In School, Did You Hate Math Too?

For those of us who hated [feared, probably] math and who never thought of ourselves as good-with-numbers, the game is over. The empirical-minded, data-driven in most societies are now in charge.

It wasn’t an over-night conquest. Mostly a logical conclusion to a brilliant computer age. Faith, magic, intuition have leaked out; facts, reason, testing are in. This is not to say we’ve taken a mistaken direction. But it is to say some perfectly fine directions can over time lead over cliffs.

Let us count the ways in which data has become king:

* Education ~ we are now well into a teacher-evaluated, student-tested era in which data reigns

* Politics ~ we now honor such data-driven strategies as the Grover Norquest pledge by Republicans, the heralded Simpson-Bowles fiscal proposal, and most certainly by the way the Obama campaign crunched the numbers to first find and then get out the right vote

* Sports ~ football teams no longer go into the half-time locker room for a get-one-for-the-Gipper talks, but rather for re-examining the statistical game plan; baseball teams too are less gut-driven and more data-driven [see ‘Moneyball’ for details]

* Entertainment ~ numbers not art have always been the name of this game as studios and networks work the audience demographics down to a fine point projection of what to feed them on the screen

What’s left to be statisticalized? Maybe religion. Maybe the Vatican is buying more secret computer to calculate more inroads into the waning ranks of the faithful. [see Dan Brown for detais]

But why all this fuss-and-bother? Because it’s hard not to push these data-driven algorithms about human beings all the way to their mind-manipulating conclusions. Namely a time soon when who we are is largely and systematically perceived as subjects to be treated, less as humans to be be valued.

Kinda like my math teacher Mr. Conway did every report card…!

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