Let’s take stock.
Computers and codes are in shambles. The Law is broken. Schools are useless to most. Sports are dope. Most jobs are absurd. Administrations are plagued. We already are living in a boring dystopia. Yet here we are.
Most scientific studies are false. Economics is pretty rubbish. Epidemiology is a mess. The whole hypothesis testing framework is Hell on Earth. Scientific publishing may never be fixed. Peer review is abysmal. A third of the World Bank reports has never been downloaded. Academics can’t write, journalists can’t read, scientists can’t count, pundits can’t restrain themselves.
Crap is everywhere. I’m sure I’m forgetting some. Feel free to add to my list in the comments. An easy one would be this very post.
Nevertheless, things have never been better. Fast and cheap crap works. Like IKEA revolutionized the furniture market by selling crap. Like containers, perhaps the most underestimated innovation of the 20th Century: it allowed us to ship faster, cheaper crap all around the world. Like AlphaChess, which learned to play in one day and on the second day could best the best Chess player known to mankind. What I’m saying may be less crappy than it sounds. Tim Harford holds something similar in a popular TED talk. Perfect is the enemy of the good. From crap good can emerge: more mistakes, more learning. Cheaper, faster, crappier crap is always on the way.
The war on error cannot be won by fighting people to issue corrections. It takes more effort to correct crap than to produce it. Corrections can themselves become subject to corrections. Audits never end. Nothing can withstand a line-by-line cross-examination. As soon as you can put someone in the witness box, defensiveness sets in. The accused always looks culpable of something. We all are.
The only constructive way I see to beat crap is to produce more efficient, catchiest crap. Science is more a race for better crap than a boxing match. Faster science means more trial, more trials means more errors, more errors mean faster learning. Same for ClimateBall. The Contrarian Matrix may never cease to raise concerns. FUD machines are meant to produce FUD. We should celebrate all this, and counter it with more and fancier crap of our own.
What we know is good enough to act. We don’t know where we’re going, but we need to move our hands and move our feet. Ballroom. Shmallroom. Dance! Dance! Damn all convention! It’s not about the points. It’s never been about the points. Chances are we only have one round anyway. Most of what we’ll try won’t work.
Let’s embrace crappiness.