Eight hundred and one years after the birth of Jesus, another child was born, by a much richer family 170 kilometers south of Baghdad, in Kufa. He was given a much longer name: Abu Yūsuf Yaʻqūb ibn ʼIsḥāq aṣ-Ṣabbāḥ al-Kindī. English Wikipedia just calls him “al-Kindi”.
In the beautiful world of statistics, al-Kindi’s birth marks the beginning of time. He was brilliant! He is the father of the oldest known cryptanalysis by frequency. Which means he deducted the encryption key from the frequency of letters.
All other statistical concepts came later. The earliest recorded average dates to the 1600 century. The numeric probability of Thomas Bayes is no older than 300 years. Statistics are needed to understand the world. But statistical methods are youngsters, compared to the common methods of understanding the world: guess-work & myths. Those have existed as long as there has been humans.
I consider Al-Kindí’s birth year 801 the beginning of the statistical calendar. That means we are currently living in the statistical year 1218. This explains the low level of Factfulness around us. With the “statistical calendar” we haven’t even reached the Dark Middle Ages yet!
Today is World Statistics Day, October 20. Lets celebrate it by worshiping this first frequency analysis from south of Baghdad. Lets celebrate the new way of understanding the world, which started with al-Kindi.
And every time we understand the world through data, let’s not forget all those struggling data collectors out there, knocking doors, filling out forms in order to complete a random sample or a full census. The fieldworkers who make a fact-based worldview possible. Those who enable us to understand our world, based on real frequencies instead of myths. You are always in my heart!
😉 Ola Rosling