A Popper Post

“Popper posed his problem in a slightly different way: Just because you’ve only ever seen white swans doesn’t mean that all swans are white” (Eli Pariser, The Filter Bubble, 133).  It took me longer than I’d care to admit to find where Pariser got this intriguing idea.  Karl Popper is much talked about on the internet but rarely directly quoted.  After finding a work actually written by the philosopher, The Logic of Scientific Discovery, it was clear to see why he has been paraphrased so much.  Popper wrote the same sentence as “no matter how many instances of white swans we may have observed, this does not justify the conclusion that all swans are white” (Karl Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery, 4).  While it still conveys the same message, it’s clear that the philosopher was writing to a very different, more academic audience.  The context behind the two quotes are not exactly the same either.  The original use of the swan metaphor was to criticize induction, a method of assumption that is based on expanding a small idea into a universal one.  Pariser adapted it quite well to the modern day problem of accurate, efficient algorithm creation.  Though he paraphrased Popper’s exact diction, it was change for the better considering his target audience; it also managed to explain his point of how these computer sorters are unable to accurately place you as an individual among millions of others.

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