|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 However, even the most effective of their well-meaning efforts were superseded by Cold War politics.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)
Digital means customer preferences and behavior are driving enterprise technology decisions to be sure, but let’s not forget our employees. After all, when we say customer, we mean customer writ large, including partners, supply chain participants, and yes, those salaried denizens whose daily labor forms the cornerstone of the enterprise. While your customers bask in the warm rays of your digital efforts, are your employees toiling away in the dark recesses of your enterprise, pecking data into...
Apr. 30, 2016 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 948
SYS-CON Events announced today that Men & Mice, the leading global provider of DNS, DHCP and IP address management overlay solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. The Men & Mice Suite overlay solution is already known for its powerful application in heterogeneous operating environments, enabling enterprises to scale without fuss. Building on a solid range of diverse platform support,...
Apr. 30, 2016 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,258
You deployed your app with the Bluemix PaaS and it's gaining some serious traction, so it's time to make some tweaks. Did you design your application in a way that it can scale in the cloud? Were you even thinking about the cloud when you built the app? If not, chances are your app is going to break. Check out this webcast to learn various techniques for designing applications that will scale successfully in Bluemix, for the confidence you need to take your apps to the next level and beyond.
Apr. 30, 2016 11:30 AM EDT Reads: 1,435
I had the opportunity to catch up with Chris Corriere - DevOps Engineer at AutoTrader - to talk about his experiences in the realm of Rugged DevOps. We discussed automation, culture and collaboration, and which thought leaders he is following. Chris Corriere: Hey, I'm Chris Corriere. I'm a DevOps Engineer AutoTrader. Derek Weeks: Today we're going to talk about Rugged DevOps. It's a subject that's gaining a lot of traction in the community but not a lot of people are really familiar with wh...
Apr. 30, 2016 09:45 AM EDT Reads: 1,557
SYS-CON Events announced today that Peak 10, Inc., a national IT infrastructure and cloud services provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Peak 10 provides reliable, tailored data center and network services, cloud and managed services. Its solutions are designed to scale and adapt to customers’ changing business needs, enabling them to lower costs, improve performance and focus inter...
Apr. 30, 2016 09:45 AM EDT Reads: 927
Wow, if you ever wanted to learn about Rugged DevOps (some call it DevSecOps), sit down for a spell with Shannon Lietz, Ian Allison and Scott Kennedy from Intuit. We discussed a number of important topics including internal war games, culture hacking, gamification of Rugged DevOps and starting as a small team. There are 100 gold nuggets in this conversation for novices and experts alike.
Apr. 30, 2016 09:15 AM EDT Reads: 460
In 2006, Martin Fowler posted his now famous essay on Continuous Integration. Looking back, what seemed revolutionary, radical or just plain crazy is now common, pedestrian and "just what you do." I love it. Back then, building and releasing software was a real pain. Integration was something you did at the end, after code complete, and we didn't know how long it would take. Some people may recall how we, as an industry, spent a massive amount of time integrating code from one team with another...
Apr. 30, 2016 09:00 AM EDT Reads: 725
SYS-CON Events announced today that DatacenterDynamics has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. DatacenterDynamics is a brand of DCD Group, a global B2B media and publishing company that develops products to help senior professionals in the world's most ICT dependent organizations make risk-based infrastructure and capacity decisions.
Apr. 30, 2016 06:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,450
With DevOps becoming more well-known and established practice in nearly every industry that delivers software, it is important to continually reassess its efficacy. This week’s top 10 includes a discussion on how the quick uptake of DevOps adoption in the enterprise has posed some serious challenges. Additionally, organizations who have taken the DevOps plunge must find ways to find, hire and keep their DevOps talent in order to keep the machine running smoothly.
Apr. 30, 2016 04:45 AM EDT Reads: 1,378
Between the mockups and specs produced by analysts, and resulting applications built by developers, there exists a gulf where projects fail, costs spiral, and applications disappoint. Methodologies like Agile attempt to address this with intensified communication, with partial success but many limitations. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Charles Kendrick, CTO & Chief Architect at Isomorphic Software, will present a revolutionary model enabled by new technologies. Learn how business and devel...
Apr. 30, 2016 04:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,720
Call it DevOps or not, if you are concerned about releasing more code faster and at a higher quality, the resulting software delivery chain and process will look and smell like DevOps. But for existing development teams, no matter what the velocity objective is, getting from here to there is not something that can be done without a plan. Moving your release cadence from months to weeks is not just about learning Agile practices and getting some automation tools. It involves people, tooling and ...
Apr. 30, 2016 04:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,478
The notion of customer journeys, of course, are central to the digital marketer’s playbook. Clearly, enterprises should focus their digital efforts on such journeys, as they represent customer interactions over time. But making customer journeys the centerpiece of the enterprise architecture, however, leaves more questions than answers. The challenge arises when EAs consider the context of the customer journey in the overall architecture as well as the architectural elements that make up each...
Apr. 30, 2016 02:45 AM EDT Reads: 1,934
Much of the discussion around cloud DevOps focuses on the speed with which companies need to get new code into production. This focus is important – because in an increasingly digital marketplace, new code enables new value propositions. New code is also often essential for maintaining competitive parity with market innovators. But new code doesn’t just have to deliver the functionality the business requires. It also has to behave well because the behavior of code in the cloud affects performan...
Apr. 30, 2016 02:30 AM EDT Reads: 1,341
APIs have taken the world by storm in recent years. The use of APIs has gone beyond just traditional "software" companies, to companies and organizations across industries using APIs to share information and power their applications. For some organizations, APIs are the biggest revenue drivers. For example, Salesforce generates nearly 50% of annual revenue through APIs. In other cases, APIs can increase a business's footprint and initiate collaboration. Netflix, for example, reported over 5 bi...
Apr. 29, 2016 09:30 PM EDT Reads: 2,557
As the software delivery industry continues to evolve and mature, the challenge of managing the growing list of the tools and processes becomes more daunting every day. Today, Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) platforms are proving most valuable by providing the governance, management and coordination for every stage of development, deployment and release. Recently, I spoke with Madison Moore at SD Times about the changing market and where ALM is headed.
Apr. 29, 2016 09:15 PM EDT Reads: 1,429
If there is anything we have learned by now, is that every business paves their own unique path for releasing software- every pipeline, implementation and practices are a bit different, and DevOps comes in all shapes and sizes. Software delivery practices are often comprised of set of several complementing (or even competing) methodologies – such as leveraging Agile, DevOps and even a mix of ITIL, to create the combination that’s most suitable for your organization and that maximize your busines...
Apr. 29, 2016 08:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,760
Struggling to keep up with increasing application demand? Learn how Platform as a Service (PaaS) can streamline application development processes and make resource management easy.
Apr. 29, 2016 07:45 PM EDT Reads: 2,027
New Relic, Inc. has announced a set of new features across the New Relic Software Analytics Cloud that offer IT operations teams increased visibility, and the ability to diagnose and resolve performance problems quickly. The new features further IT operations teams’ ability to leverage data and analytics, as well as drive collaboration and a common, shared understanding between teams. Software teams are under pressure to resolve performance issues quickly and improve availability, as the comple...
Apr. 29, 2016 07:30 PM EDT Reads: 2,417
The goal of any tech business worth its salt is to provide the best product or service to its clients in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible. This is just as true in the development of software products as it is in other product design services. Microservices, an app architecture style that leans mostly on independent, self-contained programs, are quickly becoming the new norm, so to speak. With this change comes a declining reliance on older SOAs like COBRA, a push toward more s...
Apr. 29, 2016 06:45 PM EDT Reads: 1,286
The proper isolation of resources is essential for multi-tenant environments. The traditional approach to isolate resources is, however, rather heavyweight. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Igor Drobiazko, co-founder of elastic.io, will draw upon their own experience with operating a Docker container-based infrastructure on a large scale and present a lightweight solution for resource isolation using microservices. He will also discuss the implementation of microservices in data and applicat...
Apr. 29, 2016 05:15 PM EDT Reads: 1,715