thought.
Anderson’s argument isn’t really that the scientific method will disappear, but rather that correlation will become as good as it gets in terms of analyzing real-world data. Everything will be too messy, noisy and changing too quickly for proper hypotheses and theorems. As Anderson puts it, it will be “the end of theory.”
The nice thing about reading this on Edge is that the newsletter comes with several critical responses included from “The Reality Club,” which includes thinkers like George Dyson, Kevin Kelly and Stuart Brand. But I say that as the consumers and producers of most of these masses of data, the vote should lie with you, reader: does Google’s brute force approach to data hording spell the end scientific elegance?