Paradigm Change



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What is a "Paradigm" 

& how do you change it  (extract from Wikipedia)

The historian of science Thomas Kuhn gave it its contemporary meaning when he adopted the word to refer to the set of practices that define a scientific discipline at any particular period of time. In his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions Kuhn defines a scientific paradigm as: "universally recognized scientific achievements that, for a time, provide model problems and solutions for a community of researchers", i.e.,

  • what is to be observed and scrutinized
  • the kind of questions that are supposed to be asked and probed for answers in relation to this subject
  • how these questions are to be structured
  • how the results of scientific investigations should be interpreted
  • how is an experiment to be conducted, and what equipment is available to conduct the experiment.

In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Kuhn saw the sciences as going through alternating periods of normal science, when an existing model of reality dominates a protracted period of puzzle-solving, and revolution, when the model of reality itself undergoes sudden drastic change. 

Paradigms have two aspects. 

Firstly, within normal science, the term refers to the set of exemplary experiments that are likely to be copied or emulated. 

Secondly, underpinning this set of exemplars are shared preconceptions, made prior to – and conditioning – the collection of evidence. 

These preconceptions embody both hidden assumptions and elements that he describes as quasi-metaphysical; the interpretations of the paradigm may vary among individual scientists.

Kuhn was at pains to point out that the rationale for the choice of exemplars is a specific way of viewing reality: that view and the status of "exemplar" are mutually reinforcing.   For well-integrated members of a particular discipline, its paradigm is so convincing that it normally renders even the possibility of alternatives unconvincing and counter-intuitive.   Such a paradigm is opaque, appearing to be a direct view of the bedrock of reality itself, and obscuring the possibility that there might be other, alternative imageries hidden behind it.    The conviction that the current paradigmis reality tends to disqualify evidence that might undermine the paradigm itself; this in turn leads to a build-up of unreconciled anomalies.  

It is the latter that is responsible for the eventual revolutionary overthrow of the incumbent paradigm, and its replacement by a new one. 

Kuhn used the expression paradigm shift for this process, and likened it to the perceptual change that occurs when our interpretation of an ambiguous image "flips-over" from one state to another. (The rabbit-duck illusion is an example: it is not possible to see both the rabbit and the duck simultaneously.) 


Continue reading in Wikipedia






RSA Keynote Speech


How To Change the Future

2nd Oct 2012; 18:00

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