Understanding Data Will Help You Become A More Complete Critical Thinker


Which route should you take to work? Is it time to finally buy that thing that Amazon has been recommending to you for weeks? How about that state senate candidate who always ends up in your mailbox? Which health insurance plan is best for a person managing several chronic conditions?

Answering questions like these requires the same approach: gathering information, interpreting its implications, and arriving at a logical conclusion. These are all components of critical thinking. But these questions in particular require an additional element that is increasingly important in our world today: Interpreting and understanding the role data plays in each of those steps.

For example, you might want to consider: Why is Amazon’s algorithm suggesting I buy that blender? What about my demographic profile makes that candidate think I’d vote for her? How does my traffic app track me and predict my arrival time?

While not the be-all and end-all, data has become the new “lubricant” that makes our modern economy hum. It’s why data is sometimes called the “new oil,” and like oil, it is essentially useless unless it is refined and turned into something of value to people and businesses. That’s why understanding data, especially how it is tracked, employed and manipulated, is key to navigating the world as a critical thinker. It is a skill we simply cannot neglect when we so often encounter misleading charts and statistics on social media.

Understanding data means having a working knowledge of data science. Some researchers, like Foster Provost and Tom Fawcett, define data science as “a set of fundamental principles that support and guide the principled extraction of information and knowledge from data.” For each of us, this transfers into different skill sets, such as media literacy, business decision-making, and personal life decisions.

Back in 2017, NBC’s Chuck Todd and Carrie Dann wrote in their column: “Big data revolutionized the way American politicians win elections. In the process, it broke American politics.” Since then, big data’s influence on elections has only intensified. Voters need the superpowers of dodging misinformation, sifting through political advertisements, and knowing how their personal information gives birth to strategies for mobilizing voters, driving voting behaviors, and–unfortunately–suppressing votes. When we focus on developing data science skills, we train ourselves not only to understand our behaviors, but also how they function in a democracy inseparable from the influence of technology.

Having been in leadership roles in more than a dozen companies, I also see tremendous value in decision-making informed by critical thinking. When used carefully and constructively, data can catalyze this process. Throughout my career, I’ve encountered and helped resolve countless dilemmas by, for instance, encouraging cross-industry expertise, diverse board composition, and critical, sober judgment about the state of companies and their competitive environments. When asked about specific day-to-day tricks, I always recommend leaders ask a lot of “what if” questions, like “What if I changed this process?” or “What if I approached my clients differently?” These methods all speak to the crucial role of critical thinking, and data can help you get there. When you ask yourself these “what if”s, you can gain new perspectives through data analytics that help you better identify customer profiles, market conditions, and competitors’ strategies.

It’s easy to get caught up in talks about data science in politics and the corporate world, but we shouldn’t lose sight of the core of the issue. What does the growing weight of data science tell us about our society? What can it tell us about the people who endorse, oppose, or dismiss it?

For me, the core motivation behind promoting data science and critical thinking is to train people to use tools that can help them become more conscious, independent, and self-sufficient in their thoughts, beliefs, and values, so that ultimately, they grow into better decision makers.

Now, the last point might not come across as something obvious, but if we think about decisions that have determined our quality of life, we will see a heavy presence of data. What are the metrics that really matter when investing in the stock market? Which cars are the safest for children? Thinking thoughtfully about these questions, with the help of data, can produce more insights into making the right decision. According to a study by Heather A. Butler, a psychology professor at California State University, better critical thinkers make fewer negative life choices. The life choices and outcomes studied by Butler represented a wide variety, from purchasing clothes you never wore when you’re in poor financial shape, being diagnosed with STDs, to making decisions based on horoscopes. These are all instances where more data, about yourself and your environment, could advance the decision-making process and improve your life for the better.

But remember, merely “following the numbers” might not always be the best course of action, either. What we need is a balanced relationship with data, and the key to that is a more comprehensive understanding about it, and with that comes a stronger sense of intuition for dealing with it. There are many ways to acquire that, and initiatives like Data Science for Everyone provide a wide variety of resources for teaching and learning about data science.

No matter what stage you are in, be it learning, teaching, or applying data science, it is incredibly important to constantly challenge yourself on your outlooks and decisions. It is through a consistent practice of critical thought that we realize our full potential in obtaining knowledge and leading a more thoughtful and deliberate life.



Source link

Denial of responsibility! galaxyconcerns is an automatic aggregator around the global media. All the content are available free on Internet. We have just arranged it in one platform for educational purpose only. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials on our website, please contact us by email – [email protected]. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.