Right now, sites like Netflix or Amazon make recommendations to you on what you should buy based on the data they have about your activity / history. Yet the real power of big data, machine learning, and predictive analytics will eventually be to empower people to use the data they have on themselves to make better decisions about life. And this frontier is in its earliest stages of exploration.
// Data-Driven life decisions are difficult
Just one early example of data-driven life complications is recommending events you should be going to. This is tricky because deciding to go to an event has a lot of variables
- Education Data Will I learn something at this event that I don’t already know? A platform would need to compare your skills / knowledge with what is being taught.
- Network Data Will I be able to reconnect to people I already know via Facebook / Linkedin or will I be able to meet a target market of people I want to get in front of?
- Ratings Data Have people like me positively reviewed this event (or this type of event) in the past? Scheduling Data Will this event fit in my schedule?
Since our minds are inherently neural networks, we can make weighted decisions like this quickly based on our memories / experiences / available data. Yet allowing a platform to made recommendations about what events I should attend – accounting for all the above variables – is something at the crossroads of the API Economy (getting access to apps that already have this data about me) and machine learning (weighing these values based on experience)
// Data-Driven life decisions could be everywhere
Making data-driven decisions about what events to go to does not necessarily require recommendation engines / machine learning – but it does require pulling in your life data – and then presenting it to you in a way that you can sort / filter / analyze events based on the things that matter to you.
That same logic could be applied to dozens of situations in our lives:
- Career What skills do I have, what jobs / careers can I get with those current skills, and what new education / skills should I acquire to reach career goals? Sites like Dice, CollegeBoard, and GlassDoor offer partial solutions, yet how much data am I truly using in choosing my education / career path?
- Health & Fitness Sites like RunCoach customize fitness plans for you based on your run goals, yet there is a great deal of data that could be integrated between MapMyFitness, Strava, races you’ve registered for, and perhaps even the analytics / data in WebMDM. I would like to be able to use data to evaluate realistic fitness / training goals for myself based on my fitness history.
- Public Knowledge Many of us write blog posts, commit code, or comment on / review articles online. Often there are comment / review aggregators that collect this data – and sites like Quora help create a single ecosystem of public knowledge that’s peer-reviewed with an expert-rank type system. Yet based on my company, title, experience, skills, and interests, I would like to see real data on what content / articles I should be writing (committing to public knowledge) to best help my industry – or humanity. After all, why write / rewrite knowledge that already exists?
- Social Life
- Personal Finances
- Psychology / Wellness
// Capturing “Experience Data”
Aside from any big data technologies or machine learning systems, one major bottleneck to enabling people to make data-driven life decisions is creating a behavior of capturing experience data. What that means is capturing contextual information about a person (profile, history, etc) and then allowing them to add and review experiences such as “I tried the Atkins diet and didn’t see any results” or “offering yoga classes at our company offices reduced workplace injuries this year”.
Often a large life decision (career change, moving cities, buying a house) can be reduced down to a large array of small decisions and experiences – and currently those human experiences are mostly organized haphazardly around poorly categorized blogs and forums. It should not just be an academic researcher’s job to gather data on the benefits of yoga for the workplace – those conclusions should just emerge from looking at experience data! However this requires a large behavior shift – people will need to submit actions and outcomes online as they share videos or notes on Facebook.
A data-driven life requires a foundation of gathering, organizing, and perhaps even predictive analytics / recommendation engines built on experience data. As sensors become universal and metatags for web information more standard, a data-driven life will become much more feasible.