I was already a big fan of Israeli historian and professor Yuval Noah Harari. His book Sapiens: A brief History of Humankind was simply mesmerizing. While I was impatiently awaiting the release of Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, I came across this gold nugget in the form of an article published in the FT.
Harari puts forward, in exquisitely simple terms, his view that a new Silicon Valley-bred deep belief system --which he labels as 'dataism'-- threatens to subvert the reigning order in our current social fabric. 'Dataism' is a worldview where everything, even us, mere biochemical algorithms, can be explained in terms of processable data.
In similar fashion to how humanism and humanistic values replaced deism marking the advent of the modern era, Harari claims that data-subordination --or how data holds all the best answers-- is now attempting a fresh overhaul.
He points to growing evidence across scientific fields that even our innermost feelings, which humanist thinking considered alien to rational logic, can now be seen as having a deep rational evolution-related root; one that ultimately can be digitized. So the reader is left thinking, does anything escape the all-powerful allure of data anymore?
According to the Israeli thinker, ultimate authority was first transferred from the gods to people, and is now shifting from people to data, over a timeline running from the old days to the present time and into our future. There are still some obstacles for this budding revolution, including the problems posed by consciousness and our quite poor scientific understanding of it. That may be, in Harari's view, the last great barrier preventing data and a data-centric view of the world from a complete takeover.
However, watching our politicians fumble yet another democratic mandate to reach a functional understanding among different parties, sending the country into an even more prolonged paralysis, I cannot help thinking that yes, data and 'dataism' may hold better quality answers as to how we should arrange our future, both personally and collectively, but other barriers remain on their way to ruling planet earth -- namely, egomania, shortsightedness and stupidity.