Use logic and data to run your country December 31, 2007Posted by gordonwatts in politics, science.
There is a blog entry in the nytimes examining how crazy air travel security has become these days. Here is one of many great quotes.
At every concourse checkpoint you’ll see a bin or barrel brimming with contraband containers taken from passengers for having exceeded the volume limit. Now, the assumption has to be that the materials materials in those containers are potentially hazardous. If not, why were they seized in the first place? But if so, why are they dumped unceremoniously into the trash? They are not quarantined or handed over to the bomb squad; they are simply thrown away. The agency seems to be saying that it knows these things are harmless. But it’s going to steal them anyway, and either you accept it or you don’t fly.
To me this is emblematic of the times we line in. First, we react and implement procedures without adequate research. Actually, that is fine when we are in the middle of a panic-as we were after the liquid bomb scare – though I wish we’d react with panic a bit less. But even then there were liquid bomb experts who would have pointed out how crazy the possibility was. Were they even consulted? If so, why was their advice rejected? Other experts gave different advice? Was there accountability when it turned out to be bad advice (are we still listening to them?).
Second, the lack of ability to change course. Now that the panic is over, what are the chances we will see an adjustment of the policy? Little, I’d say.
Grand policy ideas – like how to negotiate with the prickly leader of another country – those are places where intuition and got instinct are needed. The running of the basic services of a country, however, requires a cooler head, real data, and a whole lot of logic. Really similar to engineering or science research, actually!