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We see the world in terms of facts (mostly numbers). Our world changes rapidly, including the past’s numbers

2 August 2010

Summary:  Another disturbing way in which Orwell’s 1984 foreshadows our world.

We see the world as numbers.  Fixed numbers, such as its size.  And numbers measuring its condition:  population, income, temperature, and so forth.  We measure history by the march of these numbers. 

But a form of relativity has infected our databases, as the record of the past changes.  For example, the record of economic statistics like GDP constantly change.  Large revisions to data years or even decades ago, so that the revised version bears little relation to the original number (which we use for setting private and public policy).

Similarly global surface temperatures frequently change.  Not just the current temperature!  Older ones drop, recent ones rise.  For more on this curious phenomenon see:

What to make of this?   If nothing else, it suggests that we should be humble.  What we know might not be so.

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