The Curse of Dataism

The Curse of Dataism

imageBeard writes:

‘The scions of Silicon Valley have introduced our world to a new religion of ‘Dataism’. In its extreme form proponents of the Dataist worldview perceive the entire universe as a flow of data, see organisms as little more than biochemical algorithms, and believe that humanities cosmic vocation is to create an all-encompassing data processing system’. ‘Natural Born Learners’ p. 206.

The addiction to metrics and computational thinking discussed previously (https://safetyrisk.net/the-curse-of-cognitivism/) distracts the safety industry from contemplating higher-order goals (https://safetyrisk.net/understanding-safety-goals/ ). As long as the data is in, report done and PPE is worn then, all is safe. Whack a ‘zero harm’ mantra on the cover of the report and job is done!

The driving philosophies of safety are very clear: positivism, empiricism, individualism and behaviourism. Whether safety arrived at these accidentally or strategically doesn’t really matter. The engineering paradigm/worldview dominates the culture.

I met with a person working in the safety industry this morning who comes out of the profession of nursing. She was a nurse for 30 years before engaging in the safety industry and since entering the safety enclave has been bashing her head against a brick wall with the methods of safety. I haven’t met many in the safety industry who come out of a helping profession but those who do all endorse the problem of ‘safety focused on objects’ and the deficit view of the person/human. Often her clients come to her in desperation because they have done everything right. Everyone wears PPE, all systems are done, data is extensive and discipline is tight but still people make ‘wrong decisions’ and they don’t understand why. It’s as if they believe that the presentation of data itself is a conversion therapy. All of a sudden people will see the data and change the way they work and make different decisions. However, they never question their basic assumptions or ideology about humans as object.

What a strange industry that doesn’t understand the sense of risk? (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/risk-makes-sense/) What a strange industry that denies the reality of fallibility (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/fallibility-risk-living-uncertainty/)? What a strange industry that is so seduced by data that it has very little idea about the meaning of Due Diligence (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/risky-conversations-talking-book-free-mp3-files/).

Dataism (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dataism) is like all ‘isms’. Isms represent a philosophy/ethic/ideology that grasps a kernel of an idea and makes it the whole. Rather than becoming holistic and transdisciplinary in focus it tends to make one ideology the frame with which to view the world, hence a ‘worldview’. It’s amazing this seduction with ‘big data’ when people struggle to hold a conversation with their neighbour. When people can’t even sit on a plane and be civil to each other (https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/ryanair-racist-video-flight-passenger-boycott-black-white-police-a8595351.html).

Any Ism that is made the whole creates a myopic worldview. When data is made the whole then objects come first and people come second. When your icon is a witches hat, hard hat, gloves, glasses and PPE, its pretty clear what matters – dehumanizing safety.

Dr Rob Long

Dr Rob Long

Expert in Social Psychology, Principal & Trainer at Human Dymensions
Dr Rob Long

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Dr Rob Long
PhD., MEd., MOH., BEd., BTh., Dip T., Dip Min., Cert IV TAA, MRMIA Rob is the founder of Human Dymensions and has extensive experience, qualifications and expertise across a range of sectors including government, education, corporate, industry and community sectors over 30 years. Rob has worked at all levels of the education and training sector including serving on various post graduate executive, post graduate supervision, post graduate course design and implementation programs.

2 Replies to “The Curse of Dataism”

  1. The following link provides access to a recent media release from the Safety Institute of Australia:

    https://www.sia.org.au/news-and-publications/news/media-release-call-bipartisan-action-industrial-deaths

    It calls for bipartisan action on industrial deaths but what is most interesting is the SIA vision, which supports the media release and states……..Our vision is to harness the capabilities of the vast body of people working within the field, to work towards the elimination of workplace injury, illness and death.

    This is somewhat different from the vision statement on its website and current policy agenda, which states…..Our vision is for safe and healthy workers in productive workplaces:

    https://www.sia.org.au/about/vision-and-values

    https://www.sia.org.au/sites/default/files/SIAPolicyAgenda.pdf

    Zero vision or double vision?

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