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How to Find the Facts in a World of Information Overload
  • By Choi Yu-ri, cub-reporter
  • 승인 2020.10.05 08:59
  • 호수 281
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How do people think about and perceive the world? Most people believe they take an objective view. Well, when people were asked general knowledge questions such as,Where does the majority of the world’s population live?”, ”What is the average life expectancy in the world today?”, and 8 other questions, people only got an average of 16% of the questions right. This is much lower than a chimpanzee randomly choosing answers and getting 33% right. The Fourth Industrial Revolution, in which big data plays a main part, has become the pivot of present and future industry, and has already heavily influenced modern life. People ordinarily don’t think based on data in everyday life, but quantitative data helps people to think rationally. There are two books that can help people see the world more objectively on a daily basis.

▲ FACTFULNESS (Source: Amazon)

Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World--and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling

‘Factfulness’ shows how people warp the way they see the real world. Most people take what they believe as ‘facts’. In other words, people magnify their feelings and distort their views. Reality, however, is very different from what people think. For example, Hans Rosling asked executives of different countries “Is it effective to stop education in poor countries to make global warming slow down?” 80% of executives said that it was helpful to stop education to reduce climate change. However, the facts based on data tell a different story. If education and developmental support is given to undeveloped countries, there is a greater chance that citizens will get a better job when they grow up. Then the rate of working women and women who use contraception will also increase. So, increasing education lowers birth rates which have a greater effect on the environment than just stopping aid to underdeveloped countries and letting them suffer. Isn't that shocking? The book ‘Factfulness’ might expand readers’ minds. Moreover, Bill Gates gave this book to graduating students across the United States. He seems to want to teach students how to see the real world objectively to help improve society.

▲ The number of the births per woman between low income countries and high income countries (2013). (Source: Gapminder[3,47]based on GDl[1], UISAID-DHS[1], UNICEF-MICS& OurWorlsInData[10]).

▲ I Speak With Data Not Feeling (Source: Kyobobook)

I Speak With Data Not Feelings by Shin Hyun-ho

The book ‘I Speak With Data Not Feelings’ gives examples of prejudices people hold in daily life, and how to fix these prejudices. Shin Hyun-ho tries to answer how to sift through facts and fiction in the era of an overabundance of information and data. This book answers common questions numerically such as, “Does a best lotto spot really exist?” It also discusses societal topics such as the correlation between age and happiness, and why the sense of being lost if high for those in their middle ages despite having a high income. This book also shows an interesting correlation depending on the number of books in a household. The average income of a household that has more than 10 books is almost 16% higher than those with less than 10 books. In addition, the attached graph indicates not onlylanguage ability but also math and problem-solving abilities increase proportionally with the number of books. It suggests a clear argument for why it is good to read books, the more the better, especially if people want to earn a lot of money.

▲Correlations for the number of books in each household in adolescence (2019) (Source: Social Science Research).

In today’s world big data has become inextricably bound up in everyday life. From advertising and sales to automatic driving, business based data will be used in a lot of fields. There is a downside to this because it is easy to be exposed to incorrect data like in fake news. In the novel ‘Brave New World’, all sorts of data, both right and wrong, are believed by people. So it is more important to recognize how to properly interpret data. Professor Nam Sang-hun, from the Department of Culture & Technology, said, “Students should have the capability to distinguish which data is fact or fiction in the flood of information supplied bythe internet and media. For this reason, it is crucial to increase critical thinking skills throughout the school years.” People tend to need to practice interpreting data objectively and how to use this information in everyday life.

By Choi Yu-ri, cub-reporter  y0uuri@naver.com

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