Data Quotes

At Springboard, we help students learn data science, so we obviously love talking about how data will change the world. Turns out we aren’t the only ones. We found these 41 quotes about data from important figures throughout history — some of them will inspire you, and some will change how you think about your data.

You can highlight any of them and share right away from different social channels, so feel free to share away. After all, nothing inspires better than a well-placed quote.


On The Importance of Data


Data quotes on the importance of data

In a data driven world, nothing is more critical than finding out exactly what is going on around you. These quotes below underscore how important it is to have good data to inform your view of the world.

“You can have data without information, but you cannot have information without data.”- Daniel Keys Moran, Computer programmer and science fiction author

“In God we trust. All others must bring data.”- W. Edwards Deming, Statistician

“Most of the world will make decisions by either guessing or using their gut. They will be either lucky or wrong.”- Suhail Doshi, CEO, Mixpanel

“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.”- Arthur Conan Doyle, Author of Sherlock Holmes

“We’re entering a new world in which data may be more important than software.”- Tim O’Reilly, Founder, O’Reilly Media

“Data is a precious thing and will last longer than the systems themselves.”- Tim Berners-Lee, father of the Worldwide Web

“It’s difficult to imagine the power that you’re going to have when so many different sorts of data are available.”- Tim Berners-Lee

“Web users ultimately want to get at data quickly and easily. They don’t care as much about attractive sites and pretty design.”- Tim Berners-Lee

“Data, I think, is one of the most powerful mechanisms for telling stories. I take a huge pile of data and I try to get it to tell stories.” – Steven Levitt, Co-author of Freakonomics

“Data is the kind of ubiquitous resource that we can shape to provide new innovations and new insights, and it’s all around us, and it can be mined very easily.” – David McCandless, Data journalist

“We’ve got to use every piece of data and piece of information, and hopefully that will help us be accurate with our player evaluation. For us, that’s our life blood.” – Billy Beane, General Manager Oakland As, subject of Moneyball

“Before Google, and long before Facebook, Bezos had realized that the greatest value of an online company lay in the consumer data it collected.” – George Packer, author for the New Yorker

“Our ability to do great things with data will make a real difference in every aspect of our lives.” – Jennifer Pahlka, Founder and Executive Director for Code for America

“Some of the best theorizing comes after collecting data because then you become aware of another reality.” – Robert J. Shiller, Winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics

“If you’re a scientist, and you have to have an answer, even in the absence of data, you’re not going to be a good scientist.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson, Astrophysicist

“Everything is going to be connected to cloud and data… All of this will be mediated by software.” – Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft

“By relying on the statistical information rather than a gut feeling, you allow the data to lead you to be in the right place at the right time. To remain as emotionally free from the hurly burly of the here and now is one of the only ways to succeed.” – James O’Shaughnessy, Investor

“Without big data analytics, companies are blind and deaf, wandering out onto the Web like deer on a freeway.” – Geoffrey Moore, Partner at MDV

Data Quotes On The Treatment of Data


Data Quotes on the Treatment of Data

Data is something that you have to manipulate to get at key truths. How you decide to treat your data can vastly affect what conclusions you make. The following data quotes reaffirm the importance of considering what happens with your data.

“Data that is loved tends to survive.” – Kurt Bollacker, Computer scientist

“Torture the data, and it will confess to anything.” – Ronald Coase, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics

“Data scientists are involved with gathering data, massaging it into a tractable form, making it tell its story, and presenting that story to others.” – Mike Loukides, VP, O’Reilly Media

“I don’t see the logic of rejecting data just because they seem incredible.”- Fred Hoyle, Scientist and thinker

“I think you can have a ridiculously enormous and complex data set, but if you have the right tools and methodology then it’s not a problem.” – Aaron Koblin, Entrepreneur in data and digital technologies

“In the spirit of science, there really is no such thing as a ‘failed experiment.’ Any test that yields valid data is a valid test.”- Adam Savage, MythBusters creator

“Theories come and go, but fundamental data always remain the same.”- Mary Leakey, Anthropologist

“When human judgment and big data intersect there are some funny things that happen.”- Nate Silver, Founder of FiveThirtyEight

Data Quotes On The Pitfalls of Data


Data quotes on the pitfalls of data

Data should not be your end-all and be-all on your path to the truth. Data experts will readily concede that sometimes, data falls just short. Here’s what they have to say on why that’s the case.

“The whole enterprise of teaching managers is steeped in the ethic of data-driven analytical support. The problem is, the data is only available about the past. So the way we’ve taught managers to make decisions and consultants to analyze problems condemns them to taking action when it’s too late.”- Clayton M. Christensen, management professor at Harvard

“On average, people should be more skeptical when they see numbers. They should be more willing to play around with the data themselves.”- Nate Silver

“The problem with data is that it says a lot, but it also says nothing. ‘Big data’ is terrific, but it’s usually thin. To understand why something is happening, we have to engage in both forensics and guess work.”- Sendhil Mullainathan, Professor of economics, Harvard

“Big Data is like teenage sex: everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it.”- Dan Ariely, Author of Predictably Irrational

“Every second of every day, our senses bring in way too much data than we can possibly process in our brains.”- Peter Diamandis, Founder of the X-Prize

“Data adds concrete information to a teacher’s observations and intuition, but it will never replace experience, personal relationships, and cultural understanding.”- Jose Ferreira, Founder and CEO of Knewton

Data Quotes On Data and Privacy


Data Quotes on Data and Privacy

Data not only curates what is happening in a society, its very presence asks difficult questions about privacy and secrecy of the individuals contained within. Here are some data quotes that examine that theme.

“Everything we do in the digital realm – from surfing the Web to sending an e-mail to conducting a credit card transaction to, yes, making a phone call – creates a data trail. And if that trail exists, chances are someone is using it – or will be soon enough.”- Douglas Rushkoff, Author of Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus

“You happily give Facebook terabytes of structured data about yourself, content with the implicit tradeoff that Facebook is going to give you a social service that makes your life better.”- John Battelle, Founder of Wired Magazine

“It’s so cheap to store all data. It’s cheaper to keep it than to delete it. And that means people will change their behavior because they know anything they say online can be used against them in the future.”- Mikko Hypponen, Security and privacy expert

“The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Don’t store unnecessary data, keep an eye on what’s happening, and don’t take unnecessary risks.” — Chris Bell, US Congressman

Data Quotes On Data and Change


Data quotes on Data and Change

A recent move to data-driven companies and processes has changed how businesses and governments think. Here are some data quotes reflecting that trend:

“I keep saying that the sexy job in the next 10 years will be statisticians, and I’m not kidding.”- Hal Varian, Chief economist, Google

“There’s a digital revolution taking place both in and out of government in favor of open-sourced data, innovation, and collaboration.”- Kathleen Sebelius, Former United States Secretary of Health and Human Services

“We should teach the students, as well as executives, how to conduct experiments, how to examine data, and how to use these tools to make better decisions.”- Dan Ariely

Parting Thoughts

“The world is one big data problem.”- Andrew McAfee, MIT scientist

“We speak of ‘software eating the world,’ ‘the Internet of Things,’ and we massify ‘data’ by declaring it ‘Big.’ But these concepts remain for the most part abstract. It’s hard for many of us to grasp the impact of digital technology on the ‘real world’ of things like rocks, homes, cars, and trees. We lack a metaphor that hits home.” – John Battelle


Thought we missed any good data quotes? Have any thoughts on the data quotes above? Join the discussion below.

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