Data isn\u2019t new, but we often forget that. In fact, even Sherlock Holmes recognized the power of data, as we can tell from one of his most famous quotes: \u201cIt is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.\u201d\nThis is especially relevant to us in an age of fake news and in which politicians are arguably being held more accountable than ever thanks to our newfound ability to process and understand data. Politicians are finding that it\u2019s more and more difficult to \u201ctwist facts to suit theories\u201d when thousands of wannabe Holmeses are taking to Reddit to debunk them.\nData is so important these days that it\u2019s overtaken oil as the world\u2019s most valuable resource, which of course means it\u2019s a hot topic amongst politicians. Governmental organisations are learning to understand and to deal with data at regional, national and international levels, not because they want to but because they have to. Data is just that important.\nBig data and machine learning\nTo understand how data has changed politics, you need to first understand what big data is and how its complex interplay with machine learning is a game changer. Big data is essentially just data at a massive scale, while machine learning is a subset of artificial intelligence which relies on teaching computers to \u201cthink\u201d like human beings so that they can solve abstract problems.\nNetflix\u2019s recommendations system is a great example of big data and machine learning in action. Their algorithms are able to process the huge amounts of viewing data that they store on each of their users and then to crunch the numbers and to make super relevant recommendations. The machine learning algorithm learns as it goes, which means that the more data it has access to, the better it gets.\nAt first glance, it might seem as though this doesn\u2019t relate back to politics, but the same idea applies no matter what the data itself is actually about. So for example, imagine if the mayor\u2019s office had access to real-time traffic data which could be analysed by machine learning algorithms to provide suggestions in real time about when to close roads or to re-route traffic. We\u2019re talking about an algorithm that has the potential to save lives.\nThe power of data\nData is knowledge and knowledge is power, which is one of the reasons why data has changed the way we think about politics. You just have to look at the Cambridge Analytica scandal to see how much of a difference data can make, especially when it comes to elections. It\u2019s not even anything new. After all, Obama\u2019s 2012 reelection campaign was largely successful because of its smart use of big data.\nData \u2013 or more specifically, the interpretation of it \u2013 can make or break a political campaign. But while it\u2019s true that it can help people to be elected into office, it can also help them to do their jobs much more effectively and efficiently. We\u2019ve already talked about data being used to improve traffic flows and to make roads safer. Now imagine that the same concept could be rolled out in every single area that it\u2019s a government\u2019s job to oversee and facilitate.\nFor example, data and its analysis can be used by healthcare heads to determine where best to allocate funds. It can be used by foreign ministers to simulate complex trade agreements or to predict the long-term effects of uncertain political situations such as the UK\u2019s decision to leave the European Union. It can be used to identify potential terrorist threats or to give advance warnings of disease outbreaks or other phenomena using population data.\nArguing the point\nWhen it comes to debates, which politicians tend to be pretty good at, one of the most powerful assets to have is a set of data that supports the point that you\u2019re trying to make. The only problem is that while data doesn\u2019t lie, people do. People also disagree on what exactly the data means, and there are often multiple different potential conclusions that could be drawn. There\u2019s often not any one right answer.\nThat\u2019s assuming that politicians even have access to the data in the first place. After all, one of the biggest debates of our time is the debate over privacy and what data companies should be able to store about us. You only have to look at the incoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to see how times are changing.\nPoliticians find themselves in the interesting position of having to define these new rules and regulations whilst simultaneously working within their constraints. There\u2019s also the risk that we\u2019ll end up with people who don\u2019t really know what they\u2019re talking about drafting legislation that could cripple the future of the internet before it really has time to settle in as a medium. After all, the World Wide Web is less than thirty years old. When you compare it to some of our other inventions as a species, it\u2019s just a baby. A baby made up of millions of terabytes of data.\nConclusion\nThe way that we do politics is changing, and we\u2019re starting to see a new generation of data-savvy politicians who are able to make sense of it. The issue is that there are two ways for politicians to use data analysis. They can either use it for the common good or they can use it for their own personal gain.\nIt falls to us as the people who vote politicians into power to make sure that we know who we\u2019re voting for and why we\u2019re voting for them. If nothing else, as we gather more and more data and find better ways to understand it all, it\u2019ll become much more difficult for politicians to flat out lie to us. It\u2019ll become a case of choosing whose interpretation of the facts you have the most trust in.\nIt\u2019s not too different from the system that we have in place already.