The Oxford English Dictionary recently named ‘post- truth’ its word of the year. The term, whose use is reputed to have increased 2000% in the past year, is defined as: “…relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than are appeals to emotion and personal belief.”
Which seems to refer to the ostensible prevalence of fake/false facts now so frequently promulgated in social media. On hearing the definition, I immediately transposed "belief" and "opinion" to create a sort of feedback loop and [further or alternatively] defined the term as “circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping personal beliefs than are appeals to emotion and public opinion.”
This formulation brought to mind a question I posed here a year ago (but which, despite very good answers from Messrs. King and Alexander, was soon closed as too broad), relating to another way that computers (here in terms of computational capacity rather than possible alternative sources of/or authority] have impacted our relationship to “facts,” both of which contribute to the kind of fact fatigue that many of us seem to be experiencing.
My new question (the old rephrased and expanded upon) is: How will the increasing prevalence of “big data” – the exploding plethora of information and computing power to correlate it – impact:
(i) The scientific method’s theory/hypothesis formation/confirmation/falsification; defining theory/hypothesis broadly as something like a tenable, provisional assumption made in order to extract/determine its empirical (and maybe, depending upon the relevant fach, also normative and/or logical) consequences;
(ii) The exposition of Quine’ the underdetermination thesis; i.e. how will the phenomena affect the perception that theories are underdetermined because at any given time conflicting theories are consistent with the [ever increasing] data on hand; and
(iii) The realist/relativist/ constructivist debate? For instance, as Nelson Alexander observed, “Since very little science can now be done without the "sensory apparatus" of massive data crunching [likening it to Galileo's telescope], we seem to be slipping unavoidably into a more "constructivist" circle of confirming-predicting.” Are there also conceivable ways in which the phenomena of big data can be said to support a realist ontology/epistemology?
While this “Question” constitutes three queries, I believe that considering them together will increase the relevance and quality of the answers, because all three legs deal with how observables (consequences/data, however one defines them/it, [can be said to] “explain”, “construct” [or be correlated with] non--observables.