Thursday, 1 November 2012

Statistical Analysis as the End of the West

I've been reading about Spengler's Civilization Model and feel that a deterministic worldview is the logical outcome of the progression of the west as a civilization. I also feel that with greater and greater employment of statistical analysis we will find that the west is likely in decline as a civilization (Which should seem obvious). The two central narratives of the western ascent as a civilization (in my opinion) is the role of the individual and analysis of the deterministic behavior of the universe. All our great thinkers culminated in the creation of physics and the creation of democracy. These two ideas matured into socialism (which I will not discuss) and quantum physics which we are finding are not capable of solving society's problems.

Why do these outcomes signal the end of the west? The first outcome is that our progress in physics has slowed greatly over the last few years. Our search for a theory of everything has been an ultimate failure and our methods of unifying the remnants of physics keep failing. I feel that the culture of the west will not allow us to discover anything else in physics anytime soon and that deeper theories will escape us for the time-being. Our cultural worldview will have us grasping for a unifying theory in the face of the fact that such things likely will never exist.

As statistical analysis increase in frequency it signals that we are becoming increasingly unable to predict the behavior of the universe as the teleology of the west demanded. Gone are the days of Newton, Laplace and Euler... we now awaken to a world wrought with complexity and, even if simple laws govern its behavior, chaos. This peaks with the Heisenberg Uncertainty principle. We have discovered the limits to what we can know.

The West enters it's own age of limits... and it likely would have entered that age of limits sooner were it no for the advent of the computer. The computer is the final breath of western civilization. The computer reminds us of a world that we feel can be distilled down to algorithms and controlled with ease. The world we find in its place is one of far greater complexity then we ever imagined and one terrifying in the breath of its complexity. We assure ourselves that new techniques (or even old techniques) will find a way to decipher the code of the universe. We look to computing power as a pixie dust that will ease our woes. Too bad we have no idea what to do with it.

Although the west may find itself in the age of limits I argue that there are limits the west are far from reaching. Later civilizations may find ways of deciphering more of the universe but we will likely find increasing difficulty as the years go on. The culture needed for the advent of knowledge is not a culture founded on skepticism. We need a new teleology to move on but our hearts are too empty and too shaken to think of one. Our narrative is ending... western history will end in time but, unlike Fukuyama imagined, history will march on.