Earlier this week I suggested if you read one thing this week, make it Katy Arnold’s recent piece on designing within Home Office Digital.

If you listen to one thing this week, make it the recent episode of the FiveThirtyEight podcast, What’s The Point.

FiveThirtyEight has ballooned since it was just a vehicle for Nate Silver’s amazing eye-opening data sport and political analysis, and is now a more wider data digging publication. Lots of good stuff on there, including their regular podcast.

The recent episode Why the Bronx Burned is a fascinating discussion with Joe Flood.

In an engrossing talk that springboards from Flood’s evocative book The Fire it’s a fascinating dive into the increasingly-popularised phrase “smart cities” – but by jumping back in time to the mid-1970s, to a time when one of the world’s most famous cities was on the verge of collapse.

During the talk Flood discusses assumptions, bias, models, data, and some very painful learning in - in short - allocating resources and creating efficiencies within a city in a rational way, by using data – but so, so wrong.

It’s gripping stuff, a warning that relying on data with poor analysis is, quite literally, playing with fire. And how the data is framed, to blame.

It’s one thing to say “that politician closed that firehouse.” It’s another to say “science closed that firehouse.”

And while you listen to it, while the guys on the podcast talk about decisions taken during a time when government finances were squeezed, maybe think about the now.

You can get to the podcast here.


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