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Nicola believes it is so important for all of us who work in Data Science to be able to flexibly evaluate data across distinct modalities and use it to create a robust and coherent narrative.

This list of books spans topics ranging from geopolitics to social science, from techno-futurism to behavioural psychology, and from data visualisation to artificial intelligence.

1. Factfulness

  • Authors: Hans Rosling, Anna Rosling Rönnlund, and Ola Rosling
  • Time to read: 5 hrs 52 mins (352 pages)

This book discusses how the majority of people in wealthy countries hold a skewed and outdated worldview. In general, people tend to think things are worse than they really are. This widely-held opinion seems to be the result of a lack of knowledge, a poor understanding of statistics, and the 24-hour news cycle.
Factfulness drills down into each of these issues in order to empower readers with a more fact-based worldview. The authors categorise the top ten biases in how we evaluate the state of the world. They offer education on how to recognize and prevent these misconceptions. Moreover, they highlight how good news is routinely underreported and how this contributes to an inaccurate understanding of other people.
The book criticises the notion that the world can be bifurcated into “developed” and “developing.” In fact, today nearly all countries could be considered “developed” relative to their technological status when this categorization was initially proposed.
The authors put forward an updated model based on income per person adjusted for price differences:

  • Level 1: less than $2 a day
  • Level 2: $2–$8 a day
  • Level 3: $8–$32 a day
  • Level 4: $32+ a day

via Gapminder
As you would expect based on your understanding of the normal distribution, the majority of the countries fall within Level 2 or Level 3 with a select few in Level 1 and Level 4. Thinking about global incomes in this way, as falling along a distribution curve rather than representing a gap between countries with extreme poverty and the so-called “developed world” helps combat this outdated perspective and the catastrophizing 24-hour news media.
This charming book highlights how data can be used to shape an optimistic worldview.

2. Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error

  • Author: Kathryn Schulz
  • Time to read: 6 hrs 56 mins (405 pages)

“…it does feel like something to be wrong. It feels like being right.”
This statement serves as the thesis for Being Wrong. With engaging prose, Schulz elucidates all kinds of behavioural mistakes and perceptual errors. The book chronicles the journey of being wrong, denying it, realising it, feeling humiliated, and eventually finding humour in the mistake.
Schulz guides the reader through a history of error, from Socrates to Greenspan, and delves playfully into the psychology of mistakes, which plague us all whether we like it or not. She argues that being wrong is an inescapable aspect of human existence.
This book, similar to Factfulness, will help you shape your worldview to become more positive, compassionate, and realistic. Given that it’s impossible to be right all the time, this one is definitely worth a read.
An entertaining book that offers insight into how statistics and decision making apply to the real world.
Photo by Jake Nackos on Unsplash

3. The Infinite Retina

  • Authors: Irena Cronin and Robert Scoble
  • Time to read: 6 hrs 42 mins (404 pages)

The Infinite Retina explores how virtual and augmented reality technology could shape the future. This insightful book weaves a thorough picture of the present and future of spatial computing. It offers an introduction to the visionaries, subject matter experts, and up-and-coming businesses that are driving this technological revolution.
The authors provide a thorough treatment of the issues of privacy, security, identity, ownership, and ethics. The frequency at which society will interact with VR and AR technology in the near future will generate ever increasing amounts of data. Therefore, it’s beneficial for data practitioners to have at least a cursory understanding of the implications of spatial computing described in the book.
Overall, this is an excellent and authoritative account of a relatively new technology that should be read by anyone seeking to understand societal implications of changes to the digital landscape.
The Infinite Retina is an overview of the technological foundations that will enable the design of future immersive experiences through virtual and augmented reality.

4. Invisible Women

  • Author: Caroline Criado Perez
  • Time to read: 4 hrs 32 mins (432 pages)

This eye-opener raises awareness about the general paucity of data on women. This deficiency impacts many fields, ranging from medicine to social sciences. This book will make you more aware of the data quality issues that stem from this lack of gender parity in data availability.
By exploring the ramifications of treating male as default, Criado Perez exposes the flaws in a world created by men for men. She provides many unnerving examples of cases when the needs of women were completely ignored by product designers and also cases when the needs of women were inadequately addressed by simply abstracting the gender and treating women like “smaller men.”
The author investigates the root cause of gender inequality through research into the lives of women around the world in various settings such as the workplace, the doctor’s office, and at home. In short, this book offers a groundbreaking summary of data quality issues impacting data about 50%+ of the world’s individuals.
If you’re seeking reliable data, this book offers an education in the issues around so-called gender neutrality and the troubling lack of representation of women.

5. Analytics of Life

  • Author: Mert Damlapinar
  • Time to read: 6 hrs 20 mins (348 pages)

Anyone looking for a broad overview of data should pick up this book — a short treatise on data analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. Damlapinar describes the current technological situation and presents the opinions of several experts in order to inform the reader of possibilities on the horizon.
The author has outlined the effects of advancements in data-related capabilities across various industries. This aspect of the book provides a solid primer for how data can be used to improve organisational performance.
Furthermore, Damlapinar makes a case for analysing flaws in our way of thinking before we embark on the project of developing artificial general intelligence.

To explore Nicole’s other five book recommendations, read the full article over in our magazine:

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