What I Said Is Not What You Heard

Another example of where semantic impedance can impair communication, not to mention public policy decisions:


Those are just a few terms that are used in public statements from scientists.

I can hardly imagine the disconnect between lawyers and the public. Or economists and the public.

To say nothing of computer science in general and the public.

I’m not sold on the solution to bias being heard as distortion, political motive, is: offset from an observation.

Literally true but I’m not sure omitting the reason for the offset is all that helpful.

Something more along the lines of: “test A misses the true value B by C, so we (subtract/add) C to A to get a more correct value.”

A lot more words but clearer.

The image is from: Communicating the science of climate change by Richard C. J. Somerville and Susan Joy Hassol. A very good article on the perils of trying to communicate with the general public about climate change.

But it isn’t just the general public that has difficulty understanding scientists. Scientists have difficulty understanding other scientists, particularly if the scientists in question are from different domains or even different fields within a domain.

All of which has to make you wonder: If human beings, including scientists fail to understand each other on a regular basis, who is watching for misunderstandings between computers?

I first saw this in a tweet by Austin Frakt.

PS: Pointers to research on words that fail to communicate greatly appreciated.

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