Friday, July 29, 2005

More fun with Tom

I laughed when I went back a little ways and read this other piece from Friedman:

Sadly, those are the virtues we now associate with China, Chinese athletes and Chinese leaders. Talk to U.S. business executives and they'll often comment on how many of China's leaders are engineers, people who can talk to you about numbers, long-term problem-solving and the national interest - not a bunch of lawyers looking for a sound bite to get through the evening news. America's most serious deficit today is a deficit of such leaders in politics and business.
Tom, you wanna know what other great superpower tended to elevate leaders with knowledge of engineering and the like?

The Soviet Union.

They LOVED that stuff.

Despite what you may have read in Dilbert, it takes more than number crunching engineers (and, for that matter, economists) to run and populate a modern nation-state. It takes english majors, philosophers, MBAs, and (gasp, shock!) lawyers. Friedman has fallen into the typical trap of someone who isn't that good with numbers being dazzled by those that are, but there are way, way too many aspects of the human condition that are, if not poorly expressed with numbers, completely impossible to express in numbers.

(That computers are really, really handy for crunching dazzling arrays of numbers and completely hopeless with language doesn't change that, which is the main reason I've never really trusted linear regression analysis as anything but a first quantitative step in understanding ultimately qualitative phenomena.)

1 comment:

  1. This reminds me of those old sci-fi movies with the societies run by committees of scientists. They always seemed to screw up in some way, which caused the hero to make a speech about the limits of scientific knowledge.

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