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Refrigerators, Cluelessness, and Assumptions (with a side of Markopolos, Madoff, & the SEC)


I loved this article by Conrad Jacoby:

Of Refrigerators and E-Discovery,” by Conrad J. Jacoby, LLRX, April 21, 2010.

It brings to mind what Harry Markopolos had to say about the SEC (they were clueless at fraud detection, but thought they were the bomb) …and, in another context, conversations I have had with parents and computer scientists over whether their children and students, respectively, are Info Consumers or Info Producers. (Yes, one sometimes needs to be both, but an imbalance is fatal.)

Excerpt: “… Other than the lack of service technician, one of the biggest barriers to getting my refrigerator back up and running was my stunningly inaccurate understanding of how a modern household refrigerator works. In my mind, I imagined a system of flaps and thermostats to control the temperature of the air in the food compartments, along with sensors to provide feedback to the system. This made perfect sense to me, and armed with some vocabulary I had picked up from some quick Google searches, I figured I was on my way to diagnosing my ailing appliance.

A day or so later, after some much more careful research, I discovered that most of what I thought I knew about household refrigerator design was, in fact, wholly incorrect. The actual design of the appliance was radically different from what I had imagined—much simpler, actually—and all of my theories about which components were acting up bore little relation to reality. I would need a whole new approach if I wanted to effectively troubleshoot and (hopefully) repair my refrigerator….” (Link to full LLRX article.)

(A non sequitur: If you’ve never heard Billy Collins read his own poetry, you’ve missed out on a rare treat. This comes to mind, because seeing Markopolos’ name reminded me of Billy Collins’ reading of his poem, Hangover, where he repeats Marco Polo, Marco Polo. (It’s darkly hilarious, as is most of Collins’ poetry.)

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