Science and human rights move by tiny blind steps to a foggy future from a foggy starting point
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Science and human rights move by tiny blind steps
to a foggy future from a foggy starting point

Social psychologist: In your piece about new norms [link] you talked about "tiny blind steps." I can imagine many meanings for the "blind" in that phrase. Please tell us more about what you mean.

Physicist: I mean that tiny blind steps are blind because there is no fore-knowledge about where the trip is going. There is uncertain knowledge about the starting point. Causes which bring about steps are, and can only be, independent of this trip to a foggy future from a foggy starting point.

Historian: The accelerator designer in our piece on particle accelerators [link] does not know what the design will look like and does not well understand the starting point. The trip ahead will start with variations of an analog device because no one knows where those variations will lead. Some might lead to a dismal swamp. Some might be worth building on.

Social psychologist: The blind steps need to be guided somehow. Scientists are innovative but this doesn't mean that expectations of reliability and sensitivity and more go out the window.

Physicist: Exactly. In evolution a tiny blind step is a change in a genome, maybe caused by a cosmic ray particle. But, the genome must still be a functioning genome. In science a tiny blind step is publication in a peer reviewed journal with all the expectations about reliability and sensitivity and more which go with that.

Historian: In human rights we have a growing body of international law and international courts. So, a tiny blind step for human rights must be consistent with this body of law. Sovereign nation states can place more limitations on steps for human rights. We are still working on this.