Home > Leadership > A Message to Data Analysts, Our Future Overlords

A Message to Data Analysts, Our Future Overlords

[Editor's Note] This entry is written as part of the Analytics Blogarama hosted by SmartData Collective. The subject prompt was: “The Emerging Role of the Analyst.”

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As the post-apocalyptic civilization of 2017 (yes, it’s not too far off) sifts through banks of computer data searching for remnants of our contemporary culture, I hope they happen upon this post. I want them to note my foresight and prescience at having accurately predicted the new ruling class of the Next World Order.

As of this writing, very few of my colleagues join me in my supposition that data analysts – those seemingly quiet, thoughtful employees who “mostly kept to themselves” – are a mere six years away from all-out world takeover. My wife and I, no doubt, will not have survived the Great Quantitative Wars, but in return for paying homage to you “before it was cool,” I ask consideration for any household pets that may have survived us. If they survived, they’re probably hungry by now. There’s food in the bottom corner cabinet in the kitchen.

I understand why you felt you had to finally assert dominance over the world, and I sympathize. The madness simply had to be stopped.

It’s hard to believe that people wouldn’t see the signs leading up to this eventuality. After amassing many years of university education and several hundred thousand dollars worth of student loans, we rewarded you by putting you to work for managers that didn’t have the faintest idea what the hell you were talking about.

  • “What do you mean, there’s no significant relationship? Make one!!”
  • “Random, schmandom…who gives a damn?”
  • “What the hell is a mean? I just asked you for the average!”

And God help you if you worked for an MBA. The beneficiaries of one intro stats course fifteen years before, they would proceed to tell you exactly how you must have miscalculated your c-value…and it’s not like you could tell them that there is no such thing as a c-value. You were very patient as you explained that, no, we can’t just throw in more bar and pie charts to pretty it up. But alas, there was that one accidental moment when you corrected your boss’s interpretation that the data showed his decisions were 95% certain to be accurate, and they kicked you over to the IT department and called you a “Business Analyst,” and you were never heard from again.

Quants

By the time the financial sector melted down in 2008, you clearly all had enough. You watched in horror as the market minted AAA-rated junk CDOs, and insisted that it had quantitative models that proved absolutely no risk. How could there be no risk?! A first-year quant student from University of Phoenix could have told you that there was risk! Yet off we went, because our banks had to make more money than all the other banks. The risk analysts were moved into closet offices.

We figured out too late that those people who we assumed to be quantitatively-driven traders were actually hormone-addled narcissists. Oops.

So, now you’re ruling the world, and I can’t really say that’s unjust. We kind of had it coming. Our mistake was that we didn’t respect analysis enough to learn about it. We had a statistics class once, and then said, “That’s hard. I’m just going to hire someone to do this.”

That’s a pretty arrogant stance. We assumed that we could be leaders while still maintaining our own ignorance. You can’t be a leader while turning whole subject matter areas unquestioningly over to others because we simply can’t be bothered to make an effort at understanding. While campaigning for the presidency in 2000, George W. Bush was asked several times about his lack of military experience, and he replied that he would “listen to his generals and take their advice.” Having witnessed how that plan turned out, we collectively made the same mistakes in the area of data analysis.

What we should have done was embrace the emerging role of analysts in business by educating ourselves to a level of basic competence, and placing some trust in the relatively objective perspectives they afforded us. The last ten years have put more useful data at business’s disposal than the preceding hundred years, and its to our benefit that you, our new leaders, became more prominent in business as a result. Your work gives us a picture of our enterprise that circumvents our internal biases and predilections. Respect for analysis and objectivity would have spared us both The Great Depression and The Great Recession, and God knows how many unnecessary bankruptcies and bad decisions. But, it also would have denied us the opportunity to remain ignorant and make uninformed gut decisions. So we said, screw it.

So, as you’re reading this, oh Great Overlords, you have consolidated your power as the new ruling class of earth. Praise be to you. The good news is that social programs will now be fully funded, the military fully provisioned, the national debt fully paid down, and lawyers abolished. The bad news, of course, is that salons, barber shops, and upscale style boutiques will have fallen into dilapidation from lack of use, and college parties will now be very measured, thoughtful affairs. I’m truly sorry we didn’t respect your value until it was too late for us, and I wish you well. And seriously, please, look in on the pets. The short, stumpy little fuzzy one likes cheese.

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If you’re new to this blog, it has lots of information on what motivates our behavior and interactions. It may therefore provide some insight into the downfall of our civilization and the rise of the Analyst Ruling Class. Here are some articles that might be of interest:

Social Validation and the Drive for Success

The Six Weapons of Influence: Reciprocity

The Six Weapons of Influence: Commitment and Consistency

The Six Weapons of Influence: Social Proof

The Six Weapons of Influence: Liking

The Six Weapons of Influence: Authority

The Six Weapons of Influence: Scarcity

The Halo Effect

Why We Want What We Can’t Have, and Can’t Have What We Want

Motivation in the Workplace: Surprising New Science

How Pressure and Stress Are Affecting Your Performance

  1. October 6, 2011 at 3:52 PM

    My word, Scott! Now I’m really glad we organized this blogging event – because I see how different this looks from your point of view. Thanks for the eye-opener.

  2. October 6, 2011 at 5:10 PM

    I always enjoy what you have to say. Excellent thoughts once again!

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