Saturday, 3 September 2016

Hard Data

Every now and then, someone teases me because  I like to look at some data before deciding anything.

As if it was some odd mania of mines... and, being the soft guy that I am, I let it pass.

But, really, how does anyone know where they  stand, decide anything, without having a quantitative measure of what is going on?

The answer is - they can not.

Not if they want their choices to be grounded in the real world, at least.

Unfortunately, most people could not care less about reality or some objective truths. They base their ideas on prejudices or - at best - their personal experience, their choices on their ideas, the they proceed to discard counter-arguments based on - horror - hard-data by mean of "judicios" reality-warping. A lot of people even thinks that, in truth, allowing real data to change one's ideas just means that said "one" is weak-willed.

Never is this more real than when politicians commission a field study that produces results that do not suit their needs, as the infamous late '70s study about the impact of pornography consumption on violent sex crimes.

The politicians that wanted it needed "Pornography consumption increments sex crimes".

The findings were "Pornography either has no influence or lowers the incidence of sex crimes, in states that allow its free circulation. Recommendation: decriminalize".

The study was therefore ignored, as "evidently flawed".

If this was only a politicians' idiosynchrasie, it would not be so worrying - but politicians do not constitute a special group of the population with a specific training that molded their mental processes like, say, engineers or physicists.

Ambition apart, little differentiates politicians from their voters.

Chosing first, and then twisting the image of the world to justify the choice, is simply the way most people functions, and it takes actual training - to many -  to let it go and learn to base decisions on the available data.

And, usually, they do so only in specific professional fields, where ignoring the data may lead to lose money and complete failure.

As soon as their money is not at stake... they are back at deciding "with their guts".

Which would not be so bad, if they at least had let their guts in on the actual data.

Which virtually nobody, really, does.

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