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Reza Ghiabi

Organizer @ TEDxTehran, TEDxTehran

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"Even a broken clock is right twice a day. " Is it really right?

So I posted this quote as my google statues and my friend had an Idea:
"Unless you don't have a reliable standard to compare that clock with, it is useless to consider this fact that the clock might be right 2 times. Clock is a measurement instrument with which you measure something else, so if you wan't to verify it you need another clock which works 100% correct"
What do you think? Shouldn't we consider that maybe others can be right sometimes? How can we define this "standard" that my friend mentioned?

Topics: philosophy
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    Jul 10 2013: Great question Reza, we measure time by the movements of the Sun and such. But really time is a forward motion never to be the same again. So, for me that saying lies within the "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" category.
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    Jul 4 2013: If we compare our stopped clock with one that only shows hours, we could conclude that it's correct twice a day, or one-twelfth of the time. If our reference clock also shows minutes, we'd conclude that it's still correct twice a day, but only one-720'th of the time. If it shows seconds it's still correct twice but only one-43,200th of the time. Well, you get the point. If we have a cesium clock that can measure millionths of a second ...

    As the denominator in our rate approaches infinity, the time period of theoretical clock-correctness approaches a limit of zero, and eventually becomes a practical non-event, though this non-event still happens twice a day. (By the way, to verify that your reference clock is "100% correct" you would need another reference clock, etc...)

    Sure, "others can be right sometimes." And to others, we're the "others." By chance, we could be right sometimes, too. I think others are right most of the time; at least right for themselves. And we and the others can both be right, even when we disagree. What we're mostly not right about is that others aren't right.
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      Jul 5 2013: Well said Paul, I think as you say the "scope" matters and by scope I mean the level of details that we intend to use or they are useful to get us the results. in this metaphor it's important that we define a scope too, for example if we want to count the hours, minutes, seconds, etc...
      Hence, if we are going to trust a random "other", we need to include the "scope" as a variable too.
      I hope I get your point correctly.
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    Jul 3 2013: Actually, the saying is, "A STOPPED clock is right twice a day." A broken (operating inaccurately) clock is always wrong. No clock is ever right because there are only two conditions for Time; Time yet to come (future), and Time already gone by (past). There is no Now Time because by the time the answer to the question, "What time IS it?" is communicated it is not accurate, valid, truthful information. So, no, a stopped clock is not right twice a day, nor is any other clock whether broken or fully functional.
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      Jul 3 2013: Yea but did you get his point?

      I did but some people are really like the broken operating clock. So I listen with a jaundice perspective and do an initial assessment of whether what they are saying is worth spending any more time on, and admittedly sometimes however rare they do say something which is useful.

      But if I don't do this initial assessment I would spend all of my time on useless posts.
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        Jul 3 2013: 10-4 on that Pat. I had to butt-in and correct the wording (it's one of my many weaknesses) regarding the condition of the clock. Is Reza's point that we should always consider the possibility of another person being right? I don't know.
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          Jul 3 2013: Yes you are correct and right.

          I'm just adding I still have to finish reading the internet so I have to use my time wisely. (8^(l)
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        Jul 5 2013: Thank you for mentioning my point Pat. Yes, by this metaphor, I mean we should see the possibility of being correct in any words, but another point here is that "standard" I mentioned. In the metaphor if we don't have another clock to use it as reference, we can't find out if the clock is right or not. So we can assume that unless we have a reference, it is useless to know that the clock is right twice a day.
        Hence in real life, can we say that "Maybe that person is right?", "It is possible." or etc? or do we need to have a reference all the time?
        And yes Pat, you are right. Time is limited but I think there are certain little precious things that we are missing in our every day life and considering the possibility of others to be right even the ones that we don't like much, may increase our chances to mine this little ideas, thoughts, etc.
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      Jul 5 2013: You are right Edward, in this metaphor I assumed that a broken clock is stopped (although a stopped clock is not necessarily broken).
    • Jul 5 2013: Actually Edward is not 100% correct. Because we can ignore the time taken for the receiver of the question to hear it, as for him the now, and the question, is relative to the asker given the time the sound wave and brain processing takes, and similarly the return journey, further we cant assume that the person answering isn't taking the time to return into account when stating the time. What's relevant here is that the time is relative to the person asking the and person answering, rather like quantum mechanics, in that way.
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        Jul 5 2013: I am correct IF there is no universal simultaniety, which there cannot be if Time is relative to Space and Velocity. If there is Universal Simultaniety then I am disqualified from this conversation.
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        Jul 6 2013: RE: "too many if's. . . " Nothing is expressed with certainty in Science. Natural (scientific) Laws merely describe how nature has behaved within limits and how it is likely to behave within limits again, under similar conditions. We cannot say with certainty that the Sun will rise tomorrow. We can only say IF it continues to behave as it has throughout recorded history it will rise tomorrow.
  • Jul 10 2013: Do not assume the answer is wrong based on the source.
  • Jul 10 2013: The way we measure things in lay terms is 'good enough', you're overthinking the quote there.
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    Jul 10 2013: I assume that we are used to see things with our own eyes. So it's easy to say " this clock is broken. Need a new one". Then, assuming that, in fact, it is right and we are totally wrong, everything changes. Of course, I'm talking in a relativistic way. People takes things according to their own perception of the world. For this not to be a crazy chaos, we create some standards, which are the way things should be, and, from that, we can say things are right or wrong. But,usually, it is only a matter of differents points of view.
  • Jul 7 2013: When majority of people accept and acknowledge certain conventions,practices,rules and regulations then it becomes a Standard. But, when anything becomes standard then that standard may be right or wrong. In the ancient times majority of the people believed that sun rotates around the earth and it became a standard. Then one day somebody(Copernicus) challenged this standard and proved that it is the earth which rotates around the sun. And now this is the standard.
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    Jul 6 2013: Philosophically, I agree with your friend.

    I am right 100% of the time. Those who may disagree with me are correct maybe twice a day.

    Strangely, I am not the only one who holds this philosophy. .
  • Jul 6 2013: My first time at a TED conversation. It could be me, but this seems like a very strange conversation about a simple sentiment. "Even a broken clock is correct twice a day." it is intended to have the viewer look more deeply at someone or some situation that seems "broken", to see if maybe the viewer is incorrect in their judgment.

    while you could analyze the concept of "time", philosophy, religion, et al, the quote is trying to help someone not be so judgmental.
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      Jul 6 2013: Good description Barbara. The statement is the statement here, it's us that can look at it simply or with complex approach. Personally I believe simple approach works here more, just like you described it. With this approach the message would be: "Don't be judgmental".
      But that raises at least one question: Is any one or any Ideas should be treated this way? History of a phenomenon is a part of it's context. And we need the context to make a good decision.
  • Jul 6 2013: There's an optimistic and a pessimistic approach to this metaphor.

    Optimistically - even faulty systems/poor logic can get it right some times.

    Pessimistically - as getting the right answer is sometimes pure luck, one-off success (or occasional success) shouldn't be taken as evidence of fitness for purpose.
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      Jul 6 2013: Your comment made me think of Alpha and Beta product inspection systems. They use these two methods when they are trying to get a sample of a product and check it for quality control. The difference is the assumption or as you say "approach".
      Alpha inspection - All products have problems unless the opposite is proven.
      Beta inspection - All products works fine unless the opposite is proven.
      Obviously alpha counting system is more expensive as they need to inspect all products.
      The point is experience made that clear none of these methods are acceptable but the combination of these two sounds promising. So they use Alpha then Beta.
      So maybe here it's not bad to take the same approach and trust the systems that passed the alpha phase...
  • Jul 6 2013: we don't need another clock to compare the time with, because time is one of the quantities that's defined rather than maintained. similarly, you don't need one thermometer to check another, because a degree is defined as a measure of the triple point of water.

    also i'd argue that the clock can't really be 'right' since it isn't working; it's correct twice a day by luck not by correct function.
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      Jul 6 2013: Thanks Ben but I'm not really sure about the first paragraph. Because sometimes we do need a source to see if the other systems are working correctly or not. That's why they have cesium clocks, etc., so they can compare other devices to them.
      Regarding the second paragraph, is it really luck? Because we can't predict luck but we can definitely predict that when the stopped clock is going to be right. For instance if the hands of the clock shows 8 o'clock and right now the time is 4 o'clock, we can says in exactly 4 hours the stopped clock would be right!
      On the other hand if we assume that it is luck, does it make a difference? Cause at exactly 8 o'clock we can't tell the difference between the stopped clock and other working ones.
      What I'm trying to say is, at certain times or situations even a broken or stopped system can take us to the results and therefore at that moment the system is not broken and working well.
      • Jul 8 2013: re the first paragraph no that's not true, we don't need a clock to get time. the atomic clocks too become out when the earth's rotation shifts, usually as a result for an earthquake very slightly altering the shape of the earth and the time it takes to complete 1 rotation.

        re the second paragraph i see what you mean and it's not completely luck is it. i was thinking along the lines of if say you throw a stick on the ground then twice a day it will be pointing in the same direction as the sun but we couldn't say it was useful for keeping time. it "works" but not really.
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    Jul 5 2013: My understanding to this metaphor might seem confusing but to me I waver for confusing
    Our reality is created on our mindset and what we perceive
    Its done through consensus or accepted means to an end.
    Once society adopts a predetermined mind set we only achieve repeated results, we are living in a groundhog paradox
    "The only way to change the paradigm is to create another paradigm making the first nul envoid"
    But what we must understand that in order to gain that introspection / insight
    we must awaken our inner source and discover, that we following the wrong paradigm

    So the broken clock metaphor elaborates the fact that we living on broken time that has stagnated, repeating the same results over and over again because the consensus does not allow us to change the status quo.
    So we living in a deluded box that confines our minds to a single thought achieving the same conclusion over and over again. Since we cannot see out side the box.
    We accept that there is no hope, a for gone conclusion that this life and this is what we left with.

    But its not!! We are to diverse to be copies of one another.

    We embrace the celebrity complex, because its displayed as the key to prosperity and higher self
    But what it does it only repeats what we yearn and aspire for Prosperity
    How we perceive this reality is conditioned on our influences.
    We need to look outside the box and discover that clock is broken and that twice everyday, it reminds us that the clock is broken. But we so happy living with this broken clock because its the only clock we know. Its an heirloom of a time period when it worked.
    Humanity has evolved but we mold our current society around the out date hypothesis of philosophers philosophy, from an era that has no relation to our own. We respect those philosophers but not Religions. Both gives evidence through scriptures. but consensus only accept the literature of the intellectual scientific communities. but its was once believed fact that Earth was Flat
    • Jul 6 2013: scriptures are not evidence. anyone can write them and make up any content they choose, this does not constitute fact. people accept scientific literature because they can test it for themselves to see if it's true or not.

      if for example i was to design an extension to my legs that enables me to run twice as fast, and include instructions and diagrams, others can also make them and test the truth of my claim. similarly, religious works can be tested and shown to be false, eg with the earth being flat, the bible claims the earth is flat, and heaven is a solid surface (the 'firmament') held above the sky by 4 pillars at the corners of the earth.
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        Jul 6 2013: Hi ben thanks for replying

        Well scriptures a history in time written by the followers of misers and prophets. Do understand that many of those followers, loved their misers to the extend to making them seem superhuman.
        But I believe they were, but letz take for instant. Sodam and Gomara. a time period when homosexuality and free sex was the order of the day. It perpetuated for centuries until this poor immigrant came along and professed his nobility to prophet-hood. Bearing testimony that man should abstain from such acts. They all scoffed at him and commenced with their actions.
        He was ordered to leave through divine intervention and to take his followers with him.
        It was then the city was turned into stone and covered in sand.
        Sound lot like fairy tales like Medusa and her stone transformation stare. But unlike Medusa
        Archaeologist has found evidence of this city. Google it

        So my point is the scripture might sound like its filled with fantasy but there is evidence contrary.
        Now we come to the point of authenticity. When followers makes any claims, its is 3rd person report. which is subjected to opinion and could be construed as bias.
        When there is 2nd narration and more than one support to the narration, it make it authentic and more supportive. When Jesus, Moses, John or Mohammed spoke you have first account messages. as they were the revealing miser to their people and followers.

        So going down the path of prophet hood or claims of Prophet hood they possessed the link to the spirit world. If our life is an illusion and conjured by the thought of intellectuals or forward or backward thinkers. They must be in contact with their spirituality to entertain any innovative and creative thought. We can conclude a hypothesis through a fixed formula and will repeatedly come to the same conclusion no matter time and space. But that same formula hinder our progress because evolution and nature does not depend on our formula to exist. Anti matter or even our spirit
        • Jul 8 2013: there is no evidence that this man lived, that he said what is claimed was said, nor that a deity took any action. the city of athens also exists, but that doesn't mean athena ever did.

          i wrote a moral story back in high school too. it used real places and people and it was 2nd person narration so does that make it authentic? of course not, the events were metaphorical, as was the dragon king, who never existed.

          also we don't have spirits, we made those up too.
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        Jul 10 2013: Hey Ben, I was really taken by the we don't have spirits. I know to prove such a thing is impossible now but dreaming is pretty spiritual if you ask me. Do you think thoughts have an effect on outcome?
        • Jul 10 2013: a spirit is a concept not a thing. you can attach meaning to a dream and call it spiritual if you like, but that's a person's attaching importance, not it's already being there. similar i guess is that there's no joy without the person experiencing it. joy, fascination, spirituality, these are just words we use to describe processes that occur in our minds, take away the mind and they disappear too. i would be interested to know your definition of "spirit" and "spiritual"?

          it would depend on what you mean by outcome. the outcome of my decision no, thoughts are not the process we've always thought them to be, since it was discovered that we can measure the choice a person is going to take (with an EEG) up to 8 seconds before they make it, while they are still 'thinking'. it seems that the choices we make depend on who we are, and the who we are also determines our thought processes, so they're essentially one and the same. perhaps thoughts are just a way of going through what our brains have realised we already know?

          sorry it's hard to explain. i guess in most simple terms it was thought for a long time to be brain structure -> thoughts -> decisions but they found it's actually brain structure -> thoughts and decisions.
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    Jul 5 2013: Actually I just had a second understating of this metaphor:
    Sometimes it means that the person who lives in this mind set, is trying a stopped or broken system (another human being, a company, etc.,) over and over again and gets the same unsatisfying result and hopes that maybe giving it another shot may ends up in a better result.
    On another hand, there is this meaning that, the person who uses this mind set, tries to see something good in any of system's outputs.
    I personally believe that in the first approach if we have other sources and we keen to use that one malfunctioning source, it is a complete waste of time because we can reach the same result less costly.
    But regarding the second approach, I truly believe that there is something good and fruitful in any phenomenon and we should wash our eyes and look again to find it out.
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    Jul 5 2013: Let's suppose this is true.There are 86,400 seconds in a day. Your clock is now wrong 86,398 seconds of the day. Equally true if you want to subscibe to the clock wisdom.
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    Jul 4 2013: So from your clock metaphor, predicting something correctly once or twice should not lead us to conclude that the model used to make those predictions is reliable. It might be just like a broken clock.

    I don't think we can expect any source to be 100% reliable, but we can increase our confidence in conclusions when multiple independent sources using different methods agree.
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      Jul 5 2013: Thank Fritzie, I think what you are emphasizing here is "system's reliability". And you are suggesting that we can increase system's reliability by multiplying our sources.
      There are systems like human being judgment system that have limited sources. When the time is limited and we are making a decision, like in our day lives, we can only rely on our feelings. Can you describe some more about this "reliability"?
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        Jul 5 2013: I am not offering anything unusual here. If you are inquiring into a matter for purposes of making a judgment, it is wise to consider more than one person's point of view or understanding of the matter in situations in which no individual might be considered fully reliable or unbiased.

        We typically act in almost every circumstance with incomplete information.
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    Jul 4 2013: The arms are broken off of my face clock and the one I'm comparing it to is digital with a ghost in the machine at times. I don't know. If I say it is 13 hundred I'm only right once a day at this certain time.
  • Jul 3 2013: 1) Yes.
    2) Several countries maintain official "standard" time by means of various expensive timekeeping devices (in the USA, it is cesium fountain, cesium tube, AND hydrogen maser devices, which are used to provide an aggregate figure). There is also international consultation and adjustment to ensure that various national standards are workably close to each other. Metrology is always an ongoing process, with constant adjustments being made.

    PS: A stopped 24-hour clock is only correct once a day.
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      Jul 5 2013: First of all thanks for the information and the point about the 24-hour clocks. You are right.
      This sentence of yours: "Metrology is always an ongoing process, with constant adjustments being made." seems like a matter of personal experience. Would you please explain it some more? I always had this assumption that although everything thing is changing, there are phenomenons that we can measure and they are fixed or even if they change, we can predict their changes as well...