Data-Driven Humanism – or, if I had my own Google to play around with

If I had my own Google to play around with – I´d spend the ad revenue on open research answering questions like who we are, how culture is created and how our minds work using data mining at the intersection of psychology and linguistics.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin proposed a fusion between the naturalistic evolutionary perspective and the (in his case Christian) religious creationist perspective. Since then, such integral perspectives on what is and how it all fits together have taken a hard beating by rationalist-materialistic thinkers like Richard Dawkins. The funny thing is that mr Dawkins brought memethics into being, less derived from scientific empirical data, than from humanistic speculation. I believe memetics to be the best conceptual framework for data-driven humanism ever.  And humanism actually needs a little bit of magical-animism to propel forward. The spark of human genius, I believe, is childish in its best sense and thus closely related to believing in things. The quest for empirical data is best applied afterwards the visions and fantastic ideas are conceived. Visions without data is self-deception. Data without visions is boring at best and the seeds for inhuman disasters at worst.

The integral world view still inspires a range of people ranging from the transhumanists often spotted in high tech circles to the integral movement commonly encountered in spiritual venues. Encompassing both the material and the immaterial explanations might seem like wanting to eat the cake and have it too.

I, for one, believe that such a holistic perspective is sound and, if ever implemented in this resourceful world of ours, will have many positive effects on everything from the economy to individual well-being. Lacking such framework for our thought a lot of potential will go untapped. It makes me sad when brilliant engineers build and enable things that from an immaterial perspective sucks. And the same goes for when brilliant humanistic thinkers, if not fully engaged banging their heads into the postmodern dead-end, join in and adds the script writing, copy and design to things that from an immaterial perspective is still nothing but sound and fury, signifying nothing.

When art and science meet (Think Apple and Steve Jobs), when human aspirations (a.k.a. ”spirituality”) are allowed to fuel and guide what we spend time and resources on – things start to take off. Like the wonderful project Symphony of Science by John Boswell from which this movie is fetched. There are in total 12 music videos to enjoy in the series.

Our perspectives, or belief systems, really makes a difference. They follow us everywhere we go and color our perceptions. There is much truth to the saying that for a man with a hammer everything looks like a nail. Take social media, or digital social networks. It´s quite funny how you can spot underlying values from how different people habitually conceive and talk about them. One way of categorizing such values could be this one, inspired by the work originated by Clare W Graves:

Blog etc: ”express yourself – pontential for recognition” – ego-centricism
Facebook etc”stay connected with family and friends – potential for reinforced culture” – traditionalism
Digital Media:”cheap distribution media channel – potential for one-to-one marketing” – modernism
Social Web:”global oneness manifested – potential for human liberation” – postmodernism
Semantic Web:”machine-readable information – potential for research and optimization” – post-postmodernism
Noosphere: ”manifest collective mind – potential for self-understanding” – holism
and so on…

All this data at the fingertips of engineers controlling massive computing power and the money to hire people competent in the field of data mining at the intersection of psychology and linguistics which has become so popular these days…

Google´s quest for artificial intelligence and the fact that they co-founded Singularity University are kind of what you would expect from brilliant engineers coming from the materialistic world view of science into the realm of immaterialistic humanism. Humanists entering the magical world of enormous data sets and computing power, have created the very interesting Google nGram Viewer. Maybe all those brilliant people are secretly answering less technical and more eternal questions like who we are and how ideas spread in culture without telling. Maybe they´re afraid talking about such agendas openly would scare people away from providing the research material (i.e. user data). In any case I hope they´re doing so and will eventually share the findings with the rest of us openly and freely on the web. (update: another, perhaps more wise, argument for not disclosing the data publicly can be found at Nicklas Noterar)

At least that´s what I would do if I had my own Google to play around with. What would you do?