Breaking The Paradigm

So a colleague has this sticker (with a do not image) on their computer that says:


“But we’ve always done it that way.”


They told me a funny story about the lady that made the ham with the head and tail ends always cut off.


One day, her daughter asked, “Why mom do you make the ham with the head and tail ends always cut off?”


The mother answers and says because “My mother always made it that way!”


So they went to her mother and ask the question and they get the same answer again.


Finally, they went to her great grandmother and ask, “Why do you always make the ham with the head and tail ends cut off?”


And the old lady takes a breath, pauses, and says, “Because, we didn’t have a pan big enough to fit the whole ham!”


Just thought this was a great lesson on critical thinking and also on “asking why.”


Change can be brought about by questioning underlying assumptions and historical ways of doing things and bringing an open mind and fresh light to it. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

There You Are

Head
So my niece forwarded this over, and I thought it was really worth sharing…



It’s about how our lives are really a bunch of building blocks, and each thing we do contributes to the next step.



So we have to be careful all along the way to do the right thing–so we can achieve the results we want and can be proud of.



It goes like this:



“Watch you thoughts; they become words.



Watch you words; they become actions.



Watch you actions; they become habits.



Watch your habits, they become character.



Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.”



Sometimes, we ask ourselves how we got to where we are today–almost as if we are surprised–but the reality is that most of the time, we are going through our lives inch by inch and step by step in an incremental and causal fashion. 



Yes sh*t happens–bad things (and good things), and they test and challenge us and take us to the next playing level.



But for the most part, we didn’t just arrive at this moment out of the blue, but rather given what G-d has given us, we mold ourselves brick by brick….until there we are. 😉



(Thank you to Chana Rivkah Herbsman and Minna Blumenthal)



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Big Data, Correlation Or Causation?

Big Data, Correlation Or Causation?

Gordon Crovitz wrote about Big Data in the Wall Street Journal (25 March 2013) this week.

He cites from a book called “Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think,” an interesting notion that in processing the massive amounts of data we are capturing today, society will “shed some of its obsession for causality in exchange for simple correlation.”

The idea is that in the effort to speed decision processing and making, we will to some extent, or to a great extent, not have the time and resources for the scientific method to actually determine why something is happening, but instead will settle for knowing what is happening–through the massive data pouring in.

While seeing the trends in the data is a big step ahead of just being overwhelmed and possibly drowning in data and not knowing what to make of it, it is still important that we validate what we think we are seeing but scientifically testing it and determining if there is a real reason for what is going on.

Correlating loads of data can make for interesting conclusions like when Google Flu predicts outbreaks (before the CDC) by reaming through millions of searches for things like cough medicine, but correlations can be spurious when for example, a new cough medicine comes out and people are just looking up information about it–hence, no real outbreak of the flu. (Maybe not the best example, but you get the point).

Also, just knowing that something is happening like an epidemic, global warming, flight delays or whatever, is helpful in situational awareness, but without knowing why it’s happening (i.e. the root cause) how can we really address the issues to fix it?

It is good to know if data is pointing us to a new reality, then at least we can take some action(s) to prevent ourselves from getting sick or having to wait endlessly in the airport, but if we want to cure the disease or fix the airlines then we have to go deeper, find out the cause, and attack it–to make it right.

Correlation is good for a quick reaction, but correlation is necessary for long-term prevention and improvement.

Computing resources can be used not just to sift through petabytes of data points (e.g. to come up with neighborhood crime statistics), but to actually help test various causal factors (e.g. socio-economic conditions, community investment, law enforcement efforts, etc.) by processing the results of true scientific testing with proper controls, analysis, and drawn conclusions.