Reducing Information Pollution
Get ready for the onslaught of small data. Or non-data. Anti-data. Anything but big data.
Katherine Mitchell DiRico’s exhibition “Data Sets,” on view through Feb. 4 at Montserrat College’s Schlosberg Gallery, wants you to think about data, implies data, and establishes an aesthetic around data – all without any data. Her delicate, barely visible wall installations – pinned wire, some string, pencil marks, shockingly little color – look like carelessly copied musical scores, or perverse renderings of DaVinci’s geometric anatomical drawings. Pinned wire and string emanate from a central, tangled cluster, stretching out into incoherent, unequal directions.
For thousands of years humans believed that authority came from the gods. Then, during the modern era, humanism gradually shifted authority from deities to people. Jean-Jacques Rousseau summed up this revolution in Emile, his 1762 treatise on education. When looking for the rules of conduct in life, Rousseau found them “in the depths of my heart, traced by nature in characters which nothing can efface. I need only consult myself with regard to what I wish to do; what I feel to be good is good, what I feel to be bad is bad.” Humanist thinkers such as Rousseau convinced us that our own feelings and desires were the ultimate source of meaning, and that our free will was, therefore, the highest authority of all.
The best inventions are often those that are borne from real-world problems or frustrations. Indeed, many of the greatest fintech innovations have come from former equity analysts, money managers and backoffice professionals that have encountered a need during their day jobs, and built a product to meet it. San Francisco-based AlphaSense is a prime example; the founders of the business recognized the extraordinary amount of time they were spending searching and consolidating corporate and financial information, rather than acting on it. From that frustration, AlphaSense was born.
Across many industries, both business planning and key decision-making are increasingly informed by big data. As pressure mounts to match business operations to the record pace of current, aggressive market innovation, more organizations are looking to base decisions on hard numbers in order to mitigate risk and raise return. But faulty interpretation of data invites error in deriving and applying insights. These new risks have created opportunities for the CFO to collaborate with both other members of the C-suite and human resources to usher in new ways of working and to obtain a competitive advantage in their markets.
The first thing I did after the Ashley Madison hack was exposed was check to see if my own email address had been compromised. It was, of course—I’d created an account years ago for a story (I swear). As I passed my email along to colleagues so they could test it on various Ashley Madison “checkers” that sprung up after the leak, it felt very strange to know I could type in anyone’s email address to see if they’d used the site. So I didn’t.
Feeling overwhelmed by too much information? What else is new? The amount of digital data available on the Web every day reaches records of mind-boggling proportions—now more than a zettabyte (1021 bytes) and presumably accumulating at an ever-increasing rate, estimated at 30-percent growth per year from 1999 to 2002.
Alvin Toffler sounded the first early warning more than 30 years ago. In his trailblazing book, Future Shock (Random House, 1971), Toffler theorized that the human brain has finite limits on how much information it can absorb and process. Exceed that limit and the brain becomes overloaded, thinking and reasoning become dulled, decision-making flawed and, in some cases, impossible. Even worse, he suggested, information overload will eventually lead to widespread physical and mental disturbances. He called this phenomenon “future shock syndrome.” Read more…
Last week, I wrote about the massive amount of data that most large organisations have in their IT systems. Storage has become so inexpensive that most no longer worry about the cost, and increasingly companies and government departments are storing as much information as they can about every aspect of their business.
This data is often duplicated, and not just for backup purposes. A lot of it is used in data warehouses, where transactional data is massaged into a different form for business analysis. Data warehousing has been one of the strongest areas of growth in the IT industry in the past 10 years.
There is real value in having data, but only if it’s organized. It’s that simple. I love having a big garage, but it doesn’t help if I can’t find the tool I’m looking for and I have to go to Home Depot and buy the same thing again. It’s the same with data. Over the next four years, we’re going to have 10 times more information. CIOs will be struggling to get value out of it.