Puzzles with Missing Pieces

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen
Edited 6-13-2020

Something I like to recommend is that people ride up on the hill and look down to get a bigger view, but that does not work when parts of the picture are missing. In many cases, it is like attempting to put together an incomplete jigsaw puzzle. Scientific, personal and professional judgments can be critically flawed by acting on insufficient information.

Theorizing and making judgments without enough facts can be dangerous. It applies to science, and here is an example from the business world.
Credit: Freeimages / Andronicus Riyono
Earlier today, my wife asked me to get the white pail out of the closet for her. I asked, "Do you mean this gray pail?" No, it was the white one. I was standing at an angle where I only saw the gray lid, then I assumed that the whole thing was the same color. One step back and I saw my mistake: white pail, gray lid.

Do you feel all right? You look a little pail.
The expression, "Pictures don't lie" has never been entirely true. Angles omitting pertinent facts, matters of perspective, and other things could make a picture "lie". The term is more false nowadays because of skilled editing and manipulation. Videos are also edited, but alert viewers with alternative sources sound the alarm and show what is true. For instance, NBC and CBS aired deceptively edited videos, and a video clip of a police officer waving a gun at a crowd took on an entirely different meaning when a longer clip was made available.

Regular readers have seen numerous posts where Darwin's disciples have been taken to task for serving up "evidence" for evolution or deep time, but they omitted (or even downplayed) important details. Sometimes the material is too technical for us reg'lar folk and people with scientific training need to ask (for example, see "Silly Darwin Stories Do No Good". Other times, basic critical thinking can be utilized and we can realize that some things don't pass the sniff test.

Critical thinking and being willing to ask questions, even if only in our minds as we ponder something, helps us realize that although a pronouncement has been made from on high, important details are missing. I'll allow that not every report will cover all possible questions someone can raise, but we can still maintain a healthy skepticism and not believe everything that alleged experts tell us.

Let's mount up and ride this here trail down into the business world.

A business that I refer to as The Company uses hardcore laissez-faire capitalism (see "Evolutionary Thinking and Human Capital") and has little regard for human life — including the people they depend on. (There are certain immediate supervisors who have some compassion.) Although confidential information is involved, there are no government secrets. Even so, there are cameras all over the place, which implies that they distrust their employees as well as their training and screening methods. Even The Company's most important customer does not have such extreme measures.

Don't be riding on ahead of me, I'm getting to the relevant parts. I'll leave out where The Company violates county, state, federal, HIPAA, and other laws. I may be writing a book in the future.

The Company has sent most of their data entry personnel home to work. Unfortunately, they assume that internet connections and other factors will be the same, so there should be no appreciable difference between working at home and working in the office. That is an absurd idea. 

There are at least two kinds of "efficiency" software running on employees' computers (both those at the workplace and those used for working at home). One of these is designed to inform management how people are spending their time, especially when a comrade worker is away from the computer for a certain amount of time.

That is bad enough, but another kind of software they use is downright dehumanizing. Managers can look at what comrade workers are doing on their computers without them knowing it. Not that employees can visit social media or do online shopping because most things are locked down. Even Solitaire is hidden (which would have been nice to have when comrade workers ran out of items to process). It appears that since people are working at home, they are under closer scrutiny. While it may be tempting to become lackadaisical, the previous software should cover that.

When given criticisms from managers, reasonable people should allow us to raise some questions.

"I was watching you, and you made some incomprehensible data entry mistakes".
  • How long has comrade worker been employed there?
  • You have quality control. Why is this meat machine (in the eyes of The Company) still receiving high accuracy ratings?
  • For what amount of time had you been spying? Just a few seconds?
  • Does everyone receive the same amount of scrutiny?
  • When you're spying on employees, your intrusion makes comrade worker's computer "jerky" and sporadic, did you know that?
  • Have you considered the possibility that people will work more efficiently if you take your corporate knee of their necks?
  • Did you watch to see if the enter key had been pressed, exiting the field under scrutiny?
  • How do you know that what you are "seeing" is valid'; has this been calibrated in real time?
  • Why didn't you send an instant message and question comrade worker?
"Although I can't see your faces, I assume you're staring at the work desk as if there is something magical there".
  • How do insults help? You are — or were — better than that. 
  • Are you familiar with logical fallacies, including the appeal to motive?
  • Are you considering the fact that The Company uses employees' internet connections to connect with its own servers?
  • Did you fix the problem of workers having to wait excessively long periods between batches, and that the timer on those does not correspond to real time?
  • A return challenge, since you trust software by The Company so much: why is it that after four hours of work by many people, they are given a report that says we produced zero?
  • Did you neglect the fact that comrade worker is responsible for every field, even if not prompted to correct it? Isn't that a way for The Company to cover for its own software failings while still demanding exceptional speed and accuracy?
Related to this is, "I can only assume you're staring off into space or doing something not work related".
  • You cannot see the fingers of comrade worker, so you don't know when someone is typing and the software is acting up again; comrade worker is typing to no avail and needs to make the software active again.
  • Have you forgotten that The Company allows a certain amount of non-working time in addition to the unpaid breaks?
  • Do you know some people "give back" by coming back from official breaks early? You had a few meat machines so terrified that they did not even take some of their breaks because The Company rules by intimidation and bullying. Dishonesty, too.
  • Mind if people give your sarcasm back to you?
  • Why have you changed and treat comrade workers as if you were trained by the Stasi?
  • Alles klar Herr Kommissar? 
  • We, too, are created in the image of almighty God. Savvy that, pilgrim?
Those are enough examples. I'm going to quote my previous quotes:
In "A Scandal in Bohemia" by A. Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes said, “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.” A related remark penned by Agatha Christie in "The Mysterious Affair at Styles" has Hercule Poirot saying, "Everything must be taken into account. If the fact will not fit the theory—let the theory go". 
One time a manager brought a group of keyers into a meeting room. Everyone is awful. (Strange how the whole group is good enough to keep for many years, even when The Company was struggling and demanding that everyone work mandatory overtime for long periods.) There were (and perhaps still are) problems with the software, but no apologies to the accused because it's a sign of weakness. Most of the time, "good job" is heard only when more is going to be demanded. Morale is unimportant. Don't you know who we are? We're The Company!

In many cases, it is prudent to be slow to react and wait for (or seek) additional information. When we are being steamrolled by what "scientists say", we can still think and have doubts. In our day-to-day lives, we can step back, assess situations, and ask questions when we are having our integrity and work ethics challenged. We can do that in less important situations as well, obviously. People in all walks of life — including managers — would do well to gather information before making judgments. We will all stand one day before the righteous and perfect Judge who knows all the facts.