In his keynote at FICO World today, Kenneth Cukier, data editor for The Economist and co-author of Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think explained how he sees Big Data and why it matters.
He views Big Data with three interlocking features:
- More – In the past our data capacity was stunted, and the cost of collection was high. But today you can collect more data, and in some cases complete data.
- Messy – Because as we are collecting more and more data, data no longer needs to be pristine. You do not need to devote as much time to precision and accuracy when you are dealing with billions and billions of records.
- Correlations – In some cases cause and effect make perfect sense. With Big Data, sometime correlations are good enough. Sometimes the what can be just as meaningful as the why. If you think about medicine, they look for causality, but every 50 years or so, scientific breakthroughs make 50 percent of what they think they know obsolete.
Cukier described how increasingly we are “datafying” our lives and our relationships. By analyzing the written word through text analytics, we are datifying our friendships on Facebook, our thoughts on Twitter and our intentions on Google. By putting sensors in car seats, soon we will be datafying all 300 million cars in the US, we will know what posture someone has five minutes before an accident,
and have alerts to prevent distracted driving.
Cukier believes, “to define Big Data is to constrain it.” Because there are a myriad of ways in which we will be able to use this data, many haven’t been thought of yet – and the possibilities are infinite.