Data Is the New Window Into Humanity
Moving beyond the telescope and microscope, data is the new window into life.
Posted July 16, 2018
There is perhaps one word in today’s techno-vocabulary that drives both interest and concern. And that’s the four-letter word, data. It comes in all sizes and shapes and is as ubiquitous as life itself. Whether you know it or not, we manufacture data as human exhaust that create a portrait of our activities and lives that commonly goes unnoticed or unused. Some of these data have even been vilified and defined as intrusive and violating a sacred trust.
That’s all about to change.
Today, we live at a unique point in human history where data are becoming the new currencies. Beyond oil, dollars and social status, data are emerging as one of the most powerful and consequential currencies around the globe. Technology, computer processing, cloud storage and artificial intelligence are empowering these data to transform zeroes and ones into insightful and even profound realizations about almost every aspect of our lives.
We all remember the idea of six degrees of separation. Basically, this idea suggests that we are all “friends of friends” with a direct, personal connection to everyone by six or fewer people. Add to that the novelty of “six degrees of Kevin Bacon” and you have a powerful idea that goes viral. Interestingly, that same construct applies to big data—in reverse! Data, passive data acquisition, and advanced analytics, combine to allow us to find the “six degrees of connectivity”. What once was a disparate set of data points will become surrogates to focused insights about life and the world around us. Connecting just the right dots will reveal levels of connectivity that will impact almost every aspect of humanity—from medicine to manufacturing.
This ability to connect data points—many of which will be easily obtained—results in new data that were once difficult, expensive or even unobtainable. For example, the combination of daily steps, heart rate variability during sleep and the number of times you open and close your refrigerator door could potentially be correlated with the likelihood of becoming obese of diabetic. Our DNA will also provide a vast data set for examination and correlation with physiologic and non-physiologic data. Similarly, manufacturing and industrial-related insights can drive new procedures and efficiencies. What’s really interesting is that insights can be acquired with fewer and fewer data points. And this allows us to potentially use readily available data to make impactful decisions. It’s 6, 5, 4, 3 and even 2 degrees of connectivity!
And it’s these newly found insights that will fling humanity across the universe.
Just as the telescope and microscope revealed blasphemous and transformative perspectives, big data will emerge as the third window into humanity. These technological advances that will allow us all to engage and even transcend our relationships with each other to see newly revealed connectivity—a connection that may very well manifest in the surprising and un-technological result of peace and even love. You see, as data reveals its bold scientific conclusions, one glaring aspect of it all is the fundamental connectivity that binds humanity. From social media to cooperative ecosystems, the final truth to the emergence of big data may be less a window to peer into and much more of a mirror that allow us to get a richer and more informed sense of ourselves and our neighbors, and around the world. Driven by this reality, our contributions to society will expand from the old school perspective of donating time, blood and organs to the exchange of information. We will become data donors. And it’s this connection—scientific and mathematical at first—that will become integral to our everyday experience and fundamentally shift the trajectory of human evolution.