Data: A Guide to Humans

By Phil Harvey and Noelia Jiménez Martínez

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Why data is important, how companies and governments are using data, and, crucially, how you can use data to improve your business, your life, or maybe even the world.

Publication date: January 2021
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About the book

What is the book about?

Data is humanity’s most important new resource. It is not only important to business, it matters to everyone. Data has the capacity to give us new insight into every aspect of our lives, this planet and the universe at large. Exploiting the value of data will change us, as a species, for the better. As much as, if not more than other technological revolutions. Not only does it change what we know, but also how we know it.

The more we understand about data, the more we understand about ourselves, our world, and how to change it. And yet this precious new resource is being underused, misused, or just downright ignored.

Our book, Data: A Guide to Humans, will help you understand why data is so important, how companies and governments are using data, and, crucially, how you can use data to improve your business, your life, or maybe even the world.

But data without empathy is useless: the current problem with data science and data analysis is that we forget about humanity; the people who make up the data, the people who work with the data and those expected to understand the results. In the world of data, empathy is a powerful tool that will unlock and amplify success.

Understanding the technical landscape of data products from formats, standards, quality, landscape to the tools used by data providers and data consumers is vital, but so too is understanding human needs and feelings. It is this crucial last part – the humanity - that elevates our understanding of data from a purely technical implementation to something which can make a lasting and essential contribution to humanity.

Why are we writing this book?

This is a book about data, but it is also a book about people. We are writing this book because the world is at a tipping point and the way we use data defines how we see people. Even in this, the seemingly most technical area, empathy matters.

We must be empathic towards each other locally and globally, especially towards people of different cultures, races and genders from ourselves. And before it’s too late, we must empathise the ecosystem in which we exist.

In this book we want to open the conversation on empathy from all sides. From the technical and non-technical as may arise in business. From human diversity to the biodiversity of the planet. These topics sit next to each other in our book because they sit next to us all in our lives.

Who is this book for?

- If you are deeply scientific and/or technical and ‘don’t care about people’ but care about our impact on the planet

- if you are a manager and wish technical people ‘would just do what they are told’

- if you are trying to bridge conversations between the above two warring factions

- If you are working in data in any form and want to know how to be more effective and successful in your data work.

- If you are purely interested in how people are using data to shape our world.

Where has this book come from?

This book has grown out of our experience of working in data for the last 10 years as well as lecturing and researching data empathy. It includes insight from our work with hundreds of people across data science, data engineering and data philosophy. It will be packed with examples of good and bad behaviours and well as providing a new way to think about and approach data work.

But as long as data and tech teams all over the world are lacking in diversity, that vital contribution of different voices, backgrounds and opinions, we will never be able to accurately assess the valuable potential of data we need to understand humanity on a truly global scale, and so our book argues too for greater inclusion across the world of data science.

The possibilities of data are endless: from simple visualisation showing something new in a well-trodden space to Artificial Intelligence and the full amplification of human potential. Our chapters will cover why empathy leads to success, the technical details of empathy and data quality. But at its heart this is a book not just about data but about empathy, and how one is useless without the other.

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