The answer to the meaning of life is forty-two.

13 01 2009

The answer to the meaning of life is forty-two.

At least according to the computer Deep Thought, built by a group of hyperintelligent pan-dimensional beings in their attempt to learn the Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything. (We’re back to the book, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in case you didn’t know.)

Using Babelfish, the online translator I put this through Russian and French and then back to English. So, if you felt like sharing this astounding fact with a Russian friend, who then shared it with a French friend, he would then finally advise you, in a somewhat confused manner, that the meaning of life was,

“Answer is in the situation, to followers life forty-two.”

Which is close but really not the same thing.

I have recently been in two management meetings where we have been dealing with numbers. Or to be more realistic, trying to deal with numbers. Numbers generated in all good faith for a sensible purpose which ultimately became the source of a huge amount of disquiet due to problems of translation.

The same clinical events, translated into numbers and then back into discussion are close but really not the same thing.

Managers can’t be blamed as they don’t generate the numbers, merely the actions that they decide are required on the basis of those numbers. The clinicians can’t be blamed either as they didn’t generate the numbers merely the adverse reaction to that proposed action based on the numbers. Why adverse? Because the meaning somehow, gets Lost in Translation. (great movie; I cry like a girl at the end!)

Around the mechanics of  precision heuristics, the measuring of stuff,  Paul Levy over at Running a Hospital has plenty to say on the matter.
“… those in the medical profession sometimes fall into the trap of believing that because measurement is an inherently reductionist and mechanistic act, it can never be sufficiently accurate to reflect the overall realities of patient care.”

He is to be commended on his efforts to show that accurate “numbers” can bring about improvements in patient care. I would venture to suggest however that his experience would be in the minority.

So many of the figures I see generated from my clinical experience are not an accurate reflection . I don’t believe there is malice in their generation merely that they are so frequently wrong as to be almost humorous, save for the re-action decided by the managers.

At the most basic level I simply don’t agree that you can ever describe the “clinical experience” with numbers.

It is as sensible as telling your lover that she is 1.6180339887. This is, after all, the embodiment in numerical terms of perfection, the golden ratio. She should be touched, flattered and feel truly special; you’re telling her that she is perfect. Go on; you try it!

Clearly, for effective management, we all need to be speaking the same language otherwise things will get lost in translation. Do you think the meaning of life is found in a number? Maybe you’re destined for a career in management.

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2 responses

14 01 2009
B

I just can’t help but totally agree with you.
Afterall, the NHS is there to treat PEOPLE, not numbers. And no two people are alike, nor have they the same illness or the same recovery time. None of this is a)predictable b) able to be put into a single number or c) able to be sorted in a certain amount of time (say maybe 4 hours as a random example).
Where it might be nice to have a vague idea about how things are, what they might cost or however long they are going to take (if you must apply A number to them) it will NEVER accurately work. EVER!!

26 05 2013
isok

how to use it on a games for example like yats..Thimblerig
it games on internet ^_^

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