Bill Gates and How to Lie With Statistics

4/20/20

Recently, I saw this photo of Bill Gates recommending books to read for the summer. At the top of the stack is the book How to Lie With Statistics, by Darrell Huff. The internet being the internet, some conspiracy quacks posted the picture (with a lot of zooming in on the book, circles, and pointing arrows) trying to desperately persuade readers by "fear porning" that Gates is being devious about COVID-19 and vaccinations (and presumably taking over the world) because he has a book titled How to Lie With Statistics.

In actuality, this is a classic book (from the 1950s) on how to be a skeptical consumer of statistics. Also, Gates recommending How to Lie With Statistics is from TED 2015, not from 2020 as some of the quacks imply or state. Gates wrote

"I picked this one up after seeing it on a Wall Street Journal list of good books for investors. It was first published in 1954, but it doesn't feel dated (aside from a few anachronistic examples - it has been a long time since bread cost 5 cents a loaf in the United States). In fact, I'd say it's more relevant than ever. One chapter shows you how visuals can be used to exaggerate trends and give distorted comparisons. It's a timely reminder, given how often infographics show up in your Facebook and Twitter feeds these days. A great introduction to the use of statistics, and a great refresher for anyone who's already well versed in it."

Please check out How to Lie With Statistics. It is a fantastic book that will increase your statistics literacy. It is especially relevant in our digital age with access to huge amounts of data of varying quality. It may also, as an added benefit, help you increase your skeptical powers to spot the conspiracy quack types even faster.

Thanks for reading.


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