There has been much ink spilt over what progress means in a “post-Christian world” with advanced technologies. What is authentic and synthetic appears to be in tension in twenty-first century culture. Nevertheless, is this anything “new” in Christian history? I would argue that is exactly the Christian call through our Catholic faith—learning to be our authentic self, remaining in the tension without pitting Christianity against culture for our human growth and maturity.
Fr. James Martin, SJ, gets to the crux of the matter nicely in an America article titled Five Easy Things for a Happier Year. Moreover, “You’re a human being not a human doing” resonated in a data driven market. We live in a society allowing us to benefit from technologies in a world that is now connected globally. Whether we utilize technology with the hope of living more authentically or superficially are choices each one of us makes to draw meaning in our lives—individually and commutatively.
In an information economy Steve Lohr’s, article Sure, Big Data Is Great. But So Is Intuition published in The New York Times approaches the topic addressed at the December M.I.T. conference. Lohr states proponents of data mining for a more efficient economy claim:
These drumroll claims rest on the premise that data like Web-browsing trails, sensor signals, GPS tracking, and social network messages will open the door to measuring and monitoring people and machines as never before. And by setting clever computer algorithms loose on the data troves, you can predict behavior of all kinds: shopping, dating and voting, for example.
However, looking at failures utilizing math models to apply economic strategies predicting human behavior:
At the M.I.T. conference, a panel was asked to cite examples of big failures in Big Data. No one could really think of any. Soon after, though, Roberto Rigobon could barely contain himself as he took to the stage. Mr. Rigobon, a professor at M.I.T.’s Sloan School of Management, said that the financial crisis certainly humbled the data hounds. “Hedge funds failed all over the world,” he said.
Claudia Perlich, chief scientist at Media6Degrees, an online ad-targeting start-up in New York, puts the problem this way: “You can fool yourself with data like you can’t with anything else. I fear a Big Data bubble.
Concluding by asking a great question:
It’s encouraging that thoughtful data scientists like Ms. Perlich and Ms. Schutt recognize the limits and shortcomings of the Big Data technology that they are building. Listening to the data is important, they say, but so is experience and intuition. After all, what is intuition at its best but large amounts of data of all kinds filtered through a human brain rather than a math model?
The traditional Eastern philosophical understanding of all that is authentic is a qualitative approach known as Wabi-Sabi by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.
Happy New Year's 2013. It is a new beginning through our democratic spirit, reflecting on our values and how we utilize our technologies ethically, responsibly, with creativity—our authentic living hope for a happier year rests in engaging the universal ride; that is life!