Declining trust in statistics

Jan 25, 2017

Statistics took a hit this election season, and it could be a slow trek to get back to where we once were. William Davies for The Guardian discusses the current feelings towards data and provides some history of how we got here.

In many ways, the contemporary populist attack on “experts” is born out of the same resentment as the attack on elected representatives. In talking of society as a whole, in seeking to govern the economy as a whole, both politicians and technocrats are believed to have “lost touch” with how it feels to be a single citizen in particular. Both statisticians and politicians have fallen into the trap of “seeing like a state”, to use a phrase from the anarchist political thinker James C Scott. Speaking scientifically about the nation – for instance in terms of macroeconomics – is an insult to those who would prefer to rely on memory and narrative for their sense of nationhood, and are sick of being told that their “imagined community” does not exist.

But maybe this is an opportunity for data folks. Maybe people are ready for more data and more distributions and ready to look past averages and values without uncertainty.

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