A colleague in Hong Kong remarked, “torture numbers, and they’ll tell you anything.”
At first it made me smile, but as the words sank in, their true gravity became apparent.
Numbers have become propaganda.
Once we could count on them to substantiate and objectify – to transform conjecture into hard fact and truth.
But that authority is gone; their objectivity no longer absolute.
Numbers have evolved into a tool for misrepresentation and deceit.
As Vic Reeves remarked, “88.2% of statistics are made up on the spot.”
A wonderful article on today’s BBC News website sums the issue up beautifully.
It’s all about context.
Depending on the context, even mathematical fundamentals come into question.
Consider the case of an amorous couple, where 1+1 could easily equal 3 (or maybe even more).
Numbers alone won’t tell you the whole story; make sure you consider the bigger picture.
As The Economist once remarked: