This is an interesting and thought-provoking TED Talk by Susan Etlinger about how important it is to encourage ‘critical thinking’ when it comes to Big Data. Here, the idea is not let the ‘data speak for themselves’ but rather tell an engaging and intelligent story ‘with data’. Basically, we need to move beyond counting things in order to really understand anything.
I agree with pretty much everything Susan says, and her use of a very personal example really deepens the impact of her talk. I really liked her focus on the need for ‘deepening our critical thinking skills’, and I think this is something we need to ensure we are passing on to our students as well. Putting less focus on what the data say, and more focus on what we can learn with the data is something we should be teaching more at the undergraduate, graduate, and even high-school levels. I think in general, the statistics literature and curriculum are better at this perspective than their machine learning counterparts (although statistics curruculum [my own included] aren’t always at the cutting-edge of modern teaching methods either). But this need not be the case, and I hope as we continue to generate, collect, store, and analyze more and more data, we keep in mind the need for context.