January 2011

The Elusivity of Trust

I've long been interested in issues of trust and meaning, particularly in regard to scientific information. The importance of context, the "who, when, where, why" of any piece of information, is critical in determining first whether we even learn of that information, and second the degree to which we accept it as part of our base of knowledge about the world.

Historian and philosopher Francis Fukuyama wrote a book on the subject (titled Trust). Ironically, while I felt some interest in it, I haven't read it because of my reaction to an earlier book of his (The End of History) - which I also didn't read. But anybody who could write a book with that title and the apparent thesis that all the interesting debates and conflicts regarding forms of government were somehow in the past was, I decided, not really worth my time. Thanks to just that cue, my level of trust in his ideas fell essentially to zero, and I haven't read what might otherwise have been very interesting to me. Or perhaps not if my judgment was justified.

Trust is fragile, hard to gain and easily lost. Which was why I found a recent post on science and journalism by Scientific American blogger Bora Zivkovic (who I've followed for a long time as @BoraZ on twitter) a little annoying.

GISS: 2010 hottest year in history - as I predicted 3 years ago!

The final 2010 Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) global land+ocean temperature numbers are out and just as I predicted, this year was the hottest in their record. Once again my prediction (really mostly a guess) was within just a few hundredths of a degree of the final number for the year:

Year Arthur's Feb 2008 prediction GISS - January 2011 Difference
2008 0.41 0.44 -0.03
2009 0.55 0.58 -0.03
2010 0.65 0.63 +0.02