Monday, 17 November 2014


Everyone is talking about “Big Data.” It’s transforming the way we think and analyse stuff. We have discovered that correlation has become more important than causality. That what happens is more important than why it happens. The book by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier published last year - “Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work and Think” is highly recommended.

We know the increase of information is accelerating. For instance all the information and data that currently exists will double in the next three years. With more information we need less exactness. Nowadays the equation 2+2= 3.9 is good enough. We don’t need to be exact if we can see the big

Today social media and CCTV may be more useful research tools than anything else we have. Google Translate has extraordinarily proved to be the best translation service around. The software uses “corpus linguistics” techniques, where the programme "learns" from professionally translated documents, specifically UN and European Parliament proceedings but increasingly from all kinds of documentation – lots and lots of sources – big, big data. (In passing how it is nice that the forest of paper produced by the UN and EU can go to such good use.)

Intriguingly they say the service improved since the linguists they’d hired when they started up (well you would want linguists in a translation service wouldn’t you?) left the business because they wanted linguistic perfection whereas this being a product of big data is not that subtle. This is one of the few examples I’ve come across where big trumps clever.

The existence of robust data obviating the need for the tabloid use of anecdote allows us to spend more time using our brains to think rather than using them as pickaxes to mine for information. Anyone who tells you that guessing is more fun than knowing hasn’t come across the thrill of irrefutable information.

Its application is critical in the medical field where the speed of big data via social media allows a disease to be detected before it becomes an epidemic (and because detected early it can never become a pandemic.) We hear less about avian flu today in part thanks to big data.

So the big data  boom is happening and we have however sufficient glimpses of the future to see we’ll be doing less intellectual “grunt-work” in the future and more intellectual “stunt-work”.
To be sure there can and will be issues of data protection that arise from increasing access to data but the excitement lies in big data allowing us the freedom to think more clearly.

How to solve problems and make brilliant decisions. (Business Thinking Skills that really work) published by Pearson

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