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.


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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