The new Digital Age – Love it, or Hate it

You might ask yourself what the book of the Google chairman Eric Schmidt has to do on a statistics blog. Well, Google’s success was based on doing the “right statistics” on the “right data” at the “right time”.

And not to mention Hal Varian (Google’s Chief Economist) who said: “I keep saying the sexy job in the next ten years will be statisticians.”

In the end, Google makes its money with (our) data, and that’s the stuff statisticians used to analyze and visualize on.

But let’s take a look what’s actually inside:

The book consists of 7 chapters, each telling us something on the future of something – ranging from “Our Future Selves” over “The Future of States” to “The Future of Reconstruction”.
“Our Future Selves” is like a science fiction story, which would be fun to read, if it weren’t for the business case Google already has in mind. The reader should decide for himself/herself whether he/she likes to wear shoes that vibrate when you should get up from breakfast and go to work, or “drive” a driverless car, which optimizes its routes to work automatically. After all, humans are amongst other things special because they can acquire knowledge and skills, which in Schmidt’s future will be obsolete as machines and algorithms will take over.

I was a bit reminded of Jacques Tati in “Mon Oncle”, perfectly alienated, getting lost in the  optimized and engineered world of aspiring post war France:

It is hard to argue with Schmidt when it comes to all the changes in politics and society in general, caused by “being connected”. These changes will happen (btw. the word “will” is the most frequently used word in this book, more often than in any apocalyptical scripture in the bible), and are here to stay.

But from a data perspective there is more at stake. The NSA scandal showed what happens when organizations and companies go haywire with our data, and the buzzword “big data” also called statisticians on the plan. There are limits that need to be respected; limits that also limit the stock market price of Google – something we need to keep in mind, when we read Schmidt’s book.

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