What Is Big Data?

The Origins of Big Data

There is a mind-boggling amount of data floating around our society. Physicists at CERN have been pondering how to store and share their increasingly massive data for decades—stimulating globalization of the Internet along the way, while “solving” their big data problem. Tim Smith plots CERN’s involvement with big data from 50 years ago to today.


The Power of Big Data

In this unit, you’ll discover that everything we say and do in our everyday lives can be quantized, categorized, and analyzed in minute detail. And not only does all of that data encapsulate who we are, what we do, what we like, what we think, who we know, and where we go, but it also manages to capture many of the subtle details of our lives that we may not even be aware of ourselves.

Through clever and sophisticated analysis of large volumes of finely detailed information, data scientists are able to tease out hidden patterns and reveal connections that might not be so obvoius at first glance.

For example, many businesses collect, analyze, and use big data in an attempt to better understand their customers and improve the service they provide to those customers. However, this doesn’t always go quite according to plan.

The Downside of Big Data

Discovering hidden patterns can be a boon for innovation and efficiency, but what if you are a person who would prefer those patterns stay hidden? What if the information that Big Data reveals actually exposes you in a way that leaves you vulnerable to abuse or misuse of your data? Read Blown to Bits, Chapter 2 to learn more about the risks that Big Data may pose to individual privacy.