It is the start of 2017, let’s start the year on a positive note! We are in the middle of a data revolution, where data sources will be connected with each other and as such provide valuable insights. These insights can be used by organisations to reduce costs or increase their revenue, but it can also help in making consumers happier, something that in these times of uncertainty can be very welcome.
Multiple big data trends such as conversational AI, machine learning and robotics will be used to create applications and products that can make us happy. It will enable us to easily share and re-use data across applications, communities and enterprise boundaries. The result will be insights that can help us and make us happy. Let’s have a look at why:
Freeing Up Your Busy Mind
Information overload is a serious problem for consumers today. We have so many things to remember, we are bombarded with advertisements, email messages, Tweets, Facebook posts etc. and most of us have a large (offline or online) social network that we need to maintain and that requires us to remember a lot of different things. If we can use technology to reduce that information overload, that would make us happy, isn’t it?
As Alex Banayan writes on Huffington Post, “the more Big Data frees up our to-do lists […] the more peace-of-mind we can have”. When we have less to remember, it can free up our busy minds and allows us to focus on the things that we really care for. Being free of mind certainly makes me happier, what about you?
The Paradox of Choice
The bombardment of information also affects our choices. When we go to the local supermarket, there is an abundance of the same products. Dozens of muesli flavours, multiple choices for milk, a wide variety of movies or series that you can watch online or multiple interesting books. Fortunately companies like Walmart, Netflix and Amazon have developed smart algorithms that limit our choices.
Having a wealth of choices causes us to suffer from decision-paralysis, which is called the Paradox of Choice. The affect is that we choose a product that we might regret afterwards. It causes stress and stress most of the time is something negative. It makes us less happy. If we can overcome and prevent this negative stress with smart recommendation algorithms that suggest the right product at the right moment, this can make us happy.
A Healthy Body is a Happy Body
The right use of data and the right combination of data can make us healthy and therefore happy. Back in the 17th century, data was already used stop the Bubonic plague. In 1663 there was an Englishman named John Graunt who was looking for information around mortality rates in London. He wanted to gain insights in the causes of deaths in order to create a warning system for the bubonic plaque. He collected this data in the book Natural and Political Observations Made upon the Bills of Mortality. The data gives great insights in the causes of death in the 17th century and indeed enabled Graunt to develop a warning system using statistical data analysis. Less people became ill and that affected the state of happiness for the people.
Today we see that data can help to stop infectious diseases, such as Ebola. It can be used to develop personalized medicines and to better track and cure diseases of any kind. There are ample examples that Big Data can really help doctors giving the right treatment or medicine to the right people, which make us healthier. Healthier people are happier people.
Control Over Our Lives
One of the major trends within the Big Data is the quantified-self. The quantified self enables us, through smart gadgets, to track our lives and to collect data. Analysing this data can give us control over our lives if we know how to deal with it. If we understand why we sleep so restless or if we know why we are so tired every day (for example because we don’t exercise enough), it can make us happier because we feel better.
Of course there could also be a downside to the quantified-self, which is once again the information overload. If we track too much of our lives and are flooded with data, we can become stressed again and thus unhappy. Therefore, we should find a balance between the data we track and the control we want to have. Too much of something is never ok, but if balanced correctly, wearables can give us control over our lives and therefore make us happy.
Although we are in the middle of the data revolution, there are probably enough cases to think of that will definitely make us unhappy. However, if organizations or governments don’t take our privacy into account, it can have bad consequences that will make us unhappy. But if it is applied in the correct way and with sufficient care, Big Data can certainly make us happy. I wish you all a happy and prosperous 2017!