Water, water, everywhere, and all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere, but not a drop to drink.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
The Texas Oil Boom at the turn of the 20th century saw populations in Dallas double and double again in a few short years. This tremendous growth was driven by a wholesale shift of the U.S. economy and infrastructure to automobiles. The first Ford Model T left the factory on September 27, 1908. Less than 20 years later, in 1927, Ford had produced 15 million cars as supply and demand caused a massive societal shift—the United States literally drove into a new society.
Similarly, the advent and widespread use of the personal computer at the end of the 20th century led to a new boom: the Information Age. Thirty years after the launch of the personal computer, we entered a new era of big data and data-driven decisions that has been compared to the oil boom. Certainly the hype is gushing and hopes are high that data will deliver smart insights and a more intelligent enterprise.
This is the promise, but here’s the hitch: Although generations of teenagers have learned how to drive as a rite of passage into adulthood, and with it have found new degrees of freedom, we have not systematized the acquisition of skills essential to ensure data fluency. The language at the heart of the highways of commerce, now, and even more so in the future, is available to relatively few.
The 1920s and 1930s ...