Pomposity and Stakeholders: The Big Data Play

July 9, 2014

I read with  considerable amusement “With Big Data Comes Big Responsibility.” Let’s think about the premise of this write up. Here’s the passage which I think expresses one of the the main ideas about the uses of Big Data and the public’s cluelessness:

I am actually amazed that cities are willing to trade data such as photos from traffic cameras that impacts its citizenry to a privately-owned company (in this case, Google) without as much as a debate. I am sure, a new parking lot gets more attention from the legislators.

From my vantage point in Harrod’s Creek, there are some realities that some Ivory Tower-type thinkers do not accepts. Let me invite you to read the “Big Responsibility” article and then consider these observations. Make you own decision about the likelihood of rejigging the definition of responsibility.

Money First

The notion that whiz kids and their digital creations are about helping people is baloney. The objective is to win and win as much as possible. The German football team should not have slacked off in the second half. The proof of winning is crushing competitors, getting money, having lots of power, and obtaining ever increasing adulation of peers. Responsibility is defined by a hierarchy of needs that does not include some of the touchstone values of JP Morgan, Cornelius Vanderbilt, or John D. Rockefeller. These guys were not digitally hip and, therefore, could not leverage data effectively.

Mr Rockefeller said, “God gave me my money.” Now there’s confidence for a business model.

Mr. Morgan said, “A man generally has two reasons for doing a thing. One that sounds good and a real one.”

Mr. Vanderbilt said, “I don’t care half so much about making money as I do about making my point, and coming out ahead.”

Other Directed Behavior

I have been lucky enough to work inside some outfits which saw themselves as the new elite. There were the Halliburton NUS nuclear engineers and wizards like the now deceased Jim Terwilliger whose life vision was, “Anyone not able to deal with my nuclear-focused mathematics is a loser.” I also did a stint at Booz, Allen, and Hamilton before it degraded to azure chip consultant status. The officers’ meetings were tributes to the specialness of the top performers among the many smart people at the firm. An outside speaker could not be anyone. We enjoyed the wit and wisdom of Henry Kissinger, a pal of partner William Simon. Even the rental cars used to get to the hideaway were special. I recall a replica 1940s For convertible and assorted luxury vehicles. Special, special, special. I have done consulting work for some outfits whose names even a Beyond Search reader will recognize. Take it from me, everything was special, special, special. Outfits with folks who are smart and set themselves apart from those not good enough to be admitted to the “club” are into other directed behavior among their peers AND only if there is an upside. Forget lip service like saving stray dogs. Special is special. To be judged as super special by your in crowd is one major pivot point.

Silly Concerns

A typical silly concern is privacy. The folks who amass, resell, exploit, manipulate, and leverage data are operating under the Law of Eminent Domain. The whole point is to take advantage for one’s self, peers, and stakeholders. Other folks can work harder or try to get a better roll of the dice. Most folks don’t have a glimmer of insight about information manipulation. They never will. The notion that someone Ivory Tower values are going to grab and hold on is as silly as trying to explain that the Facebook experiment is one that was found out. There are other experiments and because these are not known, the experiments and their learnings are not available to the users of TV or digital gambling device.

The notion of a moral imperative will make for excellent conversation at a coffee shop. It won’t have any impact on the juggernauts now racing through certain developed societies. Barn burnt, Horses gone. Amazon distribution center erected on the site. Google. Well, to bad for those looking for Cuba Libra via Google Maps. And Facebook. My dog has mounting friend requests and is now getting junk mail via her “real” Facebook page. The past is gone. The reality is what’s cooking near Ukraine, the freshly minted “states” in the East, and the shift from phishing email to kidnapping in certain African countries. Walled communities are back. It may be the dawning of the new Dark Age. [Update: This link may provide a useful example of how a moral imperative is put into action by a high flying Silicon Valley professional. I wonder how one would explain the discontinuity between intelligent, five children, and heroin to the surviving spouse. Well, I will leave the gilding of the lilly to a pundit. Added, July 10, 2014.]

Those old Roman emperors like JP, JD, and Corny may not look so bad today. These folks had the right idea in the view of some modern captains of Big Data.

Stephen E Arnold, July 9, 2014


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