Monday, January 30, 2012

Charles Seife: On Mathematical Deception

Prof Charles Seife cautions vigilance in the face of what he describes as "the dark arts of mathematical deception."

I regret that good people continue to be bamboozled and victimized by numerical charlatans who prey upon our society. The newest approach to mathematical deception is through distorted visualizations and graphics. Ironically, many of the "dashboard" solutions that are in current use in enterprise have never been tested for validity or reliability. Consumers of quantitative intelligence would be wise to look well beyond the numbers and graphics into the sources of data and confidence testing that was used in support of analytical conclusions.

As a business intelligence and quantitative professional, I am constantly detecting subtle to blatant methodological violations in the literature. In particular, government research is not immune to these violations. When in doubt, be certain to consult with an independent analytics professional before relying upon any reports and evidence required for major decisions that entail potential catastrophic loss of assets, life, or freedom. Remember that the marketplace, hospitals, and courtrooms are still very dangerous places.

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