Known Unknowns

As our circle of knowledge expands, so does the circumference of darkness surrounding it.
-Albert Einstein

The Analyst Toothbrush

Anyone that has ever worked in coding or analysis dreads picking up the work of a colleague without being included from the initial scope. Why? Because our brains are like unique software, each with their own processes, hardware, verifications, etc. Stepping into someone else’s analysis is hard and can be incompatible with our cognitive machinery. I liken it to using someone else’s tooth brush. Yeah, tooth brushes are all the same and perform the same function, but your tooth brush is yours. Using someone else’s is just wrong. A friend of mine who is a software engineer reports the beauty in looking at code and seeing the inter-workings of colleagues minds. He could name which coworkers contributed the code and a little about their personality by reading a program. John is old school and does long format coding with annotations, Sally is all about efficiency and using complex logic, Michael, well he only uses base functions.

What a wild and trans-human idea, almost like it is plucked from a cyber-punk love story. Even when using a standard logical programming language our individually still shines through. Which leads me to the crux of this post. What is wrong with humanity in analysis?

Certain work places and education institutions demand uniformity in process, and fair enough, repeatable code that using best practise is good for corporations. However, as artificial intelligence has been described as “the new electricity” by Andrew Ng, the god father of modern machine learning, we need to expect and foster individual creativity. If we are in a new renaissance, do we want to stifle that creativity?

So how does development of analysis and using your individual skills cross over? We need to talk to each other, learn and share experience. Much like it is gross to use a strangers toothbrush or a friends, its less weird (key word less) to use a spouses or significant others tooth brush in an emergency. I am not saying analyst should be romantically involved before sharing code, but on an intellectually level we should be. We should be seeking liked minded analysts, sharing experience and growing closer. The difference is the concept of ‘picking up analysis’ as if it can just be plucked off a shelf and plugged into data. An analyst is involved in their data. They should know it’s quirks, short cuts. The uninitiated of the corporate world want this type of faceless optimised code that exists objectively. But nothing about analysis is purely objective, the same as any analyst worth their slat knows objective truth is a higher ideal we can never achieve. Analysis is an approximation of reality designed to reduce uncertainty, NOT communicate truth. It is an expression of ourselves that attempts to apply our individual experience to resolve a specific problem. We are the analysis.

My analysis is mine and I will learn by doing and learning from others. Otherwise analysis becomes a communal tooth brush, its works for everyone, but it is just gross.