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Leave the COVID-19 data analysis to the experts

19 2 1

CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS – One of the noteworthy aspects of our current coronavirus moment is the rapid proliferation of self-appointed data analysts. These armchair epidemiologists seem to believe they can project the trajectory of COVID-19 better than actual epidemiologists who have spent their whole careers studying the spread of disease.

You know who I’m talking about: It’s not just the guy on Medium whose post gets 35 million page views. It’s your uncle and your co-worker (funnily enough, many of them are men) who are trying their hand at beating the pros.

And of course, it includes the U.S. president. Donald Trump has said in his daily news conferences that he’s “a smart guy” who “feel(s) good about” his own predictions and has “been right a lot.”

There are several possible explanations for why so many of us are trying to make our own predictions. What they all have in common is that they are based on conceptual errors.

As anyone with any kind of subject matter expertise — whether in construction or constitutional law — knows, there’s a difference between actually knowing what you’re talking about and winging it.

In part, making our own predictions is a coping mechanism. This is, obviously, a time of anxiety about health and economic prospects. And that anxiety is perfectly rational, since things are........

© The Japan Times