In my last post I stated that I started reading “The Numbers Behind NUMB3RS“. I’ve continued reading through chapter three. There is so much information that I’ve learned. For instance, I know that there is a difference in how the word statistic is used, but I’ve never thought about it until chapter two.
Today, “statistics” really has two connected meanings. The first is the collection and tabulation of data; the second is the use of mathematical and other methods to draw meaningful and useful conclusions from tabulated data. Some statisticians refer to the former activity as “little-s statistics” and the latter activity as “big-S Statistics”. Spelled with a lower-case s, the word is treated as plural when it refers to a collection of numbers. But it is singluar when used to refer to the activity of collecting and tabulating those numbers. “Statistics” (with a capital S) refers to an activity, and hence is singular.
For those of you still confused: statistics is the information on a computer or paper. Statistics is gathering that information and doing something with it. I hope that helps. It’s great learning something new. (There will be a test at the end.) Chapter two also talks about how not to be bias with the information and making sure that you have gathered correct information.
In chapter three, Keith ‘Math Guy’ Devlin and Gary Lorden talk about data mining. For those of you that don’t know what that is. . . .here is a quick little lesson. It’s companies figuring out your patterns to figure you out and how to influence you. Now I know, that sounds like a bad thing, but here are some ways that data mining influences your life.
1) When you have a credit card or a bank card, there are computer programs that watch how and where you spend money. Have you ever gone on vacation and had your card declined, or been advised to call your bank to verify your purchases? That’s data mining. They found some “unusual activity” on your card, and just want to make sure that YOU are the one using your card. Is that a bad thing? Heck no! In fact, when I was in Chicago two months ago I had that happen. I had no problem taking 5 minutes to call and verify that it is me.
2) You go shopping at the store. When you get to the register you are asked, “Do you have our loyalty card?” You pull it out and the scan it. Guess what, they are watching what you buy. Have you then been given coupons for something you use? Of course! They have been watching what you purchase and are encouraging you to come back.
3) You’re online and you look to the side where an ad is advertising something in your area about something you might like. Yup. Computers are monitoring your every move. They are keeping track of the places that you visit on the good ‘ol World Wide Web, then advertise TO YOU to try and get you to click on ads that could end up being a virus to hurt your computer.
4) Your credit history is data mining. They are looking at how well you pay bills and if you are one that pays on time, or not. This can hurt you in receiving certain services.
5) Your local library keeps track of what you read. So if you go ask for a recommendation, the computer can generate a list of books that might be of interest to you based off of what you have already checked out and read.
So as you can see, data mining can be good, but also bad. As a reminder, be wise in what you do and how you live your life. As much as I enjoy my lower prices at my local grocery store (which really aren’t that much lower), I think I’m going to destroy that card. I don’t want them to know what I purchase.
This book is a great book. I can’t wait until later this week when Season 1 of NUMB3RS arrives at my home. I’m ready to watch the show and excited to see how math plays a part. I hope to have the book completed by then.
Do you have any advice on what I shared today? Have you read the book? What do you think of the television series?