Putting big data in the '-ism' category


An-ism is a distinctive doctrine, cause or theory, but these days people use it as an easy derogation for something they are uncomfortable with,  unsure of or skeptical about. David Brooks, in the New York Times this week, put data in that category by adding an –ism.

Data-ism assumes, he said, that that everything that can be measured should be measured; that data is a transparent and reliable lens that allows us to filter out emotionalism and ideology; that data will help us do remarkable things, such as tell the future. He called it the rising philosophy of the day.

Brooks' take on data is more skeptical than derogatory, and he says correctly that people tend to get carried away in their desire to reduce everything to the quantifiable. He also provided a few examples where a closer study of the data proved to be more accurate than our intuition. For example: there is no such thing as the hot hand in basketball and John Lennon may not have been the most intellectual Beatle.

He also made an important point about education, which is discussed at greater length in our article, An education fix for the ages.

Brooks then said he plans to do something that perhaps the whole industry should do. That is to take a breath and "get a better grip on some of the questions raised by the data revolution: In what situations should we rely on intuitive pattern recognition and in which situations should we ignore intuition and follow the data? What kinds of events are predictable using statistical analysis and what sorts of events are not?"

For more:
- see the NYT article

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