Thursday, May 31, 2018

Pandering and Victimology

Key point, the data ranges from -6-to +6 in the X direction and -13-to 13 in the Y direction.
I had time to think about chaos and the human condition during my long drives this past weekend.

I ate breakfast with an older gentleman who spent ten years as a street cop, ten years as a police chief and then ten years as a college administrator.  His parting words were that chaos is the human condition.

The chart shown above was generated in Excel using a function with 2 units of variation in the X and Y direction.  The variation is evenly distributed across the target.  All plots shown here have 100 data points.

X=1-2*rand(), Y=1-2*rand()
The chart shown above is what we intuitively expect that distribution to look like.

The snake shaped function in the top chart is the same function, EXCEPT, a control element was put into place to "fix" the variation.  The controller takes the last observation and "dials the scope" to re-zero the system based on that single observation.  Want to see a few more simulations? No problem, I will just hit the F9 button a few times.


Four armed stars
and lots, and lots of snakes.  It is notable that all of these scatter plots have ranges that are much larger than the function feeding the system.  The control system is inducing noise rather than damping it out.

The control system is not only amplifying the underlying variation, it is creating spurious patterns out of random data.

I want to throw two more ideas out on the table.

B.F. Skinner's superstitious pigeons
B.F. Skinner is one of the founding fathers of our understanding of classical conditioning.

One of the difficulties in running experiments is finding a "good" control, especially when working with lab animals.  While investigating random rewards as a control, Skinner ran into "superstition."  That is, the pigeons would act in highly irrational manners:  Hopping up and down on one foot for thousands of times, spinning...

Pandering and Victimology
Our current system is based on pandering and victimology.  I submit that it functions EXACTLY like the faulty control algorithm shown above and it functions exactly like the reward system that created Skinner's superstitious pigeons.

Somebody makes a bone-headed tweet?  The thought of simply letting the system "play through" never enters anybody's head.  All things must be controlled.  Otherwise, how can the controllers justify their exorbitant pay checks?

A confused adolescent (but I repeat myself) has a moment of questioning about how their biological gender is manifesting....reward them.

A momentary hiccup in cash-flow tumbles a family into multi-generational dependency.

Administrators ham-handedly apply "zero tolerance" policies.  They choose to interpret "zero tolerance" to mean "maximum penalties" rather than "no freebies, every issue will be addressed in some way, even if it is just a discussion."

Counselors advice to patients becomes ever more Byzantine and convoluted as "best practice" becomes an encyclopedia of exceptions.

That is how we end up with tangled nets of conflicting "rules".

As individuals:
  • Do your job
  • Keep your mouth shut 99% of the time
  • Scan for threats
  • Have multiple means to avoid threats
  • Have the means to neutralize the threats when avoiding them becomes impossible.

1 comment:

Readers who are willing to comment make this a better blog. Civil dialog is a valuable thing.