"Data is the New Oil" - The Alpha, Beta and Omega of Postmodern Wealth Creation - Part I

“Data is the New Oil” The Alpha, Beta and Omega of Postmodern Wealth Creation

    Nov 20, 2016 5:45 PM  PT
author: Anthony   

LOS ANGELES, CA. – There was a pretty blonde model handing out glossy, trendy magazines at the AutomobilityLA 2016 Auto Show. I soon learned she was also a commercial pilot who was hiding a university degree in her back pocket. "Did you know that being a data scientist is the sexiest job of the 21st Century?" she asked me. I had no idea the Harvard Business Review felt the exact same way.

As was the case in the 1700's, when oil was a vast and untapped resource set to propel the British Empire and the United States of America into the industrial revolution that would change the world, so too is data experiencing a "coming of age" party. An erudite white paper fleshes out the new paradigm shift here.

Just as the oil boom in California, (along with the booms in Texas, the Middle East and the Myanmar block of British India) transformed the world, so too is the data revolution changing transnational commerce. Consider that when the famed Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton visited South Georgia in 1914, oil was still being extracted by seamen hunting the greatest beast known to mankind – the whale. Yet 100 years later, whaling is considered for the most part with apologies to the nation of Japan barbaric. Even grade school children understand that oil and natural gas can be found in places as diverse as the Dakota Badlands and Qatar.

As such, whale oil is no longer needed to light the lamps that Abraham Lincoln might have used to study for his law degree in the log cabin he fashioned in Illinois. So too has the emergence of "Big Data" illuminated the log cabins of our traditional business modeling. Thus "The Big Data Geeks" have turned our primitive data gathering pools into proverbial penthouses on Madison Avenue. Or maybe we should liken the data gold rush to establishing colonial outposts on the moon or even Mars. We are witnessing a "Great Leap Forward." Science is a modern quasi-religion whose daily miracles are commonplace. Data is the genie unleashed from the bottle, ushering in Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and now Deep Learning.

According to the aforementioned Harvard Business Review:

"Given the nascent state of their trade, it often falls to data scientists to fashion their own tools and even conduct academic-style research. Yahoo, one of the firms that employed a group of data scientists early on, was instrumental in developing Hadoop. Facebook's data team created the language Hive for programming Hadoop projects. Many other data scientists, especially at data-driven companies such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Walmart, eBay, LinkedIn, and Twitter, have added to and refined the tool kit.

"What kind of person does all this? What abilities make a data scientist successful? Think of him or her as a hybrid of data hacker, analyst, communicator, and trusted adviser. The combination is extremely powerful – and rare."

The article continues:

"Perhaps it's becoming clear why the word ‘scientist' fits this emerging role. Experimental physicists, for example, also have to design equipment, gather data, conduct multiple experiments, and communicate their results. Thus, companies looking for people who can work with complex data have had good luck recruiting among those with educational and work backgrounds in the physical or social sciences. Some of the best and brightest data scientists are PhDs in esoteric fields like ecology and systems biology. George Roumeliotis, the head of a data science team at Intuit in Silicon Valley, holds a doctorate in astrophysics. A little less surprisingly, many of the data scientists working in business today were formally trained in computer science, math, or economics. They can emerge from any field that has a strong data and computational focus."

The elite were at center stage throughout the MobilityLA 2016 Auto Show. Audi, Booz Allen Hamilton, (the erstwhile blonde model told me they are the "world's most profitable spy organization") Ford, Porsche, Facebook and many others were on hand. The representatives from the BRICS nations were also present to offer their views in an entertaining and insightful panel forum.

The broad strategic architecture of the event might be best summarized through the postmodern mantra: "Data is the new oil."

Data is like crude oil for the following reasons; it is valuable and it needs to be refined. It has value that climbs exponentially higher than even our current appreciation of its usage. It has to be refined into very specific parts which are then even more useful. (One might consider the many uses of Vaseline, what we might otherwise refer to as "petroleum jelly.") And finally, one set of data can be adapted and then utilized in a broad spectrum of different products.

With so many amazing companies, engineers and spokesmen (and women) on hand, it was a major task to absorb and deconstruct everything that transpired during our four day sojourn to Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Convention Center is no place for "fast food journalism." With so many erudite, scientific minds abounding, ready to explain the paradigm shift in emerging future car technology, it would behoove the general public to recall the faint echo of an ancient empire, specifically Marc Antony's;  "Friends, Romans and Countrymen, lend me your ears."

Ms. Padmasree Warrior, NextEV's Chief Development Officer & U.S. CEO, delivered a compelling presentation that was certainly "ear worthy."

"I live in Palo Alto, which is close to Stanford University," she began. "I commute to San Jose. That takes 45 minutes on a good day … if you do the math I am losing ten work weeks of productivity in a year. And not just that, in that time I am susceptible to injury and accident … I've been rear-ended twice … luckily nobody was hurt."

Continued Warrior: "The car equals aspirations … people love cars and aspire to own one. Little children as young as two-years of age are already pushing toy vehicles around."

As explained by other speakers at the conference, Warrior noted that by 2050 A.D., about 60 percent of humanity will be living in "mega cities" of 25 million residents. Sociologists realize these mega cities will enhance advertising and policing powers for the ruling elites. Managing cities like Lagos, Nigeria, or Seoul, South Korea, will become increasingly problematic without major reforms in a wide range of areas. Hollywood films like "Children of Men" depict a dystopian nightmare for cities such as London. That needn't be the case. Smart cars in constant contact with "smart cities" will better regulate traffic and increase efficiency. The brainy MIT Technology Review explains the latter here.

Attendees, including the mass media, pondered a wide variety of notions at MobilityLA. We're on the verge of a great data and technology revolution. The new paradigm needs to be both transparent and intuitive. "Data (functioning as) the new oil" means said data offers intimacy in terms of ascertaining consumer appetites and behaviors. Electrification will be at the center of this transformation. Nikola Tesla would no doubt have approved. Navigation will align with communication and entertainment. Your car might actually turn into your second living room.

No more wasting the equivalent of ten weeks each year stuck in commuter traffic. No more wasting 25 percent of your non-sleep and non-work time commuting. In the near future, when you're commuting, you might well be taking a university course, learning a new language or watching your favorite series on Netflix. This data set must be constantly available, anytime, anywhere.  The cars of the future will be doing more. They will tell us if we're late for our doctor's appointment and which road to take. The car's brain will tell you if you're out of milk. (That said, billions of people around the world have somehow learned to pick up fresh milk without the help of cyborgs like Arnold Schwarzeneggar in "Terminator II: Judgement Day."