Some problems do not need mass of data to be understood, plain heuristics or rule of thumb alone can summarized problems
As they say in the mafia, just work on removing the pebble in your shoe.
There are some domains, like, say, real estate, in which problems and solutions are crisply summarized by a heuristic, a rule of thumb to look for the three most important properties: "location, location, and location"—much of the rest is supposed to be chickensh***t. Not quite and not always true, but it shows the central thing to worry about, as the rest takes care of itself.
Yet people want more data to "solve problems." I once testified in Congress against a project to fund a crisis forecasting project. The people involved were blind to the paradox that we have never had more data than we have now, yet have less predictability than ever. More data—such as paying attention to the eye colors of the people around when crossing the street—can make you miss the big truck. When you cross the street, you remove data, anything but the essential threat. As Paul Valery once wrote: que de choses it faut ignorer pour agir—how many things one should disregard in order to act.
Convincing—and confident—disciplines, say, physics, tend to use little statistical backup, while political science and economics, which have never produced anything of note, are full of elaborate statistics and statistical "evidence" (and you know that once you remove the smoke, the evidence is not evidence).
The situation in science is similar to detective novels in which the person with the largest number of alibis turns out to be the guilty one.
When I design online ads for American Apparel, I almost always look for an angle that will provoke. Outrage, self-righteousness, and titillation all work equally well. Naturally, the sexy ones are probably those you remember most, but the formula worked for all types of images. Photos of kids dressed up like adults, dogs wearing clothes, ad copy that didn’t make any sense—all high-valence, viral images. If I could generate a reaction, I could propel the ad from being something I had to pay for people to see (by buying ad inventory) to something people would gladly post on the front page of their highly trafficked websites.
Drugs are the product of a complex evolutionary game. As fungi and plants evolved, some developed chemicals in their leaves ...