Quick ~ Are You A Quant Or A Quill

Quants are today’s highly regarded empiricists who can quantify most everything from student achievement [No child Left Behind] to projected presidential voting [my grandson Ben’s stunning achievement in the recent Ohio turnout for Obama]. Today another Quant has weighed in, none other than Bill Gates, in an editorial to the Wall Street Journal.

May I generalize by suggesting today’s America is in some ways divided between important Quants [experts like Gates who get paid by how well they can quantify] and occasional Quills [educator/writers like me who get paid by what we can teach and write]. When Ben and now Bill tell me we need hard numbers to build, execute and test any dream, I’m not about to challenge the obvious.


The same year this little Quill was born [1931], that prescient futurist Aldous Huxley wrote a frightening dystopian prediction: “Brave New World.” In it he predicted the Quants he saw looming in our scientific future. But then he went on to warn, through his lead character Bernard, how the “bureaucracy of statistics grew so impervious to criticism, the brilliant bureaucrats came to dominate our institutions.”

I won’t waste your time or my quill suggesting this has indeed come to pass. In the words of master-quantifier Bill Gates, society must work from its facts & stats not simply its visions & dreams.

I have a sign on my desk I try to believe every day: “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

If the Quants’ comfort zone is their staggering body of statistical evidence, are we Quills so wrong in deploring the growing substitution of our data for our dreams? True, it’s not one-or-the-other. Still, this could be one of our last chances to insist dreams are worth not a whit less than data.

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