Analytics are the steering wheel that humanity uses to drive the world – or at least that portion of the planet over which we have some influence. Without the sensors, the correlators, the aggregators, the visualizers, the solvers, and the rest of what analytic applications depend on, we would be only a passenger, not a co-pilot, on this, our only home.

If you’ve spent any time around advanced mathematics and analytics, you’re bound to run into the phrase “global optimization.” All in all, this has little to do with optimizing the globe we live on; instead, it refers to techniques for solving a set of equations under various constraints. Nevertheless, I love the phrase’s evocative ring, in that it suggests the Gaia Hypothesis, a controversial conjecture that the Earth is a sort of super-organism. Specifically, it models the Earth as a closed, self-regulating, virtuous feedback loop of organic and inorganic processes that, considered holistically, maintains life-sustaining homeostasis. This hypothesis suggests that the planet as a whole is continuously optimizing the conditions for our ongoing existence – and that the biosphere may perish, just like any organism, if it falls into a vicious feedback loop of its own undoing.

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