Bryan Beverly

Postmodern Analytics: The Emergence of ‘Alternative Facts’

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bkbeverly
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Re: Objective
bkbeverly   2/20/2017 9:56:33 AM
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@Sane IT,

Your skepticism has merit. To your point, transparency is far from perfect because it is based on the assumption that people are taking turns providing oversight and that everyone knows for what to look. The business reality is the regular oversight is an overhead expense - it is not a good or service that produces revenue or profit. In fact, some of the commercial entities that seek fraud and abuse get a percentage of the dollar value of any confirmed fraudulent behavior they find (like doctors who submit claims for dead people).

Transparency has it weaknesses, but it is better than nothing. And based on the subject matter, there may be so many people who have to examine the information that the likelihood of fooling all of the people all of the time is zero.  For example, the BLS produces national economic indicators, so many people have a vested interest in the numbers. The BLS has the privilege and pressure of knowing pretty much every economist, stock and real estate speculator, bureaucrat, investment banker, hedge fund manager and Wall Street broker looks at what is produced (sorry I left out doctoral students who may have to defend their theses with BLS data). So transparency works real well in this scenario and it does not cost taxpayers a cent.

However to your point, where there is a need for close regulation but limited, inconsistent professional public interest, then yes, it might be better to invest in regulation. The problem is the cost/benefit of regulation is murky. For example, in health care fraud and abuse, the statistical evidence from regression analyses are more likely to signal a lack of training of the person who filed the claim or inconsistent rules between federal and state laws, rather than outright fraud.  Hence, you might wind up spending a few hundred thousand dollars for people, IT resources and lawyers to find nothing. The people who are experts in fraud seldom get caught. And those that get caught simply create a new company and continue until they get caught again. Hence regulation by trained professionals often does not generate enough misdeeds to cover its expenses.  Of course there is the issue of social cost (the 2008 crash and the resultant Dodd-Frank legislation). Trust and assumed transparency did not work when the economy crashed and ushered in the recession. Moreover, 'after trading hour' monitoring may have prevented the stock market flash crashes of 2015. But these events happen so seldom, that the individual, institutional and social costs of regulation are questioned when prepping budgets; why pay to monitor something that may not happen?

Hence it is often a delicate dance when choosing between transparency and regulation. Darned if you do and double darned if you don't. So no, transparency is not perfect, but for these reasons, it is seen as a cost effective proxy.

SaneIT
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Re: Objective
SaneIT   2/20/2017 8:37:24 AM
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Call me skeptical but "transparency as a proxy for regulatory oversight" seems like the reason we have regulatory oversight.  I can pretend to be transparent and hand over a set of books for review but is that really how I'm operating?  Are the people looking into these open books trained to look for flags that would indicate a company isn't functioning the way they claim to function?  Without a regulatory commission who is checking up on these agencies and how often?             

bkbeverly
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Re: Objective
bkbeverly   2/19/2017 10:39:05 PM
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@SethBL, Very astute observation. Discussion, debates and deliberations are based on the assumption that a person, place or thing exists. And actually that is a very slick tactic. If you cannot defend your position on a topic, you simply say that the object of the topic does not exist. We saw some of that during the campaign. When #45 questioned the existence of the birth certificate of #44, that was an indirect attempt to abort his existence as a US citizen. The best way to avoid discussing the merits of someone, someplace or something is to make it nonexistent. Great observation - thanks for sharing!

SethBreedlove
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Re: Objective
SethBreedlove   2/19/2017 7:45:41 PM
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We can't have a diplomatic discussion and disagree on the facts because today people have different facts. It used be there were only three major news stations. Everyone got the same facts. Today, mostly due to Fox news, you have people people literally living in a different reality You can't debate what to do about global warming when when one party says "Global warming doesn't exist." A disagreement is "I like ham sandwiches. vs. Well, I don't like ham sandwiches." : not "I like ham sandwiches vs. Ham sandwiches don't exist."

bkbeverly
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Data Doctor
Re: Objective
bkbeverly   2/19/2017 9:09:38 AM
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@Ariella, Thanks for the tip on Bronowski. Had not heard of hm; very interesting background. I guess when the British Secret Service sees a math geek as a security risk, it would make one have that view. Perhaps the concerns of double agents and spies during WWII, made people seen as intellectual capital to deemed 'persons of national interest'. I believe that across the board, intellectuals were considered too valuable to put on the front lines, but rather were tasked with devising strategies and weapons. Poor guy. You spend all that time getting a doctorate in algebraic geometry and you wind up with the MI5 watching your family and you. This was a great observation- thanks for sharing it!

bkbeverly
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Data Doctor
Re: Objective
bkbeverly   2/18/2017 5:15:31 PM
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@Tomsg, Excellent point. Policies that promote alternative facts need employees to implement policies and procedures. People who just want to feed their families are caught between principles and a paycheck. You raised a significant point. What if you weekly attend a place of worship that between the Invocation and the Benediction, encourages you to have moral sensibilities, but then you have to work under rules that are diametrically opposite? What do you do if your spiritual leaders encourage you be a person of light and not of darkness, but that darkness comes with a paycheck? In effect, in the attempt to create a set of facts and a nostalgic narrative, innocent people get caught in the cross fire of ethics. You raised a great point, it is not enough to promote customized truths, but to ensure that they do not create a crisis of conscience.

bkbeverly
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Data Doctor
Re: Objective
bkbeverly   2/18/2017 5:03:49 PM
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@T Sweeney, Thanks much! I think the reason why having conversations is so challenging is because the intent is to have a monologue instead of a dialogue. The objective is to communicate a narrative of hope to a segment of our citizens that feel that they are slowly losing relevance. The intent is not to have a dialogue but to swing the pendulum back in the other direction of a socially constructed image - an image embodied in the current administration. So your mind is not playing tricks on you. The goal is not to engage you in conversation, respectful debate, or to consider principled critique. And since we are people accustomed to give and take as a means of proving our points and learning from others, the current state of affairs can be very frustrating. The one saving grace is that we do have periodic elections. It is refreshing to know that as smart as the founding fathers were, they were smart enough not to trust each other with eternal absolute power. And fortunately we still have this safe space on A2 for idea sharing. But in the mean time, please take solace in knowing that you are most likely to find substantive conversations here on A2. There are many loud voices out there with whom we cannot speak. But that may be OK because it is empty wagon that makes the most noise.

tomsg
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Re: Objective
tomsg   2/18/2017 4:00:51 PM
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Not only do we not have someone to set things staright, we have a whole group that doesn't want to. What of the poor park service officials that have been tasked by the Trump administartion to ascertain how many people really were at the inuguration? What answer can they possibly give? They either have to fabricate or deliver bad news- which isn't really good for job security.

T Sweeney
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Re: Objective
T Sweeney   2/18/2017 2:17:29 PM
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That's extremely well stated, Bryan. A segment of our culture that yearns for an era that never really existed, and yet nonetheless, seems like a better choice than dealing with that which is... the woke state.

It's mystifying, and also frustrating to try and have a larger conversation about what's going on here.

bkbeverly
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Data Doctor
Re: Objective
bkbeverly   2/17/2017 3:21:34 PM
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@Jim,

One thing that some federal agencies attempt to do, is to provide complete transparency of its data products, business rules and methods. For example, BLS does this so that anyone, anywhere and at any time can reasonably replicate or mimic what the agency does. From a broader perspective (and from a future blog hopefully) is the notion that data auditors often use transparency as a proxy for regulatory oversight. Practically speaking, there are not enough sheriffs to ensure that all private and public entities are all playing by the rules or are not making mistakes.  One approach to remedy this labor market shortage is letting public crowdsourcing serve as a regulatory agent. With everything made available to the public, you make it possible for millions of people to arrive at a global consensus of the validity of ones data products.  In effect, you cannot prevent the creation of alternative facts, but transparency allows for everyone to evaluate the facts for themselves.

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