On the concept of accuracy of information in data-banks and in management information systems

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http://www8.informatik.umu.se/~kivanov/diss-avh.html> and <https://archive.org/details/diss-avh/AvhDunn1972>)



Ivanov, Kristo (1972). Quality-control of information: On the concept of accuracy of information in data-banks and in management information systems. Stockholm: The Royal Institute of Technology (KTH). (Doctoral dissertation, 258 pages). 

Copies can downloaded as instructed below, while earlier they could be ordered from the USA's National Technical Information Service NTIS, order # PB-219297. Ref. Dissertation Abstracts International 1974, Vol 35A, 3, p. 1611-A. Internationally the text is catalogued at the National Library of Sweden-Library Information System: LIBRIS

The PhD dissertation was presented to the faculty of the 
Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) for public disputation and defense on 11 December 1972, at 2:00 pm in the hall of the collegeValhallavägen 79, Stockholm.



(rev. 240108-1810)




For a proper reading and appreciation of this text and its numerous links, please refer initially to my General disclaimer.


The doctoral dissertation on Quality-control of information develops the scientific meaning and foreshadows the necessity of what later came to be named the Wiki-concept, especially as related to “Trust and security”. In this latter sense of trust and security it can be seen also as a theory of security of computer systems as indicated in the conclusions expressed at the end of other texts about human-computer interaction - HCI, on Information and debate and about Computerization of the whole society that today unfolds into the hype of Artificial General Inteligence and ChatGPT, while struggling about fake news and conspiracy theories. The implications for Artificial General Intelligence in my dissertation written mainly in 1971 are outlined in its Appendix 11, pages A11.6-A11.9 on “Human thinking and manipulation of symbols”, extended to pages A11.10-A11.13 on “Information quality and Law”, all the while, as remarked on page A12:2, I had not yet available West Churchman’s, at the time newly published synthesizing book The Design of Inquiring Systems.



A general problematization of the latter so called fake news and conspiracy theories beyond “alternative facts” (in Swedish “faktaresistens”) or in deeper meaning paradigm shift and worldview, is found in my paper on Information and theology, especially in the chapter on “The Galileo affair”, and applied in the paper on The Russia-NATO-Ukraine information crisis. The usual approach to the discussion of “alternative facts” basically is in terms of Kantian philosophy, as implicitly done in the Swedish approach by the philosopher Åsa Wikforss. The discussion starts rhetorically with the presentation of an oversimplified conflict between “reason” and overpowering “feelings” that undermine the logic of facts. Philosophically, however, “Reason” is split into (the critiques of) theoretical and practical reason, and both are synthesized in the (critique) of judgment into an aesthetics which is soon reduced to art and further down to “design”. Design, in turn, risks to become a catchword that today lends prestige to all engineering effort, not the least to computer-related efforts.


It is an approach based on a volume and kind of literature that is routine for philosophers. It is, however “mind-blowing”, overwhelming the minds of most common educated modern citizens (see for instance the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s “Kant’s account of reason”). It divorces the question from common sense and from advanced psychology that historically was derived from philosophy, and from theology and religion, which are replaced by a nominal “democracy” that cannot work without the participation of common educated citizens. The whole approach is criticized in my above-mentioned essay on the phenomenon of Computerization of the whole society.


In this previously mentioned paper on the Ukraine information crisis, I report the ultimate observation and insight that fundamentally all information is fake (the more so in war, when "the first victim is truth") if it is not accompanied by what my dissertation focused on: an estimate of an error term. And that ultimately the determination of the error term depends upon the people’s ethics and aspects covered in Steven Shapin’s Social History of Truth, as well as the possibility of citizens' freedom of speech. It is usually guaranteed in democracy, but it is highly problematic as historically analyzed in the classic Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville, and forcefully exposed by e.g. Tage Lindbom in his book The Myth of Democracy. Today these aspects tend to be trivialized by their unconscious reduction to (Wikipedia’s) alternative facts (and its section on “see also”), fake news, misinformation and disinformation, seasoned with references to groupthink (and its “see also”).


The intellectual insight obtained from the mentioned sources regarding the myth of democracy was finally supported by other insights obtained during my above-mentioned work in understanding the information system of the Russia-NATO-Ukraine crisis. A complementary demonstration came from the debacle of democratic free expression, or official mistrust of freedom in communication and power of argumentation, as displayed in governmental western censorship of news from the Russian network Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik News. In Sweden this was directed by decision of The Swedish Post and Telecom Authority (corresponding to USA’s FCC), following EU imposed sanctions announced 2 March 2022, while all those western countries are not in war. This is one main reason why the quality of information ultimately converges on theological questions that motivated my blog on Conspiracy theories, my early essay on Belief and Reason, later on Information and Theology already mentioned above, and finally a comment on Conscience and Truth.





The dissertation, written long ago in 1971-1972 in a naturally narrow disciplinary context of a university, and prior to all above-mentioned refinements, forestalls the possibilities of computer technology more than twenty years before the advent of its initial partial implementation in the WikiWikiWeb (see below). An ultimate most known example is the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, the most popular wiki-based website, and one of the most widely viewed sites in the world. It also foreshadows by 40 years the scientific meaning and one main answer to the problem of “fake news” as triggered by social media. 


The consequent problems of all this were addressed later in articles about Wikipedia democracy and wikicracy: editing Wikipediaand conceptually in Information and debatewhile the search for ultimate theological implications is outlined in essays on Information and Theologyand Reason and Gender. The main ideas of the dissertation itself and their juridical implications are summarized in the book (in Swedish) Systems development and rule of lawFurther technical details are found in the account of the computer programmer who developed the first wiki by starting to code the WikiWikiWeb in 1994: Ward Cunningham with his book The wiki way (2001)co-authored with Bo Leuf. The latter also expressed the core of the consequent idea of participatory design and computer-supported cooperative work in his book Peer to peer: Collaborating and sharing over the Internet (2002). 


An example of more recent research on related detailed secondary issues is Effects of moderation and opinion heterogeneity on attitude towards the online deliberation experience (CHI'19 Proceedings of the 2019 Conference on Human Factors in Computing). At a less detailed level, with the diffusion and increased use of the Internet news areas of research have been opportunely created building upon the very same basic idea, displaying new problems and old ones under new names. New split areas that are often divorced from basic considerations of philosophy of science have been catalogued under such names as Computer-supported cooperative workParticipatory designCollective intelligence, and Cooperative overlap/Turn-taking (see also other related areas in their respective Wikipedia-sections named “See also”). Contrasting artificial and human intelligence, in lack of understanding of what intelligence is to begin with, leads also to studies such as Human trust in artificial intelligenceIt requires, in turn, an understanding of The design of inquiring systems (complementary index here) and The meaning of human-computer interaction that today is challenged when seen in the context of Artificial General Intelligence and ChatGPT.



Local download from this site of the dissertation in pdf-format:
Whole download (18 MB, 259 pp.), all parts in one

Earlier arrangement, download in three parts:
Part 1 of 3 (22 MB) - Abstract, Contents, Introduction, and up to including chapter 3, see "Contents"
Part 2 of 3 (44 MB) - Chapters 4 and 5, including Conclusions
Part 3 of 3 (48 MB) - Appendixes 1-12, and References/Bibliography


This paper is intended to assist those who develop, use, maintain, audit, or in general may be affected by so-called Data-Banks and Management Information Systems.

One purpose of the paper is to recognize the importance of accuracy, or more generally of quality of information. Data-Banks and Management Information Systems may typically imply some processing performed on externally obtained measurements and pre-processed inputs, while their outputs may be stored and used by people in unknown contexts.

To the extent that this happens it becomes more difficult to expect that the quality of information can be represented by a measure of effectiveness of systems and subsystems in relation to operational goals. Thus, a second purpose of this paper is to suggest some possibilities of attaching a measure of quality to discrete items of information, such as coded observations and intermediate computational results.

The paper consists of five chapters supporting five sets of statements regarding the consequences of present practices, and what can be done to implement the most necessary improvements. Illustrative examples emphasize administrative applications such as in public planning and in industrial manufacturing.



KEY WORDS (updated list)
Information system design, data integrity, privacy, security, secrecy, reliability, validity, precision, EDP auditing, system management, data-management, data base, actor network, inquiring systems, dialectics, cybernetics.



(1) By Churchill Eisenhart (1972). U.S. Dept. of Commerce, National Bureau of Standards. (Letter, pdf-format: Click here.)

(2) By
Edgar S. Dunn, Jr. (1972). Resources for the Future Inc., author of Social information processing and statistical systems (1974). (Letter, pdf-format: Click here.)

(3) By
Steven Shapin (1994): Long after the publication of the dissertation a book by Steven Shapin, A Social History of Truth, indirectly details and confirms many historical roots of its scientific approach. It can be seen as extending the dissertation and its applicability in discussing truth vs. secrecy in communication and information technological (CIT) systems as related to the following keywords: measurement, reasonable agreement, accuracy-precision-certainty-exactness, error-failure, probabilistic discourse, conflict-cooperation, power-politics-religion, political correctness, system trust, and CIT-users-specialists as "invisible technicians". Most relevant pages: 24, 26, 30, 32, 211-3, 216-220, 223-4, 226-8, 230-1, 310-1, 314, 318, 328-9, 338-9, 342, 350, 352-3, 355, 389, 412-3.

(4) By
Laura Sebastian-Coleman (2013). Measuring Data Quality for Ongoing Improvement (see Appendix D.)

(5) Further evaluative references are contained in reviews of the book (in Swedish) about privacy vs. security that was published in 1986 on the basis of the published doctoral dissertation, [permitted download, pdf-format 66 MB] Systemutveckling och Rättssäkerhet [Systems development and rule of law]. Cf. e.g. the review by Peter Seipel (in Swedish) in Cecilia Magnusson & Olav Torvund (eds.) Myndighetsdata och Rättssäkerhet: Nordisk Årsbok i Rättsinformatik, (Norstedts, 1988, ISBN 91-1-887351-0, pp. 193-196.)

(6) The permanent timeliness of the subject of the dissertation and its further development is also suggested by more recent problems of scientific method as exposed in Lachlan J. Gunn, et al. "Too good to be true: when overwhelming evidence fails to convince." Proceedings of The Royal Society A. To be published (as per Jan. 7, 2016.). Arxiv pre-print: arxiv.org/abs/1601.00900. Summary by Lisa Zyga in Why too much evidence can be a bad thing. (January 4, 2016.), also at: http://phys.org/news/2016-01-evidence-bad.html#jCp.