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Deborah Hazen's picture

Emergence

I'm thinking about the role a set of rules plays in emergence and the use of computers to see things we previously could not observe. The computer simulations had simple rules that were pre-programmed, so as we were watching the simulations, I was considering a conversation that Paul had with my students last year. Paul was explaining a difference between science and math. He pointed out that math is a set of rules created by people--a game, and once you understand the rules you can play this game that includes right and wrong answers. He contrasted that with science that doesn't have right or wrong answers, simply is a process for telling a story and moving the story forward to get it "less wrong."  I admit that recalling that conversation left me slightly distracted as we were watching the simulation because I was distracted by the deterministic programming inherent in the ant simulation. I can see how it is a good simulation for illustrating how the ant and environment are interacting.

I am happy to talk about the importance of considering not only the internal motivations that result in an action but also the effects of the environment. In education one of the fundamental attribution errors is to attribute student behavior and performance solely to student "behavior type" forgetting to assess the situational influences acting on and being acted upon by the student.

 

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