June 15, 2005
I'm just guessing here...
I just realized something about my dissertation project: I'm just guessing. I'm working on something that I know will not give me one true, definitive answer. When you get down to it, isn't that what all probability models are? Sure you have weights and likelihoods for the different outcomes in different situations, but you're just guessing. It may be an educated guess; it may be a guess that's come out of a very sophisticated algorithm or model. But it's still just a guess.
It's not that this 'revelation' has freaked me out or anything. It's just made me realize the simplicity of the truth. Guessing is okay (said in my best Stuart Smalley "Daily Affirmation" voice*). And acknowledging that I'm guessing leads to some good questions: What is the benefit of guessing? What is the harm? What would I need to know to improve my guess? What is the ideal that I'm working towards? It's actually kind of nice. It gets away from that 'know-it-all' posturing and gets down to the heart of it -- seeking answers that will help us improve.
Look for my best guess at Salmonella attribution to be published this winter! (Do you think the journal editors will be as opened minded to the whole 'guessing' thing?)
*Wikipedia rocks! I can't believe they have a minor pop culture reference like Stuart Smalley!