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Data can explain everything. Or can it?

Firstly, Sebastian Wernicke gave such a brilliant talk. There is so much truth and so much to be said about what the world and the TED community around the world hungers for. As Wernicke points out, talks related to abstract ideas and emotions such as happiness, love, religion tended to be the most popular.

What other analysis has been done with the statistical data collected on TED online? It would be fascinating to relate this to trends in the consumer market. Perhaps, time series?

I would love to dabble with this data. Any thoughts or ideas?

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    Feb 8 2013: God has hidden some knowledge from Man. I appreciate and respect how valid, ethical Science tirelessly strives to understand and explain God's creation. But we should recognize that, "Relativity eliminated the Newtonian illusion of absolute space and time; Quantum Theory eliminated the Newtonian dream of a controllable measurement process; and Chaos eliminates the Laplacian fantasy of deterministic predictability."-- Joseph Ford, Physicist, Georgia Institute of Technology Quoted by James Gleick, Chaos, page 6.
    We should explain what we can while avoiding the urge to be premature in calling theory fact. Thank you.
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      Feb 12 2013: The God that you might be implying has hidden ALL the knowledge.
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        Feb 12 2013: It may be as you say sir, I certainly cannot prove it is not. But I hold to a justified true belief that God exists and has revealed certain, but not all, truth to mankind through the creation itself and through the Holy Bible. QUOTE: "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork." --Psalm 19:1. "Call unto me, and I [God] will answer thee and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not." --Jeremiah 33:3. "For the invisible things of him [God] from the creation are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his [God's] eternal power and godhead; so that they [those who deny God's existence] are without excuse."-- Romans 1:20. So, that is why I do not believe God has hidden ALL knowledge. Thank you!
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          Feb 13 2013: Mr. Long. From an evolutionary point of view man has discovered all the knowledge that we possess all by ourselves!! I think that faith can be a wonderful thing. I, myself, would never consciously try to sway anybody from their faith. It has been clear to me for quite a while that faith also has a rightful place in this world.
          Also Sir. Having all the knowledge is having no knowledge at all. I cannot imagine a God that has all the knowledge. How bored must he be, knowing that there is nothing left to know. This Sir is a conversation of colossal proportions where if conclusion is to arrive, it would surely in my opinion be psychological disaster.
          I do wish you the best with your faith.
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        Feb 13 2013: RE: "...from an evolutionary point of view..."
        So, to return to the topic, you believe data can explain everything. I believe only God can explain everything. So be it. Neither of us, no matter how much data we amass, can convince the other. . . only God can. Thank you sir!
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          Feb 13 2013: No Sir. I light heartedly in another comment said that data explains everything. However I will adjust my answer to satisfy. Data explains the question!! The questions ofter are more important than the answers for they imply where our line of thought is heading. Therefore, are we asking the questions? do we know all the questions??
  • Feb 12 2013: One of the largest impediments that I can foresee is the shortcomings of qualitative analysis, as compared to quantitative analysis of data. Some concepts are poorly expressed in a number-scale or yes-no format, and as a result these concepts will remain limited in their statistical analysis potential until new methods are created. I definitely love the promise though, that one day data may be capable of explaining (most) everything. Guess that's the scientist in me ;)
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    Feb 12 2013: Val,

    Data can explain a great deal. But, just as science--which isn't science without data--it can't explain everything.

    Or, as a sign in Albert Einstein's office pointed out ""Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts."

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    Feb 12 2013: Data justifies research. Research justifies effort. Effort justifies people. People justify everything. Everything is justified with data.
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      Feb 18 2013: In turn we validate data and collect another set of data to make a progress. Data and we humans are forming an infinite, everlasting feed-forward loop.
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    Feb 10 2013: not even close. Data can not correlate my feelings and energy is a feeling


    everything is energy
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    Feb 9 2013: Depends on how one collects data...even from the collected data , depends on how it is being interpreted and try to get the insight behind the data.
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      Feb 18 2013: I totally agree with what Salim says.
      While data is indeed powerful, the problem lies not in the power of data itself but in the way data is collected and interpreted. We have to keep in mind that data makes sense only when it is analyzed in a proper and appropriate way; otherwise data cannot transform itself into information or knowledge.
  • Feb 8 2013: Read Chaos by Glick Not always
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    Feb 17 2013: The minute you stop talking about an individual and discuss collected information or data, then you have lost the individual.

    Vice versa, the only way to discuss groups of people efficiently (or in any way that can be utilised by systems) is to start talking in terms of data.

    The minute you introduce newer technology designed to capture data on individuals, you return to the beginning and start the cycle again.

    Reconciling the individual with the many is where the answer to many "world problems" is a fascinating and complex issue.
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    Feb 14 2013: There are two ways to interpret this statement:

    1) Data can be used to explain any observation. If you dig long enough into the data, you can explain anything
    2) Anything you want to explain (even though it might be false) can be done using data.

    In my opinion: both are true... which is why Data is only part of the story.... common sense and more qualitative information are often just as important :)
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    Feb 12 2013: Data is information and information is what you need to growth your business!
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    Feb 10 2013: "Everything" is an overrated word when it comes to the capabilities of data and the knowledge that lies hidden in it.

    However, it is fascinating of what all data can reveal if analyzed and observed carefully with the right perspective. Much of the businesses and research are data driven and the technological progress that our generation has witnessed is self explanatory.

    From my perspective, our methods need to be perfect to get everything out of our data and the same applies to the quality of data under examination. As many would agree, in statistical methods that we apply, some margin for error is already taken into account.

    So for me, I would not expect my data to tell me everything that it knows unless and until I apply my perfect statistical methods on it. Unless everything's perfect around it, Data does not explain everything !!
  • Feb 10 2013: in statistics, data can say everything we need, at least 30 datas