Tag: Cummings

“Deplorables” Pwning the Info Wars? Blame Canada!


Fans of Brexit’s Vote Leave campaign might remember Dominic Cummings’s reflections on the uses (and abuses) of data in politics. Cummings, often hailed as the mastermind behind Vote Leave, is an eloquent advocate for how getting the data science right contributed to Vote Leave‘s success, and he has a prickly – even “psychopathic” – reputation as a man who won’t suffer data-science fools (or at least those whom he deems foolish) gladly.

No doubt Cummings is right that charlatanism infests the ranks of political “data scientists”, but a more charitable term than “charlatanism” for much iffy “data science” might be “ad-hockery”: Adventurous wunderkinds promote ad-hoc heuristics which seem to work well enough, or which work until they don’t, or which may work, but which haven’t yet been vetted by systematic scientific reasoning. Ad-hoc heuristics aren’t inherently deceptive, or incapable of delivering what they claim to deliver. They deserve to be met with plenty of skepticism, of course, but skepticism needn’t always include suspicion of fraud.