Data doesn’t always expose and explain, it can also lead us astray. OTM producer Jamie York looks at two time in the recent past when an overreliance on data has had disastrous consequences. Joe Flood, author of The Fires and Dennis Smith, author and veteran firefighter tell the story of the RAND Corporation and the fires in the Bronx in the 1970’s. And Scott Patterson, author of The Quants and Michael Lewis, author of The Big Short, explain how math and science whiz kids nearly destroyed Wall Street.
WE LANDED AT Charles de Gaulle Airport a couple of days before Christmas. One dog, one infant, nine books on how to get along with the French, and eleven pieces of luggage, three of which had already gone missing. We drove for ninety minutes in heavy traffic, the baby howling, the wife attempting to hide her exposed nursing bosom from the driver, and the dog scratching her bottom across the floor of the minivan. At length we arrived at our new home on the Left Bank, which we’d never actually seen, except in photographs. It was a small cluster of room-sized houses in a tiny garden tucked away at the back of a courtyard of an old apartment building. We piled out of the car and rushed to the front door, a small teeming peristaltic bundle of needs and hopes and anticipations. The door failed to open. The key mailed to us by the landlord did not fit the lock.
For the next thirty minutes, we sat in the cold, dark Paris courtyard and waited, mainly because we couldn’t think what else to do. We were being punished for our sins; we had wanted to dance, now we were paying the fiddler. It had been fun, when people asked us where we lived, to say, "Well, that’s hard to say, since at the end of the year we’re moving to Paris." They were all envious, or pretended to be, which was just as gratifying. For the past six months we had been playing our new role: People Who Are About to Live in Paris. Now here we were, in Paris itself. We knew no one. We spoke so little French that it was better to claim we spoke none. We had no purpose. And that, I should have reminded myself, was the point. ... (more)
"If you wanted to extract a confession from a terrorist, just make him take care of my child for a week. That would be enough."
— "Home Game" author Michael Lewis