Don't be the Hedgehog

Has 90 percent of all the world's data really been created in just the past two years? Referring to IBM research, Nate Silver throws out that statistic in the RSA video embedded here.

Silver, author of "The Signal and the Noise," talks about big data and hedgehog thinking, or a predisposition, in the case of the latter term, toward One Big Theory to explain a collection of unrelated information. The problem for the would be theorist is not that she might be right, but that she might be right in an unproductive way. Her result does not arrive with the potential for a deeper understanding of the questions being asked. And when wrong - and perhaps this is particularly true in a world now emulsified with more and more data - she is surprisingly or alarmingly wrong.

"We are our own constraint," Silver says, as explains why the process of inductive reasoning is so productive and the advice of experts, especially media-driven personalities, has a no better than random chance of being right.

Following up his initial observation, he concludes that "the obvious problem here is that 90 percent of the useful knowledge has not been created in the past two years."

Watch the video. And stay curious.


The Signal and the Noise from The RSA on Vimeo.