big data | January 24, 2013

Charles Wheelan: Stats Are All Around Us—It's Time We Understood Them

"We know more about people than we've ever known," Charles Wheelan said in a recent presentation, "and that data is cheap and easy to manipulate, to use, to study." With the advent of cheap computing and digital technology, there is more data available at our fingertips than ever before—and if we embrace it rather than run from it, we can achieve some remarkable things. That's why Wheelan's book, Naked Statistics, has taken the fear out of data. As he says in the talk, it's important to understand how the data all around you—and about you—is being used. While most people shy away from numbers and stats, Wheelan's book breaks down those barriers. Data collection is easier than ever before, and it is possible for even the most numberphobic among us to get a grasp of it.

In his presentation, he reads sections from the book to provide the audience with examples of how stats are used in their everyday lives—from monitoring consumer behaviors to ending global poverty. In a similar style to his previous bestseller, Naked Economics, Wheelan avoids using overly jargon-heavy writing to cut to the core of the most important statistical concepts. Using real world examples, he breathes new life into an old discipline. By convincing readers that stats are important to them, Wheelan says that they won't be so quick to get lost in the math and technicalities. Or, at least, they won't be afraid to learn them.

Wheelan expands on this idea in his popular Yahoo! column "Naked Economics". He also regularly contributes to NPR and lectures at The University of Chicago on public policy. His keynotes outline current trends in economics, finance, and public policy, and he engages his audiences by both informing them and making his material directly applicable to their lives.

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arts and pop culture | January 23, 2013