Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Michael Brown School of Crisis Management

I just got a notice from my building maintenance services, informing me that in order to make URGENT repairs to the building, they're going to have to shut down the water supply for an hour. Seven days from now.

I wonder how long they'd wait if it wasn't urgent? If only the dinosaurs had shown this sort of efficient decisiveness. We would have had so much more fossil fuel.

In other news, Scott Adams has a post about using Well-Informed Super Geniuses in opinion polls. While in general, I'm a big admirer of Mr. Adams' superior perspicacity and analytics (I'm convinced, for instance, that he's on his way to winning the Biology Nobel for his incisive comments on Evolution) I think he's got hold of the pointy end of the wedge here. To begin with, who's ever heard of an expert who can answer anything in Yes, No, or a 5 point scale? Get experts to do an opinion poll and you're going to end up with pie-charts where 99% of people say 'Other'. Besides, there's now expert evidence to the effect that experts don't know what they're talking about (brilliant article in the New Yorker, btw, I particularly love the bit where a lab rat does better than a bunch of Yale students).

The biggest problem with Mr. Adams' idea, though, is that in order to get opinions from Well-Informed Super Geniuses, you first need to figure out who exactly the right Well-Informed Super Geniuses are, and in a country that thinks George W. Bush deserves to be president, that's always going to be a hard task. What you're going to need is Well-Informed Super Geniuses to tell you who the Well-Informed Super Geniuses are, but in order to find these second order WISGs you're going to need more WISGs, and see where this is going, don't you. Eventually you'll end up asking Oprah and that'll be the end of that.