The satisfactory philosophy of ignorance / Try today. Be less wrong tomorrow.

Some nice thoughts on the importance of being wrong from The Infinite Monkey Cage: The Recipe to Build a Universe. Audio clip starts here.

Brian Cox: The essence of Science is being delighted to be wrong. Every time you’re wrong, you learn something. And Richard Feynman very famously defined Science as a satisfactory philosophy of ignorance. So it’s that philosophy that you start of knowing nothing, and then you play around and when you get something wrong you can rule that bit out and move on. So I think it’s central to the Scientific endeavour, and actually central to the human endeavour, but people don’t like to be wrong, in Science you get use it don’t you. I’m wrong most of the time in research science as everybody is [Gentle audience giggling, followed by sound of Brian seemingly frustrated that the audience didn’t catch his point, about how being wrong is a positive and critical part of the process].

Rufus Hound: But I’ll be less wrong tomorrow.

Brian: Yeah, you’re less wrong…

Rufus: But… forgive me for blowing smoke up anybody here, but, I think like the mainstream-isation of science and scientific ideas has been led in the last few years in no small part with the two of you, and that actually there’s a really important philosophical idea which is ‘try today, and be less wrong tomorrow’, which feels absolutely fundamental to the business of being alive. And instead, actually, the cultural yard stick that we hold ourselves accountable to – or we are told to hold ourselves, and more importantly, one another to accountable to – is be right all the time, and if you are even momentarily wrong, death to you! Which is literally the death of all intellectual endeavour, but also cultural endeavour, social endeavour, gender fluidity, progress of any nature. If you will be pilloried for being wrong, that is the death of progress.