The Ideaspace

Interviews, essays, and research exploring the frontiers of what's valuable and in our self-interest

Data is fire

7 posts

What gets measured and what doesn't get measured

TOPIC: What gets measured and what doesn’t get measured
BACKGROUND: An expert roundtable explores measurement
LISTEN: On the web, Apple, Spotify
WATCH: YouTube

Last month, a Pew Research survey methodologist, a rabbi, a Tlingit tribal leader, an Islamic scholar, an entrepreneur, a sociologist, a law professor, a journalist, an investor, and a BBC researcher walked into a virtual room for a profound conversation about how our lives are measured.

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Scientist Jeff Hammerbacher on what gets measured

INTERVIEWEE: Jeff Hammerbacher
BACKGROUND: Scientist, software developer, Cofounder of Cloudera and Related Sciences, founding manager of Facebook’s Data team
TOPIC: What gets measured
LISTEN: On the web, Apple, Spotify

“It makes me uneasy when I think about how much corporations are measuring about human interactions today and not making considered decisions about what gets measured. Deciding what gets measured is a political and ethical choice." — Jeff Hammerbacher

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Creating the positive conditions of freedom with Salome Viljoen

Interviewee: Salome Viljoen
Background: Post-doctoral fellow at Cornell Tech and NYU Law
Topic: Creating the positive conditions of freedom
Listen: On the web, Apple, Spotify, RSS

"The positive conditions of freedom [are] going to require data infrastructure. The bet that I’m making is that people are down to contribute to the positive conditions of their freedom if it's pitched to them that way." — Salome Viljoen

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Data is Fire 🔥🔥🔥

If you’ve ever slept outdoors or even just watched a survival reality show, you know the importance of fire. Fire is warmth, energy, safety. Fire bridges the line between comfort and discomfort. Even life and death.

Early humans’ ability to tame fire — which took hundreds of thousands of years to develop — changed the course of history. Human biology too. Taming fire led to cooked food which increased the calories in human diets, growing the size of our brains.

Fire was and is pivotal. But fire is also dangerous. It kills people. It’s difficult to tame. It’s not easy to get.

We see ourselves as far more advanced than our ancestors, but we face a strikingly similar situation today with a force just as powerful and mysterious. Our fire is called data.

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