The Big Data

Data Revolution

In our class we have discussed the Big Data and how it represents a new way of doing businesses, how it may help to drive “big decisions”, spur innovation or help to identify a fraud. It is also changing the way people think.

The Big Data may offer a new ways to analyze patterns of global warming, provide some prediction. And perhaps researchers studying it could figure out a way to use this data in helpful ways. It also may change how healthcare operates these days. According to Dwayne Spradlin, CEO of the nonprofit Health Data Consortium, “the power to access and analyze enormous data sets can improve our ability to anticipate and treat illnesses. This data can help recognize individuals who are at risk for serious health problems. The ability to use big data to identify waste in the healthcare system can also lower the cost of healthcare across the board.”

To me, all these examples seem important and exciting. I do want, if need it, to get a best health care for lower cost. And as much as I am concern about global warming, I understand that my conscientious recycling efforts alone would not save my planet. So I do rely on the informed scientists and I want them to eliminate unknown, accelerate their knowledge and, of course, save the polar bears.

“Big data in climate first means that we have sensors everywhere: in space, looking down via remote sensing satellites, and on the ground,” said Kirk Borne, a data scientist and professor at George Mason University. “These data give us increasingly deeper and broader coverage of climate change, both temporally and geospatially.”

Privacy concerns

Now about a sensitive topic – privacy. Thinking about that there are devices, sensors, and mobile apps everywhere that monitor you, makes me feel slightly paranoid. For example, I turn down most offers from my cellphone apps that want to use my location data. And I am somewhat cautious about what I post and share online.

Even when you are asleep you are still providing data. Found this blog on how Jawbone tracked Jawbone UP wearers sleep patterns in the Bay Area during Napa earthquake.


“Technology is neither good nor bad”…Melvin Kranzberg. But the concern is how it will change our government and their work, how they will provide public services or fight crime. How those who are in power will look at public or individual – who for them is just some number or percentage in the collected data? Technical tools that are making predictions are already in use by police forces in some cities:

Predictions can focus on variables such as places, people, groups or incidents. Demographic trends, parolee populations and economic conditions may all affect crime rates in particular areas.

The worry is that people could put too much trust in Big Data that doesn’t have a human touch. The Big Data doesn’t provide an explanation why something happened; it doesn’t take in the account human unconscious behavior, emotions, mistakes, intuition or risk taking. I think we should continue to use the Big Data as an additional tool, but we need to be aware of its limitations and make sure that it won’t create authoritarianism.

“The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-
witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the
simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if
he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of
doubt, what is laid before him.”
Leo Tolstoy


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