Let’s crowdsource CO2 levels

Hey guys,

Let’s face it, the federal response to COVID has been counterproductive. We’re on our own. In my newest Bloomberg piece, I suggest that we should crowdsource CO2 levels in places like schools, airports, and buildings where people work, so we know the ventilation is good:

People need a way to crowdsource data on indoor air quality.

This App Could Solve a Big Reopening Problem

For other Bloomberg columns, go here.

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The political uprising we should have expected

A few months ago (it was published March 19th), Politico asked me and other “thought leaders” to predict how Coronavirus would change the world.

The answers are here, and include various fancy people predicting “a decline in polarization”, “less individualism”, “a healthier digital lifestyle”, “science reigns again,” and my personal favorite, Tom Nichols’s prediction that we will have “a return to faith in serious experts.”

I think my prediction was the least optimistic, entitled “Expect a political uprising.” The full statement is this:

The aftermath of the coronavirus is likely to include a new political uprising—an Occupy Wall Street 2.0, but this time much more massive and angrier. Once the health emergency is over, we will see the extent to which rich, well-connected and well-resourced communities will have been taken care of, while contingent, poor and stigmatized communities will have been thoroughly destroyed. Moreover, we will have seen how political action is possible—multitrillion dollar bailouts and projects can be mobilized quickly—but only if the cause is considered urgent. This mismatch of long-disregarded populations finally getting the message that their needs are not only chronically unattended, but also chronically dismissed as politically required, will likely have drastic, pitchfork consequences.

It makes me sad to feel so right about this.

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IB’s grading algorithm is a huge mess

In my newest Bloomberg column, I wrote about a boy named Hadrien, interested in studying engineering, whose future has been put in doubt by the International Baccalaureate Organization’s new grading algorithm, which assigns grade in a secret, powerful, and destructive manner. This qualifies it as a “weapons of math destruction:”

This Grading Algorithm Is Failing Students

The International Baccalaureate’s experience offers a cautionary tale.

You can read more of my Bloomberg columns here.

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Florida’s death count is gonna hit 600 soon, I predict

I’ve spent a bunch of time worried about Florida and COVID in the past few months, partly because my grandma lived there for a number of years and so I spent a bunch of time there growing up. It’s a really vulnerable place, in some ways more so than Manhattan. And according to the data, and some reckoning, I figure the daily death counts will soon hit 600. I explain why in my new Bloomberg column:

Florida’s Covid-19 Deaths Might Rival New York’s

The state’s daily fatality count could hit 600 in a few weeks.

More of my Bloomberg columns can be found here.

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Quantifying Dread

You guys might have been wondering what happened to me! Well the answer is I moved to Somerville, MA temporarily, and it takes a TON of work to move, especially when you haven’t moved in 15 years!

Side note: I discovered I am a major hoarder in the categories of clothing, shoes, and yarn. This is something that is easy to deny when you don’t have to empty out large closets but is impossible to deny when you do.

OK so, and this is dark, I wrote a Bloomberg piece about my definition of quantified dread, which loosely speaking when things are getting worse and the rate at which they’re getting worse is getting worse:

America Is Being Way Too Calm About Covid-19

This is a case where optimism may be an existential threat.

You can read more of my Bloomberg columns here.

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Defunding the Police Will Be Easy (we’ve already done the data work)

June 19, 2020 Comments off

Here’s my newest Bloomberg column, in which I argue that we’ve already done the data work behind defunding the police, because “crime risk scores” predict police, and not in a good way:

Here’s an Algorithm for Defunding the Police

Crime-risk scores reveal the problems that society has shunted onto law enforcement.

Read more of my Bloomberg columns here.

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Congress Needs to Act On Facial Recognition

Here’s my newest Bloomberg column regarding the state of facial recognition.

Amazon Can’t Make Facial Recognition Go Away

That would take an act of Congress.

Read more of my Bloomberg columns here.

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Let’s Fill in Dangerous Blindspots in Police Data

Here’s my newest Bloomberg column, in which I discuss the darkest, scariest kind of data, namely missing data. We are getting some of those holes filled in when it comes to police misconduct, and we need more.

Don’t Let the Police Hide Their Bad Behavior

Fixing law enforcement will require better data.

Read more of my Bloomberg columns here.

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Sheryl, honey, if this is you leaning in, please lean out

My newest Bloomberg column, in which I examine how Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” philosophy might be guiding her during the current Facebook shitstorm:

Maybe Sheryl Sandberg Should Be Leaning Out

Facebook needs better moral leadership.

Read more of my Bloomberg columns here.

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Mass Incarceration Causes Pandemics

June 4, 2020 Comments off

In my newest Bloomberg column, I make the case, using new research by Measures for Justice, that mass incarceration, inequality, and racism cause epidemics both here and worldwide:

Maybe Racism Caused the Covid-19 Crisis

Mass incarceration and other social ills made the world more vulnerable.

You can read more of my Bloomberg columns here.

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Students are in a game of chicken with colleges.

I’ve got a new Bloomberg column out today, about the game of chicken that colleges are playing with students and their parents:

Covid-19 Will Make Colleges Prove Their Worth

Online education should come at an online price.

See more of my columns here.

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Forget the models, follow the R(t)

In my new Bloomberg column I suggest that R(t), which is a hyperparameter in most Covid-19 models, is a much better and more trustworthy figure to follow than any other particular data set.

One reason, which didn’t get into the column, is that R(t) can be estimated from most other daily data sources like hospitalizations, cases, or even deaths, albeit with lags. That means that we can piece together a trustworthy patchwork quilt of R(t)’s that might be more trustworthy than any particular version.

Moreover, R(t) is insulated from the bias we know exists in these figures (due mostly to not enough tests) and only cares about trends, so as long as the bias is consistent we don’t care about it.

The caveat here is that we’ve seen many states performing Covid-19 data manipulation (Texas, Florida, and Georgia for example) in order to open up sooner than they honestly should. Basically, they’re juicing the numbers. That’s a kind of political bias we cannot overcome easily (unless they forget to manipulate some of the data!).

Anyway, that’s a nerdy postscript on the following:

My other Bloomberg columns are available here.

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Covid-19 models: none are perfect, some are downright dumb

I wrote a Bloomberg columns which heavily relied on Jarod Alper‘s recent YouTube talk:



See other Bloomberg columns I wrote here.

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Bloomberg column: The FEMA model is a WMD

Hi all,

On my walk to work I realized that the new FEMA model – which was used to strong-arm the Arizona governor into opening early – is a WMD, i.e. important, secret, and destructive:


Decisions on reopening should involve public data and debate.


See more of my columns here.


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Robot Overlords and a Eulogy to the Subway

May 7, 2020 Comments off
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Two new Bloomberg Posts!!

Guys I’m sorry I forgot to blog last Friday about a piece I wrote:





More columns are here.

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New Bloomberg Column: Let’s not make things worse for older people

April 22, 2020 Comments off

I was happy to connect with my friend Ashton Applewhite, an ageism activist whom I met at TED, to discuss aging in the time of Covid-19. It led to this new Bloomberg column:


Pandemic Data Could Be Deadly for the Old


See other columns I wrote here.

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New Bloomberg Column: This is Not The Flattened Curve We Were Promised

An empirical observation about models versus reality:


This Isn’t the Flattened Curve We Were Promised


See other columns I wrote here.

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New Bloomberg Column: COVID-19 tracking will not work

Another skeptical column from me today:


The Covid-19 Tracking App Won’t Work



See other columns I wrote here.

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New Bloomberg column: 10 Reasons to Doubt the Covid-19 Data

Hi all,

I’m back at Bloomberg, writing about reasons to doubt the daily data we keep seeing. I’ve added a few reasons since my post last week. Also, I’m preparing myself for bad data today and tomorrow delayed from Easter weekend:

10 Reasons to Doubt the Covid-19 Data

The pandemic’s true toll might never be known.


See other columns I wrote here.

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