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Dataism is a term that has been used to describe the mindset or philosophy created by the emerging significance of big data. It was first used by David Brooks in The New York Times in 2013.[1] The term has been expanded to describe what historian Yuval Noah Harari, in his book Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow from 2015, calls an emerging ideology or even a new form of religion, in which "information flow" is the "supreme value".[2]


"If you asked me to describe the rising philosophy of the day, I'd say it is Data-ism", wrote David Brooks in The New York Times in February 2013.[1] Brooks argued that in a world of increasing complexity, relying on data could reduce cognitive biases and "illuminate patterns of behavior we haven't yet noticed".[1]

In 2015, Steve Lohr's book Data-ism looked at how Big Data is transforming society, using the term to describe the Big Data revolution.[3][4]

In his 2016 book Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, Yuval Noah Harari argues that all competing political or social structures can be seen as data processing systems: "Dataism declares that the universe consists of data flows, and the value of any phenomenon or entity is determined by its contribution to data processing" and "we may interpret the entire human species as a single data processing system, with individual humans serving as its chips."[2][5] According to Harari, a Dataist should want to "maximise dataflow by connecting to more and more media". Harari predicts that the logical conclusion of this process is that, eventually, humans will give algorithms the authority to make the most important decisions in their lives, such as whom to marry and which career to pursue.[6][7] Harari argues that Aaron Swartz could be called the "first martyr" of Dataism.[8]


Commenting on Harari's characterisation of Dataism, security analyst Daniel Miessler believes that Dataism does not present the challenge to the ideology of liberal humanism that Harari claims, because humans will simultaneously be able to believe in their own importance and that of data.[9]

Harari himself raises some criticisms, such as the problem of consciousness, which Dataism is unlikely to illuminate. Humans may also find out that organisms are not algorithms, he suggests.[10] Dataism implies that all data is public, even personal data, to make the system work as a whole, which is a factor that's already showing resistance today.[11]

Other analysts such as Terry Ortleib have looked at the extent to which Dataism poses a dystopian threat to humanity.[12]

The Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal showed how political leaders manipulated Facebook's users' data to build specific psychological profiles that went on to manipulate the network. A team of data analysts reproduced the AI technology developed by Cambridge Analytica around Facebook's data and was able to define the following rules: 10 likes enables a machine to know a person like a coworker, 70 likes like a friend would, 150 likes like a parent would, 300 likes like a lover would, and beyond it may be possible to know a people better than they know themselves.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Brooks, David (2013-02-04). "Opinion | The Philosophy of Data". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-01-05.
  2. ^ a b Harari, Yuval Noah (2017). Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. UK: Vintage Penguin Random House. p. 428. ISBN 9781784703936.
  3. ^ Igo, Sarah E. (2015-03-20). "You can run from Big Data, but can you hide?". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2018-01-05.
  4. ^ Lohr, Steve (May 2015). Data-ism : The Revolution Transforming Decision Making, Consumer Behavior, and Almost Everything Else (First ed.). New York, NY: HarperBusiness. ISBN 978-0062226815. OCLC 861210012.
  5. ^ Harari, Yuval. "'Homo sapiens is an obsolete algorithm': Yuval Noah Harari on how data could eat the world". Retrieved 2018-01-05.
  6. ^ Harari, Yuval Noah (2017). Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. UK: Vintage Penguin Random House. p. 445. ISBN 9781784703936.
  7. ^ Harari, Yuval Noah (2016-08-26). "Yuval Noah Harari on big data, Google and the end of free will". Financial Times. Retrieved 2018-01-05.
  8. ^ Yuval Noah Harari (18 April 2013). "Data Processing - Part 1" (Video). YouTube. Retrieved 27 September 2018.
  9. ^ "Some Thoughts on Dataism". Daniel Miessler. 2017-04-07. Retrieved 2018-01-05.
  10. ^ "From Humanism to Dataism. A future scenario. - Dataethical Thinkdotank". Dataethical Thinkdotank. 2017-04-25. Retrieved 2018-01-05.
  11. ^ Steven Parton (30 September 2018). "The Rise of Dataism: A Threat to Freedom or a Scientific Revolution?". Retrieved 18 November 2019.
  12. ^ Terry Ortlieb (2017-03-07), is Harari Dataism Dystopian, retrieved 2018-01-05
  13. ^ Hannes Grassegger; Mikael Krogerus (28 January 2017). "The Data That Turned the World Upside Down". Retrieved 18 November 2019.

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