Big data is better data
I found an interesting tedtalk about Big Data. Kenneth Cukier is telling us about the pro’s and con’s of it:
Data doesn’t just let us see more, more of the same thing we were looking at. More data allows us to see new. It allows us to see better. It allows us to see different.
In the past, we used to look at small data and think about what it would mean to try to understand the world, and now we have a lot more of it, more than we ever could before. What we find is that when we have a large body of data, we can fundamentally do things that we couldn’t do when we only had smaller amounts. Big data is important, and big data is new, and when you think about it, the only way this planet is going to deal with its global challenges – to feed people, supply them with medical care, supply them with energy, electricity, and to make sure they’re not burnt to a crisp because of global warming – is because of the effective use of data.
Now, we can store a lot more information, more than ever before. Searching it is easier. Copying it easier. Sharing it is easier. Processing it is easier. And what we can do is we can reuse this information for uses that we never even imagined when we first collected the data. In this respect, the data has gone from a stock to a flow, from something that is stationary and static to something that is fluid and dynamic. There is, if you will, a liquidity to information.
Now, one reason why we have so much data in the world today is we are collecting things that we’ve always collected information on, but another reason why is we’re taking things that have always been informational but have never been rendered into a data format and we are putting it into data.
But there are dark sides to big data as well. Privacy was the central challenge in a small data era. In the big data age, the challenge will be safeguarding free will, moral choice, human volition, human agency. There is another problem: Big data is going to steal our jobs. Big data and algorithms are going to challenge white collar, professional knowledge work in the 21st century in the same way that factory automation and the assembly line challenged blue collar labor in the 20th century.
Big data is going to transform how we live, how we work and how we think. It is going to help us manage our careers and lead lives of satisfaction and hope and happiness and health, but in the past, we’ve often looked at information technology and our eyes have only seen the T, the technology, the hardware, because that’s what was physical. We now need to recast our gaze at the I, the information, which is less apparent, but in some ways a lot more important. Humanity can finally learn from the information that it can collect, as part of our timeless quest to understand the world and our place in it, and that’s why big data is a big deal.