Monday, April 24, 2006

Four Things...

I have a navigation system in my car – but I don’t think I would do this. I’ve seen the commercial where the navigation system tells the driver to turn left – right into a restaurant. I cannot imagine believing a navigation system (computer system) over my own eyes/feeling anytime soon. Maybe that comes from working with computer systems (note: I did not say computers, they don’t make mistakes – just the software running on them) as much as I do.

I do rely heavily on my navigation system these days however. If I have a customer visit in say – Philadelphia – I plug their address in and point the car towards Philadelphia. As I get near the city (about 2-3 hours away, I know how to get there, just not sure where I’m going once there), I turn the screen on and left it guide me into the location I need to be. Very handy. I’ll use it anytime I’m going somewhere unfamiliar – and even when I know where I’m going. It can answer the kids undying question “how much longer” – as it tries to guess that answer for us. (for some reason when the navigation system says “2 hours 22 minutes” – they are OK with it, if we say it – then it is way too long…)

This page has some funny sayings on it – (warning: not 100% kid friendly, you are warned) “Stuff that annoys me”. Number one made me laugh, Number two made me say “so what’s wrong with that?”. They were all fairly amusing.

Here is a self help page. Looks like sound advice to me.

On an entirely serious note – “I’m OK, You’re Biased”. I liked that – it is so true. What we know, what we feel – whether we are willing to admit it or not – drives what we think, what we do. I liked this part of the testing (edited for brevity, full text available at the link above):

Two psychologists told subjects that they were being tested for a dangerous enzyme deficiency. Subjects placed a drop of saliva on a test strip and waited to see if it turned green. Some subjects were told that the strip would turn green if they had the deficiency, and others were told that the strip would turn green if they did not. In fact, the strip was just an ordinary piece of paper that never changed color.

So how long did subjects stare at the strip before accepting its conclusion? Those who were hoping to see the strip turn green waited a lot longer than those who were hoping not to. Good news may travel slowly, but people are willing to wait for it to arrive.

Indeed, I’d be willing to stare at a piece of paper for a long time under those conditions. Page two of the article was especially interesting to me. The conclusion:

In short, doctors, judges, consultants and vice presidents strive for truth more often than we realize, and miss that mark more often than they realize. Because the brain cannot see itself fooling itself, the only reliable method for avoiding bias is to avoid the situations that produce it.

Meaning – we are all jaded, in both directions.



Blogger Jeff Hunter said....

Meaning – we are all jaded, in both directions.

What are your parameters? ;)

my word: ocqhvptp - oracle certified quasi high-strung venting programming tireless professional?

Mon Apr 24, 01:40:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

My parameters are "always be willing to debate".

Just remember while debating that the confidence displayed by the other person might be mostly bluff, be willing to call it :)

I win at poker more often than I lose.

Mon Apr 24, 01:46:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

I cannot imagine believing a navigation system (computer system) over my own eyes/feeling anytime soon.

I can't either, but what worries me more is how many accidents might be caused by the momentary confusion caused by the machine saying "turn left", while your eyes are presenting you with the vision of a 100 foot drop-off. There's a very good reason why I don't like driving in strange towns.

I'm reminded of that tragic plane crash a few years back where the pilot was given conflicting instructions from traffic control versus his on-board collision avoidance system.

Bob Shepard

Verification keyword: siwgetjo. That's in South Africa, isn't it?

Mon Apr 24, 01:58:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Bill S. said....

thomas kyte said....
Meaning – we are all jaded, in both directions.

Yeah, but you're more jaded than I am.


Seriously, good article. Thanks for sharing that one, reminded me of someone.

word: fpqppxbn
Would that be an Oracle error?

Mon Apr 24, 02:21:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Robert Vollman said....

Computers can make mistakes. However, that's usually a sign that its broken, or in a room full of magnets.

Mon Apr 24, 04:39:00 PM EDT  

Blogger David Aldridge said....

The "paper turning green" test reminded me of the days of examining pee-on-a-strip pregnancy tests, particularly the ones where two lines indicate a positive result. I remember putting a hand over one eye (Monty Python sketch-style) to determine whether I was seeing a double image.

And then everyone knows the first one doesn't count -- there's a reason why they're sold in packs of two. It wouldn't matter if they had a built-in siren and flashing red light, you'll still try another one.

The only wonder is that they aren't sold in packs of ten. "OK, one more for good luck".

Mon Apr 24, 05:36:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

Don't ever trust a navigation system when in a thunderstorm or very cloudy weather. It tends to make mistakes. I keep the GPS on most of the time, even when driving to/from work, just to test it out. I know the roads well but I have seen the GPS giving out wrong directions in bad weather. Once I was driving home from Canada and on 15 S, close to NY/PA border, I ran into a severe thunderstorm. I knew that I had to just follow 15 S home but the GPS suddenly told me that I was "off route". It recalculated and directed me to take a right exit. There was a several hundred foot ditch on my right!! GPS is very useful otherwise. I was driving in Toronto like I knew all the roads, thanks to this nifty device. But as you said, one must use common sense and be aware of road signs.

Mon Apr 24, 10:07:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Daniel Fink said....

I recently finished "Conspiracy of Fools" about the Enron rise and fall. It is a large book, about the size of Expert One on One ;), but a fast read (also like Expert One on One).

One of the sub-plots was the conflict within Arthur Anderson about providing consulting and auditing services and the resistance of the major auditing firms to the proposed SEC regulation requiring that a public company could not employ the same consulting company to provide both of these services as they can easily become a conflict of interest. At the personal level, most people seemed to focus on 'doing the right thing', but when there was corporate or organizational influence, their actions were different.

On the topic of portable navigation devices (which I have not used in cars, but love in the backcountry of the Rocky Mountains), it is never a substitute for common sense and being aware of your surroundings. One friend was using an in-car system to go to the airport in Denver and it had them get off the highway several times...only to have them cross the road, get on the on-ramp and get back on the highway they just exited from. If I recall correctly, they stopped paying attention after the first 'side trip'.

Tue Apr 25, 12:09:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Dougie McGibbon said....

This was a good diversion that happened to a couple in New Zealand last year. Most of NZ's back roads are unsealed gravel, narrow and very winding - which don't seem to be properly identified in a lot of car navigation systems - they're just marked as Roads.

Tue Apr 25, 04:13:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

That was a good article in the New York Times regarding objectivity and bias.

Of course there has been discussion regarding objectivity and bias of journalists and the NYT itself.

Interesting that there was no mention of how the reporting of journalists might be affected by their own beliefs or
those of their newspaper paymasters.

Perhaps a hidden example of what the Professor was writing about ;-)

Wed Apr 26, 05:31:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....


soundex(siwgetjo) = SOuthWEsternTOwnship) Yes, you are right, Soweto is in South Africa and South West of Johannesburg. It boasts of a street where two noble peace prize winners once resided - Nelson Mandela & Albert Luthuli.

Ram from South Africa.

Wed Apr 26, 05:44:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

> And then everyone knows the first
> one doesn't count -- there's a
> reason why they're sold in packs of
> two. It wouldn't matter if they had
> a built-in siren and flashing red
> light, you'll still try another one.

Having had more blood tests than I care to remember over the last 3 years, I have had this conversation with my doctor several times. She has now adopted one of my favorite troubleshooting phrases: one data point is not a trend. Personally I consider the minimum number of repetitions for a critical test to be 3 (if feasible).


Wed Apr 26, 08:13:00 AM EDT  

Blogger David Aldridge said....

I've always thought of pregnancy as a kind of boolean state, rather than a trend ... but I get your point.

Thu Apr 27, 01:48:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Andrew Allen said....

Tom said"
(note: I did not say computers, they don’t make mistakes – just the software running on them)
that is unless you are using a certain Pentium processor FPU circa 1994. However, one might argue -- rather thinly -- that this is still not a computer error because the trouble was found in an internal table that was missing a few entries (programming error??)

Fri Apr 28, 11:55:00 AM EDT  


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