Words vs. Spreadsheets

Have the nerds won? Is it: “Statisticians 10, Poets 0?” It appears so. Increasingly, words take a back seat to spreadsheets as more aspects of life become quantifiable and apps even track our moods. Have we gone too far? Do we need poets any longer?

In the last few years, there has been a revolution so profound that it’s sometimes hard to miss its significance. We are awash in numbers. Data is everywhere. Old-fashioned things like words are in retreat; numbers are on the rise. Unquantifiable arenas like history, literature, religion and the arts are receding from public life, replaced by technology, statistics, science and math. Even the most elemental form of communication, the story, is being pushed aside by the list. We’ve become the United States of Metrics.

But does this crush of data threaten our very selves and our aliveness? Grids, spreadsheets and algorithms take away the sensory connection to our lives, where our feet are, what we’re seeing, all the raw materials of life, which by their very nature are disorganized. Metrics rob individuals of the sense that they can choose their own path, because if you’re going by the data and the formula, there’s only one way. As the greatest numbers person of the 20th century, Albert Einstein, warned, “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”

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