One of the current hypes in the media and IT is the concept of “Big Data”. We have never had access to so much information and so many data to correlate as we have now, and we do indeed see very interesting articles on many different aspects of the Human lives and Civilizations, not to mention Businesses. It seems almost for certain that the “Big Data revolution” is and will become yet another driver for the further evolution of our societies and ways of living. So we better get used to the Term.
Thinking about Numbers – which you could call a sub-task of analyzing Big Data – is not a new discipline at all. Indeed, the ancient Greek Philosopher Pythagoras is famous for the quote “Everyting is Numbers!”, and we have all struggled with Mathematics in School and the concept of “Powers of Tens”. In case you forgot: 1*10^3 means 10*10*10 = 1000, and likewise 1*10^-2 means 0.1 *0.1 = 0.01. You will appreciate that once you get it, the Powers of Tens is a pretty neat and simple concept.
So the question of this Post is: did you really ever think about the Powers of Tens ? Let me elaborate: In the metric system, entities measured in 1 meters (1*10^0) are in the same scale as yourself, your kids, your car. Entities in 1*10^1 are like two rooms in your house, entities in 1*10^2 like the houses in your street or the distance of a 5 minutes walk, ie. hundreds of meters. Entities in 1*10^3 (1000 meters) is like the numbers of kilometers to your work not to long away (“a few kilometers”) and entities in 1*10^4 (10.000 meters) is like the distance your are sitting in when up flying in an air plane in it’s normal flight height. So think about this: there are only four (4) Powers of Tens difference to your normal life (1*10^0) looking down from that airplane (1*10^4) ! When you do sit in the airplane and look down, you will have a hard time to grasp that the “dimension” of single meters (1*10^0) even exist ! You can merely glimpse the houses and to imagine that they are actually filled with stuff like kitchenware, shoes and chairs seems kind of unreal from the distance of 10 kilometers. Try it the next time you fly !
Looking a 3-fold Power of Tens down !
Ok, this was just the preparation for the bigger data: think about the distances around the globe, the distances in the Solar System, or, in the World of Chemistry, the Number of molecules in your body or in the food you eat. Example: 18 gram of water contain approx. 6.022 * 10^23 molecules (= 1 mole of H2O). It is completely out of our hands, say heads, to comprehend numbers of this magnitude. This is yet, however, elementary chemistry taught to everyone in school. We can round the number of to 1*10^23, ie.
6 * 100000000000000000000000 water molecules – in 18 ml of water !
The Number of People in an Persons Life
Ok, enough of the nerdy stuff, let’s move on to the most important: the significant persons in your life. Average Numbers could be:
* we estimate the world population to 7 billion (7* 10^9) human beings
* you have 7 close relatives in your family – meaning there are 1 billion (1* 10^9) people per close relative you have !
* you have 7 very close friends – again, 1 billion (1* 10^9) people for each important friend in your life
* you have 70 close friends, most important colleagues, and other significant persons in you life – ratio is now 1:(1* 10^8)
* you have 700 odd persons in your “network”, colleagues, and other people you connect with from time to time – ratio is now 1:(1* 10^7)
I guess you get the pattern in the ciphers by now. Let’s look on the last two situations: say you have 70 “really important” persons in your life, well then there are 100 million people on the Earth for each. 100 million people equals the entire populations of Germany, The Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries all together ! We Humans tend to care a lot about “what the others think”, but when you inspect the data here, it’s hard not to think: Why ? Why is it important what 70 odd people might think about you, when you for each have 100 million (1* 10^8) people that never have and probably never will know or hear or care about you at all. Why ? Well, I guess the answer is that we Humans in fact relate emotionally, including our Vanity, to the Small Numbers. Our feelings steer around our few loved ones (most importantly, our children and our parents), around the one partner we either have or not have, around our few very close friends, our one childhood, our one career, our one appearance, our one relegion, one sexuality etc. Yes, our Hearts are controlled by the Small Numbers and thus we easily feel lonely here in the Modern World where we are confronted by these immense amounts of the Big Data (=many strangers) including the superficial nature of the Social Networks. My take is that we Humans are not build for the Big Data as beings. And thus we feel lonely.
Do you feel alone in the World ? We all are ! By the Numbers.
So we are in a dilemma here. We are Maze Runners in our own neurotic psychology trying to balance the emotions of the Small Numbers with the ever increasing potential opportunities of the Big Data. The key is balance, or with another word: temperance, one of the cardinal Virtues in the Greek Philosophy. We have to understand what the Numbers imply to all Humans: no one get’s anything for free ! We all have the Numbers against us ! And we can all have them on our side. It is a Brain thing, it is an emotional challenge, it is the very mastery called Life ! So run into your Maze and increase your odds !
A Marathon is made up by so many individuals, so many personal stories, so many spirits and faiths, yet poeple bring themselves out there, they struggle, they take decisions, they experience things, alone and together at the same time. Indeed, the Marathon is a wonderful Metaphor for Life itself.
My practical suggestions are:
A) Be yourself, be genuine and uphold and defend your own integrity. (Billions of people don’t care if you fake it anyways)
B) Understand that “everybody” are strangers. We are all lonely. So adjust your feelings to this core fundamental
C) Safekeep and maintain your close relationships. Friends come, as you may realize, in Small Numbers for most of us.
D) Be open and friendly to all Humans. The Big Numbers imply that your next new friend, lover or spouse is out there !
E) Welcome criticism and resistance ! Be happy that someone actually spend their time on you – billions don’t.
F) Get into the game ! For all we know, Life comes as a one-off thing, so get the most out of it ! Exploit yourself. Act !