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Calling Bullshit @callin_bull
, 20 tweets, 5 min read Read on Twitter
Last week, @JosephHyder introduced us to the famous VMCC Quality Equation, shown here.
This equation illustrates a common pathology of the business and management literature, though the practice extends more broadly.
In apparent allusion to Stephen Colbert’s notion of #truthiness, @AnkurFactorial uses the term #mathiness in reference to such equations.
We see #mathiness as classic bullshit. These equations make mathematical claims that they cannot support by positing formal relationships
(multiplicative, additive, reciprocal, etc.) between ill-defined or even unquantifiable quantities, presumably in order impress or persuade by
trading on the air of rigor suggested by mathematical equations, perhaps with a little algebraic shock-and-awe thrown in for good measure.
Those familiar with dimensional analysis (…) will find it amusing to think about the units involved.
A hallmark of meaningless equations with fake #mathiness is that the units rarely if ever make any damn sense.
Added quantities must be measured in common units. What are the common units of Outcomes and Services in the VMMC equation?
And in that equation, what on earth would the units of Quality end up being?
One of our favorite examples of the genre comes from a TED talk by Melissa Marshall, entitled "Talk Nerdy to Me", on science communication.
In this talk (…) Marshall presents an equation for what it takes to help the public understand science
To be fair, this is presumably intended to be catchy, not formal. In Marshall's own words:
But according to this formula, understanding DECREASES as relevance increases. We very much doubt that is what the author intended.
We have a request for the twitter community. Could you send us your favorite examples of meaningless formulas with a pretense of #mathiness?
Finally, we will leave you with our own contribution, the Bergstrom and West Bullshit Equation.
.@FractalMan draws our attention to the Trust Equation. It's good example to illustrate why these equations are such bullshit.
Yes, credibility, reliability and authenticity all increase trust, and perception of self interest decreases it.
But that is ALL we know. We have no reason to expect an additive relation among the first three terms, and a reciprocal one with the fourth.
If you can't justify why the Trust Equation takes the above form instead of the below one, for example, writing it as an equation is bullshit.
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