Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Conversation

FLG walks into his boss's office.

FLG: I think we need to investigate something. The network engineer came by to tell us that Event A was happening on his system when Event B happened on our system.

Boss: They always say that.

FLG: Right, but this time there is actual logged evidence that Event A and Event B occurred simultaneously. Well, within a second of each other.

Boss: That's not a connection.

FLG: I said the same thing, until it happened three times in a fifteen minute span.

Boss: That doesn't prove anything. There's still no connection there.

FLG: The odds of two unrelated events happening at the same time on three occasions during a span of fifteen minutes is minuscule.

Boss: That may be, but there's still no connection.

FLG: I think you misunderstand. I'm not saying it's a causal relationship. I'm just saying that there's a connection.

Boss: Nope. No connection. You have no proof of a connection.

FLG: Uh, yes, I do. There are logs.

Boss: You aren't using the rules of logic. Two events happening at the same time does not mean a connection exists between them.

FLG: Right, but when they happen three times over a span of fifteen minutes, it kinda sorta does. The probability of random coincidence is epsilon close to zero.

Boss: Epsilon close?

FLG: So close to zero that it might as well be zero.

Boss: You don't know that for sure.

FLG: Yes, I do.

Boss: You don't know that Event B on our system caused Event A on their system.

FLG: Right. I said that I didn't know that, but there's a connection.

Boss: There's no proof of a connection.

FLG: I think you are misunderstanding me. I am saying there is a connection, but not necessarily a causal relationship. For example, when I have a runny nose and a fever it does not mean the runny nose caused the fever, but there is a connection. Both are caused by the flu.

Boss: There's no connection there.

FLG: Yes, flu causes fever and runny nose. So they are connected in that they are both symptoms of the flu.

Boss: Exactly. So, in this case Event A and Event B could be caused by Event C.

FLG: Right.

Boss: So, you agree -- no connection.

FLG: I agree there is not necessarily a causal relationship, but there is a connection.

Boss: No. No connection.

FLG: I think we are still having a communication problem.

Boss: No, we aren't. You are being illogical. Follow the rules of logic.

FLG: Uh, boss. I am being logical. I think our issue is differing uses of the word connection. You seem to think it implies that causality, and I am saying it also encompasses correlation.

Boss: There is no connection with our system.

FLG: Listen, there is a correlation between Event B and Event A. Therefore, there is a connection.

Boss: But you have no proof that there's connection. Like you said before, it's like a runny nose and a fever. Do you see now?

FLG: Perfectly.

Boss: Great. Explain it back to me so I know we are on the same page.

FLG: You subscribe to the Humpty Dumpty school of language usage.

Boss: How's that?

FLG: When you use a word, it means just what you choose it to mean – neither more nor less.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

You don't like continued employment, do you? dave.s.

FLG said...

I'm the only person in the department who speaks English, himself included. So, while he could fire me, I doubt he will. My ability to liaison with the other English-speaking people in the office is just too valuable.

 
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