Sunday, January 28, 2007

Cable to Cars - incomplete numbers

We seem to have such a drive towards simplification of everything that we expect one fact or number to encapsulate all we need to know. Whether it is an SAT score, a bhp number in a car, or download speed in a broadband connection, they only tell us part of the story. BHP tells us little without torque, and even then, we need to know the respective curves. Download speed needs to be complemented by upload speed, error rates, etc. An SAT score may be a misleading predictor of success in later life.

This habit leads people to not only seek, but to assume that everything can be measured by one number. Perhaps this is why the US News & World Reports ranking of Colleges and Universities, although criticized, is relied upon by many.

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