Archive for YouGov

Le Monde lacks data scientists!

Posted in Books, Statistics with tags , , , , , , , on July 11, 2017 by xi'an

In a paper in Le Monde today, a journalist is quite critical of statistical analyses of voting behaviours regressed on socio-economic patterns. Warning that correlation is not causation and so on and so forth…But the analysis of the votes as presented in the article is itself quite appalling! Just judging from the above graph, where the vertical and horizontal axes are somewhat inverted (as predicting the proportion of over 65 in the population from their votes does not seem that relevant), with an incomprehensible drop in the over 65 proportion within a district between the votes for the fascist party and the other ones, both indicators of an inversion of the axes!, where the curves are apparently derived from four points [correction at the end explaining they used the whole data collection to draw the curve],  where the variability in the curves is not opposed to the overall variability in the population, where more advanced tools than mere correlation are not broached upon, and so on… They should have asked Andrew. Or YouGov!

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).