How statistics lost their power – and why we should fear what comes next

A thought provoking piece by William Davies in today’s Guardian discusses the role of “big data” in the societal change which has lead to the current negative public mood in relation to statistics, experts and governments.

The piece traces the history of statistics as a vehicle for liberal debate and as a tool for governmental policy from the enlightenment to the present day. It highlights how the limitations associated with data categories and data averaging are providing opportunities for today’s anti-expert and anti-liberal rhetoric.

The piece further highlights the challenges created by a world where the most useful pattern identifying and trend identifying tools are the commercial property of private companies, which have little or no incentive to share the societal insights and persona definitions with the press of with public bodies.