How can we spot disease 24 hours before symptoms appear? How can we predict which manholes in New York City may explode next year? Can we really identify criminals before they’ve committed a crime?
Welcome to “big data” — the idea that we can do with a vast amount of data things that we simply couldn’t when we had less. The change in scale leads to a change in state. It upends the nature of business, how government works and the way we live, from healthcare to education. Big data will even change how we think about the world and our place in it.
Data is becoming the oil of the information age; a raw material and the foundation of new goods and services. We can tap it because society is rendering into a data format things that never were before, from our friendships (think Facebook) to our whispers (think Twitter) to the way our car engines grunt before a breakdown. It took a decade and billions of dollars to decode the first human genome ten years ago. Today, that same amount of DNA is sequenced in a day. The implications are as huge as the datasets themselves.
As we collect and crunch more data, the good news is that we can do extraordinary things: fight disease, reduce climate change, unlock mysteries of science. The bad news is that it raises a host of worries for which society is unprepared. What does it mean if big data denies us a bank loan or considers us unfit for a surgical operation, but we can’t learn the explicit reasons because the variables that went in were so myriad and complex? How do you regulate an algorithm?
Join Viktor Mayer-Schönberger of the Oxford Internet Institute and Kenneth Cukier of The Economist on a fascinating journey to the world of big data. The book will surprise you, amuse you, anger you and inspire you. In the end, it may even just change the way you look at everything.
What people are saying
“Every decade, there are a handful of books that change the way you look at everything. This is one of those books.” —Lawrence Lessig, Harvard Law School, and author of Remix and Free Culture
“Big Data is a must-read for anyone who wants to stay ahead of one of the key trends defining the future of business.”
—Marc Benioff, Chairman and CEO, salesforce.com
“Big Data breaks new ground in identifying how today’s avalanche of information fundamentally shifts our basic understanding of the world.” —Joi Ito, Director of the MIT Media Lab