Occam Was Wrong !

Occam Was Wrong !

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Prof Harold G Campbell
Prof Harold G Campbell
california state university – humboldt
department of computing science, california, USA
Email: [email protected]

When faced with complex questions about the interaction of phenomena or while searching for an explanation about the cause and effect of things upon each other, the vast majority of people tend to dissect and interpret how the world is put together from a rather univariate perspective. With the advent of GIS systems it has become “somewhat” easier to construct advanced models that account for not only a linear form of correlation between variables, but also to address the multivariate and multidirectional interrelations that exist between phenomena, provided that researchers remember to envision such potential complexities in order to properly construct an analytical environment inside the GIS software that accounts for such events. The research design strategy presented within this article depicts just how complicated this process of multidirectional hypothesis formulation and spatial correlation modeling can become and further illustrates the degree of comprehensiveness required in order for the researcher to build-in such multidimensional considerations.

Generally speaking, when faced with complex questions about the interaction of phenomena or while searching for an explanation about the cause and effect of things upon each other, the vast majority of people tend to dissect and interpret how the world is put together from a rather univariate perspective. The temptation to oversimplify things and to reduce a complex question to its simplest form is quite understandable really, due largely to the fact that contemplation of multiple interrelationships between variables is difficult to do and as a consequence most people naturally grab hold of the first reasonable explanation that occurs to them regarding how particular phenomenon interact so that they can expediently articulate their conclusion. The problem with this approach to problem solving is that people (once they’ve decided upon an explanation) tend to cling to their initial argument as though it were a reflection of their personal character, in spite of the introduction of new information that may either invalidate their assertion or further explain the situation.

The natural byproduct of such an approach to problem solving (especially if challenged by another during a debate over the issue) is that the dialog typically degenerates to nothing more than a contest of wills, and the truth of the matter is typically never isolated fully by anyone. This approach to problem solving (to reduce the complexity of the world’s natural interactions to the most simplistic view possible) is certainly understandable however. After all, it’s hard to think up all of the possible reasons that something happens and then prioritize the potentially contributive factors into a coherent argument. It is extremely difficult for people to change who they are, how they think about things, and even more difficult for us to withhold judgment about something until all of the possible alternatives have been examined. We all know that who we are, our cognitive abilities to reason, the methods we employ to arrive at a particular conclusion, and the judgments we make about the world cannot possibly be flawed, because that would suggest that we are somehow flawed and this is simply not acceptable to us.

Perhaps the most demonstrative difference between people who are trained in the scientific approach to problem solving and those practices employed by “normal people” is the ability of the former to recognize the innate complexities and interrelationships of the world and to employ a methodological structure to the problem solving effort which roots out the cause and effects of any situation under study (or at least we scientists like to think so). The byproduct of these analyses are the development of an awareness and the construction of quantitative formulas that can be employed to describe the relationships discovered and which can extend the analysis to the formulation of strategic policies that are based on this understanding and that hopefully provide effective control over the outcome of efforts to manipulate the environment in which we live. This technique is not hard to master, but it does require practice and self-discipline. The pace of today’s world exacerbates the temptation to cling to the univariate model of problem solving because decisions must be made quickly. However, those people who are effective at policy formulation, I believe, tend to realize that decisions about how forces interact, what actions would be most effective at achieving the desired results, and the consequences of such actions, do so from an informed perspective rather than a quickly acquired univariate determination. This means that they do not make decisions in haste. Rather, they take time to examine the complexities of the issues under study and render decisions based on their assessments of what is best for all concerned based on the volumes of information that they have painstakingly assembled and analyzed (or at least that’s the way in which it is supposed to happen).