|By Bob Gourley||
|October 21, 2013 09:00 AM EDT||
Editor’s note: This article was first published on Analyst One, a site focused on analysts and topics of interest to the analytical community.-bg
Eminent network scientist Laszlo Barabasi recently penned an op-ed calling on fellow scientists to spearhead the ethical use of big data. Comparing big data to the atom bomb, Barabasi persuasively argued that the technology and methodologies he and other social network theorists had created had far outstripped societal controls on its use.
Barabasi’s op-ed is part of a growing backlash against big data technologies and methodologies While Barabasi and historian of science George Dyson have the historical perspective, technical insight, and scientific stature to write insightfully about the problems of pervasive data collection and algorithms that structure human decisions, other criticisms have been less than edifying. Frustrated Harvard Business Review blogger Andrew McAfee recently called on pundits to “stop sounding ignorant about big data.” Big data, McAfee points out, is held to unrealistic standards and often the victim of strawmanning. Critics expect big data to eliminate uncertainty (spoiler: it doesn’t), falsely overestimate the power of qualitative thinking, make broad criticisms against quantification itself, and overestimate the willingness of big data advocates to automate important decisions. Listening to some critics talk, you’d think that Palantir or Recorded Future = Skynet.
While insightful in many aspects, Barabasi’s op-ed also fails to fully investigate the real implications of his Hadoop ~ ICBM analogy. Many scientists sought to influence the use of nuclear weapons, understandably believing themselves the most well-informed about the dangers they posed. However, even the most effective of their well-meaning efforts were superseded by Cold War politics. It is within the American political system — teetering between fear of terrorism, fear of big government, love of capitalism, and fear of capitalism — that big data’s societal impact will be decided. And if the rising tide of anti-science sentiment is any proof, politicians couldn’t care less about science or the men and women who practice it. Scientists are no longer viewed as unimpeachable figures of authority — and to some extent it’s doubtful they ever really were in predictably populist America.
Second, if big data is a weapon of mass destruction, you aren’t going to see Hans Blix suddenly busting down the doors of startups for snap inspections of Apache software or NoSQL. The only thing inherently more “dual use” than offensive cyber tools are big data technologies and methodologies. They are quickly becoming an integral part of modern business, academic research, and intelligence practice. Barabasi and others are correct that in a world in which the individual is more vulnerable than ever to government and corporate usage of data science, we arguably should try to mitigate current and potential harm. The problem with analogizing data to nukes (besides the fact that Google never destroyed a Japanese city) is that the former are clumsy weapons of last resort that even bitter enemies had a stake in controlling and the latter are ubiquitous aspects of modern life.
While Barabasi and others may have pioneered the techniques industry and government demand, big data has long since ceased to be a purely academic endeavor. The men and women who use them mostly aren’t scientists. Big data is heavily driven by corporate and government needs. Even the most talented PhDs often leave the academy to pursue higher salaries and greater freedom in the corporate world. Perhaps the best big data analogy is not to the atomic science of Einstein or Oppenheimer, but to the mathematics of Newton, Leibnitz, and Fourier. Were they alive today, even these eminent scientists would be powerless to prevent their mathematics from being used for military operations research on how to kill more efficiently or from being inputted into faulty and investor-bankrupting financial models. A Taylor Series or a differential equation — once out in the wild — belongs to anyone with a pen, paper, and calculator. Likewise, with open-source tools like Python machine learning library scikit-learn, anyone with the requisite technical training can utilize some canonical data science techniques.
Big data is certainly both marvelous and terrifying. It offers the opportunity to make money, make new scientific discoveries, and enhance political endeavors from development to national security. It also puts the individual at the mercy of companies and governments. But at the end of the day it is “neither a atomic bomb nor a holy grail.” It should neither be held to unrealistic standards nor feared as a weapon of mass destruction. And everyone who cares about the ethics of data — from the scientist to the layperson — must understand that control over its use is a function of the messy and dysfunctional domestic political scene and the anarchic international system.
- Big data, big promise (crossthebreeze.com)
- Two “Opposing” Big Data Opportunities For Businesses (meetjohnsong.com)
- Big data and predictive analytics: When is enough data enough? (starbridgepartners.com)
- Why is big data important to life science and healthcare? (immflection.com)
- Democratic National Committee Leverages Big Data to Turn Politics into Political Science (slideshare.net)
- Machina: The value of M2M is in the (big) data (fiercewireless.com)
- Big Data Is Neither An Atomic Bomb Nor A Holy Grail (forbes.com)
- If big data is an atomic bomb, disarmament begins in Silicon Valley (gigaom.com)
SYS-CON Events announced today that HPM Networks will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For 20 years, HPM Networks has been integrating technology solutions that solve complex business challenges. HPM Networks has designed solutions for both SMB and enterprise customers throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Aug. 3, 2015 06:45 PM EDT Reads: 552
For IoT to grow as quickly as analyst firms’ project, a lot is going to fall on developers to quickly bring applications to market. But the lack of a standard development platform threatens to slow growth and make application development more time consuming and costly, much like we’ve seen in the mobile space. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mike Weiner, Product Manager of the Omega DevCloud with KORE Telematics Inc., discussed the evolving requirements for developers as IoT matures and conducted a live demonstration of how quickly application development can happen when the need to comply wit...
Aug. 2, 2015 11:15 AM EDT Reads: 377
The Internet of Everything (IoE) brings together people, process, data and things to make networked connections more relevant and valuable than ever before – transforming information into knowledge and knowledge into wisdom. IoE creates new capabilities, richer experiences, and unprecedented opportunities to improve business and government operations, decision making and mission support capabilities.
Aug. 1, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 352
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Red Hat's Chief Architect for the Internet of Things and Intelligent Systems, described how to revolutionize your archit...
Jul. 30, 2015 07:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,434
MuleSoft has announced the findings of its 2015 Connectivity Benchmark Report on the adoption and business impact of APIs. The findings suggest traditional businesses are quickly evolving into "composable enterprises" built out of hundreds of connected software services, applications and devices. Most are embracing the Internet of Things (IoT) and microservices technologies like Docker. A majority are integrating wearables, like smart watches, and more than half plan to generate revenue with APIs within the next year.
Jul. 30, 2015 02:30 PM EDT Reads: 162
Growth hacking is common for startups to make unheard-of progress in building their business. Career Hacks can help Geek Girls and those who support them (yes, that's you too, Dad!) to excel in this typically male-dominated world. Get ready to learn the facts: Is there a bias against women in the tech / developer communities? Why are women 50% of the workforce, but hold only 24% of the STEM or IT positions? Some beginnings of what to do about it! In her Opening Keynote at 16th Cloud Expo, Sandy Carter, IBM General Manager Cloud Ecosystem and Developers, and a Social Business Evangelist, d...
Jul. 30, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,093
In his keynote at 16th Cloud Expo, Rodney Rogers, CEO of Virtustream, discussed the evolution of the company from inception to its recent acquisition by EMC – including personal insights, lessons learned (and some WTF moments) along the way. Learn how Virtustream’s unique approach of combining the economics and elasticity of the consumer cloud model with proper performance, application automation and security into a platform became a breakout success with enterprise customers and a natural fit for the EMC Federation.
Jul. 30, 2015 09:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,182
The Internet of Things is not only adding billions of sensors and billions of terabytes to the Internet. It is also forcing a fundamental change in the way we envision Information Technology. For the first time, more data is being created by devices at the edge of the Internet rather than from centralized systems. What does this mean for today's IT professional? In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed this very serious issue of profound change in the industry.
Jul. 29, 2015 03:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,310
Discussions about cloud computing are evolving into discussions about enterprise IT in general. As enterprises increasingly migrate toward their own unique clouds, new issues such as the use of containers and microservices emerge to keep things interesting. In this Power Panel at 16th Cloud Expo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed the state of cloud computing today, and what enterprise IT professionals need to know about how the latest topics and trends affect their organization.
Jul. 29, 2015 02:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,219
It is one thing to build single industrial IoT applications, but what will it take to build the Smart Cities and truly society-changing applications of the future? The technology won’t be the problem, it will be the number of parties that need to work together and be aligned in their motivation to succeed. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jason Mondanaro, Director, Product Management at Metanga, discussed how you can plan to cooperate, partner, and form lasting all-star teams to change the world and it starts with business models and monetization strategies.
Jul. 28, 2015 04:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,781
Converging digital disruptions is creating a major sea change - Cisco calls this the Internet of Everything (IoE). IoE is the network connection of People, Process, Data and Things, fueled by Cloud, Mobile, Social, Analytics and Security, and it represents a $19Trillion value-at-stake over the next 10 years. In her keynote at @ThingsExpo, Manjula Talreja, VP of Cisco Consulting Services, discussed IoE and the enormous opportunities it provides to public and private firms alike. She will share what businesses must do to thrive in the IoE economy, citing examples from several industry sectors.
Jul. 28, 2015 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,056
There will be 150 billion connected devices by 2020. New digital businesses have already disrupted value chains across every industry. APIs are at the center of the digital business. You need to understand what assets you have that can be exposed digitally, what their digital value chain is, and how to create an effective business model around that value chain to compete in this economy. No enterprise can be complacent and not engage in the digital economy. Learn how to be the disruptor and not the disruptee.
Jul. 27, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,057
Akana has released Envision, an enhanced API analytics platform that helps enterprises mine critical insights across their digital eco-systems, understand their customers and partners and offer value-added personalized services. “In today’s digital economy, data-driven insights are proving to be a key differentiator for businesses. Understanding the data that is being tunneled through their APIs and how it can be used to optimize their business and operations is of paramount importance,” said Alistair Farquharson, CTO of Akana.
Jul. 27, 2015 09:00 AM EDT Reads: 340
Business as usual for IT is evolving into a "Make or Buy" decision on a service-by-service conversation with input from the LOBs. How does your organization move forward with cloud? In his general session at 16th Cloud Expo, Paul Maravei, Regional Sales Manager, Hybrid Cloud and Managed Services at Cisco, discusses how Cisco and its partners offer a market-leading portfolio and ecosystem of cloud infrastructure and application services that allow you to uniquely and securely combine cloud business applications and services across multiple cloud delivery models.
Jul. 27, 2015 08:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,915
The enterprise market will drive IoT device adoption over the next five years. In his session at @ThingsExpo, John Greenough, an analyst at BI Intelligence, division of Business Insider, analyzed how companies will adopt IoT products and the associated cost of adopting those products. John Greenough is the lead analyst covering the Internet of Things for BI Intelligence- Business Insider’s paid research service. Numerous IoT companies have cited his analysis of the IoT. Prior to joining BI Intelligence, he worked analyzing bank technology for Corporate Insight and The Clearing House Payment...
Jul. 26, 2015 09:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,598
"Optimal Design is a technology integration and product development firm that specializes in connecting devices to the cloud," stated Joe Wascow, Co-Founder & CMO of Optimal Design, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City.
Jul. 25, 2015 02:00 PM EDT Reads: 408
SYS-CON Events announced today that CommVault has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. A singular vision – a belief in a better way to address current and future data management needs – guides CommVault in the development of Singular Information Management® solutions for high-performance data protection, universal availability and simplified management of data on complex storage networks. CommVault's exclusive single-platform architecture gives companies unp...
Jul. 25, 2015 01:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,982
Electric Cloud and Arynga have announced a product integration partnership that will bring Continuous Delivery solutions to the automotive Internet-of-Things (IoT) market. The joint solution will help automotive manufacturers, OEMs and system integrators adopt DevOps automation and Continuous Delivery practices that reduce software build and release cycle times within the complex and specific parameters of embedded and IoT software systems.
Jul. 25, 2015 12:15 PM EDT Reads: 491
"ciqada is a combined platform of hardware modules and server products that lets people take their existing devices or new devices and lets them be accessible over the Internet for their users," noted Geoff Engelstein of ciqada, a division of Mars International, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City.
Jul. 25, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,566
Internet of Things is moving from being a hype to a reality. Experts estimate that internet connected cars will grow to 152 million, while over 100 million internet connected wireless light bulbs and lamps will be operational by 2020. These and many other intriguing statistics highlight the importance of Internet powered devices and how market penetration is going to multiply many times over in the next few years.
Jul. 25, 2015 09:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,510