We still live in a world where majority of the decisions are made based on intuition and assumptions. As a race, humanity has been doing just fine with them, but why be fine when we can be better? Big data is being talked about by everyone these days. Advertisers, healthcare specialists, social scientists and professionals from all walks of life are talking about how big data will change everything for the good. Data has indeed become the 21st century superpower that everyone wants to acquire.
Many social science scholars believe that big data can lend their subject a level of clarity and objectivity never heard of before. Popular books on sociology like ‘An End to the Crisis of Empirical Sociology?’ are already talking about how a data-driven approach can be the best in understanding humanity. Professionals from all verticals are claiming that big data analytics will give people the ability to see clearly through their own fog of subjectivity. However, there appears to be an uncertainty about how big data will change things. There is also an apparent reluctance when it comes to applying data to areas where humans are currently dominating (example: social sciences).
Objective and subjective refers to the distinction between the claims and judgements that people make. While objective claims and judgements are based on facts, subjective ones are heavily influenced by emotions and intuition. Subjective claims can be inadequate or incorrect as it can vary across different individuals or even depending on the emotional setting of the individual at different points of time. As far as businesses are concerned, subjectivity is something that should be eradicated to bring about clarity and improve the efficiency. If data tells you that the customers are starting to dislike your product, it’s time to redesign it to suit the emerging demands. And this redesigning itself should be based on solid data rather than just aimless addition of features you think the consumers would like.
There are claims that big data is not applicable in social sciences unlike businesses where data can give a clear advantage. In fact, the use of data is being discouraged by many in realms like social sciences, politics and economy. Some claim that big data cannot help in situations where subjectivity is dominant. It is said that the interpretation of data will also be subjective in such cases. However, this is not true. Big data can indeed kill the subjectivity and fog that’s making it even difficult to implement a data-backed methodology to interpret it.
The problem is that the group of people who are intrigued by the new possibilities provided by big data is really small while the challenges are significantly big. This could be because of their research questions being traditional and can be dealt with using a small data set in their own computer. There has to be more focus given to training and helping the social sciences sector to take full advantage of big data and in turn help in the betterment of our society.
Subjectivity can be bad and unfair because it doesn’t take the facts into account or conveniently ignores it depending on various other human factors. Decisions that are made without data can be wrong and unfair to the people who would be affected by them. It also holds us down from the huge potential that big data has in stock for us.
Subjectivity is still prevalent in most things associated with the humanity and society. Data will expand the reliability of political, economic and sociological models which in turn will help in evaluating things from a clearer perspective than the one based on subjectivity. While adopting big data in areas where humans are considered to be better judges could be a challenging mission, it is clear that it will take over everything and bring about a fundamental change to the study of people and society. As businesses have seen great success with data-backed decisions and operations, it won’t be long before data finds its way into everything including the study of humanity. It won’t be long before data eradicates the threat that subjectivity has been posing for all this while. With big data data in place, the informed decisions being made will be capable of empowering the human race to achieve newer heights.