Monday, August 28, 2006

Why we try to figure things out...

Why do we analyze? What product are we looking for?

While pure research has its own use, the majority application of analysis is anchored in the real world. There are broad goals and purposes for any person, area, or entity. Given a problem of business, a person needs to be able to determine a solution rapidly and accurately. Why? Let's take a simple answer: Every life form is trying to survive (achieve growth) as its own basic purpose. This, however, is limited. What is survival for the cat is not necessarily survival for the canary. If any analysis is to be universally applicable and basic, it has to have broader reach. Man is required to live in symbiotic relations with the other inhabitants on this planet, overall.

So any broadly applicable purpose of analysis would have to take into account the overall scene. But such a datum would need to apply to the smallest analysis of, say, fixing a child's broken toy. As well, the largest analysis might attempt to resolve global problems.

Most of the research done today is to get real products. While pure research has its own use, the majority application of analysis is anchored in the real world. Given a problem of business, a person needs to be able to determine a solution rapidly and accurately. Why? Let's take a simple answer: Every life form is trying to survive as its own basic purpose. This is limited. What is survival for the cat is not necessarily survival for the canary. If any analysis is to be applied universally, it has to have a broad reach and application.

Man has chosen to live in symbiotic relations with the other inhabitants on this planet, overall. We've chosen to go along to get along – as it were. Our thinking and “thunking” has to take into account how we are going to solve the big picture as well as our own little scene.

So any broadly applicable purpose of analysis would have to take into account the overall scene. But such a datum would need to apply to the smallest analysis of, say, fixing a child's broken toy. As well, the largest analysis might attempt to resolve global problems. What we think has to work in the big and small.

Logic and Scientific Method and Data Analysis have a purpose to find more optimal solutions. It's obvious that if a guy is working to make things worse, he'll do himself in as well. Evolution-wise, species that didn't work to improve their lot aren't around anymore.

This purpose tests out, both on the child's broken wagon and the resolution to the volume of ocean pollutants found internationally. If you are going to fix problems big and small, you are going to work to find better solutions than the ones you've been given.

How the “Scientific Method” works

Through comparing the above methods of analysis, and cross-checking with a plethora of books and papers on analysis that I could find, I concluded that the vast majority use Scientific Method or some version of it. In this, the apparent action steps of analysis are:

1. Have a goal/purpose to forward.

2. Select a problem being confronted which could have or requires a better/more optimal solution – such solution moves the goal forward.

3. Identify the data within that problem you feel might be subject to improvement.

4. Develop a hypothesis; something you think could result if two (sets of) data are compared.

5. Compare two (sets of) data in that problem area.

6. This comparison brings a result to view.

7. Compare the result against the purpose or initial hypothesis.

8. Start over with a new hypothesis if the more optimal solution isn't achieved.

I further simplified this to four simple steps:

0. Notice something in need of improvement,

1. Work up a hypothesis for situation area,

2. Comparing data in that situation area produces result,

3. Then you compare result to the original hypothesis,

4. Finally - upgrade or revise original hypothesis and then look for new data to compare, etc.

You might note the first step above is to have a goal, something to improve. This is as I saw it as a commonly non-confronted step. This can lead to analysis which has no real use when completed. If you are going to build something, then your workouts have to align with what you are going to build – figuring out how the roof fits onto the sidewalls better result in a well-fitting roof which doesn't leak. By sorting out why the analysis was needed we determine what product it is supposed to achieve. But this also leads me to find some interesting basics along the way.

Is all data evaluation the same?

With this, I then checked this pattern by examining a couple of different types of data evaluation.

I took two decidedly different analysis forms: statistical analysis (as used broadly in university studies) and sequential analysis (used successfully by some businesses to analyze their production lines). Statistical analysis gathers the results from repeating experiments done under varying conditions, graphs these and looks for an equation that explains the results. Sequential analysis looks at the results from a production line and then examines the sequence of production to find what changed so it can be remedied.

A common action was found between the two:

Analysis compares two patterns,
and this result predicts a third.

This tests out in both our examples: statistical analysis examines the results and compares them against an equation. Sequential analysis compares how the line ran earlier, based on its results, against how it is running now. We then have a simple statement of the Scientific Method sequences above.

All the variant forms of Analysis use this base: have a situation, compare at least two datums to test it, then take the result and see if it resolves the situation.

The next step is to take a look at Logic, which is used at the base of Scientific Method, and so all analysis.

Logic and Illogic

Writing about Logic is something like trying to corral quicksilver with a kitchen knife, or hold water in a paper bag. Logic in its basics isn't defined or described with any tools other than logic. It's purity is such that when correctly isolated, it becomes a sort of universal solvent, dissolving anything it touches. Setting lengthy examples to describe it is touchy at best, since these inherently contain flaws which logic would expose.

Let's go back to basics.

People think. And most do so successfully.

Logic is an effort to explain how people think effectively. When people don't come up with useful results, their thinking is described as “illogical”. Of course, that doesn't get us much. There are classes and types of people who have been described as “irrational” or “extremist”. In these cases, the describers are usually themselves living some illogical or extreme life/world-view and are simply saying that these other people are way outside the “norm”, which is what the general consensus has to say about things. But go ahead, try to live your life by polls and public opinion. You'll find that it gets pretty illogical rather early on. Just because everyone thinks it “stylish” or “modern” or “progressive” to do something doesn't mean it's worth a lick to you or your friends. What is good for the goose doesn't necessarily satisfy the gander.

Most advances in our sciences and cultures were made by people who thought and lived way outside anyone's box. Then their ideas were eventually adopted by the majority and became “normal”.

The real bottom line of Logic.

But the bottom line in Logic is that people have been analyzing and re-analyzing things for centuries, trying to get to the bottom of what truly workable logic is. I figured that the Greeks pretty much had it sorted out by their time. But, like the old adage, “Trust, but verify”. The next step was to get a clear concept of what they were talking about.

I studied a large number of texts on Logic by Socrates and others in his peer group and later. I worked simply – throwing away complexities and looking for the most simple and workable explanations of logic. These datums had to be widely accepted and used.

Going through these texts found various problems and “conundrums”. Essentially, these were blind alleys with no solution. Throwing away philosophical conundrums narrows down the field considerably. Taking the most basic, widely accepted and used datums leaves us only a few datums that are widely applicable. Boiling these down in turn gives us this simple observation:

Logical thought is apparently based on the comparison of two datums, which predicts a third datum.

This tests out, since the various arguments and logical combinations (AND, OR, NOT, XOR) can be built from this.

So let's go up our chain of thought. The reason we started with Logic was because it was the basis for Scientific Method. This methodology is used at the core of all scientific and academic data evaluation. It could be argued that all Data Evaluation is based on the Scientific Method, which is based on Logic.

Facts, Opinions, Truth, Faith.

Anything that can be verified as actually having occurred is a fact. Everything else is an opinion. Truth is opinion viewed as fact – which is why no two people share identical truths, and why some truths can be “shattered” when confronted with facts that don't support them.

Conclusions or results are very close to truths, but limited. When you conclude a principle based on a series of observed facts or experimental results, you hold that principle to be true with in the limits of what you observed for yourself (or the experiments and/or observations of someone you trust).

In thinking, what do either one of these two compared datums consist of?

A datum could be a fact. Facts might be defined as an observed occurrence. Oops. Look out: two individuals don't see the same occurrence identically except in the broadest terms. For one, they aren't sitting or standing in the identically same location and that precise instant. Even if you use an indirect observation, ie. a camera or other recorder, is limited in accuracy to the lenses and programming used, much as the individuals viewing this occurrence are limited by their own acuity of senses. No two people have the same collection of facts to think from.

Further, truth has similar limitations, since no two persons can agreed on precisely and exactly all truths they hold. That last argument you had – what was it about? (But then, it would be pretty boring if we agreed on everything, eh?)

For the purposes of reasoning, we must introduce a non-exact, mutually agreeable datum. Here we rely on “fuzzy datums.” Such fuzzy datums define things as perhaps either hot nor warm, but definitely not cold. The racer definitely crossed the finish line ahead of the others but we cannot say whether every time clock used at the race agreed on the exact instant of time, much less the accuracy of the thumbs punching the buttons on the stop-clocks, or who was paid to align the laser sensors.

So the accuracy of the conclusion would be subject to the accuracy of the facts/datums used. A 90% agreed-upon datum compared to a separate 90% agreed-upon datum equals what? This is the core of human logic. Use of patterns of various datums in comparison gets even wilder and more variable results.

But we aren't now lost in a fog. At this point, we can see if we have a usable conclusion if the result does or doesn't result in a more optimal solution. Easy to see if you picked the right way to install a new head-gasket. It either works or it doesn't. But you can have it slightly one way or the other and it will still perform okay. Same for baking a cake – you can put slightly more or less sugar in and most people won't notice. So fuzzy datums are used all over the place, in real life.

Another factor enters in, however: faith. There is a certain amount of belief in any datum that pushes it over the edge into fact. The smallest, most finite datum requires faith of the observer that it is correct and/or correctly observed. One must trust the instruments or his vision or even his own sanity and acuity. He must have faith that he observed what was in front of him. Most people have faith in gravity – things fall, don't they? When you build a paper airplane, you're considering that ultimately, it will wind up on the ground. Same for other “natural laws”. We all believe that they work all the time.

So faith is an element in all logic, all comparisons.

A caveat here: faith is not religion. A religion could be defined as the organization to support those who would make a living from forwarding a common set of beliefs. A church might be viewed as a body of people who share and co-support common beliefs. While some religious beliefs are called and require “faith” on the part of their followers, this is a distinct difference to the use of faith as an observed element of logical thought (though they may rub shoulders and predict new uses of analysis - as covered briefly later in this book.)

The logic definition of faith is “I believe.”

Rules for Analysis.

There are few rules to this. “The greater complexity, the greater chance for failure” goes the one adage, “Keep It Simple – Scholar”, another. However, some basic few rules did surface:

1. Anything can be compared to anything.

Pretty logical. Explains this fascination with people who can “think outside the box”. As well, this enables different patterns to be compared which normally would not be. Not just datums, but differing patterns, and even different systems can be compared. There are no boundaries that cannot be crossed.

Of course, this gets into some pretty wild comparisons, but I'll get into that in a little bit.

2. Comparisons make their own rules.

Many failures in comparison are due to holding strictly to one pattern while you are examining a completely disrelated pattern. Thinking outside the box (and even assuming that there is a box to think outside of) precludes such. Intuition, especially in humanities, will resolve situations faster than science, even though you might be doing a display for a science project. The rules of good design and presentation take precedence over science in how to most effectively present. These rules do not, however, change the accuracy or method or sequences used in the science project. Comparing the outcome of this science/design comparison against the purpose of well-delivered project results will tell you pretty quickly if you will win the award for best project. Each has its part to play and the rules are a combination of the two areas. Sheer science isn’t all that elegant and glossy graphics aren’t necessarily accurate. It takes two to tango.

From this rule, a corollary can be seen:

2a. An analysis using one comparison doesn’t necessarily
get accepted in another field.

The prophet isn't necessarily recognized in his own hometown.

This can clearly be seen when Science is trying to explain some of the more metaphysical , mystical or religious aspects of various studies. Some things do not have simple “scientific” explanations. This might mean that the wrong rules were applied to the analysis. Metaphysical areas might be best analyzed with metaphysical tools. Did the process result in more effective or pronounced metaphysical occurances? Not whether there was more pronounces EKG readings of the participants or not. Did the Faith Healer get a cure or not? Partial cure? Some relief?

A mystical fantasy writer might start a religion and have a scientifically failed basis for his claims. It might even be horrible mysticism and poor fantasy. But you can be sure that there will be fascinating religious and philosophical discussions that ensue. For only those two bodies could effectively have say over whether this occult hack made his purpose stick. Scientific examination won’t be able to prove anything, particularly, since he isn’t dealing in the pure realm of science.

If this religion were an economic success for the author, such would only be arguable and verifiable in economic terms (corporate and personal bank accounts, etc.) as something making money is more marketing than effective production and delivery – those these last two have to be in line in order for the marketing to work. Again, production and delivery are arguments down the line of organization, not whether his mystical fantasy practically produced observable results – a lot of people believing they feel better doesn't mean he's made any scientific or metaphysical breakthrough. Constantly shouting that you own the world of the mind doesn't make it so, however many people can be persuaded to believe you. (Compare Kuhn's work on scientific paradigms for the reverse scenario.)

New Evaluation Systems Found

Looking around, we see that simple action of analysis can be applied to other forms of analysis. Psychoanalysis compares patterns of "normalcy" with observed actions of the patient. Military analysis compares successful and unsuccessful campaigns to determine new methods of warfare. Historians compares recorded data for a time period against current norms of action and society, filling in the gaps.

What do these discovered datums predict? Far more studies and "-ologies" utilize the basics of analysis than were seen before. This simple action of comparing patterns then includes other areas, not formerly included.

Speculative analysis: Science Fiction is known to extend existing patterns of human cultural existence into extrapolated situations. H.G. Wells predicted submarines and space flight years prior. George Orwell analyzed totalitarian governments and subsequently may have prevented many from forming in Western societies through his work. Popular Fiction has explored moral dilemmas without having to set up actual utopias to test theories. The TV show “Star Trek” had the first interracial kiss. Modern military action novels can predict equipment and government policy so accurately, their authors are sometimes investigated as spies.

Common Sense: Knowing the pattern of gravity enables one to understand that leaving a hammer on top of a ladder is dangerous. Common sense is apparently composed of simple understandings as the result of analysis in operating through life. The lack of common sense might be explained by the failure of a person to observe and analyze the universe around him for common patterns. As well, this explains the terms "hick" and "city slicker", due to these persons not having basic knowledge of the new environment they were thrust into. But application of analysis basics above solves these deficiencies in short order.

Art: If defined as the "quality of life", then art in its various forms is an analysis of human existence. Culture "high points" are noted as having a wealth of art in many forms: paintings, dance, theater, etc. Greece and Rome were known for their sculptures. The Renaissance survives via its paintings, sculpture, and architecture as well. Elizabethan England showed us the genius of Shakespeare and other dramatists. More recently, motion pictures have been added to the list of "Classics" as well as recordings of music which were not possible to preserve before this time. Each attempts to resolve in various forms the riddle of human or universal existence.

Additional Applications

PR / Politics: To detect “spin” or “pitch” or “slant” of any so-called modern news or other input, simply see what purpose they have. What understanding to you get out of it? Does it compare with what you already have concluded is sensible? If not, do you really need to listen to these guys - how about a good Science Fiction novel instead? Americans, in particular, are so surrounded by PR pitches that they are a bit jaded about them, affecting “focus groups” by the audience now giving advice on how to improve the commercial they viewed. This makes polls in the US very, very suspect – the sample has to be huge in order to be anywhere near accurate. Since politics are frequently chumming with the press in order to get PR coverage, this can be a disaster in the making, as covered below.

“News” media: In our day of 24/7/256 cable news, just because something is stated two or three hundred times a day doesn't make it true. Videos and photos can be faked, or exaggerate conditions beyond what actually occurred. If you always presented video of a Midwestern state as being a large cow pasture, many people would assume that only cows live there. A flat, frozen swamp-area of Alaska was always represented on network news and in magazines with these beautiful videos and/or stills of mountain backdrops with moose and elk proceeding stately in front. No wonder people didn't want to drill for oil there – the “News” editors were proclaiming it as a lush paradise. War zones are currently portrayed as outrageously dangerous. In the recent Iraq war, the correspondents rarely left the main compound and the insurgent factors centered their bombings around this compound so that they would have something to report. It didn't matter that 90% of the remainder of the country was peacefully rebuilding and even had started attracting tourism! No wonder people trust news media less than car salesman and lawyers. Let thinkers beware – what you see is not necessarily what happened. It's hard to compare data unless you have facts to begin with. Don't start with conclusions from the press, who are there to sell advertising.

Artificial Intelligence: This field might benefit from the above markedly. Definitions of analysis might describe learning, which in turn could open doors to patterned responses by "A.I.'s." The analysis of patterns might lead to database- or XML-driven engines which compare given inputs against patterns stored in memory. Updateable patterns based on fuzzy logic algorithms may reproduce "learning."

Education: Isn’t the study of books just the comparison of what you know to what others have known? Do we simply learn the successful comparisons of our predecessors so that we don’t have to make the same analyses over and over? Then, perhaps there are more effective means to reach this goal. Educators might be in the position of age-old farmers who can lead a horse to water, but can’t make them drink. Analysis might serve to increase the efficiency of students in material retention and real application, not just test results. Learning might be sheer analysis, after all. If so, then making games out of learning could improve the abilities of students to think. (There has been some success in training via video gaming...)

Spiritual / Religious: Current religions are pretty limited in their operations. If we consider that idea that all religions might be a mode of analysis to enable their practitioners to evolve to a higher state, the idea that there is only one religion which will guarantee passage into a more optimal afterlife is limiting. It may be, just as there are millions of opinions, any particular religion only has value as long as that religious system continues to be found useful in evolving the individual. Human emotion might be related to the accuracy of analysis. Religions might also learn through comparing their beliefs with other churches to find common ground and also to seek more effective spiritual enlightenment. Silos are renown in marketing and grain storage. Probably the latter is the only practical use for them. Up-selling your parishioners into only your particular religion, while shunning all others, is a pat policy of cults.

Spiritual comparisons may have solutions to problems that have haunted humankind for eons. Personal upsets might be due to insufficient or incorrect data or conclusions. Perhaps we are using the wrong comparative for assisting our fellow man. Religion and spiritual studies might be closer in being able to resolve human conflicts – perhaps comparisons of various spiritual techniques might be more effective than studies of animal behaviors and genetics (as has dominated modern psychology and psychotherapy) to predict human response.

Luck, Longevity, Untapped Abilities: The human limit in capability is unmeasured. For all we know about humanity, we continue to fall short in explaining how one person may have various abilities while another nearby, even in the same family, doesn’t. Two people completely disrelated by genetic or cultural similarity and geographically separated can yet get in complete, almost telepathic rapport. All we truly know is that we don’t know. If we started using the simple rules above, we might well sort out some of these metaphysical and mysteries which still float in our cultures.

This work of continuing to examine life and various actions of human sphere of existence (and as well, perhaps, other life forms) is exciting. Perhaps we have a clue here to understanding much broader areas of life, living and humanity than were priorly admissible, if only due to self-imposed blinders from inaccurate or limited analysis.

Surviving and extending one's viable existence depends on the ability to use analysis, not only for oneself, but for the rest of this symbiotic planet we call home.

It's over to us.

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