Analytics and the state of knowing

Abetted by technology, our capacity to know is far outstripping what we actually know

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For the past seven years, I have traveled around the world asking organizations what they know, what they don’t know, what they need to know and how they come to know. Answers in hand, I have set about examining the data in the context of business outcomes and mission accomplishment (in the case of not-for-profit enterprises). I have come to some broad conclusions about the general state of knowing in the world today. 

A paradox has emerged. Generally, our capacity to know (that is, what is knowable) is expanding exponentially, thanks to technology improvements (for example, affordable sensors and improved and accelerated analytics) and the apparently never-ending emergence of new sharing platforms (Facebook, YouTube, etc.). 

What we actually know, on the other hand, appears to be advancing linearly — when it advances at all. Thus, I respond to Nick Carr’s question “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” in the negative. I maintain that Google isn’t making us stupid. It is the socio-technical ecosystem that is, relatively speaking, making us less smart (as measured by the variance between what we could know/what we need to know and what we actually know). 

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