Tag Archives: statistics

What is the good place?

It’s Sunday, I am currently watching the original Planet of the Apes, it is one way to pass the time, just watch an actual classic. I have had an interesting day. With my mind on creativity, the series ‘the Good Place’ inspired me to a different miniseries. Consider a simple inventor, the man is a Civil Engineer, and he comes up with the bright notion of inventing a different kind of heavy metal filter, a way that is based on centrifugation. It is a simple yet novel idea, and he submits the idea and registers the patent. It is not a week later when he is suddenly invited for a meeting with an ‘interested party’, when he gets there he sees that the ‘interested parties’ involve a politician and a former employer. Before he knows what is happening, his patent is under attack, the politician and the former boss have sought legal assistance and they claim that the patent was stolen. In the end, after the court case they take 100% and he ends with nothing. Over time he learns that the judge was in on it, he had become a silent partner in the event that scores them $6,000,000,000 split 6 ways. 

This starts the plan where he starts to get even. The clock now jumps 12 years, the 6 are of course really happy, and during that event the social engineer walks in and shoots the entire party, the thieves their partners and 11 children. 

The next moment we see that they are in heaven, the 6 families are there, and they have large mansions, cherubs that take care of their needs and they are seemingly happy. It is at this point that the floor comes down from under them. The idea is that the civil engineer got away from hell somehow and is not wreaking havoc in heaven, yet in all this, heis focused on the 6 families, taking one child after another, all to be collected and placed on a cage of emonic thorns, making the children sign over their souls for their parents non prosecution of theft, all the kids agree and are dropped into hell, at that point the parents have to select heaven or hell, in the end only one accepts the exchange and jumps into hell with the key that will unshackle his child. 

That is as far as I got, the link to the good place is seen when in the end it shows that they were all in hell, the heaven impression was done in a deal between the head demon (Asmodeus) and the civil engineer to get his revenge. The deal was his soul freely given to teach the thieves a lesson. Yet the civil engineer has another part in all this, as the thieves sign over their allegiance towards their soul for the absolution of their crime, the second plan comes into effect. It will be his ticket out of hell. 

That is as far as I got, it took about an hour to think it through, there is a lot more, but I will not bore you with that part, not for as long as it is not properly scripted. 

This was my state of mind as the news hit me on the Coronavirus, the idea that the US has 52,000 deaths to the coronavirus, 25% of all global deaths, and they are now reopening (to some degree) their country, apart from a president making (sarcastic or not) some claim that the body can be cured from the coronavirus by applying detergent to it. In all this, we get the realisation that Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck Trump both seem to live at Pennsylvania Avenue 1600,it seems that Disney characters are getting a living upgrade. Not bad for a weekend, is it?

Yet the idea of making an iteration of the Good Place wasn’t my initial idea, yet I reckon is that this series has had its impact, yet my version is not a comedy, it is much darker, heaven almost exceptionally puritan, and hell is dark and fire red in aspects (I haven’t been there yet so my view on this place is still shaping. Yet if we agree that we are driven by the seven sins and the seven virtues, the trap we make for ourselves is that there is a lack of balance. If Chastity, Temperance, Charity, Diligence, Patience, Kindness and humility are on one side, what is on the other? Pride? Avarice? Envy? Wrath? Lust? Gluttony? Sloth? As I see it, they nullify one another, like a seesaw we are on the twisting point between sin and virtue, how can we chose the balance? If Lust and Chastity are on a seesaw and our setting is the axial, how can we select? Love is a combination of many facets, lust and chastity are part of it, but they do not stand alone and we are in a stage to keep the seesaw balanced. The issue is not lust or chastity, it is fear and greed. The US reopening their places (to some extent). In all this the numbers are screaming part of the idiocy (as I see it), all these nations, the EU at almost 750 million citizens. Then we get India, Asia and in all this, the registered deceased spans 25% of the world, that is the US. Reopening stores and trying to get back into the swing of things is a choice and perhaps it is the better one, I do not have the knowledge to debunk it, but the larger healthcare message is lockdown, there is wisdom in that too. Knowing what is best is not for me to say. I understand both sides and as we see Bloomberg giving us one side,the NPR rolls in another direction, like the seesaw, the axial of balance is in the middle, yet to what direction should we swing? The problem is that for most of us the balance point is influenced by fear and equally by greed. Greed might not be pronounced outspokenly by a lot of people, but greed is a reason we must address. Even as for most it will be about the ability to pay the bills, is it any less greed driven? We might all see greed as evil (I at times do that too), yet the need to survive is also laced with greed, the need we have to pay our bills, we call it differently, but it remains a form of greed and not all greed is pure evil. This reminds me of an original Star Trek episode, it was called ‘the Enemy within’, the realisation that the good Kirk and the evil Kirk need one another, if balance of ruthlessness and empathy is essential to make sensible decisions, we see another path that we all face. The more primal the drive,the more direct the balance between both elements is seen. We are at times driven to deny the negative emotions, yet the early lockdown the harsh decision (or logic) behind it might have lowered the curve for the US, we cannot tell for certain, it is too late now, but the fact remains, in a nation with 325 million people, out of a population of 8,000 whilst there are over 2.5 million of cases and the number of deceased in the USA represents 25% of all corona victims. The numbers seem to indicate that lowering the curve sooner would have been better, but I have always stated that there is more to this virus, and so far the US is still in a beginning stage, as such the 25% might be a low number for now and the bad side is that the reopening of the US in a week might signal a very negative situation. We can speculate on this until we are old and grey, but reality will show us what will be soon enough. 

We will all make up our own minds, some will blame 5G and burn down Wifi masts, some will blame the chinese (again) and come up with more matters to prosecute and in all this, the history of the other versions of corona are ignored, we can ask any cat, but they are seemingly merely the victims in all this. It seems that the bosses that mploy a lot of us are soon to be seen as good and bad, which will upset the curve a lot, but no matter how we look towards the future and where we look, we need to find a balance within ourselves and propagate that outwards, that is essential to create a balance within ourselves, because no matter how this all goes, there is every indication that the month may will see the first of several cycles of blaming the people around us. 


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An outlying frame of prediction

The Guardian had another interesting article to present, it came online on Jan 1st, but I just read it a mere moment ago. The nice part that this is about data, it is a little bit more about statistics, but I am not a statistician, I am a Data Miner. The title ‘Alarmingly for pollsters, EU referendum poll results depend heavily on methods‘ gave me the jolt I needed (at http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jan/01/eu-referendum-polling-results-depend-methods). From my point of view, the entire exercise is a failed event, no matter how you slice it. Before we go into the results, let’s take a quick look at the nations involved:

  1. UK, population 65,081,276
  2. France, population 67,063,000
  3. Germany, population 81,276,000
  4. Italy, population 60,963,000
  5. Spain, population 46,335,000
  6. Sweden, population 9,816,666
  7. Finland, population 5,475,000
  8. Denmark, population 5,673,000
  9. Portugal, population 10,311,000

Now look at two quotes: “It found strong support for the UK’s continuing membership, with an average of 53% of respondents favouring Britain’s continuing membership across nine other countries surveyed“, which might be fair enough, but then we get quote two, which is “Only in Norway, which is not a member of the European Union, would a slight plurality, of 34% to 27%, prefer to see the UK leave and join it outside the club“, this is interesting, because Norway is not one of the nine countries in the mix, which now implies that additional nations had been interviewed, so what happened, the others were less in favour?

Now we add the optional considerations “ICM also investigated the appetite in all these countries to call time on their own membership, in the event that their country staged an in/out referendum“, So ICM had another reasoning entirely, the ‘in the event that their country staged a referendum‘ is central to this, because that means that the questionnaire, the hypotheses and the methodology would be different from the get go, which is not even that central in my thinking process, but it is elemental to the entire event. Now, the question becomes whether this is all part of ICM Research a UK Market Research company, was it done as part of the umbrella called Creston Insight, or perhaps even a third part and I am linking the wrong ICM to the wrong company.

These are all valid considerations and in my case the assumption was done intentionally (and most likely to be correct).

You see the paragraph in the Guardian “Alarmingly for the polling industry, however, the result substantially depends on the method used. Nineteen of the 21 polls were done online, and among these the average advantage for remain shrivels to a dangerously slim two points. But the two telephone surveys that have been undertaken point to far bigger pro-EU leads of 17 and 21 points” shows the issue for me. The paragraphs result in the question, were 19 nations interviewed? If so, why are they not all mentioned, in another option, were two methodologies used in the nine countries? One via phone and one via online, which makes perfect sense, but then an even amount of polls should have been used. All the article does is wonder how reliable the approach is, and if at all, are politicians even interested in doing it fair and square?

You see, if the results can sway a lingering vote (which is a given fact) than we can see that the poll could be used to sway some to ‘follow’ the largest group (with a tie a much harder thing to influence), but influence is a given.

For me, the number one issue were none of these items, in my case it was the mention at the very end. The quote “ICM interviewed a representative sample of at least 1000 adults online in each of nine European countries on 15 and 30 November 2015. Interviews in each country have been weighted to the profile of adults living within it” this is the issue, because a sample of 1,000 can never ever be representative of a population of 81 million, not even representative of a population of 46 million, there is no amount of weighting that can give anything but the roughest of estimations. The more representative the sample is for households, the larger the interviewing sample needs to be. There might have been the slightest reliability if a sample of at least 10,000 was used per nation and I use the word ‘slightest’ in the most liberal of ways. The moment we introduce, gender, income and education 10,000 might not slice it either. You see, yes, weighting can be applied, but than a single response could represent a group of 50,000-100,000, how reliable do you think that one voice would be regarding the other 49,999-99,999?

1,000 might be budget based, but this would then reflect a budgeted population that holds no reliability at all.

Sampling can be a real science, but when we see frequency weighing to this amount, we can safely say that science has been replaced by educated guessing, which is not the way to go. Consider France for a moment. Consider that in regions people feel very different, the two regions where Le Pen are powerful, they will not be in favour of the EEC at all, the others regions might be (read: might be). Now consider that France has 22 administrative regions, so in fairness we get roughly 50 responses per region, 25 males and 25 ladies, so per education level en perhaps even per age group, how much remains? How representative are these 25 people for that region? Now consider that not every region has the same population, so the 50 people representing the 11 million that make up for get a very different weight from those representing the 4 million in Normandy. Are you catching on how utterly unreliable those numbers have become? And how is this done for the UK? Or did ICM decide to get in quick and fast so the capitals make up for the bulk of the votes, which in case of Sweden makes sense as the bulk lives in Stockholm, Goteborg or Malmo. So as there is a hint of truth that it might all be about methodology, the required setting can never be met by 1,000 responses per nation as I see it, in addition there is still the unlisted Norway. So ether the article made a few jumps (which could be fair enough) or the reference to ICM in all this should be answerable to a lot more questions than the article is currently giving.

I need to end this with one final quote: “if the huge differences between online and telephone surveys persist, one method or the other can expect to face a bruising referendum, because they cannot both be right“, from the parts I responded to, there is another option all together, neither are correct. They are not flawed, but wrong for the simple fact of sampling size and the quote given “in the event that their country staged an in/out referendum“, which means that there would have been a different hypothesis that needed answering and even then, the sample of 1,000 would never been have anywhere near useful.

A group of 9,000 can never be representative of a group surpassing a third of a billion that should be massively clear to anyone from the get go, even more so when you consider the different lifestyles and values held in Scandinavian nations versus most of Western Europe and that is just the tip of the statistical considerations.

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