IT Management Blog: my thoughts about putting the "i" in IT

Will trends in information technology improve decision making in society?

A long time ago, I attended a University economics course. The professor explained to me that politicians use a simplified economical model and therefore they too often make the wrong decisions. He also explained that the educated economists usually stay on a distance from the decision makers since they have trouble dealing with people that have “a different way of thinking”. This view was recently reaffirmed by another economics professor.

What I am trying to say is that society is not run based upon rationale insights and deep understanding of matter. You could bring into the picture personal interests, lack of interest, emotions or incompetence. But it all comes down to the fact that a human (democratic) society is a sub-optimal solution. (Regarding a democracy: there is unfortunately not better alternative.) We need to get the voices heard of all of us and that will include a lot of noise. And people don't respond very well to complex stories brought in a quiet tone but prefer to support those who make a lot of noise and present a simple message. The consequence is that we won’t always make the best decision.

With the growth of the Internet and specifically social networking and mobile computing, we capture these days unimaginable large amounts of data (in the cloud). Where in the past writing text was something that people generally rarely did and was something for an elite few, these days the elite few are the ones who probably create less written data than the masses. The amount of twitter text, email messages, facebook updates, blog posts etc. is so vast and is created in such a high speed that we can hardly comprehend the numbers associated with it. Gartner calls the convergency of the current trends the "nexus of forces".

We capture all this information in large databases and trying to generate information out of this. We call this concept Big Data. Companies and politicians will be interested in what the people think and say and will be making decisions upon the information obtained from Big Data.

The problem with all of this is that this Big Data will contain a vast amount of nonsense information. The duplication of this information is also enormous. The same opinion, remark or thought will be copied many times. But it will still count in the statistics.

So what will happen in the future when we make our decisions in society based upon a large amount low quality information? Will we improve as a society because we have better insight in what people think or will we slide back regarding the quality of our decision making because we will respond to the emotion of the day and of a large group of people who have basically no real knowledge of the subject? Or will the ease of access to more and better information mean that we are better informed and will this compensate for the natural low quality information that drives our daily communication?

I see that the new mass media has many benefits and we are able to address issues in a way that was never possible before. Progress is dependent on education and availability of information. We are better informed than we were ever before. However we see also the flip side of this. Just take cyber bullying as an example.

Some reading regarding the future trends in information technology: