I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion. — Henry David Thoreau
There is a growing awareness of the power of data to be a lever with which humanity can change the world for better. This is serious stuff. Save lives. Heal our planet. Generate immense real economic and improve the quality of life of nearly every living human being. The application of data science to the rising tide of data inundating our lives is an important part of achieving these benefits for humanity.
All segments of all industries must rapidly adapt to a data driven economy. People and companies that bury their heads in the sand will only to fall behind with greater velocity over time. Technological change is not only happening faster, it's velocity of change is increasing and thus the magnitude of its impact, positive and negative, in ever shorter time cycles. Feel like things are changing faster? They are changing faster.
When it comes to data and the science we want to do with that data, there is no one pill to cure all our ills. There is no easy button even though that is what everyone mistakenly wants. To learn how do use data to change the world, we need to understand it’s core properties.
There are four things to know about data that stand out as especially important.
Data is an Asset. It is like real estate, a bond, cash in the bank or an automotive production plant. When you begin to consider data in this way, it changes how you choose to manage it over time. It changes how you assign value to data.
Data is Digital. Data is unique in many ways because it is digital. This gives it, generally speaking, a low marginal cost of replication and reuse. This can be a blessing or a curse depending on how this little detail is managed and used as a lever to generate value from data.
Data is Strategically Valuable. As a digital asset, data is strategically valuable to the on-going concern of any entity be they a person or an organizations. This just seems obvious, and gladly, it’s becoming more so now that we have the actual tools becoming available more broadly to use the data we can generate.
Data is Dynamic - Data will never stop changing. Even if you just leave it alone it'll rot or age. Some data has a very short half-life of value. Other data, like a fine wine, just gets better with age (and integration). If your data management systems do not account for this, you'll end up with a data cesspool instead of a pristine and beautiful data lake.
Understand these four key properties of data. Consider the implications of five Billion people online, connected and communicating. Remember that data can be used to change the world. Think. Then, Do Good Things With Data for People.
There will be between 50 and 200 Billion devices connected to the internet by around 2020. At the high end, that’s as many as 25 devices for every person that will be alive at that time. Today, that number is closer to three for every living person. This is currently called the Internet of Things. People are a crucial component of these things. People don’t like being called things and that is understandable. Like it or not though, people are part of the IoT.
Over half of humanity is not online yet! But, they will be very soon. Right now there are about 3.15 Billion people online in various ways. That will be over five Billion in the next three to five years.
Access to massive data sets and humanities ability to use them effectively is astounding. There are algorithms being created that are learning to do things that only humans could do before and they are learning them in very human-like ways in some cases. They are usually carefully trained and parented by a loving data scientist still today.
The subjects touched on lightly in this post are beginnings.
About the Author
Kent Langley is the CEO/CTO, Ekho, Inc. and Faculty in Data Science at Singularity University. Kent advises companies and frequently acts as a Chief Technical Advisor to the business and technology executives providing for Technology audit, due diligence, technical architecture and filling leadership roles on-demand. Kent is also an ExO expert helping companies adopt new people, processes and technologies that enable them to leverage resources effectively and grow.
Ekho is a company that endeavors to deliver on the Massive Transformative Purpose (MTP) to do good things with data for people. Ultimately, Ekho helps its clients derive actionable insights from their data using the best data science tools and processes available.
About Singularity University
Singularity University provides educational programs, innovative partnerships and a startup accelerator to help individuals, businesses, institutions, investors, NGOs and governments understand cutting-edge technologies, and how to utilize these technologies to positively impact billions of people.