This book starts off with a brief outline of data and how it holds the keys to our future, it then begins to weave the complex relationship between humans, empathy and technology.
I chose this book because it runs against the grain of the majority of technology. Linux for its steep learning curve reliably serves up data and when properly implemented removes that emotional construct of doubt. To get to that point past the gates of dependency hell is a trial all sys-admins must pass.
So the book introduces the standard climate change perspective, it’s clear, concise and well written. One main new perspective it highlighted was how potentially we haven’t met other conscious beings because consciousness cannot out survive itself. The book also has an analogy for humans being a virus and unless we escape this planetary body we will destroy the host. The chapter ends on a high highlighting how we can fix many problems through contributory community based initiatives. The open source software world can be seen as a model for implementing large global systems that benefit all.
In an early chapter in this book there is a paragraph entitled ‘organised religion’ this should just be deleted, it adds very little to the development of thought or narrative, with a tenuous like to a remark in the paragraph about enlightenment. This is not about mentioning religion but more about it irrelevance, starting with the printing press would have been sufficient. The rest of the chapter briefly covers Cambridge Analytica and highlights how there is a lot of information in the public domain that can be used to hold companies accountable.
With a satisfactory introduction to data and the development of technology this book really begins to shine. It is clear that the authors have a deep understanding of data and are wanting to communicate an understanding of data to improve the world. They begin with an informative introduction of different types of data and when I worked as a data analyst a few years back this information would have made me more effective at my job. If you are looking to gain an understanding of data then this book will prove useful. Likewise, it is also well written and offers a new perspective for those who already work with data to benefit seasoned analysts.
There is then an example / role play given between non technical and technical colleagues having to make decision on how to innovate. I think this section really highlights what holds back the highly bureaucratic traditional organisations. Where the executives make a decision and the technical people make it happen. This book shows how with technical decisions there has to be dialogue and understanding, it can also be used as a manual for how technical people can help those without a technical backgrounds in a business.
This then leads to the main take home point from the authors. The key to improving our world is having cognitive empathy and thus means not necessarily feeling others emotions but being aware of them. This is achieveable the authors say with practice we can all acquire and develop.
For someone who generally reads technology books, I am finding this book fascinating and enjoyable. It breaks down a complex subject and shows a part of life that affects us all but we are not necessarily conscious of its impact on our lives.
As the book progresses it does has a learning curve, with a background in social sciences this book is engaging and accessible, the same could be said for statisticians, data scientists and key decision makers. It covers many real life examples. The breakdown of ontology, epistemology and methodology was fascinating and a real eye opener. This book provides insight into how you can help people develop new views through a variety of methods.
The book concludes at 51% with an outline of how empathy should be the main driving force in decision making when producing and interpreting data. I think one of the key elements that will make this a reality is the concept of ‘the conscious consumer’, the book doesn’t cover this and it is my own interpretation / perspective. Whereby we can all see the benefit of responding to nearly all situations in a emotionally aware way; cognitive empathy as described in this book. The human experience is more complex and our emotional drives often override empathy in the name of self preservation. This needn’t be existential preservation but maintaining our emotional worlds through ego consumption. For the main part of this book to take hold there needs to be a paradigm shift away from current processes linked to consumption and validating ego states.
The second half of this book is an appendix with many examples of how data can be deconstructed. Anyone with an interest in data or wanting to pursue it as a career would be well advised to read it, the authors are clear and clearly experts in their respective fields.
This book does a great job at arming those in technical data based roles to advance a more humanistic view of data utilisation and in its specific niche this book should whole heatedly be applauded.