More evidence that fear does not make people smarter. For folks who are not up on this latest Keystone Kops incident, yesterday the Boston PD, local and state government, and the media went ape after someone reported a suspicious device (one of which is pictured above). Additional devices were found around town – they’d been there for, apparently, three weeks. Look like a bomb to you? Not to me – I’m well past the twenty-something demographic, but I recognized the moon guys instantly. If I wanted to blow something up I might use a NEMA enclosure with some conduit coming out of it to hide my device; a high tech Lite-Brite – not so much.
Now, of course, the powers-that-be are embarrassed and are going to get even – starting with the 2 poor schmucks who put the nefarious devices up. Go ahead, fine ’em for violating a ‘post no bills’ law – write ’em a ticket, but anything more? Come on.
This is, as far as I’m concerned, a kind of Type II error – evaluate the hypothesis as true (OMG, we must treat those things as IEDs) when it is in fact false – the kind of error that is far more likely when dealing with terrorism (because there are so few terrorists and so much random real life going on) than a Type I: ‘that’s nothing to be concerned about’, pause, !boom!. It would seem to me that public safety folks might want to examine why they committed such a large and long mistake and do so in a public way so everyone can learn from the fiasco, rather than concentrating on whuppin’ on a couple of Lite-Brite hangers. I know, I know – I’m living in a fantasy world, but seriously – we need to start holding folks, government and media both, to account. Panic, overreaction and constant fear are no way to run a city, state or nation. In the absence of any real ‘learn from our mistakes’ effort, I suggest mockery.
A little later – Speaking of mockery… My favorite comment:
Seventy-five-hundred-thousand dollars for emergency response services, a cool three-quarters of a million bucks, according to May-yah Mumbles (aka The Honorable T. Menino), and over the course of their busy workday they still only found 10 or 11 of the original 38 â€œperformance piecesâ€. Of course, most of the missing 20-odd were probably pried loose and are now adorning dorm walls, or eBay auctions. But, yeah, at least one local bloviator (Jon Keller) thinks that the poor schmuck responsible should be punished, â€œthey should throw the thickest book possible at himâ€, not least because of the â€œvulgar hand signalâ€ part. Because nothing says â€œAl Queda Pwned Amurka!!1!â€ like a frowny icon flipping us the Lite-Brite bird.Pants-Pisher Nation. We should be ashamed of ourselves.
Even later – I just did my little truth-table – if the null hypothesis (presumed state of nature) is ‘no bomb’, I believe I’m OK describing this as a type II error. If I’ve boogered up the type number (I or II), my point remains…