Control and the Illusion of Control

When I began building my software compani in the mid-eighties, I became very interested and involved in the Quality Movement, especially in the work of W. Edwards Deming in Japan (We went on to win various quality awards and Motorola, the leader of six sigma, became our biggest customer, but that is another story). As a student of Sun Tzu's competitive philosophy, I was struck by how Demings' and Sun Tzu's ideas were polar opposites. I came to realize that this was because the Quality Movement focussed on getting systems under control while Sun Tzu's methods focused on competitive situations that cannot be controlled. The factory floor and the competitive market are exact opposites in terms of the amount of control we have over them. In a well-designed factory, methods are planned because ideally everything is controlled in the humanly designed environment. The illusion of control arises when we think the same standards and stability can be achieved in chaotic, natural environments. I have pointed out this confusion many times in the "global warming" debate. Now it turns out that many of the measurements of warming are flawed because the immediate environment of NOAA's weather stations is dynamic. Of course, we have already seen that mistakes can be made in supposedly controlled environment, since NASA's recently had to admit its claim of new high temperatures in the late 90's was a programming error and nothing is more artificial than a computer program.