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Introduction to “AI & Data Literacy: Empowering Citizens of Data Science”


One of the reasons that I moved back to Iowa last year was that I saw an opportunity to work with local educational institutions to create an AI Institute for organizations in middle America that either get overlooked in the AI conversation or are unsure what AI means to them. I wanted to reduce the AI hype to a simple conversation in which everyone was empowered to participate.  Plus, life is much more fulfilling when one has a mission, and this seemed like the perfect mission at the perfect time in my career.

AI is not just for the high priesthood of large corporations and 3-lettered government agencies.  AI is a tool that everyone needs to understand where and how to use. We must ensure that AI is a tool that is approachable and usable by anyone: that it’s not some ominous, independent-acting entity that will take over the world.

However, AI is only a useful and practical tool if we take a comprehensive approach to ensure its proper design, development, deployment, and ongoing management. Achieving this goal necessitates the involvement of everyone. We must train everyone to become “Citizens of Data Science” – to be educated in AI and data literacy so everyone can actively participate in where and how AI is used to improve the human condition.

Thusly, the motivation and inspiration for my latest (and final?) book, “AI & Data Literacy: Empowering Citizens of Data Science.”

Introducing “AI & Data Literacy: Empowering Citizens of Data Science


Figure 1: “AI & Data Literacy: Empowering Citizens of Data Science

First off, notice the cover of this book. Simple. Straightforward. No hyperbole about the extinction of humankind.  No outrageous claims about massive human unemployment.  Just a simple cover with a simple title to reflect the simple concept of Artificial Intelligence (AI).  Because here is the simple truth about AI:  AI will do exactly what you train it to do.  The actions AI takes and the decisions AI makes will be guided 100% by the user-defined desired outcomes and the metrics and measures against which outcomes’ effectiveness will be measured.  And all of these are 100% defined by you.

AI is only a tool, but unlike any other tool we have seen, this tool can continuously learn and adapt with minimal human intervention. And that’s what scares people. How do you control what AI learns? How do you control how AI adapts to make new decisions and take new actions?

So, let’s simplify the conversation.  Let’s empower everyone with the knowledge to ensure that AI is working for the benefit of humankind.  But first, an important point about your upcoming AI & Data Literacy journey…what is your role as a “citizen”?

What Does It Mean to be a “Citizen”

Citizens of Data Science Mandate

Ensuring that everyone of every age and every background have access to the education necessary to flourish in an age where economic growth and personal development opportunities are driven by AI and Data

The purpose of this book is to equip everyone with the necessary skills to thrive in a world driven by AI and data. However, do you really understand your obligation as a “Citizen” of Data Science? To quote my good friend John Morley on citizens and citizenship:

“Citizenship isn’t something that is bestowed upon us by an external, benevolent force.  Citizenship requires action.  Citizenship requires stepping up.  Citizenship requires individual and collective accountability – accountability to continuous awareness, learning, and adaptation.  Citizenship is about having a proactive and meaningful stake in building a better world.”

I believe that in the future, the best-paying and most rewarding careers will be those that require mastering where and how to leverage AI and data to make those professions more meaningful, relevant, and effective.

Book Content Overview

The book starts by discussing how your personal data is gathered, analyzed, and used to influence or manipulate your beliefs, perspectives, decisions, and actions.  Then the book will transition into a conversation about data privacy efforts that are currently underway and their potential ramifications on you.

We will review the advanced analytics maturity index and supporting ecosystem to understand where and how to leverage these advanced analytic algorithms to drive better personal and professional outcomes and create new business, operational, environmental, and societal value sources.  We will then deep dive into AI – how AI works, the importance of understanding and determining user intent, and the critical importance of building a responsible and ethical AI Utility Function.

We will then discuss how we can build decision models that leverage AI and data to make more informed, more accurate, and less risky decisions in an imperfect world. We will review how we can hone our problem solving skills to create models that leverage AI and data to improve the decisions that drive improved business, operational, and economic outcomes. 

Sorry, but we’ll have a short primer on statistics, probabilities, and confidence levels.  We will discuss how we can use statistics to help us improve the odds of making more effective and safer decisions in a world of constant economic, environmental, political, societal, and healthcare disruption.

Next, we will discuss how organizations of all sizes can leverage AI and data to engineer or create “value.”  We will learn a framework for understanding how organizations define value and then identify the KPIs and metrics they will use to measure their value creation effectiveness.  We will also discuss why the “economies of learning” are more powerful than the “economies of scale” in a digital-centric world.

Then we will talk about how we can approach the tricky topic of ethics.  We will frame the ethics conversation from an economics perspective because we need to codify the variables and metrics around which we define ethical behaviors to create AI models that exhibit ethical behaviors.

Then, we’ll talk about the importance of empowerment; to ensure that everyone has a voice in deciding and defining how best to leverage AI and data from a personal perspective. We will discuss how we must become “more human” to thrive alongside AI.  This is clearly my favorite chapter!

Finally, I’ll apply the concepts from the book to the current world of ChatGPT and Generative AI (GenAI).  I will quickly review the key enabling GenAI technologies and then test myself to see how well the book has prepared me to understand where and how I can apply GenAI to deliver meaningful, relevant, responsible, and ethical responses.

This is a relatively easy conversation if we break the AI and data literacy conversation into its material components.  To facilitate a more holistic awareness and education, we will break the AI and data literacy conversation into six interlocking components (Figure 2):

  • Data & Privacy Awareness
  • AI & Analytic Techniques
  • Making Informed Decisions
  • Predictions & Statistics
  • Value Engineering Competency
  • AI Ethics

Figure 2: AI & Data Literacy Educational Framework

I hope you enjoy reading and learning from the book as much as I did in researching, testing, learning, relearning, and writing this book.  I hope you enjoy your AI & Data Literacy journey and becoming a Citizen of Data Science!

BTW, if you’d like to get a personalized Certificate of Completion, complete the “AI and data literacy radar chart” in Chapter 9, post it on LinkedIn, and tag me.  In return, I’ll post a personalized Certificate of Completion on your LinkedIn post!