Tesla interview and relevance to O.R.

The Times newspaper in the U.K. carried an article about Elon Musk and the Tesla company in its weekend magazine on Saturday 25th November.  There are numerous articles about him and the Tesla company, but this extract seemed relevant to operational research, so here goes:
An unfortunate fact of human nature  is that when people make up their mind about something, they tend not to change it - even when confronted with facts to the contrary.  "It's very unscientific," Musk says, "There's this thing called physics, which is this scientific method that's quite effective for figuring out the truth."
The scientific method is a phrase Musk uses often when asked how he came up with an idea, solved a problem or chose to start a business.  Here's how he defines it for his own purposes, mostly in his own words.
  • 1) Ask a question.
  • 2) Gather as much evidence as possible about it.
  • 3) Develop axioms based on the evidence and try to assign a probability of truth to each one.
  • 4) Draw a conclusion based on cogency in order to determine: are these axioms correct, are they relevant, do they necessarily lead to this conclusion, and with what probability?
  • 5) Attempt to disprove the conclusion.  Seek refutation from others to further help break your conclusion.
  • 6) If nobody can invalidate your conclusion, then you're probably right, but you're not certainly right.
"That's the scientific method," Musk concludes. "It's really helpful for figuring out the tricky things."
But most people don't use it, he says.  They engage in wishful thinking.  They ignore counterarguments.  They form conclusions based on what others are doing and aren't doing. The reasoning that results is, "It's true because I said it's true," but not because it's objectively true.
(copyright The Times)
Why the relevance to O.R.?  Well, we are supposed to adopt a scientific method to solving decision problems.  And very often we are faced with people who engage in wishful thinking.  So, here is a possible approach to our problems.   Not perfect, but a framework to think with.


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