Defeating Deception: Escaping the Shackles of Truthiness by Learning to Think like a Data Scientist

Visual Revelations

This essay is an extract from Truth or Truthiness: Distinguishing Fact from Fiction by Learning to Think like a Data Scientist. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016.

“The modern method is to count;
“The ancient one was to guess.”

–Samuel Johnson

In the months leading up to Election Day 2012, we were torn between two very different kinds of outcome predictions. On the one hand were partisans, usually Republicans, telling us about the imminent defeat of President Obama. They based their prognostications on experience, inside information from “experts,” and talking heads from Fox News. On the other side were “the Quants,” represented most visibly by Nate Silver, whose predictions were based on a broad range of polls, historical data, and statistical models.

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