Book Review: Data Discovery by Tim Harford

Tim Harford seems to be popping up frequently in the world of rational decision-making, through articles (he is a columnist for the Financial Times) and podcasts (Fifty Things That Made Modern Economics, Cautionary Tales , etc.) and radio (More or less) to books (The Undercover Economist, How to make the world more inclusive, data explorers, and many others). Reading his clear writings or listening to his illuminating examples of complex economic and statistical concepts makes it easy to understand why he is so closely followed. The last two books are actually one book; How to Make the World Add Up: Ten Easy Rules for Thinking Differently About Numbers is the global title of a book called The Data Detective: Ten Easy Rules to Make Sense of Statistics in the US. Even though I’m in the US, I have the book with the UK title because I want to read it as soon as it’s available and not wait for the US release. I was not deceived. Harford’s ability to use fiction to highlight the mistakes we make (Warning Stories is his podcast that focuses on the negative consequences of bad decisions) and discuss how we can improve our decision-making methods is a fun read. books, and anyone new to the field. of behavioral economics will benefit from reading it. I don’t think I’m going to go into detail about the book when I talk about the Ten Commandments, as those are also its main themes:

1 – Assess your feelings

– Reflect on your own experience

 Avoid reading late

– Take a step back and enjoy the view

– Bring back the story

6 – Ask the missing person

– Need to understand when the computer says “no”

8 – Do not play with the statistical basis

 Remember that wrong information can also be beautiful

10 – Be open minded

His last chapter was his “golden reign” – be strong. If you are only reading to understand the “Ten Commandments,” this may be the only chapter you need to read. Some of the rules are ambiguous (is what he means when he says “Avoid premature counting” clear?), but becomes clear as you read the chapter (here, with a deeper understanding s’ comes with a curiosity question, and you have to figure out what the claim “appears”). In all honesty, this sentence alone will be enough to teach you the lesson of Rule 3, but if you stop there, you’ll miss Oxfam’s revealing report that says the top 85 billionaires worth more than half the population. (there’s a lot to take away here, so don’t just enter this number without understanding what it means!). I didn’t find anything groundbreaking or new in this book, but I really enjoyed it nonetheless. Here is a nice summary of some of the research on negative behavior and heuristics (think Kahneman, Tversky, Ariely, Fischoff, Beyth, etc.) and some of the most recent conclusions of the research (a nice tribute to Caroline Criado Perez’s Invisible Women’s Invisible Women and the trap of including only men in everything from psychological experiments to medical experiments). Most of all, the stories Harford weaves into the story help hold the lesson together. The research is strong and the presentation is interesting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *