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I recently read The Mystic In The Machine (The Tao of computation.)

I have always been interested in the concept of polarity or duality and the reality that we cannot experience good without the existence of bad, or pleasure without the experience of pain. Our perception of any present reality is the result of previous experiences. In other words, we carry the bias of our past into the present and it effects the way we interpret any current input. This is amoral. It does not make our perception good or bad, just unique and skewed.

The comparison the author makes between current computational technology and the ancient Book of Changes creates an opportunity for reflection on how we interpret the data that is available to us in any given circumstance. Even more thought provoking is the impact presentation has on how we value and approach a given data set.

We know that presentation effects interpretation. I remember sitting in a Braum’s once and noticing the product pictures on the walls were faded and yellowed. If I didn’t know how good the ice cream was, those pictures would keep me from buying it. Would you rather look at a complex table of numbers, or a colorful chart which graphically represents the data? And quite frankly, why do you think we buy fashionable clothes and spend so much money on make-up, hair and other cosmetic items? Presentation, when it aligns with our bias, makes us more likely to accept or desire something, and when it is askew to our bias, makes us more likely to reject or dislike something.

We naturally arrange the world around us in ways that align with our current bias. We don’t even know that we are doing it. The problem this creates is simple to identify but difficult to overcome. We tend to make the data mean what we think it should mean. More data does not necessarily lead to better decisions.

From the article:

“Here is the rub: the problems that we face in the world today and in our personal lives (or in our corporate ones) are not due to a dearth of information. There is no secret to losing weight, preventing climate change, or having a more equitable economic system. And yet, despite all the data, we collectively and individually continually fail to make the right decisions.”

As we embark on Business Intelligence (BI) or “BIG DATA” we must address the harsh reality that we are screwing up the data as we collect it. We are making choices and creating formats and processes that impact how we will then interpret the data. This is going to happen. The subsequent decisions we make will be artificially constrained by these limitations. We will miss some of the best choices. We will make mistakes.

Again, from the article:

“We have more data at our finger tips than ever before, and yet data is not enough …. The question is whether we will choose to digest that data into wisdom.”

Wisdom. If wisdom isn’t in the data, where is it?

James 1:5 says that God will give us wisdom if we ask for it. Job 12:12 tells us that experience and time can lead to wisdom. Proverbs 19:20 indicates that listening to sound advice and being open to correction (sounds like humility) will find us counted as wise.

Seeking God in our decisions is foundational to being able to digest the available information. A willingness to accept that I may be wrong and asking others for their input is a beginning to gaining the type of wisdom that could help us see the data around us with a wider field of vision. Arrogance blinds us, humility opens our eyes. Time and experience round out the human equation.

We have more data than ever before. We are about to have even more. We should use data to inform and improve our decision making, not to replace our values or override our emotional intelligence. Decisions cannot be made purely on data, because sometimes we make the data mean what we wish. Ultimately, we will need wisdom and input from a diverse group of dedicated people to give us the best options for our future.

I am excited to see what tomorrow brings because I am already surrounded by dedicated people who I know are committed to our values and each other.

That’s the Kimray Way.