Friday, March 24, 2006

If what must be isn’t; then what isn’t must be.

If what must be isn’t; then what isn’t must be.

Consider how expectations impact observation. When in college I had a Philosophy in Evolution seminar. It was with Dr. Eichhoefer and that was enough.

One concept covered was how expectations cause us to see what we expect to see. For example, in Evolution, presuppositions influence identification of unidentifiable bones and debris toward the analyst’s predilections.

Convex to serendipity, expectations suggests we find what look for or, at lease, what we expect to find. Science is replete with healthy hypothesis, but expectations can pollute any conclusion.

(Let’s not take this too far to say all conclusions are victims to presupposed expectations. The point is to show how conclusions can be tainted without neutral validation. The “too far” is a quantum physics game called Schrödinger's Cat; check it out.)

And so to demonstrate I brought in the Cranberry’s “Everybody Else Is Doing It” album and prepared to play “Wanted,” an interesting song of teenage romantic angst in the context of violent Northern Island politics.

Listen to the song here

I prefaced saying, “The first line goes ‘Sitting in inertia with my head between my hands’ and it is a little hard to hear, so listen close and let me know if you have picked it out.” Even the way I phrased it became a kind of neo-cultural challenge for my professor and classmates to strain and hear what I had suggested.

They all heard it.

I then explained how evil people are careless victims of expectation, but (gasp) even sane, fair and open-minded, free willed souls with good intentions and freedom of inquiry can fall victim to expectation’s subtle snares.

I continued, “Let me replay the start of this song, but also let me reset your expectations. The first line goes ‘Sitting in an armchair with my head between my hands’ and it is a little hard to hear, so listen close and let me know if you have picked it out.”

When it played, palms met foreheads.

It was a great display that we see, find, or even hear what you expect to. As interesting is the fact that once they heard what it “really” was, it was impossible for them to hear anything else again. Think on that for a while…

Aside: In the wild world of software development, this condition almost demands that testers be unfamiliar the application and its processes or technology.

1 comment:

dave said...

Fourteen years later, I still hear it as 'inertia.'