Wednesday, May 29, 2002
More data, more noise.

Jerry Lettivn (above, more photos here), one of the authors of "What the Frog's Eye Tells the Frog's Brain" way back when ('59), used to say "More data, more noise." The idea is that sometimes you're better off taking one measurement and trusting it rather than taking umpteen measurements and not know which, if any, are reliable.

The multiple claims about Al Qaida locations and intentions in the entry below fall into the "more data, more noise" category. I can't, or shouldn't at least, simply treat them all the reports as equally reliable: I have to recognize that I bring my own perceptions and beliefs about their veracity, individually and collectively, to my making sense of them. But, I also have to acknowledge a lot of cluelessness about where the information comes from, reliability of the individual reporters (and skepticisms as to the reliability of who they work for), sources for the stories (and their bosses, too), etc.

It's not a real settling situation.