The great flood of data
The world is flooded with data. A simple search online would show that the majority of the data ever produced by the entire humankind through all the history has been created in the last decade or less. It is impressive, scary, and very interesting to witness. With the growing amount of information cheaply available we are witnessing a very remarkable moment that could speed up the process which is ongoing since the beginning of time: evolution.
As a species, we have already reached the point where the flow of information produced by us is so huge that no man can analyze and understand. Well aware of this problem we have invented not few techniques that try to make sense of all this information, the so-called statistic and its evolution called machine learning. Even though a human, an expert, is always needed in the process of bootstrapping and maintaining the machine, the exploration and making sense of the data is indeed left to the machine learning code. We seek for correlation, we tell to machine a couple of examples and then we let the algorithm go and find that secret formula for the correlation. Empirical evidence shows without any doubt that in certain tasks machines can make sense of the data better than humans and as time passes those tasks are becoming more and more. From image recognition to text generation the list goes on and on.
The point of the discussion is not (yet) to describe all the incredible abilities of machine learning algorithms but instead reason about the incredible amount of data that not only is forcing us to rely on machines to extract knowledge but it is slowly shaping our society and ourselves as a human being.
Change of paragdim
From movies to research papers in engineering and biology the more and more our world and human essence are described as a series of simple systems that communicate and behave easily. This is a process that slowly appears with the born of modern medicine and now has invaded many other fields such as computer science where each human activity is being decomposed in simple action and then emulated by an algorithm. Soon this process will stop by hitting something unique of humans? Or it would continue forever? Nobody knows and anyone telling you something about the future is wrong.
Spend some time instead on reflecting on how the data are impacting our being, our relationships, and our role in the world, all at this moment, is instead much more relevant and exciting. It is funny to recognize that for the first time in history humans are completely relying on data to understand more themselves and take decisions always more important. Data are shaping us because they are driving us without even notice it. A simple example is my happiness and the views that this article will get. I have to try hard to not link my happiness and satisfaction to the data I will get from Medium about my post. The same is true for the thousands of tweets, images, and posts shared on whatever social network. Just a few minutes thinking about that and it will become clear how much we are not able to handle the world of data that is coming ahead of us. We are impressively manipulated just by data itself, imagine what can happen when digital agents will exploit that information to actively nudging or persuade us.
Much more than ever we rely on data just to understand better who we are and how we feel. We eat what tailored applications tell us to eat instead of listening to ourselves and we talk or like what is on trending instead of what we like. Many would argue this is just because following a diet will help us live longer or what is in trend is funny or interesting but this article is not trying to say this is wrong but just wish to start a discussion around the fact we are relying on data instead of our senses. Interesting as much as interesting is where this data will bring us.
Reflecting on the world dominated by the data, that we are just starting to experience, is important to maybe understand we, or our families or friends, may not be ready to face it. Having all this data available feels like we are finally in control of ourselves, understanding every bit of it and able to monitor, track and improve better than ever. Unfortunately, it would be just a matter of time to realize we are just doing the opposite and little by little externalize every decision and every aspect of us. I hope BitEvolution would bring the time to activate our unique human brain and maybe guide you through this future.
I’m pretty sure many of you won’t agree with me, reason why I hope to fire up the discussion on any platform, for example on Instagram tagging @bit.evolution .
I recently read a slogan of a nice young startup that states something in the line of “We make robots so people don’t have to be robots”. Let’s try to not become robots soon. If you would stick with me for the next 19 weeks hopefully a clear picture of humans and technology will raise. It is very easy to be driven by data giving up all of we are. Till the next one, if you understand Italian: