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Black Swan

In today’s R&D operations costs escalate dramatically as we progress a line of inquiry towards commercialization+. In the pharmaceutical industry, once we reach the clinic our costs can be has high as hundreds of millions of dollars. We are very tempted to look for ways to falsify the drug development hypothesis earlier in the process rather than later – the nomenclature in the industry is Early Project Kills+.

This is a very Popperian view of the world, in that the only truth we can know is in a falsifying truth. I can never make the statement:

All swans are white.

Indeed this was believed to be the case before the discovery of black swans in Australia. But I speak the truth when I make the statement all swans are not white as soon as I see the first black swan. This is the gist of the black swan or falsification argument. The only valid truths are truths about negatives.

However, falsification is just a parlor trick: I can change my generalization+ of what it takes to be a swan to exclude that black creature. It’s not really a swan. This process of changing my generalization is called ad hoc hypothesis generation+. I subtly, and continuously,

Signals in R&D

This may seem a strange website to be writing about demagoguery+ but wait for a few paragraphs of political philosophy and the reasoning will become clear.  The demagogue is that smooth talking, slick looking, highly educated professional who will try to convince you that he or she knows what’s best for you. They play on your fears. They play on your sense of fairness. They play on your need for order and predictability. The demagogue is expert in the use of statistics. They have data and statistics backing all their arguments. They are adept at making the statistics sing: there is not a statistic made that cannot twisted to their purposes.  Not surprisingly all the statistics point the your need to elect this demagogue as your leader to save you from some looming disaster.

The patriot, on the other hand, fears the tyranny of statistics. The patriot knows that scientific knowledge (i.e., systematized, statistically-adjusted knowledge) omits the 90% of the contextual understanding needed to make a sound decision. The patriot understands that highly educated individuals belittle the vast amount of circumstantial knowledge possessed by ...

The Devil Incarnate

Moore in Religious Outsiders and the Making of Americans wrote the definitive work on the merits of having a 'Devil Incarnate+' to build team cohesion: circling the wagons against a conceived outside evil to cement relationships among members of the congregation. The ardor for the mission gets mixed up with the desire to prove the devil wrong.

It's a propaganda tool resorted to even by editors of prestigious scientific journals. See: Kennedy ("It's all right that in the best-selling novels about the rapture, the true believers ascend and the rest of us perish painfully. But U.S. society is now experiencing a convergence between religious conviction and partisan loyalty, readily detectable in the statistics of the 2004 election.").

Although, as Moore argues, it is a very powerful behavior fundamental+, this approach was not included in the fundamentals selected for World Class R&D. The reason may surprise you. I fully believe in this technique and have employed it unconsciously with great success in endeavors of my own. That's the reason. It's not certain this technique can be used consciously. Natural leaders resort to it without even thinking