There was that book that began with the line about best of times, worst of times, age of wisdom, douse liberally in raw uncut stupidity, put into a hot oven and bake for 90 minutes. You get the idea.
That book was published in 1859 and was set in 1775. Its now 2020. Things have not appreciably improved.
As a species we’ve been developing a theoretical and practical approach regarding How to Know A Thing for a few thousand years. Its well past time that a gut feeling was acceptable for any decision making process.
A few years ago the buzzword coming out of the IT industry that no one understood but everyone kept talking about anyway was “big data”. Originally meant to refer to having to deal with extremely large amount of data it eventually mutated into analysis of people doing shit for the purpose of figuring out what they’re likely to do before they do it. Primarily this is used by people who sell awful cake to put cake in front of people at the moment they are most likely to want some cake because at that point people are more likely to eat cake no matter how horrible it is.
I worked in big data for some time.
It was a pleasant time for me. My life involved commuting to work on a ferry, working 6 hours, and returning to my island home on the same ferry. I spent the time on the ferry gaining a rich understanding of how difficult drawing is by committing crimes against realism in a small sketchbook. In the evening I would usually enjoy a small bag of popcorn from the ferry’s galley and continue with my pencil driven atrocities against form, shadow, light, and clear observations of all three.
Between my lessons in failure I built dashboards which allowed someone somewhere to slice huge amounts of data into human sized chunks. This involved some fairly complex database work on top of a graph creation package that was depreciated. For those unfamiliar with the usage of the term, it means that the company that wrote the application has washed it hands of it and turned their backs on it.
Still, a small number of developers were involved in producing business intelligence applications for an unknown user base who needed to dip into the mysterious world of Big Data. They merrily churned out requested upgrades, drank their company provided beer on Friday afternoons, and between teriyaki takeout and coffee kept the mill grinding the rough grains of raw data into a more palatable form.
Then six months later the unknown user base that was responsible for looking at all the charts and graphs somehow managed to lose a major customer for their business intelligence business and half the developers were sacked after being forced to listen to management talk at length about how difficult their job is and how agonizing these kinds of decisions were for them.
This included me.
I had suspected for a long time that no one was using our painstakingly crafted software. At least no one in a position to make decisions based on that data was paying any attention. Ignoring data does have consequences. Unfortunately those consequences are usually not felt by the person responsible.
The more idealistic among us continue to hold onto the belief that the Truth Will Set Us Free. By showing reasoned arguments backed by relevant data, those in power will set upon the correct course of action. Being told the truth will uplift the masses and pull them out of ignorance. A single shining thread gives them a way out of the darkness.
Naturally, this is not a thing.
When Prometheus carried the fire down the mountain they kicked him in the nuts and pissed all over the torch.
Bringing truth, or at least facts to the masses doesn’t solve problems. In these degenerate times it feels like a waste of time at best. I’m unsure of the value in continuing to work with data.
Perhaps its just the hope that a more reasonable future will find it. I’ll be dust. But perhaps the stack of information will find its way toward that uncertain future. In one shining moment it will be found and marveled at.
Someone will finally know we weren’t all that fucking stupid.