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Big Data

A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work and Think

By Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cukier
19-minute read
Audio available
Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work and Think by Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cukier

Big Data provides an insightful look at why a change to “big data” is a major shift in how we collect, use and think about the data around us. It provides great explanations and examples of how individuals and companies already ahead of the curve are using the tools of big data to create value and profit. Casting an eye forward, the book also outlines the future implications for a big-data society in terms of the risks, opportunities and legal implications.

  • Anyone who is interested in learning more about what “big data” is and what it means for society
  • Anyone who is looking to make a career using big data
  • Anyone from a company who is looking for opportunities to use the data the company collects

Viktor Mayer-Schönberger was on the faculty of Harvard’s Kennedy School for over ten years before taking up the position of professor of Internet Governance and Regulation at Oxford University. He is also the author of Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age.

Kenneth Cukier is the data editor of the Economist, and writes widely about what is happening in the world of big data. His articles, covering technology, business and economics, have appeared in the New York Times, Foreign Affairs and the Financial Times.

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Big Data

A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work and Think

By Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cukier
  • Read in 19 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 13 key ideas
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Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work and Think by Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cukier
Synopsis

Big Data provides an insightful look at why a change to “big data” is a major shift in how we collect, use and think about the data around us. It provides great explanations and examples of how individuals and companies already ahead of the curve are using the tools of big data to create value and profit. Casting an eye forward, the book also outlines the future implications for a big-data society in terms of the risks, opportunities and legal implications.

Key idea 1 of 13

Big data provides insights we could not discover by analyzing data on a smaller scale.

Prior to the advent of computers, collecting and recording information was an arduous and time-consuming task. To put this in context, consider the information needed to complete a census of the population. Under the US Constitution, a census is required every decade, yet the 1880 census took over eight years to complete and publish. This meant the information had become obsolete before it was even made available.

But that was then. Now – with the invention of computers, digitization and the Internet – the picture has changed considerably. Information can be collected passively (or with much less effort) and at greater speeds, and the cost of storage is increasingly economical. This has brought us to the advent of the big-data era.

Although there is no formal definition, “big data” refers to both the data being captured on a much greater scale than previously possible, and the opportunities that data-sets of this size offer in terms of valuable insights discovered through analysis.

In 2009, Google provided a great example of the possibilities of big data when they published a research paper showing how they could analyze users’ search terms to predict the outbreak of flu and monitor its spread. They compared historical search-term data with data on the spread of flu in time and space from 2007 and 2008, and discovered 45 search terms that could be used in a formula to predict the spread of flu – a prediction which correlated strongly with official figures.

Only weeks after the paper was published, the outbreak of the new deadly strain of flu, H1N1, hit the headlines. Google’s system was pressed into action and provided indicators that proved to be more useful and timely than government statistics in delivering valuable information to public health officials.

Big data provides insights we could not discover by analyzing data on a smaller scale.

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