February 14th, 2014

So, you think you were admitted to MIT?

Not so fast, kids, not so fast:

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology sent an e-mail to prospective students, erroneously telling them in a line at the bottom that they had been admitted…

The mix-up happened when MIT combined two separate lists for an electronic mailing about financial aid. At the bottom was a footer that said “You are on this list because you are admitted to MIT,” according to Peterson. By merging the lists in a program called MailChimp, admissions officers mistakenly imported the footer from a list of students accepted under early admissions.

Hey, it’s not as though MIT should have any special knowledge about how to work computers or computer programs, is it?

My favorite sentence in the article is this one:

Such mistakes are occurring more often across the country as university and college admissions offices rely more on electronic communication with prospective students.

Computers can do wonderful things. But their very ease can sometimes make it easy to slip up. I am reminded of the fact that in all my recent encounters with doctors and the health care system, everyone has groaned and made a face when discussing the new requirement to keep electronic records. Not to mince words about it, everyone basically thinks it’s not only a royal pain in the butt but also a total crock of BS. Garbage in, garbage out, and very time-consuming garbage at that.

[Hat tip: College Insurrection.]

18 Responses to “So, you think you were admitted to MIT?”

  1. artfldgr Says:

    computers dont make any mistakes…
    the people using them do!!!

    and the people in academia are what i would call intelligent morons… they know all the answers but cant do much.

    a phd doctor wanted to get solar level uv light out of a 9v battery (the tiny ones, not a large one with a 9v supply), and not only that, he figured it should work a week..

    and this is a perosn developing new meds in the location that is one of the worlds pre-emminant medical schools..

    imagine what the ones taught later AFTER feminism, socialism, liberalism, and lots of studies courses..

  2. Susanamantha Says:

    As I sit in the doctor’s office, she is typing away on her computer. I realize she is typing more than I have said so far. Do I continue? Should I wait for her to prompt me? Is she playing a video game?

    I believe she should listen to my story, ask appropriate questions, then type, type, type. Do her exam, ask more questions, then type, type, type.

  3. Ymarsakar Says:

    The Big Brother version of red tape, internet style.

  4. Don Carlos Says:

    Most people still do not understand that Electronic Medical Records (EMR) are a Federal mandate and exist only due to that mandate. Medicare will financially more-penalize than it normally does for docs that do not do EMR. The cost of switching from paper to EMR is THOUSANDS of dollars per doc, and the software is such that doc productivity is reduced by ~50% on average. Patients like Susanamantha above hold beliefs that are only common sense, but they are still blaming the (ahem) caregiver for asking stupid questions and typing all the damn time.

    My doc’s office gives me a printout of each visit’s data entry. There are always misstatements of fact, every time. in part due to the limits of the menu options.

    The Ruling Class was sold on EMR because EMR benefits were ever so obvious to them. The Rulers don’t care for patients; they manage populations.

  5. Tara Says:

    I am reminded of the fact that in all my recent encounters with doctors and the health care system, everyone has groaned and made a face when discussing the new requirement to keep electronic records. Not to mince words about it, everyone basically thinks it’s not only a royal pain in the butt but also a total crock of BS.

    I’m in a two-year HIM program through our local community college, and one thing I’ve noticed about the textbooks is that they are unanimous in their praise for EHRs as a replacement for paper records. They strongly hint–and sometimes outright say–that the only reasons any reasonable person might be opposed to EHRs are that a) they’re afraid of change, or b) they’re technologically illiterate. (Plus they mention security concerns in passing a couple of times, but, y’know, gotta break a few eggs etc.) I don’t have any clinical experience yet, so I can’t say for sure how I feel about EHRs and the efficacy thereof, but the fact that I’m being hit over the head with how amazing they are without being given any alternate points of view makes me a little nervous.

  6. Ymarsakar Says:

    So which Democrat hoodie is getting paid to produce the EHR systems?

  7. Oldfyer Says:

    My introduction to computers was at the level of machine coding.

    There are a couple of notable memories about working with computers at that level, and at the next few steps on the ladder of progress:

    1. Generally, if you wanted an application, you programmed it.

    2. If you did not correct your mistakes at the machine level, the program would not run. Correction, it might run in an endless loop in which case it would run, and run, and run…
    until you killed it.

    2. If computer applications were at the level of just a few generations back (programming generations, not human), there would be very little computer usage by the populace at large. Remember DOS?

  8. turfmann Says:

    As it related to admittance to MIT, I am reminded of an insightful quotation from the political philosopher Marx (Groucho):

    “I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member”

  9. blert Says:

    Modern interrogatory programs have pick lists that are to be tickled by a mouse.

    This sets up patients for an errant mouse click.

    See what happened in “Brazil” the movie.

    We’ll end up having Homeland Security repelling through our ceilings in pretty short order.



    Here’s another one:

    Digital pre-processing of MRI. If it’s switched on — the default position — this software will eliminate as noise ANY malady that has a soft enough resolution.

    This feature is really terrific for the salesman — of the machine.

    To see what this can mean:

    My digital pocket camera has exactly the same style of signal processing. (They cloned the code down from its original use.)

    The result is that my camera ‘cleans up’ my image when it’s pointed at the Rancho Seco cooling towers. These are gray, and stand about 400 meters tall — and 250 meters wide at the top. You can see them with the naked eye from 40 miles away.

    My camera view screen and ultimate output show that these twin beasts no longer exist. (!!!)


    Get a load of what disappeared. ^^^^

    What this means is that soft injuries all over the nation go unrecorded by digital intermediation. The end result images look trick to the doctors. They just happen to omit any unexpected injuries, unexpected objects.

    The diagnosis is then set off to the wrong foot — which can last DECADES.


    If there is one constant in the medical universe: doctors simply don’t believe they can be that much in error. They also over trust their instruments. They are not aware of the limitations of these devices — which goes double now that analytical software is intervening in signal processing.

    The result are false negatives.


    To illustrate the principle:

    A false positive from power circuit analysis.

    Digital multi-meters (DMM) use solid state chips and embedded logic to calculate AC voltage. These are high impedance circuits — that is, VERY sensitive. They don’t draw hardly any current at all.

    Insulated copper wire that travels along energized conductors will pick up a companion voltage swing — by induction. None-the-less this is termed “capacitive coupling.”

    Should this wire be tested by an influence tester or a DMM, it will show surprisingly high voltage… say 67 VAC.

    That’s phantom, induced voltage.

    An old style voltage meter ($10 at Harbor Freight) will show that the wire is at 0 VAC.

    I have seen men waste ENTIRE DAYS trying to find out why their DMM is getting such a high reading. They run around looking for a circuit fault.

    At all times, the problem was, and is, their meagre understanding of the limitations of digital signal analysis — the heart of a DMM or influence tester.

    This limitation in thinking — and the self-assurance that one has really figured it all out — is the death of people.

  10. Charles Says:

    Well, there is also the line that was suppose to be there:

    “You are receiving this e-mail because you applied to MIT and we sometimes have to tell you things about stuff.”

    Just what the hell does that mean anyway? We have to tell you things about stuff?! Does that sentence strike only me as oddly worded?

    And if one applied to MIT should one have to be told to read email from them? If so, then I’m glad I never applied to go there as I might have ended up being dumber than I am.

  11. Roy Lofquist Says:

    From the dawn of the computer age: “Our new computer can make a million mistakes a second!”

  12. IGotBupkis, "'Faeces Evenio', Mr. Holder?" Says:

    }}} Such mistakes are occurring more often across the country as university and college admissions offices rely more on electronic communication with prospective students.

    This is a problem not with the computers, but what is usually refered to as a “PEBKAC” issue.


    Other related issues include “ID10T” errors and “501 Clue Not Found” issues.

    }}} By merging the lists in a program called MailChimp, admissions officers…

    …essentially demonstrated that the identified primate in the designated software moniker was somewhat smarter than they are.

    As someone who finally got hired after some five years of looking for the technical work he’d spent the previous 25 years doing, the problem has a lot to do with the fact that most HR people would rather hire an obvious chimp with the correct piece of paper than someone with actual job experience.

  13. Ray Says:

    The National Health Service in the UK tried to go paperless. Ten years and billions of pounds wasted.

  14. Ruby Says:

    I was recently hired to assist for a few hours a week in the billing office of one of the few private practice doctors left. It amazes me that we have three support people working in that office (a full-time receptionist/scheduler, a full-time billing manager who is married to the doc, and a half time assistant, me) just to manage the practice of one doctor, who has a fairly narrow specialty with few procedure codes. If he did something like family practice we would probably need at least one more person to handle the paperwork. So far we are still using paper–not sure for how much longer, and not sure whether the practice will be able to survive the costs. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him become an employee of a hospital or large group practice and I’ll probably be out of a job at that point. Between paying three people, overhead on the office, malpractice insurance, low Medicaid/Medicare reimbursement rates (I was shocked to see how little they pay for certain services) and a large amount of care that just gets written off due to patients blowing off their obligations and difficulties getting paid by both insurance carriers and Medicaid/Medicare, it’s amazing to me that the man can even make a living.

  15. JuliB Says:

    I think we should wait for the paperless office to arrive before going to a paperless medical system.

  16. lacune Says:

    I work in a large hospital and last month some intern accidentally sent an email (at about 5:30 PM) answering a simple question about a single patient to every person on the multi-hospital interstate mailing list. This just didn’t include doctors and nurses, but maintenance workers, etc–basically every single person who was employed at every single one of these hospitals and their community branches.

    It wouldn’t have been much of a problem if the thousands of people who this one-sentence email didn’t apply do simply deleted it.

    However, that didn’t happen. In the first five hours after the email was sent, hundreds of people felt the need to reply to the email and say, “I don’t think I belong on this message chain”. Unfortunately, each and every one of them used “reply to all”. So you had a rapid non-stop propagation of emails in everyone’s inbox, which led to an almost non-stop chime of bells and whistles (signalling new messages) on anyone’s cellphone linked to this work email account that entire night.

    But the technological madness was only getting started. For the next 8 hours (between 10:30 PM and 3 or 4 in the morning), you had a non-stop stream of people angrily sending the same ironic message–”please stop replying to these messages!!!” If that wasn’t bad enough, there was still a steady stream of messages rolling in until 8 AM advising people to stop “replying to all” with their emails–while at the same time replying to the entire mailing list.

    Only the IT people arriving in the morning could put a stop to it, but not before every person in the entire hospital network had accumulated 3000 new messages.

  17. neo-neocon Says:



  18. Ymarsakar Says:

    I’ve noticed as well that people often hit reply all.

    And generally it starts steam rolling when people start using it as conversation.

    These individuals, though, generally don’t pay much attention to detail and have limited long term planning abilities. They have low situational awareness. I’ve seen the same people put into simulations of a project, and they generally need a manager or leader to tell them what to do.

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