During this week’s class period, we took a closer look at Big Data through a documentary by PBS called “Big Data Revolution”. A good definition of big data was given in an article on Forbes.com. The article defines big data as “an all-encompassing term for any collection of data sets so large and complex that it becomes difficult to process using on-hand data management tools or traditional data processing applications”, which is in my opinion a pretty good all-covering definition.
I had heard about the term big data before I watched the documentary, but the documentary gave me a much deeper insight about the concept than I would have ever thought possible. The information that experts in today’s society are able to gather through algorithms literally blew my mind. Almost every move we make and everything we do is somehow registered somewhere. For example, by simply watching the documentary from PBS, analysts don’t only know that I’m watching it, but are also able to find out where I’m watching it from. Thanks to today’s technology, which allows us to turn almost every bit of information into something that is measurable or quantifiable, we are able to store huge masses of data.
Big data analysis goes above and beyond. It is not only by manually adding data into databases that we are adding to big data. As stated above and in the example given, big data analysis is present in everything we do, just like analysts say in the PBS documentary: “We are adding to big data just by searching the Internet ourselves.” The example given in the documentary shows that doing a search for the symptoms of the flu doesn’t only result in what you want to find out. For analysts, internet searches for the flu could indicate a possible outbreak, when a lot of these searches are centralized around a specific area.
Now, this might all seem scary when you actually think about it a little more and yes there is a dark side to it where it is practically impossible to stay anonymous in today’s society (especially with platforms like Facebook, Twitter, etc. around). But SAS, a company founded in 1976 that provides software support to help customers in all sorts of industries, made a very solid point about big data. They said the following: “It’s not the amount of data that’s important. It’s what organizations do with the data that matters.” Thanks to big data and the algorithms created to record information we are now able to find out about upcoming diseases even before the first symptoms show up. By analyzing human behavior and record daily tasks through big data, we are able to predict when someone might end up having a depression in the near future.
On top of that, societies who were once never noticed by more than a hundred people are now in contact with millions of people through big data. They are now able to teach themselves and others around them. Those who would have never been noticed before now have the ability to show the world their talent and knowledge, they now have the opportunity to become known and leave their footprint on earth.
I definitely think the documentary from PBS is worth your time if you would like to find out more about big data. It has taught me a lot about both sides related to big data. First of all, I think it safe to say that big data will only become more and more apparent in our society as we move forward. I also think that it will benefit my academic and professional career as it will be easier to find data about topics that are being researched now and weren’t research in the past because of the lack of knowledge about big data and the algorithms related to it.
On the other side, becoming more knowledgeable about this topic and the effects of it on my daily life without even realizing it, has definitely made me more cautious about the things that I want to share with the world through social network platforms and things that I want to keep to myself.