Quote: Why Quants Don’t Know Everything

I’ve written previously on how quantification of social phenomena inherently gives importance (perhaps unduly) to the object of measurement.  Felix Salmon explores this idea to illustrate why quants don’t know everything. He quotes sociologist Donald T. Campbell who observed that quantification may actually change the nature of the quantified:

“The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.”

– Donald T. Campbell (December 1976), Assessing the Impact of Planned Social Change.

This all reminds me of similar logic drawn from the physical sciences. Some interpretations of the double-slit experiment explain the nature of light (i.e. wave or particle?) as dependent on the observer, tool of measurement, or location of observation. This is just food for thought. I will leave it to the physicists to hash out veracity.


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