The Data Around Us
We live in an era that is post truth. We are surrounded by data pollution, data bias, data ignorance, and data fatigue. Even good data can be polluted with bad data or false interpretation. Social media has become a source of news, and algorithms from Facebook and Google filter the data based on our preferences, so that news is biased from the start. In 2016, the rise of pretentious data activists and data aristocrats forced those who weren’t data-driven machines into a defensive position to fight against facts and logic. Throughout 2017, information chaos made headlines with news stations abusing data to push their respective political agendas. Thus far in 2018, we are seeing even more data misconduct and corruption, and it’s pushing people to become data ignorant, pushing us to trust our feelings instead of data. We are moving backwards as a society. So, if we are living in this post-fact era, how can we make informed decisions through the data pollution, and does it really matter?
Spoiler alert: yes, it matters; a lot. The same way that reading and writing became important in the industrial age, data literacy is of utmost importance as we are continuing to advance in the digital age. Based on a Forester report, data literacy will gain company-wide and societal imperative in 2018. According to Gartner, “by 2020 80% of organizations initiate deliberate competency development in the field of data literacy, acknowledging their extreme deficiency.”
Analytical processing power is barely keeping up with the explosion of data and content being generated every millisecond. Virtually every human being is generating billions of lines of data every day, and while not every byte of that data is useful, there are insights buried in these data that can be used to improve our lives and the lives of those around us. These advancements create an incredible opportunity for us to use the data and the computing power in a more democratized fashion so that everyone can make informed, fact-based decisions not only in their professional lives but also their personal lives. In order for the democratization of data to take hold, however, we must transition as a society away from overemphasis on data ownership and lockdown, and instead focus efforts on enabling data quality, security, and cataloguing.