IDM in Pictures 2/12: Data and our future

The possibilities of big data are impressive but let us not get carried away.

Not only is there the danger of trusting in the results of data manipulation that we do not understand (cf the many studies showing the dangers of ‘private’ algorithms that are not open to analysis), but there is the greater danger that we put our faith in aiming at ‘data’ outcomes (e.g. KPIs) rather than people outcomes.

So let us put our effort into better measurements of what really matters – better (i.e. more relevant) data. This will inevitably mean using non-dollar measures – and judgement.

Discussion today tends to conflate the benefits of greater use of digital data and digitisation itself.  Both are valuable, and both impact infrastructure decision making, but they are not the same.

There is currently much discussion of loss of work opportunities through the use of robots.  If our decisions are driven purely by data, then robots can do a great job. But if we want our decisions to include values such as kindness, compassion, and fairness, then we need people.

We appreciate the benefits of big data but do we really want to live in a world without kindness, compassion and fairness?

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