Love and Data

Heart vs Head is an ancient debate, but for most important decisions, we need to use both. For public policy, I think the optimum combination is data and love.

By love, I mean the more sophisticated religious formulations, with many different kinds of love. Love you neighbor, but also love your enemy. Parental love and brotherly love which are often stern, not nice, friendly, or agreeable.

To best use data in making policy decisions, you have to really care about people, but also have enough courage to be willing make people angry. Loving decisions are not always popular. Teens never praise their parents for grounding them.

Using data with love means following the facts to determine the best outcomes, even if some people hate you for it. And because some people’s political ambitions depend on falsehoods, any important truth will make people angry.

We have a lot of social issues where the data is clear, but talking about that data has become taboo. For these issues, it is critical to have more people care to solve the problem enough to have the courage to suffer the social consequences of being honest.

It isn’t enough to be honest about facts and data, because some people use data as a cudgel to beat their enemies. People can sense when you use data in hatred. Crime data is an excellent example.

Alt-right trolls are conversant in crime statistics and can produce charts and graphs to suit any argument, usually presented with the barely obscured subtext that blacks are criminals. It’s data without love or courage, resulting in no social benefit.

But others use the same data with love. For instance, @LeonydusJohnson‘s heartbreaking lists of children killed by violence, or @coldxman’s articles for City Journal. Glen Lowry and John McWhorter. They wield data with love, not to defeat their enemies but to pursue a better future.

I come from the pugilist school of data analysis, so I try to follow people who emphasize heart or balance heart and head, among who @cvaldary is the paragon, and @InayaFolarin the exemplar. Follow them, and follow who they follow.

And while this seems really corny, when I argue with people online, I try to look at their avatar and say to myself “I love you, but I disagree with you.” and I try to decide how to show that love. (Don’t know if it works, but I try. )

I hope that love will show in my work, and that I can present the hard truths in data. I also hope that such love will help me admit to being wrong when the data turns against me.

I think that if everyone who has a fact in one hand has love in the other we can find ways to work through our differences, embrace what is true, and build a better world, based not on tribal divisions but on principles and policies that work for everyone.

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