Drowning in data or waving?

How true is it that we are drowning in data? There is a lot of data which is the incidental creation of processes – if I pay with my credit card a computer somewhere has a record, if I buy a bus ticket the ticket machine will hold the data for a while, if a pupil says “here sir!” an entry is made in a real or virtual roll.

But I don’t think it’s justifiable to say we are drowning in data, however much of it there is. It can lie there, somewhere in cyberspace, without us trying to swim in it. Surely it’s only when we try to do something with the data (viz turn it into information) that we can be said to be drowning – then we find we can make more patterns of the data than we can deal with, and that’s where we have overload.

I understand and share the frustration – yes it would be interesting, and likely enough beneficial, to turn more of our data into information and, with only a brief nod to turning it into knowledge, act on it.

But to say there is too much data is like saying there are too many atoms. So there’s a trace for every action, and probably even for every thought. But the need to do something with it, and therefore the feeling of drowning in it, is at worst a simple restlessness, and at best an urge to understand and predict the future better than we used to, for the sake of business or personal happiness. Either way the solution is in our hands: resist our completist urges on the one hand, and prioritise what we want to use data for on the other.

Don’t let us make an enemy of data!

Dion Lindsay

Real Knowledge Management (DLC Ltd)

07540 659255

01604 686797