Big data could pile up

When we’re kids we are told to try, just try, you won’t learn anything if you won’t try. That strategy seems to work reasonably well.  It’s not anywhere near perfect since there are countless examples of kids who try and don’t succeed who are subsequently put off by, not so much the actual failure, but by the ridicule, contempt, or disappointment of those who should know better. Often it comes from the very people who instructed them to try in the first place. But I would hazard to guess that most of the time kids feel fairly safe to give something new a whirl. How else to explain tobogganing, walking a balance beam, or calculus?

I was reminded of this when I read a weighty article in The Atlantic called, big data boom is the innovation story of our time. Anyone who has been reading my blog over the last year knows I touch on this on occasion. It’s one of my favorite topics and I really believe it is the most important hinge of this period. Keeping with the metaphor, it will allow us to swing open doors to places we only imagined in sci-fi. Isaac Asimov and Orson Scott Card were on to all this many decades ago.  Now we have the means to measure and collect extremely small slices of time and movements. We can look at that data and make decisions based on patterns we see or those we extrapolate. Is it the end of it? Not according to the article. Without experimentation to go along with the collection and analysis, the decisions will be fraught with mistaken conclusions. Basically, more data will mean more experimentation to test theories. You see, technology makes life simpler and more complex.

So how does the story of encouraging kids to try relate to big data? Because without experimentation, trying, we as a species never really grow and learn. The trouble as I see it is that our modern business models are not conducive to experimentation. Despite graduating thousands of smart people every year to lead and grow our economies, most modern corporations unwittingly, and with a smile and wonderful contradictory words, handcuff and strangle their staff. They smother experimentation. Corporations prescribe the approaches to be taken, and even if they ask employees to try, to experiment, there is precious little allowance for failure. Staff quickly learn that they better get it right the first time.

Such a shame that we still have such a long way to go.

About Peter Armaly
I get jazzed by automation, big data, and blockchain tech. Business, technology, and fitness are things I understand. Scotch, wine, food, and fiction are things I appreciate.

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