Parsing, landscapes and art: Some speculations

By Gordon Rugg

In previous articles, I discussed how humans parse what they see, so as to make sense of it, in just the same way that they parse the words that they hear. In both types of parsing, ambiguities can arise; in both types of parsing, those ambiguities can act as a source of interest to the person doing the parsing.

This article looks at ambiguities in parsing landscapes, and at some speculative overlaps with art. In a later article, I’ll discuss how people parse landscapes, with particular regard to the practical implications for site design and for urban planning.

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Image from wikimedia: 800px-Salar_de_Uyuni,_Bolivia_2.jpg

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Decision rationale: The why and the wherefore

By Gordon Rugg

People are usually able to give you reasons for the things that they do. Sometimes those reasons make perfect sense; sometimes they make sense once you understand the background; other times, you’re left wondering what one earth is going on in the person’s head. There’s also the issue of whether those reasons bear any relation to reality, but that’s another story.

This article is about how one apparently pointless superstition can be traced back to a perfectly sensible piece of evidence-based reasoning that subsequently spiralled off into a very different direction. It involves the ancient Roman practice of examining the livers of sacrificed sheep and poultry as a way of predicting the future.

So what does this practice have to tell us about how people make decisions today? Actually, quite a lot. It’s a good illustration of some fundamental points that are as important now as they were over two thousand years ago, when this bronze model of a liver was created to help Roman fortune tellers assess the omens before a major decision.

Piacenza_Bronzeleber

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Piacenza_Bronzeleber.jpg

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The Verifier approach: part1

By Gordon Rugg

The central theme in Blind Spot, the new book by myself and Joe D’Agnese, is the Verifier approach. The Verifier approach is a way of spotting errors in human reasoning; in particular, spotting errors made by experts dealing with long-standing problems where it looks as if the experts have ground to a halt and can’t see where to go next.

Its starting point is simple. Human beings make pretty much the same types of mistakes, regardless of their level of expertise, or of the field in which they’re working. If you know what those types of mistakes are, then you can go hunting for them.

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New book: “Blind Spot”

By Gordon Rugg

My new book comes out on April 30th. Blind Spot is the story of an ambitious idea. I wanted to develop a method to spot where experts go wrong when tackling difficult problems. What happened next includes: A mysterious undeciphered mediaeval manuscript; inventing a radically different way to handle online search; new approaches to forensic statistics; a different way of looking at the search for life on other worlds, and much more. None of that was quite what I’d expected…

RUGG_BlindSpot_HC HIRES_c

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