Research, The Product Of Imagination And Ignorance

One of the blessings and curses of the internet is the ability to read a wide variety of of knowledge and opinion written by many different people. Michael Hudson via Counter-Punch has written a post called:”The Financial Attack On Greece: Where Do we Go From Here?” He makes many cogent points although his analysis does not take us to completion. In this case we should be led to the subject of credit creation and how it should be controlled, for it is a weapon of mass financial destruction. Another writer, Eric Ware, wrote a post:”Banks Amok? Perhaps Not.” Now Eric is a very smart man, but his background is engineering and not finance and banking. His analysis is very superficial as is his research. I would believe that the reason being is his limited access to information. That is, he really does not know where to look. I am not surprised. People who are very good in their professions tend to become confused when researching other fields. The language is different and few people can bridge that difficulty well. So one turns to a general information source for the general information and is given the elementary and the sources for further research. Those sources are very important but if you only have a vague general knowledge then how do you determine where to go next? Research is a puzzle and one gathers information at all levels and starts to tease out a pattern that becomes useful in constructing greater knowledge and understanding. Research is both a skill and an art. In fact, one can say that about wisdom. We learn facts in the beginning. Two plus Two equals Four. Fact. Then we start to learn something about the principle behind that fact. Take two apples and place them on the table. Now take two more apples and place them besides the first two apples. How many apples can you count? Now consider that a is some number n and that b is some number not n. Add a to b. This addition creates an answer we may call c and is the sum of n and not n. If we subtract from c the number n we are left with the remainder of not n, or b. Thus we can draw the conclusion that a + b = c in all cases. And so we learn our algebra rules of addition and multiplication. A x B = C and C / B = A. Facts lead to knowledge or the understanding of those facts and how they may be arranged to suit our purposes. We we learn how to analyze these sets of knowledge and how they may interact with each other and form new sets of knowledge and what new meanings this activity produces then we are learning something about wisdom. We have gained skill in teasing out the new meanings and rearranging or discarding the old meanings. Knowing what to keep and what to throw away is the art of wisdom.

But wisdom comes in all sizes, flavors, kinds, types, and any other division one can detail. Is wisdom ever mastered? Not really. I may be an engineer or a historian or a biologist. Now it may be that I have sufficient knowledge to show a mastery of the subject matter. But do I have such a total mastery that I know everything about this subject matter? Have I discovered everything that can be discovered or do I simply know more than most individuals? The other side of wisdom, as shown by Socrates is that knowing you are ignorant is the first step towards wisdom. As Donald Rumsfeld would have put it, there are things that are known and things that are unknown. Of those things that are unknown we have the known unknown and the unknown unknown. In other words, mankind’s knowledge is limited to what he (collectively) knows and the unknowns that he knows exists. But beyond that is that vast expanse of things of which we do not comprehend as existing. We can put no name to them, recognize no pattern to their existence, can not see them if they stared us in the face. Some call this God, the unknowable and the unknown. Others prefer to believe in some life spirit of the universe. That kind of science fiction that says, the edge of our universe, the one we believe is 15 billion light years away, is expanding in all directions is some void which we can have no perception nor knowledge. We cannot see beyond that edge. We have no instrument to detect nor measure beyond that edge. And this universe, which is for all purposes almost infinite in the its space as we can understand it, is a closed system and very finite. Picture the number one in your mind. Now add a million zeros after it to the right. I might be able to picture a 1 with twenty or even a hundred zeros to the right of it, but is most likely the limit of my imagination. Perhaps if I worked at that visualization I might eventually see it in my mind. Now try to imagine how another universe, one we can never see nor even know exists, one that is beyond our powers of imagination. Why? Because our imagination is based on our present knowledge. We imagine based on what we know and can know. Of course the irony is that the collective imagination of mankind is a distribution curve where some of us can’t imagine very much of anything and some of us who can imagine one whole hell of a lot. The rest of us sit comfortably in that vast collective middle with the average imagination.

I suppose that it seems I have digressed as many of you were expecting a post on finance, banking, and economics. The the subject is research and research takes imagination. Ever wonder why? Because in order to discover the new, to expand ones thinking, one has to, in the parlance of Edward DeBono, dig a lot of shallow holes to make new discoveries. Linear thinking only deepens the hole you are digging now, it will not expand your hole or cover new ground. With the research question one either proposes to refine the old ideas or discover new ones. One can redesign a radial tire for an automobile or truck, but the original design work for the concept and manufacture of a radial tire has already been done. Making an improvement is a minor discovery. Sort of like genetic modification, one can use the “natural” method of breeding generation after generation or one can directly modify the genetic structure of a specific gene and insert that modification into the gene structures. It’s really a matter of time. Some mutations survive and most don’t. Genetic modification short cuts the time factor.

So we build extremely large scale electron colliders like CERN to test our theories and hypothesis that when we add more and more energy to the collisions of particles we can discover new particles of energy and mater. What is the limit to the smallest size particle that can exist before we reach pure energy? We are faced with the problem of the conservation of energy. Neither energy nor matter can be created or destroyed. In a simplistic understand, energy is movement and matter is stationary in nature. Or at least we like to think so, for it helps us in our imagination of how both may be seen. The human being is very visually oriented and so is his imagination. We like to make new musics, but we put the sounds in visual representation on paper so to “see” the music. We like to combine different aromas (taste is limited to sweet, sour, salt, and bitter, it is the olfactory nerve that gives us a sense of expanded taste) and methods of preparations in food, wine, and perfume. But we visualize the results in the words we use for description. This wine has the distinct aroma of fresh cherries and blackberries, which we visualize in our conscious minds.

Much of our language is learned through visual means. Think about that for a minute. To understand what sound a bell makes we need to understand what a bell is and we do that by seeing a bell or its representation. We can’t see the sound it makes but we associate that sound with a visual representation of the bell. We apply the generalizations of language to the specifics of language. When I tell you that I must run, your visualization will be either that of someone who looks like me engaged in the act of rapid movement or someone who looks like me leaving your presence. I will not look like a cube of butter melting in a pan. Of course this second point about butter shows that we place limits on the logical visualizations we have in out conscious minds. Thus there is a difference between the ability to visualize Hillary Clinton as the next president and the unwillingness not to visualize her as the next president. I prefer the latter, if truth be known. Visualization is both an act of imagination and perception. Both depend on individual knowledge and emotion. Emotion is one’s knowledge of feelings. But such knowledge is not necessarily logical or rational. Feelings are, by definition, illogical or irrational compared to conscious though processes, but not always. Feelings influence out thoughts and hence our perceptions and visualizations and thus our imaginations.

Well, this discussion of research has taken us quite far into the world of thought and perception. And even digression serves the purpose of research, for it is that ability to switch from a strictly linear process to the non linearity of digression in several directions that produces new perceptions, new imaginations, new discoveries. Linear thought is formalistic. One plus one equals two, two plus two equals four, and so on. But go dig shallow holes in your yard and what do you find? An earthworm, a rusty nail, a stone, an old coin, and maybe one day a diamond or a dead body of something. Research is discovering what you didn’t know before.


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