Friday, January 30, 2004

The Report raises more issues than it settles. And I will be voting for Yes Minister' as the best ever TV Sitcom.

My first thought was of Texas Sharpshooting. To become a dead shot in Texas, so the saying goes, fire a gun at the side of a barn and then paint a target on the barn wall centred on the bullet hole.

The Terms of Reference for Hutton were of course set to make sure that some 'other kinds of answers' become unlikely.

Can we look at this in terms of Information Management? In my schema there are four levels of 'things to consider'.

1 Data
2 Information
3 Knowledge
4 wisdom

1 Data are just piles of alleged facts from details to generalities.
2 Information is data arranged and cross referenced so that it is in the right form in the right place in the right detail so that someone can make a decision. Information is data that can make a difference.
3 Knowledge is the complex of skills and existing information that helps us find information in the midst of data.
4 wisdom, if you know what this is please mail me. We sense when it isnt there though, and knowledge gets screwed up which messes up the information which leaves us with data to cling to amidst the wreckage.

The big moment of comedy is the finding that John Scarlett, Chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee may have been 'uncosnciously influenced' by the desire to meet the Prime Minister's wish for the dossier to be as strong as possible. That is quite a ballet of advance handwaving. The whole point of Mr Scarlett's professional activities - building up Knowledge to get Information for political decision makers - is to be aware of such unconscious influences and take steps to acquire wisdom about this. It is quite a damning aside, actually. If someone had said Lord Hutton was 'Unconsciously Influenced' to frame his terms of reference in a way that shaped a particular answer his Lordship would rightly feel this to be a considerable attack.
Of course we still lack a considerable heap of Data to exercise our wisdom on. What for example happened at the long meeting between Ministers and Civil Servants 'at which no minutes were kept'? Sir Humphrey not keeping minutes? That would be quite an episode of 'Yes Minister' especially if the plot getout for the Ministry turned on a reporter not keeping complete notes of an interview...

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