Saturday, March 26, 2011

Commonly Held But False Beliefs Impede Tech Development

That is the stance of George Church, who works on new methods of DNA synthesis and, more generally, genetics. In this Nature Biotech article, he also says, of his conversations with fellow scientists:
Sometimes they'll say something is impossible, but if you drill down they say that it's really expensive, and if you drill further, they say it's really expensive now.
One of the issues is that people mean different things when they say words like "impossible." They are referring to different time scales, different probability measures (does impossible mean in 1 in 1000 or 1 in 1,000,000 worlds?), and different reasons why (intrinsic to the tech, coordination problems, regulation, etc). Really want we want is incentives to make people more precise about their predictions.