Today, most humans live in knowledge societies where all questions about the natural and the social world are subject to disciplined inquiry. We subject our hypotheses to skeptical scrutiny and look to the world for answers instead of being satisfied either with religious or philosophical dogmas. On the flip side, we deliberately create and propagate falsehoods that pretend to be true. The speed of knowledge (and untruth) creation has never been more intense.
Most of that new knowledge is now created in networks. Data is collected in parallel by several groups, their sensors and the platforms that host the data and the models. The data sets are noisy. They are in different, incompatible formats. Ocean acidity measurements collect one kind of data. Air temperature readings collect another kind of data. Historical records are full of gaps.
Similarly, the computer models have to simplify the real world in order to be tractable. You need higher order models to calculate whether the simplifications of the lower order models omit important parameters. When approaching these new forms of knowledge, our archetype is no longer the scientist collecting data in slow motion, but an animal constantly foraging for knowledge from the world and responding appropriately.
We are a problem solving creature. (Also a problem creating creature…)