Gustavo Ballvé on August 25th, 2011
Food for thought, Home, Mental models, Quotes

Brilliant article by John Kay in the Financial Times – “Sex, lies and the pitfalls of overblown statistics“. Questioning is vital when dealing with data: what does it really mean, where did it come from, what is it trying to answer, is it the best data to answer that question, what are the incentives of the source of the data, what are my own incentives and biases in interpreting this data… and so on. In fact, one should start with the right questions, but that’s another subject. Skepticism and intellectual honesty makes for a hard way to live one’s life, but there’s really no choice if one is to minimize the traps of “data”. We highlight four quotes inside.Quotes:

“Torture numbers, and they’ll confess to anything.” – Gregg Easterbrook

“He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts … for support rather than illumination.” — Andrew Lang

“There’s no sense in being precise when you don’t even know what you’re talking about.” – John Von Neumann

“For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.” – H. L. Mencken

“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” – Albert Einstein (attributed)

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