Naked Data Science | Charles Wheelan


August 27th, 2020

59 mins 58 secs

Season 4

Your Host
Special Guest

About this Episode

On this episode of The Artists of Data Science, we get a chance to hear from Charles Wheelan, a professor, journalist, speaker and author, who holds a PHD in public policy from the University Chicago. He's currently a senior lecturer and policy fellow at the Rockefeller Center at Dartmouth College, and the author of Naked Economics, a book that is an accessible and entertaining introduction to economics for the layperson.

Charles shares with us his journey into becoming a prolific author, and why he decided to write Naked Economics, Naked Statistics, and so on. He also warns the use of big data and the implications it can have if used improperly. This episode is packed with insights into money, statistics, and some of the important problems the world is currently facing.


[4:25] Charles’s tips on learning a subject effectively

[12:41] What is money, and why does it matter?

[21:40] How statistics can be used to make solve problems

[26:55] Why humans are so bad at appreciating and conceptualizing probabilities

[33:02] Important soft skills that technically oriented people need


[11:56] “Big Data is...a powerful really can be put to great effect. Used improperly, you can do some enormous damage.”

[33:07] “...even if you are very technically oriented, you have got to have an awareness of sociology, psychology, great literature and the like.”

[36:23] “...if your data reflects some underlying problem, then any model you build from that data will just embed it more firmly in cement.”

[48:15] …”stop thinking about what you're doing and look around the world and see what's missing”





[00:01:19] Introduction for our guest

[00:02:45] How did you become so interested in statistics?

[00:04:16] Was there a lot of self study involved in learning statistics?

[00:05:06] How he wrote Naked Statistics

[00:06:51] What is economics?

[00:09:19] Does big data impact how economics works?

[00:11:21] Does big data change how the invisible hand works?

[00:12:35] What is money and why does it matter?

[00:16:43] Money in a world of contactless payments

[00:18:18] The impact of digital currencies on society

[00:20:15] Money and intersubjective reality

[00:21:22] How to use statistics to make business work better

[00:23:12] Which form of bias should we be most wary of?

[00:24:40] How will COVID affect the election

[00:26:49] Why are humans so bad at appreciating conceptualizing probabilities?

[00:29:26] Why is it important that we cultivate an intuition for what probabilities represent?

[00:30:39] Why we shouldn't buy the extended warranty

[00:32:38] What's going to separate them from the rest of the world, the rest the competition.

[00:32:54] What soft skills do you need to be successful?

[00:37:19] Charles Wheelan predicted COVID in his book The Rationing

[00:37:37] Draw parallels between the fiction you wrote and the reality that we're experiencing today

[00:39:03] How he came up with the story for The Rationing

[00:41:07] Which aspect of human nature do you think from your fiction has shown itself to become a reality with our current situation?

[00:43:18] What's the one thing you want people to learn from this story?

[00:44:35] The lightning round

Episode Comments