[FoRK] "Common" delusions? was re: How Complex Systems Fail

Ken Ganshirt @ Yahoo ken_ganshirt at yahoo.ca
Sat Nov 7 21:20:15 PST 2009

--- On Sat, 11/7/09, Jeff Bone <jbone at place.org> wrote:

> Here's your homework:  consider why special relativity
> *proves* that, in the limit, efficient markets (in the EMH
> sense) aren't possible.  Then consider whether this
> means that various EMH variants are therefore without useful
> application...

Sorry, Jeff, but you'll have to assign it to someone who cares. The exchange you reference was done with tongues firmly planted in cheeks. 

The point of the exchange is that there are -- in my personal experience and that of other IT and project management practitioners -- people who actually conduct root cause analyses as if they can find a single "root" cause and "fix" it in such a manner as to eliminate or at least reduce the probability of the same and similar accidents from occurring in the future.

Root cause analysis is so common that Wikipedia has a lengthy dissertation on it. There are methodologies written and the practice is at the core of many courses and seminars on post hoc analysis. 

Not everyone who participates in the practice believes you can find a single root cause but there are far too many who act as if you can. Not least because of the modern management predilection for "silver bullets".  Modern business managers want a goat and a silver bullet to kill it with. There are many practitioners out there who will give them what they want. (Anyone remember Arthur Andersen?) 

It's very much a behavioural thing. The majority of humans do not behave in a purely rational fashion much of the time. You might have noticed.

Although it occurs to me that I could use a similar argument to your defense of the value of efficient market theories to prove that, at some level, such behaviour is actually rational, if viewed in the right context. :-)

The practice in question is clearly common enough for a medical doctor to take note of it even though root cause analyses of complex systems failures are typically conducted by the technology practitioners.


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