2 Ways Big Data Can Make You Happier
by Ara Ohanian
I’ve heard a lot of crazy things in Silicon Valley, but this one is new. Apparently, big data can make you happier.
That’s the new claim according to Stefan Weitz, Senior Director of Search at Microsoft, and author of the new book “Search”.
I’ve looked into Weitz’s points… and they make complete sense.
Weitz explains that the digital world is currently being rebuilt inside our massive computing systems, which help run search engines. Every person, place, and thing—and all the relationships in between—are being cataloged.
Think about how much data that is. It’s nearly 4 Zeta-bytes this year alone – enough to fill 130 billion 32 GB iPads. (Yes, you read that right: 130 billion.)
You see, this isn’t just big data—it’s comprehensive data. It provides a more complete picture of our physical world than ever before possible, and with that comes certain capabilities that computing systems can harness.
Suddenly, our phones:
- are telling us when to leave the house to make our friend’s concert in time
- can arrange a driver to take us there
- and remind us to pick up a hat at the store on 7th on our way to the venue
…all without us doing anything.
What happens when our minds are freed from all the minutiae of our daily lives?
Weitz’s claims that this new-found efficiency ushered by big data will make us happier, for two reasons:
Because we will no longer have to burden our already crowded minds with things to do or remember, we will be able appreciate the present more fully.
Buddhist monks talk about how happiness comes from being in the “present moment.” Well, the more big data frees up our to-do lists (now that apps like Humin can remember who you know, and how you know them), the more peace-of-mind we can have.
The second reason borrows from Barry Schwartz’s book “The Paradox of Choice”, in which he contends that the more choices we have, the less happy we are. It’s counter-intuitive. One would assume that more choices is a better situation—but the reality is that having 24 choices of organic toothpaste actually causes us to suffer from decision paralysis. And then when we do choose one, we are likely to suffer decision-regret.
New advances in big data and search technology will ease our decision making process, because eventually, the data may know your preferences better than you do yourself.
As we offload our basic tasks to our digital assistants, freeing our crowded minds and letting us focus more on things we love—we will be led to a new era of insight, efficiency, and ultimately, happiness.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
If you’re curious about where the world of search tech and big data are going—and if you want to stay ahead of the next technological wave—take a look at Weitz’s new book “Search: How the Data Explosion Makes Us Smarter”.
In it, he chronicles the progression of search from something we use to find sites on the web, to a fully digital, omniscient version of the human brain (yes… search engines are currently being programmed to make decisions like the human brain).
I just finished reading the book, and I feel smarter already 🙂
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