Your friends were delusional. In the world, there is a pool of change agents driven by intrinsic drive, and some of them can make an actual difference, but I don't think there is any way to choose becoming the specific agent who matters - rather, one can only join the pool and do ones best.
As you describe it, your friends thought they asked why you don't want to be the change agent who matters (which is a non-sequitur). They could have asked why you don't want to jump into the pool and dedicate several years of your life to a possible dead end career (which they probably didn't ask).
I asked why it's bad to whish for different economic environment for those in the pool.
I may have misinterpreted the discussion before my comment, though.
The crapton of data is produced and relied on because of broken philosophy of system. That could be changed as well (I don't know how).