Reflections on “The Secret Life of Data in the Year 2020” – #BigData


@intel promoted The Secret Life of Data in the Year 2020.

The opening gambit is:

Our processors are how data gets from one place to another. If anyone should have insight into how to make data do things we want it to do, make it work for the future, it should be Intel.

This is a bit of a surprise for me. I had always thought of data in terms of a data model—what data means to people. Movement of data is not really relevant in this context.

This is clarified further on:

But as we begin to build the Secret Life of Data, we must always remember that data is meaningless all by itself. The 1s and 0s are useless and meaningless on their own. Data is only useful and indeed powerful when it comes into contact with people.

Emphasis Mine

The article goes on to consider science fiction visions of Philip K. Dick and William Gibson:

Using these science-fiction visions, we can begin to develop a way to conceptualize the data. From the view of this narrative, our data—the data we created—becomes a kind of simulacrum of ourselves. Like Philip K. Dick’s androids and William Gibson’s cyborgs, data becomes a way to embody who we are, but at the same time it remains external. It allows us to examine who we are and also what we want to do with these systems. As we begin to architect these systems, often the reality is too hard to handle: It’s too complex for us to make any meaningful design decisions. We need these representations, these androids, to be our proxies.

Emphasis Mine

I am reading this as saying that a comprehensive set of facts (or data) constitutes knowledge about an individual. In other words, if I know everything about you, then I fully understand you. My gut feeling is that this is not quite right.

The article continues with:

And one day, humanity may be defined by how our personal data interacts with and is connected to other people’s data. We have to come to grips with the idea that this interconnected humanness that moves from data to data, algorithm to algorithm, might happen without us knowing anything about it. It very well could happen in the Secret Life of Data.

Emphasis Mine

This is a very sterile view of what humanity is. Not everything about us can be measured and so converted into data.

We have feelings and emotions that arfe very hard to articulate and understand what mean even to ourselves. The idea that we can be laid bare by our personal data is nonsense. There are even secrets that are hidden from our inner selves.

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