Posts Tagged ‘ ethics ’

Data sleaze: Uber and beyond

April 26, 2017
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There has been a barrage of negative publicity related to Uber recently. The latest salvo is a long article in the New York Times (link). This piece focuses on Uber's CEO, who was trained as a computer engineer, but my interest lies primarily in several revelations about how Uber collects and uses customer data. The key episode picked up by various outlets (e.g. TechCrunch, Wired) involves Uber "secretly identifying and…

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My pre-existing United boycott, and some musing on randomness and fairness

April 12, 2017
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You probably already saw the video - if not, do yourself a favor, and search for "man forcibly removed from overbooked United flight." Other than the video evidence, which is damning, we don't have many facts, other than assertions made by various parties, repeated endlessly on social media and mainline media. Some facts, such as the United CEO claiming the passenger was "belligerent," is an assault on the meaning of…

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What is Mr. Pruitt saying?

April 3, 2017
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In his latest provocation, the EPA Chief, Scott Pruitt, aborted an on-going process by his agency to ban a widely-used but potentially harmful pesticide known as chlorpyrifos (link to New York Times article). In my previous blog on his climate-change statement, I pointed out that people who attack data-driven conclusions for its "imprecision" will ignore any uncertainty if they want something to happen: However, when it comes to such decisions…

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One statement employing two resistance tactics to fend off the data

March 10, 2017
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I want to parse this statement by new EPA Chief Scott Pruitt, as quoted in this New York Times article: I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see. I'm not going to talk about…

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Reading Everything is Obvious by Duncan Watts

February 15, 2017
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Reading Everything is Obvious by Duncan Watts

In his book, Everything is Obvious (Once You Know the Answer): Why Common Sense Fails, Duncan Watts, a professor of sociology at Columbia, imparts urgent lessons that are as relevant to his students as to self-proclaimed data scientists. It takes only nominal effort to generate narrative structures that retrace the past, Watts contends, but developing lasting theory that produces valid predictions requires much more effort than common sense. Watts’s is…

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Numbersense and government accountability in the new political reality

January 24, 2017
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You've heard me say often, numbersense is the most important quality for good data analysts; little did I know that numbersense would become the new requirement for healthy American democracy. From the first day in office, the new President is at war with numbers (over attendance figures at his inauguration). But I believe that getting to the bottom of data-driven claims is a bi-partisan issue: while it is obvious that…

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Post Post-Truth

December 29, 2016
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Post Post-Truth

postfaktisch ‘Fake-news’ and ‘post-truth’ (postfaktisch) are the words dominating today many discussions about truth in communication. ' ... in post-truth [post] has a meaning more like ‘belonging to a time in which the specified concept [truth] has become unimportant or irrelevant’' (https://www.oxforddictionaries.com/press/news/2016/11/15/WOTY-16). False information or even lies are not new in the information business. And therefore many, … Continue reading Post Post-Truth

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Trump and Clinton Supporters Agree on Relative Morality … Mostly

November 8, 2016
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When looking at the endless scandals swirling around the heads of the two rival candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, it can seem like the two candidates are equally tainted. Many people throw up their hands pleading for some other option.How can we evaluate the alleged actions of these two candidates?Is there some kind of objective way to do so?And how does the decision to support a candidate affect the…

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Reader’s Guide to the Power Pose Controversy 3

November 2, 2016
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This is the third and final post about the controversy over statistical analysis used in peer-reviewed published scholarly research. Most of the new stuff are covered in post #2 (link). Today's post covers statistical issues related to sample size, which is nothing new, but it was mentioned in Amy Cuddy's response to her critics and thus I also discuss it here. In post #2 (link), I offer the following mental…

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The idol worship of objective data is damaging our discipline

October 28, 2016
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In class last week, I discussed this New York Times article with the students. One of the claims in the article is that the U.S. News ranking of colleges is under threat by newcomers whose rankings are more relevant because they more directly measure outcomes such as earnings of graduates. This specific claim in the article makes me head hurt: "If nothing else, earnings are objective and, as the database…

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