Numbers Game

“People trust data. Numbers seem real. Charts have charismatic power. People believe what can be quantified. But data do not always accurately reflect the state of the world. Or as one scholar put it in a book title: “Raw Data” Is an Oxymoron.”…/the-official-coronavirus-numbers-are-w…

The numbers shall rule, one can say – success and failure are measured in numbers, spreadsheets, percentage points in neoliberal times, right? USA: 164.620 positively tested cases Europe: 419.614 cases positive both as of 31/03/2020. So Europe has more cases = more justified media attention. But lets look at the percentage in regard to the population: USA 329,5 Mio population / cases = 0.0499% Europe 747,5 Mio population / cases = 0.0561% – less pronounced, but still, Europe „wins“.

I got notified by a comment, that “The number of cases are not comparable, though, since testing criteria vary from country to country (by Kaisa Kangas)”. Indeed, but the focus here was to make a point of the general picture using “any” numbers.

I write this without (much) cynicism, but to show the cruelty of the number game, looking away from individual fates. We played that game all too long, without challenging the ethical attitude it transports and habituates. Click rates, advertising budgets, gross national products, budget cuts, priorities, all based on the inhumane use of numbers, their interpretation, not that they are inherently „wrong“. We are about to do it again, to use numbers and make it an economy of ignorance, economics based on death and decay. I call for the use of numbers to make informed choices to reduce human suffering and prevent deaths, not to succumb to an unethical gamble of supposed efficiency taking into account a disposable number of real people getting “removed” or “sacrificed” by, lets call it what it is: eugenics.

All lives matter.


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