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Digital thinking tools for better decision making
Digital thinking tools for better decision making

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Session 3: The big calculator


It is often said that all of the people in the world could stand on the Isle of Wight, which is a relatively small island off the south coast of England. Can this be true? How could you check it for yourself?

A mass of people all densely crowded together.
Figure 1 Standing room only?

In this session you will learn how to use Python – a sort of big calculator – to investigate questions like these. Often it is not possible to reach exact answers. So you will look at how to estimate some of the information in order to get a result that is good enough to answer the question concerned.

On the way, you will learn skills to help you estimate the true figures behind a range of social statistics and assess whether people’s first reactions are accurate.

By the end of this session, you will be able to:

  • use the Python interactive console to calculate answers to problems
  • use the ‘Fermi problem’ approach to generate good estimates even when you don’t have much information
  • discuss the ‘wisdom of crowds’
  • describe the key differences between fast and slow thinking.