The old computer science saying “garbage in, garbage out” has a very obvious meaning. If the data you're feeding a computer is bad, or not complete, no miracle in the world is going to make it work.

A recent New York Times article by Saul Hansell explains how companies in the troubled financial industry tried to fool their computers (and themselves) by entering only partial information into risk management programs. With the programs running off incomplete data, things looked grand. But as we all know, this short sighted game did not last long. A poignant quote by Hansell sums it up: “Lying to your risk-management computer is like lying to your doctor. You just aren’t going to get the help you really need.”

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