We are a strange loop

TLDR: If you were the leader of your local school district, and you could only choose one metric to decide that it was OK to open up your schools for in-person classes, what would you pick? Add your feedback to the loop: http://kirkkittell.com/loop.


I've been a little frustrated lately at the quality of discourse about how to prepare for and, subsequently, how to respond in Our Time of Virus, 2020 AV [1]. We are tribal creatures and we're scared so, to some degree, the snap reactions are as nasty as they are inevitable.

But after the reaction, then what? Are we going to keep barking at each other like dogs? Maybe. Once you've considered the question you might be aware, briefly, about the next reaction: are you going to keep barking because you choose to bark, or because you're still reacting? [2]

I'm not laying any claim to superiority about how to react [3] but I would like to adjust the situation where I can control it and get something useful out of it—might as well invite anyone who wants to play. I've been considering this for a few weeks now, so let's do it.

I'd like to pose a weekly question—get some responses from Out There and organize them into themes—then bring my own response and the themes back to the table and lay them face up—then consider what it means—then feed that back into another question. And so on.

I'm not going to do any statistical analysis, but just decompose the (non-junk) responses and think about them, think about how they're wrong or right or same or different or however I feel. And the question that receives the feedback on the next round doesn't need to be on the same topic, it just needs to somehow take off from the prior round.

It's not world-changing stuff, but it's hard to find thoughtful... well... thought out there. Maybe now that we're isolated, and the internet (whatever that is) is good at bringing us fuel to dump on the fire of what we already think while simultaneously showing us someone else's fire and how it threatens us, it's inevitable that I've bricked myself in. Sometimes the bubble is wrong and sometimes it's right (whatever that is) but it takes some amount of taste to tell the difference. I mean, I'll probably still think I'm right, but it's in my own interest to see how that could be wrong, and to have more thoughts to choose from.

So let's kick it off: http://kirkkittell.com/loopIf you were the leader of your local school district, and you could only choose one metric to decide that it was OK to open up your schools for in-person classes, what would you pick? The question is oversimplified [4] but it's just a model. The input box is anonymous, and no one else will see your response, so consider being honest, if not vulnerable.


  • [0] The title of this post is stolen without shame from Douglas Hofstadter's book, I Am a Strange Loop.
  • [1] And, subsequently subsequently, of the quality of the rewriting of the history of our preparedness as we trudge along, as if we wouldn't notice.
  • [2] Actually I'm thinking less of barking dogs and more of braying burros: Just one more ghost in Panamint City (2011-12-04). Horrible sound. A death rattle from that one bar in hell where everybody knows your name but you wish they didn't.
  • [3] Descendents, "Doghouse", Everything Sucks (1996)
  • [4] Box, George. "Science and statistics." Journal of the American Statistical Association 71.356 (1976): 791-799. DOI: 10.1080/01621459.1976.10480949. (pdf).
    • "Since all models are wrong the scientist cannot obtain a "correct" one by excessive elaboration. On the contrary following William of Occam he should seek an economical description of natural phenomena. Just as the ability to devise simple but evocative models is the signature of the great scientist so overelaboration and overparameterization is often the mark of mediocrity."

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