Representing uncertainty in difficult times

  • Phil Factor

    SSC-Insane

    Points: 20084

    Comments posted to this topic are about the item Representing uncertainty in difficult times

    Best wishes,
    Phil Factor
    Simple Talk

  • skeleton567

    SSCertifiable

    Points: 5096

    In a different context, there used to be a take-off on a famous line that commented:  "The only thing worse than having cockroaches is keeping cockroaches".  Unfortunately I don't think that applies any more.  We're to the place where even with critical data we are satisfied with approximations, and have even come to accept that as normal.

    To avoid uncertainty, you have to have a standard that you trust.  And that in turn requires the absence of bias and prejudice, over and above allowing for error.  Comparing to standards has become a futile effort of comparing one uncertainty to another uncertainty.

    We often like to think in terms of 'black and white', while in reality, we have no concept of how someone else actually sees what we both interpret as one or the other.  And a third person may see something entirely different from what you and I agree on.

    So representing uncertainty seems to come down to trust.  I have commented before on a situation in which I could prove that data from a system was being evaluated incorrectly and the results used for remuneration.  The response was that the system worked, so don't fix it.

    As much as we like to think our data is valid and trustworthy, it really often comes down to deciding if the effort of change is worth it.

     

    Rick

    The only thing worse than being an influencer
    is believing one.

  • Jeff Moden

    SSC Guru

    Points: 996843

    Hmmmph... errors in reporting because of "uncertain data" aren't what's happening.  It's outright sensationalism that's happening.   To the point of your very accurate second sentence in your good article, which states...

    I'm aghast at the way that they can publish fantastic nonsense that would have caused apoplexy to any peer reviewer in a scientific journal.

    ... most journalists that pick up on "supposed data" are in violation of every good rule of proper journalism and certainly the rules of honesty and common sense because they try to create "information" from data that isn't currently in a state to provide such information.  They feel that they "must report something" even if it's wrong or totally inconclusive.

    There's a joke that's been going around about Trump since day one of his time in office.  I have no great love for the man (nor any of politicians currently in or running for office) and it's a bit of a silly joke but it epitomizes the "bare-knuckled yellow journalism" (which, perhaps not so ironically, is the example used if you Google for the word "epitomize") that has been taking place for at least the last decade and has risen to new all-time high but still rising levels thanks to the pandemic.

    Trump invited the Pope out on his yacht for a day of combined pleasure and discussion.  Of course, a dozen of the press corp went with them.  After they'd gotten a mile offshore and slowed for comfort, Trump and the Pope stepped out on the rear deck to enjoy the salt air and the view.  As they did, a sudden gust of wind relived the pope the Papal tiara and carried it to the water about 50 feet away.

    Of course, the crew and the reporters all went berserk and everyone started shouting orders about lowering the skiff and other "best" ways to retrieve the tiara  before it might sink to the bottom forever.

    Trump suggested that everyone calm down and proceed to climb down the ladder on the side of the boat to the water.  When he got there, he stepped onto the water, released the ladder, and proceeded to walk on the water to where the tiara was, picked it up, blew it off restoring it to it's original pristine shape and dryness, walked back across the water to the boat, climbed the ladder, and placed the tiara back on the Pope's regal head, and then continued his discussion as if nothing had ever happened.

    Now... what did the press write as the headline about that visit between Trump and the Pope?  (scroll down for the answer).

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    --Jeff Moden


    RBAR is pronounced "ree-bar" and is a "Modenism" for Row-By-Agonizing-Row.
    First step towards the paradigm shift of writing Set Based code:
    ________Stop thinking about what you want to do to a ROW... think, instead, of what you want to do to a COLUMN.
    "Change is inevitable... change for the better is not".
    "If "pre-optimization" is the root of all evil, then what does the resulting no optimization lead to?"

    Helpful Links:
    How to post code problems
    How to Post Performance Problems
    Create a Tally Function (fnTally)

  • Jeff Moden

    SSC Guru

    Points: 996843

    Ah... there's apparently a name for the false or simply untrue memories that people have that have become "The Truth" for them.  The first part of the article below is especially interesting as it explains where the name for the effect came from.  I won't spoil it for you though.

    https://getpocket.com/explore/item/10-examples-of-the-mandela-effect

    --Jeff Moden


    RBAR is pronounced "ree-bar" and is a "Modenism" for Row-By-Agonizing-Row.
    First step towards the paradigm shift of writing Set Based code:
    ________Stop thinking about what you want to do to a ROW... think, instead, of what you want to do to a COLUMN.
    "Change is inevitable... change for the better is not".
    "If "pre-optimization" is the root of all evil, then what does the resulting no optimization lead to?"

    Helpful Links:
    How to post code problems
    How to Post Performance Problems
    Create a Tally Function (fnTally)

  • Phil Factor

    SSC-Insane

    Points: 20084

    The strange human behaviour I'm seeing  in this, or any other, pandemic is that it confirms everyone's world view, whatever their beliefs. I makes me think that the true spirit of scientific discovery is very rare: the rest of us just look up at any major event and say to ourselves, 'well that just confirms my beliefs about life'. Paradoxically, Isaac Newton wasted almost his entire life on false sciences such as astrology, Biblical chronology and alchemy. It was only, as a young man, when he was in lockdown during a plague that he had a moment of extreme clarity. In August 1665, Cambridge university temporarily closed as a precaution against the Great Plague.  Newton took refuge at his family home in Woolsthorpe and in the next two years he developed his theories on calculus, optics, and the law of gravitation.

    Best wishes,
    Phil Factor
    Simple Talk

  • call.copse

    SSCoach

    Points: 17208

    Phil Factor wrote:

    The strange human behaviour I'm seeing  in this, or any other, pandemic is that it confirms everyone's world view, whatever their beliefs. I makes me think that the true spirit of scientific discovery is very rare: the rest of us just look up at any major event and say to ourselves, 'well that just confirms my beliefs about life'. Paradoxically, Isaac Newton wasted almost his entire life on false sciences such as astrology, Biblical chronology and alchemy. It was only, as a young man, when he was in lockdown during a plague that he had a moment of extreme clarity. In August 1665, Cambridge university temporarily closed as a precaution against the Great Plague.  Newton took refuge at his family home in Woolsthorpe and in the next two years he developed his theories on calculus, optics, and the law of gravitation.

    You are a wise gentleman Phil, and confirm my world view that this is the case with your sensible perspective.

    I had never quite registered that about Newton, it's funny how things turn out. This page covers that side of his life:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Newton%27s_occult_studies

    Perhaps this lockdown will push someone else to find out some other great discovery? Sadly I don't think it's me.

     

  • Neil Burton

    SSC-Insane

    Points: 22229

    There's a joke that's been going around about Trump since day one of his time in office.  I have no great love for the man (nor any of politicians currently in or running for office) and it's a bit of a silly joke but it epitomizes the "bare-knuckled yellow journalism" (which, perhaps not so ironically, is the example used if you Google for the word "epitomize") that has been taking place for at least the last decade and has risen to new all-time high but still rising levels thanks to the pandemic.

    I remember reading about Lyndon B. Johnson lamenting his treatment in the press and his words were "If one morning I walked on top of the water across the Potomac River, the headline that afternoon would read "President Can't Swim".  It shows that the press have been twisting and spinning things for years.  I think it's fair to say most papers have their own slant on things though and they know how to pitch a story to their readers.  With some papers however, that slant is much more noticeable than others, I'm looking at you Daily Mail...

    • This reply was modified 3 months, 1 week ago by  Neil Burton.


    On two occasions I have been asked, "Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?" ... I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question.
    —Charles Babbage, Passages from the Life of a Philosopher

    How to post a question to get the most help http://www.sqlservercentral.com/articles/Best+Practices/61537

  • jonathan.crawford

    SSCertifiable

    Points: 6579

    Dearest Philip,

    You seem to be asking "How do we force people to be critical thinkers"? Folks who already are, will question if any bias exists, look at multiple sources, dig into the data and reach an informed conclusion (whether we agree or not).

    Folks who are not, will make snap decisions based on that one piece of data, or no data at all (or their "gut"). All we can do is hope to limit them from themselves where possible by working with those around them to mitigate. I am frustrated, as are you, by these people.

    Perhaps lastly, we need to include error bars in what we present, annotate known flaws and account for our own bias if possible.

    I leave you with the following quote from Charles Babbage, which someone around here retains in their signature(Edit: points upward to Neil's post):

    "On two occasions I have been asked, 'Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?' I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question."

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  • call.copse

    SSCoach

    Points: 17208

    I'm going to say from what I've seen of the orange one, the press are far too kind too him to be honest. Mainly in terms of giving him the blanket coverage that seem to cause him to thrive. What have Americans been thinking?

  • skeleton567

    SSCertifiable

    Points: 5096

    call.copse wrote:

    I'm going to say from what I've seen of the orange one, the press are far too kind too him to be honest. Mainly in terms of giving him the blanket coverage that seem to cause him to thrive. What have Americans been thinking?

     

    Well, Call, THIS American is thinking that you just beautifully illustrated what we talking about here by stooping to name calling.  As I have commented maybe here and elsewhere:

    The loudest critics are always those who have the least education, knowledge, experience, and judgement to do the job themselves.

     

    Rick

    The only thing worse than being an influencer
    is believing one.

  • jonathan.crawford

    SSCertifiable

    Points: 6579

    "The loudest critics are always those who have the least education, knowledge, experience, and judgement to do the job themselves."

    No, but that's a convenient way to dismiss people giving legitimate feedback. Half of us Americans don't have a clue what the other half are thinking. Especially since a large part of them either fought against fascism or their parents fought against fascism. Authoritarian xenophobic nationalism leads nowhere good.

    Somehow we must find a way to reconnect, or who knows what is going to happen.

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  • Jeff Moden

    SSC Guru

    Points: 996843

    jonathan.crawford wrote:

    "The loudest critics are always those who have the least education, knowledge, experience, and judgement to do the job themselves."

    No, but that's a convenient way to dismiss people giving legitimate feedback. Half of us Americans don't have a clue what the other half are thinking. Especially since a large part of them either fought against fascism or their parents fought against fascism. Authoritarian xenophobic nationalism leads nowhere good.

    Somehow we must find a way to reconnect, or who knows what is going to happen.

     

    On that note, I'll say the two predominant parties in the U.S.A. need to come forth with some much better candidates now and in the future.  I mean seriously... having to choose between Clinton and Trump was like asking what color do you want the bullet that will kill to be... Red or Blue?

    --Jeff Moden


    RBAR is pronounced "ree-bar" and is a "Modenism" for Row-By-Agonizing-Row.
    First step towards the paradigm shift of writing Set Based code:
    ________Stop thinking about what you want to do to a ROW... think, instead, of what you want to do to a COLUMN.
    "Change is inevitable... change for the better is not".
    "If "pre-optimization" is the root of all evil, then what does the resulting no optimization lead to?"

    Helpful Links:
    How to post code problems
    How to Post Performance Problems
    Create a Tally Function (fnTally)

  • skeleton567

    SSCertifiable

    Points: 5096

    call.copse wrote:I'm going to say from what I've seen of the orange one, the press are far too kind too him to be honest. Mainly in terms of giving him the blanket coverage that seem to cause him to thrive. What have Americans been thinking?

    No, but that's a convenient way to dismiss people giving legitimate feedback. Half of us Americans don't have a clue what the other half are thinking. Especially since a large part of them either fought against fascism or their parents fought against fascism. Authoritarian xenophobic nationalism leads nowhere good.

    -------------------------------------------------

    Yeah, Call, I can see now that calling the President 'the orange one' is legitimate feedback all right.

    A conservative believes what he sees.  A liberal sees what he believes.

    I can tell you that I'm far better off under the current administration than I was under two terms of the previous.  And you most likely are also, although I would not expect you to admit to that.  How do you account for the best economy in history?  How do you account for the record-setting economics you have been enjoying until the current setback?  When have you seen all groups, social, racial, economic enjoying such good times.

    You apparently are still alive, you apparently still have a job.  Get over it.

    P.S.

    Call, I normally wouldn't divulge this, but since you are so disappointed with 'the orange one', I'll give you some real results under this administration.  I'm this morning reconciling my investments salted away from 42 years in IT, and see that for the thirty days of April, right in the middle of this health mess, my savings actually GREW by $37585.94.  That's roughly $1252 per day growth for this 77-year-old retiree.

    So, I don't give a sh!t if his hair is pink.

     

     

     

     

     

    • This reply was modified 3 months, 1 week ago by  skeleton567.

    Rick

    The only thing worse than being an influencer
    is believing one.

  • call.copse

    SSCoach

    Points: 17208

    Jeff Moden wrote:

    On that note, I'll say the two predominant parties in the U.S.A. need to come forth with some much better candidates now and in the future.  I mean seriously... having to choose between Clinton and Trump was like asking what color do you want the bullet that will kill to be... Red or Blue?

    From here I think the problem lies in the electoral system. I guess it's not possible to have independent electoral commisions but you can't really say having the party in charge setting boundaries say is sensible, or that returning officers are party members.

    Also, I genuinely feel strict campaign spending limits (in the UK they are paltry cf the US) would help level the playing field from 'Mammon' to 'Talent and Vision'.

    Just my opinion, of course it's your country.

  • call.copse

    SSCoach

    Points: 17208

    skeleton567 wrote:

    ...

    Call, I normally wouldn't divulge this, but since you are so disappointed with 'the orange one', I'll give you some real results under this administration.  I'm this morning reconciling my investments salted away from 42 years in IT, and see that for the thirty days of April, right in the middle of this health mess, my savings actually GREW by $37585.94.  That's roughly $1252 per day growth for this 77-year-old retiree.

    So, I don't give a sh!t if his hair is pink.

    Orange one wasn't a criticism at all merely a descriptor.

    I'd call that the 'I'm alright Jack' defence TBH. Fair enough but let's consider that the upward trajectories economically did follow the trajectories of his predecessor overall. Any extra 'goosing' was at the expense of the deficit. In general saving for bad times in times of plenty is a policy I'd consider sensible, rather than doubling down on borrowing, I can see how it would have worked out for you but down the line there's likely to be problems...and I think sooner rather than later, given the current situation.

    But cheer up, you're likely to be fine, especially if no grandkids etc!

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