Data Anxiety

Tempus fugit

#data anxiety

Information culture

via notational:

“If we stop seeing information as chunks of stuff, as items fixed in size, then we may reach some understanding…”

simsa0 :: Information Culture via protoslacker

I read the post. The excerpt above was important to the conclusion, but not the most important aspect to me. Instead, the intermediate points, like this, resonated, were most relevant to me:

What does it mean that people seem to cheer about the rise in “digital abundance” while at the same time they shrug off the massive decay in natural and cultural diversity?

Since my recent comments on corporate and university blogs have not always been published, I’ll reproduce what I wrote, here, just in case. Don’t read what I wrote… No, that is ridiculous! Please read what I wrote, if you have the time or inclination. Please be aware that it will make more sense after reading the original post, Information Culture via the eerily Second Life-evocative Wordpress blog of simsa0, see above for the URL.

My comment

Traffic management using dynamic systems models and performance optimization was developed theoretically, and has been implemented in many large cities, globally, for at least 30 years. I learned about it as part of my master’s degree in Operations Research. Civil engineers implement it. IBM Smarter Cities is a response to what this post (very astutely) describes as data fetishization. IBM supported urban planners and engineers for decades, affordably, quietly and reliably. No one was especially interested then. Now, there is exaltation of data and systems, even by those without the corresponding skill sets to use them. (There are other important roles in society; we do NOT need masses of “data scientists”). Also missing now is acknowledgement that human-friendly infrastructure and safety is the primary concern, an order of magnitude ahead of urban efficiency and profit. That’s why we had regulations and certification requirements, years spent studying, memorizing, preparing for low likelihood but highly adverse scenarios. It was deemed worthwhile.

As for the conjecture that Slow Food, Slow Reading, Slow Banking will be movements of an affluent middle class, I think that is too optimistic. Instead, they are more likely to be indulgences of the very, very wealthy. Society is stratifying into the old, pre-Enlightenment, pre-Reformation arrangement, i.e. feudal lords/ landed gentry versus The Masses, also known as serfs.

I could say more, but have said too much already. This post is well written. Thank you.

Despite my fear, I laughed when I read this, as it so true!

… that Man is irrelevant to Nature’s well-being. We find this sentiment in every variety of environmentalism of the last 20 years (before then, the level of critical thinking was more advanced). It states that Nature will survive Man even when he is gone, and that any negative treatment of Nature by Man will… be of no…consequence for Nature. Nature / World will be without Man, but at least it will still be one, finding its own ways to balance & equilibrium.

It is important to see that this typical western view… is not shared in any other culture that isn’t hooked on industrialized Capitalism. In fact, in most indigenous world-views, Man plays a vital role for the well-being of Nature…

[Emphasis mine]

Please, tell me, what can we do? I want this, I want to see

the doors open again, for gratitude and joy.

“We are almost break even on the bailout”

The Wall Street Executive: We’re almost at break even  via CNN, 15 September 2013

The working-class, middle-class and most of the upper middle-class have worked hard these past 6 years, facilitated as needed by administration policies. As a result, the majority has transferred their life’s savings and sacrificed their children’s future to give to our oligarchy.

Our oligarchy

Our oligarchy is the tiny (in observation count) group of corporate CEO’s, hedge fund elite, not-so-high-tech e-commerce billionaires and a very few, very special interest groups.

We have been spared Larry Summers for now. His (and his friends and peers) reckless behavior and rapacious greed nearly destabilized global financial markets in 2007 - 2008. Soon enough, it will be time to hold another presidential election. We might even see Mrs. Clinton ascend to the presidency in 2016.

Why such a delay in paying back the bailout money?

The bailout was mostly paid for by the citizens and residents of the USA. However, taxes and other sources of public funds are increasingly scarce. There is less to tax, and then redistribute, upward now. Major U.S. cities, most recently Detroit, have declared bankruptcy. More relevant: U.S. workers don’t earn as much, nor work as many hours, nor even participate in the labor market at all.

They would if they could

Labor market non-participation is a synonym for structural unemployment, not laziness, by the way. Non-participation is not by choice. They would work, if they could. Most people want a sense of autonomy and the self-determination that accompanies earning a living, versus being at the mercy of unpredictable government or other benefactor largesse. I say that in response to complaints about our current so-called welfare economy situation.

People would work if there were jobs rather than the new “artisan economy” as James Altchuler et al. would say. And the growth in jobs at Starbucks, which I have actually read, via a GigaOm contributor, is fungible i.e. interchangable, with the 700,000 jobs in manufacturing and industry that were lost over the past 5 to 10 years.

Please note that neither Om Malik nor Pierre Omidyar made that ridiculous observation. I can’t remember who owns GigaOm even though I read it regularly and generally like it. Stacey Higgenbotham is great! Paul Ingram… less so.

A Larger Pool of Data, but Few Dive In »

Another depressing analysis of the signs of our time

The author, Nicholas Carr, is credible, though sometimes I wish he weren’t. He writes at Rough Type, if you are stalwart enough for more. I have been reading his posts, now and then, for several years.

"It would be nice if we could engineer a more informed citizenry by simply cranking up the flow of information. But we can’t. Despite being inundated with data and messages, Americans today don’t seem any better informed than they were before the arrival of the Web.

A Pew Research Center study found that Americans’ knowledge of current affairs didn’t change significantly between 1989 and 2007, the two decades when online information stores, news sites and sharing tools exploded. And the least informed age group remained the youngest, the 18- to 29-year-old’s who are also the most avid users of social media. ‘Digital revolutions,’ the researchers concluded, ‘have had little impact on how much Americans know about national and international affairs.’”

Apparently, there is also Rougher Type. The author is the same, but the content is more mild. I hope it continues.


Now THIS is interesting! I found a March 2007 post written by Biz Stone of Twitter founder fame. @biz critiques …. Nicholas Carr’s critique of Twitter! It is quite sweet-natured and of course, very meta in hindsight.

“But our success actually hinges on the opposite: on our willingness to risk missing some information. Because trying to focus on it all is a risk in itself.”

Bregman: Two Lists… HBR (Harvard Business Review) May 2009 via zerolens


An opportunity to use the “Data Anxiety” tag.

Dirty Data Derails Data Analytics and ROI »

30% of companies have no strategy for “data hygiene” – removing duplicates or obsolete information… [Also] data decay is increasing rapidly.

What can be done? Well, a good start would be a regularly scheduled data integrity check.

Like a health inspector, you can’t expect to check every restaurant daily – but responding to complaints and maintaining a rigorous plan for oversight is a good policy.

A well-publicized program for testing data accuracy responds to enterprise inquiries about what you know, and how you know.

Then you can confidently answer the question “Are you sure?”