Thursday, January 6, 2011

Data through the history

Analytics and data are becoming ubiquitous in finance, politics, and other spheres of life, such as friendships where people now boast about how many friends they have on Facebook. It was however not very long ago that the word data was not even part of the everyday lexicon. See the graph below, which shows the evolution of the word data over the past 100 years in the books digitized by Google. The graph immediately below is that of word data used in books published in English in the United States. The y-axis presents the share of the word data in a given year as a percentage of all words published in books in that particular year.

Data saw an earlier increase in its mention in 1920s in American English. However, it was only in the 1960s when the use of data become more pronounced and remained so until mid 1980s. It was the period when Robert McNamara, the most prominent of all quants, tried to win a war in Vietnam by improving the analytics. He failed.  A decline in its mention is observed 1990s and then a quick reversal with a rapid increase in its mention from late 1990s to the first few years of the new millennium. The decline continues again in the mention of the word data.image

The graph below shows the same for books in English that were published in England. The decline in its mention in the past decade seems to be levelling off in the UK.


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