Today when we are diagnosed with an incurable illness, we react as if the medical verdict were a sign of indolence rather than limited knowledge. In the same way, when a natural disaster causes tragic outcomes we immediately seek out a culprit. Does our society no longer contemplate the notion of error? By coming to terms with a few key facets of modern epistemology – identified by the likes of Mach and Popper – the author reaffirms the heuristic value of error, as it was bestowed upon us by Charles Darwin. Our genetic history is a reminder of the fact that species survive by adapting to their environment starting from random errors, at times fatal but more often useful and decisive. In the perfect world of artificial intelligence, the inevitable anomaly of imperfection is still required to make progress along the path of knowledge.
Giulio Giorello teaches Philosophy of Science at the University of Milan.