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Data driven is value driven

The distraction

We often hear surreal sayings such that; we know more about the world than we know about our brains, or that our brains are the most complicated organ that nature has ever created. These kinds of statements point at a serious detachment from our values. They are a result of the distortion created by the reductionist approach to defining the truth.

The reductionist thinking ignores the fact that the main function of the brain is not to give description of the world, but that it is to coordinate action. Our brains possess a judgment over the world, hence any representation we have of the world can not be detached from our values and drives. Equalizing the truth with the objective, is like equalizing the past and the future, it is to get rid of our motivations and drives for the better, or the worse if so be it.

Shaking the dogma

In their book the enigma of reason, Dan Sperber and Huge Mercier set off to blur the boundaries between reasoning and other “unconscious” types of inferences. In the first two chapters the lay out a huge body of knowledge spanning from psychology to discrete mathematics. They argue that inferences live on a wide spectrum that extends from the fastest most biased types of inferences (dreaming, sensing… Etc), to the slowest and least biased types of inferences (translation, math,.. Etc). These extremes are also known as system 1 and system 2, a term popularized by Nobel price winner Daniel Kahnman in his popular book thinking fast and slow.

The authors then move on to argue that the purpose of human reasoning is not to provide access to infallible information and theories. They argue however that human reasoning has developed as a communication tool, out of the need for personal representation in the communal. In this way they argue that our so called logical biases are not leaks of a faulty reasoning system, but rather that our biases are essential to the proper workings of our reasoning.

The value

I consider this view of reasoning as a group activity to be incredibly grounding, as it shifts our focus towards our inner values, making those values an integral part of our communication. It tells us that sometimes being reasonable means focusing on representing our needs, motives and “our biases”.

I believe that we must set this view of reasoning as an axiom for creating and managing all systems and structures of knowledge. In our search for the truth we must move in alignment with our values. Otherwise our creations will only result in a type of distortion, a distraction from the truth.

It’s our responsibility as the data professionals to build structures of knowledge that are value centered. In our search for the truth we must drop the reductionist axiom that the truth can be detached from individual interests and motivations. We must move in a direction where each individual grows more empowered in their ability to shape the truth. This is what gives us the primary sense of direction at Dataq. And it is the direction we are committed to.

Resources:

The enigma of reason
Daniel Kanman thinking fast and slow
Man and his Symbols
Data workers union
Internet of ownership
The Future Of Reasoning (Video)

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