Tag: truth

In a prior blog I commented on ignorance and how easy it is to jump to incorrect solutions. In that blog I made reference to Boyan Slat and his Ted Lecture as an example of an incredibly awful Ted lecture.

 

In his lecture Boyan Slat proposes a method for removing plastic trash from oceans. The lecture is presented by an enthusiastic young man in front of a basically ignorant audience. With universal approval he makes a moving appeal for doing something we all want to do: Save our environment.

 

A friend sent me link to this lecture knowing that I am one of those seaweed hugging engineers and hoping that I would enjoy this young man’s resolve. Instead I was horrified.

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This story will makes two important points about technical reasoning that in the heat of combat, disasters, disputes, commerce, parenting or politics often get overlooked.

 

They are:

 

1.If your starting data is flawed, the rest of your argument becomes inherently flawed

2.Just because one thing looks like the other, it does not mean that they are comparable.

 

The problem is that it is so easy to hide these issues in clever packaging. Only when somebody carefully analyzes the argument and looks at the underlying data, will it become apparent that it is fatally flawed.

The example I will use is a TED lecture by Malcolm Gladwell. Malcolm Gladwell is the author of "Blink, the Power of Thinking without Thinking" and other popular observational works and TED is an organization that organizes symposia where smart people listen to other smart people who discuss unusual discoveries or insights. A TED lecture is about 15 minutes and there are some truly incredibly useful lectures such as the Hans Rosling lectures, but not all TED lectures rise to that level.

 

So that is the setting; here is the story..... read more »

The weak English translation of the MIT Costa Concordia report made me wonder about the use of English as a more universal communication system. While driving to a project, I was listening to National Public Radio, and there was a bit about Voice of America broadcasts. I never realized that Voice of America programs cannot be broadcast within the United States, since, in essence, they are government propaganda. However, if there is a specific request for VOA information, a recent law change has now made it possible to broadcast VOA segments in the United States.

Oddly, the factual quality of VOA is not bad, and probably much better than some of the commercial networks we all are subjected to. Actually, VOA’s efforts at truth during WWII had a major beneficial impact on the whole scope of the war. Regardless, the most interesting point in the NPR broadcast was their reference to Special English, which may be a path to better communications in international shipping.

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