As an engineer in my field of study, I wanted to bring some attention to a term/concept known as "big data". In my industry, this is a fast growing
market of information, and sadly, every one of us plays a role with it, just as it plays a role with us. I'm breaking this up into sections for easy
reading, and as always, I'll provide my sources of information at the bottom.
What is it?
My definition of "big data" is a loose term to describe large amounts of data that can be used to create/analyze patterns. For example, weather data
is big data, because it is always changing by the second. Population is also big data, just as traffic flow, pixels in an image, and even your mental
What is good about it?
The good news with big data is that it can come in especially useful when you need to bridge the gaps between two completely different industries.
For example, consider a future where an earthquake warning will be sounded off before the earthquake actually happens, because the seismograph data
collected from previous years indicated a pattern that the earthquake.
If you want a recent example, I found one from Intel
that makes note of a city in China that is analyzing data from an area of increased
traffic to better catch offenders. Normally, due to the amount of traffic, violations were not being accurately captured. However, now that all of
this data can be processed easily, they can alert the authorities to the vehicle's color, driving patterns, and past history of driving.
In this case, you are taking driving data, and using it to track down a violation.
Or, in Hitachi's
case, use smartphone data to collect information about busy roadways to help with urban planning and helping to reduce CO2
by providing better planned or shorter commutes. Case
The Dark Side
Well, here is the part that concerns me - How many times have you logged into ATS, and found that several of the ads you see are for similar products
that you searched for elsewhere? Guess what, this is big data at it's worst - it's target: You.
In all fairness, it seems harmless, right? Ads that are customized to something you already like, coupons for products that you already buy. Youtube
clips similar to other Youtube clips that you want. In reality, this is not good for you, because you are becoming a big data entry point.
Way back in the day, companies would stop producing something if there was no desire to produce said product. They would take inventory of what was
sold, and what had not sold, and then if the demand was low enough, remove the item from the store shelves in that location.
How do you fit into the equation? Companies realized that they could get a "reading" of what people liked, and what they didn't like by capturing
more data about a person. For example, when you look at a product online, that website will retain information about what you like (look at Amazon -
if you log in, look at an item, and then continue looking, you'll notice the "similar items" reflects items that are just like what you originally
Again, it's still harmless, right? Let's take it a step further: How about trading the ability to track you more, for discounts on selected products
or services? For example, Kroger offers a reward card that allows you to get some of their food for a discount. In return, they now can determine
which stores you visit the most, and what products you buy.
Here's the scary part: There is another evolution in Big Data that has been hinted at in several seminars I've attended (wish I could upload them,
as it's definitely ATS fodder). Companies are realizing that this data is worth something to other markets. I feel that it's only a matter of time
before this is considered a form of currency (For example, you can get internet for free, but in order to do so you must view ads every couple minutes
to show where your interest is; you can have this shirt, but only if you give our company some of your interests in a 1-minute survey; in order to
receive medical help, you need to fill out our survey to determine if you are the type of patient we want in our facilities).
So, what does everyone think about this? Is this something "good" for mankind, or a step in the wrong direction? Personally, from my standpoint,
this doesn't help the majority of us. As I showed above, big data can help us just as much as it can hurt. I'm curious to hear what you guys think!
(And, open for taking tips to improve or add onto the discussion - as I think this is my first time down the conspiracy rabbit hole).
Also, found this as an interesting read - Some of you might like it.
(And I apologize for the long read - tried to cram about a textbook-worth of research into a single post).