Monday, May 24, 2021

Data that bears false-witness

I want to offer two thoughts for your consideration.


The first is Col. Jeff Cooper's observation "In times of crisis we rarely rise to the occasion. Rather, we regress to the level of training we have mastered."

Got that, when the poop hits the propeller, it is almost a certainty that we will default to the response we have most recently invested a significant number of repetitions in.


Regression-to-the-mean suggests that any response we make to the challenges we will be exposed to when the poop hits the propeller will appear to be validated.

Humor me for a couple of minutes. Let me suggest a mental experiment.

Suppose you have three dice. You put them in a cup, shake them and roll them out onto a table.

If you get a mixed roll, say a combination of (ones, twos and threes) and (fours, fives and sixes) you do nothing. Life is normal.

Now suppose big numbers are bad and smaller numbers are good. Let's say you roll some combination that are all big numbers. Statistically, you will roll one of those an average of once every eight rolls.

What are you going to do? In real life some people will get stoned on drugs or drink alcohol until they feel nothing. Others will beat their wife. Still others will gamble or go hoeing.

Some will swoon.

Then there will be some who pray, or invest in improving the situation. Some will seek to strengthen bonds with family, friends and neighbors.

Others might see retribution against those they see as having initiated the poop-fling.

Incoming tide raises all boats

Every one of those people will feel validated as the roller-coaster surges up-and-down. The down will become an up. The drinker, the drugger, the good neighbor and the vigilante will all feel validated.

In a similar way, when circumstances that seemingly plateaued suddenly turn into the ditch, every person will feel that their efforts to maintain order were invalidated.

Data that bears false-witness

This is false data because there was no control. We do not have the means to compare the outcomes of a hundred drunks and a hundred prayerful, industrious people who do the right thing, even when it seems pointless.

So, if we become the new Zimbabwe or Rwanda^2, use your heart and use your brain. Use it NOW to ingrain good habits. During ZR^2 will be nothing but rumors. People will claim that the only way to get ahead is to treat others like crap: Stick knives in their backs and use the hilts as rungs of a ladder.

Sadly, they will even believe it is true. They will believe that they are giving you good advice.

Others will swoon. Many of those who swoon or give-up will make it through the first spasms of whatever evil might be coming our way. They, too, will testify that the one-true-path is to abase one's self and radically accept "the new reality".

Neither of these paths are likely to be "best". Yes, there may be an occasional down-time when you can hoist an adult beverage with a trusted friend. There may be times when the goblins have the drop on you and you really have no other choice than docile compliance.

But just as a single, sunny day does not make it summer, an isolated instance when a given strategy is appropriate does not make that action the best default strategy.

...that we have mastered

I believe that the best path has already been marked out before us. It is in the Bible. It is found in pithy advice like "Pack your own parachute" and "The Rule of Threes". It can be found in the writings of the Austrian school of economists and what our parents and grandparents tried to teach us.

It is entirely possible that you have different paths picked out. No worries. But practice whatever paths your intellect tells you is the best path; practice now so when the poop-hits-the-propeller those skill-sets and decisions are at the top of the stack. When things get tense, you will not take the time to look at the top seven dishes to see which one is cleanest. You will grab the top one.

In spite of our best efforts

People will die. That does not invalidate our paths or strategies or lives.

People die. If you are born, you are going to die. Someday.

Don't let data that bears false-witness as proof that you should abandon those actions you have taken to keep rust, rot, depreciation and entropy at bay.

I was walking down an assembly line with a Plant Manager once. He asked me what I heard.

I could tell it was a trick question. I listened. It sounded like a plant making money to me. I said as much.

He said "I hear an assembly line that has too many people."

He then went on to explain that the business model was to load the job content so once every twenty jobs the unit they were working on would "bump" and a unique melody would play to alert a flex worker (team leader) to pick-up the next job.

Since there were forty job stations within earshot (160 jobs) and we did not hear eight melodies playing, ever, he knew the plant was not conforming to the business model. In fact, it was rare to hear two melodies playing. There were too many workers for the work-content.

Being the loyal stooge that I am, I relayed the conversation with the executive in charge of that part of the plant. Clearly, it was the Plant Manager's intention that I do so.

The executive informed me two weeks later that the plant was not over-staffed. That stretch of line had experienced a period of extremely stable manpower. Everybody knew their jobs very, very well.

The next shift-area preference would probably blow that out of the water. It would be STUPID to strip out manpower just before a shift-area preference and then have the newbies be crushed by the heavy job loading.

The Plant Manager probed. The Area Manager investigated and came up with a rational, thoughtful response.

Many times, the most rational response is to stay-the-course.

1 comment:

  1. I always try to look and observe before I make changes. I've found that what I don't know is almost always more than I know, and that patterns follow a reason.

    And that upset people can destroy a great idea if they're not on board.


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