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The tools that can help us understand reality

The story of statistics, explained in a powerful and effective manner, in order to gain a better understanding of what is happening around us, and to enable us to act accordingly

 

Improving our knowledge to improve our management: while certainly not a new principle, in recent times, it has once again been seized upon by many. It is a question of reporting, and of the complexity of becoming. In a situation of this type, it is important to attempt to recapture not only a healthy critical spirit, but also a knowledge of the techniques used for analysing reality. One of these techniques is based on statistics, and for this reason, it is useful to read “L’arte della statistica. Cosa ci insegnano i dati” (The Art of Statistics: How to Learn from Data) written by David John Spiegelhalter, who has been working on this subject for decades, and who is currently in charge of managing the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at the Cambridge University Statistical Laboratory.

Spiegelhalter addresses statistics not only – and indeed, not so much – from a theoretical perspective, but above all from a practical and functional point of view. His book – around 300 pages of sometimes challenging but nonetheless accessible text – opens with just one key concept: in an era when big data is becoming established as a core discipline in the world of economics and finance, and indeed in all aspects of political and social life, having an awareness of the basics of statistics is more important than ever.

The author then guides the reader through the essential principles of a fundamental universe, beginning with specific case studies taken from everyday life before going on to introduce more general concepts. After a clear introduction to the topic, Spiegelhalter considers all the fundamental aspects of statistics: from regression to forecasting and from estimates to probability, before arriving at the complex ways in which the results of a statistical survey are communicated.

In other words, Spiegelhalter provides us with a real “toolbox” that enables the reader to get to grips with a subject that is no doubt useful, but which is often far from simple.

For everyone, some of the particularly important passages in the book include those related to the insistence on “data literacy”, i.e. the ability to focus on sources, data quality and the interpretation of this information. Also useful is the PPDAC diagram, a great help when addressing a number of problems, and not only those of a strictly statistical nature. A glossary at the end of the book really serves to enrich the content.

L’arte della statistica. Cosa ci insegnano i dati (The Art of Statistics: How to Learn from Data)

David John Spiegelhalter

Einaudi, 2020