January 12, 2014

Big Data and Intuition – A Symbiotic Relationship

There is no logical way to the discovery of these elemental laws. There is only the way of intuition, which is helped by a feeling for the order lying behind the appearance. ~ Albert Einstein

We are in the midst of a cultural shift, the velocity of which increases daily. We are digitizing our existence. Some suggest that this shift is making our world smaller, hobbling our empathy and is inherently unsocial.  By kneeling at data’s alter we are devaluing out our personhood. (for a glimpse into such thinking see, “Why Big Data will never beat business intuition”.)

Personally, I disagree. The big data “movement”, and all that comes with it, enhances our personhood. It provides opportunities to see relationships and correlations that offer access to new perspectives and new insights, all of which develop and certainly do not hinder intuition. Rather, big data initiatives have the potential to expand and enhance our intuition, freeing it from a small and dark box supported by poorly constructed boundaries defined by an historically slow, controlled drip of information. New light can now illuminate previously inaccessible, dark corners and thus enhance our understanding of the human condition. The more ways in which the infinite points in the universe can be connected, the greater intuitive capacity we have – the greater our collective genius and wisdom.

Now, big data is not itself a panacea. Data is, after all, just data. It has no inherent meaning.  Context in and with the human experience provides data with meaning, which leads to information and ultimately supports enhanced insight. Data is not human experience – merely an observation or measure of small, narrow slices of human experience.  It can’t love, it can’t empathize, it has no compassion, and it has no soul.  So, let’s not read into the digital boom more than there is to read. But, data, properly contextualized through analysis, offers new ways to look at the world; from perspective arises perception, which is reality.

In the end, big data provides a platform from which new and big ideas can spring – ideas previously unthinkable. Like the printing press offered greater access to knowledge and ideas once limited to very few, the digital revolution manifest, in part, in the big data “movement” offers opportunities to broaden creativity, think unconventionally, and strengthen and exercise our gift of intuition. It also gives us the awareness that such a gift is not separate and distinct from data but ultimately buttressed by greater insight.

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