It Is a Small (and connected) World

Despite bigger and bigger data, the world is a small place and it is full of people. Increasingly networked people. I like Clay Shirky’s thinking in Here Comes Everybody  about new ways people online can gather and form loose communities whose effectiveness is multiplied by new found freedoms and capabilities for distributed but coordinated group action. (Twitter doesn’t topple governments, people linked by Twitter do.)

In Cognitive Surplus he writes about the ability to harness huge untapped human potential. For example, the average Westernized civilization’s tuned-out TV time represents a significant amount of lost “cognition”. If it were possible to recover just a small percentage of that wasted human capital in the pursuit of just about anything, tremendous things could happen. Given the emerging abilities of internet societies to both encourage and allow everyone to contribute, we might be at the start of a tremendous acceleration in human achievement (e.g. see how online gamers solve aids protein puzzle).

It Is a Small World After All

small world #5

Image by bass_nroll via Flickr

It is no longer news that companies can (and must) look for competitive advantage and innovative, even disruptive, opportunities in their “big data”. We are flooded daily with press releases about new big data technology, much of it designed to make the analysis and visualization of big data easier – even for the non-data scientist. You might even call 2011 the start of a renaissance for data visualization gurus and infographic artists.  (And we are seeing data mining history being rewritten to cast any past complex analysis victory as a win for “big data”.)

But not that much is being said about the human psychology around big data analysis. Maybe a few cautionary stories about ensuring good design and not intentionally lying with big data stats (the bigger the data, the bigger the potential lie…). And some advice that the career of the future is “data scientist,” conflicting with emerging technology marketing hype indicating we won’t really need them.

The world is changing for the people who live here but we talk mostly about gadgetry.

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