Big Data: A Brief Education

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere was a day when miners physically blasted, dug  and drilled in search of treasures like gold, silver and oil.  Today’s most profitable miners are statisticians and mathematicians searching for veins of meaningful information from within mountains of data.

How do you feel about that?

Adam Frank of NPR in his article Big Data is the Steam Engine of our Time, writes,

“Ultimately, the promise of Big Data is the ability to understand (and control) a seemingly chaotic world on levels never before imagined. The dangers of Big Data stem from that very same promise. It’s impact on society will be akin to the transformative effect of past technological revolutions.”

I agree.  However, I suspect that the promise of big data mining  that will prevail is big profit.

And you and I are the commodities being traded.

Every swipe of a credit card, Google search, on-line purchase, status update or “like” on Facebook, or click on an ad is another data point in the mountain range of data.  It’s a little spooky, and I suspect it will only escalate.

So, how should we respond to this latest technological revolution, this massive paradigm shift?

First we must educate ourselves on it, so I encourage you to click on the following links for a brief education.

Monday’s Wall Street Journal contained a fascinating report on Big Data, its game-changing potential, demand for skilled “data scientists,” common mistakes in this new paradigm, some sources of public data, and a guide to Facebook’s privacy features.

DataAccording to Graeme Noseworthy (a blogger at IBM’s Big Data Hub), Ginni Rometti, CEO of IBM, foresees that big data will mean that predictive analytics will govern decisions rather than subjective perceptions, “the social network is the new production line,” and that marketing will no longer target segments or demographic groups, but individuals.

Speaking of social networks, did you know that an analysis of what you “like” on Facebook can be used to predict and profile individual characteristics and behavior?

After my own brief education, I have three thoughts:

1) Practically speaking, if you have an interest in and an aptitude for statistics, go get educated in data analysis.  There will be good jobs for you!

2) Remember that your “likes” on Facebook, personal data that you provide when you use an ap or play a game, your social media and other online activity is available for data mining.  If you’re not paying for an on-line product or service, then you ARE the product.

3) Curious, I googled (yes, I see the irony) “big data and the church.”  Would the two intersect?  Nope.  (Admittedly, it was hardly an exhaustive search.)

I wonder, is there a place for Big Data in Kingdom work?  What if God’s people examined Big Data motivated by a desire to better serve, love and support people?  What if we used this technological revolution, morally neutral in itself, to help people find God instead of helping corporations find profits?

What do you think?

8 thoughts on “Big Data: A Brief Education

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  1. Judy, I am big data scientist involved in quite a few projects. I just participate a big data presentation. I really appreciate your article trying to connect big data with God. Two ideas are in my mind for some good while and I hope to discuss with you if possible.

    (1) Big data can help remote evangelism. These days, billions of blogs, twits and messages on the web. To mine them and analyze their spiritual need and connect them with online ministers or local ministers will help to reach many people who cannot reach easily physically.
    (2) Big data can help life healing. Many people including brothers and sisters have psychological problems, facing a lot of negative sentiments. In the bible verses, Christian classical writings, hymns, songs, preachings, there are many encouraging pieces that can be connected as weapons to fight with the negative sentiments so that God’s grace can be upon them.


  2. Good thoughts. Your mind is in a very good place here. It’s really very profitable for the Kingdom when its citizens grasp the reality that not only is technology morally neutral, it is God’s science. No one comes up with this stuff without it being given from above. One plus one equals two is very much God’s truth, He just chooses to share it with us. As with everything though, man can influence what is morally neutral with one of two natures, a redeemed nature that yields to God’s intent or by his sinful nature… the gospel is proclaimed through the internet, so is wickedness. Blessings friend

  3. Well, Judy, my head is spinning now (again)–all I know is that I’m not a Facebook or Twitter person; and that I’ve seen the good use God has for the Internet (which I hope will outweigh the negative impacts)–my faith in Him has grown, my walk is more mature, and I now have a connection to His Body which I wouldn’t have without computer access. I can go to church anytime, day or night–and now I have a lovely family I never dreamed possible. Life is good, thanks to Our Abundant GOD who is computer savvy–no more stone tablets, yay! God bless you BIG–love, sis Caddo

    1. Hi Caddo, and I’m sorry if I made your head spin:). Your experience is a wonderful example of the promise and potential blessing of technology. And I am blessed to know you and to call you my friend! Bless you back! Love, Judy

  4. All of us blog and many of us are on Facebook and Twitter. Do I believe it can help people find God? Yes, in some instances, it may be quite effective, for example in parts of China and Japan. Many in these large Asian urban areas are tech intelligent and who knows how God will reach them? But in areas, like most of India and parts of Africa, it will still be the old fashioned way.

    1. I agree Larry. Technology is morally neutral and can be used well for good purposes or it can be used for not-so-good purposes. It will be fun to find out someday how God used it all, won’t it? Thanks, as always, for your thoughts Larry!

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