|By Bob Gourley||
|October 21, 2013 09:00 AM EDT||
Editor’s note: This article was first published on Analyst One, a site focused on analysts and topics of interest to the analytical community.-bg
Eminent network scientist Laszlo Barabasi recently penned an op-ed calling on fellow scientists to spearhead the ethical use of big data. Comparing big data to the atom bomb, Barabasi persuasively argued that the technology and methodologies he and other social network theorists had created had far outstripped societal controls on its use.
Barabasi’s op-ed is part of a growing backlash against big data technologies and methodologies While Barabasi and historian of science George Dyson have the historical perspective, technical insight, and scientific stature to write insightfully about the problems of pervasive data collection and algorithms that structure human decisions, other criticisms have been less than edifying. Frustrated Harvard Business Review blogger Andrew McAfee recently called on pundits to “stop sounding ignorant about big data.” Big data, McAfee points out, is held to unrealistic standards and often the victim of strawmanning. Critics expect big data to eliminate uncertainty (spoiler: it doesn’t), falsely overestimate the power of qualitative thinking, make broad criticisms against quantification itself, and overestimate the willingness of big data advocates to automate important decisions. Listening to some critics talk, you’d think that Palantir or Recorded Future = Skynet.
While insightful in many aspects, Barabasi’s op-ed also fails to fully investigate the real implications of his Hadoop ~ ICBM analogy. Many scientists sought to influence the use of nuclear weapons, understandably believing themselves the most well-informed about the dangers they posed. However, even the most effective of their well-meaning efforts were superseded by Cold War politics. It is within the American political system — teetering between fear of terrorism, fear of big government, love of capitalism, and fear of capitalism — that big data’s societal impact will be decided. And if the rising tide of anti-science sentiment is any proof, politicians couldn’t care less about science or the men and women who practice it. Scientists are no longer viewed as unimpeachable figures of authority — and to some extent it’s doubtful they ever really were in predictably populist America.
Second, if big data is a weapon of mass destruction, you aren’t going to see Hans Blix suddenly busting down the doors of startups for snap inspections of Apache software or NoSQL. The only thing inherently more “dual use” than offensive cyber tools are big data technologies and methodologies. They are quickly becoming an integral part of modern business, academic research, and intelligence practice. Barabasi and others are correct that in a world in which the individual is more vulnerable than ever to government and corporate usage of data science, we arguably should try to mitigate current and potential harm. The problem with analogizing data to nukes (besides the fact that Google never destroyed a Japanese city) is that the former are clumsy weapons of last resort that even bitter enemies had a stake in controlling and the latter are ubiquitous aspects of modern life.
While Barabasi and others may have pioneered the techniques industry and government demand, big data has long since ceased to be a purely academic endeavor. The men and women who use them mostly aren’t scientists. Big data is heavily driven by corporate and government needs. Even the most talented PhDs often leave the academy to pursue higher salaries and greater freedom in the corporate world. Perhaps the best big data analogy is not to the atomic science of Einstein or Oppenheimer, but to the mathematics of Newton, Leibnitz, and Fourier. Were they alive today, even these eminent scientists would be powerless to prevent their mathematics from being used for military operations research on how to kill more efficiently or from being inputted into faulty and investor-bankrupting financial models. A Taylor Series or a differential equation — once out in the wild — belongs to anyone with a pen, paper, and calculator. Likewise, with open-source tools like Python machine learning library scikit-learn, anyone with the requisite technical training can utilize some canonical data science techniques.
Big data is certainly both marvelous and terrifying. It offers the opportunity to make money, make new scientific discoveries, and enhance political endeavors from development to national security. It also puts the individual at the mercy of companies and governments. But at the end of the day it is “neither a atomic bomb nor a holy grail.” It should neither be held to unrealistic standards nor feared as a weapon of mass destruction. And everyone who cares about the ethics of data — from the scientist to the layperson — must understand that control over its use is a function of the messy and dysfunctional domestic political scene and the anarchic international system.
- Big data, big promise (crossthebreeze.com)
- Two “Opposing” Big Data Opportunities For Businesses (meetjohnsong.com)
- Big data and predictive analytics: When is enough data enough? (starbridgepartners.com)
- Why is big data important to life science and healthcare? (immflection.com)
- Democratic National Committee Leverages Big Data to Turn Politics into Political Science (slideshare.net)
- Machina: The value of M2M is in the (big) data (fiercewireless.com)
- Big Data Is Neither An Atomic Bomb Nor A Holy Grail (forbes.com)
- If big data is an atomic bomb, disarmament begins in Silicon Valley (gigaom.com)
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
Nov. 28, 2014 11:00 AM EST Reads: 1,059
Cultural, regulatory, environmental, political and economic (CREPE) conditions over the past decade are creating cross-industry solution spaces that require processes and technologies from both the Internet of Things (IoT), and Data Management and Analytics (DMA). These solution spaces are evolving into Sensor Analytics Ecosystems (SAE) that represent significant new opportunities for organizations of all types. Public Utilities throughout the world, providing electricity, natural gas and water, are pursuing SmartGrid initiatives that represent one of the more mature examples of SAE. We have s...
Nov. 27, 2014 04:00 PM EST Reads: 1,292
The security devil is always in the details of the attack: the ones you've endured, the ones you prepare yourself to fend off, and the ones that, you fear, will catch you completely unaware and defenseless. The Internet of Things (IoT) is nothing if not an endless proliferation of details. It's the vision of a world in which continuous Internet connectivity and addressability is embedded into a growing range of human artifacts, into the natural world, and even into our smartphones, appliances, and physical persons. In the IoT vision, every new "thing" - sensor, actuator, data source, data con...
Nov. 27, 2014 04:00 PM EST Reads: 1,632
The Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, discussed single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series data. By focusing on enterprise applications and the data center, he will use OpenTSDB as an example t...
Nov. 27, 2014 03:00 PM EST Reads: 1,469
How do APIs and IoT relate? The answer is not as simple as merely adding an API on top of a dumb device, but rather about understanding the architectural patterns for implementing an IoT fabric. There are typically two or three trends: Exposing the device to a management framework Exposing that management framework to a business centric logic Exposing that business layer and data to end users. This last trend is the IoT stack, which involves a new shift in the separation of what stuff happens, where data lives and where the interface lies. For instance, it's a mix of architectural styles ...
Nov. 27, 2014 03:00 PM EST Reads: 1,302
An entirely new security model is needed for the Internet of Things, or is it? Can we save some old and tested controls for this new and different environment? In his session at @ThingsExpo, New York's at the Javits Center, Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, reviewed hands-on lessons with IoT devices and reveal a new risk balance you might not expect. Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, has more than nineteen years' experience managing global security operations and assessments, including a decade of leading incident response and digital forensics. He is co-author of t...
Nov. 27, 2014 01:00 PM EST Reads: 1,665
The Internet of Things will greatly expand the opportunities for data collection and new business models driven off of that data. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, discussed how for this to be effective you not only need to have infrastructure and operational models capable of utilizing this new phenomenon, but increasingly service providers will need to convince a skeptical public to participate. Get ready to show them the money!
Nov. 27, 2014 11:00 AM EST Reads: 1,281
The Internet of Things will put IT to its ultimate test by creating infinite new opportunities to digitize products and services, generate and analyze new data to improve customer satisfaction, and discover new ways to gain a competitive advantage across nearly every industry. In order to help corporate business units to capitalize on the rapidly evolving IoT opportunities, IT must stand up to a new set of challenges. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jeff Kaplan, Managing Director of THINKstrategies, will examine why IT must finally fulfill its role in support of its SBUs or face a new round of...
Nov. 27, 2014 10:00 AM EST Reads: 1,227
One of the biggest challenges when developing connected devices is identifying user value and delivering it through successful user experiences. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Mike Kuniavsky, Principal Scientist, Innovation Services at PARC, described an IoT-specific approach to user experience design that combines approaches from interaction design, industrial design and service design to create experiences that go beyond simple connected gadgets to create lasting, multi-device experiences grounded in people's real needs and desires.
Nov. 27, 2014 08:00 AM EST Reads: 1,237
Enthusiasm for the Internet of Things has reached an all-time high. In 2013 alone, venture capitalists spent more than $1 billion dollars investing in the IoT space. With "smart" appliances and devices, IoT covers wearable smart devices, cloud services to hardware companies. Nest, a Google company, detects temperatures inside homes and automatically adjusts it by tracking its user's habit. These technologies are quickly developing and with it come challenges such as bridging infrastructure gaps, abiding by privacy concerns and making the concept a reality. These challenges can't be addressed w...
Nov. 27, 2014 07:45 AM EST Reads: 1,520
The Domain Name Service (DNS) is one of the most important components in networking infrastructure, enabling users and services to access applications by translating URLs (names) into IP addresses (numbers). Because every icon and URL and all embedded content on a website requires a DNS lookup loading complex sites necessitates hundreds of DNS queries. In addition, as more internet-enabled ‘Things' get connected, people will rely on DNS to name and find their fridges, toasters and toilets. According to a recent IDG Research Services Survey this rate of traffic will only grow. What's driving t...
Nov. 27, 2014 07:00 AM EST Reads: 1,494
Connected devices and the Internet of Things are getting significant momentum in 2014. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, examined three key elements that together will drive mass adoption of the IoT before the end of 2015. The first element is the recent advent of robust open source protocols (like AllJoyn and WebRTC) that facilitate M2M communication. The second is broad availability of flexible, cost-effective storage designed to handle the massive surge in back-end data in a world where timely analytics is e...
Nov. 27, 2014 06:45 AM EST Reads: 1,326
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using the URL as a basic building block, we open this up and get the same resilience that the web enjoys.
Nov. 27, 2014 06:45 AM EST Reads: 1,391
We are reaching the end of the beginning with WebRTC, and real systems using this technology have begun to appear. One challenge that faces every WebRTC deployment (in some form or another) is identity management. For example, if you have an existing service – possibly built on a variety of different PaaS/SaaS offerings – and you want to add real-time communications you are faced with a challenge relating to user management, authentication, authorization, and validation. Service providers will want to use their existing identities, but these will have credentials already that are (hopefully) i...
Nov. 27, 2014 04:00 AM EST Reads: 1,233
"Matrix is an ambitious open standard and implementation that's set up to break down the fragmentation problems that exist in IP messaging and VoIP communication," explained John Woolf, Technical Evangelist at Matrix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Nov. 27, 2014 04:00 AM EST Reads: 1,183
P2P RTC will impact the landscape of communications, shifting from traditional telephony style communications models to OTT (Over-The-Top) cloud assisted & PaaS (Platform as a Service) communication services. The P2P shift will impact many areas of our lives, from mobile communication, human interactive web services, RTC and telephony infrastructure, user federation, security and privacy implications, business costs, and scalability. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robin Raymond, Chief Architect at Hookflash, will walk through the shifting landscape of traditional telephone and voice services ...
Nov. 26, 2014 02:00 PM EST Reads: 1,621
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Chief Architect for the Internet of Things and Intelligent Systems at Red Hat, described how to revolutioniz...
Nov. 24, 2014 07:00 PM EST Reads: 1,718
Bit6 today issued a challenge to the technology community implementing Web Real Time Communication (WebRTC). To leap beyond WebRTC’s significant limitations and fully leverage its underlying value to accelerate innovation, application developers need to consider the entire communications ecosystem.
Nov. 24, 2014 12:00 PM EST Reads: 1,623
The definition of IoT is not new, in fact it’s been around for over a decade. What has changed is the public's awareness that the technology we use on a daily basis has caught up on the vision of an always on, always connected world. If you look into the details of what comprises the IoT, you’ll see that it includes everything from cloud computing, Big Data analytics, “Things,” Web communication, applications, network, storage, etc. It is essentially including everything connected online from hardware to software, or as we like to say, it’s an Internet of many different things. The difference ...
Nov. 24, 2014 11:00 AM EST Reads: 1,749
Cloud Expo 2014 TV commercials will feature @ThingsExpo, which was launched in June, 2014 at New York City's Javits Center as the largest 'Internet of Things' event in the world.
Nov. 24, 2014 09:00 AM EST Reads: 1,783