Quotations about   data

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Ever see a bird hurt itself by flying into a glass window? The bird is not stupid; he simply did not have all the data.

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) American writer
The Puppet Masters (1951)
Added on 3-Nov-17 | Last updated 3-Nov-17
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When my information changes, I alter my conclusions. What do you do, sir?

John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) English economist
(Attributed)

Reply to a criticism of having changed his position on monetary policy. Quoted in Paul Samuelson, "The Keynes Centenary" The Economist, Vol. 287 (1983), but possibly apocryphal (see here).
Added on 21-Mar-17 | Last updated 24-Mar-17
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No fact in the world is instant, infinitesimal and ultimate, a single mark. There are, I hold, no atomic facts. In the language of science, every fact is a field — a crisscross of implications, those that lead to it and those that lead from it. We condense the laws around concepts. Science takes its coherence, its intellectual and imaginative strength together, from the concepts at which its laws cross, like knots in a mesh.

Jacob Bronowski (1908-1974) Polish-English humanist and mathematician
Science and Human Values, Part 3: “The Sense of Human Dignity”, §1 (1956)
Added on 19-Dec-16 | Last updated 19-Dec-16
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If you torture the data long enough, Nature will confess.
Coase - torture the data - wist_info quote

Ronald Coase (1910-2013) British economist, academic, author
(Attributed)

Criticizing econometricians. Cited as early as 1977. Variants:
  • "If you torture data long enough, it will confess to anything you'd like."
  • "If you torture the data long enough, it will confess to anything."
Added on 25-Apr-16 | Last updated 25-Apr-16
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My experience indicates that most managers receive much more data (if not information) than they can possibly absorb even if they spend all of their time trying to do so. Hence they already suffer from an information overload. They must spend a great deal of time separating the relevant documents. For example, I have found that I receive an average of 43 hours of unsolicited reading material each week. The solicited material is usually half again this amount. Most MIS designers “determine” what information is needed by asking managers what information they would like to have. This is based on the assumption that managers know what information they need and want.

Russell L. Ackoff (1919-2009) American organizational theorist, consultant, management scientist
“Management Misinformation Systems,” Management Sciences (Dec 1967)
Added on 5-Feb-15 | Last updated 5-Feb-15
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I do not deny that most managers lack a good deal of information that they should have, but I do deny that this is the most important informational deficiency from which they suffer. It seems to me that they suffer more from an overabundance of irrelevant information.

Russell L. Ackoff (1919-2009) American organizational theorist, consultant, management scientist
“Management Misinformation Systems,” Management Sciences (Dec 1967)
Added on 29-Jan-15 | Last updated 29-Jan-15
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