‘As usual, testing a narrative debunks it’
Recently in a more or less locked down United States, the melange of bullshit generally misrepresented as discussion has taken a turn towards the question of testing. I think this is wonderful, as I am a tester.
To be more specific and thus more truthful (more on that below) I am a software tester. I’m told software is complicated and I believe people who say this, but a variety of heuristics can be applied to navigate even the most complex bowl of spaghetti.
Of course, the unwashed masses are thinking of testing for COVID-19 and the antibodies a body produces by fighting off the nasty little bugger, but testing itself has a set of philosophies associated with it I figured I could at least share here so they can be properly ignored as nonsense by experts and individuals who aren’t testers who don’t know a gods damned thing about any of this.
After all, if any of these people knew anything about anything, it seems fair to presume we’d know some things by now. Alas, the WHO overstates death rates, morons continue to conflate the ‘rona with the flu, and anyone who wants to go back to work to support their food/sustenance addiction is a monster trying to kill your grandmother. We obviously don’t know shit.
First up is the most basic of understandings regarding testing anything at all; this understanding applies to any exploratory testing effort, whether one is testing software or their dinner party’s patience. The great secret of human knowledge is we don’t learn anything by seeing how something works, we learn by seeing how things don’t work. This may seem a minor quibble, but it seems instead to have far reaching ramifications for how people approach a pursuit of knowledge.
This understanding leads one in a few directions. One, the individual holding this view recognizes people dream up some pretty wildly stupid explanations for how and why things happen. Sicknesses, for example, were more or less explained on the basis of humors, elements proposed as the basis of the human body almost three thousand bloody years ago. Humors required balancing and if someone was sick, one of their humors were unbalanced. At no point was it considered they shouldn’t be drinking mercury.
This explanation of humors was a positive depiction of how a thing worked; that is to say, it purported to explain how it worked. What did we learn from this system of humors? This diagnostic method regarding balancing our delicate blood? Nothing, because it was bullshit. The only thing we learned in the end was humors were bullshit and not real.
How did we learn this? The idea was tested and the narrative, that is the theory of humors, was simply obliterated. We learned it was nothing and we learned more from this than we ever learned about regurgitating dead idiots going on about phantom humors in our blood being the source of evil in the world.
This is of course what testing is for; to attempt to falsify a theory, a statement. This is why testers aren’t popular except in moments of intense uncertainty.
I do feel we missed out on some of that cocaine doctors were prescribing for headaches, though. The United States the last two months has given me a splitting one, having amplified their usual level of bullshit to insane levels, what with everyone locked down and watching that Cabin Fever movie over and over. It is better than Outbreak, at least.
In software, it works like this, which is so close to how it works in scientific experimentation the distinction is pointless; a statement is made purporting a software feature does something and the tester is responsible for ensuring it does that thing, in addition to withstanding unexpected conditions and inputs. Without going too much in detail, let’s just say if a developer told me humors deliver data to a central hub where it is run through an algorithm which then births goblins, I’d slap them in their face and steal their glasses. But only after making sure goblins were not in fact being born.
No one wants goblins in their workplace. They belong in the governor’s mansion and on editorial boards of struggling newspapers.
Refinement or Rejection
Second is the realization no statement or theory is adequately truthful the first time it is made. This is so for a variety of reasons, each of which deserves entire books devoted to exploring; but since not enough people read or clap at the drivel I spout here I’ll go into only one of them and that one in a slap-dash-who-cares-the-world-is-ending manner. I’m writing this when I should be working, anyway.
There is a problem in philosophy, problems in philosophy usually being something some dude makes up and then solves on the spot, called the problem of induction. I’ve written about it before as it is a personal interest of the boring and dull person I’ve grown into, but suffice to say it is as simple as mistaking the cause of why or how a thing occurs.
As example, my high school guidance counselors said I would end up dead in some ditch, if I insisted on continuing a risky lifestyle. So far though, I haven’t died in a ditch; instead it seems obvious I’ll die in my home, though fingers crossed these counselors aren’t as useless as they seemed at the time. The risks I’ve taken have in fact resulted in a more expanded worldview, certainly not an enlightened one as I still troll idiots on the internet for fun, but I am able to separate perception from reality because of them.
To be clear, I am not advocating anyone take psychedelic drugs. That’s the kind of thing only famous “thinkers” can get away with and since I am neither of those things, I’m simply not encouraging anything of the sort. I should probably highlight this statement.
This separation of perception and reality is the heart of the problem of induction. A is fed into B, B into C, and we see D as a result. If we (think we) understand what A is and we (think we) understand what B and C are, we should very well (think we) understand D. But this isn’t always the case, since we don’t always understand A, B, C, or D nor how and why the opposing political party keeps winning elections. Must be rigged! Now this doesn’t stop us from THINKING we understand all of it, but that’s where testing comes in.
Through testing, we reduce the number of steps as far as we can while still getting the same result. If we obliterate C from the equation, we realize it was never necessary, but the narrative argued C was essential. Imagine someone getting a cold and gobbling echinacea, however that shit is spelled, and then recovering after a week. Was it the echinacea? Or was it just sitting there for a week? The tester would try it again without the echinacea, to the woe of every hippy moron in their social orbit, no doubt. Not to mention whoever is selling the placebo in the first place.
Testing a narrative obliterates it and whatever truth content it claimed to possess, or at best refines it to a greater specificity. Still, this doesn’t render the thing a truth, but that’s a philosophical problem of another kind, the kind that isn’t interesting. Worry about what is real somewhere else, some of us will just have sex instead. You nerds let us know what you come up with.
We just know the thing we falsified was false and selected for oblivion.
So Fucking What?
So what the hell does any of this have to do with the current “discussion” or “debate” or “clusterfuck of idiots” going on around attempts to combat the coronavirus?
Nothing, really. Well, nothing to someone who thinks there will be a “cure” or a “vaccine” or some other sort of literal panacea which will justify the state’s attempt to lock everyone in one place for (so far) three months. But these people are what is known as morosophic and one shouldn’t worry too much about what they want, except when it results in 26 million new unemployment claims over 5 weeks, I suppose. Then they should be told to shut the hell up. Even then, it is really hard to bother thinking about these wankers.
But in terms of testing for COVID-19 and antibodies produced by fighting it off, this is immensely valuable. Why this wasn’t pursued earlier is largely a mystery to me, but I quit trying to figure out “experts” some years back; mostly because I realized “experts” shit our pants whenever they attempt to craft public policy.
They know so many abstract snippets about a single subject, they’ve pushed out any semblance of sense regarding their approach to other subjects.
Testing in this case will be useful for obtaining data, which may or may not be actionable depending on the results and volume of the tests. This idea of contact-tracing is a pipe dream, so one can simply discard it as the nonsensical technobabble of politicians and talking heads trying to sound knowledgeable in the face of overwhelming evidence asserting the opposite. Good luck contact-tracing a single subway ride through Queens, or even a single bus ride through the smoldering ruin of what was once downtown Seattle. God speed, Quixote, mind the needles. They are far from fresh.
The data we obtain will tell us how lethal COVID-19 really is and we won’t have to rely on the best guesses of the best idiots in any particular field. We won’t have to rely on the World Health Organization spinning yarn, we won’t have to rely on a President who tweets nonsense as regularly as I shit in the mornings.
As an aside, my intense caffeine habit keeps me regular, I highly recommend it. I’m also an inadvertent prepper, so I’ve had toilet paper throughout this ridiculous exercise.
Already, expanded testing is showing the death rate of COVID-19 to have been vastly exaggerated by people whose only job is to give us the straight dope on pandemics. This should be no mystery to anyone passingly familiar with statistics; the more data one has at hand, the more an average appears and spikes appear less scary. One can argue it is better to exaggerate an unknown risk than to understate it and I’m inclined to agree, but when that exaggeration leads to an almost complete shutdown of movement across the globe? If the data is in, or will be shortly, we should be ready to act on it.
If the risk is lower than originally asserted that is only good news. If we also happen to burn the individuals who shut everything down over a death rate of less than half a percent of infected individuals, all the better.
The death rate as recently reported by a candidate for immolation, Governor Cuomo of the worst-affected state, has clocked in thus far at 0.5%.
Half a percent is not worth displacing 20% of the people, which is about what current unemployment numbers have climbed to so far. Inversely, as the death rate of COVID-19 plummets due to a larger sample being collected, the unemployment rate will continue to rise so long as things are shut down.
You shouldn’t need anyone to tell you this, whoever you are. Shame if you did.
Myself, I work from home now as one of those annoyingly hip tech-bros I’m sure the New York Times told you to hate for some reason or another. Whether this perpetually sick society re-opens or not is largely an academic proposal to me; I don’t give a shit if your alcoholic roommate can’t get syphilis right now in a bar bathroom or not. I am somewhat concerned about unemployment, though optimistic as well; I sense opportunity in chaos, though I am unsure of precisely what that would be. I wouldn’t share it if I did, anyway. Ya’ll are on your own, but maybe bake some sourdough?
So in conclusion here, one should take away a few notes:
- Testing is good. Test more. You won’t find “truth” but you will obliterate what is false, like grand narratives regarding existential threats.
- Testing is and will continue to expose the statements of frauds as the hucksters and snake oil salesmen so traditional to American politics.
- Testing isn’t limited to healthcare or software. You can test anything, just like anything can be a dildo if you try hard enough.
- Make sure to enjoy your involuntary quarantine. If your quarantine is still voluntary, ditch the pampers, donate those pearls you’re clutching tight to a recently unemployed neighbor, and shut up while the adults go outside.