Monday 23 March 2020

Statto world and the birdemic

A statto is a number cruncher - derogatively, someone who sees life through the stats, rather than using stats to understand life.

Stattos have been a near-lethal plague in medicine (especially in the form of Evidence-Based Medicine TM) - and in-and-around when I was an epidemiology lecturer (1993-6) I produced a stream of papers and talks to explain the dangers of statistically-minded people pretending that what they did was science, and that their type of expertise trumped that of those with substantive knowledge (such as doctors).

I completely failed! (no surprise) - and we now live in statto world; where people with some kind of numerical expertise are regarded as experts on everything - especially so regarded by them-selves!

In scientific reality (a world that has all-but disappeared) statistics are used almost entirely to clarify by summary a large quantity of data, so that it can be grasped and understood by somebody who understands the subject. But when somebody does not understand the subject (and especially when they are not truly interested in knowing the truth about it - but have some other agenda) they make truly immense mistakes, with total confidence and a stubborn inability to acknowledge their errors.

Truthful knowledge of a subject is what lets us know what numbers are relevant to an issue, and what (the vast bulk of them) are Not relevant. Shall I give you an example?

It relates to the current birdemic. Given that the death rate is so very low and the bodies stubbornly refuse to pile-up; the entire rationale for the global totalitarian takeover is to stop the limited supply of intensive therapy facilities being overwhelmed.

Yet the birdemic is lethal almost-only to the old and infirm; especially the very old and/or very infirm - and such people would not (in normal, good, medical practice) be put into ITUs on ventilators - because 'their time has come'.

We all will die, and most of us would prefer a good death, but ventilated death under IT is a Bad death - bad for the patient and the family and loved ones. It is also futile, as confirmed by eye witness accounts that almost everybody put onto a ventilator for the birdemic dies anyway.

Assuming these reports really are facts (which I don't know for sure, because so much of the truth is being withheld and spun) there is Not going to be a shortage of rare intensive therapy facilities unless such a shortage is artificially-created by treating people who would not, and should not, be treated under normal conditions of humane medical practice.

(Also, pragmatically - if (in an insane world) old, multiply sick people with upper respiratory tract infections were to be routinely treated; all the ITU facilities in the world always would be full all of the time - and would never treat anyone who might benefit; because URTI in the elderly and multiply-sick is probably the commonest acute cause of death in the world.)

My point is that a couple of relevant facts, whose relevance is not appreciated by stattos, make all the difference in the world.

Even these facts aren't really needed if we take the birdemic at face value, and notice the simple stat that it has killed a small proportion of almost-entirely old-sick people, even in the worst case scenarios (like on board that cruise boat).

But none of this makes any difference in statto world!

And since this crisis is in fact a spiritual war in which everyone is being compelled to take sides; we can see that - with some noble exceptions such as William Briggs (who anyway is not, by my definition, a 'statto') - the stattos have ended-up on the wrong side, fighting on the side of wrong*.

*Instances include Greg Cochran, Nicholas Taleb, and (sadly) Vox Day. 


Rich said...

I've been able to cull nearly all of my daily reading. Thank you, Bruce. You are one of the only sane voices out there.

Freddy Martini said...

Exactly. In my experience, people who really know how to use statistics (and are responsible for applying it and making it work in the real world) use *some form* of the Pareto Principle. It is a way to sort out priorities, so we do not waste resources on low priority items. The funny thing is, Pareto is not very egalitarian, and furthermore recognizes a hierarchy of importance, and we cannot have that! I am also somewhat disappointed to see some people in that list of names that I would have thought previously would have been more perceptive.

Adil said...

The type you describe mostly strike me as middle-caste economists so it shouldn't come as a surprise that their natural discernment isn't the best. They are two-dimensional office thinkers but no doctors or priests. You don't count your way on the battlefield.

In the movie Braveheart (I think), the 'advisor' of the English king comes to give him some snobby, calculated advice on how to attack the enemy, which ends up with the king throwing the advisor out of the window.

And that was that!

James Higham said...

Stats - the weapon of the bureaucrats who are the legions of evil.

Bruce Charlton said...

@RB There are many lies and much disinformation, and consequently vast incoherence and nonsense. What I've stated are what I discern to be the key principles. Of course, all evidence is necessarily shaped by assumptions of motivation. To know where we are, one must know the intended destination. Knowing that, it is simple enough to see the logic behind the apparent insanity and illogic of official policies (which is only just beginning to raise a few concerns in most people)

Ingemar said...

On other corners of the Internet where I will remain anonymous, I've joked that Vox Day is on the Chinese Communist payroll as a "fifty cent soldier:" someone who is paid to fake grassroots support for all the actions of the Party. I started this noticing this maybe two years ago, if not earlier, because he was unironically praising Chinese economic nationalism and telling everyone that unilateral Chinese exploitation of Africa was both desirable and inevitable (while at the same time being silent on Chinese economic predations on the West).

I think the reason he fell hard for the birdemic hysteria is because he [permanently] relocated to Northern Italy, the country that is now (apparently) the hardest hit by the epidemic. I guess this goes to show you that even the smartest of us can fall for the biggest lies if those lies are told with enough gusto and terror.

If this event is the prelude to a worldwide Communist takeover, then how people have reacted will show you how trustworthy they are.

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

Wrt VD, it's increasingly clear that he *welcomes* a totalitarian power grab as such, and is embracing the birdemic for that reason. In other words, he was never on the right side to begin with.

Bruce Charlton said...

I've always regarded NT as a man consumed with pride; GC was great when one half of Harpending and Cochran - however since Henry died it has been like Gilbert without Sullivan (or MacCartney after the Beatles).

I had, until this crisis, regarded VD as a mixed bag - but overall one of the good guys, author of the best professional blog - and we had exchanged cordial e-mails. However, this is one value of things having come to a point and the advent of Antichrist - the situation reveals true character; or rather, it reveals whose side you are really fighting on.

Matias F. said...

Many so called right-wingers are embracing the measures against the birdemic, because it has seemingly confirmed their suspicions and because the measures give credibility to things that they have said about the dangers of globalization and mass immigration.

But this kind of political mindset of exploiting the situation to one's own advantage is very destructive in the long run. It is quite obvious that, from the perspective of the global establishment, the birdemic gives a good excuse to collapse the economy in a situation in which the debt bubble was going to collapse anyway (as I commented on your blog on Nov 27 2019). But if you are right, the collapse of the economy will be used as an excuse to introduce wage and price controls etc, measures which will only lead to more economic uncertainty and a collapse of world trade.

If we accept totalitarian measures as the proper response to the threat of the birdemic, surely we must accept more totalitarianism because of the economic collapse, which is a much greater threat. I would assume that most stattos approve of socialism, as long as it is explained as a supposedly new scientific approach.

William Wildblood said...

After democracy comes dictatorship. Plato said that a long time ago and here we are again.

Bruce Charlton said...

@William - Certainly we are in a global dictatorship Now - but the question (see today's post) is whether it will be sustained or will itself collapse into chaos (destroying its own methods of governance) due to continuation of the processes that it has initiated. That would, indeed, be my prediction.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Matias - As I have often said (e.g. in Thought Prison ); 'right-wingers' are actually leftists - unless their world view is *primarily* based upon 'a religion'. This crisis has merely unmasked them for what they always were - but, my word, hasn't it done so with amazing speed and clarity!

A phrase from Thought Prison came to mind earlier today:

"the West cannot be saved. To ‘save’ the West would entail re-winding and recovering a pre-Western perspective and re-running the process - hoping that this time the desired attributes would re-emerge but without self-destructive Leftism.

"But the West has self-destruction built-in; or rather Western civilization is built-over a simultaneously self-dug pit of nothingness into which it will, sooner or later, fall.
"How can you save something which *so much* wants to kill itself?

"Take your eye off Western Civilization for just a moment and it will be swinging from the rafters with its own belt around its neck."

William Wildblood said...

Bruce, I agree. The demonic controllers use their human agents for just as long as these are useful to their aims (which are not those of the human agents) and then discard them.

dearieme said...

On the other hand: one of the many lessons from Gerd Gigerenzer's excellent book on Risk is how innumerate most doctors are. Not just ignorant of statistical methods but seriously useless with numbers.

And it's not just numbers. A friend of mine used to work with a surgical team testing an invention of his. He found they had no idea what a controlled experiment might be. They didn't really grasp the advantage of altering variables one at a time. These clever, skilled people were mere children when it came to science. You must have met many like them, bc?

Bruce Charlton said...

@d And yet the golden age of medical breakthroughs happened before the application of statistics to medicine, up to about 1970. Somehow innumeracy didnt stop all the biggest breakthroughs. And when the stattos arrived, and when everyone at med school was taught tests and methods, the genuinely useful discoveries dwindled and died out.I

It just takes too long, and too much thinking, to learn how properly to use stats in medicine. So few have ever done it - Bradford Hill, Alvan Feinstein, Ken Rothman (the last two of whom I met) are just about the only ones I know of.

James Le Fanu wrote an interesting book on the subject of medical discovery - he interviewed me, David Horrobin and several other people I respect.

You might know Roy Calne- he was a real surgical innovator, a great man.

Charlie said...

Thank you, Bruce. You and William M. Briggs — as Rich said at the top — have seemingly been the only sane voices out there of late.

Sean fowler said...

For anyone still following this thread. Have a look at box days larest post. “ The need for a debt jubilee”.

Anonymous said...

"And yet the golden age of medical breakthroughs happened before the application of statistics to medicine, up to about 1970. ..."

A simple interpretation of that is that the medics and medical scientists stopped producing good stuff and, in floundering about looking for help, tried statistics. In other words stats wasn't a cause it was a symptom.

It was Rutherford who opined that if your experimental data needed statistical interpretation it wasn't a good enough experiment. Which is pretty droll given how good a job the Poisson distribution did in the analysis of alpha-scattering. (Or so my memory of my fresher physics lab claims.)

Bruce Charlton said...

I don't like publishing comments by 'Anonymous'.

dearieme said...

Ah, sod it, bc, anon was me. Sorry.

William Wildblood said...

Have you seen this, Bruce?

Does the left hand not know what the right hand is doing?

Bruce Charlton said...

@William - or, that 'law' by which demons and their servants (evil epople in general) always tell victims what they are going to do to them before doing it, and thereby gain at-least-tacit consent.