Magazine article Financial Management (UK)

Behemothic Mathematics: It Jargon May Come and Go, but the Authors of Big Data Explain Why This Term Is a Big Deal with the Potential to Touch All Aspects of Our Lives

Magazine article Financial Management (UK)

Behemothic Mathematics: It Jargon May Come and Go, but the Authors of Big Data Explain Why This Term Is a Big Deal with the Potential to Touch All Aspects of Our Lives

Article excerpt

Big Data: A Revolution that will Transform how we Live, Work and Think

Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier, [pounds sterling]8.99, John Murray

Everyone has heard of the term "big data", but no one really knows what it means. That isn't such a bad thing--it is a new trend. But it will define how society makes decisions concerning everything from healthcare to education to financial management, so it will be crucial for us to understand it.

A good starting point for this is the idea that we can do things with a large body of data that we simply can't manage with smaller amounts. We can extract new value from this wealth of material in order to improve what we already do, or to unleash new forms of product or service. In this way, data has become a new vital resource and economic input--the "oil" of the information age.

In our book we identify a number of other concepts, including messiness and correlation. Messiness refers to the idea that we don't need to persist with our time-honoured interest in clean, highly curated data. We can instead embrace material that is of varying quality, since the benefits of having a vast amount of data outweighs working with far smaller amounts of more accurate data. Correlation is the notion that we can put our trust in what the data reveals, even if it's only an association and we don't know the causal mechanism. (Of course, when we do take the time and trouble to try to understand what lies behind an association, correlations often point the way towards causality. …

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