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Data to tell everything and the opposite of everything

Data science like crude oil refineries. As if from a chaos of numbers, an informative patrimony can be extracted.

Data for technology is the equivalent of fuel for a car. In their basic form, the data are numbers ordered according to different logics, full of variables and identification codes, forms and links. In their finished form they are shown to the public in the form of very easy to understand graphs and histograms. But what happens during the refining process and why is it important to be skeptical about the graphs presented to us?

Social media is full of opinion makers. Since the possibility of sharing one's life online has become a necessity for affirmation, virtual platforms, from sharing squares have become places where you can say everything to everyone without having to expect consequences. In addition to those characterized by racist, homophobic and misogynistic comments, a large percentage of negative posts are represented by semi-truths. They are real statistics that are used to influence public opinion for the wrong reasons.

That is, they try to convince the reader of something by giving as proof a decontextualized or cherry-picked statistic (that is, so specific that it loses all its statistical significance). Hence the need to be skeptical of dashboards, charts and hasty conclusions. It is indeed necessary to be skeptical and not conspiratorial, to have a critical attitude towards the reasons given and not to theorize alternatives without a factual basis. We can draw the dividing line directly on the reliability of the numbers that are given to us by governments, public or private companies and research institutions.

A worrying trend is the growing distrust on the part of the population towards official statistics, whatever they may be. On the one hand, there are those who believe that these statistics are fundamental, as they provide an idea of society as a whole and allow us to go beyond the individual perspective. On the other hand, some consider the aforementioned statistics as elitist, manipulated, meaningless; for them the statistics do not really reflect what happens in everyday life. The common plan, which the data provided and on which to initiate a debate, has been politicized, and public opinion no longer has references on which to rely, but is convinced by those who appeal to their emotional state. And this is a problem. How can a government make a fair policy if it does not know the situation in its territory? How can health care be organized if health data is wrong? How can there be a fair public debate on immigration if there is not even agreement on the flow of people entering the country?

The technology behind statistical research has come a long way since the computational capacity of data processors has grown and as data collection has become simpler. Institutions such as ISTAT have managed to quantify a whole series of changes thanks to electronic surveys. At the same time, psychography (the part of psychology that deals with the study, recognition and influence of an individual's mental processes and character) has implemented communication strategies to address public opinion.

And where is it possible to find large amounts of data and individuals that are easily accessible and manipulated? In social media. It is always good to remember that social platforms are not the correct channel to find out about anything. Facebook, Instagram and even the new Clubhouse are not reliable sources of information. Anyone could write a post, take a picture or open a room and say things that are not true. Even ourselves, in good faith, or third parties with a specific goal. An example of this is the Dunning-Kruger effect, whereby many people tend to overestimate their level of knowledge and understanding of a specific topic.

This perception of illusory superiority almost always comes from people who don't have the tools to realize they don't know what they don't know. This in turn makes it even more difficult to separate fake news from reality.

In conclusion, despite the fact that the data technology sector has made it possible to improve the performance of industries, to better understand the environment in which we live and our effects on it, it has also given rise to a communication crisis, where data that contradicts other data they are provided to public opinion that no longer knows who to listen to. The need for 'data literacy' will become (or perhaps it already is) fundamental not only to have correct information, but above all to act consistently with the information available.

Translated by Veronica Giustiniani


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  • L'Autore

    Andrea Radaelli

    Andrea Radaelli, nato il 20 ottobre 1997, caporedattore del progetto 'Tecnologia ed Innovazione' mi considero un soggetto particolarmente vivace e interessato a come funziona il mondo. L’aggettivo che più spesso hanno utilizzato i miei parenti, i miei amici e le persone che mi stanno accanto per descrivermi è senza dubbio ‘curioso’.

    Curioso del mondo, di come funziona e dei nostri effetti su di esso. Non solo in campo scientifico ma anche economico e geopolitico. Mi interesso di tutto ciò che ha un outcome positivo e propositivo, soprattutto nella sanità e nelle nuove tecnologie.

    Curioso per le mie opinioni molto forti e per certi aspetti critiche sulla società, che a volte diventano i miei limiti. Alcune di queste sono che la conoscenza è faticosa ma rende liberi, che l’ignoranza nell’era dell’informazione è una scelta consapevole e che l’uguaglianza (dare alle persone le stesse cose) è un paradigma da superare con l’equità (dare alle persone le stesse opportunità).

    Curioso anche per la mia personalità; ho delle idee molto ben determinate, sono un convinto ‘individualista sociale’. Cioè che ognuno di noi deve prima crescere e acculturarsi secondo le proprie inclinazioni per poi poter entrare in un gruppo di lavoro per poterlo arricchire della sua prospettiva.

    Curioso per le mie scelte, dopo le medie ho scelto un liceo ad indirizzo artistico nonostante i miei professori spingessero per un liceo classico. Durante questi cinque anni ho avuto modo di viaggiare per l’Italia e scoprire gli incredibili siti dell’UNESCO. Ho viaggiato anche in Europa nelle maggiori capitali e mi sono innamorato dell’Unione Europea. Ho compreso quanto siamo fortunati del far parte di comunità internazionale e delle straordinarie opportunità che offre. Finite le superiori, ho scelto di studiare lingue applicate all’ambito economico nel CdL di ‘Scienze per la Mediazione Linguistica e Culturale’, un’università ricca di diversità; di nazionalità diverse, di lingue diverse e di culture diverse. Tutta questa eterogeneità mi ha spinto a ricercare un percorso magistrale decisamente più strutturato ed innovativo; 'Data Science and Business Intelligence'. La scienza dei dati si compone di principi metodologici basati sul metodo scientifico e di tecniche multidisciplinari volte ad interpretare ed estrarre conoscenza dai dati attraverso l'analisi statistica.

    Di Mondo Internazionale mi ha colpito la potenzialità, la composizione giovane e il dinamismo. Le aree tematiche nel quale mi trovo a mio agio sono economia, sanità e innovazione. Il progetto di ‘Tecnologia ed Innovazione’ è quello con cui collaboro maggiormente e, soprattutto grazie alla pazienza dei miei collaboratori, mi trovo veramente bene.

    Andrea Radaelli, born on 20 October 1997, editor-in-chief of 'Technology and Innovation' project, I consider myself as a particularly lively person and interested in how the world works. The adjective that my relatives and my friends have used the most to describe me is undoubtedly 'curious'.

    Curious about the world, how it works and our effects on it. Not only in the scientific field but also in the economic and geopolitical field. I am interested in everything that has a positive and proactive outcome, especially in healthcare and new technologies.

    Curious for my very strong and, in some respects, critical views on society, which sometimes become my limitations. Some of these are that knowledge takes effort but is essential, that ignorance in the information age is a conscious choice and that equality (giving people the same things) is a paradigm to be overcome with fairness (give people the same opportunities).

    Also curious about my personality; I have very well-defined ideas, I am a convinced 'social individualist'. That is, each of us must first grow and acculturate according to their own tastes in order to be able to be a good team player in a work group in order to enrich it with new insights.

    Curious about my choices, after secondary school I chose an artistic high school despite my teachers pushing for a classical high school. During these five years I have had the opportunity to travel around Italy and discover its incredible UNESCO sites. I also traveled around Europe in the major capitals and fell in love with the European Union. I realized how fortunate we all are to be part of this international community and the extraordinary opportunities it offers. After graduating from high school, I chose to study languages ​​applied to economics, 'Sciences for Linguistic and Cultural Mediation', a university rich in diversity; of different nationalities, of different languages ​​and of different cultures. All this heterogeneity pushed me to seek a decidedly more structured and innovative master's path; 'Data Science and Business Intelligence'. Data science consists of methodological principles based on statistics, scientific method and multidisciplinary techniques aimed at interpreting and extracting knowledge from data through statistical analysis.

    I was struck by Mondo Internazionale's potential, young composition and dynamism. The thematic areas in which I am comfortable are economics, health and innovation. The 'Technology and Innovation' project is the one I collaborate with most and, thanks to the patience of my collaborators, I am really happy with it.

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