Four areas of investigation in psychology and the social sciences have led in recent decades to complementary results that, if combined, may offer unique potential for significant new advances. The purpose of this project is to initiate new conversations in the context of these four areas, in the hope that better-informed exchanges might lead in productive new directions. The volume of information and the rates at which it has emerged over the last several decades has made it virtually impossible for anyone to keep up with. It may be, however, that something of a pattern is evident, and that this pattern could point toward new possibilities for imaginative exploration. These four areas are:
First, the history, philosophy, and social studies of science have articulated plausible innovative explanations of how data, instruments, and theory work together to advance understandings of phenomena in nature, with metrology playing key roles.
Second, related work in economics focuses on how complex social ecologies of interdependent relational infrastructures shape communities and their capacities for resilience and adaptation.
Third, probabilistic models of measurement applicable across the entire range of natural and social sciences operationalize a scientific perspective quite distinct from that of statistical modeling, opening onto previously unconsidered metrological infrastructuring opportunities rooted in, infused by, and respective of uncertainty.
Fourth, everyday language serves as the root model of how new things come into words as labor-saving devices in a bottom-up agent-driven economy of thought; here, the semiotic truth that all thinking and communication takes place via signs and symbols is made into a fundamental principle for co-producing and co-evolving sciences and societies.
These four areas of results combine to project what may be quite revolutionary conceptions of humanity’s future. To start with, mathematics and science are humanized by the unavoidable and uncontrollable effects of metaphor and analogy in the creation of meaning. Scientific laws and models can be accepted as positing unrealistic, idealized, and unobservable fictions because the focus is on approximating them to useful degrees in empirical experiments, the results of which are then incorporated in standardized quality assured instruments distributed to end users.
The pragmatics of everyday language are put to work by setting up standards so they are not primarily conceived as being imposed irrespective of local circumstances. Instead, standards are conceived as contextualizing inevitably unique and local situations, where the point is to arrive at a shared agreement satisfying the immediate need for communication. The metaphysical faith that the laws of science are naturally universal is replaced with the equally effective pragmatic operations of metrology, which secures reduced uncertainty by assuring traceability to standards. Nature is imitated by having huge volumes of widely distributed and genomically varied seeds of ideas dispersed throughout ecosystems, so that improbable creative combinations are happening so often that it becomes unlikely that new and useful forms of social life will not emerge.
A basic hypothesis to be tested in this project concerns how and when trust, confidence, and faith in the validity and meaning of what is measured, said, and done can be supported. Although science plays an essential role in establishing a basis for trust, equally essential roles must also be fulfilled in this context by the contributions of the legal, financial, and communications sectors (see figures).
Standards in these areas have consequences for how opportunities are defined and how possibilities can be imagined. Property rights and legally enforceable contracts combine with financial penalties and rewards to motivate both adherence to the norms of everyday routines and the creative improvisations intended to meet one’s own and others’ needs in more meaningful, beautiful, or efficient ways.
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