Andrew R. Thomas

Big Data and the Value of Doubt

May 4, 2013
The rise of “Big Data” is being praised in business schools and pushed by consultants as the tectonic force of the future.

The rise of “Big Data” is being praised in business schools and pushed by consultants as the tectonic force of the future.

The ability to properly collect, analyze, and learn from growing sources of information is touted as the way forward for making better decisions.

Companies are creating whole new departments around data analytics and on a hiring binge for folks with a deep statistical understanding.

But managers should also listen to the doubters of "Big Data" every now and then.

Despite the tremendous advances in human knowledge, it is still very difficult to definitively prove anything.

We like to pretend that our analyses and experiments can define the truth for us. But that is often not the case.

Just because an idea is true doesn’t mean that it can be proved. And just because an idea can be proved doesn’t mean it’s true.

When all of the work is done on a given matter, we still have to choose what to believe.

The great scientist and thinker Richard Feynman said it best: “Learn from science that you must doubt the experts. As a matter of fact, I can also define science another way: Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.”

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