A quote attributed to Aristotle is “Give me a child until he is 7 and I will show you the man.”
Now with the development of big data, some companies are apparently working on predicting the future’ potential’ of any single human being who goes through the process. The argument being that the bigger the data and cleverer the algorithm, the more accurate the data.
You could argue that this is nothing more than an extension of selection tests and other methods of assessing people.
Personally, however, I am uneasy with taking this type of work too far.
It is one thing saying to someone, “Thanks for applying for the job, you have some great attributes, but other candidates are more suited to the role.”
It is a very different thing to say, “Thanks for going through this advanced process. Alas, what we have learned is that whatever you do in life, whatever situation you find yourself in, whoever has the opportunity to inspire and influence you, it won’t matter a jot because you will never, ever be able to reach your goals and fulfil your dreams. It just isn’t statistically possible. We’ve checked the data. Sorry.”
In my opinion, nobody has the right to tell someone else what they are or are not capable of in the future.
Potential is developed not because somebody can but because somebody does.
What somebody does is influenced by their needs, their motivations, who they meet, who they are influenced by, the opportunities available to them, the restrictions that may prevent them, and so on.
Rather than creating a world where big data enables us to focus on limiting people’s expectations of what they themselves can achieve by labelling them and making them feel unworthy, I prefer the vision of a world where people are encouraged, inspired and allowed to exceed their own and other peoples expectations of them.
People are always capable of more.
Let’s not allow big data to make anyone feel that they cannot develop themselves and chase their dreams. True we might not always achieve our initial objective, but by trying we find strengths and capabilities which we did not know we have and by doing so develop our potential further than anyone could have predicted.