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The Epistemic Benefit of Transient Diversity



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The Epistemic Benefit of Transient Diversity Kevin J S Zollman Carnegie Mellon University September 29 2009 Abstract There is growing interest in understanding and eliciting division of labor within groups of scientists This paper illustrates the need for this division of labor through a historical example and a formal model is presented to better analyze situations of this type Analysis of this model reveals that a division of labor can be maintained in two different ways by limiting information or by endowing the scientists with extreme beliefs If both features are present however cognitive diversity is maintained indefinitely and as a result agents fail to converge to the truth Beyond the mechanisms for creating diversity suggested here this shows that the real epistemic goal is not diversity but transient diversity The author would like to thank Brian Skyrms Kyle Stanford Jeffrey Barrett Bruce Glymour Sam Hillier Samir Grover Kevin Kelly Teddy Seidenfeld Michael Strevens Michael Weisberg Ryan Muldoon several contributors at the Wikipedia reference desk and the anonymous referees for their assistance Code for the simulations can be obtained from the author s website http www andrew cmu edu users kzollman 1 The Epistemic Benefit of Transient Diversity A striking social feature of science is the extensive division of labor Not only are different scientists pursuing different problems but even those working on the same problem will pursue different solutions to that problem This diversity is to be applauded because in many circumstances one can simply not determine a priori if a general theoretical or methodological approach will succeed without first attempting to apply it study the effects of its application and develop additional auxiliary theories to assist in its application 1 The value of diversity presents a problem for more traditional approaches to scientific methodology since if everyone employs the same standards for induction and has access to the same



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