Humanity is drowning in data: Here's how we stay afloat

Justin Lyon of Simudyne spoke to a crowd at the NextGen 2014 conference about the challenges we face in the new century, and the era of big data. In his soaring speech, he spoke passionately about the need for better skills for young people, greater diversity in tech, and what the future looks like for humanity. ITProPortal was on the ground to learn more.

“Increasingly we hear that every company is a digital company, and every job is a digital job,” Justin told us. “Every day we’re seeing new ways that our lives are being changed by digital technology, and our lives are being changed as a result.”

“However the evidence is clear that parents, students and teachers are failing to realise the gap in perception that exists between the possibility of technology and what’s actually being taught.”

But it’s not just parents who foot the blame, according to Justin.

“There’s also a bit too much snobbery surrounding apprenticeships. They’re a much-needed route into digital jobs, and build much needed skillsets for life. We need to make sure digital skills reach everyone, including the most isolated margins of society, including the homeless, the disabled and the vulnerable.”

Perception is a large part of the failure of digital skills in the UK and around the world, according to Justin.

“We have to confront the perception that digital skills are just the domain of nerdy boys who play video games and eat pizza, rather than the reality that our survival of a species depends to at least some extent on computers. Quite simply, we desperately need more women in tech. You have to encourage your children and nurture their interests.”

“Whether it’s from the depletion of natural resources, the careless disregard of the environment, or companies making cuts for short term profits at the expense of long-term viability. As a decision-maker or a CEO, I need to know the likely outcomes of whatever the decision is. What are the knock-on effects and unintended consequences on employment, the environment or people’s lives? As with all of us, decisions are fogged by cognitive biases and their own prejudices. These consequences can happen not just because they are bad decisions, but because we’re unable to see those consequences.”

The future for business, for the individual and for all of humanity is now resting on predictive analytics, according to Justin.

“We might not be able to look into a crystal ball,” he said. “But we can now cede the complex mathematics and processing to the computers and cognition platforms, which can give humans foresight that’s the next best thing. Take a slice of any city, and see how it operates and how it actions, and you can see how complex it is. So how do we manage these complex and adaptive cities?”

“These simulations are environments where we can fail safely, and we need those insights if we’re going to tackle the challenges of the new century. You can drown in data. Like Noah in his ark, cognition platforms are what humanity can ride into the new era of foresight through data.”

“It’s time to do away with the maths that ancient Babylonians could understand. It’s time to embrace the new age of analytics.”

What do you think? Is the government on track to address the digital skills gap, or is there more work to do? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below, or stop by for a chat on ITProPortal’s 24/7 Tech Talk function, found in the bottom left of the page.

Stay tuned for more of ITProPortal’s coverage of the NextGen 14 conference in Derby, for all the greatest insights into public sector, data and the world of tomorrow.