Sunday, November 30, 2014

Flashes, Pitches, Models, etc.

"We think that if, say, two variables are causally linked, then a steady input in one variable should always yield a result in the other one. Our emotional apparatus is designed for linear causality. For instance, if you study everyday, you expect to learn something in proportion to your studies. If you feel that you are not going anywhere, your emotions will cause you to become demoralized. But modern reality rarely gives us the privilege of a satisfying, linear, positive progression: you may think about a problem for a year and learn nothing; then, unless you are disheartened by the emptiness of the results and give up, something will come to you in a flash."
-- Nassim Taleb from "The Black Swan"

...and from Edward Tufte, this:

People and institutions cannot keep their own score accurately. Metrics soon become targets and then pitches, and are thereby gamed, corrupted, misreported, fudged…
"Examples: premature revenue recognition, Libor rates, beating the quarterly forecast by a single penny, terrorist attacks prevented, Weapons of Mass Destruction, number of Twitter followers, all body counts (crowd sizes, civilians blown up). Sometimes call the Principle of Lake Woebegone, where all children are above average.

...and a couple more quickies:

"If you torture the data long enough, it will confess to anything." -- Ronald Coase (British economist)

"Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful."  -- statistician George Box

[…If you have a favorite math-related passage that might make a nice Sunday morning reflection here let me know ( If I use one submitted by a reader, I'll cite the contributor.]

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