You are browsing the archive for 2012 August.

Avatar of Paul

by Paul

Pot Makes You Stupid? Apparently only if you’re a researcher.

August 29, 2012 in Opinion

This week AP felt the need to write an article about a research project done in Australia and suggest that somehow the research suggested that use of marijuana during teen years resulted in lower IQ later in life than if you started using pot after 18.

While I can’t say that this is incorrect I am stuck on what they qualify as research. According to the article they IQ tested 13 year olds and then IQ tested them again at age 38. The ones who used marijuana during their years 13-18 had lower scores at age 38 than those who started at age 18.

While this is an interesting correlation this is a super example of stretching information to make your point. A lot happens in 25 years and some of it might be attributed to other factors. No mention was made of a control group or how they balanced out other factors such as family, economic status, other drug use, etc. There are certainly many other factors which could affect an IQ test during a 25 year period than just the age at which you started using marijuana.

While the idea that pot use and loss of intelligence have been anecdotally suggested for decades, trying to disguise sloppy research as proof is quite disappointing on AP’s part.

Should their characterization of the research be accurate this also says a lot about what we accept as proof and scientific method. To test a theory properly there needs to be ways to account for and eliminate external factors which could affect the outcome. These factors can lead to feeling that your point is proven by methods other than what is tested for.

Unfortunately one of the hardest things to accept is that sometimes the proof you are looking for proves your theory incorrect. While difficult to accept a researcher with integrity will go back to their theory and adjust it and test again. While we can’t stop sloppy research we can be vigilant for such weak ideas and unjustified propositions so that we aren’t swayed by unproven arguments.

Avatar of Paul

by Paul

The Dangers of Generalization

August 22, 2012 in Philosophy

These days we are barraged by language and comments that sound important and informative yet are mostly meaningless. The idea I am talking about is generalization. A very useful tool in language which allows us to simplify what we are saying in order to shortcut the communication process.

Unfortunately this method of shortcutting doesn’t serve us so well when we apply it to ideas and concepts that truly need specific definition. A simple example is the idea of a mission statement, something common in business which is written in such vague and nebulous terms that it is nearly meaningless.

The trap of generality is when we imagine that we have set a real goal when we’ve only talked about it. In a business plan your generalities have to be specified at some point so that your plan truly gives direction.

An important consideration in breaking the general habit is to quantify what you are talking about. Instead of “generate more income” use increase sales to x dollars per day. This way you have a real goal and objective rather than just a vague goal.

Avatar of Paul

by Paul

Systemic Thinking

August 16, 2012 in Solutions

When we look at how things are done a question that often arises is “how did this choice or decision get made?”

As we no longer teach much in the way of soft subjects like philosophy most folks have never been trained in different thinking methods. While teaching math, English, chemistry, and the like are important, we have now generated folks who have never been trained in how to think.

This may seem like an odd thing to mention but technical knowledge without a framework for how to apply it isn’t that useful. As our society has become very specialized it is unlikely that our parents printed us with the right thought skills to do many things.

Unfortunately as soft skills are relatively untestable they have been ignored in most curriculums.

Fortunately these skills are learned easily, this is not to suggest that you can instantly learn philosophy but rather that you can learn a set of steps in thinking that make things easier.

This is similar to troubleshooting equipment in which the best technicians apply a step by step process to the problem. While they may no longer be aware that they are using an explicit process they still are doing so.