As I was saying, last week, my close buddy Julius invited me to his research presentation on zoom. He has an exciting project to mine data from social media and websites as well as conduct online games. Julius’ aim is to understand how human beings make decisions when doing online shopping. His analysis entails more than 100 variables explaining human behaviour and decision making while shopping online, booking tickets or ordering food.
Although Julius received useful comments from the audience, someone asked him a simple question that kept lingering in my mind after the presentation. ‘did you need 100 variables to explain human behaviour?’ posed a guest. I couldn’t help but ponder on the sheer logic behind the question. Truly with the emergence of big data and more data becoming readily available as technology advances, there is an academic pressure to utilize this information. Many organizations and ambitious individuals want to be associated with big data, artificial intelligence, machine learning and data science. This is a movement happening now in the world of computing, statistics and possibly other disciplines such as Agriculture and Economics. But do we really need thousands of variables, high volume and velocity data from thousands of sources to explain simple phenomena like farm production?
Julius’ presentation reminded me of my previous talk with my former flatmate, Frank. We had planned our time to be cooking our food together every evening because unlike our other flatmates, we preferred cooking rather than buying food to cut cost. This day, he found me cooking and he hit me with his noble plan of becoming a minimalist. He envisioned minimalism as the idea of living with few possessions and being intentional with subscriptions. This, in his wisdom, is loosely translated to owning more of what matters and less of what doesn’t. He opined that in today’s world, people ate a lot of food rather than taking what the body needs. To crown his idea, he expressed the desire to focus on eating right proportions of nutritious foods, have a limited circle of friends, own a few electronics and belonging in general and subscribe to important updates only. He told me that people nowadays have allowed themselves to be controlled by technology and social media. “Mwungu, can you imagine having 40 applications on your phone giving you notifications? Will you have time to focus on essential things?”, he fired.
Honestly, I was spellbound. I read sense in his ideal and slowly started to warm up towards minimalism! It seemed attractive and I was excited to become one. I mean who wouldn’t want to save cash and hit the envied travel destinations while keeping it simple and pursuing happiness? Your guess is as good as mine. Travelling would give you experience that would last a lifetime instead of buying unnecessary stuff. I have been wondering if this is possible in the current world. While in the Economics and Statistics world I would wish to have a few variables that would explain a phenomenon, I don’t know if it is possible to own a few kinds of stuff and limit subscriptions. Who can’t live without a phone, laptop, fridge, cooker, heater for winter, fan for summer, bed, carpet, fashion, car etc.? Who in this age doesn’t have an email account, Facebook, Twitter, What’s app? For instance, I always make sure my work email is on so that I can respond to urgent emails as soon as I can. Indeed on face value, life can be sophisticated more than it needs to be. There is a thin line between essential stuff and needs making it a tall order to define minimalism. Although it sounds cool, I don’t subscribe to the idea.
My Learned brother from the Lake, Oscar Kula, will tell you that life is short. You must make sure you enjoy life before you die. Own a big car, buy the latest iPhone model, build a big house, travel more and eat good food. What makes someone happy? Is it living a simple life, have and do things that make you happy or hoard as much stuff as possible? Some will say less is more while others will say more is more. Which school of thought would you support? What are the trade-offs? I would like to know your thoughts in the comment box below.
Featured image by: Photo by Hutomo Abrianto on Unsplash