What is Data?

What is Data?

Data are the representations of the objects existing in this world that can either be perceived by our own senses or tools we built. For instance, I can see the flower to know its color and shape. I can also smell its fragrance and touch it to feel the shape of its petals. In addition, some flowers radiate infrared light that our human eye cannot perceive but can be captured by infrared camera we built.

Besides being perceived, data can also be interpreted or analyzed either directly by our brain or by tools we have, which then can be used for decisions. Imagine that you are a caveman living in prehistoric period and wandering around the plain. Suddenly you see a saber-toothed tiger. The shape of its long teeth will then enter your brain through your eyes. After seeing this tiger and its huge teeth, your brain will start to think: that pair of teeth are huge, I bet there are still some blood stains from other animals on it, I don’t want to go near it anymore. At this point, your brain forms a decision based on the data of the saber-toothed which help itself and you escape the hands of Death.

However, there are times when our brains cannot interpret the massive, complex, and implicit connections underlying the raw data. To fully utilize data, people will then use tools to help them process it. Again, this time we will use the saber-toothed tiger as an example, but this time rather than a prehistoric caveman, you come back from the past and become a paleontologist who study saber-toothed tiger. In front of you, there is a skeleton of a saber-toothed tiger. You want to know when did this tiger died yet you cannot possibly know this by one single look of its bones. Right now, the bones are just raw data that our brains could not interpret, yet they contain enough implicit information for us to know, we just need the right tools. Note that the tools here can mean physical tools like a C-14 dating machine or theoretical tools like C-14 has half-life for 5730 years. By using tools, you are then able to date back to the time this poor tiger died.

Cover Photo by Franki Chamaki on Unsplash

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