"System change is now inevitable. Either because we do something about it, or because we will be hit by climate change. '...

"We need to develop economic models that are fit for purpose. The current economic frameworks, the ones that dominate our governments, these frameworks... the current economic frameworks, the neoclassical, the market frameworks, can deal with small changes. It can tell you the difference, if a sock company puts up the price of socks, what the demand for socks will be. It cannot tell you about the sorts of system level changes we are talking about here. We would not use an understanding of laminar flow in fluid dynamics to understand turbulent flow. So why is it we are using marginal economics, small incremental change economics, to understand system level changes?"

Saturday, January 10, 2009

How to tell different stories with the same numbers

Here is a figure from Reuters about US employment numbers. The worst is over, huh?

Here is a figure from the New York Times showing essentially the same data. Hmmm. Notice how the longer time scale, and the expression of the total rather than the month-over-month change, changes the picture substantially and gives a much clearer picture of what is going on.

One of Edward Tufte's main points is that the way you display data affects the lesson people take from the data; that aligning the facts with human psychology such that people extract the real picture is a deep skill. 

Of course, in the case of our friends who are arguing that global warming has stopped, you could equally argue that deliberately misaligning the facts with human psychology is also a deep skill.

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