Seeking our answers in data

Websites were burgeoning with analyst perspectives during the US Presidential elections. XKCD took a dig at this in their comic, but I cannot rule out some political pundit may have actually concluded “No candidate whose first name contains a ‘K’ has lost.” I follow New Scientist on Twitter, and usually get tweets like “Dinosaurs might have once gazed into the Grand Canyon.” My response usually to such tweets is, “Ok”.

I believe advent of numerous analysis techniques, and human curiosity leads to all kinds of research. That is great – research and curiosity are important, fulfilling endeavors. What I find absurd is the human audacity to conclude “Rigorous analysis shows X happened in the past, hence Y will happen in the future under similar conditions.” I find this logic echoing in many expert opinions across politics, science, health and even arts.  Here’s a Dilbert comic on our need to extrapolate research facts to understand ourselves.

I believe the need to know, and atleast predict the future, is a human flaw. Historical lessons and analysis can definitely make us wiser, but they cannot help us predict the future. Case in point: During the ’80s, sci-fi movies showed us grandiose visions of space travel, and us getting eaten up by aliens. 2001: A Space Odyssey gave us HAL, thus painting a vivid picture of a future filled with abominable space creatures and evil, plotting, philosophical computers.

However, nobody could predicted the scientific breakthrough that came to redefine our lives – the Internet. Such is future, it unfolds in often unexpected ways. Trying to predict it is futile, let it play like a movie you haven’t read reviews of and give yourself room to be surprised (hopefully, pleasantly).

2001-a-space-odyssey

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