July 18, 2009

From practice to theory

Back in Osaka for two days before Taiwan, with the [real] joy of karaoke waiting at the end of the day.

The first paragraph of the excerpt, below, overstates the case in suggesting that theoretical knowledge can never lead to practical applications, but the rest adds some modifiers to soften this claim.

The biggest myth I’ve encountered in my life is as follows: that the road from practical know-how to theoretical knowledge is reversible—in other words, that theoretical knowledge can lead to practical applications, just as practical applications can lead to theoretical knowledge. After all, this is the reason we have schools, universities, professors, research centers, homework, exams, essays, dissertations, and the strange brand of individuals called “economists.”

Yet the strange thing is that it is very hard to realize that knowledge cannot travel equally in both directions. It flows better from practice to theory—but to understand it you have nontheoretical knowledge. And people who have nontheoretical knowledge don’t think of these things.

Indeed, if knowledge flowed equally in both directions, then theory without experience should be equivalent to experience without theory—which is not the case.
Nassim Taleb, excerpted from a forward to a book, pdf here
Some related posts:
Practice / Theory
Theory / Practice
Big fat lie

No comments: