Stumbling Progress: Part 2

Thejus Chakravarthy
3 min readMay 31, 2024

In the first part, I concluded by suggesting:

“We should learn from history, but not dwell on it. We should measure our progress, but remain adaptable. We should consider long-term implications, but not lose sight of the present.”

My good friend Lauren Anderson mentioned that I should have provided examples, so here we go!

Photo by Museums Victoria on Unsplash

We should learn from history, but not dwell on it.

Proposed in 1926, Murray’s Law described how natural vascular structures efficiently transport fluids with minimal energy expenditure. This law worked well for biological systems like blood vessels and plant veins. However, as synthetic materials with diverse shapes emerged, the traditional theory struggled to accommodate these new structures accurately.

Rather than dwelling on the limitations of the original Murray’s Law, researchers at Cambridge recognized the need to learn from history and build upon the existing knowledge. They proposed a “Universal Murray’s Law” that bridges the gap between biological vessels and artificial materials, expanding the applicability of the theory to a broader range of systems and flow types.

By not dwelling on the constraints of the past and instead using it as a foundation for further development, the researchers were able to create a more comprehensive and versatile theory that can benefit energy and environmental applications.

Photo by Jennifer Burk on Unsplash

We should measure our progress, but remain adaptable.

Researchers recently found a specific neural signal that seemed to relate to how confident people were in their decisions. Previously it was theorized that confidence was linked to other factors like making accurate decision s in the past, how fast the decision was made, or even the quality of evidence. But this finding implies that simply looking at overt behavior or performance metrics does not fully capture the underlying cognitive processes. If true, it would seem that confidence emerges from a more complex set of computations in the brain.
In a sense, the researchers had to go beyond simply “measuring progress” via standard decision-making outputs like correct/incorrect responses or reaction times. They dug deeper to uncover a subtler neural signature that gave insight into the participants’ subjective sense of confidence. This reminds us that relying solely on surface-level metrics can miss important nuances.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

We should consider long-term implications, but not lose sight of the present

The long term implications of your daily cup of tea are a giant pile of used tea bags in some landfill, somewhere, that is directly your fault. But using loose leaf tea can be a hassle, especially if you don’t want to get into the nitty gritty details of the whole thing and just want your hot drink in the morning.

But recent research has shown that biodegradable tea bags may not always be … biodegradable. And in some cases, they could kill earthworms, causing even more harm.

So, if the decision to use biodegradable tea bags was based on the long term implications, you now have additional information saying that it may not be a valid solution. And now, in this present, you must come up with a new solution.

And I think that about covers my thoughts on the idea of Stumbling Progress

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Thejus Chakravarthy

if i’m not optimizing some operations puzzle or the other, i’m probably reading (or writing, apparently)