Data Science Lunacy

How long until I go all Manchurian Candidate?That aforementioned basement is starting to look a lot more inviting.

But, before I get too comfortable with the tinfoil hat, there are two, intertwined solutions to help end the madness: tell me what I need to know and tell me what I don’t want to hear.

Shield your eyes.

Full DisclosureData can be dangerous.

It can be misused and weaponized.

I am not in the position to dispassionately evaluate all of it, all of the time.

But I know who can — it’s part of their job description.

Just like we have an oath for medicine, an oath for engineering, and an oath for the Illuminati, so too, do we need an oath for Data Science.

An oath where data scientists don’t willfully sow confusion, misrepresent the truth, and where they exercise reasonable privacy controls.

If someone is advancing an agenda, that’s okay, just tell me.

If the value proposition is any good, there’s not really a good reason to fool me into agreeing with you.

But, trying to pull the wool over our collective eyes is ethically equivocal and your product probably sucks — unequivocally.

New SourcesThis one is a bit tricky for me, because it seems paradoxical, but I need you to tell me what I don’t want to hear.

Much like everyone else, I’ve surrounded myself with sources that I agree with, and that’s dangerous.

Fox News might be breaking a story, but I’ll never know because I vehemently avoid it.

Is that any different than my elderly relatives to detest MSNBC?.Yes, but not by enough.

We shouldn’t be afraid of digesting data that doesn’t run parallel to our worldview.

If I don’t like what the facts say, the problem is not the facts.

If my opinions can’t stand up to a rigorous questioning, they might need to be changed.

This process doesn’t necessarily need to be adversarial — who knows what glorious shows I’m missing out on because Netflix thinks I only watch (Orwellian) science fiction?.Let’s add some noise to the signal to see if my viewing habits change and I reach a higher state of couch potato nirvana.

Eclipsed CapacityI will readily admit that there are a lot of things that I do now know.

A fair share of my ignorance is out of laziness, but a larger portion is simply lack of capacity; our world in incredibly complex and grows more so each minute.

We’re forced to rely upon the decisions of others when making decisions of our own, but it’s unsettling to know that we’re often being deceived.

I might be able to double check whether 4 out of 5 dentists really preferred Trident, but I’m not going to call up 668 Michigan residents to see if they really preferred Kid Rock as their senator.

I suppose the electorate has made choices that are even more bizarre, so I can see why that was believable, even though it’s false.

Add to that the digital echo chamber, which seems to amplify the sensational without bothering to check the veracity.

Fake news — both the authentic and the boogey-man-early-morning-tweeted kind — have done several laps around the globe before the good folks at FactCheck or Snopes have had a chance to correct the record.

By then, I may have already formed an opinion and started an argument, so I’m not going to back down now, or I’d look even more foolish than usual.

Why do we put up with these charlatans and snake-oil peddlers?.The answer is because we have to, at least for the moment, because even the fact-checkers are overwhelmed.

And while I appreciate that top-down approach, what we really need is a bottom-up schema: one where data scientists and statisticians collectively get together — with their Coke-bottle glasses and pocket protectors — and declare that they’re not going to use their skills for evil.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light, you nerds, because I need your help.

There’s no reason that we need to settle for a world where truth is so hard to discern.

Don’t trust everything you read on the internet.

— Abraham Lincoln.

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