What would I do if I had all mankind’s data?


This post is almost a verbatim text from an answer I gave on Quora. The question itself was pretty cool: If you had access to all the data in the world since the dawn of mankind, what would you do, which hypotheses would you test?

This post has most of the content of the answer I wrote and a bit more philosophical insight. But in case you are interested, here’s the link to my answer on Quora.

So if you are not into philosophical ramblings, see you next week! If you are or simply enjoy philosophical ramblings, keep reading! 

The first thing I thought of was why would I test a finite number of hypothesis? Why not crowd source whatever came to people’s minds. Sort of like having Data (as in the Star Trek’s Data character) with all of mankind’s data in his memory bank. We could ask any question and get an empirical answer. While I was thinking of this I was wondering what would I solve? What was I effectively changing in the world if I could build such a data product?

Not philosophical enough? Well…

The one problem I’d love to solve with that data is bigotry. If your browser behaves like mine you’ll have this nice description on top of google’s search page for the word “bigotry”.

Full Definition of bigot. : a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance.

If I click the link to Wikipedia’s bigotry it goes as far as saying:

In English the word “bigot” refers to a prejudiced, closed-minded person who is intolerant or hateful toward people of a different group, especially racial or religious.

I’m convinced that bigotry in all its forms is the number one source of many social problems in the world. I don’t believe that anyone is born a bigot. I believe bigots are raised by bigots and become bigots. I also believe that bigots exist in lack of widely accepted and unquestionable information. Basically bigots and non-bigots have their differences rooted in their information sources. What separates them is not that they believe in different things but that their sources of knowledge differ.

It is, for both sides, a type of confirmation bias. Each side searches, picks and uses the information that fits its views.

If I had all mankind’s data I would love to develop a data product where any person would go there and ask simple questions that would be answered based on widely accepted and unquestionable information thus removing the confirmation bias. Naturally I could find myself in a position where I was wrong and bigots are right.

There are so many problems that could be solved with simply getting an unbiased answer to some socially structuring questions. Imagine a world where we didn’t have to count on opinion makers biases and our own confirmation biases. Imagine if we could just ask and get the plain evidence based information about mankind.

I like to think that people are good but simply ill informed. Given the right trustworthy data, anyone can make good decisions. I like to think that any sort of bigotry can be avoided with the right education and that people that understand the world can change for the better.

If I had all data about mankind since its beginning I would not try to find an answer myself. I would prefer to give everyone the opportunity to answer their own questions and with that remove bigotry from the dictionary. I would love to see written in Wikipedia:

In English the word “bigot” refers to a prejudiced, closed-minded person who is intolerant or hateful toward people of a different group, especially racial or religious. There are no known bigots since June 2016 when Ricardo Vladimiro developed a bot with all mankind’s data.

First my face on money, now a Wikipedia entry! Hey, I only said I would solve one problem… I promised nothing about egocentric personalities.

I think that would solve a lot more than I could with my own questions. We would have a compassionate mankind. No more racism, no more unjustified hate. Citizenship could go through the roof! Can you imagine a country declaring it would invade another country without justification and its population actually having a source to question the legitimacy of that decision?

Like a colleague of mine says “a 2 is a 2. You can’t argue with a number.” The world would not be about discussing opinions. It would be about discussing solutions.

3 thoughts on “What would I do if I had all mankind’s data?

  1. Very nice reading.

    When you say “(…) that would be answered based on *widely* accepted and *unquestionable* information thus removing the confirmation bias”, how can we be sure?

    My point is: such a product could not save ourselves from bigotry answers. For instance, women’s rights are not a given fact even today and with all mankind’s data, the answer to the question “Should women vote?” could simply be “No” (and we are pretty sure the answer is yes!).

    This makes me think about another question (and widely discussed nowadays — e.g. Microsoft’s AI chatbot): how does a machine [learning] distinguishes good or bad?


    • Thanks for the comment!

      To be honest I don’t know how to answer your question. What I feel is that questions like “Should women vote?” are not valid hypothesis to be tested with data. Same would apply to “Should gay marriage be legal?” The core principal behind my post is that such a data product would allow hypothesis in the form of questions, e.g. “Does economy deteriorate when a country given an increase of immigration?”

      In that sense “Should women vote?” can create several testable hypothesis. However this is a very optimistic post born from a very pessimistic (maybe realistic) view on bigotry. I can’t imagine such a data product to be viable, unfortunately.


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