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Separation of Duty Expand / Collapse
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Posted Monday, August 5, 2013 8:30 PM


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Comments posted to this topic are about the item Separation of Duty






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Post #1481136
Posted Tuesday, August 6, 2013 1:31 PM
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This is a huge issue. We see this occur in all kinds of "hot button" topics in the news today. Pure science, and analysis intended to determine the truth, simply aren't practiced today, or at least not as often as appropriate.

The difficulty in overcoming this is first overcoming the bias we are forced to accept, and second to overcome the incentive that people have in proving their point is valid, despite reality.

I don't want to mention specific examples, as the point of this is gathering data. However I started thinking about all the hot button topics in the news over the last few years, and in every case I know of cases where facts were thrown out because they did not serve to prove what the "scientists" wanted to prove. We all have our own opinions, but each of us should be able to think of something if we are honest with ourselves.


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Post #1481524
Posted Tuesday, August 6, 2013 3:39 PM
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Classic application of Maier's Law -

"If the Facts do not conform to the Theory they must be disposed of"
Post #1481589
Posted Tuesday, August 6, 2013 8:57 PM


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I'm actually a former military intel person. Most of the stuff we dealt with was factual evidence -- there are 50 tanks that moved to the border since yesterday.

But without the human intelligence from the foriegn government we had no idea whether it was a valid threat, or just trying to get attention (saber rattling) to enforce a position in negotiations.

But historically, especially dealing with foriegn languages, sometimes the data collectors can talk past each other because of subtle cultural and language differentials.

When dealing even in just U.S. politics and law you end up with a difference in viewing the same data, even before the filters that are done in by anyone. An example is the Martin/Zimmerman case. (Please do not post either side's views or argue it here. I'm just using it as a recent example.) If you look at the facts provided to the jury and the facts that the media filtered through you get different pictures.

Sandy Hook and the anti-gun media has done the same thing.

But I have seen it from both sides of the media.

Facts and opinion don't always agree.




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Post #1481632
Posted Wednesday, August 7, 2013 12:21 AM
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"we often use data and explanations to justify a decision we've already reached" - This is so true about people's religious ideas as well. Depending on my doctrine/feelings, I make my "holy book" say what I want, instead of examining the hard facts and re-aligning my faith to that.
Post #1481677
Posted Wednesday, August 7, 2013 1:55 AM


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This is an absolute massive problem where I work as well.

Doubtless I suffer from it as well. I continually hear people expressing opinion as fact.

A start from which debate may ultimately be pointless if they can't see their own biases how can they accept logic.

I still think really good people can both be analysers and decision makers although I do think these people are rare - I haven't got a hard and fast theories on how duty should be separated. I can see the point though. What is the best way to structure organisations to achieve objective decision making.

I would tend to suggest - a functional organisation with an overarching management that doesn't make operational decisions but can overule functions? But then who manages the managers.

I remember reading about this some time ago I think it was debated by Socrates and was investigated by a Roman poet active in the lates 1st and early 2nd century AD who I think created the idea of Satire.

His latin phrase was - (anyone interested should lookup Juvenal)
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

which I am told literally means "who will guard the guardians themselves"
also referred to as "who watches the watchment?"

In those days it was the poor saying
"Who will protect us against our protectors!"

Plato's solution for this was.

We must tell the guardians a "noble lie". The noble lie will assure them that they are better than those they serve and it is therefore their responsibility to guard and protect those lesser than themselves. We will instill in them a distaste for power or privilege; they will rule because they believe it right, not because they desire it.


Interestingly this is how Hollywood plays it - for all the good guys power ways heavy on their shoulders while the baddies are meglamaniacal glory hunters.

In today's connected society though I think maybe we will guard each other reciprocally is more appropriate. Possibly a dramatic fork in the discussion.
Post #1481700
Posted Wednesday, August 7, 2013 6:03 AM
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I do not agree with separating the data collector and the data analyser. Potential pitfalls should be acknowledged and more rigor should be applied to avoid them.
Post #1481807
Posted Wednesday, August 7, 2013 8:36 AM
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The problems of how to present data and what data to collect are connected but somewhat separate issues, and there are costs associated with both.

At my workplace we had (note the past tense) a product line that was the owner's pet project, and he was convinced that it was profitable. After years of wrangling with others in the company it was finally decided to spend the time (and money) to actually gather data to do a proper cost accounting analysis of all products. Lo and behold, it was found that this product was consistently losing money. The owner, to his credit, swallowed his pride and mothballed the non-profitable product.

My point is, we have to convince those in power to spend the money to even collect the data that can lead the way to informed decisions.
Post #1481910
Posted Wednesday, August 7, 2013 9:23 AM


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Franklin's Gambit says that we often use data and explanations to justify a decision we've already reached, rather than actually prove that some choice is the best one.

This tendency is so innate to the human mind, our legal systems works to exclude it by design. The state collects it's evidence independently and then presents an argument in favor of prosecution. The defense collects their own evidence for an opposing argument. A judge presides over the trial, and a jury weighs the evidence and arguments before rendering a decision.

If a large IT organization is weighing the option of SQL Server versus Oracle, I think it would be near impossible for one individual to weigh all the options and make the decision without bias. The right way to do it would be for executive managment to announce that a decision will be made at some point in the future, and then play the role of jury, weighing evidence and arguments from various groups, perhaps even getting input from outside consultants as well.
Post #1481935
Posted Wednesday, August 7, 2013 12:49 PM
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KimRickwood (8/7/2013)
I do not agree with separating the data collector and the data analyzer. Potential pitfalls should be acknowledged and more rigor should be applied to avoid them.


It is not always necessary to completely separating them. The issue is objectivity and correctness of the data and the representative data sample. If the one who gathers can objectively prove the validity of the sample and the analysis and show the analysis that brings the thesis to the table that is fine. However, if an antithesis is proposed the one who gathered and the one who analyzed the data must be able to look at the antithesis objectively, without bias. That might be hard for one who wants so deeply the result to conform to their understanding of the "facts".

So I agree that it can be that the two are the same person, but with restrictions.


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