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Numbers vs. instinct - Considering the odds of survival for homo sapiens technicus [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Brent Eubanks

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Numbers vs. instinct [Jul. 10th, 2008|04:07 pm]
Brent Eubanks
This Oil Drum article makes some really good points about the differences between how scientists/engineers and politicians see the world based on their training, what that implies for our efforts to address climate change (and other environmental problems), and how the perceptual gap can be bridged.

I particularly liked the article because it presented a perspective from which the utter failure of leadership around climate change makes sense, and isn't purely explained by greed, stupidity, or short-sightedness. Which is not to say that there aren't some politicians who suffer from all of these flaws, but it suggests that many who might be assumed to be greedy and/or stupid based on their actions are in fact responding in a perfectly reasonable way, given their perspective. And that is hopeful, because it's easier to change perspectives and perceptions than to turn corrupt leaders into honest ones.

[User Picture]From: ouraboros
2008-07-10 11:50 pm (UTC)
Well, it also depends on your comfort level of detecting numbers manipulation. Scientists also rely on their guts when they wander outside the prediction range of their models to try to find a new frontier to explore, but like a doctor who's seen a lot of healthy people (and thus have developed a gestalt sense for the variability that can be still considered "reasonable" vs. "unreasonable"), scientists develop a BS detection circuit that revolves around their ability to find flaws in intellectual models. For politicians, it's based finding openings in emotional/group decision making models. They know that there are people out there who are much smarter at manipulating numbers than they are, and will use that as a rhetorical advantage at convincing an audience, hence they can't rely on numbers-based models to lead a group of people with.

Scientists do suffer from the fatal flaw in assuming just because you have made a pretty model, that other people will value that as much as they do and *of course*, will fall into line. In other words, behave like scientists!

BTW, the world of business functions like politics, except it's all about how much $$ follow you and your ideas around. So the finance guys do care about numbers too, but not in the respect of using them to accurately reflect reality, but bend reality to their will (engineers, if you will). If politicians hang around this perspective long enough, scientists can seem like another type of numbers wizard.

Anyway, more coherent discussion later.
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