The Data parable: A field full of dead sheep?

Data could be both good and evil. It depends on how it’s represented.

On one hand, it conflates systematic analysis and abstract problems. On the other, it makes us stressed, amplifies our fear, tempts us to make our minds too fast, and influences us to make drastic decisions without thinking.

Newsroom editors with comfortable, upholstered chairs often pick the most dramatic estimates and show a worst-case scenario as if it were inevitable. And fear of pandemic, coupled with panic of urgency, influences governments to put roadblocks and causes people to walk thousands of kilometers.

Constant alarms make us numb to real emergencies and shun the progress we have made. Our pedantic obedience to healthcare directives has already resulted in the fall of active cases. Instead of invoking fear and exaggerated claims of future risks, we need to acknowledge what is actually working. Then direct our resources accordingly, make the right decisions, and keep our heads together to execute sensible actions.

I feel the best thing our governments could do is improve the quality of data.

Remember that doomsday prophets who present things as more urgent than they are, wanting to call us to action, are boys crying wolf. And we all know how that story ends – a field full of dead sheep.