I find myself in a quagmire of confusion about all these new tech concepts, phrases, words, and now the overwhelming stream of algorithms. This technology era we are living in is as mysterious as it is magical. For example, algorithms, the tools of geeky mathematicians for calculating outcomes and sometimes predicting success, are no longer confined to labs. Today if you’re running a lemonade stand along the side of the road, your mom or dad may be running algorithms to determine car and foot traffic, gender types most likely to buy, how many pitchers of the stuff you will need—and, oh, yes, whether you charge a dime or a dollar.
Seriously, as pointed out in a Wall Street Journal article, Big Data’s High Priests of Algorithms, “the good news about data science and data scientists with PhD’s in astrophysics, bio-statistics, partical physics, computer science and several other disciplines—is that they can make six-figure salaries from the get-go working for new startups like Airbnb, Square, Etsy and so on.”
In my opinion, the bad news is that we are taking many of these mathematicians and scientists away from professions where they might actually change the world for the better, and instead luring them into professions where they help shoppers find a better hotel room, a better mate, or a trendy pair of pants.
This is just one more example of our obsessive, consumption-addicted, ostentatious culture. Yes, many of our current traditional business models and even whole industries will be disrupted and transformed through the use of new technologies—perhaps for the better. However, so many of our new tech-based businesses are aimed at providing the purchase and pleasure of the moment.
If we devalue shared life-giving or challenging issues, such as the environment, and increase the value of making another buck by upselling another glass of lemonade, we’re going to be in a lot of trouble.
Human beings. We’re a strange species.