## Infomocracy [book review]

Posted in Books, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 17, 2017 by xi'an

Infomocracy is a novel by Malka Older set in a near future where most of the Earth is operating under a common elective system where each geographical unit of 100,000 people elect a local representative that runs this unit according to the party’s program and contributes to elect a Worldwide government, except for some non-democratic islets like Saudi Arabia. The whole novel revolves around the incoming election, with different parties trying to influence the outcome in their favour, some to the point of instating a dictature. Which does not sound that different from present times!, with the sligth difference that the whole process is controlled by Information, a sort of World Wide Web that seems to operate neutrally above states and parties, although the book does not elaborate on how this could be possible. The story is told through four main (and somewhat charicaturesque) characters, working for or against the elections and crossing paths along the novel. Certainly worth reading if not outstanding. (And definitely not “one of the greatest literary debuts in recent history”!)

The book is more interesting as a dystopia on electoral systems and the way the information revolution can produce a step back in democracy, with the systematisation of fake news and voters’ manipulation, where the marketing research group YouGov has become a party, than as a science-fiction (or politics-fiction) book. Indeed, it tries too hard to replicate The cyberpunk reference, William Gibson’s Neuromancer, with the same construct of interlacing threads, the same fascination for Japan, airports, luxury hotels, if not for brands, and a similar ninja-geek pair of characters. And with very little invention about the technology of the 21st Century.  (And a missed opportunity to exploit artificial intelligence themes and the prediction of outcomes when Information builds a fake vote database but does not seem to mind about Benford’s Law.) The acknowledgement section somewhat explains this imbalance, in that the author worked many years in humanitarian organisations and is currently completing a thesis at Science Po’ (Paris).

## Kein Öxit heute [phew!]

Posted in Mountains, pictures, Running with tags , , , , , on December 4, 2016 by xi'an

## I give an X

Posted in Travel with tags , , , , on April 23, 2015 by xi'an

## Scottish polls…

Posted in pictures, Statistics, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , on September 11, 2014 by xi'an

As much as I love Scotland, or because of it, I would not dream of suggesting to Scots that one side of the referendum sounds better than the other. However, I am rather annoyed at the yoyo-like reactions to the successive polls about the result, because, just like during the US elections, each poll is analysed separately rather than being pooled with the earlier ones in a reasonable meta-analysis… Where is Nate Silver when we need him?!

## join ISBA

Posted in University life with tags , , , , , on October 22, 2011 by xi'an

News from ISBA: good time to join for new members! (There is a section on Bayesian non-parametrics and another one on Objective Bayesian methodology. Feel free to propose new sections, like…Bayesian computing.)

ISBA elections  are underway and as part of the Bayesian community we hope that you will participate!  We are updating the electoral lists nightly so if you added a membership after the 15th of October  you will have the opportunity to vote.

We are running a new member promotion: all new members who join ISBA now will have their membership extended by an extra year (except for Lifetime memberships which never expire)!   For example, a 1 year Student membership will expire December 31, 2012, rather than December 31 2011.  Member dues are modest – $15 for student or reduced rate memberships or$35 for regular memberships. This promotion also applies to  all new section memberships in the Objective Bayes or the Bayesian Nonparametrics sections!   Section dues are $5 annually and are available with 1-3 year options to synchronize with ISBA dues; Section Lifetime memberships are available for$75.  You must be a section member to vote in the section elections.

## More/less incriminating digits from the Iranian election

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , on June 21, 2009 by xi'an

Following my previous post where I commented on Roukema’s use of Benford’s Law on the first digits of the counts, I saw on Andrew Gelman’s blog a pointer to a paper in the Washington Post, where the arguments are based instead on the last digit. Those should be uniform, rather than distributed from Benford’s Law, There is no doubt about the uniformity of the last digit, but the claim for “extreme unlikeliness” of the frequencies of those digits made in the paper is not so convincing. Indeed, when I uniformly sampled 116 digits in {0,..,9}, my very first attempt produced the highest frequency to be 20.5% and the lowest to be 5.9%. If I run a small Monte Carlo experiment with the following R program,

fre=0
for (t in 1:10^4){
h=hist(sample(0:9,116,rep=T),plot=F)\$inten;
fre=fre+(max(h)>.16)*(min(h)<.05)
}

the percentage of cases when this happens is 15%, so this is not “extremely unlikely” (unless I made a terrible blunder in the above!!!)… Even moving the constraint to

(max(h)>.169)*(min(h)<.041)

does not produce a very unlikely probability, since it is then 0.0525.

The second argument looks at the proportion of last and second-to-last digits that are adjacent, i.e. with a difference of ±1 or ±9. Out of the 116 Iranian results, 62% are made of non-adjacent digits. If I sample two vectors of 116 digits in {0,..,9} and if I consider this occurrence, I do see an unlikely event. Running the Monte Carlo experiment

repa=NULL
for (t in 1:10^5){
dife=(sample(0:9,116,rep=T)-sample(0:9,116,rep=T))^2
repa[t]=sum((dife==1))+sum((dife==81))
}
repa=repa/116

shows that the distribution of repa is centered at .20—as it should, since for a given second-to-last digit, there are two adjacent last digits—, not .30 as indicated in the paper, and that the probability of having a frequency of .38 or more of adjacent digit is estimated as zero by this Monte Carlo experiment. (Note that I took 0 and 9 to be adjacent and that removing this occurrence would further lower the probability.)

## Anomalies in the Iranian election

Posted in Statistics with tags , , on June 17, 2009 by xi'an

While the results of the recent Iranian presidential election are currently severely contested, with accusations of fraud and manipulations, and with an level of protest unheard of in Iran, I had not so far seen a statistical analysis of the votes. This is over: Boudewijn Roukema, a cosmologist with the University of Toruń (Poland), has produced an analysis of the figures published by the Iranian Ministry of the Interior, based on Benford’s Law for the repartition of the first digit i in decimal representations of real numbers, which should be

$f(i) \propto \log_{10}(1+\frac{1}{i})$

for the proportion of votes for a candidate among the four in competition. Roukema exhibits a very unlikely discrepancy on Mehdi Karoubi’s votes, with an extremely high occurence of the digit 7. There is also a discrepancy for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s frequencies of 1’s and 2’s that is harder to detect because of the higher frequency of votes for this candidate in the Iranian Ministry of the Interior data. But looking at the most populous districts, Roukema concludes that several million votes could have been added to Ahmadinejad’s votes in those areas, if Benford’s Law holds…

I find this analysis produced merely five days after the election quite astounding, even though the validity of applying Benford’s Law in those circumstances needs more backup…