Trump’s 2016 Big Data political arms race

Events happen so quickly in the wacky whirlwind world of Donald Trump that it’s hard to react in anything close to real time, but there was an interesting story in the Guardian last weekend that I think deserves some technical context. The Great British Brexit Robbery: How our Democracy was Hijacked is a breathless but well sourced story about how a U.S. billionaire harnessed Big Data to split up the European Union and steal a U.S. Presidential election. It’s an interesting read, but the point I want to make here is that the tale was entirely predictable and if one side hadn’t done it, the other would have. Next […]

Welcome to the Post-Decision Age

undoingThere are more things to talk about than Donald Trump, though I doubt that Donnie agrees with me. But we have to get on with our lives which, at least in my case, means getting on with my reading. Where does all the crap I write here come from but reading, talking to people, and waiting in line at Starbucks? Nowhere else! And if you want to be like me you may choose to read a new book by Michael Lewis, The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds. Of course the book is very good and it’s very well-written and it will tell you a lot about how decisions […]

Thinking about Big Data — Part Three (the final and somewhat scary part)

BigDataIn part one we learned about data and how it can be used to find knowledge or meaning. Part two explained the term Big Data and showed how it became an industry mainly in response to economic forces. This is part three, where it all has to fit together and make sense — rueful, sometimes ironic, and occasionally frightening sense. You see our technological, business, and even social futures are being redefined right now by Big Data in ways we are only now coming to understand and may no longer be able to control.

Whether the analysis is done by a supercomputer or using a hand-written table compiled in 1665 […]

Thinking about Big Data — Part Two

BigDataIn Part One of this series of columns we learned about data and how computers can be used for finding meaning in large data sets. We even saw a hint of what we might call Big Data at Amazon.com in the mid-1990s, as that company stretched technology to observe and record in real time everything its tens of thousands of simultaneous users were doing. Pretty impressive, but not really Big Data, more like Bigish Data. The real Big Data of that era was already being gathered by outfits like the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and the UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) — spy operations that were recording digital communications […]

Thinking about Big Data — Part One

BigDataBig Data is Big News, a Big Deal, and Big Business, but what is it, really? What does Big Data even mean? To those in the thick of it, Big Data is obvious and I’m stupid for even asking the question. But those in the thick of Big Data find most people stupid, don’t you? So just for a moment I’ll speak to those readers who are, like me, not in the thick of Big Data. What does it mean? That’s what I am going to explore this week in what I am guessing will be three long columns.

My PBS series Triumph of the Nerds was the story of the personal computer and […]