January 17, 2005

When Facts Aren't

One of the great baseline facts of the Israel/Palestine problem has been the demographic reality that the jews aren't having babies and the arabs are. This has underlied the foreign policies of all involved nations, the policy prescriptions of virtually every commentator and analyst of all political stripes. The switchover of the western part of the old british mandate of Palestine from majority jewish to majority arab population was going to bring about huge changes that everybody was feverishly planning for.

Now we find that there may not be any demographic switchover at all. In Israel proper, including Jerusalem, Israel is 80% jewish. If you throw in the occupied territories, it's 59.5% jewish, a drop from 64.1% in 1967.

In a perfect world, you could go to a computer and find a list of predictions, policies, and commentary that depended on the double counters, the falsified population growth rates, and correct it all. Unfortunately, none of that is possible because predictions, analysis, and commentary as published today are all black box entities. None of their internals are visible and easily trackable.

This sort of opacity is very familiar to computer people. The same sort of mystery attended old style software. You knew what came out but you had no idea what was going on internally and you had no ability to adjust the software to take account of changing realities without very expensive rewrites.

If we can create some sort of standard way to represent public policy internals, those internals can be categorized and you can quickly and easily identify exactly what policy documents have to be adjusted, who was hoodwinked most heavily among the commentariat, and how to avoid the problem of false facts taking on a life of their own.

Now if we can only figure out how to propagate tools that will allow us to do that sort of thing easily...

Posted by TMLutas at January 17, 2005 11:34 AM