Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Hubris, "Big Data" and the new totalitarianism


As you know, Vince-Wayne Mitchell debunked 'Big Data' ages ago when he showed how data-mining big data sets revealed the value of horoscopes as a targeting guide. But we're still expected to believe that the ever more sophisticated manipulation of parge data sets with an ever more bewildering array of clever software tools is a good thing.

More worryingly some people believe their own hype:

“This is the first time in human history that we have the ability to see enough about ourselves that we can hope to actually build social systems that work qualitatively better than the systems we've always had,” says Pentland.  “That’s a remarkable change.  It’s like the phase transition that happened when writing was developed or when education became ubiquitous, or perhaps when people began being tied together via the Internet.” 

Read that carefully folk. What he's saying is that these ever-so-clever computers will, through the magic of poking at  "Big Data" reveal how society should be organised. And we can "build social systems" that are better! I don't know about you but this is both hubris and also extremely scary. Just look at what Pentland concludes:

To be able to see the details of variations in the market and the beginnings of political revolutions, to predict them, and even control them, is definitely a case of Promethean fire. . . We’re going to reinvent what it means to have a human society.

A new totalitarianism is being born. We should worry.



Anonymous said...

just thought i would drop a line to let you know how much i enjoy your blog.

Anonymous said...

We’re going to reinvent what it means to have a human society. Worry?! We should be terrified!

It has been tried before – and tens of millions of dead will speak of its success. The final irony is that it is this country that has been the spearhead against those very regimes; now, we are to be led to join them. O, Brave New World.