The revolution of Big Data is evident. It is the forward edge of science, driven by endless information that humans can only understand with the help of math and machines. Data is streaming from daily life, with a data flow so fast it minimizes human civilisation. It is not the ‘endless’ supply of information that is revolutionary, but what we have learnt to do with it. Big Data is an extremely important tool by which society can advance from and is the only way this planet is going to deal with its challenges, including medical care, food, electricity and energy supplies. The importance of Big Data is unmistakable but the big question is what to do with all this Data? This ‘tool’ must be treated with care, and adjusted to our human needs. We must become the master of Big Data, rather than succumb to its overriding nature and let it decide how we work, live and think.
Data has gone from stationary to dynamic, stock to flow. On the island of Crete, around 4000 years ago, dating back to 2000 BC, a team of archaeologists discovered a clay disk. The disk was detailed with hand-engraved etches suggesting information of value. Even though the meaning of these etches are a mystery, the disk still documents the society of 2000BC and it’s way of storing and transmitting information. Today’s society still stores information on disks, but now there is a liquidity of knowledge available for searching, copying, storing, sharing and processing at any point in time. Humanity can finally learn from the information that we collect and that is why Big Data is a big deal.
The Big Data era is a dramatic opportunity and society will exploit it until it has reached it’s potential. We need to be clear on what it is capable of. Individuals will be outperformed by modern statistical methods such as machine learning, a brand of artificial intelligence (computer science) where data is thrown at it and it is forced to teach itself. Factory automation and the assembly line challenged the blue-collar labour in the 20th century, and today, Big Data will challenge the white-collar’s professional knowledge
Big Data is invaluable as we can fundamentally do things that we couldn’t do before, but if we do not master it, we may be punished by it’s predicted potential. Privacy will no longer exist and we will struggle to safeguard the things we take for granted, such as free will, moral choice, human velation and human agency. The supremacy of Big Data comes with a set of philosophical and ethical issues concerning our perception, cognition and fairness. Society should seek to inquire the influence of Big Data, asking the question; how can we prevent ourselves from becoming slaves to this era of data deluge?
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