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1 BusyMonster  Tue, Jan 7, 2014 12:23:16pm

Quantity is not quality.

I like to tell people how I finally weaned my wife from shopping at Wal-Mart and the execrable Sam’s Club. Yes, you can fill a big grocery cart for $300 and have lots of $savings$ in your cart when you get home, but if you look at money spent and days being well-fed and not out of things, shopping at big box retailers is the surest way to set your fucking money on fire.

We would return from Sam’s with 12 boxes of massive overportioned freeze-dried crap. After day 3, I was sick to DEATH of every item in the house and we were eating out again, except $300 poorer.

The money looked good on paper, but numbers only refer to quantities of things, and just don’t tell the whole story.

2 freetoken  Tue, Jan 7, 2014 12:28:40pm

The opening paragraph sort of pours cold water on my interest in this piece:

By now, nearly everyone from the president of the United States on down has admit­ted that the National Security Agency went too far. Documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the rogue NSA contractor who has since gained asylum in Rus­sia, paint a picture of an organization with access to seemingly every word typed or spoken on any electronic device, anywhere in the world. …

Clearly, overstatements.

The article on the whole appears to be lamenting the increased use of modern computer and communications technologies in the hands of those highly skilled in such fields like operations research, and how the new abilities to target individuals via analytical tools is hurting society.

But, this objection is not really a new one, I think. Isn’t this just an extension of the criticisms outlined in Adam Curtis’ The Century of The Self ? The ability to now micro-manage the marketing of ideas follows in the footsteps of the micro-marketing of products.

The last paragraph presents what I consider to the false dichotomy underlying the whole article:

That’s what a good synthesis of big data and human intuition tends to look like. As long as the humans are in control, and understand what it is they’re controlling, we’re fine. It’s when they become slaves to the numbers that trouble breaks out. So let’s celebrate the value of disruption by data—but let’s not forget that data isn’t everything.

This idea of being a “slave to the numbers” is a false one - the use of highly detailed near-realtime financial trading or political campaign tools is not being a “slave” to anything but what has always been: the human desire to control others.

3 Political Atheist  Tue, Jan 7, 2014 2:36:01pm

re: #2 freetoken

That’s a shame because that leads you to miss the biggest point-Algorithm specialized for tasks takes on a life of it’s own causing real disruption and negative effects. NSA or BofA, it’s the same phenomenon. and it encourages cheating and gaming the system. Plus you discount a key phrase-“paints a picture of” which AFAIK is an appropriate context. Yes, indeed the appearance exceeded the reality. Just the appearance had consequences.

This idea of being a “slave to the numbers” is a false one - the use of highly detailed near-realtime financial trading or political campaign tools is not being a “slave” to anything but what has always been: the human desire to control others.

Is that not bad enough? Watch, now that candidates will find out Nate Silvers metrics, they will certainly attempt to game those very metrics.


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