Saturday, September 26, 2015

Ack! Countability

The onetime mantra, bring data, has turned into a cult
From which every sane person should now openly revolt.

Expecting to find truth in numbers is an alarming trend.
There are good uses.  But the many bad ones we should end.

When the bulk of performance happens clearly in plain sight
Developing numerical norms of excellence then perhaps is right.

Sportometrics in baseball, for instance, is perfectly fine.
Indeed some thoughtful people consider Bill James near divine.

But when the critical performance piece happens outside our view
Taking seriously the bit we can see is something to eschew.

Rewards based on that measure create all sorts of distortion
As people game the system by this and that contortion. 

Then there is the matter if behind the numbers there is theory
The absence of which brings to question validity of the query.

Yet just because there is a model doesn't mean it's true.
Elevating untested hypotheses as facts tends to the results skew.

People are in a rush to demonstrate just how much they know.
Real learning demands modest claims and that they go quite slow.

Research showing near term impact likely will win grant renewal.
It satisfies the grantor's demand for metrics though is unlikely to produce a jewel.

Did Barrett Browning's counting love create numeracy of the cute?
Or is it that the source of human feeling fundamentally does not compute?

The point I want to bring home is to not always insist on a number.
Far from making us seem smarter, doing so really makes us dumber.

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