|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 However, even the most effective of their well-meaning efforts were superseded by Cold War politics.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 battle over bimodal IT is heating up. Now that there’s a reasonably broad consensus that Gartner’s advice about bimodal IT is deeply flawed – consensus everywhere except perhaps at Gartner – various ideas are springing up to fill the void. The bimodal problem, of course, is well understood. ‘Traditional’ or ‘slow’ IT uses hidebound, laborious processes that would only get in the way of ‘fast’ or ‘agile’ digital efforts. The result: incoherent IT strategies and shadow IT struggles that lead ...
Feb. 7, 2016 05:00 PM EST Reads: 430
SYS-CON Events announced today that Commvault, a global leader in enterprise data protection and information management, has been named “Bronze 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, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Commvault is a leading provider of data protection and information management...
Feb. 7, 2016 03:30 PM EST Reads: 372
SYS-CON Events announced today that VAI, a leading ERP software 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. VAI (Vormittag Associates, Inc.) is a leading independent mid-market ERP software developer renowned for its flexible solutions and ability to automate critical business functions for the distribution, manufacturing, specialty retail and service sectors. An IBM Premier Business Part...
Feb. 7, 2016 02:00 PM EST Reads: 559
SYS-CON Events announced today that Alert Logic, Inc., the leading provider of Security-as-a-Service solutions for the cloud, 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. Alert Logic, Inc., provides Security-as-a-Service for on-premises, cloud, and hybrid infrastructures, delivering deep security insight and continuous protection for customers at a lower cost than traditional security solutions. Ful...
Feb. 7, 2016 01:45 PM EST Reads: 364
In most cases, it is convenient to have some human interaction with a web (micro-)service, no matter how small it is. A traditional approach would be to create an HTTP interface, where user requests will be dispatched and HTML/CSS pages must be served. This approach is indeed very traditional for a web site, but not really convenient for a web service, which is not intended to be good looking, 24x7 up and running and UX-optimized. Instead, talking to a web service in a chat-bot mode would be muc...
Feb. 7, 2016 01:15 PM EST Reads: 185
SYS-CON Events announced today that Catchpoint Systems, Inc., a provider of innovative web and infrastructure monitoring solutions, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's DevOps Summit at 18th Cloud Expo New York, which will take place June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Catchpoint is a leading Digital Performance Analytics company that provides unparalleled insight into customer-critical services to help consistently deliver an amazing customer experience. Designed...
Feb. 7, 2016 01:00 PM EST Reads: 333
The (re?)emergence of Microservices was especially prominent in this week’s news. What are they good for? do they make sense for your application? should you take the plunge? and what do Microservices mean for your DevOps and Continuous Delivery efforts? Continue reading for more on Microservices, containers, DevOps culture, and more top news from the past week. As always, stay tuned to all the news coming from@ElectricCloud on DevOps and Continuous Delivery throughout the week and retweet/favo...
Feb. 7, 2016 12:30 PM EST Reads: 171
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interoute, owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2015 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Interoute is the owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform which encompasses 12 data centers, 14 virtual data centers and 31 colocation centers, with connections to 195 ad...
Feb. 7, 2016 11:30 AM EST Reads: 348
[session] From Build to Scale: Lifecycle of Microservices By @fortyfivan | @CloudExpo #Microservices
More and more companies are looking to microservices as an architectural pattern for breaking apart applications into more manageable pieces so that agile teams can deliver new features quicker and more effectively. What this pattern has done more than anything to date is spark organizational transformations, setting the foundation for future application development. In practice, however, there are a number of considerations to make that go beyond simply “build, ship, and run,” which changes ho...
Feb. 7, 2016 10:45 AM EST Reads: 155
SYS-CON Events announced today that AppNeta, the leader in performance insight for business-critical web applications, will exhibit and present at SYS-CON's @DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo New York, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. AppNeta is the only application performance monitoring (APM) company to provide solutions for all applications – applications you develop internally, business-critical SaaS applications you use and the networks that deli...
Feb. 7, 2016 10:00 AM EST Reads: 349
If we look at slow, traditional IT and jump to the conclusion that just because we found its issues intractable before, that necessarily means we will again, then it’s time for a rethink. As a matter of fact, the world of IT has changed over the last ten years or so. We’ve been experiencing unprecedented innovation across the board – innovation in technology as well as in how people organize and accomplish tasks. Let’s take a look at three differences between today’s modern, digital context...
Feb. 7, 2016 07:00 AM EST Reads: 163
Continuous Delivery and Release Automation for Microservices By @Anders_Wallgren | @DevOpsSummit #Microservices
As software organizations continue to invest in achieving Continuous Delivery (CD) of their applications, we see increased interest in microservices architectures, which–on the face of it–seem like a natural fit for enabling CD. In microservices (or its predecessor, “SOA”), the business functionality is decomposed into a set of independent, self-contained services that communicate with each other via an API. Each of the services has their own application release cycle, and are developed and depl...
Feb. 6, 2016 02:00 PM EST Reads: 211
At the heart of the Cloud Native model is a microservices application architecture, and applying this to a telco SDN scenario offers enormous opportunity for product innovation and competitive advantage. For example in the ETSI NFV Ecosystem white paper they describe one of the product markets that SDN might address to be the Home sector. Vendors like Alcatel market SDN-based solutions for the home market, offering Home Gateways – A virtual residential gateway (vRGW) where service provider...
Feb. 6, 2016 01:00 PM EST Reads: 147
In the Bimodal model we find two areas of IT - the traditional kind where the main concern is keeping the lights on and the IT focusing on agility and speed, where everything needs to be faster. Today companies are investing in new technologies and processes to emulate their most agile competitors. Gone are the days of waterfall development and releases only every few months. Today's IT and the business it powers demands performance akin to a supercar - everything needs to be faster, every sc...
Feb. 6, 2016 09:00 AM EST Reads: 512
With microservices, SOA and distributed architectures becoming more popular, it is becoming increasingly harder to keep track of where time is spent in a distributed application when trying to diagnose performance problems. Distributed tracing systems attempt to address this problem by following application requests across service boundaries, persisting metadata along the way that provide context for fine-grained performance monitoring.
Feb. 5, 2016 03:45 PM EST Reads: 799
Web performance issues and advances have been gaining a stronger presence in the headlines as people are becoming more aware of its impact on virtually every business, and 2015 was no exception. We saw a myriad of major outages this year hit some of the biggest corporations, as well as some technology integrations and other news that we IT Ops aficionados find very exciting. This past year has offered several opportunities for growth and evolution in the performance realm — even the worst failu...
Feb. 3, 2016 10:00 PM EST Reads: 545
Are you someone who knows that the number one rule in DevOps is “Don’t Panic”? Especially when it comes to making Continuous Delivery changes inside your organization? Are you someone that theorizes that if anyone implements real automation changes, the solution will instantly become antiquated and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable?
Feb. 3, 2016 06:30 PM EST Reads: 315
Welcome to the first top DevOps news roundup of 2016! At the end of last year, we saw some great predictions for 2016. While we’re excited to kick off the new year, this week’s top posts reminded us to take a second to slow down and really understand the current state of affairs. For example, do you actually know what microservices are – or aren’t? What about DevOps? Does the emphasis still fall mostly on the development side? This week’s top news definitely got the wheels turning and just migh...
Feb. 3, 2016 03:00 PM EST Reads: 287
Test automation is arguably the most important innovation to the process of QA testing in software development. The ability to automate regression testing and other repetitive test cases can significantly reduce the overall production time for even the most complex solutions. As software continues to be developed for new platforms – including mobile devices and the diverse array of endpoints that will be created during the rise of the Internet of Things - automation integration will have a huge ...
Feb. 3, 2016 02:00 PM EST Reads: 641
I recently spotted a five-year-old blog post by Mike Gualtieri of Forrester, where he suggests firing your quality assurance (QA) team to improve your quality. He got the idea from a client who actually tried and succeeded with this counterintuitive move. The thinking goes that without a QA team to cover for them, developers are more likely to take care of quality properly – or risk getting the dreaded Sunday morning wakeup call to fix something. Gualtieri’s post generated modest buzz at th...
Feb. 3, 2016 07:00 AM EST Reads: 618