A Map as Large as the Territory It Represents

(p. A4) As more reliable data comes in, said Dr. Spiegelhalter, “the Covid-19 pandemic is rapidly becoming a constrained problem.”

. . .

Statistical science, he said, “is a machine, in a sense, to turn the variability that we see in the world — the unpredictability, the enormous amount of scatter and randomness that we see around us — into a tool that can quantify our uncertainty about facts and numbers and science.”

But as he acknowledged in his book, “The Art of Statistics,” models “are simplifications of the real world — they are the maps not the territory.” (This is reminiscent of Jorge Luis Borges’s story, “On Exactitude in Science,” about a map growing as large as the territory it was meant to represent.)

For the full review, see:

Siobhan Roberts. “Embracing the Uncertainties of the Pandemic.” The New York Times (Wednesday, April 8, 2020): A4.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date April 7, and has the title “Embracing the Uncertainties.”)

The Spiegelhalter book mentioned above, is:

Spiegelhalter, David. The Art of Statistics: How to Learn from Data. New York: Basic Books, 2019.

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