Topic: Lessons of the Victorian data revolution

Very interesting article about the Victorian data revolution, closed data vs open data and the value of expertise.

http://radar.oreilly.com/2011/05/victor … ssons.html

The villains of the tidal story were the harbor masters who hoarded their information, but in fact that was only a small part of the value they offered. Despite incredibly detailed maps of every port, we still rely on their descendants to pilot commercial ships into harbor. There's a world of knowledge about currents, shifting sand banks and traffic patterns that it hasn't been possible to compress into numbers or rules.

Creating datasets may help technical people like us to understand problems and propose solutions, but it also means that harbor masters and other people with deep, lived experience of the domains will be overruled. In the 20th century the prestige of the scientific toolkit was used to justify disasters like the collectivization of agriculture, as technocrats around the world wielded numbers to take power away from "inefficient" smallholders. Those figures were mostly proven bogus by reality, as plans with no knowledge of conditions on the ground failed when confronted with the wildly variable conditions of soil, weather and pests that farmers had spent a lifetime learning to cope with.

Charles