Essay: Error and Accuracy

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  • Subject area(s): Sociology essays
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  • Published on: February 8, 2019
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Error is as valuable as accuracy in the production of knowledge? In this stringent Indian society that I belong to making a mistake in life is considered as a ‘sin. In most of the typical and archaic South Indian families, pursuing liberal arts is considered as an ‘error’ because becoming an engineer or a doctor is the ‘state of being correct’ in your career because of which out of the 80% of the population that pursues engineering, only 11% of them are employed later! However being forced to pursue engineering, can make you identify the ‘error’ and lead you to a career path that you’re made for! I think accuracy is often given more importance because it acts as a strong premise to further create robust knowledge and quickens the process of learning. In some cases like production of medicine and surgeries, accuracy is mandatory especially of you’re a professional and this questions this the credibility of error as a tool to create knowledge. Nevertheless, error is also an important factor that helps in knowledge production because it acts as a doubt that we observe which makes us question our knowledge or mostly it also helps us to understand what is accurate. Error and accuracy, are in fact interrelated and this will be explored by unpacking two areas of knowledge; Natural sciences and History.
Natural sciences is mostly based on logical reasoning because it proves validity and is easy to justify because it does not involve sense perception. However, hypothesis and predictions play a vital role in reaching the conclusion and this requires imagination. Even though there is no assurance of it being true, it provides different perspectives for exploration. In science, accuracy is given major importance because it helps to come to a robust conclusion which is further used for more research.
Even though science has a strong base of logical reasoning and accuracy, a question that arises is can error in experimentation lead to production of new robust knowledge? This reminds me of serendipity i.e. beneficial error. An example of this is Frieder Wohler, a ‘professional’ scientist who’s error in experimentation led to one of the most valuable inventions of today; urea, the most commonly used fertilisers for plants growth throughout the world. In 1828, when he was carrying out a series of experiments to synthesise ammonium cyanate he produced urea. Now this made me question the necessity of having advanced equipment during experimentation? The first ever graduated cylinder was created in 1909 by Albert Einstein which means that when Wohler conducted the experiment he didn’t have basic equipment like graduated cylinder to measure the volume of reactants. Despite of not having proper equipment an important product like urea was discovered, thus showing the credibility of error as a tool.
Another AoK, where error has played a vital role in producing knowledge that we believe in is History which is based on emotion and sense perception. Most of the events happened long ago and hence have little evidence to prove a fact and hence different historians have difference perspectives because of which history is considered subjective. And hence sense perception is required to perceive historical knowledge which is deeply influenced by emotion. Even though sense perception doesn’t have enough evidence it helps to approach the same events in different ways.
Cartography, a major aspect in history was shaped by two people Amerigo Vespucci and Columbus Since childhood we have been taught that Christopher Columbus discovered America in the 1400’s. But after my ToK teacher told me that America is named after Amerigo Vespucci, I was confused as to why Columbus was given the credit of discovering America? After further research I realised that Vespucci was actually responsible for the discovery. This error in my shared knowledge made me question myself and my teacher because of which I further researched. In 1492, when Columbus went for a voyage he though he reached America but he had actually reached Bahamas. Later in 1502, when Vespucci went for a voyage he used sense perception to understand the geographical miscalculation that was made by Columbus and proved that the continent Columbus discovered was not the same as America. I think that none of them should be given the credit because there were native Americans who already lived there and in fact the first people to enter America was Leif Erickson, a viking. The reason why people say that Vespucci was the one who discovered it is because he was the first merchant or the first person with great authority to enter that land. This error in my understanding helped me improve my knowledge about world history. Other than me such errors helped cartographers to draw accurate maps which have evolved throughout these years to form the maps that we look at today.
Even though error has played a major role in discoveries, accuracy is equally important in both the AoK’s especially Natural sciences. An aspect of Science, which is production of medicines must have accuracy and precision to avoid consequent risk to patients. When a scientist is at the exploratory stage of the product it is obvious that they’ll make errors. But when the final medicine/product has been produced and approved, the chances the scientist gets to make a mistake become zero. In today’s day and age therapies are dependent on medicines because they act as the solution to the disease which means they act as the first premise to structure the therapies and hence if the medicines are inaccurate then the therapy also has a default. This correlation makes it important to have medicines that are produced with accurate measurements. Not only do they help in moulding different therapies but also provides premises for researchers who are conducting researches on the correlation genetics, lifestyle and environment factors. Another reason why its important is because every year 11% prescription have faults which costs upto £400 million and also cause harm to the patients. Considering the consequences and outcomes, accuracy is equally important in this field as error. (needs more clarity)
Looking back at our past events, there have been a lot of wars and revolutions. The highest power that a soldier could posses is expertise in the war weaponry. Referring to an instance that happened during the World War 1, during the Battle of Dinant (August, 1914) when the German army (midnight) entered Dinant then fired and randomly threw grenades because of which they ended up killing many members of their troop instead because of which their soldiers count reduced during the battle. I think the reason why the grenades were mishandled and used incorrectly is because even they were invented in 1914 and were made out out recycled cans and nails. Because it was a recent invention, the troop members didn’t know how to use it correctly and hence they injured 2000 members and killed 10 members from their own troop. This error caused a lot of destruction and maybe history would’ve been different if the German troop won. Quite contrary to this, Genghis Khan was a military genius when it came to management of his troops and weapons. Even though he’s titled as the cruelest ruler, his accuracy with his weapons was incomparable. The Mongolian troops were so well trained that could shoot backwards or hanging from one side of their saddle, using their armoured horse as a shield. Genghis Khan ensured that his troop was well trained and had the correct skill set to operate the weaponry. This is the reason why the Mongolian empire conquered many continents like Asia and eastern Europe. His accuracy and leadership were factors behind his success as a ruler.
Looking back at this essay what I observed is that both error and accuracy had its benefits and disadvantages. But I think that this claim depends on the stage of production of knowledge. This claim made is applicable at an exploratory stage, be it Wohler synthesis, cartography, production of medicine or use of weaponry. All the errors that were made were before a final conclusion was stated which means it was still at the learning and understanding the concept stage. But I think to produce knowledge, accuracy is the only thing required. Error is just a doubt which helps us to get on the right track and helps us learn from our mistakes but it doesn’t produce robust knowledge unless its a case of serendipity in Natural sciences. Hence error and accuracy both aren’t equally valuable to produce new knowledge but are equally valuable in the process of learning.

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