Science On Data
posted by July 17 at 14:44 PMon
Tell me what this means:
Thanks to new technologies (like microarrays), collecting vast amounts of data is easier than ever. So, what do all those dots mean? Without some annotation – information on what those dots represent, which ones are more important or interesting for a given problem – it’s hopeless to answer a useful question.
The technology is great, but without careful context, the data is worse than useless. Poorly applied, it’s an endless source of false leads, false connections and false certainty. This is the difference between data and evidence.
Which brings me to:
“We have no credible information pointing to a specific imminent attack,” said [White House homeland security adviser] Ms Townsend. “But the warning is clear, and we are taking it seriously.”
Michael Chertoff, Homeland Security secretary, told a newspaper last week that he had a “gut feeling” that al-Qaeda was preparing an attack.
Courtesy of MSNBC
Aside from the Constitutional and moral cesspool that centers a policy to not control the collection of personal information on citizens, it’s the pathetic uselessness of the data generated (“no credible information” “gut feeling”) that drives me nuts. Warrants are filters, guaranteeing that there is some good reason to be listening, and that other cheaper and potentially more informative methods have failed. Warrant-less wiretapping is like running a microarray having made no effort to identify the spots. There is no better way to generate a lot of time-wasting information and false leads.