Monday, 4 July 2016

The copulation of propositions (iterating in public)

David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature (1739):
In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remarked, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary ways of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when all of a sudden I am surprised to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, 'tis necessary that it should be observed and explained; and at the same time that a reason should be given, for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it ...
The Government Digital Service (GDS) have several times recently served up a gem of an example of Hume's is-ought problem, most recently in What GDS is for:
By 2030, policy making will be service design. Ideas and implementation will be so closely tied, you won’t be able to have one without the other. Thinking in code, iterating in public - these will be the norm.

Policy making will be minimally designed and built as a framework which allows flexibility and feedback, not as a conclusion.

The way that the law is made will have changed ...
GDS may believe that the way UK law is made ought to change. They are in no position to say that it will change. There is no discernible popular outcry demanding that the law should in future be made by GDS manipulating data. Where did GDS get the laughable idea that anyone would ask them about legislation or policy-making?

They made the same suggestion in What government might look like in 2030. But that's just not what GDS is for. They seem to have convinced the Cabinet Office Minister. That's a worry. They should all go out for a walk and get some fresh air.

According to What GDS is for:
Lots of the government services we have today evolved over a very long time. The service itself - the thing that the user experiences - cuts across organisational boundaries. Boundaries that users don’t care about, and shouldn’t be expected to understand.

For example: think about how benefits are divided between DWP and HMRC. Or how offenders and other people dealing with the criminal justice system have to be in touch with the police and the courts, prisons and probation staff. Or how complicated it is to start a business, because you have to get in touch with BIS, HMRC and Companies House, at least ...
Who says that users don't care or that it's expecting too much of them to understand? GDS.

What is the alternative for offenders to being in touch with several different services? GDS don't say.

What they do say is that you can't start a business without contacting BIS, the Department for Business Innovation and Skills. And there, they're just wrong. They've obviously never started a business, they're guessing and, bad luck, they've guessed wrong.

Communicating via walls – and tea towels – is no substitute for experience. Neither is calling in the consultants which is what GDS appear to have done. Because here they are again promoting Simon Wardley and Mark Thompson's natty pictures of value chains with their ubiquity and certainty:

"This diagram is my attempt to explain that a bit",
says Stephen Foreshew-Cain, once a consultant
and now the executive director of GDS

GDS have been trying to explain "where they're at and where they're going" for some months now. It's obviously difficult. We still don't know what GDS is for. And quite clearly neither do they. They ought to but they don't.

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