Contrary to popular belief, good statistics are not a trick, although they are a kind of magic. In the right hands, numbers have the power to change the world for the better.
When was the last time you read a grand statement, accompanied by a large number, and wondered whether it could really be true? Statistics are vital in helping us tell stories – we see them in the papers, on social media, and we hear them used in everyday conversation – and yet we doubt them more than ever.
But good statistics are not smoke and mirrors; in fact, they help us see more clearly. Good statistics are like a telescope for an astronomer, a microscope for a bacteriologist, or an X-ray for a radiologist. If we are willing to let them, good statistics help us see things about the world around us and about ourselves – both large and small – that we would not be able to see in any other way.
In conversation with Robin Ince, Tim Harford will draw on his experience as both an economist and presenter of the BBC’s radio show More or Less. He takes us deep into the world of disinformation and obfuscation, bad research and misplaced motivation to find those priceless jewels of data and analysis that make communicating with numbers worthwhile.
Harford’s characters range from the art forger who conned the Nazis to the stripper who fell in love with the most powerful congressman in Washington, to famous data detectives such as John Maynard Keynes, Daniel Kahneman and Florence Nightingale. He will reveal how we can evaluate the claims that surround us with confidence, curiosity and a healthy level of scepticism.
Praise for Tim Harford’s How to Make the World Add Up:
‘If you aren’t in love with stats before reading this book, you will be by the time you’re done. Powerful, persuasive, and in these truth-defying times, indispensable.’ – Caroline Criado Perez
‘We are supremely lucky to have the fabulously readable, lucid, witty and authoritative Tim Harford here amongst us to remind us why facts, reason, numbers, clarity and truth matter, how beautiful they are and how crucial to our understanding of the natural world and human society. Without the kind of purity and honesty of approach that he stands for the world is doomed. Every politician and journalist should be made to read this book, but everyone else will get so much pleasure and draw so much strength from the joyful way it dispels the clouds of deceit and delusion.’ – Stephen Fry