Let’s Sprint the ‘Last Mile’ of Data Evolution to Empower Firms, Schools, Public Health, and More

Every morning we are challenged to think about data when we open our news feeds: From a panel investigating disinformation, to commentary on the sins and virtues of social media. From data stolen and held for ransom, to the threats of digital surveillance. From the promise of AI-enabled vaccines, to the crisis of supply chains. And infinitely more.

What’s missing from the headlines, however, is discussion of the collaborative cognition that this sweeping, planetary transformation is all about. For at work is the Cambian explosion of data through which we stagger, described in Part I. We neglect the splinters of fractured data that we explored in Part II. And we’ve only begun to scan the primordial sea of data from which our new civilization is emerging, examined in Part III. 

Keeping us from what I’ve called the “last mile” in the analogy I’ve been making with human evolution, our attention remains riven by the attributes that predate our fast-emerging, but incomplete, brains and nervous systems. Facebook with its three-billion-plus users is the blue whale. A click on the gorilla Amazon will deliver a six-foot-tall, 1,500-pound safe to your porch. Tesla’s new 1,020 horsepower Model S Plaid, along with their 740 percent valuation growth last year, makes the company hands down our patas monkey.

But while we often talk about the size, brawn, and speed of these titans of data, we skip meaningful discussion of their means of data harvest and use — their use of brains and nervous systems.


Holding the Data Aces

“The CEO’s sit and listen to my talks and smile,” writes Scott Galloway, the author who explores this neglect in The Four, a book on the titans. “It’s the smile of poker players holding aces. And every one of those aces is data. In the last decade, the world’s most important companies have become experts in data — its capture, its analytics, and its use.”

But ironically, those “aces” they hold — in the data.world lexicon, a form of Agile Data Governance — are also in the hands of enterprises large and small. Or could be. 

Every product team could be refining its creations by the day, or tracking customers' usage moment by moment. HR departments could be building their recruitment plans and strategies with insight from the R&D team’s work in progress. In the public sphere, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the CDC, should not be flying blind — as it often is — in our fractured system of public health. A revolution in learning awaits schools that could turbocharge teaching with individualized skills diagnostics to replace obsolete testing like the SAT exam, not fundamentally changed since being introduced in 1926!

In tech-savvy Austin, we could match our peers in most data-laced “smart city” categories, better managing some of the nation’s worst traffic congestion. As America readies for a $1-trillion-plus infrastructure rebuild, we could be rebuilding our precise knowledge of our roads, rails, and bridges, data that is as decrepit as the century-old tunnels funneling 200,000 commuters each day beneath New York’s Hudson River. 

That we are not prompts me to recall that famous quip by the polymath Stewart Brand: “On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it's so valuable… On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other.”


The Value of Data Governance

Today, on the one hand, data wants to be hoarded because of its immense value, which is why we so often hide it. But on the other hand, data wants to be shared across teams, between institutions, and among individuals because of its transformational power. Now, these are the two imperatives at war.

Consider that globally, companies spent $2.1 billion last year on data governance, a number forecast to grow to $6 billion by 2025, according to MarketsandMarkets. That’s healthy. Until you consider what we will spend next year scrambling after the failure of data governance — more than $170 billion, according to Gartner.

I rest my case.

I’m proud that our cloud-native SaaS data catalog and platform makes peace among the clashing factions. I’m proud that Gartner, Forrester Research, and others continually rank data.world among the best and most comprehensive solutions in the data catalog and governance sectors. I’m also proud that this was foreseen by technology journalist John Battelle, the founding editor of the Industry Standard, who wrote about our launch back in 2016.

“... data.world sets out to solve a huge problem — one most of us haven’t considered very deeply. The world is awash in data, but nearly all of it is confined by policy, storage constraints, or lack of discoverability,” Battelle wrote of us in our infancy. “In short, data.world makes data discoverable, interoperable, and social. And that could mean an explosion of data-driven insights is at hand.”

No longer in our infancy, we’re not just taking steps toward the “last mile” of data evolution. We’re sprinting. 

Join us, and let’s make history together!