Using charts to misinform and fool people

➑️ π•Œπ•€π•šπ•Ÿπ•˜ 𝕔𝕙𝕒𝕣π•₯𝕀 π•₯𝕠 π•žπ•šπ•€π•π•–π•’π•• π•’π•Ÿπ•• 𝕗𝕠𝕠𝕝 𝕑𝕖𝕠𝕑𝕝𝕖 — Most of us struggle with making sense of numbers and data. Charts are the most common method of making numerical data understandable. Like all tools, they can be used for education just as well as for misinformation. Here’s a common example of how bar graphs can manipulate the viewer’s judgment.

βœ… Key words:Β charts, statistics, misinformation, data

πŸ†€πŸ†„πŸ…ΎπŸ†ƒπŸ…΄πŸ†‚
πŸ’¬ “He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts… for support rather than illumination.” β€” Andrew Lang
πŸ’¬ “Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are pliable.” β€” Mark Twain, who also said, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies and statistics” — which he in turn attributed to Benjamin Disraeli, the British politician.
πŸ’¬ “Sanity is not statistical.” β€” George Orwell (1984)
πŸ’¬ “Miracles are statistical improbabilities. And fate is an illusion humanity uses to comfort itself in the dark. There are no absolutes in life, save death.” β€” Amie Kaufman

Rules of thumb (heuristics) can be better than algorithms

Key words:Β algorithm, heuristics, rule-of-thumb, decision


ABOUT THIS SERIES OF CARDS: β€œMen follow their sentiments and their self-interest, but it pleases them to imagine that they follow reason. And so they look for, and always find, some theory which, a posteriori, makes their actions appear to be logical.” β€” Vilfredo Pareto

The ideal number for a meeting is …

Key words:Β brainstorming creativity productivity strategy meetings number


ABOUT THIS SERIES OF CARDS: “Men follow their sentiments and their self-interest, but it pleases them to imagine that they follow reason. And so they look for, and always find, some theory which, a posteriori, makes their actions appear to be logical.” β€” Vilfredo Pareto

Confirmation bias

Key words: bias, confirmation bias, cognition, tunnel vision, echo chamber


ABOUT THIS SERIES OF CARDS: “Men follow their sentiments and their self-interest, but it pleases them to imagine that they follow reason. And so they look for, and always find, some theory which, a posteriori, makes their actions appear to be logical.” β€” Vilfredo Pareto

The Peter Principle

Key words: Peter principle, hierarchy, incompetence, bureaucracy, management


ABOUT THIS SERIES OF CARDS: “Men follow their sentiments and their self-interest, but it pleases them to imagine that they follow reason. And so they look for, and always find, some theory which, a posteriori, makes their actions appear to be logical.” β€” Vilfredo Pareto

Why is disinformation so pervasive and what can we do about it?

Key words: information, disinformation, truth, fake news, media, internet


Distortion of the truth, giving it a spin or angle, has been going on through all of history. But, it has never been so easy to spread misinformation and lies, widely and quickly, as is possible in the age of the Internet.

➑️ Backstory:Β Governments, organisations and individuals are flooding the world’s media with disinformation or malicious content. Writing in The Conversation, Matthieu O’Neil points out that the goal is profit or gaining a strategic advantage. Why has this come about?

βœ…Β Here are the take home messages that O’Neil gives us.

➑️ Main idea: 3 possible reasons can account for this situation.

  1. The mainstream media has lost its credibility. People distrust these traditional sources of authority and are quick to latch onto poorly substantiated reports.
  2. Social media, the dominant tool for misinformation, focuses on engagement rather than the truth. They promote shocking claims and news that generate anger. There is little attempt at verifying the truth.
    Studies show that “fake news” spread further, faster and deeper than the truth.
  3. Disinformation tactics are deliberately engineered by agencies with the intent of creating disruption and polarisation in society. Subtle, subversive propaganda is pushed without being overtly false.

➑️ Call to action: O’Neil suggests Wikipedia as a single, most easily accessible tool for protecting ourselves. When you come across a dubious claim, open Wikipedia and check.

There are many other sites on the web that specifically combat this problem. Search Google using this term: “fact checking sites” for some popular utilities.


Read the article.

How to get the biggest bang for the buck when you donate to good causes: Effective altruism

Image by truthseeker08 from Pixabay

Bang for the buck? We like to donate money to good causes. It gives us a “warm and fuzzy” feeling when we do something that helps those less fortunate than ourselves. But we rarely pause to consider whether our contribution is truly beneficial. We mean well, but there is no guarantee that the outcomes will match our expectations.

Here are some examples of unintended consequences.

  • Β Too much of a good thing: When natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis are widely publicized, a large amount of money and resources can pour in. But, the state of affairs at the scene of the event may not be adequate enough to put these to good use. A lot of good intentions go to waste.
  • Selfish altruism: Many of us split our donations into small amounts and give them to many different organizations. We’re called “warm glow givers.”Β Small sums of money can often cost more in processing charges than the amount donated.

Enter, effective altruism

In the past few years, effective altruism has come to be seen as a new way to think about giving.

“. . .a philosophical and social movement that advocatesΒ using evidence and reason to figure out how to benefit others as much as possible, and taking action on that basis.” – Wikipedia

The profile of an effective altruist

Data, not emotion: Effective altruists use a data-driven approach to do good. They prefer to donate money or give their time to causes that have the largest impact. In a sense, it follows the ethical philosophy known as utilitarianism.

How can one go about becoming an effective altruist?

  • Choose a career in which you make the most income, not with the intention of living affluently but so that you can do more good.
  • Choose a modest lifestyle in which you can donate a portion of your income to the most effective charities without putting yourself through discomfort or wearing a hair shirt. Guilt should not be a driving force in the decision.
  • Spend time researching organisations. The key question is: “Is the organisation working on important issues and are they doing it with a frugal, cost-conscious approach?”
  • Disseminate the message through various channels, including conversation, public speaking, and social media.

How do you know where your donations will be most effective?

GiveWell, is a not-for-profit organisation that has been working since 2007 to answer this question. Their data and resources are available online to anyone at http://www.givewell.org.

Emotions get in the way of charitable giving

Utilitarianism is not practical for most of us; it offers no room for emotions. However, we are largely driven by emotion when we give to good causes. Here are some of the mechanisms that work at stopping us from giving.

  • One over many: People experience a more positive effect when helping a single identified individual than when helping many. We will consistently choose family and friends over strangers and citizens of our own country over those of other nations. People’s responses to the suffering of others do not scale in a linear fashion but diminish as the number of affected individuals increases, a phenomenon that has been referred to as ‘compassion fade’ or β€˜psychophysical numbing’.
  • Does it really reach the needy? In many places, corruption and local politics suck away donations. The needy don’t get them. We are concerned that donations made to such places might actually be supporting and promoting corruption.
  • Evolution rules: In the past, when the rules of evolution held sway, three fundamental motives helped solve key challenges: parochialism, status, and conformity. All of them are barriers to sharing and giving. Society has evolved to the point where these factors no longer hold good in day-to-day lives. Yet, evolution is a hard thing to shake off and can continue to create psychological barriers to effective giving.

Our moral boundaries can be examined by sound reasoning. Effective altruism tries to look closely at the results of charitable acts to make sure that money is spent in the best way possible.