Friday, April 13, 2007

Corollary to "all models are broken"

All metrics are broken. Metrics measure specific aspects, aspects pointed out by various models. If there is no perfect model, there is also no perfect metric. Any claim to fairness espoused by a metric is a shadow of an unattainable Platonic ideal, just as any representations of a geometric point must fall short of the ideal zero-dimensional object.

My heart often gets in the way of my head. After MetaOlin class today (Chris Morse, on pedagogy with a subtopic of grading - Gill Pratt came in partway and joined the discussion) I was... enraged. Furious. Things were not fair. Never could be. I had - have - unfair advantages and was propagating injustices by the positions I took, the places I lived, the people I studied with. This falls far short of the trembling, seething frustration I was experiencing. It was a rage I couldn't justify or name, even when Chandra tried to talk me down from it afterwards.

I exploded out on a Greening Olin bike and splattered mud all over my clothes and came back from Wellesley still seething a little, but in a simmer instead of an explosive rout. I'm typing this in an attempt to quell the rest of it down so that the voice of my head speaks louder than that of my heart, so that I can be productive and do things that will make a difference in the areas I care about.

Chandra just came in and asked me how the bike ride was. I said it was good and that I was still coming down from it. She apologized for Meta breaking me so much (it really has). I said no, that's okay, it's my own damn fault, and besides real learning only takes place when breaks (usually a mental model, but that often correlates to equipment, experiment, personal, emotional, or some other form of failure). So years from now I'll look back on these as a transformative experience. Or something. "Yes, but I'm sorry you have to experience pain now," she said.

Life is pain, your highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something. --The Princess Bride


Just need to duct-tape my brain together well enough to get my paper done. Trouble with these "transformative experiences" is that they're rather inconvenient; you can't choose when or where they'll appear, and often you don't have space for them in your life... so you smush them when they come.

Lunchtime.

3 comments:

Nikki said...

I'm really interested to hear what Chris Morse has to say on the subject of grading...

Also, why so much broken? Just the sheer unfairness of it?

L33tminion said...

MetaOlin class sounds cool. Is that a co-curricular?

Mel said...

MetaOlin is a group independent study; we like to think of it as a student-designed class.