Big data and white lies

No this is not the title for the next generation James Bond movie, where he fights crime from the comfort of his armchair on his Macbook. That would be extremely boring and Aston Martin would not sell as many cars. It is however a question we need to think about in an era where we have all of this data, but no information, knowledge or wisdom. One could also argue we have all of these degrees, but no common sense.
We live in an era of smartphones and Dumb people is what they say. A time where we sit around a dinner table and each one of us is staring at a screen a few inches wide with not a single word spoken and limited human interaction. Is this what these devices have brought us to? A generation with little or no social skills who update their statuses every 5 minutes and have more selfies on their phones than photos of anything else.
Before the era of big data and data science we were just a bunch of scientists using supercomputers to process data and try and understand what the hell is happening. Since the great white hype about data has taken over and artificial intelligence and machine learning have become the flavour of the week, everybody wants to be a data scientist. I am guessing mainly due to the salary expectations.
A couple of online courses does not a data scientist make. It does not make any sort of scientist or even professional. Like that one Uncle who googles things before he goes to the Qualified medical doctor and then diagnoses himself, telling the Doc what to prescribe and for how long he will need the sick certificate to last. There is a time and a place for every professional. Furthermore, training does not only happen in the classroom or at the University. We could then in theory train good scientists online, coupled with a substantial amount of field training and practical experience, but I digress.
The work of Nassim Nicholas Taleb on anomalies and antifragility comes to mind when looking at issues of this nature. This is due to the fact that scientists are always looking for patterns and trying to fit models but sometimes forget about the anomalies in the data and what these are telling us.
In the end are we fooling ourselves with all of this data and algorithms that smooth out anomalies? A good example is when climate scientists completely ignored the seven year spikes which turned out to be Elnino events. Are all of these correlation matrices and papers about relationships between specific variables completely arbitrary? Does Chaos theory have a place in all of this?
 What we need is less selfies and more self awareness.


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