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The Battle for the Soul of Data

2 min read

Published - September 26, 2023

Clay Sharman

Ages rise and fall. Conflict leads to conquest. The strong prevail, the weak are wiped out. This is as true in business as it is across history. Ideas, like people, struggle to hold on. To control. To survive.

Data science was once the realm of the mathlete. A mysterious land of algebra and geometry, of algorithms and strange languages. It was massive mainframes and punch cards. It was a place of secrets. Myths.

This, my friends, was no place for the numerically faint of heart.

In time, computers replaced mainframes, became smaller, more personal, and software replaced hardware as the coin of the realm. Then, the Internet arrived and established personal data as the most valuable currency in this connected “New World” (which would soon give birth to eCommerce). Now, data was everywhere, but the old Keepers of Data (errant mathletes known as data scientists) had no connection with the New World, didn’t understand how to use the volumes of data and maintained control by claiming that data was “hard to understand” and “harder to use.”

They held online businesses trying to thrive in this new age hostage with a battle cry of “We need more data!”

But a group of rebels, Thinkers, rose up against the Keepers. They believed that more data wouldn’t mean better results. They wanted to understand data at a personal level. The Keepers scoffed at this notion and a war erupted: The Data Volume Siege. For twenty years both sides fought with no side gaining an advantage, until the Thinkers used a secret weapon invented by the Keepers themselves: artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML).

The tide turned. Thinkers wielded AI/ML with precision, making strategic ground assaults on individual targets. Keepers used it as an inaccurate volume-based weapon and laid waste to eCommerce. If they hit their target 2% of the time, mission accomplished.

However, with 2024 looming, the end is inevitable. The Keepers are outgunned. The Data Volume Siege has exhausted its resources, the Age of Personalization is coming and the true soul of data can finally be realized. Data will at last be personal.

The king is dead, long live the king!