"Big data" is the jargon du jour, the tech world's one-size-fits-all (so long as it's triple XL) answer to solving the world's most intractable problems. The term is commonly used to describe the art and science of analyzing massive amounts of information to detect patterns, glean insights, and predict answers to complex questions. It might sound a bit dull, but from stopping terrorists to ending poverty to saving the planet, there's no problem too big for the evangelists of big data.
"The benefits to society will be myriad, as big data becomes part of the solution to pressing global problems like addressing climate change, eradicating disease, and fostering good governance and economic development," crow Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cukier in modestly titled Big Data: A Revolution that Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think.
So long as there are enough numbers to crunch -- whether it's data from your iPhone, grocery store purchases, online dating profile, or, say, the anonymized health records of an entire country -- the insights that can be gleaned from our computing ability to decode this raw data are innumerable.
Even Barack Obama's administration has jumped with both feet on the bandwagon, releasing on May 9 a "groundbreaking" trove of "previously inaccessible or unmanageable data" to entrepreneurs, researchers, and the public.
"One of the things we're doing to fuel more private-sector innovation and discovery is to make vast amounts of America's data open and easy to access for the first time in history. And talented entrepreneurs are doing some pretty amazing things with it," said President Obama.
But is big data really all it's cracked up to be? Can we trust that so many ones and zeros will illuminate the hidden world of human behavior? Foreign Policy invited Kate Crawford of the MIT Center for Civic Media to go behind the numbers:
Click headline to read more--
Via Chuck Sherwood, Senior Associate, TeleDimensions, Inc