Sunday, February 10, 2013

John Lennon is overrated!

DavidBrooks has a column in the NYT highlighting the promise and limitations of what he calls “The Philosophy of Data.” He claims number crunching has helped expose the fallacy of some common intuitive beliefs. After the obligatory references to sports and politics, Brooks gets to deconstruct John Lennon: “We think of John Lennon as the most intellectual of the Beatles, but, in fact, Paul McCartney ’s lyrics had more flexible and diverse structures and George Harrison’s were more cognitively complex.

I am not sure about Brooks’s other examples, but this strikes me as a stunningly narrow and nerdy, even quasi-autistic, mode of conceptualizing what makes an “intellectual.” According to these benchmarks, we would probably need to crown #TempleGrandin as the greatest #intellectual since the dawn of recorded history. 

Brooks concludes his column by saying: “In sum, the data revolution is giving us wonderful ways to understand the present and the past. Will it transform our ability to predict and make decisions about the future? We’ll see.” I am not sure about that either. What seems certain, though, is that the data revolution will increase exponentially the evidence-based hubris of the data revolutionaries and their fellow travelers. Excessive self-confidence is, I am afraid, part of the neurosomatic package which makes you part of that sociointellectual surge.