Sunday, August 16, 2015

Data-Driven Future: It May Be Key to Commercial Success But Is It Humanizing?

Since I started this blog in 2006, I’ve been wrestling with question: Is the Internet dehumanizing for health care? Maybe the answer doesn’t matter. The Internet is inevitable.

Get over whether it is a good thing, or a bad thing. It is here to stay, and it will grow and be part and parcel of daily life and daily health care.

Who can argue with instant access to information, with the objectivity of data to determine the best outcomes, with Google search to find the right doctor and right doctor and right health plan, with the magic of metrics to find almost anything you want to know about your health and disease, with making your own diagnosis and selecting your own treatment, with the superiority of artificial intelligence over human intuition, with the triumph of secularism and worldly things over traditional beliefs and values, with quick digital scanning over time-consuming in depth reading? After all, in God we trust, all others use data. Online data, in other words, will empower everybody and is God’s gift to mankind. Data will empower everyone and connect everyone.

I thought about these questions as I read today’s Sunday New York Times.

The Times features two pieces I found relevant to the dehumanizing question.

One is “ Amazon Tests How Far It Can Push White-Collar Staff.” The thrust of the article is that CEO Jeff Bezos uses metrics to measure the performance of his staff and his company.

To Bezos data is everything. Data allows individual performance to be measured continuous, Amazon is running a continual performance improvement algorithm on its staff, data creates clarity around decision making, data liberates the company to focus on what’s important. Data infuses transparency and precision into the workplace and frees the workplace and the marketplace from bureaucracy and politics. Amazon’s employees are held accountable through a staggering array of metrics based on leadership principles, through rigorous feedback on performance, and on competition between staff.

Whether or not one agrees with this focus on metrics, one cannot help be astonished at the results. Bezos is now the fifth wealthiest person in the world, the most valuable retailer in the Country with a market valuation of $250 billion, and the new owner of the Washington Post. Bezos may be dehumanizing in his metric demands on his staff, but his company is humanizing to most of Amazon’s customers.

Two is “Staking the Times’s Future on Digital, “ by Margaret Sullivan, its public editor. Mr. Sullivan says the Times is betting its future on the Net. It is betting its online revenue will offset the inevitable decline of print. It is betting within 5 years, its digital revenue will surpass its print revenue. It is betting an international audience will be drawn to its pages. It is betting more money will be spent of journalism than the past. And it betting constant change and turbulence, triggered by online innovation, will appeal to the new mobile generations of millenials and their successors. It is betting it can blend online and print and prosper.

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