BEING a liveaboard and retired my cruising tends to be haphazard to say the least. I very rarely have to be in a specific location on a specific day. This means if the weather is cold, wet and windy (sound familiar?). I can declare it a 'no boating day', writes Ralph Freeman.
This happened recently and whilst listening to the radio I caught, by chance, a very interesting program on the Cold War during the 1960's period.
The main theme of the program was about how a single set of numbers can cause a dramatic chain of events to be set in motion. The 'story' goes something like this:
During the pre-satellite 60's, American U-2 spy planes were sent over Russia to search for Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (IBMs). After a period of time a US Air Force Intelligence officer analysed the results and found only three missiles; far fewer than was expected.
Multiplied by ten
Because of this and the fact that the U-2s didn't cover all of Russia he multiplied the number by ten to give 30 as the result!
However, as his report moved upwards through the chain of command, each level increased the number of IBMs, 'to be on the safe side'. By the time the report reached the President there were said to be in the region of 500 IBMs in Russia. (Note the rounded number, not say 487.)
No one believed the CIA estimate of ten mainly because the USAF wanted more bombers and more missiles, and alternative data was being 'suppressed'. After the Cold War ended, records released by the Soviets revealed they only had four missiles at that time, but to be fair, they had moved them about a bit!
So what has this got to do with BW/CART?
Well, as you all know, the Ivory Towers brigade are fond of quoting large rounded numbers for all sorts of things. My advice is to ignore the numbers themselves and ask yourself the following questions:
- 'Where did the original data come from?'
- 'What assumptions were made when those numbers were processed?'
- 'What are those numbers being used to prove?'
- 'Are those numbers available from an independent source?'
The majority of numbers quoted today are almost certainly made up/incorrect/ exaggerated to prove a point (delete where applicable). The really worrying aspect though is organisations that manipulate data then go on and generate very important plans based on the same meaningless numbers.
In the case above America built in the region of a thousand IBM's to counter the four the Russians really had, mainly because that was what the generals running the USAF wanted in the first place.
You see the point I'm making?