Sunday, January 20, 2013

Zeno, in the modern context

It's common knowledge that the modern world knows things through computers. This is true from the most recent phenomena, of noses to smart phones parading as intelligent behavior, to the wide expanses of cosmology's modeling of the heavens and exploration of multi-universes as an explanation, of sorts. In between, we have IRS's use plus business computing, such as design, planning, and a number of other things.

So, where does one go to look at issues related to such knowledge? The ACM is a good start. Say, their Communications of the ACM. Then, we have a whole lot of other folks, such as IEEE, IJCAI, and such.


The following is motivated by a viewpoint, expressed by Phillip G. Armour, in the ACM. His article is titled: The Business of Software: How We build Things (in paper, slightly different on-line). There are two things to mention here, though the article ought to be read.

He uses Zeno in talking about what I had called Earned Value. I only used Zeno once (Fedaerated) in several posts on three blogs. Why? I had talked about this with my colleagues on many occasions. It seemed that referencing the guy was more useful in person as then one could get off on the peripatetic issues.
Zeno, Veritas et Falsitas

Why Zeno? He's the guy of the arrow. Or, as the joke goes, the mathematician who doesn't get the girl. So, Phillip asks: why do people guess that they're 95% (or some such number) complete on a task as if they're monotonically approaching, with no end in sight?

Phillip laughs it off. I don't as it was a regular occurrence as we tried to assess completion of a project with lots of people and oodles of modules. Nowadays, it's not an issue (say, with Zuck's stuff) as they can just push out system changes (with a recovery method, hopefully, to use if things go bad) without regard to testing status. This is not true for other parts of the business world, say like the 787 (even a most-specified test plan will still leave room for judgment calls -- we'll get to that).


Phillip's use gets me thinking, again, that I need to bring the topic forward, again.

First, though, a useful exercise would be to gather all of the posts, for each of the blogs, that dealt with the subject of earned value. For each of the blogs, I have a list of posts that include the term. Then, I provide a list of a few of the important posts and the count of posts with the term.

        Fedaerated (18)        7'oops7 (41)        Truth Engineering (20)

Now, for this blog, all were in 2009 and before. That sort of indicates the shift to looking at finance. Engineering worries about things like this. Finance seems to have this short-term view of the content of the current day's pocket. That is idiotic, pure and simple.

So, we'll bring this subject up to date and relate it, as it ought to be, to fair value.

A sampling of posts follows:
  • Minsky anew (Apr 17, 2009) -- There are many types of speculation, including projections of when something might be done. This applies more to fair versus earned, sometimes. 
  • Value and truth (Jan 12, 2009) -- Value and its determination seems to have been given short attention as if it's a resolved issue (like the downplaying of risk management's complications?). 
  • Effort and truth (Oct 10, 2007) -- Moving along a value line takes effort; yet, modern bookkeeping and modeling seems to suggest otherwise. That is, cook the books to get what you want to see. 
  • Measuring progress (Sep 19, 2007) -- The blog started with an engineering focus, but, by the time of this post, there were murmurings of financial idiocy which burst out a little later. So, there is a flavor of both earned and fair in terms of value.  
  • Complicated or difficult (Sep 3, 2007) -- We have issues of depth and breadth. The former can seem boundless as they are more mathematical than not. The latter seem easy as we throw database technology and computational power at them. Both contribute to the problems. 
There are a lot more posts to look. We'll get back to that.


Phillip used some mathematics to show the problems related to knowing where you were with a project (the managers, like kids, say: are we there, yet?). Nice article.


03/03/2014 -- Acknowledgements, including math pedigree, will be expanded. -- 

Modified: 03/03/2014

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