How much of this data is used by humans ever day? Not much. The vast majority of it is produced and stored (temporarily) in digital chips then reset (discarded) the second (or nanosecond) the equipment is needed to represent another piece of information (i.e. data in context, such as a yes/no answer on survey, amount of money in a credit transaction, or the amount of electricity consumed when turning on the kitchen light).
In short, we are awash in a sea of bits. The new danger to civilization may come from this “deluge of data.” Unless science, business, and policymakers can gain control over it, the productivity gains we hope to achieve may drown in analysis paralysis.
Professional education plays an important role in saving us from this flood, but it will need to become adept at developing coherent programs across multiple disciplines. ‘Data generating’ technology is already pervasive. It is embedded in just about every device people use during the normal course of a day. To be useful in any given field the data has to be organized, collected and structured in the context of the applications designed for specific activities. Data generated by an fMRI system looks just like data generated by a voting machine until it is structured and expressed in arrangements that are meaningful to the users.
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