Can judges predict whether a criminal will reoffend?

A colleague forwarded me a TED talk by former attorney general of New Jersey Anna Milgram that argues for the use of statistics and data science in the legal system.

Frustrated by the lack of data in the judicial system to measure and understand the level of crime and the impact of new policies, Anna built a team of data scientists to aggregate crime data and eventually build a predictive model for re-offense rates. Her hope is that this can be used by judges throughout America to better inform their decisions.

This is another example of the power of data and statistics for predicting human behaviour, something that I am very interested in also and actively work on at Airbnb. With current tools and data I would say it is more of a data art than data science, but the hope is that at least very typical behaviour may be accurately modelled.

Send me any other cool talks or stuff you have read on this topic.

You can have your own opinions, but not your own facts

I recently came across this TED talk by Michael Specter of the New Yorker from 2010 and found it’s message powerful:

“You can have your own opinions…but you’re not entitled to your own facts”

This particularly hit home because, as a data scientist at Airbnb, there is a tremendous responsibility to report accurately and fully on the data we collect. And it’s important to get this right because, as the talk poignantly demonstrates, while views can disagree, the data that they are based on should not.