Home » Business Topics » Data Trends

AI and Data Literacy: A National Mandate

  • Bill Schmarzo 

Figure 1: Your Future with AI?  Terminator or YODA

I recently participated in a regional workshop of government, education, business, and social leaders where we were trying to ascertain and assess 1) the certainty of national trends and 2) the impact of those trends on the region. 

We reviewed many trends, including the growth of green jobs, growth in the Hispanic community, the decline in water quality and availability, the increasingly older population, declining enrollment trends, remote medicine, Electric Vehicle (EV) infrastructure. and about 25 more essential trends. I was particularly interested in the trend “Growing Artificial Intelligence (AI) Industry.”

“The AI industry is expanding rapidly, and two metro areas have become important federal research and contracting centers for AI research. However, according to a 2021 Brooking study, “these two metro areas exhibit below-average commercialization activities in terms of per capita AI companies, job postings, and job profiles,” suggesting an opportunity to use this capability to help spark job growth.”

AI is a growth engine, a growth engine in which everyone needs to understand where and how to use AI to drive business and society outcomes in consideration of the potential unintended consequences.  And that’s the role of Data & AI Literacy.

AI Outcomes:  Terminators or Yoda

Famed scientist and futurist Stephen Hawking made the following statement:

“The development of full artificial intelligence (AI) could spell the end of the human race. It would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever-increasing rate. Humans, limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete and would be superseded.”

– Stephen Hawking, BBC Interview on Dec 2, 2014

Yes, AI is a powerful tool.  But AI is totally under our control whether we let AI run amok and fulfill Stephen Hawking’s concern and wipe out humanity (Terminators), or we learn to control and master AI and turn AI into a valuable and experienced companion who can provide guidance in making informed decisions (Yoda).  See Figure 1.

AI & Data Literacy: A National Mandate

On October 4, 2022, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) published “Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights,” a set of five principles and associated practices to help guide the design, use, and deployment of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to protect the rights of the American public.

To quote the paper:

“Among the great challenges posed to democracy today is the use of technology, data, and automated systems in ways that threaten the rights of the American public. Too often, these tools are used to limit our opportunities and prevent our access to critical resources or services. These problems are well documented. In America and around the world, systems supposed to help with patient care have proven unsafe, ineffective, or biased. Algorithms used in hiring and credit decisions have been found to reflect and reproduce existing unwanted inequities or embed new harmful bias and discrimination. Unchecked social media data collection has been used to threaten people’s opportunities, undermine their privacy, or pervasively track their activity—often without their knowledge or consent”

Dang! This paper also articulates an AI “Bill of Rights” that outlines how AI should be used (Figure 2):

  • You should be protected from unsafe or ineffective systems
  • You should not face discrimination by algorithms and systems should be used and designed in an equitable way.
  • You should be protected from abusive data practices via built-in protections and you should have agency over how data about you is used
  • You should know that an automated system in being used and understand how and why it contributes to outcomes that impact you.

Figure 2: Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights

Considering the “AI Bill of Rights”, AI & Data Literacy is a fundamental human skills in a world where AI will impact every part of our professional and personal life. We must educate everyone on AI & data literacy, including understanding the realm of what’s possible with AI and data, the importance of critical thinking to overcome natural human decision-making biases, and ethical AI to ensure that the AI models are treating everyone equally and without gender, race, religious, or age biases. Everyone must be prepared to think critically about the application of AI across a range of business, educational, environmental, and societal issues and the potential ethical ramifications of AI model false positives and negatives.  Organizations must apply a humanistic lens to ensure that AI will be developed and used to the highest ethical standards beyond what has already been articulated in the AI Bill of Rights.

Updated AI & Data Literacy Framework – Version 2

What can one do to protect ourselves from people and organizations leveraging our data to influence our thinking, beliefs, and actions?

Everyone needs an understanding and awareness of where and how organizations are capturing and exploiting your personal data (using AI and advanced analytic techniques) for their own monetization purposes. Everyone needs to be aware of the personal data that you are sharing via the apps on your smart phone, the customer loyalty programs to which you belong, your telephone calls and text messages to friends and families, your credit card usage online and in stores, and your comments that you make on websites and social media.  Everyone needs to be aware that questionable organizations will skirt the privacy laws to capture more of your personal data (using spam, phishing, identity theft, ransomware, and more) for their own nefarious intentions.

AI & Data Literacy is the holistic understanding of how data, analytic, and behavioral concepts and techniques are used to influence how we consume, process, and react to how data is presented to us.

I originally introduced the AI & Data Literacy Education Framework in a two-part series that drilled into the different components that comprise the framework.  Since then, I’ve gotten lots of feedback on how to improve the applicability and relevance of the framework. Figure 3 shows the updated AI & Data Literacy Education Framework (version 3).


Figure 3: AI & Data Literacy Education Framework Version 2

This AI & Data Literacy Education Framework is comprised of six (6) components:

  • Data & Privacy Awareness – understand how your personal data is captured and used to influence how you think and act
  • Making Informed Decisions – understand how we use data and analytics to make “models” to guide decision-making
  • AI & Analytic Techniques – understand how AI works and some key advanced analytic techniques
  • Prediction & Statistics – Understand how to use basic statistics to make predictions about what is likely to happen next
  • Value Creation – understand how organizations leverage data and analytics to create “value”
  • Ethics – understand moral principles of right and wrong that govern a person’s behavior or actions

AI & Data Literacy Homework Assignment

Improving our AI & Data Literacy starts by understanding where we sit and in what areas we need more education and training.  To facilitate that analysis, I’ve created the AI & Data Literacy Radar Chart in Figure 4 as a vehicle for assessing where we sit today with respect to AI & Data Literacy.


Figure 4: AI & Data Literacy Radar Chart

A radar chart is a graphical method of capturing, displaying, and assessing multiple dimensions of information in the form of a two-dimensional chart.  And Figure 5 provides guidelines to help you complete your AI & Data Literacy Radar Map.


Figure 5: AI & Data Literacy Benchmarks

I’d love to see a few folks take a shot at using the AI & Data Literacy Radar Chart in Figure 4 and share their results and feedback on the process with me (and others, if they wish).  Hopefully, we can come up with a design template that we can all use to assess and guide our AI & Data Literacy educational efforts.