The newly emergent “big data” meme has never been defined in any meaningful and definitive way. It’s the most amorphous new buzz-term that I’ve seen for a decade. It’s one of those “eye of the beholder” terms used to liven up a seminar and eventually soak investors.
Let’s start by asking what does big data mean? Lots of data? More data than you can handle? Amorphous data? Out of control data? Useful data for analysis? Useless data? Information overload?
If you read enough about big data, it is all of the above and more. The key is not the data, but the challenge of how to handle the data and what to do with the data itself.
In other words, how can we make this huge pile of data, that we have managed to accumulate, be useful in new and profitable ways? The data pools can come from anywhere via various computing mechanisms such as Facebook posts, NSA logs, mailing lists, customers, etc.
I would argue that most readers of this column are themselves repositories of big data. I just bought a 3 Terabyte drive for backup. I have a lot of data to back up! Big data!
From what I can tell, what Big Data does best is spy on individuals.
A useful tool I can imagine would be a big data analysis tool that the police could use to find you guilty of some random crime by going through your files. Or at least find something that would embarrass you. Big data!
This all harkens back to a comment made by a former CEO of American Express, who told an audience that if the company wanted to (and this applies to all credit card companies) it could use your personal buying habits and tendencies to put together a complete dossier and definitely tell if you are having an affair or not. Big data!
None of this sounds good or healthy for the society. Jumping to conclusions, making assumptions, acting on false assumptions. Hounding the public with useless advertisements.