Data-driven Science in the Age of Exponential Information Growth
Science and technology researcher Eric Drexler, on his new blog Metamodern.com, comments on the history and evolution of the Scientific Method. Hypothesis followed by experiments has been a mainstay, even a dogmatic paradigm in Science. However, with today's computing technology and the legacy of established scientific research it is possible to gather, sort and interpret large amounts of data, bypassing the need for a hypothesis to drive experiementation. This method is the reason the Human Genome has been mapped so quickly and is proving so usefuly. However, data-driven science is actually not a new method, Drexler points out; Astronomers, in effect, do the same thing- by taking pictures and then analyzing them to see what's there.
The Data Explosion and the Scientific Method
by Eric Drexler on October 25, 2008
Scientists in an increasing number of fields are doing science in new ways, exploiting powerful new data-collection technologies with the aid of computational methods and a little humility.
Tradition demands that science always be hypothesis-driven: First, try to guess the truth, and only afterward collect experimental data to test whether the guess predicts the results. Indeed, this has been termed “The Scientific Method”. The new data-driven approach suggests that we collect data first, then see what it tells us. This becomes practical when experimental methods can amass enormous amounts of data, enough data to test more hypotheses than any mortal scientist could conceivably imagine.