Is Time Travel possible? Many scientists, including Stephen Hawking, state that Time Travel is not possible for the simple reason that if it were possible, then we would have already seen all those time-travellers visiting us from the future. They are not here, so time travel is not possible.
In Science, as Karl Popper writes (The Logic of Scientific Discovery, 1934) “Logically, no number of positive outcomes at the level of experimental testing can confirm a scientific theory, but a single counter example is logically decisive”. In other words, lack of evidence is not a disproof.
But Big Data is changing that.
We are entering an era when so much data is available that failing to prove your claim with this data is taken as a proof of falsehood (while Popper says that having no evidence for a theory does not disprove it. So Popper would not accept that having seen no time travellers is a proof time travel is not possible).
An example I read recently was for disproving homeopathy. Analysis of all available data on homeopathy result shows no difference between homeopathy and placebo. The headline was “homeopathic treatments have been proven to be completely useless” while the scientists used a more cautious language: “The available evidence is not compelling and fails to demonstrate that homeopathy is an effective treatment for any of the reported clinical conditions in humans”.
To you and me both of these come to the same conclusion: even with lots of data, there is no evidence that homeopathy works; so you and I accept the inevitable conclusion: it doesn’t work (even though Karl Popper would have warned us that this is not a proof).
Which brings me to the obvious question:
What else is being disproved by lack of evidence?
For me (and I expect to see some heated argument on this), the next target is Astrology.
Come on. Data Scientists have access to enough data about the world population to ascertain if it divides nicely into 12 types of people (one for each sign of the zodiac). Have you read any articles proving Astrology by Big Data analysis of the available data?
No? OK, maybe you should accept that Astrology is not real.
Similarly, have any fortune-tellers won the lottery recently?
No? OK, maybe you should accept that they can’t tell the future with any precision.
My point? With access to enough data and enough data scientists, the world is changing: lack of proof is becoming proof of falsehood. And Data Science has an important role to play.
Ben Bor is a Senior Solutions Architect at Teradata ANZ, specialist in maximising the value of enterprise data. He gained international experience on projects in Europe, America, Asia and Australia. Ben has over 30 years’ experience in the IT industry. Prior to joining Teradata, Ben worked for international consultancies for about 15 years and for international banks before that. Connect with Ben Bor via Linkedin.