Our Friend, Data
By Callie Helms, SA2020 LEE Fellow
Data. Just reading the word instantly makes people perk up or recoil. If you internally cringed, I would guess you claim that you’re just not a “numbers person.” If you readied your critical-thinking self, I wonder if you view interpreting statistics as a sign of intellectual sophistication. In this post, I hope to dispel the common, limiting assumption that Data (yes, big important Data with a capital D) is a selective friend of the “numbers people.” In fact, I hope that you come to view Data as a powerful ally who can help you understand and solve any problem, large or small.
Please be Data’s friend.
Why? Why should you befriend someone who’s not your type? Someone who may have made you feel inferior in the past or used her power to manipulate you? I’ve heard people claim Data is too fancy, too dull, too big, too cunning, or too complicated for their circle. I disagree. If you get to know Data on a deeper level, you will disagree, too.
You see, Data is the perfect companion for everyone because Data is a master storyteller. She knows every genre, too, from health to finances to relationships. If you can get Data to open up to you, you’ll get lost in her multitude of fascinating tales.
Data is complex just like us: she has conflicting emotions about what’s going on in our world. For example, Data might be upset because your city has the highest crime rate in the nation. But, Data might also be very happy and encouraged because your city also shows significant declines in murder, theft, and assault rates. Although things look bad in comparison to others, Data will remind you that it’s actually getter better on the level that matters.
Especially when Data’s giving off negative vibes, spend some quality time with her and find the positives. Is Data badgering you because the number of doctors in your area recently declined? Ask Data if obesity, diabetes, and other disease rates also decreased, improving overall health. Data might answer no, but she would then offer other contributing factors, like a declining city population or an influx of skilled nurse practitioners. If necessary, though, Data would also urge you to advocate for greater healthcare access. Data can always suggest a way for positive change, but she is also patient and knows that progress can take time.
At the end of the day, you should be Data’s friend because Data matters. Data is a passionate advocate who will be your catalyst for change. Wondering which city to relocate your career search to? Ask Data where the largest job growth in your professional sector is occurring. Thinking that you don’t matter as an individual? Data will remind you that the overwhelming majority of charitable funding comes from everyday folks like you and me. Angry that many children still die of starvation? Talk to Data and she’ll tell you that the world produces enough food to provide every person with more than enough nourishment—we just need to share.
No question is too little or too big to benefit from Data’s insight. Going forward, SA2020 is befriending Data and asking her to guide our actions so we can have a stronger, brighter, better future as a city. Please join our circle of friends.