Simulated Solutions for Real Problems

The way that people look at mathematical statistics is changing. Statistics show up in the news media left and right. People probably view graphs on a daily basis. They’re becoming desensitized to data. However, statistics will be one of the most important aspects of communication in the future. Statistics can actually allow us to predict problems before they even occur. In fact, they play a key role in predictive analysis as well as futures studies. So they’re pretty important to the world of science. But what about alternative uses of statistics? Can statistics be used for nefarious reasons or simply in another, more useful manner? Some think so.

The Advent of Simulated Solutions

Simulated solutions are a type of educated guess based around statistical data. While this sounds like the same sort of thing that scientists have been doing for years, it actually represents a distinct paradigm shift. Some researchers have argued that it’s better to ask the right questions rather than finding exact answers to the wrong ones. Posing questions and having statistical data that suggests a trend is very important. But is this science? Many would argue that it is.

Historically, scientists have sought exact answers to identified problems. However, the use of simulated solutions dictate that scientists change the questions to fit existing data. There is a subtle but notable difference in this approach. This practice is considered questionable by some and has even been called dishonest by many detractors. By changing the way that questions are asked however, perhaps scientists can get closer to the truth in some instances. After all, can we ever be 100% sure that a single approach to finding answers is an absolute? If so, why do we not yet know if life exists on other planets despite decades of some really smart people trying to find the answer? Perhaps we’re asking the wrong questions. Or perhaps we should use what we do know to form the questions in the first place.

As the fundamental methodology used to pose a hypothesis changes, it isn’t difficult to assume that the scientific method itself might change in the future. With society constantly in motion, even these bulwarks of rationality might eventually fall. I personally remain unconvinced that simulated solutions are the right approach. In fact, I think it’s a lazy approach to science in general. That of course doesn’t mean I’m right. What do you think?

Image Credit:


John W. Tukey (1967). The Future of Data Analysis. The Annals of Mathematical Statistics, 33 (1), 1-67 : 10.1214/aoms/1177704711

Additional Learning Resources:

Post Navigation