Data Has No Heart

Data has a place, yet we give it too much importance and power in a world where humanity and individuality are being discarded. ~ KMK

Everyone wants numbers. You see this in advertising, media, Facebook, twitter, the news. You see it in corporations, in medicine,  and in the government: Everyone wants more data, and it must always be sliced, diced, and julienned into smaller bits,  compared in more ways, and illustrated with animated, full-color visualizations. The meaningfulness of the data is often less important than the volume of data and how impressive its visualization. 

Life-altering decisions are made based on the data, the numbers presented, and the stunning visualizations. While you may occasionally make these decisions yourself, most often, powers-that-be who are entirely unknown to you make decisions that affect your life based on data you didn’t even know was collected and analyzed. These “data driven” decisions affect our lives in small as well as large ways, influencing how we think and what we do, permeating and often directing our lives, our minds, our bodies, and our spirits more than we realize.

Data does not consider the quality of the heart, the soul, the being that we are. Data does not consider that which makes us most human. “Data driven” renders individuals into nameless, formless granular instances, meaningful only when considered as a component within a wider pool, a part of a group data instance that has tendencies that can be easily labeled and profitably exploited, without considering each individual face, soul, or heart. 

Data makes numbers more valuable than people. Data quantifies and negates the individual while seeking to prove, as circumstances dictate, that the biggest is best, the most is best, or smallest is best. This is inhuman, for in the grouping and quantification, individuals and individuality are sacrificed. 

Numbers and data can be, and are, manipulated as those generating them wish, and leveraged to make you think, feel, act, buy in a calculated way. The ways to manipulate data are many, and often simple — that’s another topic entirely. (Want to manipulate a percentage? Change the denominator.)

Governments, advertisers, researchers, another others use data to make decisions that affect populations and the individuals within the population — you and me. These powers-that-be compile data sets (groups of compiled data meeting certain criteria) and decide the relative value of those data sets. The data sets are then used to make “data-driven decisions” that justify granting money, investments, time, or attention to specific group. Health care, government resources, advertising, jobs, and products themselves (such as books, plays, music, food, and clothing) are selected, funded, and granted importance  — or not — based on numbers and data.

The choices we have in almost every area of our lives are dependent upon the size and/or perceived value of the data set or group that includes what we want or need, and we ourselves often have little to no way to influence the data sets and the relative value placed upon them. 

Data itself is manipulated, and data manipulates our minds. This is dangerous. It’s a tactic used by those who seek to increase their own power by dehumanizing and devaluing others. You, yourself, are negated. If we are not aware and careful, we become in our own thoughts and feelings that which the purveyors and manipulators of data consider us: meaningless as an individual, meaningful and useful only when grouped and judged by third parties imposing fabricated standards of worthiness.

What if we have needs, desires, expressions of our individuality that do not fall into data set that’s deemed desirable by the powers-that-be? 

What about the book, the movie, the music, the shirt, that we want to have, or to make? What happens when we feel called inside to express a creation — a song, for example — and we’re told that the song is not “worth it” because “the data does not support it”? How valid is that data — who even decides the criteria for what is “valid” data? How much control does the data-driven decision and the forces manipulating the data have over not only the external factors in your world, but over your mind, thoughts, moods, actions, and being? What happens when the data does not support what your inner voice calls you to do? Do you stop, consider yourself a failure? Or do you listen to your spirit, your anima, that which calls you inside, and continue?

We don’t always need more data and more data-driven decisions: They negate the individual and lack compassion. 

Instead, we must recognize, respect, and have compassion for ourselves; cultivate our spirits; and have the courage to listen to our hearts and let them guide us in making compassionate decisions.

© Kelly Manjula Koza unless otherwise noted.