Years ago I had a seminar on “Greek Mathematical Thought and the Origins of Algebra“. While that topic may not fan the cockles of the average heart, I found it to be a fascinating study in how ontology (theory about the nature of being or the kinds of things that have existence) can shape our scientific tools.
To cut right to where I am going with this, consider the case of a child growing up right now. Whereas technology used to be the domain of wealthy adults, now it has become much more available to children and the middle class. Consider children growing up with a digital device such as an iPhone, tablet, books on the computer or digital learning games. It will be fascinating to see how their minds are shaped by these experiences approaching the problems of tomorrow. Issues such as virtual reality, digital privacy, and access to internet as a right rather than a privilege, are all potential situations where generations may have a different way to conceptualize truth simply due to the way their minds were exposed to technology while growing up. I am fascinated as to whether an ontological shift will occur over the coming centuries as the digital and physical continue to track towards each other in the future. I am not nearly informed enough as to whether we will see a collision between the two or if they will act as an asymptote drawing ever closer but forever distinct.
I would never declare any of what I have said unassailable truth, but I am continually ruminating on the idea that how we conceive of our world will allow us different glimpses of the truth that may underpin human understanding. Its an exciting and sobering idea that there may be ideas of which I could not conceive because the understanding of the world formed in me from my youth could be completely different from someone a mere twenty years younger than me.