© Janne Iivonen
The Data Religion… This is of course the title of one of the chapters in Yuval Noah Harari’s celebrated book, Homo Deus. In that chapter, Harari references the work of Kevin Kelly who helped launched Wired magazine and authored What Technology Wants.
“In practice, this means that Dataists are skeptical about human knowledge and wisdom, and prefer to put their trust in Big Data and computer algorithms,” writes Harari. Dataists believe in the invisible hand of the data flow.
Harari’s book is spellbinding; it might shock you but it will certainly make you think in ways you had not thought before. This particular chapter on Data Religion ends with a question that has stuck to my mind:
“Are organisms really just algorithms, and is life really just data processing?”
As I was contemplating Harari’s fresh angle on the role of data in our day-to-day life, I reflected on the role played by data in financial services, the industry that I know best. As I was discussing with clients, colleagues, and technology partners over the last couple of weeks, it occurred to me that Dataism is, to a large extent, already the religion of the financial services industry. What already happened a few years ago in the field of medicine, with Amazon recommending a particular book, with Spotify recommending a particular playlist is now commonplace in financial services too.
The cover of Yuval Noah Harari’s international bestseller
In a recent conversation (on Teams…), my colleague, Julien Recan, Associate Partner at
Alpha Reply offered profound insight into how financial institutions can leverage data to enhance customer experience, cross-sell or simply operate more efficiently based on exhilarating but very real use cases. With uncanny detail, Julien explained how he works with his clients to leverage events and event streams (i.e., data), making them available across the financial institution to enable employees to glean insights from event streaming in real time and engage with their customers. His use cases range from creating new products and customer experiences in retail and SME banks, leveraging on gathering events related to existing products, to driving operational and cost efficiencies at large broker dealer organizations. Little wonder that the Alpha Reply website is all about “data-driven risk & compliance”, “data-driven transformation”, “data-driven customer engagement”! Take a look:
Now, Harari writes
“forget about listening to yourselves. In the age of data, algorithms have the answer.” There is definitely some good value in leveraging data in financial services but let’s hope that there is some role for gut feeling!