The Manifest Destiny of Big Data

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Everyone uses the term big data but no on can agree on what it means
or even if it’s novel. However the label is useful to describe the
radically new ways that the world interacts with information — for
which the public, policymakers and even data geeks, are unprepared.
Where Strata conferences tend to have a technical bent, this keynote
considers big data’s mainstream economic, political and social
consequences.

The implications are far-reaching. Big data will replace human
judgement in many instances just as steam power replaced muscle in the
industrial revolution. It will mean greater efficiency and new winners
and losers - not just among companies, but countries too. Yet it
presents new challenges: not only for privacy but for “propensity” -

algorithms predicting our behavior before we’ve acted, be it to repay
a loan or commit a crime. Ultimately, we need new institutions to
shape how we introduce big data into society, since it will become the
undergirding our world whether we like it or not.

Photo of Kenneth Cukier

Kenneth Cukier

The Economist

Kenneth Cukier is a senior editor overseeing data and digital products of the Economist. Previously, he was the paper’s Tokyo correspondent and before that, its technology correspondent in London. Kenneth is the coauthor of the award-winning book Big Data: A Revolution that Transforms How We Work, Live and Think, a New York Times bestseller that has been translated into over 20 languages, as well as a regular commentator in the media on business and technology and a frequent public speaker on trends in big data.

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