Wrong information presented prettily

I make no secret of strongly favoring results of reproducible experiments. To quote a positive paragraph from an article with a negative title line, I am in good company:

The Founding Fathers were science enthusiasts. Thomas Jefferson, a lawyer and scientist, built the primary justification for the nation’s independence on the thinking of Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon and John Locke—the creators of physics, inductive reasoning and empiricism. He called them his “trinity of three greatest men.” If anyone can discover the truth by using reason and science, Jefferson reasoned, then no one is naturally closer to the truth than anyone else. Consequently, those in positions of authority do not have the right to impose their beliefs on other people. The people themselves retain this inalienable right. Based on this foundation of science—of knowledge gained by systematic study and testing instead of by the assertions of ideology—the argument for a new, democratic form of government was self-evident.

Technology, however, is not equal science, even though much known technology has been made possible by using science.

Don’t believe everything that is on a computer screen.

Complex systems, even simple systems, are capable and some are prone to displaying incorrect information.

A few months ago I have marveled at our iPhones’ free app Find My Friends reporting phones being places we definitely knew were wrong. Not just a couple hundred yards off. A hundred miles off. Not just for a minute, but for long periods of time, maybe hours.

This month, when doing administrative work for submitting an app to Apple’s App Store, for no obvious reason Apple’s website exposed another company’s administrative data to us. We closed the window, we had no interest. It was fascinating nevertheless: By an apparent defect it hadn’t crashed, but it showed someone else’s records. No hacking skills required, no hacking intended, probably not very valuable information anyway. But, records leaked. And it was formatted nicely, just as you’d expect from Apple, the appearance was up to par.

That said, many systems many times do show correct info.

In case of doubt: Investigate, verify.

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