Monday, 9 April, 2007

“Let’s compare and we’ll know.”

We often hear executives say that we only need look at the figures and we’d know which way to go.

What they do is dangerous, destructive and frankly disgusting. Without the slightest thought on what those figures mean or how they came into being; without any idea of what is significant and what’s not; without any questions as to if there were easy, commonsense explanations for variations, they rush to judge, theorise, and change.

Which doesn’t matter for them, because nobody is going to check the final figures.

It can, however, devastate the people on the job, unless they switch off their brains and accept orders like zombies.

We beg them to read a basic book on statistics. Even popular math books will do. It’s heartening to observe the popularity of books like Freakonomics and Undercover Economist, and the availability of excellent textbooks in low-priced Indian Sub-continent editions.

One hopes one will soon see their effect.

And that the next big thing will be translation. For many Indians, English remains a difficult language. We feel deeply ashamed about it, but do nothing about it. The more intelligent races translate each other’s works and get on with their lives.

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