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5 ways big data is going to blow your mind and change your world

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Call it whatever you want — big data, data science, data intelligence — but be prepared to have your mind blown. Imagination and technology are on a collision course that will change the world in profound ways.

Some people say big data is wallowing in the trough of disillusionment, but that’s a limited worldview. If you only look at it like an IT issue it might be easy to see big data as little more than business intelligence on steroids. If you only see data science as a means to serving better ads, it might be easy to ask yourself what all the fuss is about.

If you’re like me, though, all you see are the bright lights ahead. They might be some sort of data nirvana, or they might be a privacy-destroying 18-wheeler bearing down on us. They might be both. But we’re going to find out, and we’re we’re going to find out sooner rather than later.

This is because there are small pockets of technologists who are letting their imaginations lead the way. In a suddenly cliché way of saying it, they’re aiming for 10x improvement rather than 10 percent improvement. They can do that because they now have a base set of analytic technologies and techniques that are well positioned to solve, with relatively little effort, whatever data problems are thrown their way.

Here are some themes from our just-concluded Structure: Data conference that I think highlight the promise of data, but also the challenges that lie ahead.

Man and machine unite – Machine learning is already infiltrating nearly every aspect of our digital lives, but its ultimate promise will only be realized when it becomes more human. That doesn’t necessarily mean making machines think like human brains (although, granted, that’s a vision currently driving billions of research dollars), but just letting people better interact with the systems and models trying to discover the hidden patterns in everything around us…

Data science, or data intelligence? – Just think about being able to go beyond predictive models and into a world of preventative — or even professorial — models. If you know what I like, where I go and who my friends are, it might be fairly easy to predict what I want to buy. Figuring out how my decision to buy something might affect my overall well-being and then telling me why? That’s a little more difficult and a lot more beneficial…

Telling stories with data – Have you ever looked at a chart and wondered what the heck it was supposed to be telling you? Or downloaded a report of your Facebook activity only to ask yourself if all the disparate data points come together to paint a bigger picture? Or tried — and failed — to stop a terrorist before his movement to recruit an army of followers gained critical mass..?

The internet of things knows all – The mobile phone in your pocket is tracking your every movement and can also monitor the sounds that are surrounding you. That fitness tracker you’re wearing is identifying you by how you walk. Your smart meter data shows when you’re home, when you’re away and when you’re in the shower. Sensors in everything from toothbrushes to cars are quantifying every aspect of our lives…

This semantic life – The semantic web lives on; only it’s spreading well beyond our search engines and even our web browsers. Soon enough, we’ll be able to surface relevant content and people simply by highlighting passage of text in whatever we’re reading — web page or not — on any type of device. When we speak to our devices, they’ll not only know what we’re saying, but also what we really want even without the help of specific commands or keywords…

RTFA. I only included the half of the sections of Derrick Harris’ article that introduces each new quality. Not their potential.

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Written by Ed Campbell

March 24, 2013 at 2:00 am

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