Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Data data data

David Brooks comments:
If you asked me to describe the rising philosophy of the day, I’d say it is data-ism. We now have the ability to gather huge amounts of data. This ability seems to carry with it certain cultural assumptions — that everything that can be measured should be measured; that data is a transparent and reliable lens that allows us to filter out emotionalism and ideology; that data will help us do remarkable things — like foretell the future.
Brooks goes on to give examples of the valuable insights that data analysis can give us.  The means we have of gathering and analyzing data are indeed very impressive.  I think there is a potential problem, which one might call "data worship," a more extreme version of Brooks's "data-ism": quantifiable data is often seen as the only valid way of answering any question, and I sometimes think that natural or social scientists view questions that are not amenable to quantitative analysis as not worth asking.  Just an impression--I've never heard that expressed explicitly.

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