Big Data – Big Projects – Big Discussions

‘Old’ Data vs. Reality Mining

For a long time Official Statistics are synonym for data. With the emergence (or better: the stronger awareness) of new information sources – aka Big Data – this is about to be changed. And the opportunities these data are offering are changing, too. With all the risks (privacy!) included.
In the light of the research activities and projects around Big Data and reality mining traditional statistical data management seems to date from another time. Evidence based decision making is migrating to a new level.
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Some prominent examples of Big Data research:
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Project FuturICT

One very interesting and very ambitious project facing such a BIG Data opportunity is FuturICT, lead by Dirk Helbling from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETHZ).
FuturICT’s ‘ultimate goal … is to understand and manage complex, global, socially interactive systems’ (Homepage FuturICT).
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Introducing FuturICT by Dirk Helbling:
2014-06-04_VideoHelbling
Some points (taken from Edge and the FuturICT brochure):
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‘There are two big global trends. One is big data. That means in the next ten years we’ll produce as many data, or even more data than in the past 1,000 years.
The other trend is hyperconnectivity. That means we have networking our world going on at a rapid pace; we’re creating an Internet of things. So everyone is talking to everyone else, and everything becomes interdependent. ….
But on the other hand, it turns out that we are, at the same time, creating highways for disaster spreading. We see many extreme events, we see problems such as the flash crash, or also the financial crisis. That is related to the fact that we have interconnected everything. In some sense, we have created unstable systems. We can show that many of the global trends that we are seeing at the moment, like increasing connectivity, increase in the speed, increase in complexity, are very good in the beginning, but (and this is kind of surprising) there is a turning point and that turning point can turn into a tipping point that makes the systems shift in an unknown way. ……
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We really need to understand those systems, not just their components. It’s not good enough to have wonderful gadgets like smartphones and computers; each of them working fine in separation. Their interaction is creating a completely new world, and it is very important to recognize that it’s not just a gradual change of our world; there is a sudden transition in the behavior of those systems, as the coupling strength exceeds a certain threshold.’
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Three components

2014-06-04_components
‘The [first] component to ‘measure the state of the world’ is called the Planetary Nervous System. It can be imagined as a global sensor network, where ‘sensors’ include anything able to provide data in real-time about socio-economic, environmental or technological systems (including the Internet). Such an infrastructure will enable real-time data mining – reality mining – and the calibration and validation of coupled models of socio-economic, technological and environmental systems with their complex interactions. It will even be possible to extract suitable models in a data-driven way, guided by theoretical knowledge.’ (Future ICT. Global computing for our complex world, p.18)
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The second component, the Living Earth Simulator will be very important here, because that will look at what-if scenarios. It will take those big data generated by the Planetary Nervous System and allow us to look at different scenarios, to explore the various options that we have, and the potential side effects or cascading effects, and unexpected behaviors, because those interdependencies make our global systems really hard to understand.’
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The third component will be the Global Participatory Platform. That basically makes those other tools available for everybody: for business leaders, for political decision-makers, and for citizens. We want to create an open data and modeling platform that creates a new information ecosystem that allows you to create new businesses, to come up with large-scale cooperation much more easily, and to lower the barriers for social, political and economic participation.’
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2014-06-04_FuturICT
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Scoop.IT: FuturICT

 2014-06-04_scoopitICT

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Social Physics: Another Approach

Alexander Pentland from MIT Media Labs is also dealing with the opportunities of Big Data. In his book “Social Physics” he reflects about what can be done with this treasure of information. And it’s a rather technocratic approach he follows. 2014-06-13_socialphysics.

Social physics?

‘Social physics is a quantitative social science that describes reliable, mathematical connections between information and idea flow on the one hand and people’s behavior on the other. Social physics helps us understand how ideas flow from person to person through the mechanism of social learning and how this flow of ideas ends up shaping the norms, productivity, and creative output of our companies, cities, and societies. It enables us to predict the productivity of small groups, of departments within companies, and even of entire cities. It also helps us tune communication networks so that we can reliably make better decisions and become more productive.’ …
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See also Pentland at a Google show: http://youtu.be/HMBl0ttu-Ow
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‘The engine that drives social physics is big data: the newly ubiquitous digital data now available about all aspects of human life. Social physics functions by analyzing patterns of human experience and idea exchange within the digital bread crumbs we all leave behind us as we move through the world—call records, credit card transactions, and GPS location fixes, among others. These data tell the story of everyday life by recording what each of us has chosen to do. And this is very different from what is put on Facebook; postings on Facebook are what people choose to tell each other, edited according to the standards of the day. Who we actually are is more accurately determined by where we spend our time and which things we buy, not just by what we say we do.
The process of analyzing the patterns within these digital bread crumbs is called reality mining, and through it we can tell an enormous amount about who individuals are.’ (From ‘Social Physics: How Good Ideas Spread-The Lessons from a New Science’, The Penguin Press, 2014) .
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‘How to re-engineer the world’: The Economist’s critical voice

‘ Institutions should be redesigned around social physics, [Pentland] says. For instance, to improve health-care, anonymous medical records could be used to show what treatments work best. Mr Pentland’s research also offers lessons for policymakers and business people. He advances a new way to protect privacy by creating something of a property right for personal information. People would in most cases control what personal data were collected, how they are used, and with whom they are shared, treating their personal data as assets, as they do money in a bank. Yet he is less convincing when he strays from his research to make broader points about politics and economics. He reduces too much of the world’s complexity to something to be solved by data, when they are just part of the solution. His enthusiasm for a world run by datacrats rings of a zealotry that could easily go awry. Still, “Social Physics” is a fascinating look at a new field by one of its principal geeks.’ From http://www.economist.com/news/books-and-arts/21595883-how-re-engineer-world-measure-man-0

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‘A society enabled by Big Data’

‘Reality mining’ is the buzzword and it’s tied to the other buzzword ‘Human-Data Interaction’ HDI.
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  • Human Data Interaction HDI.2014-06-14_HDI flow
    ‘Personal data about and by each of us, whether we are aware of it or not, feeds into black-box analytics algorithms to infer facts, both correct and incorrect. These drive actions, whose eff ects may or may not be visible to us’.
    –> http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/techreports/UCAM-CL-TR-837.pdf
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Internet of things

Sources of big data are not only humans with or without their devices but also objects equipped with sensors and machines communicating with machines (M2M). In the Internet of things (IoT) things exchange data, semantic description helps for the interoperability of things and interconnected smart objects become reality.

‘The internet of things is a way to deliver cheap information that could be used for good or ill. So let’s start talking about what we want as a society’ This is the motto for one of several conferences dealing with this topic:

2014-06-14_iot cheap data

http://gigaom.com/2014/06/09/the-internet-of-things-isnt-about-things-its-about-cheap-data/

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