by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Massive amounts of information are being collected, intentionally by us and silently by the machines we invent and use in daily life. Interpreting its meaning, and discovering patterns within it, is perhaps the most important skill in the economy of 2021. Our faculty has determined that data analysis, as we now call it, should be as universal a part of a Boilermaker education as English composition.
You’ll leave this stadium able to evaluate statistics and whether they are significant or meaningless. You’ll know better than to confuse correlation with causation. You’ll look at decisions critically, and holistically, understanding that any objective pursued too far eventually yields diminishing returns not worth their cost. That, just as medicines have side effects, almost all actions produce collateral consequences, often collateral damage. …
… Starting soon, the decisions will be yours to make. In businesses you start or join, in causes in which you feel called to enlist, or in that most important of all organizations, the families I hope you will form. Wherever they are, the very essence of your coming leadership roles will lie in making hard choices. After weighing all the options, the competing priorities and the uncertainties that even the biggest databases cannot totally eliminate, others will look to you to choose.
The risk of failure, of a hit to one’s reputation, or just that the gains don’t outweigh the costs, all these can deter or even paralyze a person out of fulfilling the responsibility someone has entrusted to them. Should I make this investment, or husband my cash? Take that job offer, or stay where I’m comfortable? Engage in this debate, or sit silently? Choose this life partner, or play it safe?
This last year, many of your elders failed this fundamental test of leadership. They let their understandable human fear of uncertainty overcome their duty to balance all the interests for which they were responsible.