Sorry for this long text – I needed to write some thoughts down, to engage a bit of discussion on it…please see it as an early draft…
It seems to be a given development, where the only question is „when“ will we see the massive impact of this digital transformation, initiated by the technical possibilities of collecting, gathering and structuring massive data. It is not hard to predict that the job of a „Data Analyst“ has a great future in such an environment, where it is vital to be able to interpret the outcome of this data collections. Also the quality and speed of software generated reports would be unfair to compare to our limited possibilities, when it comes to „simple tasks“. But what about driving conclusions out of such data?
The data itself become only an extremely valuable basis for decisions, investments and research, once there is someone (or something) which can make „Sense“ out of it. Let me explain in 3 examples, why I am quite concerned about this development – without seeing a movement of „deeper“ and also more „holistic“ thoughts coming up.
1. Talent Management based on Data Research
There are various systems out there, which collect personal data (Social Media, Xing, LinkedIn…), job profiles (Monster, Stepstone…), job offers (so many….), organization ratings (kununu, glassdoor…), university profiles (lectures, seats, grades, participant rates…) and even bring those data in connection to each other. It surely is a great help for HR to see, who is available where, what competence is offered when – and who is demanding what profiles… for strategic planning.
I just hope that the ones buying and using those raw data are not just driving conclusions based on the naked, „cold“ numbers – because of course it seems better to build a development lab near a university with a similar competence profile. But thinking this a bit further – this is a great threat for every region with no major education center or qualified population… which in the end will drive whole areas into social disaster’s.
But also just matching available competencies with needed professions (which is of course also very logical and needed) has a great impact on the engagement and creativity of our population. In my personal experience, people who are NOT fitting into a typical Job profile, who lack the typical education or have a truly „individual“ career, will not show up in regular Big Data evaluations, but can be so much more enthusiastic about learning, advancing and creative – just because of their diversity and „un-common“ career path. So if we want to foster creativity (which I think is vital to come up with new ideas (not just new versions of old ideas) in our fast developing world) – we are better off searching for those individuals, who passed our education systems without being „neutralized“ by it. The data is there of course and it could be easy to extract it – unfortunately discussions with major providers of such solutions all tell the same story: „In order to sell our product, we have to show the „big numbers“ – So it all comes down to a more ethical or moral question – are we really positive about selling our future?
All I am asking here is to think hard about whom we are „allowing“ to interpret such data and what are our values behind – are we just driven by numbers or do we see and take the responsibility we have, by using them – in the long run! Also to step back and take a look at the more holistic picture and effects on connected areas – also by thinking a bit into the future!
2. Wearable’s Data collection
I love technology – and a friend was quite surprised me not being one of the first ones to own the new AppleWatch. Of course there are some reasons for that. It is a lot about privacy, security and also usage time versus need for re-charging (I bought my first SmartWatch already in 2012: I’mWatch so there is some experience).
It is really about the two sides of the coin: all the nice services against all the data, we are „trading in“ for that. (and yes this is already happening via Smartphones too). But it is different to „wear“ something – which very fast becomes „part of you“ (as experienced and written about by quite some respectable journalists and early adopters). I just don’t like to sacrifice some of my most valuable and personal information (just think about how personal your puls, activity, interaction, current and constantly updated location… is) A Smartphone can be turned off (by reasonable people) – a wearable watch is not meant to be turned off. Crazy enough, one of my own arguments was „I want to track and improve my sleep pattern“ – which would require to wear it also during the night. (So before I would learn about my „behavior at night“ – some company can access and sell it already)
Pretty soon we will also see companies offering their employees such devices or insurance agencies providing them „for free“ or for lower rates… right now I have quite some doubts that politics or laws has a big stake in this digital development, so who will set the limitations for such use?
For me a urgently needed call for building „media competence“ and understanding the effects of Digital Transformation.
3. Health – Insurance – Impact
Already most of our personal data is stored somewhere on servers or in the cloud. Starting with you citizen data, driving license, education path, bank accounts, tax payments, bills, orders… and also health records. It is important for your doctors to get a holistic picture for their diagnosis or subscribing medicine. Unfortunately this includes also the knowledge of possible health problems caused by your relatives. So if (for example) both of your parents had a certain diagnose – and it is know that this will be inherited – you will not be able to get certain insurances (since they surely will not invest in someone, who WILL get a diagnose too) – this might even reduce the possible jobs you can apply to.
Even worse is, what we can already experience: pre-birth diagnostic „takes out the risk of giving birth to a unhealthy baby“ – of course we all want to be healthy and we want the best for our babies, but think about the impact on the individual and society, if we give the signal to everyone: „you deserve not to be alive, because off….“ – We had that before!
Being „aware“ in real time – is a huge intervention
If you give people the possibility to „see“ (by numbers or graphs) what happens, they will very likely start to adopt very fast – at least it shows a much bigger impact than signs, rules or lectures (smoking kills you, do more sport – it’s healthy, don’t waste energy, water….). Just think about your own reaction since you „see“ the gas consumption of your car in real time, see the energy produced by the sun (photovoltaic) against the energy used, or now giving you live feedback about your activity level …and combining that with a predictive analysis (if you continue … your life is shortened by…)
Impact of alerts – awareness span
If it is the latest tweet, comment or action in social media, a price drop in stock market or „just“ a local weather forecast – we see a massive increase of „awareness“ requests – in Big Data the systems notify us of any unusual patterns, SmartPhones, Watches and also eMail or Chat-Clients constantly alert, notify and catch our attention -if we are not very „mature“ with the use of this. In parallel the time we remain able to read long text, follow more than 15 Minutes presentations or just follow a thought for 3 Minutes is decreasing dramatically (even without disturbance) already. Having such a gadget „implanted“ (or at least directly attached) – it will not be easier.
Conclusion – call for action
Making that data available (even in the best case, you can decide to whom and earn money with it) could help improve our health, reduce costs for society but also put your family in danger and changing your behavior and life… if we do this without proper reflection and come up with some „guidelines“ of what is „OK“ and what is not – or even forbidden.
I think transparency is one of the best solutions for understanding each other, constant learning (Working Out Loud), Improvement and also against our major social issues like racism, religion issues and cultural differences… so great potential – never the less we also need to make sure (Software Providers – this is for you) there is an option to do things „anonymus“: (health system, genetic, politic, NGO work, human rights, security companies, military, police work, investigation, journalism… or just having some private time without interruption)
We surely can not prohibit innovation (and I am the last one to ask for that) – I just would like to see some people (with the necessary technological AND ethical/social background) visibly discussing about possible risks and future scenarios – so the masses have something more reliable to think about than shiny YouTube „unpacking“ videos or the opposite „the world is coming to an end“ prophets.
Will I have a Smart Watch? Will I be using Big Data Analytics myself? The answer is „yes“ – once I have found some answers first (and see some improvements too) – and I will try very hard to also listen too, respect and value opposite opinions, doubts and warnings – from whatever side.