The Unfulfilled Promise of Online Analytics, Part 3 – Determining the Human Cost

Note: this post originally appeared as a blog arc on my old Analytics Ecology blog. I’m resurrecting the complete arc here as it’s referenced in That Think You Do‘s “Unhealthy Comparisons” chapter

Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives. A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy or perhaps both. – James Madison

There was never suppose to be a part 3 to this arc (Ben Robison was correct in that). Part 1 established the challenge (and I note here that the extent of the response and the voices responding indicates that the defined challenge does exist and is recognized to exist) and Part 2 (I’ll resurrect them both if there’s interest) proposed some solution paths. That was suppose to be the end of it. I had fulfilled my promise to myself1 and nothing more (from my point of view) was required.

But many people contacted me asking for a Part 3. There were probably as many people asking for a Part 3 as I normally get total blog traffic. Obviously people felt or intuited that something was missing, something I was unaware of remained unvoiced.

But I never intended there to be a Part 3. What to cover? What would be its thematic center?

It was during one of these conversations that I remembered some of the First Principles (be prepared. “First Principles” will be echoed quite a bit in this post) in semiotics.2

According to semiotics, you must ask yourself three questions in a specific order to fully understand any situation3:

  1. What happened?
  2. What do I think happened?
  3. What happened to me?

More verbosely:

  1. Remove all emotionality, all belief, all you and detail what happened (think of quis, quid, quando, ubi, cur, quomodo – the six evidentiary questions applied to life).
  2. What do your personal beliefs, education, training, cultural origins, etc., add to what actually and unbiasedly happened?
  3. Finally, how did you respond — willingly or unwillingly, knowingly or unknowingly, with all of your history and experience — to what happened.

The power of this semioticism is that it forms an equation that is the basis of logical calculus, the calculus of consciousness4, modality engineering5 and a bunch of other fields. I use a simplified form of it in many of my presentations, A + B = C.6

Talking with one first reader, I realized that Part 1 was “What happened?” (the presentation of the research) and Part 2 was “What do I think happened?” (my interpretation of the research). What was left for part 37 was “What happened to me?”

And if you know anything about me, you know I intend to have fun finding out!

(my thanks to readers of Questions for my Readers (will resurrect if there’s interest) who suggested this footnoting format over my usual <faux html> methods and to participants in the First NH WAW who, knowing nothing about this post, covered much the same topics during our lunch conversation)

1 – A constant promise to myself regarding my work — perform honest research, report results accurately and unbiasedly and (when possible) determine workable solutions to any challenges that presented themselves in either research or results.


2 – For those who don’t know, much of ET is based on anthrolingualsemiotics — how humans communicate via signs. “Signs” means things like “No Parking”, true, and also means language, movement, symbols, art, music, … . According to Thomas Carlyle, it is through such things “that man consciously or unconsciously lives, works and has his being.” You can find more about semiotics in the following bibliography:
Aho, Alfred V. 2004 27 Feb Software and the Future of Programming Languages, .Science V 303 , I 5662 , DOI: 10.1126/science.1096169
Balter, Michael 2004 27 Feb Search for the Indo-Europeans, .Science V 303 , I 5662 , DOI: 10.1126/science.303.5662.1323
Balter, Michael 2004 27 Feb Why Anatolia?, .Science V 303 , I 5662 , DOI: 10.1126/science.303.5662.1324
Benson J.; Greaves W.; O’Donnell M.; Taglialatela J. 2002 Evidence for Symbolic Language Processing in a Bonobo (Pan paniscus), .Journal of Consciousness Studies V 9 , I 12
Bhattacharjee, Yudhijit 2004 27 Feb From Heofonum to Heavens, .Science V 303 , I 5662 , DOI: 10.1126/science.303.5662.1326
Carrabis, Joseph 2006 Chapter 4 “Anecdotes of Learning”, Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, Northern Lights Publishing , Scotsburn, NS 978-0-9841403-0-5
Carrabis, Joseph 2006 Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, V 1 , Northern Lights Publishing , Scotsburn, NS
Chandler, Daniel 2007 Semiotics: The Basics, , Routledge 978-0415363754
Crain, Stephen; Thornton, Rosalind 1998 Investigations in Universal Grammar, , MIT Press 0-262-03250-3
Fitch, W. Tecumseh; Hauser, Marc D. 2004 16 Jan Computational Constraints on Syntactic Processing in a Nonhuman Primate, .Science V 303 , I 5656
Gergely, Gyorgy; Bekkering, Harold; Kiraly, Ildiko 2002 14 Feb Rational imitation in preverbal infants, .Nature V 415 , I 6873 , DOI:
Graddol, David 2004 27 Feb The Future of Language, .Science V 303 , I 5662 , DOI: 10.1126/science.1096546
Holden, Constance 2004 27 Feb The Origin of Speech, .Science V 303 , I 5662 , DOI: 10.1126/science.303.5662.1316
Montgomery, Scott 2004 27 Feb Of Towers, Walls, and Fields: Perspectives on Language in Science, .Science V 303 , I 5662 , DOI: 10.1126/science.1095204
Pennisi, Elizabeth 2004 27 Feb The First Language?, .Science V 303 , I 5662 , DOI: 10.1126/science.303.5662.1319
Pennisi, Elizabeth 2004 27 Feb Speaking in Tongues, .Science V 303 , I 5662 , DOI: 10.1126/science.303.5662.1321

3 – There is (in my opinion) no greater demonstration of this principle than in The Book of the Wounded Healers, due out 1Q24 from Northern Lights Publishing


4 – Aleksander, Igor; Dunmall, Barry 2003 Axioms and Tests for the Presence of Minimal Consciousness in Agents I: Preamble, .Journal of Consciousness Studies V 10 , I 4-5

5 – Carrabis, Joseph 2004, 2006, 2009 A Primer on Modality Engineering, 18 Pages, , Northern Lights Publishing , Scotsburn, NS
Carrabis, Joseph 2009 18 Aug I’m the Intersection of Four Statements, BizMediaScience (will resurrect if there’s interest)
Carrabis, Joseph 2009 8 Sep Addendum to “I’m the Intersection of Four Statements”, BizMediaScience (will resurrect if there’s interest)
Nabel, Gary J. 2009 2 Oct The Coordinates of Truth, .Science V 326 , I 5949

6 – The simplest things often have the most power. The semioticist’s A + B = C demonstrates itself with three questions to form equations of meaning such as:

(what happened) + (what do I think happened) = (what happened to me)
(what happened to me) – (what do I think happened) = (what happened)
(what happened to me) – (what happened) = (what do I think happened)

Know any two and the last reveals itself to you.

But only if you’re willing.


7 – Note to Jacques Warren: Un et un est troi. Ha!