Kirkus Reviews QR Code
BIG DATA by Viktor Mayer-Schönberger Kirkus Star

BIG DATA

A Revolution that Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think

By Viktor Mayer-Schönberger (Author) , Kenneth Cukier (Author)

Pub Date: March 5th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-544-00269-2
Publisher: Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Plenty of books extol the technical marvels of our information society, but this is an original analysis of the information itself—trillions of searches, calls, clicks, queries and purchases.

Mayer-Schönberger (Internet Governance and Regulation/Oxford Univ.; Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age, 2009) and Economist data editor Cukier begin with a jolt by pointing out that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spends weeks evaluating reports from doctors and clinics before announcing a flu epidemic. In a 2009 study reported in the scientific journal Nature, Google engineers tracked certain Internet searches (“medicine for cough,” “fever”) and detected a rise in flu cases immediately. Formerly, faced with huge numbers, researchers could only examine a select sample: a slow, expensive process that led to errors if the sample wasn’t properly chosen. The Google researchers examined everything—or close to everything: hundreds of millions of searches. This was a breakthrough. “Big data,” the authors’ term for our new ability to manipulate immense amounts of information, reveals not only more, but entirely new knowledge. Who knew that by evaluating her credit card purchases, retailers can calculate the odds that a woman is pregnant? The authors provide an exciting ride without neglecting the risks. Thirty-two surveillance cameras operate within 200 yards of the apartment where George Orwell wrote 1984. Data mining is so efficient that today’s privacy protections are irrelevant. Once enough of your activities, however anonymous, are “datafied,” a computer can identify you.

A fascinating, enthusiastic view of the possibilities of vast computer correlations and the entrepreneurs who are taking advantage of them.