Big Data, What is it and Honestly, Who Cares?
Some of us just haven’t realize it yet. Today, there are literal fountains of electronic information or as we like to call it “Big Data”, gushing every second from everywhere. Smartphones, personal computers, social media, subscriptions, prescriptions, cameras and bank records. The amount of Big Data explodes 24/7/365 exponentially and essentially, it’s an unstoppable force.
Naturally, there’s an extremely high demand for this information and we’ve seen this manifested and it significantly affects our lives. Over the last two years, we have witnessed real world repercussions due to the power of Big Data.
The most prominent examples would be the security breaches of user data from social media like Facebook and institutions like Deutsche Bank. Another example, the controversial 2016 Presidential Election and the spreading of misinformation and cyber-attacks from foreign countries. The number of security breaches from people looking to get their hands into these oceans of user data has increased at an alarming rate, mostly due to how powerful it is.
This information like any is extremely valuable because in it there’s knowledge to be derived and acted upon. However, the knowledge of human decision-making and human nature hasn’t been quantified in the history of mankind to this degree before. In one sense, I consider it as the quantifiable records of human interaction and emotions.
Just think to yourself how much time we spend in front of screens and machines. How many times do you look at your phone on a daily basis? How many minutes did you spend reading this article? Every like, every tweet, every search, the amount of data that’s constantly being logged is astronomical. Here’s a stat to put the size of Big Data into perception, if I were to print out “the amount of bytes we produce on a daily basis, 2.5 Quintillion bytes” [Forbes] (that’s 18 zeros behind it) onto paper, it would be a stack over 5 light-years long, every single day, and it’s only growing larger.
When someone can understand how big, Big Data is and how it is essentially a bridge between the human brain or decision-making and the quantifiable revenue numbers you see churned out on a 10-K, one wonders why haven’t we used this for good?
We humans are essentially data points, nodes if you will. Big Data isn’t a negative thing. Big Data is Big Data, I like to think of it almost as the language or record between math and human nature. It’s true, it surrounds us on a daily basis. When you log onto Google and type in half of a search, Big Data solutions are the recommendation engine that finishes your query. Your Spotify’s carefully crafted playlists that it generates just for you based on what you listen to. The creation of Google Maps, the birth of the “Sharing economy” consisting of services like Uber, UberEATS, Airbnb, the existence of Blockchain, these are all examples of business opportunities and applications that have been made possible due to the size and wealth of Big Data.
That being said, the establishment of Big Data “linguistics” and quantifiable studies attempting to decipher, decrypt and understand Big Data is going to be of paramount importance in the future for business.
Big Data Business insights, the ability to decipher, understand, prove and act upon the knowledge derived from Big Data will be invaluable. The real world applications for a tool that can learn and compute this information are simply endless. Imagine being able to actually predict who’s going to win the World Series. Imagine being able to figure out whether this company is actually worth investing in. Imagine being able to find out exactly which consumer product is going to be the best seller 18 months from now. A deep learning comprehensive tools for Big Data would arguably be comparable to the Rosetta Stone and what insight and historical information it enabled humans to comprehend back in 1799. However, unlike the Rosetta stone, a Big Data tool would be forward looking, not backward, such a tool would give us access to actionable insight for the future.
How many lives and how much money could be saved if pharmaceutical companies knew exactly how long and effective their drug therapies were for each drug for every patient? Or, precisely how much medicine and what kinds of prescription drugs patients are consuming daily? How much more would you trust investing your money with financial institutions that could tell you confidently how well their portfolio will boat in the next 12 months, no matter if the market is Bear or Bull? How valuable would knowing, down to the dollar, how much a customer was going to spend at your store and on your website, over their lifetime? Could you even put a price tag on the capabilities of predicting human economic decisions?
Big Data is here and it is here to stay, for better or worse the knowledge is out there. Creating tools designed for this vastly untapped knowledge have already begun. Being able to navigate, model, visualize and forecast this wealth of information will allow you to quantify intangibles and answer the $10, $20, $100 Million dollar questions executives will be tasked with answering today and for the foreseeable future.